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Best Hikes In The PNW

The PNW (Pacific Northwest) is a place of magical forests, cascading waterfalls, and lakes nesteled between mountain peaks.  We try to spend some time every summer in the PNW and one of our favorite things to do there is hike.  Hiking is cheap, family-friendly, and wonderful for your health. Next time you are in the PNW, give one of these hikes a try.

Best Easy Hikes In The PNW

1 | Spruce Trail + Hall of Mosses, Olympic National Park, Washington

Spruce Trail Hoh Rain Forest Best Hikes in the PNW
Such an easy and enjoyable hike for young kids and adults alike.
Photo Credit:

This is such a gorgeous hike through temperate rain forest with some trees over a thousand years old (yep 1,000!).  All the trees are covered with long dangling mosses.  Start at the Hoh Rainforest visitor center in Olympic National Park and combine the Spruce trail with the Hall of Mosses trail for a pleasant 2-mile hike.

Hiking with kids? Don’t forget to grab them a Junior Ranger book beforehand so they can add the fun of answering questions along the hike.

Related Blog: Washington State National Park Road Trip

2 | Tamolitch Falls (aka Blue Pools), Mackenzie River, Oregon

Best Hike in the PNW- hiking to Blue Pools, Mackenzie Highway
Isabelle enjoying the Blue Pools on our Mackenzie River hiking adventures.

This hike is a two in one destination.  During the spring and early summer, this hike becomes Tamolitch Falls, and incredible cascade of water pouring into the blue pool below.  During late summer and autumn when the waterfall has dried out, the hike is known for the deep blue color of the pool below, Blue Pools.  No matter when you go, this hike is guaranteed to ake your breath away.

Related Blog: 5 Adventurous Things to do on the Mackenzie River Trail

3 | Steelhead Falls, Redmond, Oregon

Steelhead Falls
Cliff jumping at Steelhead falls after a fun day of rock climbing at Smith Rock.

This is a great hike for adrenaline junkies.  Park by the free campground and walk a short mile to the falls.  Keep going a little further and find the perfect height for jumping off the cliff into the river. While this is a perfect thing to do in summer to cool off, note that the hike down to the falls can be quite hot.  Be sure to pack a lot of cold water and sunscreen.

Related Blog: 10 Adventures To Do On A Summer Road Trip Through Bend

4 | Punchbowl Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Best hikes of the PNW: punchbowl falls
Punchbowl Falls is one of our favorite places to hike to when we visit Portland. Bring warm layers because the water is freezing if you decide to swim.
Photo credit: Friends of the Columbia Gorge

This hike is currently closed due to the Eagle Creek fires of 2017, (check current status here).  This was one of my favorite hikes in the PNW.  It’s an easy hike for kids and the pools are really fun (but cold) to swim in.  Its access is right off I-84 between Portland and Hood River and makes a great pit stop on a road trip.

Related Blog: 10 Stops You Can’t Miss on an Oregon Road Trip Itinerary

Best Moderate Hikes In The PNW

5 | Tumalo Mountain, Bend, Oregon

Best hikes in the PNW- Tumalo mountain
Tumalo Mountain is must-do hike if you are in the Bend area.

This hike has incredible views for how relatively easy the hike up is.  Even though it does gain 1400 feet in under 2 miles, my 7-year-old daughter, who doesn’t really like to hike, made it to the top with no complaints.  If you love mountain views, this hike is a must.  Plus, there are many other great hikes and campgrounds along the Cascade Lakes Highway.

6 | Narada Falls/ Reflection Lake from Paradise, Mount Rainer National Park, Washington

Narada Falls- Best hikes in PNW

This 5-mile hike takes you through a diversity of ecosystems- forests, meadows, and lakes.  When we were there in July, there were wild huckleberries all along the path to pick and eat and the meadows were covered with wildflowers.  To top it off, you have the magnificent Mount Rainer looming over you through the entire hike.  I liked that it was just long enough to weed out the unfit or unambitious so for many sections we had the trail to ourselves.  Mt Rainer National Park is one of my favorite national parks. If you’re planning a trip here, check out our resources below.

7 | Cape Arago to Sunset Bay, Coos Bay, Oregon

Sunset Bay to Cape Arago, Oregon, Best hikes in the PNW
We love the gorgeous forest backed beaches along the coastline hike from Sunset Bay to Cape Arago.

While you could drive to the Cape Arago lookout, we thought hiking from the Sunset Bay campground was more our style.  It’s a gorgeous forest hike that takes you through beautiful gardens in Shore Acres State Park and there are great lookouts along the way for spotting sea lions and whales.  If you do choose to hike all the way to Cape Arago and back to the campground, it is 8.5 miles.  

Related Blog: 16 Best Oregon Campgrounds

8 | Maple-Heather Pass, Gilbert, Washington

Hiking Maple-Heather Pass, Washington- One of the best hikes in the PNW

This one still ranks as one of my all-time favorites even though we didn’t get to complete the loop because there was too much snow.  The mountains on the east side of the North Cascade Range remind me so much of Europe with their meadowy hillsides and I especially enjoyed that at the top of this hike you feel like you are completely surrounded by mountains.  This is a great hike to do in October to see the changing colors of the Larches.

Related Blog: Road trip itinerary from Leavenworth to the North Cascades.

9 | Marion Falls, Idanha, Oregon

Marion falls, best hikes in the PNW
After scrambling down a cliffside, we reached Marion Falls and were completely awestruck

This is certainly one of those off-the-beaten-path hikes, but it’s totally doable if you feel adventurous.  The falls are well worth the effort.  To get to the Marion Lake trailhead, which is a well maintained trail, requires driving up a dirt road for a few miles.  Our motorhome made it no problem however, I would not take a trailer up this. It’s only that the trailhead has a very small turnaround area.  It can be a bit tricky to find the falls.  Click here for info on how to get there.

Best Strenuous Hikes In The PNW

10 | Waptus Lake, Cle Elum, Washington

waptus lake, best hikes in the PNW

This is a long hike, but since you gain the 2400 feet of elevation over the course of almost 9 miles, it doesn’t feel too strenuous.  We managed to do this one as a day hike, although it would be better to split it up and make it an overnighter.  Waptus Lake is nestled between many jagged peaks of the South Cascade range and a must-do for alpine lake lovers.  Make a weekend out of it and either camp at the Salmon de Sac Campground which sits at the trailhead, or backpack past Waptus Lake to Spade Lake and make it a 2-night backpacking trip.

Related Blog: 13 Best Campgrounds in Washington State

11 | The Enchantments, Washington

Hiking the Enchantments in the PNW
The Enchantments are one of the best hikes we’ve ever done! Add this one to your bucket list.

This is still my favorite hike of all-time which says a lot considering where we’ve hiked in the Alps, the Pyrenees, and New Zealand.  There’s just something invigorating about the steep climb over Aasgard Pass, the amount of snow we trekked through, the numerous mountain goats following you, the jagged mountains surrounding you, the rangers making sure you are prepared, and the gorgeous alpine lakes.  The best part is if you day hike it, you are so close to Leavenworth to go get a burger and a beer afterward.

Related Blog: How to Thru-Hike the Enchantments in 1 Day

12 | South Sister, Bend, Oregon

South Sister Mountains Best Hikes in the PNW
Photo credit:

If you’ve been to Bend, Oregon, you are all too familiar with the Three Sisters mountain range.  There is something enticing about summiting the famous South Sister mountain,  Maybe it’s the challenge of climbing 5,000 feet in 5.6 miles or the fact that it is covered in snow almost the entire year.  When the snow does finally clear, you will more than likely be hiking in some intense heat but the view on top is worth it.

    13 | Hidden Lake Lookout, North Cascades, Washington

    Hidden Lake Overlook Best Hikes in the PNW
    Photo Credit: Dennys Trejo

    We have been trying to get to this hike for years, but the road to get to the trailhead is a long, bumpy dirt road and we are always passing through in our motorhome.  If you do make it here (I’m jealous), it’s a steep 3,400-foot elevation gain over 3.6 miles, but the jaw-dropping views are worth it of course because you are in the middle of nowhere.  Ahhh, sounds perfect to me! 

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