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Best Hikes In The PNW

The PNW (Pacific Northwest) is a place of magical forests, cascading waterfalls, and lakes nestled 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: beautifulwashington.com

This is such a gorgeous hike through temperate rainforest 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.

Planning a family hike? Remember to pick up a Junior Ranger book for the kids beforehand to add an interactive element to their adventure with questions along the trail.

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.

During various seasons, this trail presents a twofold allure. In spring and early summer, witness the breathtaking Tamolitch Falls cascading into a mesmerizing blue pool. As summer fades into fall and the waterfall recedes, the trail unveils the stunningly vibrant Blue Pools. When you opt for this expedition, brace yourself to be charmed by the enthralling beauty along the way.

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 trail is a thrill-seeker’s paradise. Begin your adventure by parking at the free campground and taking a brief mile-long stroll to reach the falls. If you’re up for it, continue a bit farther to discover the ideal spot for cliff-jumping into the river. While this makes for an exhilarating summer cooldown, be aware that the hike down to the falls can get quite warm. Ensure you’re prepared with ample 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

Regrettably, the trail you mentioned, once a cherished hiking destination in the Pacific Northwest, continues to remain closed following the devastating Eagle Creek fires of 2017. (I’d strongly advise confirming its current accessibility.) It used to hold a special place among my favorite trails in the region, especially due to its family-friendly nature despite the brisk waters—the pools provided a revitalizing respite. Situated conveniently off I-84 between Portland and Hood River, it served as an excellent pit stop for road trips. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to verify its current status before planning any visits.

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 a must-have hike if you are in the Bend area.

This hike has incredible views of 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 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 trek showcases an array of landscapes, from forests to meadows and lakes. During our July visit, the path was adorned with wild huckleberries ripe for the picking, while the meadows boasted a vibrant display of wildflowers. The majestic Mount Rainier served as a breathtaking backdrop throughout the entire hike. I appreciated the trail’s moderate length, which naturally filtered out less determined hikers, granting us moments of solitude along the way. Mount Rainier National Park holds a special place in my heart among the national parks. For those considering a visit, explore the resources we’ve compiled 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 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 hike holds a special place among my favorites, despite our inability to complete the loop because of intense snowfall. The mountains lining the eastern side of the North Cascade Range exude a European allure with their meadow-laden slopes. What captivated me most was the feeling of complete immersion amid mountains upon reaching the trail’s summit. It’s an ideal October trek for witnessing the vibrant transformation of the Larches’ colors.

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 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 hike spans a considerable distance, yet the gradual 2400-foot elevation gain unfolds across nearly 9 miles, rendering it relatively moderate. While we completed it in a day, dividing the trek into two days for an overnight stay would be more enjoyable. Waptus Lake, nestled amidst the rugged peaks of the South Cascade range, is a must-visit for enthusiasts of alpine lakes. Extend the experience into a weekend by either camping at the Salmon de Sac Campground located at the trailhead or backpacking beyond Waptus Lake to Spade Lake for a rewarding two-night journey.

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.

Among the incredible hikes we’ve experienced in the Alps, Pyrenees, and New Zealand, this one remains my absolute favorite. Scaling Aasgard Pass, navigating through snow, trailed by mountain goats, surrounded by rugged peaks, guided by diligent rangers, and greeted by stunning alpine lakes—it’s an invigorating adventure. The cherry on top? After a day hike, it’s just a stone’s throw to Leavenworth for a satisfying burger and beer.

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: traveloregon.com

If you’ve been to Bend, Oregon, you are all too familiar with the Three Sisters mountain range.  Something is 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 top view is worth it.

13 | Hidden Lake Lookout, North Cascades, Washington

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

For years, we’ve aimed to reach this hike, yet the road leading to the trailhead is a lengthy, rough dirt path, and every time we pass through, we’re in our motorhome. If you happen to reach this place (which I envy), the climb spans 3.6 miles with a steep ascent of 3,400 feet. However, the breathtaking views make the endeavor worthwhile as you find yourself immersed in complete remoteness.  Ahhh, that sounds perfect to me! 

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