10 best hikes in Pacific Northwest Wilderness

Rogue River Trail in Wild Rogue Wilderness 

Northwest Rafting Company

Few places in the U.S. are more prized by the avid recreationist than the Pacific Northwest. But with a plethora of places to hike, ski, boat and climb, how can one choose where to go? Designated Wilderness areas offer Americans places to find adventure, beauty and solitude, and this region has several to choose from. Here's our recommendations on some paths for you to explore:

1. Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington. Even though the Granite Mountain Trail is a more strenuous hike, with a 3800 foot climb over 4.3 miles, it is also one of the most popular in the Snoqualmie Pass corridor. This place might be best to visit in late summer or fall due to avalanche risks, though early summer offers beautiful wildflowers. If you feel inspired, you might want to contact your rep to advocate for the bill to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area. If you want to hike this area, a week is suggested.   

2. Wild Sky Wilderness, Washington. The West Cady Ridge Trail is a journey through alpine meadows with summer flowers and fall colors. Stop to take in sweeping vistas after about four miles, or travel farther for even better views at Bench Mark Mountain (7.2 mile one-way trip). A Northwest Forest Pass is required. 

3. Spring Basin Wilderness, Oregon. "Trails" here include a few old four-wheel-drive tracks utilized as pathways. Still, splendid views and spectacular wildlife are year-round. Some think that like it's name suggests, spring is the best time to visit.

4. Oregon Badlands Wilderness, Oregon. Flat lands present opportunities for solitude. But few trail markings mean some navigation skills will be necessary. Badlands Rock Trail leads to 360-degree views of Central Oregon while others showcase the area's volcanic features. 

5. Pasayten Wilderness, Washington. The northernmost forty miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) winds through the wildlife-rich Pasayten offering spectacular views of Mt. Baker, North Cascades National Park, and the Picket Range. If you’re looking for a longer trip across the entire Pasayten, you can travel 80+ miles from Hart’s Pass north on the Pacific Crest Trail then east on the Pacific Northwest Trail (also known as the Boundary Trail in the Pasayten) to the Iron Gate trailhead. This stretch is not only very long but also very strenuous, and therefore recommended for only experienced backcountry travelers to visit in late July through early October. For a shorter ten-mile hike, start at the Cold Springs entrance to the eastern Pasayten Wilderness via Chopaka Mountain and Goodenough Park. 

6. William O. Douglas Wilderness, Washington. Weekend warriors will love the 29.5-mile leg of the PCT from White Pass north to Chinook Pass. North of Crag Lake the trail crosses delightful meadows, ripe with blueberries in late summer.
 
7. Sky Lakes Wilderness, Oregon. This special place's name is no joke - there are literally hundreds of lakes on this 6,000-foot plateau. The view from Mt. McLoughlin showcases a volcanic landscape, accessible via a 3.5-mile trail off the PCT. Take Isherwood Trail for fishing and swimming treasures and Red Lake Trail to secluded campsites. To beat the bugs - and score some ripe huckleberries - visit in late summer.
 
View map below of these sites and other designated Wilderness areas in the U.S.:
 
8. Wild Rogue Wilderness, Oregon. The 40-mile Rogue River Trail, one of many National Recreation Trails, provides access to the river corridor, the Panther Ridge Trail leads visitors to stunning views at Hanging Rock, and the Mt. Bolivar Trail takes hikers up to the 4,319-foot summit. Known as "the Rogue" this wild fishery is also popular for rafting and kayaking. Proposed legislation passed in the Senate last June, and if it also passes the House it will add 60,000 acres of wilderness to the Wild Rogue Wilderness.
 
9. Devil's Staircase Proposed Wilderness, Oregon. remote, pristine old-growth forest hosts wildlife-rich cascading pools. Named for a hard-to-reach waterfall, Devil's Staircase has yet to be fully protected though legislation did pass in the Senate this June.
 
10. Salmo-Priest Wilderness, Washington. Walk the scenic ridges of the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) through a forest with cedars up to eight feet in diameter. Travel 41 miles one-way from Upper Priest trailhead to WA 31, north of Metaline Falls.  
 

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