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Backpacking Washington: From Volcanic Peaks to Rainforest Valleys

Backpacking Washington: From Volcanic Peaks to Rainforest Valleys

by Douglas Lorain, Mark Wetherington

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Get ready for a lifetime of awe-inspiring adventures

In Washington, backpackers can explore wild beaches, enjoy sparkling lakes and streams, hike amid stunning granite peaks, relax in wildflower meadows, and pass through unspoiled forests. Discover 26 of Washington’s best and most diverse backpacking trips (plus 13 bonus ones) with expert backpackers Douglas Lorain and Mark Wetherington. Backpacking Washington details the premier opportunities across the entire state. This fully updated edition describes scenic escapes ranging from one night to two weeks. Choose from carefully crafted trips in Mount Rainier National Park, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, the North Cascades, the Olympic Coast, the Olympic Mountains, Pasayten Wilderness, Salmo-Priest Wilderness, and more. Each carefully crafted itinerary offers geographic diversity, beautiful landscapes, and attainable daily mileage goals.

This in-depth guide provides all the information backpackers need, including trail highlights, mileage, elevation gain, days on the trail, shuttle distances, required permits, and more—not to mention photographs and detailed trail maps. Plus, ratings for scenery, solitude, and difficulty help you to find the exact adventure you seek. Whether you’re a novice backpacker or a veteran hiker, with this many options, you may have trouble deciding where to go first!

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780899978574
Publisher: Wilderness Press
Publication date: 02/18/2020
Series: Backpacking
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 39 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

Douglas Lorain’s family moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1969, and he has been hitting the trails of his home region ever since. With the good fortune to grow up in an outdoor-oriented family, he has vivid memories of countless camping, hiking, bird-watching, and other trips in every corner of this spectacular area. He calculates that, over the years, he has logged well over 32,000 trail miles in this corner of the continent, and despite a history that includes being bitten by a rattlesnake, being shot at by a hunter, getting stuck in quicksand, being charged by grizzly bears (twice!), and donating countless gallons of blood to “invertebrate vampires,” he happily sees no end in sight.

Lorain is a photographer and recipient of the National Outdoor Book Award. His books cover only the best trips from the thousands of hikes and backpacking trips he has taken throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and beyond. His photographs have been featured in numerous magazines, calendars, and books, and his other guidebook titles include 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon, Top Trails: Olympic National Park and Vicinity, One Best Hike: Mount Rainier's Wonderland Trail, Backpacking Oregon, and Backpacking Idaho.

After spending decades exploring the trails of the Pacific Northwest, he now lives in Hamilton, Montana, with his wife, Becky Lovejoy.

Mark Wetherington began backpacking in 2007 while a student at the University of Kentucky and obsessively explored the trails and landforms of the Southeast before moving to Montana in 2014. Since arriving in Big Sky Country, he has spent as much time as possible exploring the wilderness areas and other public lands of Montana, Washington, and Idaho via boots, snowshoes, and cross-country skis. Seeking the next "best place to wake up"—from alpine lakes to abandoned fire lookouts—serves as his main inspiration for backpacking.

Wetherington has worked in outdoor retail, as a freelance writer, and as a visitor services information assistant for the U.S. Forest Service in Kentucky's Red River Gorge. He has been lucky enough to find a career working in public libraries and lives in Hamilton, Montana.

Read an Excerpt

The large and exceptionally rugged Alpine Lakes Wilderness fills a wide swath of land in the central Washington Cascades and serves as a transition zone between the gentler terrain to the south and the icy crags of the North Cascades to the north. This is a land of heavily forested canyons, ice-sculpted peaks, and enough lakes to make even residents of Minnesota, with its famous “10,000 lakes,” envious.

The Pacific Crest Trail cuts a swath through the rugged heart of this wilderness, along the way visiting many of the best beauty spots and offering side trips to many more. Close proximity to Seattle and easy access to both the north and south trailheads (you can even do it with public transportation) make this an exceptionally convenient extended backpacking trip in addition to being an exceptionally beautiful one. The trail isn’t easy, with thousands of switchbacks along the way that constantly take you up and over ridges and down into deep valleys, but it’s well worth every drop (or gallon) of sweat.


Glacier Peak Wilderness contains some of the most spectacular scenery in the northern Cascades. The Ptarmigan Traverse, described as one of the most beautiful routes in North American mountaineering, crosses the high country of the wilderness with Downey Creek being its southern terminus. While fairly well-known among mountaineers, the delightful scenery of Cub and Itswoot Lakes and the adjacent high country has not been an overly popular backpacking destination. That likely has to do with the section of trail along Bachelor Creek that serves as a formidable gatekeeper to the lakes and stunning mountain scenery and which has a somewhat exaggerated reputation as a path of almost Jurassic brutality. However, for well-conditioned backpackers, this trip offers a challenging and immersive wilderness experience that borders on the divine.

Although this hike can be done as an out-and-back to Cub Lake, doing so is almost unfathomable given the rewards that await you on the side trips to Mule Lake and Point 6495' and Itswoot Lake. The summit of Point 6495' affords breathtaking views that don’t require ice axe or crampons to obtain, and shallow Mule Lake allows for a refreshing post-peak swim. Itswoot Lake and its soul-stirring blue depths are complemented by a waterfall and jagged skyline of mountains behind it and hungry trout underneath its surface. If the berries are ripe and the weather is good, this area is as close to paradise as most backpackers can get.

Table of Contents

Trail Map Legend

Featured Trips Summary Table


A Word About Motorcycles

A Word About the Third Edition


How to Use This Guide

Safety Notice

General Tips on Backpacking in Washington

Wild Areas of Washington

Featured Trips Overview Map

The Trips

  1. Olympic Coast: North
  2. Olympic Coast: South
  3. High Divide–Hoh River Traverse
  4. Enchanted Valley–LaCrosse Basin Loop
  5. Northeastern Olympics Loop
  6. Dungeness–Marmot Pass Loop
  7. Northern North Cascades Loop
  8. Southern North Cascades Loop
  9. Western Pasayten–Ross Lake Loop
  10. Buckskin Ridge–Pasayten Peak Loop
  11. Eastern Pasayten Loop
  12. Chelan Summit Trail
  13. Entiat River Loop
  14. Downey Creek to Cub Lake
  15. Glacier Peak Loop
  16. Chiwaukum–Ladies Pass Loop
  17. Alpine Lakes Traverse
  18. Northern Mount Rainier Loop
  19. Mount Rainier: Wonderland Trail Loop
  20. Goat Rocks Circuit
  21. Mount Adams Highline Trail Loop
  22. Mount Margaret Backcountry Loop
  23. Loowit Trail Loop
  24. Yakima Skyline Trail
  25. Salmo–Priest Loop
  26. Wenaha–Tucannon Loop

Other Backpacking Options


About the Authors

Customer Reviews