Seattle's Best Beginner Backpacking Trips

By: Laura Howard

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Backpacking for the first time can be both scary (in a good way!) and exhilarating. Here are a few relatively easy backpacking trips in Washington to get you hiking. Trust me, once you start, you can’t stop!

1. Thunder Creek - North Cascades National Park

Photo: Dawn Coyote

  • Distance: options for 5-12 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: up to 1300 Ft.

This hike, along Thunder Creek in North Cascades National Park, is perfect for families and beginner backpackers. Starting from the Colonial Creek Campground, the trail ascends to follow the often roaring creek. With easy creek crossings, peek-a-boo views of the surrounding mountains and well maintained campsites along the trail, this hike is sure to excite. This trail is at a lower elevation in the park, so it is a great early-season hike, but check with the ranger station for trail conditions before you go.

Inside Tip: Obtain a free, first-come first-served permit at the Wildlife station in Marblemount. Permits can be hard to come by on weekends during the summer, but the rangers at the wildlife station are great for recommending alternative hikes. You can obtain the permit in-person up to one day before your trip.

2. Pratt Lake – Snoqualimie Pass

Photo: Monty Vanderbilt

  • Distance: 11 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 2300 ft.

This hike’s accent assures a great lower extremity workout, but your journey will be well worth the huffing and puffing when you reach the beautiful Pratt Lake Basin. The trail can be a bit busy along the first mile but most are day hikers on their way up the popular Granite Mountain Trail. After you pass the turnoff, the crowds thin and you are offered several beautiful creek crossings, breathtaking views of several lakes, and, if it’s clear, distant mountain views. Once you reach Pratt Lake, dip your tired feet in the delightfully chilly waters and absorb the splendid scenery! Depending on the time of year and the weather, be prepared for some mosquitoes and stretches of sun exposure. 

Inside Tip: Northwest Forest Pass and a free Alpine Lakes Wilderness Permit required. The Northwest Forest Pass can be purchase at the trailhead or at the Snoqualmie Pass Fire Service Visitor Center. The free Alpine Lakes Wilderness Permit is available at the trailhead.

Ozette Triangle – Olympic National Park

Photo: Joseph Dsilva

  • Distance: 9 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 300 ft.

Take an easy, relaxing walk on the wild coast of Washington. The Ozette Triangle is a 9 mile loop with convenient boardwalks over the often soggy terrain and a three mile stretch along the Pacific Coast. Once at the coast, scan the sky for a soaring Bald Eagle, scour the ocean for the elusive sea otter or a passing whale, and check out the petroglyphs at Wedding Rocks. Camp at Cape Alava or Sand Point. This one is a longer drive from Seattle, but so worth it.

Inside Tip: Reservations are required for overnight camping between May 1st and September 30th. During the off-season you must pick up a permit at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles. You are required to store all food and scented items in bear canisters available for rent from the Wilderness Information Office. The Rangers are incredibly helpful with any questions you might have.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.