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22 Loop Trails to Try Next Time You Need A Good Backpacking Trip

Backpacking in a loop means that every mile means fresh adventure. Get inspired with these trip ideas, and learn how to make your own.

Washington has so much to offer when it comes to fantastic backpacking trips. From lush river valleys to alpine ridges with vistas for miles in every direction, spending a night or four in the backcountry let's you experience unique joys, from stargazing to sunrise and solitude, that makes hauling all that gear with you worth it.

One of the best type of backpacking trips are loops. You get to cover all new ground, and hike more sustainably.

While we love those iconic backpacking trips you hear about the most, the possibilities for creating your own loops are endless. (And if you are anything like the staff of WTA, the research is half the fun.) Experiment with lacing together trails in various networks around Washington. To get you started and inspire your own adventures, we'll kick things off with these 22 routes around the state.


South Cascades

Southwest Loowit Loop

Location: Mount St. Helens Area
Length: 12.7 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2400 feet

Overlook with mountain and forest.
Wide open views adorn the Southwest Loowit Loop. Photo by mrharmon.

Venture through dusty lahars, cool forest, and the high country on the shoulder of Mount St. Helens on this 12-mile loop. Do it in a day, or plan to camp along the way — this hike is both beautiful and a bit of a challenge. You’ll need a little scrambling experience to be comfortable hiking the whole thing, one lahar has a rope set up to help you get up and down.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Walupt Lake Loop

Location: Goat Rocks
Length: 15.3 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1650 feet

Trail with mountain in the distance.
Views on the way to the top of the loop are worth the climb. Photo by Anna Roth.

This trail offers a more than 15-mile outing in the country east and south of Walupt Lake. In early summer, the bushes are bursting with new growth. If you visit in late summer, the greenery has faded back, the berries are out, and you can enjoy nice views from the 5100-foot high point.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Bird Mountain Loop

Location: Mount Adams Area
Length: 10.25 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1875 feet

Mount St Helens in distance over forest
For big views it's hard to beat the Bird Mountain Loop. Photo by wishfulwanderer.

No less than five picturesque lakes, wide panoramas of South Cascades peaks and oodles of seasonal wildflowers and berries make this an ideal long day hike or weekend backpack.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Tumac Plateau Loop

Location: White Pass/Cowlitz Valley
Length: 20.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2500 feet

Note: This trail may be impacted by 2021 wildfires. Check closures, wildfire and smoke conditions before you go.

Lake with evergreen trees
This lengthy loop hike affords the chance to admire pristine lakes along the way. Photo by Susan Saul.

An elk bugle is an eerie sound whether you are tucked in your tent or hiking down a wilderness trail. In late September, Roosevelt elk are bugling both day and night on the Tumac Plateau whose forests and meadows are perfect elk habitat. Bonus challenge for this one — be the first to hike it and write a trip report!

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Mount Rainier Area

Tumac Mountain Loop

Location: Chinook Pass/Highway 410
Length: 13.5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2400 feet

Note: This trail may be impacted by 2021 wildfires. Check closures, wildfire and smoke conditions before you go.

Hiker in foreground with mountains and lakes in distance
Stopping to take in the sights might become a full time job on this hike. Photo by Gary Modine.

No, it's not the same one as the one right above this. The joy of this loop is derived not so much from summitting an old fire lookout (which you will), than it is for the opportunity to take an ambling walk through undulating hills and numerous lakes and tarns.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Eastside Loop

Location: Sunrise/White River
Length: 36.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 7430 feet

Alpine view of mountain and snow
The rugged alpine scenery is one of the highlights on this trek. Photo by Pen C.

Peaceful meadows, serene lakes and views of the rugged Cowlitz Chimneys are treats for the eyes on this multiday trek. Want a bigger adventure? Hook into the full Northern Loop

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Mother Mountain Loop

Location: Carbon River/Mowich
Length: 36.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 7430 feet

Alpine wildflowers with rugged peaks in distance
Catch a wide array of sights on this loop, from rugged peaks to wildflower meadows. Photo by bentley-edelman.

The Mother Mountain Loop out of the Mowich Lake area is a popular route in the northwest corner of Mount Rainier National Park — try this one as a day hike, an overnight (be sure to get permits first) or as a trail run!

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Frying Pan Loop

Location: White Pass/Cowlitz River Valley
Length: 14.9 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3815 feet

Note: This trail may be impacted by 2021 wildfires. Check closures, wildfire and smoke conditions before you go.

Sunset through trees with mountain in distance.
The views are, arguably, nicer than looking at a frying pan on this loop hike. Photo by slowandsteady.

Access the lake country north of Highway 12 from the Soda Springs campground on this 15-mile loop hike. You'll climb up and over Fryingpan Mountain, past lakes, and through meadows for a long dayhike or a one-night backpacking trip.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Central Cascades

Meander Meadow - Dishpan Gap - Cady Ridge Loop

Location: Stevens Pass  - East
Length: 16.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 5600 feet

Glacier Peak as seen from the Meander Meadow - Cady Ridge - Dishpan Gap loop trail. Our camp in the foreground just off the PCT. by Willem BarentzGlacier Peak as seen from the Meander Meadow - Cady Ridge - Dishpan Gap loop trail. Camp in the foreground. Photo by Willem Barentz

This is a great weekend backpacking trip for wildflower lovers. Miles of wildflowers along Meander Meadow and Cady Ridge will delight the hiker who passes through during July and August. Fantastic views of the Cascades, Glacier Peak and hanging valleys add to the allure, and it's all packaged up in a 16-mile loop.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Rock Creek - Red Pass Loop

Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Length: 17.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 5600 feet

Rugged peaks with rocky hillside
The alpine setting makes for an excellent backdrop on this long-distance trek. Photo by MegLvs2Hike.

This is a long distance hike that includes unmaintained trails. To hike this route, you should be an experienced route finder willing to hike trails less traveled, and prepared for a lonely hike. But put in the work and you'll be rewarded with lovely views and solitude.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Esmeralda Peak Loop

Location: Salmon La Sac/Teanaway
Length: 12.1 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2940 feet

alpine peak capped in snow through forest view.
Hawkins Mountain from the backside of Esmerelda. Photo by Anna Roth.

Take a rugged trek through creek canyons, down a four-wheeling road, over a remote pass, and back down a multi-use trail to complete a challenging loop hike. You may have equestrians, mountain bikers, and ORV users for company, but any type of user can appreciate the views you’ll get along the way.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Wallace Falls State Park - Lake Loop

Location: Stevens Pass - West
Length: 9.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1954 feet

Lake surrounded by evergreen trees.
Perhaps unsurprisingly based on the name, Wallace Lake is the main attraction on this loop. Photo by drenegar.

This fine loop trail gives you scenery, mileage, and some elevation gain, with the bonus of being hikeable year-round. Start by wandering along the Wallace River as it tumbles down from the famous falls. Get your pictures of the falls, then continue your hike by including the large forested Wallace Lake. Return through a green shag carpet of moss, sword ferns and hemlock, following the North Fork Wallace River as it rushes to meet the main Wallace River and your return trail.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


North Cascades

Copper Ridge Loop

Location: Mount Baker Area
Length: 34.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 8600 feet

summit view of surrounding mountains and alpine rock
While it's a lengthy loop to traverse, the views are worth the effort. Photo by SweatTrain.

Experience the variety offered by the North Cascades: high mountain ridges with spectacular views, a remote river valley, and even a self-propelled cable car river crossing. Popular side trips include Hannegan Peak and Whatcom Pass.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Cathedral Pass Loop

Location: Pasayten
Length: 44.7 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4000 feet

Note: This trail may be impacted by 2021 wildfires. Check closures, wildfire and smoke conditions before you go.

Granite cliffs running through valley.
Cathedral Pass is easily one of the most scenic loops in Eastern Washington. Photo by Rachel Wendling.

This 44-mile loop through Cathedral Pass offers some of the best scenery that the Pasayten’s breathtaking Boundary Trail has to offer. You’ll start and end at the Thirtymile trailhead on the Chewuch River out of Winthrop

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Windy Peak Loop

Location: Pasayten
Length: 14.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3830 feet

Note: This trail may be impacted by 2021 wildfires. Check closures, wildfire and smoke conditions before you go.

View of Horseshoe Basin from Windy Peak. Photo by MoonFighter
View of Horseshoe Basin from Windy Peak summit. Photo by MoonFighter

This loop takes you into the high country of the Pasayten wilderness to Sunny Pass, the to another pass through Horseshoe Mountain and Pick Peak, and over Windy Peak. It's a good overnighter or a long day hike.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Sawtooth Lake Loop

Location: Methow/Sawtooth
Length: 24.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4200 feet

Larch trees in forest valley with mountains in distance.
Larches are one of the main draws of this loop, but it's an excellent summer pick too. Photo by Seattle-Amy.

This is a classic backpack ideal in larch season. The loop can be done at a comfortable pace in three days, or you can allow more time to explore this part of the Sawtooth Wilderness with side trips from your camps.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Olympic Peninsula

Grand Valley Loop

Location: Northern Coast
Length: 7.9 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2080 feet

Alpine lake with mountain in background.
Lakes, mountains, valleys. This loop has it all for amazing views. Photo by Seattle-Amy.

String together the Grand Valley and Badger Valley trails to make a stunning (and strenuous) hike of it. Halfway through, you can stop off at Grand, Gladys or Moose Lakes for a cooling dip. If you're backpacking, be sure to secure a permit early for these campsites — they're in a quota area and fill up fast.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Mink Lake to Little Divide

Location: Northern Coast
Length: 7.9 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2080 feet

Valley view with mountains and lakes
The Olympics offer a wide variety of views and scenery to enjoy. Photo by Mosquito Food.

Meadows abound with wildflowers and hikers. The lake is popular with families on day hikes and campers on their way to Seven Lakes Basin. For a shortened return trip with fresh scenery follow the trail down from Deer Lake to Lovers Lane (don't miss Sol Duc Falls) which terminates at the resort and Mink lake trailhead (approximately 6 miles from Deer Lake).

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Mount Townsend and Silver Lake

Location: Hood Canal
Length: 9.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3392 feet

Mountain view with water in distance.
This traverse takes you through some of the biggest views in the Olympics. Photo by Alistair.

Here's a fun one. Connect two routes to access Mount Townsend and make it a loop hike. Start off heading up the punishingly-steep Dirty Face Ridge (I promise, going up this is better than down it). You'll top out on Mount Townsend, where you can catch your breath, take some pics, and head down the main Townsend trail. Look for the Silver Lakes way trail turnoff to your right as you descend. It will put you on the back side of Townsend, and eventually back on the road a little bit west of where you likely parked.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Grand Valley - Cameron Creek

Location: Northern Coast
Length: 30.8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 10,945 feet

Valley with mountain backdrop.
Grand Valley makes for an amazing summer destination. Photo by Ann N.

Hike up and down (and up again and down again, and then up one more time) around this loop in the northern part of Olympic National Park. You'll get stunning mountain views, pass tranquil lakes, and laze around in gorgeous alpine meadows, and you'll need that break, because the elevation gain on this one is no joke.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Eastern Washington

There are many backpacking loop opportunities in the Umatilla National Forest, but the forest has been closed for much of summer 2021 due to wildfire.

Jungle Hill Loop

Location: Okanogan Highlands/Kettle River Range
Length: 15.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3348 feet

Wildflowers on grassy mountainside.
While you wont' find any jungles, you will find mountain views and wildflowers. Photo by jribs.

This is the perfect short backpack or long day hike! From the Jungle Hill campground, the trail drops approximately 0.25 mile to Sherman Creek. Note the return trail on the left, then cross Sherman Creek to the Jungle Hill Trail and begin the approximately four-mile climb to the meadows near Jungle Hill.

> Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide


Mount Bonaparte Loop

Location: Okanogan Highlands/Kettle River Range
Length: 16.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3000 feet

Note: This trail may be impacted by 2021 wildfires. Check closures, wildfire and smoke conditions before you go.

Fire lookout on mountain top.
This hike offers the chance to visit a fire lookout with big views. Photo by Scott Prince.

Mount Bonaparte, the tallest mountain in the Okanogan Highlands, dominates its corner of the world. This is a fine loop hike that will take you all the way around the mountain, with a short dash to the summit lookout included.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide