While many brave Washingtonians hike year-round, there’s nothing most of us get more excited about than spring hikes in Washington. That means warmer weather (although not always drier!) and, in many places, beautiful wildflowers in Washington that greet you as you hike into the hills.
I love setting out on winter hikes in Washington, but spring hiking has a unique beauty that makes me excited for the new season’s arrival. The season also opens up many more opportunities, as the snow starts to melt in some inaccessible places or harder to get to. There also aren’t as many people hiking in the spring as in the summer, so you won’t have to face extremely crowded trails just yet.
If you are eager to go hiking and see the spectacular wildflowers in Washington state, here are my recommendations for the best spring hikes in Washington.
What to Know for Washington Spring Hikes
Here are a few tips to help you out before spring hiking in Washington.
What to Pack for Spring Hikes in Washington
Here are a few essentials I recommend for spring hiking in Washington.
- Bring a waterproof raincoat so you won’t get all your clothes soaked underneath.
- Pack polarized sunglasses no matter what the weather is, as patches of snow you might encounter can be bright.
- You’ll want microspikes with you in case you hit patches of ice during your hike.
- Keep a mini first-aid kit in your backpack for any emergencies.
When to See Wildflowers in Washington
One of the best parts of hiking this time of year is all the wildflowers in Washington State, but some of them have a short life span. I like to keep a list of the hikes I know have wildflowers that I want to do and the link to the WTA page for that hike so I can read trip reports each day. That way, I’ll start to hear about reports about the wildflowers from people who recently did the trail, as well as their pictures.
For most wildflower hiking in Washington, you’ll want to go mid-April to early May. This will vary depending on the year and the weather, but this is usually the most optimal time to see them.
However, keep in mind that higher elevation places, such as Mount Rainier, don’t actually start to see wildflowers until July or August. Many people think that wildflowers are everywhere just because it’s spring, but you have to remember that many Mount Rainier hikes still have snow until about June!
The same is true for North Cascades hikes, so always read the trail reports first.
15 Best Spring Hikes in Washington
With that, here are some spring hikes near Seattle and around to state to choose from.
1. Dog Mountain
Distance: 6 miles
Elevation gain: 2,800 feet
I can’t list the best wildflower hikes in Washington and not mention the Dog Mountain trail. This gorgeous area filled with waterfalls and wildflowers is one of the most popular hikes in the Columbia River Gorge.
The trail starts uphill through a wooded area, but the majority of the hike is very open. You can enjoy panoramic views while surrounded by fields of bright yellow wildflowers.
The last part of the climb is quite windy and close to the edge, but the splendid view of the Columbia River from the top makes the steep hike worth it. To get back down, retrace your steps or take the Augspurger Mountain Trail, which makes the hike 0.9 miles longer but is easier on your knees.
Due to the popularity of this hike, the trails are quite crowded, and you need a permit to hike over the weekend. Parking is also limited at the trailhead, so consider getting a parking pass.
2. Memaloose Hills
Distance: 2.8 miles
Elevation gain: 600 feet
This informal trail is easier to hike and less crowded than Dog Mountain while still offering stunning wildflower displays. This easy Washington hike starts at Memaloose Overlook and is an excellent place for a nature hike just off the Historic Columbia River Highway.
There are lots of yellow balsamroots and other flowers to see on your hike. The trail winds through private parcels of land, so be respectful to the landowners and stay on the path.
Note that parking is limited because this is an unofficial trail, so I recommend that you come during the week when there are fewer crowds.
3. Coyote Wall – The Labyrinth Loop
Distance: 7.7 miles
Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
The snow melts early at this low-lying trail, giving you the opportunity for a beautiful Washington wildflower hike while other trails are still stuck in winter.
This loop trail winds through various terrains – from grassy meadows and oak woods to cliffs and even a waterfall. When you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Columbia River and grassy fields filled with wildflowers.
The trail is very open with little tree cover, so be sure to wear a hat and bring plenty of water. There are also many trail junctions, so check the route beforehand and have a map or GPS with you while hiking. Dogs on a leash are welcome at this spring hike in Washington State.
4. Stacker Butte
Distance: 5 miles
Elevation gain: 1,150 feet
This trail in the Columbia Hills Natural Area Preserve is the best hike to see the widest variety of wildflowers. You can see everything from balsamroot and lupine to paintbrush flowers and much more.
The wide track is easy to follow, and the open area allows you to enjoy views of the park’s rolling hills and fields filled with flowers. This area is a botanical preserve and supports rare endemic flower species like the obscure buttercup.
This is one of the more ideal spring hikes in Washington state, as the trail has little shade, making it ideal in the cooler spring season. Since the Stacker Butte trail is on a preserve, dogs are not allowed, and hikers are requested to stay on the path.
5. Margaret’s Way
Distance: 6.5 miles
Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
This serene trail through lush forests is named in honor of Margaret MacLeod, a park planner who worked to preserve hundreds of acres of land. The trail is located on the west side of Squak Mountain.
As new greenery emerges in spring, this is a beautiful time to hike through the forest and enjoy the wildflowers, birdsong, and bubbling creeks. The trail winds its way uphill and takes you to Debbie’s View lookout point, where you can enjoy the sights of Mount Rainier.
6. Harry’s Ridge
Distance: 8.2 miles
Elevation gain: 970 feet
The trail along Harry’s Ridge is an exciting spring hike to combine Washington wildflower hikes with some history. Here, you can learn more about the Mount St. Helens eruption and see its impact on the surrounding landscape.
The hike starts at Johnston Ridge Observatory, where visitors need to pay a fee to enter. The trail follows the ridgeline, giving you almost endless views of the mountain, and you may even see smoke rising from the dome.
Outside the barren blast zone, the area is very lush, and you can see huckleberry bushes and colorful wildflowers. Halfway through the hike, you also get great views of Spirit Lake from the ridge.
There’s nothing quite like taking one of the early spring hikes in Washington to truly experience the season. The winter snow melts, and many lower elevation hiking areas start to flourish. Here are some more of my recommendations of the best places to hike in spring.
If you really want to challenge yourself, you can even climb to the top of Mount Saint Helens to summit it!
7. Lake 22
Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation gain: 1,350 feet
This trail is one of the best summer hikes in Washington, but you can avoid the crowds by getting the jump on this trail in the spring. Due to the low elevation, Lake 22 is one of the first alpine lakes to melt and offers hikers a wonderful spring trail. However, you will likely have snow during the first part of spring, so check the reports first.
The beautiful trail winds through rainforests and old-growth forests, following the creek up to the lake. On your way, you’ll come across a lovely waterfall. The hike finishes at the turquoise lake, with a stunning view of Mount Pilchuck in the background.
There are several water crossings on this trail, and the terrain is very rocky in places, so it’s best to wear sturdy hiking boots.
8. Mount Pilchuck
Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation gain: 2,300 feet
Difficulty: Moderate to hard
While most fire lookout trails are still covered in snow until summer, the Mount Pilchuck trail becomes accessible in spring already. This is a popular spring break hiking destination in Washington, so you’ll want to get here early.
There will probably still be snow on the peaks, but you can check the trip reports on the Washington Trails Association website to see if the snow has melted enough for you to reach the lookout.
Be prepared for some muddy and rough terrain towards the top of the trail. However, once you reach the restored historic fire lookout, the climb will be worth it. Enjoy 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains while chatting to other hikers in the old shelter.
9. Hanford Reach
Distance: 7 miles
Elevation gain: 500 feet
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
The White Bluffs North Slope trail is also known as Hanford Reach and offers a completely different part of the Washington landscape to hike through. Many people consider this one of the best early spring hikes in Washington due to the area experiencing warmer weather than other parts of the state.
This desert area is a wonderful spring break hiking destination in Washington with its rolling dunes and open skies. It’s a 3-hour drive from Seattle but a fantastic place to explore before the summer heat sets in.
Hike over sandy dunes and through shrublands as you take in the views of the Columbia River. This area is also booming with wildlife, and you can expect to see birds like bald eagles, herons, and more.
10. Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene
Distance: 8.2 miles
Elevation gain: 2,000 feet
What could be better than combining an alpine lake trail with a waterfall hike near Seattle? Take a detour on the Lake Serene trail to include a visit to the beautiful Bridal Veil waterfall, as this is one of the best places to hike in spring in Washington.
The snow around this lake in the Cascade mountains has usually melted by mid-April. Just note that you’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass to park at the trailhead (or you can use your America the Beautiful pass).
The trail starts with a primarily steep climb through the forest. You can take the detour when the path forks to see the waterfall, which is about a 1/2 mile from the fork.
You can decide to end the hike here and head back (making it about 5 miles RT), or you can continue on to Lake Serene. This is the ideal place to rest with a picnic lunch on one of the best spring hikes near Seattle.
11. Hamilton Mountain
Distance: 7.5 miles
Elevation gain: 2,000 feet
The hike up Hamilton Mountain is challenging and good for those looking for a workout. Nevertheless, the trail also includes wildflowers, waterfalls, and amazing views to make the hard work worthwhile.
The first part of the hike up to the falls is not too difficult, and you can get close enough to feel the spray and cool off before tackling the next section. The trail gets steeper from here as you take the “more difficult” route at the intersection.
When you reach the top of the mountain, you can take in the views of the majestic Cascade peaks.
12. Mount Storm King
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation gain: 2,065 feet
This short but very steep hike is quite a challenge, but the views at the top are more than worth the effort. The Mount Storm King trail is inside Olympic National Park, where there are many other fantastic Olympic hikes to choose from.
In fact, it’s hard to come up here for just the day, so you may want to find somewhere to stay on the Olympic Peninsula for a few days to get in more hikes!
You’ll start with an excellent flat section until you reach the turnoff for the climb. Hike through the damp forest and then through a drier pine tree section. You’ll come to a viewpoint where you can stop and see the lake.
The final section involves climbing with ropes to the very top. The climb is steep and exposed, so I don’t recommend trying this if you’re not good with heights. For the adventurers who make it to the final peak, you can enjoy the spectacular view over Lake Crescent.
13. Oyster Dome
Distance: 5 miles
Elevation gain: 1,050 feet
Oyster Dome is a rocky promontory located in the Chuckanut Mountains. This area was part of the logging industry in the late 19th century, so you can spot logging artifacts throughout the trail.
Your hike starts from the Samish Overlook parking area on Blanchard Mountain. Follow the trail as it winds through forests and giant boulders. There are many switchbacks, and the trail gets rather steep as you climb the dome.
The views from the top of Oyster Dome are expansive – you can see Samish Bay below you and the Olympic Mountains and Vancouver Island in the distance.
14. Rattlesnake Ledge
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation gain: 1,160 feet
The Rattlesnake Ledge trail is a great option if you’re looking for spring hikes near Seattle to do during the week. Located less than an hour’s drive from the city, this trail is quite popular and gets crowded in the summer months – so head on out as soon as the weather warms in springtime.
The hike starts from Rattlesnake Lake and winds its way through some beautiful forests. There are three ledges along the way where you can stop and admire the view. This trail isn’t very hard, but the long uphill switchback section as you near the top can be quite a workout.
Once you reach the top of the ledge, you can relax and enjoy the panoramic view – but be careful to stay away from the cliff edge. You’ll see why this is popular for spring hiking in Seattle once you get to the top.
15. Pipestone Canyon
Distance: 9 miles
Elevation gain: 1,700 feet
Pipestone Canyon is always a beautiful place to hike if you want to see some wildlife, and during springtime in Washington, you get the added bonus of enjoying the wildflowers in bloom.
The trail meanders along the rim of the canyon, giving you fantastic views of the valley floor carpeted with wildflowers like balsamroot and lupine. The hike is mostly open, but there is a section where the trail passes under tree cover.
Keep your eyes open for wildlife like coyotes and eagles, and watch out for rattlesnakes. Before going on this hike, be sure to call and check if the trail is open, as it sometimes closes in the spring due to nesting golden eagles.
Which of these spring hikes in Washington are you most excited for?