Hey fellow hikers! My name is Rachel and in this article I will be outlining the best hikes in the Pacific Northwest. I will also be sharing a few of my favorite memories on trail and finishing with a few tips to set you on your way to having the ultimate hiking experience in this corner of the US.
Before I get started, it would be helpful to introduce myself so you know more about my background and why you should trust me to deliver these hiking tips! I’m a licensed local Real Estate Agent and outdoor enthusiast who loves helping people establish deep roots in the Pacific Northwest. I’m the founder of PNW52 – a platform dedicated to helping people into new homes in the PNW and inspiring them to have adventures along the way.
My Story and How I Fell in Love with Hiking
Born and raised in the PNW, I grew up in a small town called Mukilteo. It was close enough to the mountains but even closer to the beach. I would listen to the ebb and flow of the waves and imagine what life would be like if I had a crystal ball. Growing up I dreamed of becoming an architect – the ability to create structures from my imagination fascinated me.
I would draw for hours, sketching houses on huge pieces of paper with a pen and a ruler (before computers existed). I would fantasize about the cherry tree lined driveway leading up to the entry and how when you walked in, it would be home. My first job out of high school was at a lumber yard in Bothell, Washington. This is where my love for construction began.
As a sales associate, I worked with contractors and provided detailed lumber packages from the blueprints. I enjoyed the entire process, from the take-off, to designing the proposal, to visiting the job site. I was young and passionate about the housing industry, specifically development. I remember signing up on LinkedIn and connecting with every contractor I could find, to not only build my network but to gain more knowledge.
Although the lumber yard didn’t survive the 2008 recession, I transitioned and was thriving in my next position as a housing and logistics consultant for a relocation company in Redmond. When I got my first business cards, I felt truly unstoppable, as if my name finally made it in the corporate world. I had a top floor corner office, with big accounts such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google and was breaking sales records, month after month.
This position made me confident in my ability to find solutions, and I was constantly challenged with the ever-changing housing market. In addition to my endeavors in relocation, I was also teaching a bootcamp and would spend weekends in the mountains, maximizing every moment I could.
I challenged myself and was determined to share my enthusiasm about health and wellness with other people. I had it all figured out, so I thought. My career path then took an unexpected transition into the event industry – where I took on the role of a very busy and successful event planner. I was so busy that, for several years, events were my entire life.
In 2019, I executed 531 rooftop parties and while I could see the mountains, and heard them calling, I couldn’t go. I loved my job and I was focused – however I wasn’t balanced. Fast forward to the beginning of the pandemic – aka the end of event planning – and needless to say the planner needed a new plan. For the first time in my life, I felt lost. So, I decided to adventure.
I found myself being in the mountains a lot. There wasn’t much else to do anyway but what I realized was that I wanted to make this part of my life permanently. I wanted others to feel what I felt – a deep appreciation for the Pacific Northwest. We live in the most beautiful place in the world and thankfully I was reintroduced to that beauty last year.
While hiking, I would take notes, set goals and take advantage of the time to decide what my path would look like moving forward. One thing I was certain of was that I wanted to make a difference, not just in my life but in the lives of others and in the place we call home: the Pacific Northwest.
Founding PNW52 – 52 Hikes & 52 Homes
In starting over, I created a company built around what work-life balance meant to me: PNW52. My goal this year is to summit 52 mountains and sell 52 homes. For every home sold, I donate $52 to the Washington Trails Association to support our aligned mission to protect the PNW.
Although I love the views, climbing mountains doesn’t come easy. What most people don’t know is that I’m afraid of heights! I choose to go towards my fears as I know the feeling that comes from reaching goals: empowerment. It doesn’t get easier but what I do know is that everyday I get stronger and if I can conquer my fears then I can do anything.
I want to inspire others to go after their goals and conquer their fears. It’s my hope that through my adventures, I will be given the opportunity to make a difference. I am here to help others establish roots in the Pacific Northwest. Whether you are interested in buying, selling or investing (or exploring) – I am here to help guide you on your PNW adventure!
The Pacific Northwest, Unparalleled Beauty
The Pacific Northwest is unparalleled. Not only do we have four drastically different seasons, but our region is complete with mountains, lakes, oceans, trees and wildlife. It’s the ultimate playground for outdoor enthusiasts – and one of the primary reasons why I am so grateful to call this place home.
We are surrounded by picturesque landscapes, with views that transform from different perspectives. The ability to have this type of lifestyle attracts a different type of person. The type of person who thrives on adventure and craves the next. Whether you are born and raised in the PNW, or here for a visit, there is an energy here that is undeniably, unparalleled.
My annual goal is to summit 52 hikes – and over the years have completed hundreds of hikes here in the Pacific Northwest. These hikes have ranged in elevation and distance – spanning from the epic Cascades to the beautiful Olympics. If there is a hiking trail in the PNW chances are, I have hiked it.
However, I still have a few PNW hikes that are on my bucket list, such as: the summit of Mount Rainier, thru-hiking the Enchantments and Mount Ellinor on a clear day (I have yet to see the view from the summit despite my number of attempts so far). Last but not least, Jade Lake too!
Favorite Trail in the Pacific Northwest – Hidden Lake
As you can tell, I am someone who is passionate about photography as well as real estate and hiking. I enjoy capturing the moment and always say, “take moments but leave only footprints”. The best way to take the moments with you, and to share them with others, is to capture them. Although most of the time it doesn’t do it justice, I can’t help but try.
My favorite trail to capture is Hidden Lake, located just outside of Marblemount. The name itself leaves one to wonder, is it really hidden? Will I really find it? Talk about adventure! The good news is that, yes, you can find it and it’s incredible. The trail is part of the North Cascades and offers breathtaking views – from the trail, the lake and the lookout tower.
Yes, I said lookout tower! Hidden lake is one of those hiking trails that has it all and you can even spend the night there. Make sure you pack some coffee because if you get there early enough to claim your abode, you will be experiencing an unforgettable sunrise from 8,000 feet.
6 Amazing Hikes in the Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is blessed with beautiful nature everywhere you look. With so many options scattered across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Canada it can be hard to know where to begin. So here are my suggestions of the best hiking trails to kickstart your Pacific Northwest adventures!
1. Hidden Lake Lookout Trail, Washington
Hidden Lake is my favorite place to capture in the Pacific Northwest. This wonderful trail starts off in cool forests and then transports you to wide open meadows where wildflowers bloom during certain times of the year and views are endlessly spectacular. If you can, make it to the lookout at the crack of dawn to experience one of the most magical sunrises on earth.
2. Lake Ingalls Trail, Washington
Lake Ingalls is the perfect hike to see larches! Not only that but a stunning blue lake situated beneath craggy peaks awaits you at the top. This is a fantastic hike to do in the summer and fall, especially when the leaves begin to change color and the larches are even more gorgeous to capture.
3. Mount Dickerman Trail, Washington
The ultimate fall hike in the PNW is Mount Dickerman. Hiking up to nearly 4,000 feet, this trail takes you through a sea of wildflowers in fall and offers plenty of amazing mountain views along the way. If you go in late fall, you can snowshoe your way through the track as there is a light dumping of snow before the winter season kicks into full gear.
4. Blanca Lake Trail, Washington
The color of the water at Blanca Lake is surreal. Located only an hour and a half away from Seattle, this hike takes you through steep switchbacks and elevation gain until you reach one of the most gorgeous lakes in the world. Once you arrive at the lake, as it opens, the view will take your breath away. The stunning waters invite you to take a quick summer dip!
5. Mount Storm King Trail, Washington
One of the most beautiful (and challenging) hikes in Olympic National Park is Mount Storm King. You literally have to use ropes to climb to the top! But it’s worth it because at the top you get incredible views of a lake called Lake Crescent. The ropes help you pull yourself up a steep section and then it’s a final short scramble to the finish line. Challenging but rewarding!
6. Colchuck Lake Trail, Washington
I describe Colchuck Lake as the most enchanting lake of all time. When you see it for the first time you will be awe-inspired. The colors of the lake change depending on the sunlight: on cloudy days the lake is a deep blue while on sunny days you see a stunning aquamarine color. All of this while Colchuk and Dragontail spires look over the lake in a formidable way.
Best Hiking Memory in the Pacific Northwest
My favorite memory hiking in the PNW was when I got my first water bottle call. What is a water bottle call? It was something that wasn’t a thing but is now a thing. A wise friend once told me: figure out what you want and learn how to ask for it. As your local licensed real estate agent and outdoor enthusiast, my goal this year is to summit 52 hikes and transform the lives of 52 homeowners as I elevate their home buying or selling experience.
Additionally, for every home sold, I will donate to the Washington Trails Association to support their efforts to protect our trails while providing tools that enable us to adventure responsibly. That is what I want. Now, how do I ask for it? How do I connect with people who are passionate about reaching their goals both financially and physically? While I cannot reinvent real estate, I learned that I could reinvent the approach.
So, rather than going door to door, I go trail to trail leaving a cooler of ice-cold water bottles at the trailhead. I created a sign that encourages hikers to help themselves. On each bottle they will find a custom wrap providing them with my contact info and QR code to learn more about my mission. My hope is that by sharing my goals, I will inspire others to hydrate theirs.
But no one ever called. Hike after hike, lugging countless coolers, one day I had finally convinced myself that this was not working. And what was worse than getting my cooler stolen multiple times was that I had spent so much time and money creating this unique tchotchke that had failed.
It was official. This was going to be the last time I put the cooler out. As I sat on the top of the mountain that day, I remember feeling defeated. I had hyped up this idea so much to the point that I was embarrassed that it hadn’t worked. But it wasn’t the failure that bothered me necessarily – it was the fact that I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working.
I was frustrated and alone and that is when I received a call from a stranger saying they just enjoyed the most refreshing water they had ever had in their life. Additionally, they told me that because of my mission, they are going to hire me when they are ready to buy a home in the PNW.
Thank goodness I had service because this call changed my life! It gave me hope and reminded me that I am on the right path, the path I created. During this monumental moment, I had a realization that I can’t answer the call if I don’t put in the effort. Since then, I have continued to bring my cooler on every hike. Moments like this are priceless. Making an impact in the community and in the lives of others is an amazing feeling.
Where I Normally Stay on my PNW Hikes
I am historically a day hiker, not a backpacker (not yet anyway). Aside from staying in lookout towers, I usually go straight home after hiking as I like to freshen up. Although, if my adventure is further away, I often like to stay at local hotels or cabins which makes for a fantastic staycation. A few local favorites are: Posthotel, TreeHouse Point, Ross Lake Resort and Suncadia.
Eco-Tips and Responsible Hiking Advice
If you are looking to experience the best hikes in the Pacific Northwest in a responsible and eco-friendly way, I recommend joining a trail working party. Washington Trails Association puts together an amazing opportunity for those who are looking to opt outside to gain knowledge.
The work party leaders practice eco-friendly techniques and provide tools and knowledge on how to adventure responsibly. They also offer carpool options – one of the many ways WTA is dedicated to helping protect our environment. To learn more about the work parties, click the link here.
Final Tips for Pacific Northwest Hiking
- Use WTA to find your trail
- Read the trip reports to check recent conditions
- Pack the 10 essentials [+coffee and fuel]
- Tell someone where you are going
- Don’t forget the parking pass
- Yield to the summit bound
- Have fun and leave no trace!