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Long Hikes, Overnights for Labor Day Weekend

Whether you have one, two or three days in mind, make your way into the backcountry this holiday weekend. You can go for the day, or turn these long day hikes into overnights.

If you haven’t finalized your plans for the three-day weekend yet, then WTA’s got a few destination suggestions to get out into the backcountry. Go for the day, or turn these challenging day hikes into overnights or multi-night backpacks. Be sure to check in with the local ranger station about conditions, restrictions, and the backcountry permits you’ll need to sleep under the stars.

Trail Smarts: Before you head out, refresh your backpacking and Leave No Trace basics, so you know where to pitch your tent.

North Cascades

Cathedral Pass Loop

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

Cathedral Pass Loop
Photo by trip reporter Cedar's Best Day Ever!

Cathedral Pass offers some of the best scenery that the Pasayten’s breathtaking Boundary Trail (a priority area in WTA's Lost Trails Found campaign) has to offer. Climb the local peaks, check out the Canadian border monuments, or kick back and watch the marmots. At night, listen for the coyotes and count stars.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Rainbow-McAlester Loop

Location: North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
Mileage: 31.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 6650 feet

Rainbow-Mcalester Loop
Photo by trip reporter Stuke Sowle.

This trek samples some of the best views the North Cascades has to offer — subalpine lakes, forested valleys and rugged mountain passes—on this multi-day trek. By connecting a series of trails, the Rainbow–McAlester Pass Loop lets you experience the natural splendor found in the heart of the North Cascades National Park Complex. With numerous campsites along the way, you can plan an itinerary to suit your own hiking preferences for speed, difficulty, and views.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Olympic Peninsula

Shi shi Beach and point of the arches (closed for 2021)

Location: Pacific Coast
Mileage: 8.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Shi Shi Beach. Photo by tpioletti.jpeg
Photo by trip reporter tpioletti.

When it comes to picturesque views of the wild and rugged Olympic Coast, Shi Shi and Point of Arches tops the list. At only 8 miles round trip, this hike can easily be done in a day, but also makes for an easy backpack. Photographers might want to spend a night or two attempting to capture a prize-winning sunset over the sea stack-strewn Pacific.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

North Fork Skokomish River

Location: Hood Canal
Mileage: 15.2 mile loop, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3568 feet

North Fork Skokomish
Photo by trip reporter HermitThrush.

The North Fork Skokomish Trail leads through the thick Olympic forest to subalpine meadows with unbelievable views into the heart of the craggy, snow-capped Olympic Range. The most scenic section of this trail is the route to First Divide, where you find the gorgeous mountain views in a small pass, 4688 feet high.

> Plan you trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Central Cascades

Meander Meadow - Dishpan Gap - Cady Ridge Loop

Location: Stevens Pass - East
Mileage: 16 miles, roundtrip

Meander Meadows
Photo by trip reporter CeliaHarvey.

You may find a few lingering patches of snow, but this fabulous loop trip—a bit out of reach of day hikers—is wonderfully attainable for backpackers. Because the hike in and the hike out are both five-star hikes in and of themselves, this loop will keep your senses keen throughout. Huge meadows of color are a feast for the eyes and nose. Enjoy 360 views as you cruise along Cady Ridge.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Ingalls Creek

Location: Blewett Pass
Mileage: 14.4 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain: 1450 feet

Ingalls Creek. Photo by dannyparr.jpeg
Photo by trip reporter dannyparr.

The Ingalls Creek Trail features a variety of scenery that includes big pines, boulder fields, granite cliffs, old-growth and occasional views of the mighty Stuart Range. The primary attraction in late spring is the proliferation of wildflowers, some of which are uncommon. Be prepared for the cool breezes that flow down the valley, and carry an extra layer. The trail is both an excellent day hike and a good place to spend the night, especially if you plan to hike the entire trail, which leads to Stuart Pass (16 miles one way) and beyond.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Fisher Lake

Location: Stevens Pass - West
Mileage: 10.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1580 feet

The waters of Fisher Lake
Fisher Lake in September. Photo by ebeptonian.

This is a large lake hidden just south of Tonga Ridge in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Reached by a brushy, boot-beaten fisherman's path, it is less visited than many lakes in the area, but the route is marked on the map, and if you are willing to put up with a bit of inconvenience, it makes a great overnight.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

South Cascades

Coldwater peak

Location: Mount St. Helens
Mileage: 12.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2000 feet

Coldwater Peak. Photo by swhi3485..jpeg
Photo by swhi3485.

Survey Mount St.Helens’ recovering Blast Zone and get 360-degree, four-peak views from this high perch along the Boundary Trail. Allow plenty of time, carry an ample supply of water (except for occasional snowmelt, it’s a dry trail), and expect to return with a dusty coating of ash on your clothing and gear. Goofy sun hats and umbrellas are encouraged to ward off the sun

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Mount Aix

Location: Chinook Pass - Hwy 410
Mileage: 12.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:4650 feet

Mount Aix. Photo by bexoutsidethecity.jpeg
Photo by trip reporter bexoutsidethecity.

The Mount Aix trail leads to a lofty world above the tree line, with views in all directions, and access to other trails for wandering in the open. Mount Aix is the 40th most prominent peak in Washington, with a prominence of 3296 feet (1005 meters). On a clear day, you can see Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, the Goat Rocks, Mount Rainier, and the Stuart Range, just to mention the more identifiable peaks.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Dumbbell Lake

Location: White Pass/Cowlitz River Valley
Mileage: 13.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2070 feet

Dumbbell Lake. Photo by wishfulwanderer.jpeg
Photo by trip reporter wishfulwanderer.

Easy trails and abundant scenic camps make wandering the wilds of the William O. Douglas an experience that backpackers old and new can enjoy at a relaxing pace without the knee-wrecking elevation that reaching many of the alpine lakes elsewhere in the state requires. The 14-mile lollipop loop to Dumbbell Lake will take you past seven lakes large enough to have been named along with many smaller ponds and marshes that provide some of the finest elk, trout, and mosquito habitat in the Cascades.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Eastern Washington


Location: Palouse and Blue Mountains
Mileage: 45 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 9234 feet

Packers Trail - Mount Misery by BYOC.jpeg
Time your visit right and you'll be rewarded with fields of wildflowers. Photo by trip reporter BYOC.

The Blue Mountains lure hikers in with their open vistas along the high ridges, intense colors at sunrise and sunset, prolific wildflowers, wildlife sightings, and some of the largest old-growth trees in Eastern Washington. The Mount Misery trail is a tough one (beginning with a rough ride up the forest road), but it almost guaranteed for solitude.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Jungle Hill Loop

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

Jungle Hill Loop. Photo by HighlandsDan.jpeg
Endless rolling green hills seen from Jungle Hill. Photo by trip reporter HighlandsDan.

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 trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

South Fork Silver Creek to Gunsight Pass

Location: Selkirk Range
Mileage: 14.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2370 feet

Gunsight Pass. Photo by Holly Weiler..jpeg
Photo by trip reporter Holly Weiler.

The aspen groves and golden larch are a sight to behold on this remote hike through a seldom-seen corner of the Colville National Forest. Pro tip: Take advantage of the great trail head campground at road’s end and hike the North Fork Silver Creek Trail the next day.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide