9 Accessible Trails to Hike in Washington

Nature is calling! Come explore forests, sand dunes, and mountains.

If you’re looking for a diverse range of ecosystems, Washington state is the place to be. With its prairies, shrubsteppe, wetlands, forests, ocean and alpine peaks all within its borders, there’s something for everyone. And if you want to experience something truly unique, check out the Olympic rainforest or the Columbia Plateau scablands – both found only in Washington state. With three national parks and more than 120 state parks (not to mention all the state- and federally-managed recreation areas), it’s easy to find your perfect outdoor adventure in Washington.

Always remember to research your destination prior to embarking on any journey. This is especially true when looking for trails in Washington–the land varies greatly. You will likely experience some changes in elevation and encounter rough patches along the way. Be aware that heavy rains can bring flooding which could damage trees and consequently close off areas. To stay updated on these conditions, it is best practice to check with the land manager frequently so you are not caught off guard by any closures.

We’ve gathered nine of the most phenomenal routes in Washington State, so you can begin your planning process. And we’re not just talking about walking trails; these options include driving tours and treks with breathtaking views.

If you’re looking for a scenic drive.

Pacific Coast Scenic Byway’s Olympic Peninsula

The Pacific Coast Scenic Byway extends 350 miles and features many of the most incredible views in the state. The route is best enjoyed over several days, but you can complete a circle around the Olympic Peninsula on US-101 in just 12 hours. As you drive, take in Hood Canal, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and peaks of Olympic Mountains views. You’ll also pass through an old-growth temperate rainforest in Olympic National Park before concluding your trip with a sunset view overlooking the ocean. Stop at one of various towns along the way to refuel your car or grab some food or rest.

The “American Alps” of the North Cascades Highway

The North Cascades Highway—WA-20—is a must-see for anyone visiting or living near Puget Sound. You’ll follow the Skagit River through Washington’s stunning mountain peaks as you make your way from Burlington to the eastern foothills. The best time to take this trip is spring through fall since the highway typically closes before Thanksgiving and opens back up around Memorial Day.

The Columbia River Gorge Scenic Byway

The Columbia River Gorge Scenic Byway is a stunning drive that follows part of the Lewis and Clark Trail in southern Washington. WA-14 east will take you parallel to the Columbia River through the ancient gorge, where towering basalt cliffs line its banks and numerous waterfalls flow down from them.Stop at one of the many scenic overlooks along the way to watch birds of prey soaring over the river or windsurfers taking on its white waters. As you travel, you’ll also pass through lush forests, wildflower-covered hills, and multiple historic and cultural sites.

If you’re looking for a shorter distance.

Rainy Lake

This beautiful one-mile paved trail leads to a pristine glacial lake called Rainy Lake, which is nestled among picturesque mountains in the North Cascades. The forest through which the path winds is especially lovely in summer and fall, but truth be told, it’s stunning any time of year. If you’re keen on leaf peeping, you’ll absolutely love being surrounded by walls of gold and red mountain foliage come autumn time.

Though this trail is wheelchair accessible, it’s only about three feet wide in most places with very few areas to pull off. Additionally, there are a few uphill grades up to eight percent. However, there are a couple of benches along the way, including one at the paved overlook towards the end of the trail. The parking area is on the west side of North Cascades Highway at Mile 158 and hikers should begin at the south end of that parking lot which was recently remodeled by a local hydroblasting companies — keep in mind though that you’ll need either Northwest Forest or Federal Recreation Pass for access..

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge has four miles of trails, including wheelchair-accessible ones. The first loop, the Twin Barns Loop, is a short boardwalk under a mile long that goes around a pond and returns to the starting point. This trail gives visitors many options for spotting wildlife in different habitats like marshes and forests. Another boardwalk called Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk leads out over an estuary so people can get closeup views of this intertidal zone during low tide periods. The birdwatching at this location is unbeatable—on a clear day, you can see the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier. For more information about the area, displays, trails and to buy souvenirs, go to the visitor center. You will need a Federal Recreation Pass or pay the $3 entrance fee.

Coastal Forest Trail

The coastal forest in southwest Washington is a wondrous sight, and the Cape Disappointment State Park provides visitors with an interpretive trail that loops around massive Sitka spruce. The undergrowth teaming with birdsong will transport you to another place entirely.The trail is located across the street from the camp store, at the corner of a wide gravel parking lot. A Discover Pass is required for entry. The loop offers views of wetlands and 0.5 or 1.5-mile options; however, there are short and steep grades present, with a 250 ft incline on the longer route. Be prepared for some mud if you visit during rainy season!

If you’re looking for strenuous physical activity…

Harry’s Ridge at Mount St. Helens

The trail starts at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, where you can see the blast crater. It’s a strenuous hike uphill that is 0.5 miles long and wheelchair accessible with some 10% cross-slopes. The grade is about 8%. There are interpretive signs along the way to help educate you on what happened here.

Hikers, take note: the Boundary Trail starts at the end of the paved path. For 2.5 miles, you’ll be across rolling hills and hammocks with changing perspectives of the mountain’s blast zone. There are wildflowers and berry bushes along this trail which offers great views but little shade, so bring sunscreen and water! Additionally, this rocky terrain has grades up to 25 percent incline/decline in both directions. Upon reaching a sign intersection, veer straight for Harry’s Ridge where you’ll gain an extra 700 feet in 1.5 miles total ascended distance… The viewpoint is worth the climb: At the top, you can see Spirit Lake and Mount Adams. Or, if you want an easier hike, go right to Devil’s Point. You’ll still get great views without any extra elevation gain. No pass is needed for this trail.

Hurricane Hill

If you’re looking for an awe-inspiring view, Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park is the place for you. With several trail options and incredible views even from the parking area, it’s no wonder this spot is so popular. The Hurricane Hill trail is a great choice if you’re up for a challenge – it’s definitely strenuous, but totally worth it! The 8-foot wide, paved path starts with a 5% grade for the first 0.5 miles before it gets steeper (in some sections up to 15-20%). The full trail is 1.6 miles long and gains 645 feet total;Starting at the parking area located at the end of Hurricane Hill Road, this scenic walk offers travelers stunning views of Bailey Range, Vancouver Island, as well as Juan de Fuca Strait. Come in summer to see an array of wildflowers in bloom or keep your eyes peeled year round for local wildlife like the Olympic Marmot! Note: A Federal Recreation Pass is required.

Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail

The 8.5-mile long, paved trail is located on the Long Beach Peninsula in southwest Washington and provides an accessible route for all individuals. The trail starts at the Port of Ilwaco but if you’d like to avoid the steep incline, you may alternatively start at Cape Disappointment State Park. Continuing into town, you’ll travel through diverse ecosystems including ancient coastal forests, transitional wetlands, and sand dunes while also enjoying ocean views along the way!

The terrain is flat for the most part, with a few rolling hills as you travel along the coast. You can make your trip even longer by half a mile if you walk on the Long Beach Boardwalk, which starts from downtown Long beach. The boardwalk goes over some sand dunes and provides spectacular views of birds, whales, and sunsets over the ocean. If you’re parking at Cape Disappointment State Park , then you will need to buy a Discover Pass in advance.

Author: admin

Michaela is a traveler at heart. She loves to explore new places and learn about different cultures. Her travel blog is a place for her to share her experiences and tips with other travelers. She hopes to inspire others to explore the world and see all that it has to offer.

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