Get Ready to Backpack - Plan your Destination!

Finding your Backpacking Trail


Your adventure begins by selecting your backpacking destination! Deciding on a destination is an exciting and in depth part of adventure planning and requires through research. These resources can help you answer all your questions before finalizing you backpacking destination!


  • How long is the trail? Is it in-and-out or a loop? What is the elevation gain?


Start researching backpacking trails in Washington using the Hike Finder Map by WTA. Search trails by location, milage, elevation, trail features, such as established campsites, and ratings. https://www.wta.org/go-outside/map


  • Are there established campsites on the trail? Do campsites have pit toilets and bear poles?


Find the details of your selected trail using the WTA Hiking Guide, which includes name, area, location, length, elevation, parking pass/entry fee and the essential Trip Reports. https://www.wta.org/go-outside/hikes


  • How many miles between campsites? Is there water nearby? Where can I get a map?


Use a free online program such as Caltopo to examine the details of your trail, determine the distances between your anticipated campsites, confirm water sources and print out scalable topographic maps. www.caltopo.com


  • What is the condition of the road to the trailhead? When does the snow melt out?


Use WTA Trip Reports to learn more about the trail and determine if the trailhead is accessible as well as current conditions on the trail. Scroll through older reports to find the best month to explore this trail (ex. when the snow melts out; peak wildflower season). https://www.wta.org/go-outside/trip-reports


  • What will the weather be like during the month I plan to visit my destination?


Determine the expected weather for the month you plan to visit your destination by searching Google for annual weather for your recreational area, such as “annual weather Goat Rock Wilderness”. This will bring up weather averages from NOAA for your destination.


  • What permits do I need? Do I need a reservation or can I get a walkup permit? When can I apply for a permit reservation?


Learn more about the backpacking permits you will need and when to apply: https://www.wta.org/go-outside/passes/backcountry-wilderness-permit-info


Destinations!

National Parks

National Parks are a great place to backpack as the trails are well marked and maintained and the backcountry camps have a pit toilet and bear poles. A permit is required for backcountry camping. https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm

Mount Rainier - Try Spray Park Loop - 16 mi, 5,100 ft gain
https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/wilderness-camping-and-hiking.htm 
https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/spray-park-ipsut-pass-loop

North Cascades - Try Cascade Pass to Sahale Arm - 12 mi, 4,000 ft gain
https://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/wilderness-trip-planner.htm
https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/sahale-arm

National Forests
For a more off-the-grid experience, try a national forests. Trails are often unmarked and may be unmaintained. Campsites often do not have any facilities so be prepared to Leave No Trace and to hang your own bear bag. Backcountry permits are required.  https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/destinations

Gifford Pinchot National Forest - Goat Rocks Wilderness - Try Snowgrass - Cispus Basin - Nannie Ridge Loop - 20 mi, 3,000 ft gain
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/giffordpinchot/recarea/?recid=79414
https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/cispus-basin-cispus-pass 

Umatilla National Forest - Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness - Try Panjab Loop - 12 mi, 2,500 ft gain
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/umatilla/recreation/recarea/?recid=56813
https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/panjab-trail

New to Backpacking?

Try these early-season, one-night backpacking destinations within 3 hours drive of Tricities.


Ancient Lakes, Quincy, WA
4-8 miles, 600 ft gain
https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/ancient-lakes 


Packwood Lake, Packwood, WA

10 miles, 600 ft gain
https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/packwood-lake