Allianz - Travel
Travel Resources

5 of the Best Hiking Vacations in the Pacific Northwest

Crater Lake
Allianz - Crater Lake

Some people like to spend their vacation lounging around. Others aren’t happy unless you’re sweating and sore from a 10-mile trek. For you adventurous types, we’ve picked five of the best places to hike in the Pacific Northwest, all with memorable scenery (of course) and varying trail rigor, from easy to strenuous. Some of these hiking destinations are well traveled, while others are serene wilderness. Wherever you go, make sure you’re thoroughly prepared, and follow the principles of Leave No Trace.

1. McKenzie River Trail, Oregon

You’ve probably never heard of the McKenzie River Trail, unless you live in Oregon, but it’s one of the most spectacular, all-around best places to hike in the Pacific Northwest. The 26-mile trail begins at Clear Lake in the Cascade Mountains and follows the McKenzie River past waterfalls, lava fields, ancient forests and the Blue Pool, a cold, deep pool where the river re-emerges from underground.1 (People have been injured and even died from diving in, so admire the water from the edge.)2

Those hiking end-to-end can use the shuttle service provided by the McKenzie River Mountain Resort.3 Your reward at the end of the trail is a long soak in the Bigelow (Deer Creek) Hot Springs, a natural, 104-degree spring just off the river.4

2. Olympic National Park, Washington

The first thing you need to know about Olympic National Park is that it’s absolutely enormous: more than a million acres of lush rainforest, rocky coastline, and snow-covered peaks.5 Avid hikers could easily spend a week exploring this beautiful park. The second thing you need to know is that Olympic National Park can be a dangerous hiking destination, because of its vastness, wildlife and extreme weather, including snow that sometimes lingers into late summer.6 In April 2017 alone, a hiker and a mountain biker went missing in separate incidents.7

What are the best places to hike in Olympic National Park? That depends on what you’re looking for. The Hoh Rain Forest is a magical, mossy place that can be explored on a short nature walk or by traversing the 17.3-mile Hoh River Trail, which ends with great views of Mount Olympus. The Sol Duc Valley and its namesake river, where salmon run in every season, offers places to hike past ancient trees and waterfalls. Reserve a campsite ahead of time, or stay at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, which offers cozy cabins, hot mineral-spring pools, and massage therapy to soothe hikers’ sore muscles.

3. Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is a nearly 400,000-acre section of the central Cascades, known for glacier-carved lakes and Douglas fir forests. You may see mountain goats, black bears and marmots. The terrain is steep and challenging on much of the 615-mile trail network, so this may not be one of the best hiking destinations for inexperienced trekkers. A permit is required to visit the popular Enchantment Lakes area; you can apply via lottery here.

One challenging and beautiful hike is the Horseshoe Lake trail, a 16-mile round trip that ascends to a stunning glacial lake. The West Fork Foss River and Lakes trail is another long (14.6-mile) hike that visits multiple lakes. “Along the trail, be alert for occasional exceptionally-large trees that somehow survived loggers and forest fires. When you come upon one of these solitary giants, reflect that trees of that size once were common in Northwest forests,” the Washington Trails Association advises.8

4. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Almost 8,000 years ago, a volcano erupted in the Cascade Mountains, leaving behind a massive crater. Over the centuries, the crater filled with pure water, becoming the deepest lake in the United States. “Makalaks (now Klamath Indians) held the belief that this place was holy and that looking upon it required great power and strength,” the National Park Service says.9 Even today, with some 664,000 visitors from coming to the park each year, not everyone gets to see the lake; it’s sometimes shrouded in fog.10

One of the best short hikes in Crater Lake is the Watchman Trail, a .7-mile trek to an old fire station that offers a great view of Wizard Island, in the center of the lake. An even more memorable experience is taking a boat to Wizard Island, then hiking to its summit.

5. Jedediah Smith State Park, California

If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting the primeval forest of Endor from “Star Wars,” take a hiking vacation in Jedediah Smith State Park. Contrary to some accounts, the famous Ewok scenes weren’t filmed in the park, but rather on private land that has since been logged.11 Jedediah Smith, however, has preserved its old-growth trees, creating what many people say is the most beautiful redwood forest in northern California.

The park has 20 miles of trails, campgrounds and four rental cabins, making it the perfect place for a weekend-getaway hiking vacation. The 5.6-mile Boy Scout Trail takes you to the 300-foot-tall Boy Scout Tree, which is actually two massive redwoods fused together. A nearly 20-mile trail from Little Bald Hills Trail to South Fork Road includes a backcountry campground.12

Wherever your boots take you, make sure your hiking vacation is protected with travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance. You can enjoy perfect peace of mind when you have a travel insurance plan with emergency medical benefits, trip cancellation/interruption benefits, trip delay benefits, lost/delayed luggage benefits and more.

Related Articles

Allianz - AZ_OPM_Insurance_Partner

May 03, 2017