5 Mountains Worth the Drive

Mount Rainier: Mount Rainier National Park has thousands of hikes, waterfalls, and viewpoints to visit and enjoy that classic PNW beauty from. While it is a bit of a drive from Seattle, the natural scenery of this region goes unparallelled and is 100% worth spending some gas money on. Of all the hikes in the area, a great first stop is Paradise, a spot very close to the mountain itself that provides excellent views. From here you can visit Narada Falls and Reflection Lake, or take on the challenging Skyline Trail. This trail is a 5.5 mile loop with a total elevation gain of 1450ft. It takes you past Panorama Point, which gives you an excellent view of the valley and surrounding mountains. This trail is one of my absolute favorites - in the summertime there is such a wide variety of wildflowers and animals on the trail, alongside no shortage of streams, glaciers, and interesting rock structures.

Crystal Mountain & Naches Peak: Naches Peak is a short hike in Mt. Rainier National Park that is the perfect hike to add onto a day trip. For an excursion with multiple exciting stops, I recommend Naches Peak hike and then stopping at Crystal Mountain and exploring the mountain and its incredible views of Mount Rainier (this works well if traveling from the Seattle area to the north part of Mt. Rainier National Park). While I haven’t hiked at Crystal Mountain before, I have heard of great hikes like the Crystal Mountain Loop. You can also ride the gondola up to the top and enjoy sweeping views of Mt. Rainier. If you are adding Crystal Mountain onto a hike like Naches Peak, you could consider riding the Gondola up and hiking down. Crystal Mountain also offers several snow shoe trails

Mount Baker: Mount Baker is in Deming, Washington, about two hours 45 minutes from Seattle. A hike that always comes up when searching for excursions in the area is Artist Point. This hike is covered is snow for most of the year, so it’s really more of a snowshoe trail, but it is hailed for its incredible views. As described on Washington Trails Association:

Artist Point is the top competitor for best viewpoint in the state. The beautifully shaped Mount Shuksan is the star of the area, with a gorgeous summit pyramid and several impressive glaciers. Mount Baker dominates the skyline in the southwest. Artist Point also is a great viewpoint for the Cascades, with sweeping views of the valley of Baker Lake and in the far distance peaks like Whitehorse Mountain, Three Fingers, Sloan Peak and White Chuck Mountain. Immediately from the trailhead beautiful peaks in the north are visible, such as American Border Peak, Mount Larrabee, and Goat Mountain.

While Avalanche risks and driving conditions are important to consider, this hike is highly recommended as a must-do while in the area.

Mount St. Helens: Mount St Helens is the second most popular mountain in Washington State, aside from Rainier. We all grew up reading about how the volcano erupted and (literally) blew its own top off in 1980, covering the valley in ash and leaving a massive crater behind. Today, it’s an iconic landmark that is a large part of Washington’s history. Plan a complete day trip out of this excursion because the drive is one of the longest I’ve ever taken for an adventure. There is so much to do from both the visitor’s center, where you can step inside to learn about the history of this volcano, or from one of the numerous trails that lead you to exciting viewpoints. For those who are willing, there are also guided hikes that allow you to summit St Helens every day, with a competitive waitlist - so sign up as early as you can!

Mount Hood: While technically in Oregon, Mt. Hood is another great Mountain to put on your Pacific Northwest bucket list. Only 15 minutes from the Washington border, Mt. Hood is a unique mountain offering even more hikes for outdoor enthusiasts. I’m by no means an expert, so check out this comprehensive list of different Mt. Hood hiking areas:

https://www.oregonhikers.org/field_guide/Mount_Hood_Hikes