Chain Lakes Loop

5 Overnight Backpacking Trips in Washington’s Cascade Mountains

Camping Hiking Travel
November 20, 2019

Choosing from Washington state’s countless, astonishing overnight trips is nearly impossible. The Cascades span the entire state and offer endless opportunities for day hikes to longer, multi-day outings. The five hikes listed below can be done in a single night, or extended to continue trekking beyond the described route. Best of all, these hikes can be reached easily from Seattle for a full weekend outing.

Chain Lakes Loop

This classic backpacking loop starts in the shadow of two of Washington’s most famous peaks — Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. While the 6.5-mile loop can certainly be completed in a day, the drive to the trail head makes for a long day for those living in the Seattle-area, plus no one will complain about spending more time among these mountains. Just about every season brings a unique beauty to this hike. Springtime features beautiful wildflowers; hikers can take a dip in one of the many alpine lakes in summer; and the blueberry bushes put on a brilliant display of colors during fall. There are plenty of camping sites along the trail and options for extended trips.

Chain Lakes

Chain Lakes, Washington

Marmot Lake and Jade Lake

Located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness outside the small town of Roslyn, this 20-mile round trip hike is a true gem. The hike to Marmot Lake is fairly easy, while the remaining mile and a half after Marmot Lake is not for the faint of heart. The trek to reach Jade Lake requires walking along a rooted and narrow trail with plenty of fallen trees before reaching a steep and treacherous scramble. Experienced hikers will be fine, and the climb is absolutely worth it to camp above the stunning turquoise Jade Lake. More adventurous hikers can add on Pea Soup Lake, which sits at the base of Mt. Daniel. Getting there means traversing a glacier, so timing is of the essence.

Jade Lake

Jade Lake, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington. Pictured in KÜHL W’s DEFLEKTR HYBRID SHELL

Barclay Lake

This short 5-mile round-trip jaunt is a perfect backpacking trip for beginners. The mostly flat trail follows a wooded path alongside a river much of the way. Towering trees keep the sun out, and hold warmth in during the cooler months. Barclay Lake sits just below Mt. Baring, a precipitous peak that reflects its jagged peak in the water. Several lakeside camping spots accommodate backpackers. It’s a popular spot, so plan to arrive early.

Barclay Lake

Mt. Baring looms above Barclay Lake, Washington

Goat Lake

Another beginner-friendly backpacking trip, Goat Lake is a 10.4-mile round trip hike with 1,400 feet of elevation gain in 5.2 miles. At mile 3, hikers can choose to take either the Upper or Lower Elliot Trail to the terminus at the lake. Take one up and the other down to experience the different Cascade views along each route. Goat Lake has a nice shoreline surrounded by mountain views. Just above the lake are about 15 or so camping spots with a vaulted toilet. Don’t forget to visit the nearby waterfalls!

Goat Lake

Goat Lake, Washington

Yellow Aster Butte

Practically just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border, Yellow Aster Butte is a wildly popular hike, and for good reason. It has stunning views of Mt. Baker, luscious meadows of wildflowers in the spring, and spectacular fall colors in September. The first mile and a half is tough, gaining 1,500 feet on a steep trail that eventually evens out as you cross through a meadow. Backpackers may want to ditch their packs at camp, a junction located about 3.6 miles from the trail head, and carry on to the peak for wide open views of Mt. Baker, Tomyhoi Peak, Mt. Shuksan and several other Cascade mountains.

Yellow Aster Butte

Yellow Aster Butte, Washington

Jen Sotolongo is a writer, photographer, and blogger. She travels the world in search of the most dog-friendly cities and outdoor adventures. Join her journey at Long Haul Trekkers.

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