If you're from the Pacific Northwest, then you're probably familiar with Larch Madness. The autumnal attraction draws in hikers from all over the U.S. to witness the deciduous conifers change colors from a yellowish-green to a brilliant gold, starting in late September into half of October. The excitement that Seattle natives have in witnessing the golden wonderland attracts them to the best hikes in Washington, where hikes are also accompanied by breath-taking, panoramic views of the mountains.
If catching these spectacular views is on your bucket list, then its time to grab your hiking boots and a Discover Pass. The pass was created by the Washington State Legislature and governor to support the parks and natural recreation lands and gives you access to those places along with their parking areas, so you'll need one for most of these hiking trails.
Best Hikes in Washington: 17 Hikes to Catch Larch Madness
1. The Enchantments Trail, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Central Cascades, you can take a shuttle from Leavenworth and hike the challenging trail towards Colchuck Lake. You can also connect with the Snow Lakes Trail to behold views of more crystal blue lakes as you make your trek.
2. The Skyline Trail
This incredible Mount Rainier National Park day hike has a nearly 1,500 feet elevation gain, so although the trail isn't strenuous, the altitude might make it more difficult than it seems.
3. Cascade Pass Trail
Considered as one of the best hikes in North Cascades National Park, you'll adventure the Cascade Mountains while making your way across several switchbacks. Some adorable marmots might also pop out of the ground and accompany you on your way.
4. Hoh River Trail
In Western Washington, head to the Olympic Peninsula to find the vast Olympic National Park. Within the snowcapped Olympic Mountains, you'll find the stunning Hoh Rainforest, exploring it by following this trail.
5. Wallace Falls Trail
Located within Wallace Falls State Park, this popular hike will take you through nine dazzling different water falls, splitting between lower, middle, and upper sections.
6. Lake Ann Trail
Take the Mount Baker Highway to access this trail, which is not to be confused with the Lake Ann that's found at Rainy Pass in North Cascades National Park. Although a difficult hike, it'll be worth it once you see the Washington wilderness reflecting off the glacier-fed Lake Ann.
7. Rattlesnake Ledge
Snoqualmie Valley is a great area to find larches, and this trail is one of the many ways that you can. Located across from the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area, this area is one of many that surround Puget Sound.
8. Mount Pilchuck Trail
The trek to the summit of Mount Pilchuck is found in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, where you'll need a Northwest Forest Pass to access the parking lot at its trailhead. You'll then follow a broad gravel path through an old-growth forest, marveling at all the changing colors around you.
?9. Dog Mountain Trail
In between the border of Washington and Oregon, you'll find the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Follow the trail throughout this gorgeous area to get to the Dog Mountain, where you can overlook the vastness of your surroundings.
10. Twin Falls
?Just right out of Seattle, you'll find Olallie State Park, where this hike is located. This trail is great for day hikes and is family-friendly, so bring the kiddos with you if that's the kind of trip you want to take.
11. Tolmie Peak Lookout
Take this trail to an old fire lookout where you'll intake the best views of Mount Rainier at the top and the gorgeous sapphire Eunice Lake below.
12. Bridal Veil Falls
Another family-friendly hike, you'll follow this trail with the kids to the stunning Bridal Veil waterfall, witnessing it powerfully flow out of Lake Serene.
13. Maple Pass Loop
Another beautiful hike to embark on to find larches, you'll get to explore the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on the southeastern edge of North Cascades National Park along the way.
14. Ape Cave Trail
Within the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, this trail plunges hikers into a subterranean world. Extending for more than two miles underground, Ape Cave accesses one of the longest lava tubes in the nation.
15. Steamboat Rock Trail
This Steamboat Rock State Park trail is located in Eastern Washington and features the jutting basalt butte Steamboat Rock. But while you're enjoying all the rock formations, you'll also delightfully find pockets of wildflowers in between.
16. Nisqually Vista Loop Trail
This super easy hike follows a 1.1-mile loop that covers all the ways you could look at Mount Rainier. The short hike can also be accessed by the Paradise Area of Mount Rainier National Park.
17. Carne Mountain
Located in the Central Cascades, this area is also a hotspot to find larches. The rewarding, but challenging hike starts at Stevens Pass and takes you 2,600 feet in elevation gain within 2.9 miles to behold the gorgeous mountain horizon, with golden larches contrasting against the blue sky.
Have you ever witnessed the larches of Washington change their gorgeous colors? Share your experience with us on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!
Editor's note: This article was originally published on August 31, 2021.