The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest extends 140 miles down the western slopes of Washington state's Cascade Mountain Range, from the Canadian border to Seattle. Summing this massive and diverse area up in one page is a challenge, but suffice it to say it's made extremely popular by its easy access from Seattle, world-class mountain scenery, pristine old-growth forests, meadows, thousands of mountain lakes and tarns with miles of trails. Whether you're looking for a family-friendly jaunt into the woods, a grueling multi-week hike, or to bag some glaciated peaks, you'll find it here in one of the most visited forests in the United States.
There are a few main access points to the different areas within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Within an hour drive from Seattle, I-90 takes you directly to some spectacular trails. Children love the Denny Creek Trail in the summer, a great swimming spot and an easy hike in. Continue up Denny Creek to Melakwa Lake and complete the whole circuit over a few beautiful backcountry days. Snow Lake at Snoqualmie Pass is one of the most visited lakes in the area, but there are dozens more to explore. Rachel Lake, Mason Lake and Lake Kachess are all worth the short drive, with family-friendly camping options at the latter. Get good tips from the Snoqualmie Ranger District.
The Mt. Baker Scenic Byway (State Route WA-542) takes you up to the town of Glacier and to an elevation of 5,140 feet with spectacular views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan.
State Route WA-20, referred to as Highway 20, remains closed until the snows melt. When open, this beautiful route takes you through the northern end of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and through the North Cascades National Park, an area very worthy of exploration. This route also takes you along the Skagit River, home to the largest population of bald eagles in the country. Stop in at the Mount Baker Ranger District.
Highway 2 (US Route 2), just north of Seattle, takes you along the Skykomish River, a paddler haven, and all the way up to Stevens Pass and beyond to the town of Leavenworth, in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and to other great hiking spots. On the way, spend an hour at Deception Falls State Park and the short but gorgeous trails, or make your way up the 8 mile out and back Lake Serene trail.
When to Go
July and August are your best chance of good weather and no snow. However, during the late spring, early summer and early to late fall, there are plenty of lower elevation trails to explore if snow is on the ground.
Except for a few restricted areas like the North Cascades National Park, much of the National Forest is a dog lover's paradise. Make sure to read up on the rules of bringing your pet on your next adventure.