Best Hiking Trails in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
With more than four million acres of national forest land, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest spans the eastern slopes of Washington state's Cascade Mountain Range, from the Canadian border down to Goat Rocks Wilderness. The rugged mountains of Washington Pass, Enchantment Permit Area with alpine lakes carved by glaciers, dense wet forests, open meadows, and low growth dry forest make up the expansive national forest with ample potential for recreational activities. At 10,541 feet, Glacier Peak is the most remote volcanic peak in the Cascade Range and has more active glaciers than any other place in the lower forty-eight states.
In 2000, the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests were combined into one resulting in a total of seven ranger districts. In addition to the national forest, eight wilderness areas reside within the region, including Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Glacier Peak Wilderness, and the Pasayten Wilderness. Wilderness areas are amongst the most protected U.S. land.
Access the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest's multiple districts and wilderness areas via the below highways, along with many forest roads.
From U.S. Route 97, navigate the national forest roads to trailheads in the Teanaway Community Forest. Reach great alpine views of the Stuart Range to the north and hike to Lake Ingalls or Navaho Peak via the Stafford Creek Trail.
Stevens Pass, on U.S. Highway 2, joins the western Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest to the more easternly Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Highway 2 remains open throughout the winter and is the shortest route to Leavenworth, Washington. From Leavenworth, enter the lottery for permits to the Enchantments, mountain bike on the rolling ridges, or rock climb on the local crags a short distance off Icicle Creek Road. Popular hikes include Icicle Ridge Trail and Eightmile Lake.
State Route WA-20 is only open between late-April until the snow starts in November. The highway passes through the North Cascades National Park to the west before crossing into the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. When the highway is closed, visitors can still access the forest. Washington Pass has plenty of camping, hiking, and climbing options. Some of the more populated hikes include Maple Pass Loop and Blue Lake Trail.
Enter the southern sections of the national forest on U.S. Route 12 and State Route WA-410 for access to Goat Rocks. The Goat Rocks are remnants of a large volcano, extinct for some two million years. Goat Rocks lays between two of Washington's volcanoes: Mount Adams and Mount Rainier. Gilbert Peak (formerly known as Mt. Curtis Gilbert) is the highest point in the area and boasts views of the surrounding volcanoes. Be aware of road closures and call a ranger station as the road is known to have been washed out at time of writing.
When to Go
March through October are the best times to visit, as the majority of the forest sits on the warmer eastern side of the Cascades.
Depending on the wilderness area, wilderness permits may be very limited, or given only by lottery, though most permits are accessible at trailheads. Find out more permit details here or check in with the many ranger stations for availability or requirements.
Pets must be on a leash no longer than six feet at all times. Though pets are not permitted (except service animals) in a few of the permit areas, such as The Enchantments.Check out this webpage for more information.