Didn’t get a permit to camp in the Enchantments this year? You’re not alone. In recent years, winning the pre-season lottery for overnight permits in the spectacular granite basin has become about as challenging as finding a spot in the Mount Si parking lot on a sunny Saturday.
The good news is that there are plenty of other alpine areas to explore in the Pacific Northwest. The following trips feature many of the same draws as the Enchantments: crystal-blue lakes, breathtaking views, and enough side trips to keep backpackers entertained for three to four days.
Note that Olympic and North Cascades national parks restrict the number of overnight permits in popular areas; visit the individual park’s website for information about reservations and walk-up campsites.
Whatever the restriction level, remember to practice Leave No Trace and make an effort to minimize your impact while camping. This will help keep scenic trails open to all for years to come.
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Copper Ridge Loop, North Cascades National Park: Traveling clockwise, the first half of this 34-mile loop follows a high mountain ridge with commanding views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan. The further you continue, the more remote the surrounding wilderness starts to feel — keep your eyes open for bears and other wildlife. A side trip to Whatcom Pass is a great way to extend the trip.
Cady Ridge-Meander Meadow, Glacier Peak Wilderness: A scenic section of the PCT links the brushy Little Wenatchee River Trail with the lofty Cady Ridge Trail to create a 16-mile loop that’s just right for an overnight getaway. If you have more time, the options for side trips are many, starting with photo-worthy Kodak Peak and extending toward White Pass.
High Divide-Seven Lakes Basin, Olympic National Park: If your heart is set on rambling through a high basin that’s dotted with pristine lakes, High Divide is the trek for you. This 19-mile loop circumnavigates the picturesque Seven Lakes Basin, which provides plenty for room for exploration. Views of glacier-clad Mount Olympus are the visual icing on the cake.
Snowgrass Flats-Cispus Basin, Goat Rocks Wilderness: This South Cascades hike packs a lot into 24 miles: Volcano views, subalpine meadows, a bright teal lake and — you guessed it — mountain goats. Another highlight is the easy scramble to the top of 7,205-foot Old Snowy Mountain, the trail’s highest point in Washington state. Snowgrass Flats is a popular area; consider starting on a weekday or saving this hike for later in the season.