Backpacking Trips in the High Cascade Mountains

These backpacking trips are all focused on close-up mountain scenery in the High Cascades, including Mount Hood, Mount Adams, the Three Sisters, Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens.

Difficulty Ratings

The difficulty ratings listed here are based on hiking in to a campsite and does not include additional hike destinations on the trip.

  • Easy: Hike in up to 6 miles, and up to 1,000 ft. gain to camp area
  • Moderate: Hike in up to 8 miles with 1,000-2,000 ft. gain to camp area
  • Strenuous: Hike in up to 10 miles with 2,000-3,000 ft. gain to camp area
  • Very Strenuous: Hike in up to 12 miles with 3,000-4,000 ft. gain to camp area

Mount Adams – Killen Creek & High Camp

backpacking trip plan - Mount Adams - Killen Creek

Spend a few days on Mount Adams’ northwest side and hike on the Pacific Crest Trail past meadows full of wildflowers, or explore higher elevation areas via the Highline and High Camp trails.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 4.5 miles, 1,460 ft. gain
  • difficulty: moderate
  • day hike options: High Camp, Foggy Flat, Muddy Meadows
  • best months: mid-July to September
  • permits: self-issued at wilderness checkpoint
  • more info: Killen Creek backpacking trips

Mount St. Helens – Ape Canyon & Plains of Abraham

Mount St. Helens - Ape Canyon backpacking trip

Visit the southeast side of Mount St. Helens, hiking in through old-growth forest before reaching a barren volcanic plateau filled with wildflowers in early summer.

Mount Hood – Cairn Basin & McNeil Point

Mount Hood - Carin Basin backpacking trip

Camping near Cairn Basin and McNeil Point provides access to the northwest side of Mount Hood’s subalpine meadows – with meandering streams and panoramic views of surrounding ridges.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite in Cairn Basin: 4.4 miles, 2,200 ft. gain
  • day hike options: McNeil Point, Wy’East Basin, Elk Cove
  • best months: August – September
  • permits: self-issued at wilderness checkpoint
  • more info: Cairn Basin backpacking trip

Mount Rainier – Berkeley Park & The Burroughs

It’s not easy to get a backcountry permit for Mount Rainier, but if you do, it can be overwhelming to decide where to go. Berkeley Park is on the north side of the mountain set in a scenic meadow area full of wildflowers and marmots. This area provides great access to big views of Mount Rainier on the Burroughs Mountain and Skyscraper Mountain trails.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 4 miles, 417 ft. gain & 1,200 ft. loss
  • day hike options: Burroughs Mountain, Skyscraper Mountain
  • best months: August – September
  • permits: required in advance from Mount Rainier National Park
  • more info: Mount Rainier – Berkeley Park backpacking trip

Three Sisters – Green Lakes & Broken Top

Three Sisters Wilderness - Green Lakes backpack

The Three Sisters Wilderness in Central Oregon has a long volcanic history, much of which is visible today. Nestled between South Sister and Broken Top mountains, the Green Lakes area is filled with wildflower meadows, streams, and volcanic pumice.

Mount Hood – Dollar Lake & Elk Cove

Mount Hood - Dollar Lake backpacking trip

Located on the north side of Mount Hood, Elk Cove is a quiet place with cascading streams, wildflower meadows, and views of Mount Hood’s rugged upper face and glaciers. Campsites at Dollar Lake make a good basecamp for exploring this scenic alpine area.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 3.7 miles, 1,600 ft. gain
  • day hike options: Elk Cove, Barrett Spur
  • best months: August – September
  • permits: self-issued at wilderness checkpoint
  • more info: Mount Hood – Elk Cove backpacking trip

Mount St. Helens – South Coldwater Ridge

Mount St. Helens Ridge Camp backpacking trip

South Coldwater Ridge at Mount St. Helens is in the former blast zone, with evidence from the 1980 eruption visible from the trail, including downed trees and twisted logging equipment from that fateful day.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 5 miles, 1,600 ft. gain
  • day hike options: Coldwater Ridge Trail to Harry’s Ridge
  • best months: June – July (depending on snow levels)
  • permits: required in advance from Mount St. Helens National Monument
  • more info: South Coldwater Ridge backpacking trip

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