Backpacking Trips Featuring Pacific Northwest Rivers & Creeks

The Pacific Northwest is teeming with scenic rivers and creeks. These backpacking trips feature some of the best destinations for backcountry camping with the sound of rushing water to lull you to sleep.

For more info about backpacking gear and trip planning, visit these posts:

Quinault River & the Enchanted Valley

Enchanted Valley backpacking trip

Beginning at the Graves Creek trailhead, the Quinault River Trail follows the river through dense Olympic rainforest. Setup camp at one of the many backcountry sites and day hike to the Enchanted Valley.

  • I Heart PNW trip report: Enchanted Valley backpacking trip
  • distance & elevation gain to Fire Creek Camp: 3.8 miles, 1,125 ft. gain
  • day hike option: continue on the Quinault River Trail to Enchanted Valley
  • best months: May to June

Salmon River Canyon

Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

Hike next to the Salmon River through a mossy forest and setup camp at one of the many campsites in the first several miles, or continue past several canyon viewpoints to Goat Creek Camp. Woodland wildflowers are a highlight in the spring.

  • I Heart PNW trip report: Salmon River Canyon backpacking trips
  • distance & elevation gain to Goat Creek camp: 5.5 miles, 1,200 ft. gain
  • day hike options: continue on the Salmon River Trail or hike up to Kinzel Lake or Devils Peak lookout
  • best months: May-June, September-October

North Fork Skokomish River

North Fork Skokomish backpack July 2021

Located in the Olympic National Park, the North Fork Skokomish River Trail is a great low elevation trip for the spring when water levels are running high in the cascading river and the lush forest is filled with many shades of green.

  • I Heart PNW trip report: North Fork Skokomish River backpacking trip
  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 4 miles, 800 ft. gain
  • day hike options: continue on the North Fork Skokomish Trail; Flapjack Lakes
  • best months: May – June

Lower Lewis River Trail

Lower Lewis River Trail backpacking trip

The Lower Lewis River is a good early season option when there’s still snow at higher elevations. Highlights include old-growth forest, uncrowded trails, and of course, the Lewis River.

  • I Heart PNW trip report: Lower Lewis River Trail backpacking trip
  • distance & elevation gain to Bolt Camp: 2.4 miles, 175 ft. gain
  • day hike options: continue on the Lewis River Trail for an additional 6-7 miles (one-way)
  • best months: April – June

Hoh River Rainforest

Hoh River Trail backpacking trip

The Hoh Rainforest is one of the wettest places in the United States. The rainforest here is lush with mosses and lichens and plenty of water – and the trail is fairly flat and next to the river with several designated camp areas along the way.

  • I Heart PNW trip report: Hoh River Trail backpacking trip
  • distance & elevation gain to Five Mile Island Camp: 5.1 miles, 400 ft. gain
  • day hike options: continue on the Hoh River Trail to the Olympus Guard Station
  • best months: May to June

McKenzie River

McKenzie River Trail backpacking trip

The McKenzie River Trail is popular with mountain bikers, but it’s also a good location for a backpacking trip. The southern section of the trail parallels the river (and the highway) as it travels through old-growth forest.

  • I Heart PNW trip report: McKenzie River Trail backpacking trip
  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 7.5 miles, 450 ft. gain
  • day hike options: continue north on the McKenzie River Trail
  • best months: April – June

Duckabush River Trail

Duckabush River Trail backpacking trip

The Duckabush River Trail is located on the Hood Canal side of the Olympic Peninsula and makes for a great early season backpacking trip with multiple camp areas in low elevation forest next to the scenic river.

  • I Heart PNW trip report: Duckabush River backpacking trip
  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 2 miles, 400 ft. gain
  • day hike options: continue on Duckabush River Trail as snow levels allow in the spring
  • best months: May to June

Badger Creek

Badger Creek Wilderness backpacking trip

Located southeast of Mount Hood, Badger Creek Wilderness is in a transition zone on the east side of the Cascade crest with a forest of mixed conifers including Ponderosa pine, western red cedar, and western hemlock. This is a good early season backpacking destination due to the lower elevation and drier conditions.

  • I Heart PNW trip report: Badger Creek backpacking trip
  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 3.8 miles, 575 ft. gain
  • day hike options: continue on Badger Creek Trail as snow levels allow in the spring
  • best months: May – June

Upper Falls Creek

Falls Creek backpacking trip

The Upper Falls Creek area has several campsites next to the creek above the super scenic (and extremely popular) Falls Creek Falls waterfall, and makes a great base for exploring less traveled trails in the area.

  • I Heart PNW trip report: Upper Falls Creek backpacking trip
  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 3.6 miles, 1,100 ft. gain
  • day hike options: Upper Falls Creek trail
  • best months: May-June, September-October

Trapper Creek

Trapper Creek Wilderness backpacking trip

The low elevation forested canyons of Trapper Creek Wilderness provide an easy getaway for relaxing backpacking trips. This area was impacted by the 2020 Big Hollow Wildfire, so be sure to check conditions before heading out.

  • I Heart PNW trip report: Trapper Creek backpacking trip
  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 3 miles, 900 ft. gain
  • day hike options: continue on the Trapper Creek Trail
  • best months: May – June

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