Spring Backpacking Destinations

In the spring when higher elevations are still snow-covered, these backpacking locations are great for early season trips.

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

Central Oregon: McKenzie River Trail

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.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 7.5 miles, 450 ft. gain
  • difficulty: moderate
  • day hike options: continue north on the McKenzie River Trail
  • best months: April – June
  • permits: none
  • more info: McKenzie River Trail backpacking trip

Olympic Coast: Ozette Triangle

Ozette Triangle - South Sand Point backpacking trip

Washington’s Olympic Coast is truly wild, with access limited to hikers and backpackers for long stretches of coast line. This trip to South Sand Point includes a day hike to see ancient native petroglyphs at Wedding Rocks.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 4.5 miles, 175 ft. gain
  • difficulty: easy
  • day hike options: Wedding Rocks petroglyphs
  • best months: spring (for better water access for filtering)
  • permits: required in advance from Olympic National Park
  • more info: South Sand Point backpacking trip

Olympic Peninsula: Dosewallips River Trail

Dosewallips River Trail backpacking trip

The Dosewallips River Trail provides access to trails in the Olympic National Park via an old road bed. A former campground at the end of the closed road makes a great backpacking location, with many campsites next to the river.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 6.5 miles, 1,200 ft. gain
  • difficulty: moderate
  • day hike options: continue on the Dosewallips River Trail
  • best months: April – June
  • permits: self-issued at wilderness checkpoint for Dosewallips Camp. Backcountry sites beyond this are required in advance through Olympic National Park
  • more info: Dosewallips River Trail backpacking trip

Southwest Washington: 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.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 3 miles, 900 ft. gain
  • difficulty: easy
  • day hike options: continue on the Trapper Creek Trail
  • best months: May – June
  • permits: self-issued at wilderness checkpoint
  • more info: Trapper Creek backpacking trip

Olympic National Park: 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.

  • distance & elevation gain to Five Mile Island Camp: 5.1 miles, 400 ft. gain
  • difficulty: easy
  • day hike options: continue on the Hoh River Trail to the Olympus Guard Station
  • best months: May to June
  • permits: required in advance from Olympic National Park
  • more info: Hoh River Trail backpacking trip

Southwest Washington: 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.

  • distance & elevation gain to Bolt Camp: 2.4 miles, 175 ft. gain
  • difficulty: easy
  • day hike options: continue on the Lewis River Trail for an additional 6-7 miles (one-way)
  • best months: April – June
  • permits: none
  • more info: Lower Lewis River Trail backpacking trip

Olympic Coast:  Rialto Beach to Chilean Memorial

Washington’s Olympic Coast is a wild coast – with extremely limited access to vast sections of it. About 70 miles of this incredibly scenic coastline is part of the Olympic National Park and accessible to hardy backpackers willing to time their trek at low tide to round headlands, or to use ropes to climb steep slopes to reach overland trails.

  • distance & elevation gain to Chilean Memorial Camp: 4 miles, 200 ft. gain
  • difficulty: strenuous (due to tides and terrain)
  • best months: May to July
  • permits: required in advance from Olympic National Park
  • more info: Rialto Beach to Chilean Memorial backpacking trip

Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness: Salmon River Canyon

Salmon River Canyon - Goat Creek 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.

  • distance & elevation gain to Goat Creek camp: 5.5 miles, 1,200 ft. gain (there are many shorter/easier options for camping here)
  • difficulty: easy to moderate
  • 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
  • permits: self-issued at wilderness checkpoint
  • more info: Salmon River Canyon backpacking trip

Olympic National Park: 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.

  • distance & elevation gain to Fire Creek Camp: 3.8 miles, 1,125 ft. gain
  • difficulty: moderate
  • day hike option: continue on the Quinault River Trail to Enchanted Valley
  • best months: May to June
  • permits: required in advance from Olympic National Park
  • more info: Enchanted Valley backpacking trip

Southwest Washington: 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.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 3.6 miles, 1,100 ft. gain
  • difficulty: moderate
  • day hike options: Upper Falls Creek trail
  • best months: May-June, September-October
  • permits: none
  • more info: Upper Falls Creek backpacking trip

Olympic Peninsula: 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.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 2-5 miles, 400-1,750 ft. gain
  • difficulty: easy to moderate
  • day hike options: continue on the Duckabush River Trail
  • best months: April to June, depending on snow levels
  • permits: none if camping before 10 Mile Camp
  • more info: Duckabush River backpacking trip

Goat Rocks: Packwood Lake

Packwood Lake backpacking trip

Packwood Lake is at low elevation in Goat Rocks Wilderness, so it’s a good early season backpack when the snow levels are above 3,500 ft. Due to the easy access, the lakeside campsites can be heavily crowded, especially in the summer, so go early in the season if you can.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 4-6 miles, 400-700 ft. gain
  • difficulty: easy
  • day hike options: continue on the Packwood Lake Trail to the end of the lake
  • best months: May – June (due to crowds in the summer months)
  • permits: self-issued at wilderness checkpoint
  • more info: Packwood Lake backpacking trip

Olympic National Park: North Fork Skokomish River Trail

backpack - North Fork Skokomish River

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.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 4 miles, 800 ft. gain
  • difficulty: easy
  • day hike options: continue on the North Fork Skokomish Trail; Flapjack Lakes
  • best months: May – June
  • permits: required in advance from Olympic National Park
  • more info: North Fork Skokomish River backpacking trip

Badger Creek Wilderness: 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.

  • distance & elevation gain to campsite: 3.8 miles, 575 ft. gain
  • difficulty: easy
  • day hike options: continue on Badger Creek Trail as snow levels allow in the spring
  • best months: May – June
  • permits: self-issued at wilderness checkpoint
  • more info: Badger Creek backpacking trip

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