Tips for Choosing a Backpacking Location By Season

There are many options in the Pacific Northwest for backpacking in every season – from coastal and rainforest trips to high desert and subalpine mountain locations.

Time of Year

SPRING

spring backpacking

In the spring, low elevation locations are usually snow-free, but this time of year can also be quite rainy. It helps to have some flexibility in your schedule so you can take advantage of good weather when it happens. Forest locations near streams and rivers are a great destination in the early season. The high desert, which can be scorching hot in the summer, is also a good option in the spring since it gets sparse rainfall compared to the rest of the region.

Suggested locations for spring backpacking:

EARLY SUMMER

early summer backpacking

Early summer will likely still have a fair amount of snow at higher elevations in the mountains, but mid-level elevations (2,500-4,000 ft.)  can be snow-free in May or June depending on the year’s snowpack level. It can also be a great time to backpack on the coast.

Suggested locations for early summer backpacking:

MID-LATE SUMMER

backpacking in the summer

Summer is prime backpacking time, usually mid-July through September. Most people prefer to backpack in the summer, as it’s the only time of year to experience higher elevations without snow cover. This is also when mosquitoes can be a problem (usually the first several weeks after snow melt – typically through July and early August. In popular locations, consider mid-week trips to avoid crowds and issues with campsite availability.

Suggested locations for summer backpacking:

FALL

backpacking in the fall

As the weather starts to change in the fall, so do the colors of foliage, making this time of year great for trips to areas with brilliant fall color. The days are shorter and the weather a bit more unpredictable, but a bonus is that there are fewer people on the trails this time of year. 

Suggested locations for fall backpacking:

WINTER

backpacking in the winter

Backpacking is also possible in the winter, although it can require special skills and gear to deal with snow and colder conditions. Backcountry snow camping is popular at places like Mount Rainier or Mount Hood but definitely requires pre-planning due to elevated risks in changing winter conditions.

Suggested locations for winter backpacking:

backpacking destinations

View Backpacking Destinations in Oregon & Washington for a list of suggested trips by location, difficulty, and best season.

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