The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is a region characterized by an impressively rugged coastline, towering mountains, and dense, deeply green forests. It offers a vast array of hiking trails for all levels. The best hikes for beginners are also some of the most spectacular, if you know where to go.

I’ve been hiking in the Pacific Northwest for most of my life, always exploring and adventuring to new and beautiful trails and views. Here are my favorites so far.

Best Hikes for Beginners in the PNW

Hikes for Beginners
Naches Peak Loop, Mt Rainier, WA

The Pacific Northwest encompasses the northwestern part of the United States and southwestern part of Canada. It generally includes the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho in the United States, as well as the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Washington Hiking Trails for Beginners

Gold Creek Pond in winter
Gold Creek Pond, WA

I’ve been hiking in Washington state for over twenty years and never tire of these jaw-dropping beauties. Here are nine easy hikes well worth your time and effort.

1. Hall of Mosses

  • Location: Joyce, WA, Olympic National Park
  • Distance: 1.1 mile
  • Elevation: 78 feet
  • Parking info: National Park Pass
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Best time to go: Summer and early Fall

The Hall of Mosses is a very popular hike in the Olympic National Forest and also one of my favorite easy hikes in Washington. The trail is mostly flat and well-maintained, though often very muddy. The highlight of this hike is the lush and dense moss that covers the trees and forest floor, creating a magical and enchanting mood.

2. Naches Peak Loop

  • Location: Goose Prairie, Mount Rainier National Park
  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Elevation: 636 feet
  • Parking info: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Best time to go: Summer and Fall

Naches Peak Loop is one of many local favorites at Mount Rainier National Park, for its wildflowers, fall colors and sunset landscapes. While there is some elevation gain, it’s generally considered a family-friendly hike.

One of the highlights of this hike is the panoramic view of Mount Rainier that you get from the highest point on the trail. The view is truly breathtaking, and it’s a great place to stop for a picnic or to take some photos.

3. Silver Falls Loop Trail

  • Location: Paradise Inn, Mount Rainier National Park
  • Distance: 2.9 miles
  • Elevation: 518 feet
  • Parking info: National Park Pass
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Best time to go: Summer

Silver Falls Loop Trail is gorgeous hike through some of the most beautiful scenery in the park. One of the highlights of the Silver Falls Loop Trail is the spectacular waterfall that gives the trail its name.

Silver Falls is a 40-foot waterfall that cascades down a rocky cliff face, creating a beautiful misty spray that adds to the scenic beauty of the trail. There are other smaller waterfalls and cascades along the way as well, adding to the turquoise charm of this lovely trail.

4. Kalaloch 2nd Beach Trail

  • Location: Forks, WA, Olympic Wilderness
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Elevation: 310 feet
  • Parking info: Free
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Best time to go: Spring through Fall

The Kalaloch 2nd Beach Trail takes you through a beautiful coastal forest with tall trees, giant ferns and moss-covered rocks. The beach itself is a dramatic and unforgettable scene, dotted with massive sea stacks, rock formations, and arches that have been eroded by the sea.

If you’re there at low tide, you’ll also find tide pools full of colorful sea creatures such as starfish, anemones, and crabs.

5. Cape Flattery Trail

  • Location: Neah Bay, WA, Makah Indian Reservation
  • Distance: 1.2
  • Elevation: 229 feet
  • Parking info: Makah Tribe Parking Permit
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash only
  • Best time to go: Summer

The Cape Flattery Trail is a must-do hike if you’re in the area. The hike is relatively short but includes some steep sections and uneven terrain, and can be muddy and slippery at times.

Along the way, you’ll will pass some epic views of dramatic cliffs before reaching the viewpoint at the end of the trail. It ends at the most northwest point in the continental United States, offering absolutely stunning views of the Pacific Ocean on a clear day.

6. Marymere Falls Trail

  • Location: Joyce, WS, Olympic National Forest
  • Distance: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation: 298 feet
  • Parking info: National Park Pass
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Best time to go: Year-round

The Marymere Falls Trail is an extremely popular hiking destination, and gets a bit crowded during the peak season of summer, especially on weekends.

The trail passes through beautiful old-growth forest and along Barnes Creek before reaching the fantastic, 90-foot Marymere Falls. The waterfall is surrounded by lush vegetation and moss-covered rocks, making it a beautiful spot to take a break and enjoy the scenery.

7. Franklin Falls Trail

  • Location: Snoqualmie Pass, Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation: 354 feet
  • Parking info: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: Spring through Fall

Franklin Falls trail is a beautiful and easy hike near Seattle, WA. It’s well maintained and easy to follow. The trail follows the South Fork Snoqualmie River, leading you through a beautiful forest before reaching the 70-foot Franklin Falls.

Along the way there are several places to stop and absorb the scenery, including a particularly popular little red house across the river that makes a fine contrast in the wintery, snowy months of the year. The waterfall itself is beautiful and a popular spot for engagement photos.

8. Gold Creek Pond

  • Location: Snoqualmie Pass, Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation: 45 feet
  • Parking info: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: late Spring through Fall

The Gold Creek Pond Trail circles around the picturesque Gold Creek Pond, which is surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks and the sweet smell of pine trees. The trail is lovely, but the most popular location at this site is right at the start.

On sunny days, you will find a variety of people in front of the lake, for engagement or senior photos. This is also a fantastic snowshoe hike for beginners, though the forest road leading to it is closed in the winter.

9. Grove of the Patriarchs

  • Location: Stevens Canyon Road, Mount Rainier National Park
  • Distance: 1.1 miles
  • Elevation: 52 feet
  • Parking info: National Park Pass
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Best time to go: Summer

This trail is a peaceful, if crowded, path along a charming boardwalk through a beautiful old-growth forest of towering trees, some of which are over 1,000 years old.

The highlight of the trail is the suspension bridge, which leads to a small island with some spectacular old growth trees. This trail is overflowing with treasures, for both children and adults.

Oregon’s Best Hikes for Beginners

Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park, OR

Oregon has a diverse range of landscapes as well, from lush forests and waterfalls to epic mountains and mesmerizing beaches. You can find a huge variety of easy day hikes that highlight the state’s stunning natural beauty.

10. Sun Notch Trail, Crater Lake National Park

  • Location: Crater Lake, OR
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation: 127 feet
  • Parking info: Annual Park Pass or fee
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Best time to go: Year-round, seasonal road closures

The Sun Notch Trail is one of many hikes with simply stunning views of the park’s famous volcanic caldera. The trail is pretty short, starting at the parking lot at the Sun Notch overlook and ascending slightly through a forest of pine and hemlock trees.

While you can peak at the lake the whole way, the trail eventually opens up to a rocky outcropping that offers breathtaking views of the caldera and Crater Lake itself.

11. Alsea Falls

  • Location: Alsea, OR, Alsea Falls Recreation Site
  • Distance: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation: 301 feet
  • Parking info: Day pass required
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: Year-round

The trail starts at the Alsea Falls Recreation Site and follows the South Fork Alsea River through a forest of old and 2nd growth, of impressive Douglas fir, cedar, and hemlock trees.

There are two wonderful waterfalls – Alsea Falls and the larger Green Peak Falls – as well as smaller cascades and pools. There’s a lot to see along this trail, depending on the time of year, so take your time getting to the falls and try to take everything in along the way.

12. Crooked River Trail

  • Location: Terrebonne, OR, Smith Rock State Park
  • Distance: 4.5 miles
  • Elevation: 321 feet
  • Parking info: Day use parking fee
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: Year-round

The Crooked River Trail, in Smith Rock State Park, follows the delightful Crooked River through a canyon of stunning volcanic rock formations. It’s mostly flat, easy and filled with treasures the entire way.

You’ll have great views of the river and the massive rocks, including Monkey Face, for most of the trail. Keep your eyes open for rock climbers too, starting from the parking lot.

13. Painted Hills Overlook

  • Location: Mitchell, OR, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
  • Distance: 0.6 miles
  • Elevation: 78 feet
  • Parking info: Free admission
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: Year-round

The Painted Hills are considered one of Oregon’s 7 Wonders and are a must-see when in the area. The trail is short and easy to the overlook, with several other trails to explore close by if you have time, such as the Carroll Rim trail and the Blue Basin Overlook trail.

Go in the afternoon, if possible, when the lighting is best on the beautiful and colorful badlands.

14. Cathedral Tree Trail

  • Location: Astoria, OR
  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Elevation: 393 feet
  • Parking info: Annual Parking Pass
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: March through November

The Cathedral Tree trail is a fabulously fun trail through old growth Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce trees. The highlight of the trail is the gorgeous Cathedral Tree, a massive Sitka spruce that’s over 300 years old and stands over 200 feet tall.

It can be pretty muddy, but there are steps for the muddier sections and many tree roots along the way for traction. There are also some great geocaches here.

15. Deschutes River Canyon Trail

  • Location: Bend, OR, Riverbend Park
  • Distance: 3.1 miles
  • Elevation: 137 feet
  • Parking info: Annual pass or day use fee
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: May through November

The Deschutes River Canyon Trail follows the Deschutes River through a deep canyon of basalt cliffs and offers amazing views of the river and surrounding mountains.

The trail starts at the park’s campground and passes by several historic sites, including a pioneer cemetery and a railroad trestle. Look for grooves of wagon ruts along your way as well.

Best Hikes in Idaho for Beginners

Jump Creek Falls, ID
Jump Creek Falls, photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Idaho is a great state for hiking, with plenty of options for all skill levels and a stunning natural landscape to explore. Here are s few fantastic trails for day hiking for beginners.

16. Tubbs Hill

  • Location: Coeur d’Alene, ID, Tubbs Hill Park
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation: 291 feet
  • Parking info: Free admission
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash in some areas
  • Best time to go: May through October

Tubbs Hill is an absolutely charming, well-marked trail that loops around Tubbs Hill, passing by some spectacular views and a beach on one end of the loop. A fantastic hike for wildflowers in the spring and for sunsets all year round.

17. Fishhook Creek Trail

  • Location: Stanley, ID, Sawtooth Wilderness
  • Distance: 4.5 miles
  • Elevation: 288 feet
  • Parking info: Permit required
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash in some areas
  • Best time to go: Summer

The Fishhook Creek Trail is a family-friendly hike that takes you along a sweet little creek trail through some pines to an unforgettable meadow scene with amazing mountain peaks at the end.

Fishhook creek meadow and the Sawtooth Mountains make for truly impressive hike on this delightful trail, but it’s also an excellent hike for fall colors as well.

18. Jump Creek Falls Trail

  • Location: Marsing, ID, Jump Creek Recreation Site
  • Distance: 0.6 miles
  • Elevation: 98 feet
  • Parking info: Free admission
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash in some areas
  • Best time to go: March through October

Jump Creek Falls Trail is a short but sweet hike that leads to a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole in southwestern Idaho. The trail winds through a narrow canyon, passing by cool caves,  towering cliffs, and rock formations before arriving at the base of a 60-foot waterfall.

It’s a great hike for children, minus a few creek crossing that change with water flow.

19. Bloomington Lake Trail

  • Location: Bloomington, ID, Caribou-Targhee National Forest
  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Elevation: 187 feet
  • Parking info: road is rough and rocky, ID State Parks Passport
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: July through October

Bloomington Lake Trail is a beautiful hike, but the road getting there is not. 4WD is highly recommended. The trail itself winds through a dense forest before arriving at Bloomington Lake, a picturesque alpine lake surrounded by towering peaks.  

Do not be deceived by the much smaller and less impressive lake toward the beginning of the hike. Keep going and you will be glad you did.

20. Mesa Falls Nature Trail

  • Location: Ashton, ID, Caribou-Targhee National Forest
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation: 91 feet
  • Parking info: ID State Parks Passport
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: May through October

Mesa Falls Nature Trail winds through a forest of lodgepole pine trees before arriving at Upper Mesa Falls, a stunning waterfall that drops over 100 feet into the Snake River Canyon. Short, easy and beautiful.

You can also hike down to the base of the falls and explore the surrounding area.

21. Payette Lake Peninsula Trail

  • Location: McCall, ID, Ponderosa State Park
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Elevation: 121 feet
  • Parking info: Annual Pass or day use fee
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash and in the summer
  • Best time to go: April through November

The Payette Lake Peninsula Trail is an absolutely gorgeous hike. The terrain is relatively easy, with a mix of paved and dirt paths, and several benches and picnic tables along the way for visitors to rest and enjoy the scenery.

You can enjoy a variety of activities on and around the lake, including fishing, boating, camping and swimming. In the winter months, the trail is popular for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Best Hikes for Beginners in B.C.

Hikes for beginners
Suspension Bridge, photo by Glen Jackson on Unsplash

British Columbia is a fantastic region for hiking, with a stunning natural landscape, diverse terrain, and an extensive trail system to explore.

22. Lighthouse Park Loop

  • Location: West Vancouver, Lighthouse Park
  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation: 875 feet
  • Parking info: Free admission
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash in some areas
  • Best time to go: Year-round

The Lighthouse Park Loop Trail takes you through a dense forest of gorgeous old-growth trees, stopping at all the best viewpoints, before arriving at the park’s famous Point Atkinson Lighthouse.

Along the way, you’ll have stunning views of the Strait of Georgia and the surrounding islands. Shoes with traction are highly recommended, particularly if you want to take advantage of the viewpoints.

23. Sasamat Lake Loop

  • Location: Port Moody, Belcarra Regional Park
  • Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Elevation: 124 feet
  • Parking info: Day use pass
  • Dog-friendly: Only in some places, not near the water or beaches
  • Best time to go: June through October

Bridges, boardwalks and lakes, oh my! Sasamat Lake Trail is a charming hiking trail that trail circles around the picturesque Sasamat Lake. The terrain is relatively easy, with a mix of paved and dirt paths, and several benches and picnic areas along the way.  

Best to go during the week to avoid crowds, as this is an extremely popular loop.

24. Lynn Canyon Loop

  • Location: North Vancouver, Lynn Canyon Park
  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation: 344 feet
  • Parking info: Fees at trailhead
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: Year-round

Lynn Canyon Loop Trail is a popular and amazing loop trail that takes you through a dense forest of hemlock and cedar trees to Twin Falls and the 30 foot pool before arriving at the park’s famous suspension bridge.

There are so many treasures here that you should plan to spend a lot of time stopping to soak it all in. The stairs are steep, so another reason to plan ahead and take as much time as you need.

25. Quarry Rock: Baden Powell from Deep Cove

  • Location: Belcarra, B.C., Deep Cove
  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Elevation: 669 feet
  • Parking info: Fees at trailhead
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: Year-round; closes when it reaches capacity

The Quarry Rock Lookout trail is thoroughly impressive and rather popular, especially on weekends. The parking lot is also the lot for Deep Cove beaches, so plan ahead if beach time is on your list.

The trail itself has some cool boardwalks and unbelievable views at the end, of Indian Arm and surrounding peaks.

26. Lower Gold Creek Falls Loop

  • Location: Maple Ridge, BC, Golden Ears Provincial Park
  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation: 301 feet
  • Parking info:  Free admision
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: May through October

A very beautiful, family-friendly hike with a charming waterfall and rewarding views of the mountains. This is really an awesome hike, but can be extremely muddy all year round. It’s also very popular on weekends, so go during the week if you can.

27. Cascade Falls

  • Location: Fraser Valley F, BC, Cascade Falls Regional Park
  • Distance: 0.4 miles
  • Elevation: 88 feet
  • Parking info: Free admission
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Best time to go: April through October

Cascade Falls Trail takes you to a cool suspension bridge and sparkling waterfall that drops into a deep, turquoise pool.  It’s an incredibly short hike, very easy and very beautiful.

You can also take another, more difficult trail from the parking lot for a lovely, if more challenging, hike down near the creek.

Hiking Tips for Beginners

Crater Lake in winter
Crater Lake National Park, OR

Here are a few hiking tips to consider if you’re just starting out on your hiking journey.

  • Start with easier trails, to get comfortable with hiking and build up your endurance.
  • Invest in a good pair of hiking shoes or boots that fit well and provide good traction.
  • Dress in layers that you easily remove or add as needed.
  • Bring more than enough water and healthy snacks to fuel your body.
  • Carry a map and compass (and know how to use them), even if you’re hiking on a well-marked trail.
  • Follow the principles of “Leave No Trace.” Don’t disturb the wildlife, stay on the trail and  pack out all your trash to minimize your impact on the environment.
  • It’s always safer to hike with a friend or group. Not only will you have someone to share the experience with, but you’ll also have someone to help in case of an emergency.
  • Don’t be afraid to turn back if the trail becomes too difficult.

Best Hiking Gear for Beginners

Wondering about hiking essentials for beginners? Here’s a very basic hiking equipment list of the most important hiking gear.  You can find most of it online or at your local hiking gear store.

  • Invest in a good pair of boots that fit well and provide good traction. Look for shoes with a sturdy sole and ankle support if you plan on doing more strenuous hikes.
  • Look for a backpack that’s comfortable and fits well. REI is a great place to find the backpack for you, as they will fit it to your body. And you can return anything that doesn’t work for you.
  • Bring a map and compass or use a GPS device or hiking app on your phone. Don’t rely solely on technology – bring a backup navigation tool in case your phone battery dies.
  • Trekking poles can help with balance and reduce stress on your knees and joints. Consider using them when you’re first starting out or on longer and more strenuous hikes.

The Ten Essentials

The Ten Essentials are a list of items that hikers should always carry with them on any hike, no matter how short or easy. The original list was developed in the 1930s by The Mountaineers, a Seattle-based organization dedicated to outdoor education and conservation.

  • Navigation – A map and compass are essential for navigation, even if you’re using a GPS or hiking app on your phone.
  • Sun protection – Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
  • Insulation – Dress in layers and bring extra clothing to stay warm in case the weather changes or you get wet.
  • Illumination – Bring a flashlight or headlamp, as well as extra batteries.
  • First aid – Carry a basic first aid kit with bandages, antiseptic wipes, and other essentials in case of an emergency.
  • Fire – Bring waterproof matches, a lighter, or other fire-starting materials, also in case of an emergency.
  • Repair kit and tools – Bring a multi-tool or knife, duct tape, and other tools for basic repairs.
  • Nutrition – Bring enough food and snacks to stay nourished and energized throughout your hike.
  • Hydration – Carry enough water and a way to purify more water if needed, such as a water filter or purification tablets.
  • Emergency shelter – Bring a lightweight emergency shelter, such as a space blanket, in case you need to spend the night outdoors unexpectedly.

FAQs for Beginning Hikers

How long should a hike be for beginners?

As a general guideline, beginners should start with hikes that are less than 4 miles long and gradually work their way up to longer hikes. As you become more experienced and comfortable with hiking, you can gradually increase the length and difficulty.

How many miles can a beginner hike in a day?

The number of miles a beginner can hike in a day varies depending on fitness, terrain, elevation gain, weather conditions, and overall experience.
As a general rule of thumb, a beginner hiker can typically cover anywhere from 3 to 6 miles per day on a relatively flat and easy trail with minimal elevation gain.
If the trail is more challenging with steep inclines and rocky terrain, a beginner may only be able to cover 1 to 2 miles per day.

What should you not do while hiking?

You should not leave any trash behind, and not stray from the trail. You should not ignore the weather warnings, wildlife or any signs that you are getting too tired to maintain perspective.

Is hiking good for weight loss?

Yes, hiking can be a great way to lose weight. Hiking is aerobic exercise, and can burn a significant number of calories while also improving overall fitness and health.

How to start hiking as a hobby?

Start hiking as a hobby by researching local trails, investing in essential gear like sturdy footwear and a backpack, and gradually building up your fitness level. Begin with shorter, easier trails and gradually progress to more challenging ones. Embrace nature, stay safe, and enjoy the adventure!

What is the #1 etiquette rule while hiking?

The number one rule of etiquette for hiking is to treat others, and the environment, with respect.

Final Thoughts: Hiking in the PNW

The Pacific Northwest is one of the best regions in the United States for hiking. You have a huge range of possible beautiful and worth-while hiking trails, from the mountains to the coast. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, you can find a trail that suits your needs.