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Hike Washington's Wild & Scenic Rivers

Celebrate the Wild & Scenic River Act with a ramble along one of Washington's own nationally recognized rivers.

Since 1968, the Wild & Scenic River Act has been protecting our free-flowing rivers which hold scenic, geologic, historic or similar values.

The United States has more than 12,700 miles of protected rivers and streams, with 197 protected miles flowing through Washington. Washington is home to six official Wild & Scenic Rivers. (Oregon has quite a few more.)

If you have yet to experience all that these beautiful rivers have to offer, here are 11 hikes to get you started. Gear up, refresh your knowledge with our spring hiking tips, learn how to navigate water crossings effectively and start exploring Washington's Wild & Scenic Rivers.

Skagit River

Rasar State Park

Location: North Cascades -- Highway 20
Mileage: 3.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 20 feet

Sunset along the Skagit. Bob & Barb
A view of the Skagit River from Rasar State Park after a storm rolled through. Photo by ToddlerTrekking.

Rasar State Park, along the Wild and Scenic Skagit River, presents several trails for exploring the park’s second-growth forest, native wildlife and pioneer history. The Skagit Woods Trail takes hikers from the main campground, through second-growth forest to the rocky, sandy shore of the river. Alternately, the shoreline along the River Trail affords prime bird-watching opportunities.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Trail of the Cedars

Location: North Cascades -- Highway 20
Mileage: 1.0 mile, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal

Trail of Cedars by Alistair.jpeg
The suspension crossing the Skagit River along the Trail of the Cedars trail. Photo by Alistair.

Meander along the nature trail, stopping at each sign that tells a story or offers good information on the plants and animals that surround you. Start at the end of Main Street in Newhalem, after crossing the suspension bridge across the Skagit River. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Suiattle River Trail (Temporarily closed as of summer 2021 due to Hazard Trees)

Location: North Cascades - Mountain Loop Highway
up to 13.8 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 900 feet

66480b38-3aeb-4a6e-95b5-9aaac12dc941.jpegThe Suiattle Trail gives hikers the chance to access another special wild place: Glacier Peak Wilderness. Photo by bennettbeingthrown.

Part of the larger Skagit River system designation, this long, easygoing trail follows the Suiattle River. Reopened to hikers in the last few years, it can make a terrific walk in spring or mild winter, or the first stretch of a big backpacking trip in high summer. The lack of elevation gain means you can stroll for miles in relative ease, taking in the lofty green wonder of this old growth forest.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Old Sauk Trail - ADA Loop

Location: North Cascades--Mountain Loop Highway
Distance: 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 150 ft.

Old Sauk Trail. Photo by Jon Lee..jpegTake a stroll on the Old Sauk for towering trees, dripping mosses and a mighty river. Photo by Jon Lee.

Portions of the North Fork and South Fork of the Sauk River are also held in the Skagit River designation. The Old Sauk Trail has trailhead that provides barrier-free access to a viewpoint of the Sauk River via a mile-long loop trail. This gentle trail makes it easy to slow down and enjoy the stately stands of Douglas-fir and cedar as well as to spy eagles, or perhaps an occasional coyote.

Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Cascade River

Location: North Cascades -- Highway 20
Mileage: 9.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1800 feet
Highest Point: 2000 feet

South Fork Cascade River. Photo by Lauren B.jpegWTA volunteers have worked to restore the South Fork Cascade River trail. Photo by Lauren B.

Also a part of the larger Skagit River designation, the Cascade River flows down from the likes of South Cascade Glacier and the snows of popular Cascade Pass. WTA is slowly working on bringing back the South Fork Cascade River trail. While that work continues, look to the other trailheads which start from this river's edge and climb high above the river into the North Cascades. But, you'll want to save the likes of Lookout Mountain Lookout and Monogram Lake for high summer (as they still carry avalanche danger in late spring).

Illabot River

Slide Lake

Location: North Cascades -- Highway 20
Mileage: 2.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300 feet

Slide Lake by rolando.jpeg
Slide Lake in summer. Photo by rolando.

Although there are no official trails along the Illabot River, the drive to the Slide Lake trailhead will wind you past the majority of this scenic river. And the hike to Slide Lake is a hidden gem in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. After meandering along Otter Creek and taking in the scenic old-growth evergreens you'll reach the tranquil waters of Slide Lake.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Middle Fork Snoqualmie River

Middle Fork Snoqualmie river trail (Temporarily closed as of fall 2021 due to landslide)

Location: Snoqualmie Region -- North Bend
Mileage: 11.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2600 feet

Middle Fork by dna86.jpeg
The scenic bridge crossing over the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. Photo by dna86.

The trail along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River weaves in and out of the forest, passing under overhanging cliffs and offering views across the river of jagged Garfield Mountain. At points, the trail widens, thanks to an old railroad path. This is your only hint of the area's history of logging - the railway was used to pull logs out after timber harvests. 

Although a landslide has led to a trail closure along the first few miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie trail, hikers can still enjoy access from the east via the Dingford Creek trailhead. Be sure to take a map, as there are several trails in the area, and it's not as well marked as the main trailhead.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Pratt River

Pratt River Trail

Location: Snoqualmie Region -- North Bend
Mileage: 6.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Pratt River by Mirek.jpeg
Pratt River Trail. Photo by Mirek Kohout.

Just a short drive from civilization, this is a good moderate choice if you're seeking a relaxing, riverside ramble. Hikers used to have one option on the Middle Fork Trail; cross the bridge and head upstream along the main Middle Fork Trail. Thanks to work done by WTA and Mountains to Sound Greenway, hikers can now turn right (downstream) on the fine new Pratt Connector Trail to enjoy all this river has to offer.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

White Salmon River

Weldon Wagon Road

Location: Southwest Washington -- Columbia River Gorge
Mileage: 5.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1290 feet

Weldon Wagon Road by maple.jpeg
Spring flowers put on quite a show along Weldon Wagon Road. Photo by maple.

White oak woodlands, open ridgetop meadows, wildflowers and views of the White Salmon Valley and River make this a delightful hike that is off the beaten track. The upper most portion of the hike goes through the White Salmon Oak Natural Resources Conservation Area managed by Washington's Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The twisting, curving oaks are like a sculpture garden and the broad sloping meadows are beautiful in springtime. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Klickitat River

Klickitat Rails Trail - Klickitat River

Location: Southwest Washington -- Columbia River Gorge
Mileage: 10.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Klickitat by The G's.jpeg
Looking down on the Klickitat River from a bridge. Photo by The G's.

Walk pleasantly beside the nationally-designated Wild and Scenic Klickitat River along the old railroad bed that once went from the Columbia River town of Lyle to Goldendale. Enjoy the golden hills, the swift-flowing river that is a favorite of kayakers and spring wildflowers that begin bursting forth as early as February.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Wenaha River


Location: Eastern Washington--Palouse and Blue Mountains
Mileage: 29.9 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain: 2500 feet

Wenaha River by Froof_D_Poof.jpeg
Wenaha River Trail. Photo by Froof_D_Poof.

Although the nationally designated 'Wild & Scenic' portion of the Wenaha River lies across the border in Oregon, the Washington side is just as much of a treat. Nearly 30 miles in Mileage, this trail serves as a perfect early season backpack, but it can also be broken down into incredible day trips. 

The trail contours above the Wenaha River, sometimes hugging the cliffs, and other times coming down to flat benches along the river with access to good campsites. There have been reports of ticks and falling trees across the Wenaha River Trail, so use caution when exploring and setting up camp.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide