Outdoors

Washington’s 31 wilderness areas

When the Wilderness Act passed in 1964, three areas in Washington were awarded the status. Fifty years later, the state has 31 wilderness areas totalling 4.5 million acres.

ALPINE LAKES

Wenatchee and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie national forests

Established: 1976

Acres: 391,988

Highlights: A bucket list trip for backpackers, The Enchantments is a stunning collection of tarns and rocky peaks where you’re almost assured of encountering mountain goats.

BOULDER RIVER

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 49,343

Highlights: About 25 miles of trails in the wilderness offer views, dense old-growth forest and stretches along the Boulder River.

THE BROTHERS

Olympic National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 16,337

Highlights: One of seven wilderness areas sharing a boundary with Olympic National Park, this wilderness is named for the double-peaked mountain, The Brothers. The highest of these peaks is 6,842 feet and it is a popular destination for climbers.

BUCKHORN

Olympic National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 44,319

Highlights: The 10.6-mile hike to Marmot Pass is one of Olympic National Forest’s classic hikes. It travels through old-growth forest, along the Big Quilcene River and up 3,500 feet toward Olympic’s icy peaks.

CLEARWATER

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 14,647

Highlights: The closest wilderness area to Tacoma is often overlooked by those who haven’t taken in the view of Mount Rainier from Summit Lake.

COLONEL BOB

Olympic National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 11,855

Highlights: Make the uphill journey to the 4,492-foot summit of Colonel Bob Peak where you can take in views of the rest of the Olympic Mountains and Lake Quinault.

GLACIER PEAK

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Wenatchee national forests

Established: 1964

Acres: 566,057

Highlights: The most remote volcano in the Cascades, 10,541-foot Glacier Peak is a climb that usually requires three nights, said Erika Morris, information assistant at the Darrington ranger station. Morris says information about the peak accounts for much of traffic in their office.

GLACIER VIEW

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 3,073

Highlights: The hike to the top of Mount Beljica is short, but don’t forget your bug spray. Extend the hike by entering Mount Rainier National Park and visiting the Gobblers Knob lookout.

GOAT ROCKS

Gifford Pinchot and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie national forests

Established: 1964

Acres: 108,096

Highlights: A 31-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail (as well as connecting trails) cuts through the wilderness, giving hikers ample opportunities for scenic day and backpacking trips.

HENRY M. JACKSON

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Wenatchee national forests

Established: 1984

Acres: 103,297

Highlights: Crowned with jagged peaks and turquoise lakes the wilderness regular draws comparisons to the Swiss Alps. The 3.5-mile Blanca Lake Trail takes hikers to the area’s largest lake.

INDIAN HEAVEN

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 20,782

Highlights: The Pacific Crest Trail passes through the wilderness, giving hikers a 16.4-mile route to tour the area and its many lakes and ponds.

JUNIPER DUNES

U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Established: 1984

Acres: 7,140

Highlights: In stark contrast to the mountain peaks and lush green forests that dominate most of Washington’s wildernesses, this wilderness is highlighted, as the name suggests, by junipers and large sand dunes.

LAKE CHELAN-SAWTOOTH

Okanogan and Wenatchee national forests

Established: 1984

Acres: 153,057

Highlights: This secluded wilderness climbs from Lake Chelan up the Sawtooth Range. There are plenty of trails to hike, but the easiest way to reach them is by the Lady of the Lake, a passenger ferry from Chelan.

MOUNT ADAMS

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Established: 1964

Acres: 47,078

Highlights: The 12,281-foot summit of Washington’s second tallest volcano can be reached with a non-technical climb of the mountain’s south side.

MOUNT BAKER

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 119,989

Highlights: A peak bagger’s wonderland, with plenty of climbing opportunities. But the crown jewel of the wilderness is 10,778-foot Mount Baker, a climb that should only be attempted by the experienced.

MOUNT RAINIER

Mount Rainier National Park

Established: 1988

Acres: 228,480

Highlights: Rainier is home to two of the state’s most iconic backcountry trips, the 93-mile Wonderland Trail and the climb to the 14,411-foot summit.

MOUNT SKOKOMISH

Olympic National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 13,291

Highlights: A good place to test your legs with challenging uphill hikes such as Mount Rose and Mount Ellinor.

NOISY-DIOBSUD

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 14,666

Highlights: The U.S. Forest Service describes Anderson-Watson Lakes Trail as a family-friendly hike. It’s also the only way to access the Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness. The trail accesses two groups of lakes, both known for mosquitoes.

NORSE PEAK

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 52,315

Highlights: Hike 10.6 miles roundtrip and climb 2,800 feet to the panoramic views waiting at the top of 6,856-foot Norse Peak.

OLYMPIC

Olympic National Park

Established: 1988

Acres: 876,669

Highlights: The state’s biggest wilderness area and one of its most popular playgrounds with hundreds of miles of trails, ocean beaches, dozens of peaks and ample opportunities to see wildlife such as black bears and Roosevelt elk.

PASAYTEN

Okanogan-Wenatchee and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie national forests

Established: 1968

Acres: 531,539

Highlights: This palatial wilderness has nearly 150 peaks, 160 bodies of water, deep canyons, more than 600 miles of trails and is home of the northern terminus of the famed Pacific Crest Trail.

SALMO-PRIEST

Colville and Kaniksu National Forests

Established: 1984

Acres: 43,348

Highlights: Tucked away in the northeast corner of the state, the Salmo-Priest Wilderness is one of the few place in Washington where you still might have a grizzly bear encounter. It’s also home to 7,325-foot Gypsy Peak, the highest peak in Eastern Washington.

SAN JUAN

San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Established: 1976

Acres: 353

Highlights: A paddler’s paradise with opportunities can watch birds, orcas and other wildlife, but they’re asked to keep 200 yards from the the islands, with the exception of Matia Island State Park. This 5-acre park can only be reached by boat.

STEPHEN MATHER

North Cascades National Park

Established: 1988

Acres: 634,614

Highlights: Packed with rugged peaks and numerous hiking possibilities, some of the quietest sections of the wilderness can be reached by paddling to a trailhead on Ross Lake. Jack Kerouac spent the summer of 1956 working at the fire lookout on top of Desolation Peak, high above the lake.

TATOOSH WILDERNESS

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 15,725

Highlights: A 2,600-foot climb spread over 4 miles will allow you to reach Tatoosh Ridge, where you’ll be rewarded with views of the range and nearby Mount Rainier.

TRAPPER CREEK

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 5,969

Highlights: The Trapper Creek drainage is packed with hiking trails, streams, waterfalls and chances to see bear, elk, cougar and bobcat, according to the Forest Service. Observation Trail takes hikers to the site of an old fire lookout. The lookout is gone, but the views remain.

WASHINGTON ISLANDS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Established: 1970

Acres: 452

Highlights: The off-shore wildlife refuges between Cape Flattery and Copalis are closed to boaters, who are asked to stay at least 500 feet from the areas.

WENAHA-TUCANNON

Umatilla National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 111,443

Highlights: This wilderness is shared by Washington and Oregon and is collection of canyons and small mountains. The fire lookout atop Oregon Butte (located on the Washington side) offers a good view.

WILD SKY

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Established: 2008

Acres: 106,112

Highlights: This is Washington’s newest wilderness area. The wilderness is home to some short day hikes, such as Eagle Lake Trail, and a plan is in place to add more trails.

WILLIAM O. DOUGLAS

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Gifford Pinchot national forests

Established: 1984

Acres: 169,081

Highlights: There are about 250 miles of trails in this wilderness and most of that is open to horses. Wilderness.net, a collaboration between various wilderness organizations and the University of Montana, says “the land may be best appreciated from a saddle.”

WONDER MOUNTAIN

Olympic National Forest

Established: 1984

Acres: 2,349

Highlights: This is rugged, trail-free terrain that should only be visited by experienced backcountry hikers with advanced route-finding skills. The roads that run nearest to this small wilderness are closed to vehicle traffic.

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