Last updated August 9, 2022
America’s West Coast offers some of the best spellbinding hiking opportunities for walkers and hikers of any ability. Here are 7 of the most scenic hikes on the West Coast.
The United States has some of the best walking and hiking opportunities in the world. With miles upon miles of endless, well-maintained trails that cross some of the most beautiful and varied landscapes known to man, the United States is a hiker’s paradise.
The West Coast, in particular, has so much to offer for seasoned hikers or amateur ramblers. Whether it’s a multi-day, through hike or an easy walk through a beautiful Redwood forest, these are my 7 most scenic hikes on the West Coast.
1. The Pacific Crest Trail (or parts of it)
The Pacific Crest Trail might just be the mightiest walking trail as well as one of the most scenic hikes on the West Coast. Running up through California from the Mexican border in the south all the way to the Canadian border in Washington to the north, this 2,653 mile trail is probably not something most people will take on in their lifetime—not all of it at least.
There’s nothing stopping you from hiking parts of it over a day, a weekend, week or even a month. Several sections of the PCT are extremely accessible and easy to get to and hike for a day.
While some of the trail can be grueling, there are also sections that are much less physically taxing. As the route passes through 25 National Forests and 7 National Parks, you can also opt to visit those and walk the PCT through just those areas.
The most scenic sections of the Pacific Crest Trail are the North Cascades in Washington, the Sonora Pass, Yosemite and Kings’s Canyon in California, and the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area in Oregon.
Distance: 2,653 miles
Difficulty: Easy—Strenuous depending on the section
Total Ascent: 13,153 feet (at Forester Pass)
Time: 152 days (average)
2. Hurricane Ridge to Hurricane Hill, Olympic National Park, Washington
One of the most popular walks and viewpoints in Olympic National Park, walking the easy trail to Hurricane Hill from Hurricane Ridge will reward you with views of the whole of Olympic National Park on a clear day. This is also one of the best spots for sunrise and sunset in the park.
Next time you find yourself in Olympic National Park make sure not to miss this scenic hike from your bucket list.
Distance: 3.2 miles
Total Ascent: 700 feet
Time: 2 hours
3. Thunder Knob Trail, Cascades National Park, Washington
This is no doubt one of the most scenic hikes in the splendidly stunning Cascades National Park with beautiful views of Diablo Lake. The relatively easy hike starts at Diablo Lake and then ascends 425 ft to Thunder Knob with 180 degrees views of the milky-blue, glacial, Diablo lake.
As this is a pretty short hike, it’s also possible to combine it with some other wonderful short hikes in the Cascades National Park for an enjoyable, active day out.
Distance: 3.6 miles
Total Ascent: 425 feet
Time: 2-3 hours
4. Multnomah Falls Out and Back, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
The area around Portland, Oregon, and the Columbia River Gorge is famous for its jaw-dropping scenery and waterfalls so it’s only fitting we feature a waterfall hike.
Multnomah Falls is a 620 foot two-tiered waterfall, one of the most famous in the area. Even though the area is generally pretty crowded, a venture around here is worth it.
Start the hike at the Multnomah Falls Lodge and head out onto the Larch Mountain Trail following the easy paved road and the many switchbacks. Eventually turn right onto the Multnomah Falls Overlook Spur which will lead you to some stone steps and the falls viewing platform.
From here you’ll be able to enjoy the views of the falls, the Columbia River Gorge and the Benson Bridge before turning back.
Distance: 2.7 miles round trip
Time: 2 hours
5. Watchman Peak Trail, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Crater Lake, Oregon, is the deepest lake in the United States at 1,949 feet deep and a must on any Oregon or West Coast bucket list. Wherever you go around Crater Lake, you’ll be greeted by stunning views and with so many different hikes to choose from—there’s plenty to keep you occupied for a day or even longer.
One of my favorite hikes in Crater Lake is the Watchman Peak Trail and even though it’s one of the most popular, it is also one of the most scenic. The trail isn’t long and it takes you up to the fire lookout at Watchman Peak. As it is pretty heavily trafficked, try heading up later in the day for sunset or even sunrise instead.
Note that this trail and most in Crater Lake are closed during winter so it is best to visit in late spring or summer.
Distance: 1.7 miles round trip
Elevation: 400 feet
Time: 2 hours
6. Yosemite Valley Loop Trail, Yosemite National Park, California
No guide to scenic walks on the West Coast could leave out Yosemite National Park. Yes, it might be insanely popular but it’s also insanely stunning.
The Yosemite Valley Loop trail is one of the most accessible trails in the park which loops around the whole valley floor passing through meadows, talus slopes, the bases of granite cliffs and the banks of the Merced River.
You’ll want to begin at Lower Yosemite Falls and head west from there along the cycle path until you meet the trail. As you hike around, you’ll be able to see some of Yosemite’s most incredible features: El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Fall, etc.
Distance: 11.5 miles full loop/7.2 miles half loop
Elevation: Mostly flat
Time: 5-7 hours full loop/3 hours half loop
For those wanting something a little more strenuous and rewarding in Yosemite National Park, you’ll want to try the incredibly scenic trail to El Capitan, Half Dome via the John Muir Trail (permit required) or Yosemite Falls. A hike to Glacier Point is also worth considering if you really want to push yourself.
7. Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Northern California
There’s no better trail in America that combines sublime, moody, coastal views with the tallest trees in the world. Head to Northern California to walk the spectacular coastal trail of the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.
While it’s a long trail, perfect for a multi-day hike, it is split into sections so you can easily do just part of it in a day or less.
The trail will weave in and out of Redwood forests while offering some remarkable coastal views at the same time. The best place to start is at Crescent Beach Overlook and head south.
Summertime in Northern California can be pretty foggy and winter is a little wet and cold so the best time for this hike is spring or fall.
There are so many amazing hiking and walking trails out there. Which ones are your most scenic hikes on the West Coast?
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