Best Hikes in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (WA)

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Overview

The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is located in the state of Washington. The forest stretches from the Canadian border to the Goat Rocks Wilderness, 180 miles south. It is bordered to the east by Colville National Forest and to the west by Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Because of this wide geographic range, the forest is very diverse – from the high, glaciated alpine peaks along the Cascade Crest and the numerous mountain ranges extending eastward from the crest, through deep, lush valleys of old growth forest, to the dry and rugged shrub-steppe country at its eastern edge. More information on the best hikes in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest can be found below!

Nearest Metro AreaSeattle, WA
Area Size1,499,023 acres
EstablishedJuly 1, 1908
Hiking Trails1,285 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

(*** = best hikes in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest)

Eightmile Lake Trail #1552*** – 6.6 miles out and back
Eight Mile Lake
Eightmile Lake, Photo by Steve Cyr

This scenic and heavily used trail within Alpine Lakes Wilderness has moderate grades. It ends at the lake surrounded by high, jagged mountains in a little more than 3 miles. This is one of the most accessible Alpine Lakes hikes and a good option for families with children.

Icicle Gorge Trail #1596 – 3.9 mile loop
Wenatchee National Forest
Icicle Gorge, Photo by Jonathan Miske

This scenic valley-bottom trail, which follows through old-growth timber, has easy grades along both sides of Icicle Creek. The trail is 3.9 miles long, and there are educational interpretive signs located at regular intervals along the length of the trail. It begins at the Icicle Gorge Trailhead near Chatter Creek Campground.

Icicle Ridge Trail #1570 – 5.6 miles out and back
Leavenworth and Icicle Ridge
Leavenworth and Icicle Ridge, Photo by Geordie Romer

The entire Icicle Ridge Trail is 29.6 miles long, gains 6100 total feet of elevation, and provides access to Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The first 3 miles of this trail provide a good day hike, climbing quickly from Icicle Ridge Trailhead to the ridgeline and offering views into the lower Icicle Creek valley. 

Ingalls Way Trail #1390 – 7.4 miles out and back
Mount Stuart - on the Way to Ingalls Lake
Mount Stuart – on the way to Ingalls Lake, Photo by J Brew

This trail heads uphill through forest for about 1 mile until it switchbacks up through open meadow and scattered trees to a junction with Longs Pass Trail 1229. It then crosses a small basin and climbs towards the ridgetop through an area of rock, scattered trees, and meadows. From the ridgetop there are excellent views of surrounding peaks, including Mount Stuart. At this point an upper trail traverses Headlight Basin as the most direct route towards Ingalls Lake. The lower trail, which has more campsites, is less direct but rejoins the upper trail before the lake. Near the lake, the trail heads steeply uphill through rocks, over a rocky ridge and ends at the lake.

Lake Ann / Maple Pass Loop #740*** – 7.5 mile loop
Heather-Maple Pass in WA
Heather-Maple Pass in WA, Photo by Jeff Hollett

One of the best hikes in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, this trail offers a challenging loop beginning in a heavily timbered area. The first mile is an easy hike and soon passes through a large avalanche meadow and more timber to junction with the side trail to Lake Ann.  At Heather Pass there is a faint trail leading off towards Lewis lake and a possible side trip for experienced hikers and route finders.  Wildflowers are beautiful in July and August and the fall colors created by golden alpine larch and red huckleberry bushes are spectacular. The hike beyond to Heather Pass and Maple Pass is steep, the trail is above tree line in a high alpine zone. Maple Pass offers sensational views of surrounding mountain peaks. From the alpine meadows along the ridge top one can sit and enjoy the scenery and a view of both Lake Ann and Rainy Lake.  The trail then descends along a ridge line between Lake Ann and Rainy Lake dropping quickly and steeply into timber (this trail beyond the summit is steep and challenging), the trail then levels out when it junctions with the Rainy Lake trail.  Continue for about 0.25 miles on the paved Rainy Lake trail to return to the trailhead. 

Lake Minotaur Trail #1517 – 3.2 miles out and back
Fall color, at Minotaur Lake
Fall color at Minotaur Lake, Photo by Peter Stevens

This short 1.6 mile trail is very steep. It climbs through forest to access the subalpine environments of Minotaur Lake and Theseus Lake within the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. 

Rachel Lake Trail #1313 – 9.6 miles out and back
Climbing Above Rachel Lake
Climbing Above Rachel Lake, Photo by Steve Cyr

Rachel Lake Trail has a fairly gentle grade for the first 3 miles as it follows the north side of Box Canyon Creek along the valley bottom. The trail passes through old-growth forest and brushy avalanche chutes. At the head of the valley, the trail begins a steep 1-mile climb to Rachel Lake. From the flat bench around Rachel, the trail climbs approximately another mile to the Rampart Lakes basin.

Smith Brook Trail #1590 to Lake Valhalla*** – 6.2 miles out and back
Lake Valhalla
Lake Valhalla, Photo by Mike

This heavily used short trail climbs to Union Gap and a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail #2000 which enters the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness. Continue south through heavily forested and exposed sections until you reach beautiful Lake Valhalla.  Lichtenberg Mountain towering above the east edge of the lake is especially impressive.

Stuart Lake Trail #1599 + Colchuck Lake Trail #1599A*** – 12.3 miles out and back
Colchuck Lake with larches changing to gold
Colchuck Lake, Photo by Marty the Adventurer

Extremely beautiful and extremely popular hikes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Picturesque Stuart Lake can be reached 4.5 miles from the trailhead. Return to the junction with Colchuck lake Trail where it crosses Mountaineer Creek again on a log bridge. The trail is sometimes steep and rough for 1.5 miles from creek crossing to the lake, which is at 5500′ elevation. There are beautiful views of the lake — with Dragontail Peak and Colchuck Peak rising 3,000 feet above the south end of the lake. If you have the time and stamina, consider a thru-hike of the entire area starting from the Stuart Lake Trailhead and traveling 19+ miles to the Snow Lakes Trailhead. The trail continues along western shore of the lake to access campsites and the route up Aasgard Pass to the Enchantments. There are also campsites near the north end of the lake. Overnight camping in this area requires a permit from May 15 – October 31. By far one of the best hikes in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, in not all of Washington!

Featured Image: Lake Stuart View, Photo by J Brew

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2 Responses

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