11 Not-to-Miss Washington Peaks

Explore Washington’s Iconic Mountains 

The mountains of Washington entice us, tease us and inspire us. We longingly look to them from our commutes, our homes and our offices, daydreaming of seeing them up close. Towering over the evergreens and sage, they help form the identity of Washington state and define its rugged beauty. 

Although the state is home to hundreds of mountains, we picked 11 peaks that are not to be missed. Whether volcanic, covered in glaciers, or just breathtakingly gorgeous, these mountains are must-stop destinations while road tripping and exploring around Washington.

Because of COVID-19 and current wildfires, please take recommended safety precautions. Be sure to practice social distancing and avoid crowds. If you are planning a future trip, check for road closures as well as available services and amenities. 

Skiing at Mount Rainier

Photo by iStock

Mount Rainier (El. 14,411)

(Accessible by Car)

The crown jewel of the state, Mount Rainier is accessible year-round, providing endless chances to experience the bliss found in the Central Cascades. In the summer months, all of the roads around Mount Rainier National Park typically are open to drive and explore, granting access to dozens of trails and vistas showing off the glaciated summit. The can’t-miss spots to learn about this iconic volcano are Paradise and Sunrise, both with visitor centers and miles of hiking trails for all ages and abilities. In the winter, only the road from Longmire to Paradise is open, where you can snowshoe, cross-country ski and even sled on the flanks of Washington’s signature mountain.

Sunrise at Mount Baker

Photo by iStock

Mount Baker (El. 10,781)

(Accessible by Car)

Found in the North Cascades near Bellingham, Mount Baker is an outdoor haven, providing adventures in the summer sun and in the winter snow. Around the volcanic peak, you’ll find river rafting, restaurants, lodging and miles of scenic trails through National Forest lands. On the flanks of the mountain, hiking paths for all levels of hikers lead to stunning views. Do not miss out on exploring Artist Point and seeing the views of Mount Shuksan reflecting off of the aptly named Picture Lake. Reaching Artist Point takes you along one of the state’s prettiest drives. For skiers and snowboarders, the Mount Baker Ski Area in the area is known for fantastic snow and stunning views.

Mount Walker

Photo by Rick Gordon

Mount Walker (El. 2,804)

(Accessible by Car)

The Olympic Peninsula’s Mount Walker offers one of the best views of the Puget Sound for minimal work. In the summer months, the dirt road leading to the top of Mount Walker is open, letting you take a short detour off Highway 101 to reach the top. You’ll find two lookouts here, one letting you gaze into the Olympic Mountains, and the other showing off Mount Rainier, Puget Sound and the city of Seattle. Those hoping for a workout can hike to the top from Highway 101, which also is the only way to enjoy these views in the winter.

Hurricane Ridge

Photo by iStock

Hurricane Ridge (El. 5,242)

(Accessible by Car)

Off on the Northern Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge is just a short drive from the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Port Angeles. Named after the strong winds that come over the mountains, Hurricane Ridge is a recreation wonderland, presenting breathtaking views, hiking and backpacking options in the summer, and skiing and snowshoeing options in the winter. Hurricane Ridge also is home to the only ski area on the Olympic Peninsula, letting you get turns while enjoying the views. A small visitor center sits atop the ridge with minimal amenities. Be aware that the road is not open every day in the winter.

road and view of Steptoe Butte

Photo by Chuck Hayword, palouselandtrust.org

Steptoe Butte (El. 3,612)

(Accessible by Car)

Steptoe Butte is an overlooked eastern Washington gem. Located between Pullman and Spokane, a road spirals up the butte, allowing for full panoramic views of the region. Open between 6 a.m. and dusk throughout the year, many say the best time to see the beauty of the Palouse is in mid-June and early July when the greens of the fields are at their brightest.

Snow on Mount Ellinor

Photo by iStock

Mount Ellinor (El. 5,944)

(Hike Required)

Mount Ellinor offers some of the most impressive views of any mountain in the state and is a classic summer hike on the Olympic Peninsula. Reached by hiking from one of three trailheads, those used to steep trails and elevation gains will be rewarded with a view of all of western Washington. From Mount Baker to the north to Mount St. Helens to the south and everything in-between — including Mount Olympus to the west — the panoramic vista atop Mount Ellinor is world-class.

Mount Spokane

Photo by iStock

Mount Spokane (El. 5,886)
(Hike Required)

Although the major mountains of Washington are found on the western half of the state, Mount Spokane is a high, alpine oasis in the Selkirk Mountains. Mount Spokane is a state park, offering recreational activities throughout the year. In the summer, hikers and mountain bikers can explore 79 miles of trails. In the winter, the area transforms into a ski and snowboard park, with 52 designated runs.

Snow on Crystal Mountain

Photo by iStock

Crystal Mountain (El. 6,872)

(Hike Required)

For jaw-dropping views of Mount Rainier, Crystal Mountain is your year-round destination. In the winter, Crystal Mountain is one of the premier ski spots in the state, offering 2600 acres and more than 50 named runs, as well as an up-close and personal look at Mount Rainier. In the summer, the ski resort turns into a hiking and mountain-biking hub, as well as a place to leisurely ride the gondola to the summit for incredible views. Summer days at Crystal Mountain still are largely overlooked in the region and, with so many amenities found around the resort, you’ll be glad to know about this gem.

People walking near Mount St. Helen

Photo by iStock

Mount St. Helens (El. 8,366)

(View from Distance)

Rising to international fame for its 1980 eruption, Mount St. Helens is nearly as iconic as Mount Rainier. Mount St. Helens, called “the smoker” by the Cowlitz Tribe, continues to steam today as it slowly rebuilds. Mount St. Helens can best be seen by driving to Windy Ridge and the Johnston Ridge Observatory, both seasonally open. To learn about the mountain, the Johnston Ridge Observatory and the Mount St. Helens Learning Center on Highway 504 are excellent resources. Those hoping to get to know the mountain even better can climb to the top and look into the crater from above. Be aware that permits are required to summit the mountain from April 1 through October 31. Read more about Mount St. Helens. 

Barns near Mount Adams

Photo by iStock

Mount Adams (El. 12,280)

(View from Distance)

Mount Adams is yet another volcano in Washington that isn’t widely talked about. Located in Southwest Washington, Mount Adams doesn’t have much in the way of infrastructure for visitors, nor is there a scenic drive around the mountain. There are two spots for iconic views of Mount Adams, however. One is from across the Columbia River in Oregon, where Tunnel Road above Hood River shows off the summit. The other is from the Stonehenge Memorial near Maryhill. If those are too far away, the mountain is climbable and is a classic backpacking destination during the summer.

Glacier Peak

Photo by iStock

Glacier Peak (El. 10,541)

(View from Distance)

Despite its remote location, the often-overlooked Glacier Peak is one of the most active volcanos in Washington state, having erupted five times in the last 3,000 years. Glacier Peak can be seen on roads from Everett to the Mountain Loop Highway. Although the mountain can be climbed by hearty adventurers, a popular spot to see Glacier Peak in the summer months is to drive out a long dirt road to reach the short trail to the North Mountain Lookout. Another great way to see Glacier Peak is by hiking to Image Lake in the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

–Written by Douglas Scott
–Top Photo: Mount Rainier by iStock

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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