Climbing Mountains Around Seattle WA

Mountain climbing in Washington

Patrick, a HomeAway staffer, takes up to the highest mountains of Washington State

The Cascade Range passes through the entire western side of Washington State providing hundreds of peaks and mountains to explore. Larger Cascade mountains are glaciated and have snow on them year round. Several of the mountains are also active volcanoes. The summer months on are best for attempting a summit (May through August). June and July are particularly good because the winter snowpack has melted enough to make glacier travel easy without too many open crevasses you may encounter in August. Always check the current conditions at a ranger station before heading out.

Starting in Northwest corner at Bellingham, Washington is Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan. Continuing south towards Seattle is Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. All of these mountains offer a variety of routes for the first time mountaineer to experienced climbers seeking out an alpine challenge. This is one adventure you should hire a certified guide for if you don't have experienced friends to take you out. Some guides that cover the mentioned mountains are the American Alpine Institute, RMI Guides, Alpine Ascents International, and Mountain Madness.

Mount Rainier

At 14,411 feet Mount Rainier is the tallest mountain in the Cascade Range. The mountains profile dominates the Seattle area skyline. A mountain this massive offer dozens of routes up depending on your skill level. Beginning climbers will take the Disappointment Cleaver or Emmons Glacier route. A great moderate climb is the Kautz Glacier route. The more experienced climbers will want to take the Liberty Ridge route, a top 50 classic climb in America.

mt rainier kautz glacier route
Surveying our way ahead on the Kautz Glacier route of Mount Rainier. This looks like a winter scene but is actually late July; original photo mt rainier kautz glacier
At the top of the Kautz Glacier on Mount Rainier with Mount Adams in the distance (original photo); my original Kautz Glacier climb trip report. mt rainier camping
Camping on the moraine with Mount Rainier and the Liberty Ridge in the background. This was the first night camp on the route; original photo mt rainier camping thumb rock
Camping at Thumb Rock on the second night half way up the Liberty Ridge route on Mount Rainier; original photo

Mount Adams

At 12,281 feet Mount Adam's is second to Mount Rainer for tallest mountain. Beginning climbers will approach the south side of the mountain to climb the South Spur route. For a glacier climb approach the north face climb the massive Adam's Glacier route.

mt adams approaching
Approaching Mount Adams to access the Adam's Glacier. The Adam's glacier route is the prominent glacier covering the right side of the mountain; original photo mt adams summit day begins
Summit Day climbing starts at 3am. That's Mount Rainier on the horizon taken from up high on the Adam's Glacier route; original photo mt adams near the summit
Near the summit of Mount Adams; original photo

Mount Baker

Mount Baker (10,781 feet) is second only to Rainier in the volume of glaciers container on her slopes. The mountain also holds the distinction of holding the record for highest recorded snowfall over a season - 1,140 inches. One look at the Coleman Glacier on Mount Baker and it's easy to believe. If you're new to climbing take the Easton Glacier route, it's an easy snow hike to the summit. More experienced alpinists should check out the Coleman Headwall. My original Coleman Headwall trip report.

Stay in Bellingham before and after your climb. It's the closest town and the farmers market and pubs are great for recuperating after a mountain.

mt baker coleman glacier

Setting up our high camp on the Coleman Glacier the day before summiting; original photo

mt baker near summit


Near the summit of Mount Baker on the Coleman Headwall route. The Coleman Headwall route will require some moderate ice climbing along with steep snow pitches; original photo mt baker coleman headwall
The Coleman Headwall flows down the north face of Mount Baker into the Coleman Glacier. If you look very close you can see two climbers crossing the glacier in the middle of the photo at the base of the mountain; original photo

Glacier Peak

Glacier Peak (10,541 feet) is the most remote volcanic peak in Washington. This means you will have at least a 10 mile approach just to reach your base camp. The long approach also means you will probably be the only climbing party in sight. Once you gain access to the White Chuck Glacier there are several route options for summiting the peak.

glacier peak view
Glacier Peak is very remote compared to most other Cascade mountains requiring at least a full day approach; original photo glacier peak morning
Alpine start on the morning we summited Glacier Peak; original photo glacier peak disappointment peak
Ascending directly up Disappointment Peak on our way to the Glacier Peak summit; original photo
Climbing Glacier Peak from Patrick Lewis shared on

Mount Shuksan

At 9,131 feet Mount Shuksan is not one tallest mountains in the Cascades. What Shuksan lacks in height is made for with it's beauty. The classic pyramid shape of the upper mountain looks like the mountain belongs in the Himalayas. There are several routes to the summit to choose from. The North Face route is a scenic classic that offers views of Mount Baker right next door.

mt shuksan north face
Climbing up the North Face route on Mount Shuksan; original photo mt shuksan night before summit
High camp on Mount Shuksan the night before summiting. That's Mount Baker in the background; original photo mt shuksan sunrise
Mordor... Sunrise on summit day of Mount Shuksan; original photo

Beach camping

Not exactly climbing but beach camping is a great way relax after a trip up a mountain. Second Beach is located in Northwest Washington. A quick two mile hike through the rainforest leads to a long stretch of beach enclosed by rock outcrops. Camp anywhere you want just pack out everything you brought in.

beach camping second beach
Camping at Second Beach in Washington; original photo

beach camping WA
Bonfire at sunset on Second Beach, Washington; original photo

The Cascade Range offer countless more peaks and mountains to explore. Listed here are just four of the tallest peaks in Washington with Mount Shuksan added in because it so much fun as well as being one of the most photographed mountains in the Cascades. Contact one of the guides listed before your next trip to Washington and plan a vacation like you have never taken before.


by Patrick Lewis

*Banner Image from Minette Layne

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