IN OUR OPINION, THE NECKLACE VALLEY TRAIL IS ONE OF THE BEST HIKING TRAILS IN WASHINGTON STATE. IT'S STUNNING, EXCITING AND PRETTY QUIET. BELOW IS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS AMAZING WASHINGTON HIKING TRAIL.
If you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and instead spend some time in the backcountry of the Cascades - then we have the perfect trail for you!
The Necklace Valley Trail, which is located in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (one of the biggest Washington national forests) is roughly 15.5 miles long and takes you through dense lush forests, along a raging crystal clear river and up to an alpine basin full of colorful lakes. While hiking this trail is one epic single-day adventure, you also have the option to spend more time in the backcountry and camp overnight along one of the lakes.
Below is everything you need to know about one of the best hiking trails in Washington state; including, how to reach the trailhead (including from the bustling metropolis of Seattle), what outdoor gear you need to bring with you, and what to expect along the trail.
WHERE: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
WHAT: a hiking and backpacking trail, out and back
DISTANCE: ~15.6 miles total (depending on how far up you go)
HIGHEST POINT: 3,651 feet / 1,112 meters, at the lake
GEAR NEEDED: sturdy hiking shoes, a well-sized day bag or backpacking gear (depending), bug spray and sunscreen, lots of snacks, a water filter
TRAIL CONDITIONS: singletrack trail, forested for most of it, some rocky sections (including a few areas you may need to do a bit of scrambling), a couple of logs you need to use to cross rivers, a few overgrown sections, awesome lake and mountain views
DOGS ALLOWED: yes, but they must be leashed.
PARKING DIFFICULTY: well-sized parking lot, has a bathroom, you must have either the Northwest Forest Pass or an Annual National Park Pass (it is federal land)
\\ How to Get to the Necklace Valley Trailhead
The Necklace Valley Trailhead can be easily reached from a number of towns and cities in western Washington. This includes from the major city of Seattle and Bellingham and from the cute historic town of Skykomish. If you are coming from the eastern half of the state, simply drive up Highway 2 aka Stevens Pass Highway until you get to the right turn off (Foss River Road NE). Likewise, this is a good side trip if you are planning to drive the entire Cascade Loop.
It is about a 15 minute drive from the beautiful, historic town of Skykomish to the Necklaces Lakes Trailhead. To reach the start of the trail, drive from Skykomish on Highway 2 for around 2 miles and then turn right onto Foss River Road NE. Drive this super pretty road (that soon turns to dirt) for just over 4 miles. The trailhead and parking lot will be on the left side of the dirt road.
If you are looking to reach the Necklace Valley Trailhead from downtown Seattle, you will first need to head north on Interstate 5 until you reach the town of Everett (it is just under 30 miles driving on I-5). Once in Everett, turn onto Highway 2/Stevens Pass Highway. Keep driving on this road for about 40 miles until you get to the turn off for Foss River Road NE. Continue down this road for 4 miles until you see the parking lot and trailhead on the left. It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes (83 miles) to reach the Necklace Valley Trailhead from Seattle.
If coming from the city of Bellingham, you will want to first start by driving south on Interstate 5 until you reach the town of Everett. Once in Everett, turn onto Highway 2/Stevens Pass Highway and drive for another 50 miles until you reach the turn off for Foss River Road NE. Then once again, drive this dirt road for approximately 4 miles until you reach the trailhead on the left. In total, it will take about 2 hours and 15 minutes (114 miles).
OTHER TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS
Unfortunately, there really isn't another option to reach the Necklace Valley Trailhead except with a private vehicle. The only possible exception would be if you biked from one of the nearby towns - including Skykomish (6.2 miles away), Index (20.2 miles away), Gold Bar (26.7 miles away) or the Stevens Pass Ski Resort (19.1 miles away).
\\ The Best Time to Hike the Necklace Valley Trail
The best time to hike in the Necklace Valley area is between July and October. Any earlier than that and you have a good chance of encountering snow up at the higher elevations - including at the alpine lakes. Plus, because the last bit of the trail is quite steep and somewhat rocky, a bit of leftover snow could spell trouble or danger.
By mid-July the trail should be totally clear of snow - though, if it has been a very wet winter, there could still be a chance of some leftover snow on the side of the trail. Likewise, you might also need to walk across some of the rivers if the water is too high. When we did this trail in the middle of July, we found a bit of snow at the very top near the lakes (and especially between the lakes in a more shady area). We also had to take our shoes off and walk a couple of feet across one of the rivers (this wasn't dangerous but it was cold).
Two of the many different types of wildflowers you will see along the Necklace Valley Trail.
\\ What to Bring With You to Hike Necklace Valley
You will want to wear a pair of sturdy boots that can handle all kinds of terrain: from steep rocky scree fields to slick river crossings to just miles upon miles of trail pounding. These hiking boots by Vasque seem to be a jack of all trades and therefore should be able to handle whatever the trail throws at you. Recommended hiking boot.
These socks can easily go from hitting the trails to hanging out at camp due to their moisture-wicking properties and slightly elastic stretch. Plus, they are made partially of recycled materials - meaning they are good for you and the planet. Recommended hiking socks from Smartwool.
MOISTURE-WICKING SUN SHIRT
No matter the month you are planning to hike in, you will likely want to wear a nice lightweight long-sleeved shirt on the trail. This one by Backcountry works great as your base layer for it is lightweight and breathable enough for hot sunny days, but also insulated enough to be great when the temperature starts to cool down. Recommended long-sleeve shirt.