Seattle’s location makes it—quite simply—perched on perfection as far as hiking goes. Within a short drive, you can easily reach mountains, forests and there are even hikes located right in the city. Hiking options also include a nice array of difficulty levels, including everything from easy hikes with barely any elevation gain like those at Discovery Park in Seattle, to moderate hikes that most people can tackle, to challenges that will take the better part of a day like Mailbox Peak. No matter your ability level, lace up those hiking boots and get ready to enjoy the beauty of the Northwest in the best possible way.
And, as always, the best hiker is a prepared hiker. Always bring backup water and food, appropriate shoes and clothing, and a compass or map don’t hurt either!
Discovery Park, Seattle
Sometimes the best hikes are the ones close by, and fortunately, Seattle has a pretty fantastic option right within the city limits. Discovery Park is located in Magnolia in Seattle. At more than 500 acres, the park is expansive enough for a good, long hike, but the most elevation gain you’ll face is right around 300 feet, but it’s gradual and approachable for most. Maps of the park are posted so you can choose your own adventure, but if you aren’t sure where to start, there’s a 2.8-mile loop trail that’s a solid choice. You’ll venture through lush green forests and open meadows and catch plenty of views of the Puget Sound, sometimes from cliffs and sometimes from the shore. There’s a rocky and sandy beach complete with a picturesque lighthouse within the park too.
Swan Creek Park, Tacoma
Another approachable and easy-to-get-to local hike is the little-known Swan Creek in East Tacoma. Park near the Pioneer Way entrance, and you’ll start your hike with a pleasant and level walk past a pond, but keep going, and you’ll enter into a deep forest with almost a 400-foot elevation gain. There are a couple of trails to choose from—the Swan Creek Trail that climbs nearly 400 feet over 2.38 miles between the Pioneer Way entrance and South 56th Street trailhead (and, yes, you can enter there as well, but it’s street parking only), or the Canyon Rim Trail that has about a 150-foot gain over 1.18 miles. Either way, you’ll enjoy a beautiful walk through the forest with relatively few other people. A salmon-bearing stream flows through the bottom of the canyon. The trails are maintained but can be muddy during wetter times of the year. Also, take note that there are some mountain bike trails near the 56th Street entrance, so heads up that you don’t walk through that area.
Mount Si, North Bend
Mount Si in North Bend is one of the most popular local hikes for its proximity, the views it serves up as you climb, and its pleasantly challenging nature…and by pleasantly challenging, that means the hike gains 3,150 vertical feet in just four miles. Make no mistake, this hike will kick you right in the glutes, and yet it’s approachable enough in that you don’t need any technical mountain climbing skills to scale this rocky peak. You’ll spot it just off I-90 as you pass North Bend, and it’s also known for being in the opening credits of “Twin Peaks.” The total distance, if you go the whole way up and down, is eight miles. On any day, you’ll get a high-up view of the surrounding terrain. On clear days, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of Mount Rainier and other Cascade peaks.
Ebey’s Landing, Whidbey Island
If you want a hike that makes a great day trip and involves a ferry, head to Whidbey Island. From Seattle, you can drive to Mukilteo and take a boat to the island, where you can enjoy more than trails at this scenic spot. But when you’re ready to hike, Ebey’s Landing Loop is a solid choice. The trail stretches 5.6 miles, gains 260 feet and is rated as a moderate hike. You can get to the Bluff Trail either by taking the Prairie Overlook trailhead or via the parking lot at the end of Ebey’s Landing Road. The Bluff Trail will secure you views from high up—you’ll spot the always scenic Olympic mountain range in the distance and water views for days. You’ll also pass the historic Jacob Ebey house and blockhouse, an old sheep barn, and other remnants of historic homesteads. Today, this land is a national historical reserve, and you’ll need a Discover Pass to park here.
Coal Creek Falls, Newcastle
It’s not every day that you find a hike that is easy, family-friendly, and yet also kind of fascinating. That’s just what Coal Creek Falls is. Coal mining took place in this area between 1863 and 1963 and you can spot remnants of the mining activity—namely in the form of “cave holes,” which are places where the ground caved in when mining got too close to the surface. The deepest one goes 518 feet below sea level, so you’re seriously going to want to stay on the trail for this hike! Beyond the mining past of this area, the trail meanders through forest and passes patches of salmonberry and wildflowers, ending with Coal Creek Falls. Start at Cougar Mountain Regional Wildlife Park, and check or bring a trail map before you go as there are many trails in the area.
Poo Poo Point, Issaquah
First things first: this hike is really called Poo Poo Point. Rather than some childish bathroom humor, the point is named for the sound of steam trains hauling logs back in the day. Today, you won’t find many steam trains, but you will find a moderately tough hike that stretches 3.8 to 7.2 miles (depending on which of two trails you take—and be warned, shorter trail, steeper climb!) and gains 1,858 feet. The trail goes up a grassy side of Tiger Mountain and offers up views of Issaquah, Lake Washington, and foothills. Paragliders also use poo Poo Point, so you’ll likely see some of them drifting by as well. If you want the longer, less steep trail, head for High School Trail. If you’re in it to win it and want a real workout, head to Chirco Trail.
Rattlesnake Ledge, North Bend
Rattlesnake Ledge spans four miles and involves a 1,160-foot climb, so it’s also a good workout. Along the way, you’ll hike past moss-covered boulders and catch views of Mt. Si, Mt. Washington, and Rattlesnake and Chester Morse lakes. The final cliffside view at the top makes the climb worth it. The hill up involves switchbacks, and some drop-offs near the trail, so stay on the path.
Squak Mountain, Issaquah
At 6.6 miles roundtrip and with a 1,684 elevation gain, Squak Mountain is a moderate hike that features interesting trails dotted by traces of the past. As you hike your way through the forests, you’ll catch views of Issaquah below as well as spot remnants of the area’s mining and logging past—a giant tree stump here, some coal mining rails there. The Bullitt fireplace is one of the top things to see, and it’s the only thing remaining of the Bullitt family home. The Bullitt family originally owned this land and donated it to the state in 1972. While there are several trails to choose from, the most direct path to the top is the Central Peak Trail.
Snow Lake, Snoqualmie Pass
Sometimes what you need is a hike near a beautiful alpine lake, and Snow Lake delivers. The hike is 7.2 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,800 feet, but relatively easy for most, at least after the first stretch where you’ll have a 200-foot climb up log steps. Start your hike with the trailhead at the north end of the parking lot at Alpental Ski Area. Don’t count on being the first person to discover this beautiful hike. It’s popular, especially on weekends. You’ll catch plenty of peek-a-boo views along the way, but the best reward is at the end when you can take in the full, stunning beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains. Take note that unless you have the right gear and know how to determine avalanche risk, you should not do this hike in the winter.
Mailbox Peak, North Bend
Mailbox Peak is the toughest hike on this list and is a straight-up hard hike for experienced hikers only. Even with a new trail created by WTA that made the journey less steep, the hike is 9.4 miles roundtrip, and during those miles, you’ll climb a formidable 4,000 feet. The hike is named for a mailbox at the top (that has been here since the 1960s!) where hikers leave notes, stickers, toys, a drink—whatever they like. Take an item, leave an item, and enjoy the fun. You’ll also see views of Mt. Rainier and the Cascades. However, even though this hike is tough, don’t think for a second that it’s not popular. Parking lots can be crowded, and you might not even find parking without circling unless you come super early. You’ll need a Discover Pass to park as well. If you don’t want to deal with the parking lots, you can also park at the North Bend Park & Ride and take the Trailhead Direct bus on weekends in the summer.