A Visitor's Guide to Outdoor Fun in the Seattle Metro Area

  • 01 of 04

    Outdoor Recreation in Seattle/Tacoma

    Boating on Lake Union in Seattle
    Boating on Lake Union in Seattle. Getty Images/Connie Coleman

    Seattle is famous for its natural splendor and for the many recreational opportunities it affords. The Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and other local lakes, and rivers are wonderful for wildlife viewing, boating, fishing, and other water sports. City, county, and state parks within the Seattle metropolitan region range from manicured gardens to untamed wilderness areas.

    • Nature Hikes in Seattle/Tacoma
    • Urban Trails in Seattle/Tacoma
    • Parks and Wilderness Areas in Seattle/Tacoma
    • Gardens and Arboretums in Seattle/Tacoma
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  • 02 of 04

    Places to Hike in Seattle/Tacoma - Experience Nature in the City

    Trail in Seattle's Discovery Park
    Trail in Seattle's Discovery Park. Getty Images/Karl Weatherly

    The Seattle area offers plenty of opportunities to get out and explore nature without actually leaving the city. There are still expanses of forests and wetlands where you can lose yourself in flora and fauna while enjoying a refreshing hike. Hiking and walking trails are a great way to enjoy the amazing views of Lake Washington and Puget Sound.

    Here are my recommendations for places to hike in Seattle.

    Seward Park
    Almost six miles of hiking trail network through this wooded peninsula into Lake Washington. The Seward Park trail that skirts the waterfront is paved and fairly accessible, while the trails that wind through the lovely old-growth forest can be more rugged and rooty. Seward Park facilities include tennis courts and playgrounds, boat landing areas, a fishing pier, the Seward Park Environmental & Audubon Center, and the Seward Park Clay Studio.

    Discovery Park
    Located just north of downtown Seattle on Magnolia Bluff and overlooking Puget Sound, Discovery Park has miles of trails...MORE covering a variety of terrain. One trail skirts the shoreline of both North Beach and South Beach. Another loops through natural woodlands that are filled with birds and wildlife. Points of interest in Discovery Park include West Point Lighthouse and Daybreak Star Cultural Center.

    Point Defiance Park
    Tacoma's grand Point Defiance Park offers a variety of trails for hiking, walking, and biking. Enjoy a slow-paced stroll or a vigorous hike along with water and island views and forest and garden scenery. The hiking trail system in Point Defiance park includes the Spine Trail, which connects the Rhododendron Garden to a Gig Harbor viewpoint, and the Five Mile Drive, a paved drive closed to vehicle traffic on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The Beach Promenade is fun for an energetic walk or for strolling and people watching.

    Lake Hills Greenbelt
    Located in Bellevue, the Lake Hills Greenbelt is a 150-acre wetland corridor stretching from Larsen Lake to Phantom Lake. As you hike the trails you'll experience both wild and tamed nature. You can observe the birds and other wildlife that call this expanse of forests, wetlands, streams, and lakes home. Portions of this parkland are set aside for gardens and gardening, including a demonstration garden, pea-patch gardens, and a blueberry farm.

    West Hylebos Wetlands Park
    Occupying over 100 acres of boggy forest in Federal Way, West Hylebos Wetlands Park is a marvel of biodiversity. One mile of boardwalk winds through the forested wetlands where you can check out ancient trees, fascinating ferns and mosses, wildflowers and berry bushes, and an abundance of wildlife. Critters you might see along the way include woodpeckers, hummingbirds, frogs, and beavers.

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  • 03 of 04

    Urban Trails Systems in the Seattle Metro Area

    Bicycling on Seattle's Burke Gilman Trail
    Bicycling on Seattle's Burke Gilman Trail. Getty Images/Paul A. Souders

    The Seattle/Tacoma metro region is blessed with miles and miles of urban trails. These trails interconnect to form loose networks. Much of these trails are paved and flat, suitable for walkers, joggers, bikers, strollers, and rollerbladers. Some have dirt or gravel sections or even follow a street for brief lengths. Many trails are built along old railroad beds. The Puget Sound region's urban trails are managed and maintained by a variety of county, city, and civic organizations and are constantly being improved and extended.

    Here are some the major urban trails in the Seattle/Tacoma region:

    Burke-Gilman Trail (map)
    This is Seattle's most well-known and popular trail. It runs from Kenmore, just northeast of the top of Lake Washington, all the way south and then west to Fremont. This paved trail follows the western shore of Lake Washington for much of the way before cutting through the University District. The south portion of the Burke-Gilman Trail follows along the north side of...MORE the Ship Canal. An as-yet unconnected stretch parallels the Puget Sound shoreline just north of the Ship Canal's mouth. Efforts are underway to connect the two sections.

    East Lake Sammamish Trail
    Part paved, part packed dirt and gravel, this 10.8-mile trail runs through the cities of Redmond, Sammamish, and Issaquah following the east side of Lake Sammamish. It runs past Marymoor Park.

    Interstate 90 Trail (map)
    One of the few east-west trails, the I-90 Trail covers 10 miles that include Mercer Island and the bridge over Lake Washington. As the name suggests, the trail runs alongside Interstate 90.

    Interurban Trail - North (Snohomish County)
    This urban trail runs from Everett south most of the way to Seattle. Following the route of an old trolley line, much of this trail runs through residential areas.

    Interurban Trail - South (Tukwila to Pacific)
    Following the route of the old interurban rail line, this designated trail runs north and south through South King County. While much of this trail is straight and paved, you will have to make occasional stops at streetlights and crosswalks.

    Green River Trail
    Popular with walkers, joggers, and bikers, the Green River Trail runs along the Green River from South Seattle all the way down to Auburn. Almost all of the 19 miles are paved. A portion of the trail in Tukwila intersects with the Interurban Trail.

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  • 04 of 04

    Parks and Wilderness Areas in the Seattle Metro Area

    Greenlake Park in Seattle
    Greenlake Park in Seattle. Getty Images/Joel W. Rogers

    From tiny pocket parks to acres of untamed wilderness, the Seattle area is rich in city, county, and state parks. These public treasures provide spaces to enjoy the outdoors, to picnic and play, to take in the view, and to spend time with friends and family.

    Seattle Parks

    Tacoma Parks

    Bellevue & Eastside Parks

    Everett & Snohomish County Parks