A visit to Seattle isn’t complete without spending some quality time in nature. Thankfully, that’s easy to accomplish. If hiking is your thing, there are fantastic trails within an hour of the city. Here are some of our top picks.
About 35 miles outside of Seattle, off of I-90, you’ll find this short, lung-buster of a hike. The unobstructed view that rewards you at the top is worth both the substantial incline and the crowds that descend on this trail during the summer months. Trekkers gain 1,300 feet in elevation during the approximately one and a half mile climb.
Our recommendation? Bring lunch and at the top, enjoy gazing out over Cedar River Watershed and Chester Morse Lake, responsible for supplying the Seattle area with drinking water. While you should be prepared for the incline, there’s no need to fear any rattlesnake sightings. The trail is named for seedpods, which some believe sound like a snake’s rattle.
Also east of Seattle, you’ll find the trailhead for the Mount Si hike. Coming in at just under 4,200 feet, this peak is a stunner. Recently, after returning from a round of travel, we made the short trip to Mount Si in order to get an immediate and hearty dose of the great outdoors. That’s how much we like it! This hike, also a heart-starter, requires a substantial ascent, 3,200 feet, over four miles. It’s so green – complete with lush moss and ferns – that you won’t remember you’re anywhere near civilization.
Mount Si Trail
Don’t let the monster-sized parking or the inevitable crowds dissuade you. We advise you to start early and take the day for this hike. Load your pack with water, lunch, and snacks, and start your climb before other trekkers arrive. Even if you arrive at the top only to find fog waiting (as we have several times), you’ll no doubt feel like it was worth it.
Denny Creek to Melakwa Lake
This is the first Seattle-area hike that we did, and we’ve completed it a few times since. At times, we’ve had to trudge through a bit of snow covering the path. A bit further out of Seattle – but still off of I-90 – this hike treats you to a series of waterfalls within the first miles. The crowds thin out after you pass Denny Creek, where people of all ages come to chill out in the cool water and on the adjacent granite.
Viewfinder Tip: Weather changes fast! It can be significantly cooler and wetter on forest trails. Dress for it.
At nine miles round-trip, the full hike is well worth it. We’ve seen some exceptionally beautiful wildflowers and enjoy passing through the hemlock forest on our way to the hike’s showstopper, a beautiful alpine lake.
If you’ve got urban hiking on your mind, make the Burke-Gilman trail part of your Seattle itinerary. Coming in at 27 miles, we make a point to run different segments of this trail throughout the year. Be warned, though, that because of its location, Burke-Gilman trail isn’t just a favorite of those on foot. Bicyclists frequent it both recreationally and as a popular commuting route.
The portion of the trail between Ballard and Lake Washington is most convenient for visitors to central Seattle hotels. We recommend popping off the trail in the hip Fremont neighborhood for lunch.
Before heading out on any of these hikes, be sure to secure information on warnings/closures, detailed directions, and any day-use permit requirements.
What are your favorite hikes in/near major cities?