Lush forests, pristine alpine lakes, jagged peaks, and water in almost every direction: The stunning geography of the Seattle area makes for an incredible variety of amazing hikes within easy reach. But with so many treks to choose from, how do you decide which one to take first? Here, our guide to the 10 best hiking day trips from the city.
1. Discovery Park
Seattle’s largest and most beloved park, Discovery Park is proof that you don’t even need to leave city limits to spend quality time outside. The 2.8-mile Discovery Park Loop travels through forests and meadows and past bluffs that look out onto extraordinary views of Mount Rainier and the Olympics across the waters of Puget Sound. It’s worth extending the journey by taking the trail down to the beach, too, where you can stroll along the shores or picnic near the lighthouse.
2. Cougar Mountain
The Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park is a forested gem nestled in the “Issaquah Alps.” Only a 30-minute drive from downtown Seattle, the park’s 36 miles of trails meander through mosses, ferns, and conifers, and cover plenty enough ground to keep you busy even after visiting time and time again.
3. Poo-Poo Point
Located on the flanks of Tiger Mountain (Cougar Mountain’s neighbor), Poo-Poo Point is another easily accessible and undeniably scenic jaunt. The route is 7.2 miles round-trip with 1,858 feet of elevation gain to the top, where you’ll be treated to views of the Issaquah Valley, Lake Sammamish, and the Cascades. On a calm day, you may even get to see paragliders soar off from the launch pad.
4. Mount Si
Mount Si is a testament to the grit of Seattle-area hikers. Despite the trek’s grueling nature—it ascends 3,150 feet over four miles—Si’s summit is the most popular hiking destination in Washington. It’s not hard to see why the trail is so well liked: After winding through verdant Pacific Northwest forests and meadows, bursting with wildflowers in the spring, it delivers you to a steep scramble to the top, surrounded by views of the Olympic Mountains and Seattle.
5. Rattlesnake Ledge
Like Mount Si, Rattlesnake Ledge is another popular hike in the I-90 corridor that extends east of Seattle. The trail also offers a hefty climb: 1,160 feet over two miles. The endpoint is a large, open rocky area on the east ridge of Rattlesnake Mountain that offers stunning vistas in all directions.
6. Mount Pilchuck
On a clear day, be sure to pack an extra-special picnic to enjoy on Mount Pilchuk’s summit, where you’ll savor unbelievable 360-degree views and can check out a cool fire lookout. Located off of the Mountain Loop Highway north of Seattle, the 5.4-mile round-trip hike ascends 2,300 feet.
7. Boulder River Trail
Bagging summits is certainly satisfying, but there’s something to be said for hikes where you can enjoy being outside without feeling like you’re spending the day on a nature-made StairMaster. The 8.6-mile round-trip Boulder River Trail hike is relatively flat the whole way, making it a great choice for a winter excursion since its lower elevation keeps it snow free year-round. The trail travels along the Boulder River the whole way, through serene old growth forests and past gushing waterfalls.
8. Colchuck Lake
The Enchantments is one of the most legendary wilderness areas in the Pacific Northwest—and the hike to Colchuck Lake is one of the most accessible journeys you can take within it. The destination for this 8-mile round-trip hike is a stunning aquamarine alpine lake sitting beneath rocky granite spires. But venture out with caution: Many outdoor enthusiasts describe Colchuck Lake as a “gateway hike” that may have you yearning for The Enchantments every time you lace up your hiking boots.
9. Mount Townsend
On a clear day in Seattle, the Olympic Mountains seemingly rising out of the waters of Puget Sound is one of the defining features of the city’s skyline. The hike up Mount Townsend is one of the best ways to actually explore the range up close. The 8-mile round-trip hike climbs 3,000 feet over 30 switchbacks to an epic panorama featuring the Salish Sea, the Hood Canal, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and more.
10. Mount Ellinor
Mount Ellinor (Mount Townsend’s southern neighbor) is another Olympic Peak to tempt adventurers over to the other side of Puget Sound. Many compare this hike to the one up Mount Si: Gaining 3,300 feet over about three miles to the 5,944-foot summit, it’s another steep hill that is perfect for working up to even bigger summits. While very popular, its distance from the city (approximately 115 miles from downtown) can help keep it less crowded than Mount Si. With people, that is—Ellinor is a famous hangout for mountain goats. Watch their seemingly effortless scramble up the peak’s flanks, and you may feel inspired to kick up your training.
Regardless of which of these hikes you choose, it’s important to have a comfortable pair of hikers on your feet. La Sportiva has many options, like the FC 4.0 GTX, that can be found at REI that will help ensure a enjoyable, blister-free journey.