Nothing embodies summer like the 4th of July: a whole day devoted to barbecues, hanging out with family and friends, and, of course, being outside. With many of the country’s most picturesque places so close to us in Seattle, Independence Day also creates the perfect occasion to pay tribute to “America the Beautiful” by getting out and exploring its landscapes. Trust us: A full day of adventuring will only make those burgers, beers, and fireworks even better upon your return.
And with that, here are seven ideas for summery adventures to celebrate the 4th of July in Seattle. They'll help you embrace your patriotic side while enjoying the outdoor treasures of our fine country.
1. Hike Fourth of July Pass.
It’s not every day you can hit a trail named after the date you take it. While hiking the Fourth on the fourth is certainly something to get a kick out of, this hike would be worth doing any day of the year: the eleven-mile route climbs up 2,400 feet to stunning views of waterfalls, old growth trees, and the peaks of the North Cascades . Get an early start if you want to make it a day-trip in order to get back for festivities in town, or savor the experience by spending the night at the gorgeous Fourth of July Camp (backcountry permit required).
2. Catch the fireworks from Mount Erie.
Because Mount Erie is just a short approach from Anacortes, has lots of easy-to-set top ropes, and the majority of the routes fall in the 5.6 to 5.10 range, it is an ideal spot to introduce friends to the joys of rock climbing. Don’t forget to bring a picnic so you can stay for the evening show: As the highest point on Fidalgo Island, the summit of Mount Erie will offer prime seats for the fireworks display over Fidalgo Bay.
3. Hike Mount Constitution and kayak in the San Juan Islands.
Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year (which means many people also get Friday off work). The San Juan Islands are always a great destination for anyone looking for a long weekend getaway.
First, spend a day hiking up Mount Constitution , the highest point on Orcas Island in Moran State Park. The 6.7-mile round-trip trail ascends 1,500 feet to the 2,409-foot summit, bringing you to stunning views of lush green islands dotting the sound and the snow-capped peaks beyond them.
The following day, give your legs a break by getting out on the water and kayaking along the shore. The wildlife is amazing: Curious harbor seals will poke their heads above the surface to check you out and, if you’re lucky, you may even spot a pod of orcas from afar. Chances are good that you’ll also be able to catch a glimpse of our national bird: the bald eagle. The San Juan Islands are home to one of the largest eagle nesting populations outside of Alaska.
4. Cycle around Bainbridge Island.
Bainbridge Island’s Grand Old 4 th of July event is an all-day street fair featuring a parade, live music, and food—lots and lots of food. Hop on a morning ferry with your bike from downtown Seattle, fuel up at the pancake breakfast (benefiting the Bainbridge High School Boosters Club), and then build that appetite back up for the next round of grub by cycling around the island. The loop around the perimeter is 33 miles long. With 2,700 feet of elevation change, the route has plenty of hills to keep you entertained (and get you hungry again). Once you're back, treat yourself to a drink at the beer and wine garden (open till 5 pm), and then stick around for the fireworks show over Eagle Harbor at dusk.
5. Climb Liberty Bell.
For alpine climbers, Washington Pass’s Liberty Bell is almost as iconic as the one that once rang in Independence Hall. With hundreds of feet of quality climbing up amazing granite and perfect cracks (just like the one in its namesake), it is easy to see why. The Becky Route (5.7) is one of the best introductions to alpine climbing possible, but remember to bring your patience, because there is likely to be a crowd. Liberty Crack is a must-do for experienced alpinists, as it is one of Steck and Roper’s 50 Classic Climbs of North America (experienced, however, being an important modifier: Many parties discover they don't quite have the chops for it and decide to bail after the second or third pitch).
6. Hike to Independence and North Lakes.
If you’re looking for a peaceful way to celebrate the holiday away from the fanfare, this hike in the North Cascades could be it. Less than a mile from the trailhead, Independence Lake is a great excursion for families looking for a short, relatively gentle trek. The deep blue lake, which sits at the base of Independence Peak, is a wonderfully scenic spot for a picnic.
Those in the mood for a bit more of a challenge can continue on to North Lake, which adds another 2.2 miles each way. The route climbs up to an open ridge, with panoramic views of snowy peaks and North Lake down below.
7. Paddle Lake Union.
If you would rather celebrate right in the thick of the action, stay home and take a kayak out on Seattle's Lake Union . Spend the day relaxing on the water while taking in the cityscapes amongst the hundreds of other boaters who will be out doing the same. While many bigger boats will stay in the water for the fireworks, for safety’s sake, paddlers are recommended to put their vessels away before dusk in order to watch the show from Gas Works Park. If you do watch them from the water, stay close to shore and remember to bring lights.