The Seattle area is an amazing place for hiking—as you may have been able to tell from the abundance of boots and fleece everywhere you look. It’s little wonder, with the city nestled among gorgeous mountains. We’re surrounded by lakes, seemingly infinite rivers, and, of course, the Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. We even have full-on old-growth forests within the city limits.
With literal lifetimes of hikes to choose from within a few hours of Seattle, there’s something for every skill level, need, and preference—but we’ve at least scratched the surface of them, whether you just want to hit the basics or dig extra deep for a little solitude.
As you explore the Pacific Northwest wonderland, though, remember to be safe and respectful: wear weather-appropriate layers, bring plenty of water, especially as the temperatures start to rise, and don’t ruin it for people who come after you by littering. Our full guide to hiking safety is right over here for your reference, and our guide to winter safety has some year-round pointers. The Washington Trails Association (WTA) are a great resource for trail guides, plus plenty of general, practical advice for hiking, too.
Let’s get started.
If you’re wondering where to get started, here are some of the Seattle area’s greatest hiking hits. Most completely accessible for beginners, but they all offer excellent payoff that a seasoned hiker can appreciate, too, from the endlessly popular Mount Si to the offbeat, Instagrammable Mailbox Peak. Check out our full list here.
New to hiking or new to Pacific Northwest hills—or just need some warm-up hikes? These eight options will take you through some iconic Seattle scenery without being too strenuous, from in-city hikes like Discovery Park to nearby Cougar Mountain, which is a great hike to take before moving onto more strenuous trips.
There are 93 fire lookouts across Washington and each one of them are bound to give you a great view. As their name suggests, they were once used to survey as much of the area as possible. Today, these structures perched on mountain summits offer anyone willing to make the steep hiking or climbing journey sweeping views of the Pacific Northwest. From Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie Pass to Mount Rainier, these lookouts are worth the journey. Explore them all here.
Not everyone who wants to experience a gorgeous hike has a car to get there—and even if you have a car, parking can be a pain. Luckily, there are plenty of hikes available a short bus ride away. Some of these are dependent on the seasonal Trailhead Direct shuttle. Plenty are in reach year-round, though, like Poo Poo Point in the Issaquah Alps—and some in-city destinations like Carkeek Park. Head right over here for the full list.
Want to stay on the trail for more than a day? These must-do trips are rated by difficulty level—from the breezy Shi Shi Beach to the strenuous, 75-mile adventure of the Pacific Crest Trail’s Section J—so you can choose your own outdoor adventure. Start falling in love with the backcountry here.
Despite Seattle’s love of dogs, some of the more popular hiking destinations are—technically—off-limits to pets. It’s a bummer, but thankfully there are plenty of options for taking your best friend on an extra-cool walk, like the challenging Heather Lake Trail or the gorgeous Lake Twenty-Two. See more Fido-friendly ideas here.
Through August, the wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest’s mountain hikes are some of the most impressive in the country. Each week that passes, the snow level climbs higher, bringing with it the next bloom of wildflowers for evolving landscapes throughout the season. Our guide to hiking among the wildflowers includes seasonal suggestions, too— try Maiden Peak in the Olympics in the late summer, for example.
We talk a lot about mountain and water views, but one kind of view is especially breathtaking and far more remote: Stars. Get away from the light pollution on a clear, not-too-bright night and you even have a chance to catch the Milky Way or the Northern Lights. We’ve rounded up some of the best places to see the stars—and how to build your stargazing gameplan—here.
When you’ve been hiking all day, maybe you feel a little hot and a little sweaty. Considering that, these hikes have an incredible payoff at the end: a jump in an alpine lake. Some of these spots are ready for a full-on cannonball, while others are more for dipping your toes in, but they’re all worth a look. Find your ideal swimming destination here.
There’s way too much to recommend on Mount Rainier, but we can absolutely get you started with the best hikes in each region, including Paradise, Sunrise, and Longmire, for every skill level and interest. See some iconic parkitecture, wander through a rainforest, or hit a lookout tower—choose your own adventure over here.
When the leaves start to turn, there’s nothing like crunching down a trail full of gorgeous colors. These hikes are a classic part of a Pacific Northwest autumn. From in-city hikes like those in Kubota Garden to more far-out destinations like the Quinault Rainforest, our best bets for crisp, colorful fall hikes are here.
While this roundup is especially relevant at Halloween, it’s rarely a bad time to explore abandoned places or a historic cemetery. Destinations include Northern State Hospital, an long-storied place for photographers and explorers alike, and other explorers, and Monte Cristo, which is both a ghost town and a ghost resort. Read all the ghost stories here, and watch out for the arsenic.
East of the mountains, the Entiat Valley is full of beautiful hikes that lend themselves well to winter adventures—although they’re worth exploring year-round. If you want to make a weekend out of it, plan a stay in Leavenworth, Wenatchee, Ardenvoir, or Brief as a jumping-off point. Start exploring here.
The Olympic Peninsula has a beautiful selection of hikes any time of year, partially thanks to year-round maintenance. It’s more secluded, and plenty still rewarding, in the off-season—but with a park this big, there are plenty of less-trafficked gems, like Church Creek Trail. It can be hard to know where to start with such an overwhelming selection, but we have a few recommendations here.