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A blanket of low red, yellow, and orange brush is below evergreen trees, with mountains and cloudy skies in the background.
The Paradise area in Mount Rainier National Park.
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10 Seattle-area hikes for seeing beautiful fall colors

Feel those autumn leaves crunch under your hiking boots

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The Paradise area in Mount Rainier National Park.
| Shutterstock

Fall in the Pacific Northwest is hard to beat. After a summer of exploring the mountains, rainforests and river valleys of the region, the return of the brisk, cool air transforms an already beautiful region into a dazzling wonderland of colors. Standing starkly against the blue sky and gray of a cloudy day, the flora of the region erupts into a color wheel of hues, each more rich in color than the last.

While those from the east coast will try to convince locals that our fall colors aren’t that great, those who get out and explore will find the timeless, classic beauty of autumn around every bend. Sure, the Pacific Northwest doesn’t have the sweeping views of deciduous trees, but what we do have is our own unique style of fall, just perfect for us.

From golden larches in the high country to big leaf maple groves in the mossy wilderness and everything in between, we’ve laid out a few classic spots for walks and hikes around the region.

Want to skip the hike or stay closer to town? Here are our picks for seeing leaves in-city, no hiking boots required.

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1. Washington Park Arboretum

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2300 Arboretum Dr E
Seattle, WA 98112
(206) 543-8800
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Right in town and easy to reach, the paths leading around the Washington Park Arboretum are some of the best in Washington State. Not only will you find miles of walking along well maintained trails, you’ll see plants from around the world with dazzling autumn hues. Start at the Graham Visitors Center and head west toward town along the Arboretum Loop Trail—you’ll encounter over a dozen plants showing off their fall colors. The display is so great that the University of Washington has put together tour maps for both October and November, ensuring visitors see the best colors of the season.

2. Kubota Garden

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9817 55th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98118
(206) 725-5060
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Rainier Beach’s Kubota Garden has been a local favorite for fall colors for decades. Originally planted in 1927 as the personal garden of legendary landscape artist Fujitaro Kubota, this 20-acre plot of land has been a city park since 1987 and is another must-see spot in town. During the last two weekends of October, the park hosts a free “Fall Color” public tour, showing off every beautiful tree in the park and giving those in attendance a chance to learn about the unique plants and their history. You can also take a self-guided tour at any time by picking up a detailed map near the kiosk.

3. Cedar River Trail

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901 Nishiwaki Ln
Renton, WA 98057
(425) 430-6700
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For those hoping to get out of town a bit, the Cedar River Trail is a fun place to bike or stroll along a flat, mostly paved surface. Running for 17 miles one way from the southern end of Lake Washington in Renton to Maple Valley, this family-friendly biking and hiking trail will give a good dose of local fall colors. If you love large orange leaves dangling off increasing bare branches, this is the trail for you.

4. Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park

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1201 Lake Washington Blvd N
Renton, WA 98056
(425) 430-6700
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Also in Renton, the Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park is a ridiculously underrated place to get your fill of fall colors. With orange, yellow, and red leaves lining the paths around the 57-acre park. Most of the best colors are found near the entrance of the park, where you’ll see photographers and families enjoying the brilliant hues of the park’s trees. While the park itself is small, pairing this with the Cedar River Trail will ensure a potent dose of autumn. 

5. Point Defiance Park

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5400 N Pearl St
Tacoma, WA 98407
(253) 305-1088
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Every Seattle resident should travel to Tacoma and see the autumn leaves at Point Defiance Park. With 15 miles of hiking trails to choose from, you can spend an entire day down in Pierce County. Around the park, the fall colors are highlighted by the trees at the Japanese Garden, and are spread out with the huge maples all around the forest park. You can even join a guided tour during the weekends. With duck ponds, as well as pull-offs to see whales, the Olympic Mountains, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and even a chance to explore the zoo and aquarium, this park is well worth the 30-mile trip south.

6. Ira Spring Trail and Mason Lake

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Ira Spring Memorial Trail
North Bend, WA 98045

If city parks aren’t your favorite way to see fall colors, heading east on I-90 will give you a few great options. One classic hike for fall colors is the Ira Spring Trail to Mason Lake. It’s roughly 6.5 miles round trip and gains more than 2,000 feet in elevation, making this a moderate hike for those used to trekking in the Cascade Mountains. What makes this trail so great is that you not only get to see the local plants show off their fall colors, but on a clear day you get a stunning view of Mount Rainier and the region’s ridge lines. Before you head out, keep an eye on where the snow is, as this trail reaches 4,300 feet above sea level. 

7. Gold Creek Pond Trail

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Gold Creek Pond Trail
Snoqualmie Pass, WA 98068

Also along I-90, the Gold Creek Pond Trail is a classic trek leading to stunning views of the mountains around Snoqualmie Pass. The short, one-mile trail to reach the pond and back is both ADA-accessible and stroller-friendly, making it a great trip for anyone who wants to make it. Along the trail and around the pond, there are enough deciduous shrubs and trees to really enjoy some brilliant colors. This is also a great hike when the snow level is hovering around Snoqualmie, as the mountain views are even more impressive with a fresh layer of powder. 

8. Esmeralda Basin and Lake Ingalls

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Esmeralda Basin Trail
Leavenworth, WA 98826

If you are craving seeing larches this fall, we have you covered with a detailed post. For those looking for the closest hike with the greatest rewards, there’s Esmerelda Basin and Lake Ingalls. Both hikes can be steep and difficult for those not used to hiking in the Cascades, but those who do make it up to either destination will be rewarded with the stunningly gorgeous colors of the larches. You’ll also see great colors from the deciduous shrubs around the area, making this a good autumn adventure. As with any hike into the mountains, be aware of the snow level and weather conditions. 

9. Mount Rainier National Park

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(360) 569-2211
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If you’re up for a bit longer of a drive, consider an autumn trip to Mount Rainier National Park. Offering stunning drives and awesome hikes showcasing the iconic mountain’s beauty, a trip to Rainier will give you the best of fall in the high alpine. A great and mostly easy hike to show off the region’s fall colors is the trail to Bench and Snow Lakes. At roughly 2.6 miles round trip, this trek shows off fall colors and even rewards you with some tasty huckleberries. Hoping for something a bit more well-known in the park? Head to Paradise and take in the fall colors from Panorama Point and the Skyline Trail.

10. Quinault Rainforest

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S Shore Rd
Quinault, WA 98575
(360) 288-2525
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The Quinault Rainforest is even farther from town, but completely worth the trip if you have the time. Here, you’ll find a 31-mile loop drive through some of the most stunning rainforest sections in America, dozens of miles of trails through towering timbers, and the colors of big leaf maples—accented by elk roaming through huge ferns and a even salmon-filled river lined with bald eagles. Your best bet is to stop at the Lake Quinault Lodge, then make your way down to the Graves Creek Campground and trailhead. After hiking to Pony Bridge and back, get back in the car and take the family-friendly trail around Maple Glade and the Kestner Homestead. Both trails will reward you with everything you expect from the Olympic Rainforest.

1. Washington Park Arboretum

2300 Arboretum Dr E, Seattle, WA 98112

Right in town and easy to reach, the paths leading around the Washington Park Arboretum are some of the best in Washington State. Not only will you find miles of walking along well maintained trails, you’ll see plants from around the world with dazzling autumn hues. Start at the Graham Visitors Center and head west toward town along the Arboretum Loop Trail—you’ll encounter over a dozen plants showing off their fall colors. The display is so great that the University of Washington has put together tour maps for both October and November, ensuring visitors see the best colors of the season.

2300 Arboretum Dr E
Seattle, WA 98112

2. Kubota Garden

9817 55th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118

Rainier Beach’s Kubota Garden has been a local favorite for fall colors for decades. Originally planted in 1927 as the personal garden of legendary landscape artist Fujitaro Kubota, this 20-acre plot of land has been a city park since 1987 and is another must-see spot in town. During the last two weekends of October, the park hosts a free “Fall Color” public tour, showing off every beautiful tree in the park and giving those in attendance a chance to learn about the unique plants and their history. You can also take a self-guided tour at any time by picking up a detailed map near the kiosk.

9817 55th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98118

3. Cedar River Trail

901 Nishiwaki Ln, Renton, WA 98057

For those hoping to get out of town a bit, the Cedar River Trail is a fun place to bike or stroll along a flat, mostly paved surface. Running for 17 miles one way from the southern end of Lake Washington in Renton to Maple Valley, this family-friendly biking and hiking trail will give a good dose of local fall colors. If you love large orange leaves dangling off increasing bare branches, this is the trail for you.

901 Nishiwaki Ln
Renton, WA 98057

4. Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park

1201 Lake Washington Blvd N, Renton, WA 98056

Also in Renton, the Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park is a ridiculously underrated place to get your fill of fall colors. With orange, yellow, and red leaves lining the paths around the 57-acre park. Most of the best colors are found near the entrance of the park, where you’ll see photographers and families enjoying the brilliant hues of the park’s trees. While the park itself is small, pairing this with the Cedar River Trail will ensure a potent dose of autumn. 

1201 Lake Washington Blvd N
Renton, WA 98056

5. Point Defiance Park

5400 N Pearl St, Tacoma, WA 98407

Every Seattle resident should travel to Tacoma and see the autumn leaves at Point Defiance Park. With 15 miles of hiking trails to choose from, you can spend an entire day down in Pierce County. Around the park, the fall colors are highlighted by the trees at the Japanese Garden, and are spread out with the huge maples all around the forest park. You can even join a guided tour during the weekends. With duck ponds, as well as pull-offs to see whales, the Olympic Mountains, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and even a chance to explore the zoo and aquarium, this park is well worth the 30-mile trip south.

5400 N Pearl St
Tacoma, WA 98407

6. Ira Spring Trail and Mason Lake

Ira Spring Memorial Trail, North Bend, WA 98045

If city parks aren’t your favorite way to see fall colors, heading east on I-90 will give you a few great options. One classic hike for fall colors is the Ira Spring Trail to Mason Lake. It’s roughly 6.5 miles round trip and gains more than 2,000 feet in elevation, making this a moderate hike for those used to trekking in the Cascade Mountains. What makes this trail so great is that you not only get to see the local plants show off their fall colors, but on a clear day you get a stunning view of Mount Rainier and the region’s ridge lines. Before you head out, keep an eye on where the snow is, as this trail reaches 4,300 feet above sea level. 

Ira Spring Memorial Trail
North Bend, WA 98045

7. Gold Creek Pond Trail

Gold Creek Pond Trail, Snoqualmie Pass, WA 98068

Also along I-90, the Gold Creek Pond Trail is a classic trek leading to stunning views of the mountains around Snoqualmie Pass. The short, one-mile trail to reach the pond and back is both ADA-accessible and stroller-friendly, making it a great trip for anyone who wants to make it. Along the trail and around the pond, there are enough deciduous shrubs and trees to really enjoy some brilliant colors. This is also a great hike when the snow level is hovering around Snoqualmie, as the mountain views are even more impressive with a fresh layer of powder. 

Gold Creek Pond Trail
Snoqualmie Pass, WA 98068

8. Esmeralda Basin and Lake Ingalls

Esmeralda Basin Trail, Leavenworth, WA 98826

If you are craving seeing larches this fall, we have you covered with a detailed post. For those looking for the closest hike with the greatest rewards, there’s Esmerelda Basin and Lake Ingalls. Both hikes can be steep and difficult for those not used to hiking in the Cascades, but those who do make it up to either destination will be rewarded with the stunningly gorgeous colors of the larches. You’ll also see great colors from the deciduous shrubs around the area, making this a good autumn adventure. As with any hike into the mountains, be aware of the snow level and weather conditions. 

Esmeralda Basin Trail
Leavenworth, WA 98826

9. Mount Rainier National Park

Washington

If you’re up for a bit longer of a drive, consider an autumn trip to Mount Rainier National Park. Offering stunning drives and awesome hikes showcasing the iconic mountain’s beauty, a trip to Rainier will give you the best of fall in the high alpine. A great and mostly easy hike to show off the region’s fall colors is the trail to Bench and Snow Lakes. At roughly 2.6 miles round trip, this trek shows off fall colors and even rewards you with some tasty huckleberries. Hoping for something a bit more well-known in the park? Head to Paradise and take in the fall colors from Panorama Point and the Skyline Trail.

10. Quinault Rainforest

S Shore Rd, Quinault, WA 98575

The Quinault Rainforest is even farther from town, but completely worth the trip if you have the time. Here, you’ll find a 31-mile loop drive through some of the most stunning rainforest sections in America, dozens of miles of trails through towering timbers, and the colors of big leaf maples—accented by elk roaming through huge ferns and a even salmon-filled river lined with bald eagles. Your best bet is to stop at the Lake Quinault Lodge, then make your way down to the Graves Creek Campground and trailhead. After hiking to Pony Bridge and back, get back in the car and take the family-friendly trail around Maple Glade and the Kestner Homestead. Both trails will reward you with everything you expect from the Olympic Rainforest.

S Shore Rd
Quinault, WA 98575