18 Of The Seattle Area’s Most Breathtaking Day Hikes You Must Do

Best Seattle Area Day Hikes

Just because you live in a city doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the great outdoors! Especially when you live in a city as close to the mountains as Seattle, there’s a whole world of amazing day hikes out there for you to discover.

To help you get away from the concrete jungle and into the wilderness, we’ve created this list of the 18 best day hikes in the Seattle area, so you can spend less time researching your next adventure and more time living it! Let’s get to it…

1. Kendall Katwalk

If narrow trails, stunning alpine vistas, and gorgeous wildflowers sound like paradise to you, then you won’t want to miss out on the Kendall Katwalk trail. The trail starts out from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) parking lot at the Kendall Katwalk Trailhead as a wide path. Eventually, after about two miles, the landscape around the Kendall Katwalk trail opens up to reveal the beauty of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Small waterfalls and stream crossings dot the trail for a short period of time before you start to head up steep switchbacks into a shaded forest. At just over 4 miles, you’ll start to cross a flat ridge top before traversing a steep hill through a majestic old-growth forest. Around 5,000 ft of elevation, you’ll hit open talus fields, which are covered in hundreds of wildflowers in the spring season in an area known as Kendall Gardens.

This steep, rocky, trail offers panoramic views of some of the area’s most well-known mountains, including Mount Rainier and Lundin Peak. Eventually, you’ll cross a path below Kendall Peak and make your way to the narrowest portion of the Katwalk, if you’re brave enough to take it on. You can also choose to sit back, relax, and enjoy the views of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Closest Highway: I-90

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/h4iadPAtupfRzCps6

Length: 11 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Intermediate

 

2. Little Si

One of the most popular trails in the Seattle Area, the Little Si hike beings at the trailhead bearing the same name. A moderately graded 4.7-mile hike, the Little Si trail starts off with a steep incline from the trailhead, as you make your way up switchbacks and a series of well-worn paths. After some huffing and puffing, the trail does eventually flatten out after the first quarter mile.

Continue hiking through the temperate forest typical of the region before you hit the 1.3-mile mark, which signifies yet another uphill section. Worry not, however, as this is the final uphill push before the summit. The last three-quarters of a mile feature plenty of switchbacks, but eventually, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of the surrounding peaks, including Mount Si and Mount Washington.

If you’re looking for a bit more adventure, you can take the Boulder Garden loop at either 0.3 miles or 0.5 miles into this hike to tag on the more difficult Mount Si trail. That being said, the Little Si trail is perfect for beginners and advanced hikers, alike, because there are a number of different additional hikes you can add on to this trip to increase or decrease your mileage to best suit your needs.

Closest Highway: I-90

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/MvuYa5TnfrSww8nN8

Length: 4.7 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Beginner

 

3. Mount Pilchuck

sitting on the summit of mount pilchuck
Instagram worthy photo spot on Mount Pilchuck.

This incredibly popular trail offers visitors panoramic views from the top of a restored fire lookout station. The Mount Pilchuck trail starts out at a high-elevation trailhead and is just 5.4 miles roundtrip, so you likely won’t be alone at the summit, where you get views of Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and the Olympics, but it’s certainly one of the best short day hikes in the area.

After you depart from the trailhead, you’ll want to stay to the right at the first fork in the road. You’ll cross a small stream before entering Pilchuck State Park. A scree slope on the trail at the one-mile mark often beckons climbers upward, but you’ll want to keep your course and traverse the slope until you reach the defined trail once again.

You’ll quickly leave the forest and get your first view of the fire lookout, which makes a great landmark for the rest of your journey. A short ascent up an exposed slope brings you to the restored fire lookout, which is a great place to stop and enjoy a snack. This is a great hike, but beware the false summit! Bring a map, compass, and know how to use it – many a hiker has gotten lost on the myriad of false paths pretending to wind their way to the lookout.

Closest Highway: Mountain Loop Highway and I-5

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/NjXGZuKmDKfYakR38

Length: 5.4 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Expert

 

4. Ebey’s Landing Road

Ebey’s Landing is where mountains meet the sea. Nestled right on top of a cliff that overlooks the Puget Sound, Ebey’s Landing Road leads you to the Bluff Trail, which you can access from either the Prairie Overlook trailhead or the seaside parking lot at the end of the road.

From the Prairie Overlook Trailhead, you’ll get treated to a view of Mount Baker to the east and the Olympics to the west. After enjoying the view, you’ll start down a short, brushy access trail that leads to a wide gravel road with a sign marking the way to the Bluff Trail. From here, you’ll walk past expansive wheat fields as the road becomes more rugged.

Eventually, you’ll come to a T junction, where you can head either right or left. Take the trail to the right, and you’ll hike up a short and steep trail to a summit with a great view of the beach below you. After this summit, you’ll continue walking across the bluff until you start descending to the lagoon below. Here, you can watch birds or enjoy the beautiful scenery. Eventually, you’ll continue rambling down switchbacks and along the beach until you return to your car.

Closest Highway: Hwy 20 from I-5

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/1KLoqUtdaREc4pJu7

Length: 5.6 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Beginner

 

5. Denny Creek Trail

The Denny Creek Trail is very popular, especially with families, due to its gentle grade and great views. Starting out on the Denny Creek Trail, you’ll walk through an old-growth forest for one mile until you cross a well-built bridge over Denny Creek. Eventually, you’ll walk under a huge viaduct and enter the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Soon enough, you’ll cross Denny Creek again and reach the popular waterslide rocks, where families like to gather on a sunny day. Or, you can choose to keep going along the trail, crossing the creek once before continuing on for about 0.7 miles to Keekwulee Falls, which is at its full force between April and July.

The Denny Creek Trail is a great place for an afternoon picnic, especially because there are so many great stopping points along the way. It’s easy to customize your experience on the Denny Creek Trail to be as long or as short as you need, so it’s a perfect place for fun for the whole family!

Closest Highway: I-90

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/JijiJQTC9QMau97u8

Length: 6.0 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Beginner

 

6. Skyline Trail

skyline trail day hike view of mt rainierLocated just outside Paradise, Washington – Mount Rainier’s southside hub – the Skyline Trail is an incredibly popular day hike, due to its amazing views of Washington’s tallest peak. You’ll start this hike from the Paradise parking lot on a trailhead just behind the Jackson Visitor Center.

As you start your hike, you’ll head north on a steep trail that eases up after just under a half a mile of walking. After some stone staircases, you’ll get an amazing view of Mount Rainier, also known as Tahoma or Tacoma to the local Lushootseed peoples who have lived in the area for thousands of years.

After passing Glacier Vista, you’ll begin a serious climb as you hike along the Niqually Glacier toward Panorama Point. At this point, Mount Rainier climbers continue on to Camp Muir, but hikers will continue straight toward an ascent of a steep snowfield before descending down toward the Golden Gate Trail and a direct path back to the parking lot.

Closest Highway: Hwy 7 from I-5

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/CUywZ1hzGEDKKCZm7

Length: 5.5 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Intermediate

 

7. Cascade Pass

If you want big views with a moderate amount of effort, then Cascade Pass might be the trail for you. Climbing just under 1,800 feet in just over 3.5 miles, this trail starts out in an old growth forest before the switchbacks begin.

Although you’ll have to hike up some 30+ switchbacks in the first 2.7 miles of the trail, their gentle grade makes them readily accessible to intermediate hikers. After the last switchback, it’s just one more mile to go before you reach Cascade Pass – your destination on this hike. The trees will thin out and rocky, open slopes will appear as the pass opens up before your eyes.

At the Pass, you can take some time enjoying the impressive views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers as you sit and enjoy a snack to recover from your efforts. Eventually, you’ll turn back around and head back the way you came, but you’ll be treated to a great view of El Dorado Peak before you descend into the forest toward the parking lot.

Closest Highway: Hwy 20 from I-5

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/7sQrpUpLLuJG4DGX9

Length: 7.0 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Intermediate

 

8. Cherry Creek Falls Trail

This trail starts at a courtesy easement on private property, so it’s important to stay on the path and keep noise to a minimum as a courtesy to the homeowners in the area. From the parking area, you’ll follow the road until it becomes a trail and crosses Margaret Creek via a bridge.

Soon, you’ll climb a short hill before proceeding downhill toward a sharp hairpin turn at mile 1.5. After a muddy track in the woods, you’ll navigate a few trail junctions until you pass an old crashed car in the trees. Eventually, you’ll need to cross a few small creeks before you follow the sound of rushing water to reach the falls, just two and a half miles from the trailhead.

Closest Highway: Hwy 203 from I-5

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/UUQQLqVGS77g7PLr6

Length: 5.0 miles

Recommended Experience Level: Beginner

 

9. Franklin Falls

view of franklin falls day hikeOne of the most easily accessible and spectacular waterfalls in Washington, Franklin Falls is a great hike for anyone who wants a quick, simple jaunt into the woods. The parking area at the trailhead can only hold about 30 cars, so if that’s all full, head up a half mile past the bridge and trailhead to a larger parking lot.

After leaving the trailhead, you’ll follow a short, well-maintained trail to the picturesque waterfalls at just 1 mile down the path. There’s a viewpoint available before reaching the falls, but there is also a narrow trail that one can take to get closer. That being said, this trail can get quite slippery, so be careful as you hike!

The falls themselves are actually situated between two huge viaducts that allow I-90 to pass overhead through the area without being interrupted by avalanches in the winter time. Franklin Falls is at its highest flow rate between April and July when the spring snowmelt goes into full force. From the trail, you can see the largest of the waterfall’s three drops, which is just about 70 feet tall.

Closest Highway: I-90

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/SK7QnQCvJdw4CxS97

Length: 2.0 miles

Recommended Experience Level: Beginner

 

10. Discovery Park

view of lighthouse in discovery parkLocated in the heart of Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, Discovery Park is the largest green space in the city of Seattle. The park itself is open between 4:00 am and 11:00 pm and entrance is free, so it’s a great place hike if you don’t have the time to get out of the city.

The Discovery Park Loop Trail is actually a designated National Recreation Trail that passes through dense forest and open meadows that provide excellent views. You’ll begin your hike at the Visitor Center where you can find the trailhead at the north end of the parking lot.

The hike starts out with a short, steep section before the trail turns south and bends around toward the west. During this section, you should keep an eye – and ear – out to look and listen for the abundant bird life in the park’s forest.

The trail will continue on toward the meadow and a sandy area, that’s formed by blowing sand from the nearby bluff. Before heading back into the trees, you can take in a great view of the Puget Sound and perhaps even Mount Rainier, if the weather cooperates. Eventually, you’ll come to a viewpoint on the bluff before turning back toward the parking lot.

Closest Highway: I-5

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/ZgmzuKRj9N9fFfh36

Length: 2.8 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Beginner

 

11. Lake Serene

Lake Serene, as the name might suggest, is one of the most stunning day hiking destinations in the Seattle area. To start this hike, you’ll need to pay a daily parking fee at the parking lot or have the Northwest Forest Pass. After leaving the parking lot, you’ll set off on a trail lined with salmonberry bushes that provide ample sustenance during the early summer months.

Soon, you’ll come to a trail split, where you can take a one-mile round trip detour to see Bridal Veil Falls, which is highly recommended if you have the time. After your detour, you’ll cross a creek and then begin the climb to Lake Serene, gaining 1,300ft in around 1.5miles.

After you cross into the basin, you’ll get a great view of the lake. Continue down the trail toward the lake, and you’ll see Mt. Index rising high above the horizon. Find a place to sit and relax to enjoy the splendor of the landscape around you now that you’ve made it to Lake Serene.

Closest Highway: Hwy 2 from I-5

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/R7dkdrHzCoiJCRN67

Length: 8.2 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Expert

 

12. Mount Si

dusting of snow on Mount Si
A dusting of snow on Mount Si.

According to the Snoqualmie people, legend has it that Mount Si was the body of the moon that had fallen down to the Earth because of some trickery that a fox and blue jay once played that transformed the celestial body into a mountain. These days, Mount Si is one of the most popular hikes in all of Washington, bringing upward of 100,000 people to its trails each year.

The hike itself is a nice middle ground between challenging and accessible as it gains some 3,100 feet in just under 4 miles. As soon as you leave the trailhead, you’ll be treated to switchbacks and steep hiking as you ascend for the first mile and a half. After that point, the trail will flatten out a bit through the old growth forest of Snag Flat before the uphill begins yet again.

More uphill brings you to a popular lunch spot – with views of Mount Rainier – but you can keep hiking onward toward the mountain’s true summit, where you may see mountain goats on the slopes below. A scramble takes you to the top of the Haystack formation, which is the true summit cone of the mountain. Once there, you can revel in your success and enjoy the views before heading back to your car.

Closest Highway: I-90

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/gW6Q22H2wxJTTtu77

Length: 8.0 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Intermediate

 

13. Twin Falls

view of lower twin fallsIf you like waterfalls, Twin Falls is the place to be on a sunny day. From the trailhead, you’ll walk on a path that parallels the river before ascending a small hill. Soon, you’ll start down a steep, but short hill into a swampy area, that’s usually full of salmonberries in the summer months.

Cross a bridge and stay on the trail until you arrive at the first river access just off to the side. This river access features a small pool that’s separated from the main current, which makes it a great place for little kids to enjoy a nice swim.

You can continue climbing up the trail, however to a series of switchbacks. After ascending the switchbacks, you’ll be treated to a partial view of the Lower Falls. If you want to continue onward, you’ll descend a few hundred feet to the bottom of a newly rebuilt trail that will bring you up and down switchbacks until you arrive at a final set of stairs to the Big Bridge. From here, you’ll have great views of the valley and the two main waterfalls upstream.

Closest Highway: I-90

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/K9FnkwcpXfCam7yB7

Length: 2.6 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Beginner

 

14. Wallace Falls State Park

Wallace Falls is a popular outdoor attraction in Washington state, but anyone arriving early to the trail will likely be greeted by the peace and quiet of wilderness for a fleeting moment. You’ll start your hike at a trailhead just off of the parking lot that has an information kiosk and restroom facilities. Walk through the forest until you find a split in the trail at about a half mile in, and you’ll take the path to the right, through a wooden gate.

You’ll continue on along the Wallace River before encountering the first of two sections of switchbacks on the trail. As you hike up, you’ll reach a picnic area at the lower falls, which makes for a good break point. Continue on to the views of the Middle Falls, but keep on hiking up yet another set of switchbacks to the Upper Falls, some 2.8 miles from the parking lot.

Closest Highway: Hwy 2 from I-5

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/xk5wh1tVhevGdbXf6

Length: 5.6 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Intermediate

15. Rattlesnake Ridge

Great views are the name of the game on this hike, as you’ll get fantastic vistas, even from the parking lot. You’ll start your hike with a short walk to the north end of Rattlesnake Lake, where there are porta-potties and kiosks with trail information. You’ll pick up the trailhead to your right and begin your adventure.

As you walk down the trail, you’ll see plenty of huge, mossy boulders before you start to gain elevation and ascend toward your destination. Around 1.9 miles into your hike, you’ll reach a junction – head right here, and you’ll arrive at Rattlesnake Ledge, just a hundred yards down the path.

Take care when on the ledge, as it’s very exposed with sheer drops past the edge. From here, you’ll have amazing views, so it’s a great place to sit and relax before your hike back to the car.

Closest Highway: I-90

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/fDDuuXMsqYssTkZ37

Length: 4.0 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Intermediate

 

16. Snow Lake

The most popular and well-visited lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Snow Lake is a stunning alpine lake surrounded by jagged mountain peaks. The good news? It’s a relatively walk, so it’s an accessible hike for new and intermediate hikers, alike.

The trail starts front the north end of the main parking lot at Alpental Ski Area. Fair warning, however: the parking lot will be filled to capacity on a summer weekend, so arrive early if you want a spot.

You’ll start your hike with a 200-foot climb up log steps before the trail flattens out for a bit in the forest. After a mile, you’ll arrive at a talus slope, and you’ll be able to Chair Peak in the background. Another three-quarters of a mile later, and you’ll start some switchbacks up a short climb into the wilderness area at a saddle above Snow Lake. Continue downhill toward the lake and claim your reward of impeccable views for your efforts.

Closest Highway: I-90

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/qg9SamPK9NMzgJ6q7

Length: 7.2 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Intermediate

 

17. Mailbox Peak Trail

view from summit of mailbox peak
flickr/cc/Sean Munson

Back in the day, an old trail up Mailbox Peak was so challenging that injuries and rescues were a near daily occurrence. Thankfully, the Department of Natural Resources commissioned a new trail to the top of the peak that, while steep, provides a much more enjoyable adventure to the top of this difficult summit.

The hike beings on Middle Fork Road, where you’ll need a Discover Pass to park your car. You’ll start walking down a path, pass a gate, and head down a new trail that switchbacks across the northwest face of Mailbox Peak as you make your ascent. You’ll cross numerous bridges and creeks in the lower part of your hike as you gain about 850 feet of elevation for every mile you walk.

After about 4 miles of switchbacks, you’ll meet up with the old trail for a final push to the top of the mountain where you’ll gain an astonishing 960 feet of elevation in just about half a mile, so get ready to work hard for this summit. At the top, you’ll have great views of the other summits around you, including Rainier.

Closest Highway: I-90

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/D651aL7WEWRyUx6o8

Length: 9.4 miles roundtrip

Recommended Experience Level: Expert

 

18. Poo Poo Point Trailhead

Despite its somewhat funny name, Poo Poo Point offers a nice view of the Issaquah and Lake Sammamish regions near the downtown Bellevue area and is a great hike when you don’t have time to get out of the city. Begin your hike at the trailhead on Second Ave SE in Issaquah, near the high school.

You’ll soon leave the city limits and head into Tiger Mountain State Forest as you follow an old road, cross some creeks, and make your way up to a rocky slope. Make your way up the trail to Poo Poo Point and head through a wooden gate. You’ll keep hiking through dense forest, where you might find beautiful wildflowers in the spring.

Eventually, you’ll reach a three-way junction, which will be the highest elevation of your hike. Take the path to the right and continue on to Poo Poo Point, just a half a mile away. Once at the point, take the time to sit and enjoy the view. Perhaps even pack a picnic and watch the paragliders soar down the northwestern face of the Point.

Closest Highway: I-90

Trailhead location: https://goo.gl/maps/nLP1nxJnT5cRFuQP8

Length: 7.2 miles

Recommended Experience Level: Intermediate

 

Looking for more of a challenge? Here’s a great mountain to start with: A Climber’s Guide to Glacier Peak Mountain In Washington

18 Of The Seattle Area’s Most Breathtaking Day Hikes You Must Do

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