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The Best Hikes Near Seattle

There is nothing quite like spending time in nature; it recharges your batteries, takes away some of the stress associated with work, bills, and everyday life. It’s also a great opportunity to spend quality time with family, friends, and loved ones. Fresh air seems to have the ability to liberate us from the things that weigh us down, and part of what makes outdoor activities like hiking so great is the option to explore new territory and go down unknown paths.

If you’re lucky enough to live in or around Seattle, the good news is that you have countless options for hiking. The surrounding areas are full of trails ideal for a day trip, and the Washington nature is astonishingly beautiful. But what are the best hikes near Seattle? You’re about to find out!

What Makes the Washington Trails so Special?
It’s hard, if not impossible, to pinpoint only one thing to explain why the hiking trails in Washington are so great, but if you have walked the rich and everchanging landscape yourself, you might know why – even though you can’t explain it. You get so much more than just one type of nature when hiking the Seattle area, but if you’re not too familiar with the trails, then you might miss out on some of the best, which is why we have put together this comprehensive guide.

The Best Hikes in the Area

Are you ready to start planning your next outdoor adventure? Hiking is something you can do alone (just make sure you tell someone where you’ll be going), with a partner, children, other family members, or with a dog, and these are some of the best hikes for all experience levels.

North Cascades: Maple Pass Loop

Maple Pass Loop Trail

Right off North Cascades Highway, you will find the Rainy Pass trailhead, which is the start of this stunning hiking trail. It’s located a couple of hours away from Seattle, but you shouldn’t let this stop you from experiencing a unique outing! Methow Valley is close by and offers a public campground, something that’s ideal if you don’t want to have to drive there, hike 7.2 miles, and then drive back on the same day.

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate
Distance: 7.2 miles

Snoqualmie Pass: Kendall Katwalk

Kendall Katwalk

Picture a tin ridge that rises above the trees and lets you look out over Mt. Rainier and the Cascades. It’s the perfect view, and a view you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. You will find it by taking Exit 52 on the I-90. There is something therapeutic about starting the hike down low – beneath the trees – and slowly climbing along what resembles nature’s catwalk, only to reach the top where you find yourself standing above the green-leafed trees.

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate-Difficult
Distance: 11 miles

Snoqualmie Pass: Rattlesnake Ledge

Rattlesnake Ledge Panoramic

This trail is the ultimate outing for a hobby hiker or a beginner, and it’s a perfect opportunity to bring the kids on the hike. The hike starts out by Rattlesnake Lake, takes you through beautiful wooden landscapes, and eventually takes you back to the shore. Why not unwind after your walk by going for a swim right there in the cool water? Another plus is that the trail is located no more than a 45-minute drive away from Seattle, which makes it the ideal option for the hiker who’s eager to get started.

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Length: 4 miles

Mountain Loop Highway: Mt. Pilchuck

Mt. Pilchuck

This hike is not too long, but being mostly steep, it qualifies as a moderately difficult trail. You will find it if you head north of downtown Seattle, only about an hour out, and it’s a great trail for someone who wants breathtaking scenery almost as soon as you step out of the car. Enjoy varied terrain just off Highway 92, and see the views of Mt. Rainier, Puget Sound, the North Cascades, Olympic Peninsula, and more as you walk.

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate
Length: 4.5 miles

Central Cascades: The Enchantments Traverse

Enchantments traverse

For hikers that are a little more advanced, or for someone who’s simply looking for a challenge, the Enchantments Traverse could be a good option! Lakes surrounded by glaciers, wild mountain goats, fields covered with flowers, and granite shores, offer a unique escape from everyday life, and it’s an ideal opportunity to challenge yourself. If you want to camp during your hike, you need to win the lottery – literally, as a lottery for a few camping permits is held every spring.

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate
Length: 18 miles (one-way)

Olympic Peninsula: Dungeness Spit

Dungeness spit

Hike the coast and see a side of Washington you might not have experienced before, by packing your hiking backpack, putting on your most comfortable walking boots and heading off to the Dungeness Spit. You will walk along the coast, and there will be a lighthouse at the very end of the trail. It’s a great spot for taking a few pictures, or for bird watching and observing other exciting wildlife. You’ll be able to see both the San Juan Islands and the Cascades from an elevated position.

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate
Length: 11 miles

Whidbey Island: Ebey’s Landing

Ebey's Landing

If wildlife is something you’re interested in, and something you would want to incorporate in your outdoor adventure, you can’t go wrong with Ebey’s Landing! The first settlement on the island was built by Issac Ebey, which is where this trail gets its name from. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot some Orcas in the water during the summer months. This is an exciting hiking trail for someone who’s feeling adventurous, and it’s an easy enough hike that still offers its moderate challenges.

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate
Length: 5.6 miles

Snoqualmie Pass: Little Si and Mount Si

Mount Si near North Bend

Take the I-90 out of Seattle, drive for approximately 45 minutes and then take Exit 32 to arrive at two great locations for hiking! You have one easier option that takes you on a 5-mile hike that’s suitable for both beginners and children, or if you want more of a challenge, you can embark on an 8-mile hike. It’s a big advantage to have multiple options in the same location, especially considering these trails are so close to Seattle, and we recommend that you try both at least once to see which one you like best.

Level of Difficulty: Easy/Intermediate
Length: 5 miles/8 miles

North Cascades/Mt. Baker: Chain Lakes Loop

Chain Lakes Loop

This trail can be a little crowded during the summer, but if you start early in the morning, you should be able to get through most of it without too many interruptions. It offers a spectacular sight of tall mountain tops, widespread lakes, wildlife, and camping opportunities, and if you are not in the mood for hiking, you can always drive up to the lake and enjoy a relaxed day by the water.

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate
Length: 8 miles

Rainier National Park: Summerland

Summerland Ranier National Park

For anyone who is on the hunt for good places to see wildflowers, it surely doesn’t get much better than this. It’s a trail that takes you through both the woods and open areas, you get a spectacular view of the mountains, and you can enter a lottery in advance if you are interested in camping. The way the landscape opens up to reveal those large green fields full of wildflowers is a sight you won’t forget, and it’s just what you need to take your mind off of whatever that’s weighing you down. At times, you will even be able to see snow covering the mountain tops, which makes for a picture-perfect view.

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate
Length: 8.4 miles

Choosing the Right Trail

There are a few things to remember when you start planning a hiking trip, and especially when you aren’t very experienced. You should always be careful not to overdo it, and to choose a trail of an appropriate length. Start small, just like you would with any new experience, and work your way towards longer and more challenging hikes. There is nothing wrong with opting for one of the “easy” trails, as experienced hikers will also take these to enjoy the scenery and nature and relax. Be honest with yourself regarding your abilities, to avoid putting yourself in a potentially risky situation.

Consider the Weather

Hiking on North Cascades

It’s hard not to love Washington and the Seattle area, but most people know that when it rains in this part of the country – it really rains. It can rain quite often during certain parts of the year. Make sure you check the weather forecast before planning a trip and double-check on the day you plan to head out. Rain doesn’t necessarily have to put an end to your plans, but by being well informed and knowing what to expect, you can dress accordingly and avoid getting soaking wet.

Safety First

It can be tempting to leave your cellphone at home to disconnect and get away from everything, but this is unwise from a safety point of view. What if something happens? You could end up twisting your ankle even on the easiest of trails, and what happens if you’re unable to walk back, with no way to call for help? Some areas may not have a good phone signal, but at least you have your phone with you to look for better reception. It’s also a good idea to bring a portable phone charger, just in case.

Also, don’t go hiking alone without telling someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back. Make sure this person checks on you if they don’t hear from you, as again, nature can be unpredictable, and you need to plan for potential emergencies. Even the best and most experienced hiker can slip or take a wrong step. By letting someone know where you will be, you will at least know that help will arrive sooner rather than later.

Packing Smart

Hiker packing the backpack

Packing for a hike depends on several things, such as how far you will be walking, and whether you’ll be going back the same day or camp out. The Seattle area has some beautiful public campgrounds – ideal for staying the night in a peaceful location. But make sure you pack accordingly, as you’re unlikely to find any convenience stores close by. Pack as light as possible if you plan to carry all the gear with you on the hike, and consider bringing freeze-dried food to lower the weight of your hiking gear.

Bringing an extra set of clothes is always a good idea, as you might get caught in the rain, and you’ll thank yourself for having packed an extra set of dry clothes. The temperatures vary in this part of the country, and it can get significantly colder once the sun goes down, so if you’re staying the night, consider bringing an extra sweater.

Final Words

Going for a hike is such a great way to reconnect with yourself through nature, and you won’t find the landscapes the Seattle area offer in many other places in the country, or even in the world. Be mindful of others when you go for your hike. Avoid leaving anything behind that could disturb nature or other hikers (such as trash), bring plenty of water to avoid dehydration, and always keep a cellphone in your backpack for emergencies.

One great thing about hiking is that it’s an activity adapted to the needs of each hiker. There are numerous hiking trails to choose from near Seattle, some closer and some further away, and you can easily find a
trail with a difficulty level that suits your experience and needs.

Embracing new experiences is a big step towards personal growth and what better way to find yourself than by walking out into the wild? As a city, Seattle has so much to offer, but the nature surrounding the city will make you forget all about the buzz of traffic, the city lights, and the crowded streets. What are you waiting for? Your next outdoor adventure is just around the corner!

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