The hikes I really enjoy are not necessarily close to Seattle but can be done with a car in one day (if you start early). These day hikes are also not necessarily easy, in fact most are moderate to hard but I loved the solace and beauty I´ve found when doing them. Some are top hikes you will find on lists online and there is a reason they are there, others likely have never been on a list because well they aren´t top hikes, just my opinion of the best I´ve done to date and trust me there are infinite options out there for all levels.
Wallace Falls – My favorite waterfall hike. There are multiple levels to this hike so anyone can do this hike. Either go all the way to the top or make it to one or simply walk along the river below. All are delightful and worth the drive out. This is a State Park out near Gold Bar, WA (Hwy 2). Discover pass needed. Easy to Moderate, 5.6 miles return if you do the whole trail.
Twin Falls – Another waterfall hike and is what I recommended to tourists wanting to go on a hike near Seattle. It is not a long hike per se nor is it the easiest but all levels can muster it and the reward is huge! Pair it with Snoqualmie Falls which is a huge water fall, quite touristy and requires no hiking so even if you are tired after Twin Falls it is worthy as an extra stop! This is off I-90 (exit 34), 2.6 miles return and a Discover Pass is needed.
Mount Pilchuck – This is probably my all time favorite hike because if just keeps impressing. It is yet again another State Park. This is a moderate hike and because it is a State Park and is also very beautiful any level of hiker will be found on the trail giving it a try even if they are not prepared. Guaranteed fun and awe here but please go prepared with enough time, water, correct shoes and stamina. Talk about views and to top it off there is a fire hut at the top. This is 5.4 miles return with Northwest Forest Pass required out past Granite Falls (Mountain Loop Hwy). There is also a popular trailhead along this same road to a lake but guaranteed you will only have energy for one and Pilchuck should be chosen!
PPP – Strenuous hike, don´t do unless you can scramble and deal with very steep inclines. You literally get to the ridge and there is space for maybe 4 people to straddle rocks but the reward of no one around makes this hard ass hike one of my favorites…Plus it obviously has a view (Mt. Rainier included). There are plenty of other hikes with a Mt. Rainier view so if this sounds like too much for you please pick another. This is a 5 mile return hike off I-90 (exit 45) with Northwest Forest Pass required.
Granite Lakes – I loved this one because it is long and at the end you have a rewarding lake which in the summer is warm enough to jump in and swim. Found very few people out there and saw salamanders near the shore! Also plenty of berries to pick in August! This is a nearly 9 mile return off I-90 (exit 34) needing a Discover Pass.
Kendall Catwalk – This one is just a hike up to a pretty segment of the PCT or Pacific Crest Trail which is the trail that goes from Canada to Mexico. This is an exposed section of a pass which is not wide but also not long so vertigo should not be an issue. The views from the Catwalk are quite awesome, plus it is cool to be on a part of the PCT. Getting more distance this is a 12 mile return hike off I-90 (exit 52) needing Northwest Forest Pass.
Vesper Peak – Go prepared for this difficult and late season hike. There is likely snow here from October until July so if you have experience in mountaineering or steep snow travel you could squeeze this in before it gets busy. Please also prepare yourself to have your mind blown by beauty at the top on a clear day (in fact do it only on a clear day)! This is an 8 mile return out past Lake Stevens on Mountain Loop Highway and you need the Northwest Forest Pass.
Mailbox Peak – I only add this one because it is a unique hike to a literal mailbox at the top of a mountain. It is a great work out and it is a very popular trail. If you want strenuous take the old route; if you want easier take the regular new route but I warn you that the new route is twice the distance so go prepared. Many with stamina, looking for a challenge, training for bigger peaks/ultra marathons or short on time will take the old route at least going up. Hike can be done year round with the proper gear and feel free to bring something an leave it in the mailbox, like a beer, love letter, token from your travels, etc. This is a 9.4 mile return (on the new route) off I-90 (exit 34) with Discover Pass needed. Since it is so popular I´ll mention that it is 4000 ft (1219 meters) elevation gain…aka hard.
Ebey’s Landing – This is an ocean view hike that is maybe the easiest on my list. Great spot to see the Straight of Juan de Fuca which is where the Salish Sea (Puget Sound) enters the Pacific Ocean. There are view of The Olympic Mountains, Pacific Ocean, beaches, Canada and more (obviously on a clear day). Located on Whidbey Island and the best access is via the ferry in Mukilteo (or Port Townsend should you be over there). Go early especially because ferry wait times can get long on nice days! Yes, to get here taking a ferry with a car is the best plan but there is another option which is to is drive further North and cross by bridge going through Anacortes. If you do this hike consider checking out Deception Pass State Park too and make a whole day of Whidbey Island exploring! This is 5.6 miles return but you can skip the beach return if you wish so this can be as short as you want and it will still be spectacular (family friendly). A Discover Pass is required.
Cascade Pass to Sahale Glacier – Not really a day trip but one of my all time favorites was this hike that takes all day. You might be able to do the Cascade Pass part in a day but the trailhead is like 3.5 hours away from Seattle…plus hike and drive back makes it quite a looong day. If you have time though and can overnight or stay closer, continuing onward to the glacier is a well rewarded effort although strenuous. This is the longest hike I have listed. It’s 3.7 miles to the pass or 5.9 miles to glacier (this part is strenuous at nearly 4,000 ft elevation gain overall). Somewhere in between the pass and the glacier is a really pretty lake so even a little more elevation gain might be worth it for this added view if not continuing onward to the glacier. This is located in the National Park but no passes are required.
Many might add Franklin Falls in the later winter (late January/early February) to see the frozen waterfall. Please be aware that Avalanches do occur here yearly so be sure to check snowpack warnings if this is your plan. NWAC has those details. Yes, you can do this in the summer too and the 2 mile return hike won´t disappoint plus is very family friendly but also extremely busy year round.
Did you know you can also take a bus to some trails in the summer from Seattle, Bellevue and Issaquah. It is called Trailhead Direct. This will take you to Mt. Si, Little Si and Mount Teneriffe…all are very popular trails and the transport saves parking issues and potential break in issues.
As always any hikes in Washington State´s three National Parks won’t disappoint: Mount Rainier, Olympics or North Cascades…this last one holds most of the beauty hidden on its trails!
- Go during the weekday and go early to avoid crowds. This makes it easier to find parking. Weekends are extra crowded! Also be aware not to leave any valuable in the car, break in´s are quite common especially at popular trailheads.
- Look up trails online before you go and read their trip report. Good sites are WTA Trails, All Trails or Peak Bangers. Reviews from recent hikers are quite helpful and give a good idea on current conditions and more.
- Not all roads to trailheads are paved so research and bring a vehicle with clearance when they are located off tough forest roads.
- Bring enough water or a filter if you know there is a stream or water source.
- Bring plenty of snacks, you burn more calories hiking then you realize over the multiple hours out in nature.
- Always bring a rain jacket. It is the Pacific NW and rain is always a possibility.
- Bring layers, even sunny days can get chilly at the top sometimes.
- Sunscreen is useful year round.
- Many places require passes. Discover Pass or NW Forest Pass is commonly needed (place on dash or mirror). You can get a day pass but not all trailheads have the option to purchase there so be sure to get it ahead. Online or REI is a good place to purchase.
- Whatever you bring in needs to come back out with you, there are no trash bins so bring an extra bag to carry food scraps, wrappers, bottles and also pet poo back off the trail and parking area!
- Often trailheads have an outhouse or bathroom but not all. Bring T.P. just in case and or don´t wipe. If you need to go in the woods, do so away from water sources (200ft at least) and if it is poop you should dig a hole and cover…and yes toilet paper should go back out with you!
- Wild animals are out there. Don´t feed the little ones. Give distance. With bigger mammals, don´t run, stand tall and back away (keep eyes on them). Give them space, most are scared of you and won´t harm you if they do not feel threatened. Wild Animal encounter guide.
- Dogs are allowed leashed on most trails except at the National Parks! Do pick up their poop and do take it with you, nature can not compose the crazy amount of excrement from us or our animals, nor is the ecosystem prepared for this foreign matter.
***This list will continually be updated as I am always exploring (last update 8/2022).
2 thoughts on “Favorite Day Hikes from Seattle, Washington”
Top photo best reveal on hike and hike challenge
Best photo mailbox peak.
Most amazing trip view and beauty motivation to hike ebey’s landing.
Other inspiring Photography Saghalie glacier Kendall catwalk mountain goat Franklin falls Pilchuck
I’d like to know more about what gear is needed per hike.