14 Best Hiking Trails Within 100 Miles of Seattle

From the best mountain trail to the top hike with your pup, find your bliss on one of these outdoor routes

By Kristen Russell


May 29, 2018

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the June 2018 issue, as part of the “85 Best Outdoor Adventures” cover story. Click here to subscribe.

Mount Pilchuck
Take in 360-degree views of Mount Rainier, Mount Baker and the Olympics from the restored, historic fire lookout at the top of this hike and you’ll agree: It was tough—and it was worth it.
Location: North Cascades, 19 miles from Granite Falls
Length: 5.4 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 2,300 feet
Difficulty: Hard
Pass required: Northwest Forest Pass

Comet Falls
For churning, pounding water drama, there’s none better than this short, dramatic hike alongside a turbulent creek to a waterfall that drops more than 300 feet—dwarfing even Snoqualmie Falls.
Location: Mount Rainier National Park; use western entrance, 13.5 miles east of Elbe
Length: 3.8 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 1,250 feet
Difficulty: Intermediate
Pass required: National parks entrance fee

WALK HERE: At more than 300 feet tall, sublime Comet Falls in Mount Rainier National Park dwarfs even Snoqualimie Falls

Deception Pass State Park: Headlands, Rosario Head, Lighthouse Point 

This meander along rugged cliffs and grassy beaches offers gorgeous views of Deception Pass and lots of exciting variety for capering fur babies. Don’t forget your poop bags!
North end of Whidbey Islan
 5 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 350 feet
Difficulty: Easy 
Pass required: 
Discover Pass

Twin Falls

This classic Northwest trail is sure to get new hikers hooked as they skirt the banks of the tumbling South Fork of the Snoqualmie River and end at a sturdy little lookout platform perched over the 135-foot falls.
Location: Snoqualmie region near North Bend, 31 miles from Seattle
Length: 2.6 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 500 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Pass required: Discover Pass

Grove of the Patriarchs

It’s an awe-inspiring yet easy boardwalk stroll to stand among some of the oldest (more than 1,000 years) and biggest (300 feet tall, 25 feet in diameter) trees in western Washington.
Location: Mount Rainier National Park; approach from the east side of Stevens Canyon entrance on State Route 123
Length: 1.5 miles round trip
Elevation gain:50 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Pass required: National parks entrance fee

Ruby Beach
A national wildlife refuge and part of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, this beach hike is pure heaven for beachcombers, tide pool gazers and bird-watchers alike.
Location: Olympic Peninsula, just off U.S. Highway 101
Length: 6 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 80 feet
Difficulty: Intermediate
Pass required: National parks entrance fee

Sourdough Ridge Trail
Plan this hike for early August, when the world-famous wildflower displays are in their full glory: acre upon acre of species that include vivid lupine and scarlet paintbrush, glacier lily and fireweed.
Location: Mount Rainier National Park, by the Sunrise Visitors Center
Length: 2.5 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 400 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Pass required: National parks entrance fee

WALK HERE: The Olympic Peninsula’s Hall of Mosses is a easy stroll through the lush Hoh Rain Forest

Hall of Mosses Trail
One of the few old-growth temperate rain forests in the U.S., the Hoh offers several easy loop trails for exploring the lush vegetation, overhung with a canopy of coniferous and deciduous trees, and draped with a wash of green and brown mosses. Begin with a stop at the visitor center to pick up tree and plant guides, then revel as you wander in a forest primeval.
Location: Olympic Peninsula, near Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center
Length: .8-mile loop
Elevation gain: 100 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Pass required: National parks entrance fee

HIYA, HYAS! Hyas Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness welcomes all who venture to its shores. Photo by Susan Elderkin

Hyas Lake
This flat forest ramble is easy on the knees and pays off with a lovely lake, perfect for swimming, fishing and gawping at the towering alpine crags above.
Location: Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Central Cascades, 31 miles from Cle Elum
Length: 4 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 100 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Pass required: Northwest Forest Pass

Spotlight on Snoqualmie Pass, an area rich in hiking opportunities

FRESH FLOWERS: Mountain lupine in bloom at Gold Creek Pond. Photo by Jon Stier

Snoqualmie pass—with access to The Summit at Snoqualmie ski and recreational areas (Alpental, and Summit West, Central and East)—is less than an hour’s drive from Seattle, but feels like a world away, and it’s more than a seasonal paradise for snow lovers. Take in one of these day hikes and then visit the vibrant new retail and housing complex at the pass for an après-hike beer at Dru Bru Taproom and Brewery or dinner at The Commonwealth. (Note: All of these hikes require a Northwest Forest Pass; pick one up at the ranger station near the main lodge at Summit Central.)

GOLD CREEK POND: Want to get outdoors, but you’re worried about your ability to handle a climb? Or perhaps you have a toddler or someone in your group whose mobility is impaired. This 1-mile loop is ADA-accessible, part paved and part boardwalk, and with great views of the small lake and surrounding wildflower-filled landscape. The trailhead is just 2 miles east of the pass, with a small parking lot.

SNOW LAKE: This popular 7.2 mile roundtrip trail lives up to its name. It’s usually one of the last to be free of snow, which makes it an ideal hike for a hot (late) summer day. The kids will love to throw snowballs at the top, and grownups will enjoy the views of this pristine alpine lake. The trailhead is located at the Alpental ski area parking lot.

LODGE LAKE: This 3 mile hike takes you right under several ski lifts before leveling out and crossing through flower-filled alpine meadows and the smaller Beaver Lake on the way to your destination of Lodge Lake. Don’t miss the turnoff: The trail keeps going; it’s just one small section of the Pacific Crest Trail. The trailhead is on one side of the Summit Central parking lot.

FRANKLIN FALLS: This could be considered the starter hike for many locals, judging by the number of families on the trail. It’s got everything to hook beginners: a grade that’s not too steep (400 feet elevation gain), a fairly short distance (2 miles round trip) and a great payoff at the end. This is a short distance from the pass; the trailhead is off I-90, exit 47.

“In a light snow year, I like to head up to Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge in the late spring and early summer and drive Obstruction Point Road. It is not a road for the faint of heart, being gravelly, steep and narrow, but the rewards are great. The avalanche lilies are in full bloom and, if you’re lucky, you will see a mother bear and a cub, as well as deer, marmots and birdlife.” —Art Wolfe, award-winning photographer whose new book, Trees: Between Earth and Heaven, will be released in October.

“On the northwestern side of the Kitsap Peninsula, the trail at Guillemot Cove begins at the high point, so kids literally skip downhill before reaching the bottom of the bluff, where they will find a spooky old house, a meadow filled with frogs, butterflies and beavers, big mossy maples, a rocky beach along Hood Canal and the highlight, a hollowed-out cedar log with a roof that has been turned into a playhouse.” —Susan Elderkin, author of Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington

“The John Wayne [Pioneer] Trail at Iron Horse State Park is a splendid trek that begins at the North Bend trailhead and follows the old Chicago, Milwaukie, St. Paul and Pacific railroad grade, so it’s an easy, comfortable climb of up to 5 miles, one way, for most anyone.” —Seabury Blair Jr., author of The Creaky Knees Guide to Washington

Portrait photo credits: Anthony Hayward (Wolfe), Marlene Blair (Blair)

Discover more from our “85 Best Outdoor Adventures” cover story here.


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