Seattle Culture

The Best Seattle Suburbs For Nature Lovers

It’s no secret that our local environment—from our shorelines to mountaintops and city parks to urban trails—is a major draw and can be an important consideration for home buyers in deciding where to live

By Sheila Mickool March 6, 2018


This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Seattle magazine.

This article appears in print in the March 2018 issue, as part of the “Best of the Burbs” cover story. Click here for the rest of the story.

Whether you are an adrenaline junkie or a Sunday-afternoon walk-in-the-park type, there are a lot of choices


The cascade foothills seem close enough to touch in Issaquah, making it an especially appealing home base for outdoor enthusiasts. Hikers head to the “The Issaquah Alps,” an unofficial name for the highlands near Issaquah, which include Cougar Mountain, Squak Mountain, Tiger Mountain, Taylor Mountain, Rattlesnake Mountain, Rattlesnake Ridge and Grand Ridge. There are more than 200 miles of trails in Issaquah, including those that lead to Poo Poo Point on the west side of Tiger Mountain, a clear area used as a launching pad by paragliders. Zsuzsa Stanfield, who has lived in the area for about 20 years, sums up the appeal.

“The views at Poo Poo Point are breathtaking; Rattlesnake Ledge is one of our favorite trails to hike, and Cougar Mountain trails are not usually crowded and are best for kids and dogs.” It’s only 36 minutes by car from Issaquah to The Summit at Snoqualmie for a day of skiing and boarding. Equine Escapes offers horseback trail rides in the foothills of the Cascades. And in Issaquah’s backyard is 510-acre Lake Sammamish State Park, which offers swimming, boating, picnics and walks. Stanfield heartily recommends kayaking and paddleboarding here. 

Neighborhood Snapshot
Population: 37,322
Median Home Price: $752,500
Appreciation: 14.1 percent
School Rank: Issaquah School District, no. 7 in state
Public Transportation: Sound Transit, King County Metro bus service
Commute to Seattle: 17.4 miles, typically 30–55 minutes


Camo attire in Bellevue is likely a fashion statement. In Puyallup, however, the person wearing it is possibly a hunter, a fisherman planning an afternoon on the Puyallup River, a birder, hiker or wildlife photographer in town for supplies at Sportsman’s Warehouse—one of the town’s sporting goods stores—before heading off into the wilderness.

John L. Scott real estate agent Dan Olague notes, “Just a short drive away in almost any direction are hiking and biking trails, not to mention beautiful Mount Rainier.” Puyallup is around an hour from Mount Rainier National Park’s Carbon River entrance and Crystal Mountain, a major draw for skiers and boarders, is also about an hour’s drive from the city. Three rivers (Puyallup, White and Carbon) and three popular lakes (Lake Bradley, Wapato Lake and Lake Tapps)—local favorites for water activities—are all within a 20-minute drive of the city. Outdoor-loving home buyers can find a wide variety of new, generously sized construction around Puyallup, along with smaller, well-kept ramblers in some of the city’s older neighborhoods.

Neighborhood Snapshot
Population: 40,640
Median Home Price: $317,200
Appreciation: 8 percent
School Rank: Puyallup School District, no. 60 in state
Public Transportation: Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, King County Metro bus service
Commute to Seattle: 32 miles, typically from 1 hour to 1 hour, 40 minutes

Photographs by Washington State Parks (Saint Edward State Park). From left to right: Along with hikers, Poo Poo Point attracts paragliders who take off from here;  Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore offers miles of hiking and biking trails and access to Lake Washington; Farms are still part of the landscape in Puyallup


Located at Lake Washington’s northern end, this city has outdoor amenities that will make you feel like you’ve left the city behind, even though the hustle and bustle of street traffic and urban services are nearby.

A top draw is Saint Edward State Park, with 25 miles of hiking and biking trails (some trails are hiking only). Kenmore resident Lainie Colburn is a big fan of the park. “There is a playground for the little kiddos and sports fields for older kids.” The park includes picnic areas and access to Lake Washington, and its network of trails intersects with Big Finn Hill Park and O.O. Denney Park, creating a trail system of more than 16 miles. The Burke-Gilman Trail—popular with cyclists, runners and walkers—runs right by the city’s Log Boom Park, which borders the shores of Lake Washington. The city has a total of 7.8 miles of shoreline split between the Sammamish River, Swamp Creek and Lake Washington.

For those seeking a unique outing, Kenmore Air, which is based along the shores of the lake in Kenmore, makes island-hopping flightseeing in the San Juans an easy option. And those looking for housing will find a mix of modest older ramblers, impressive waterfront properties and some new construction. 

Neighborhood Snapshot
: 22,357
Median Home Price: $663,800
Appreciation: 18.5 percent
School Rank: Northshore School District, no. 14 in state
Public Transportation: King County Metro bus service, Sound Transit 
Commute to Seattle: 13.6 miles, typically from 35 minutes to 1 hour, 10 minutes

Also consider:

Other cities with good access to the outdoors include Bellevue, with more than 2,500 acres of parks and 80 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding; and Monroe, with its easy access to the Cascades and Stevens Pass. Farther afield, Olympia is a gateway to coastal beaches and the Olympic Peninsula.

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