Explore the best that Washington has to offer, with this carefully curated list of day hikes near Seattle that will deliver the most diverse and beautiful Washington landscapes.
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These top 5 day hikes are carefully curated, to give you a taste of all of the incredible landscapes Washington offers. Hike these 5 trails and you’ll see waterfalls, mirror like mountain lakes, moss covered trees, snow capped mountain ranges, raging rivers, and vistas to die for.
Seattle is an incredible base to explore the best that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. This State has it all going on! And so much of it is an easy drive from downtown Seattle. Whether you want to get out on the water and explore the Puget Sound, or hike a trail into a stunning mountain landscape, it’s all possible from Seattle.
I spent two summers in Seattle (2018 & 2019), literally spending all of my time DOING and exploring as much as I could cram in.
Make this list where you start your hiking adventures. I have loved every minute exploring Washington State, but as a middle-aged-Mama (accompanied by her favourite fisherman), we also love to come home to a comfortable bed at night. Being able to have these hikes available to do as day trips from Seattle is a gift.
This list doesn’t include ‘walks’. Which is not discounting them, but a visit to Snoqualmie Falls is not a hike in my books. It’s a (must do) walk.
A carefully curated list of hikes
Here – I’m sharing 5 HIKES and TRAILS. They do range in difficulty, from easy to moderate, so if you’re a beginner hiker, I’d recommend starting with Naches Peak, and then move your way up the list. The others do require a moderate fitness level.
Wallace Falls was the first hike I ever did in Washington, and in the US. Although I’ve always loved the outdoors, I think it’s fair to say that it’s the Washington landscape that inspired me to hike LOTS.
I spent a ton of time researching which hikes were the best, although of course, everyone had their own opinion. And with enough trails in Washington to keep you hiking for a lifetime, it’s a difficult job to be able fine tune the list. But just for you, in the name of research, I hiked a ton of the trails in the PNW, so I could give you MY opinion on the best.
I started with just an average fitness, but this fitness level probably grew throughout each summer, as we did more and more hikes. On average we were hiking one trail every week, each summer.
As with any outdoor experience, it is important that you follow the basics of being a good girl scout – be prepared. I highly recommend hiking boots, layers of clothing (love a merino singlet as my base layer), a good day pack, water (in re-usable bottles PLEASE), food, trail map etc. Hiking poles are also recommended – they take the weight off your joints. I spoke to several rangers on the trails about them – they all said they’re worth their weight in gold. We purchased ours after hearing how good they are. And don’t forget to display your pass (where required).
So – here’s your top 5 day hikes near Seattle. These are carefully curated to give you a unique experience in each one.
Moderate, 5.9 mile, elevation gain 1404 feet, roundtrip, Discover Pass required.
As mentioned above, Wallace Falls was my first hike in Washington.
I chose it because the drive there from Seattle wasn’t too long (approximately 50 miles), and the hike had 3 stages, so if we felt it was too much for any of us (we did this hike as a family), we could just do a portion of it.
As you begin the walk, you’re following the river for a lot of the way. Needless to say it’s beautiful. I would be happy to pack a picnic, and just sit on a rock by the river and spend the day there.
That’s not what we did, but it would be a beautiful way to spend a serene day.
The path will lead you away from the river at times, absorbing you into the silence and beauty of the forest. Moss covered trees tower above you, stretching further than you can see.
The path is easy to follow, with a gentle elevation most of the way. The hike is divided into lower, middle, and upper falls. Someone very clever came up with these names!
Getting to the lower falls is an easy 2 mile walk, it requires no special shoes, and most people would be able to achieve this.
Most of the Wallace Falls trail is in the cover of the forest, so this would be a good walk to do on a really hot day, or if it’s raining, as the forest will be able to provide cover from the weather.
Middle Falls is where you get the best view of the falls, and it’s where most people stop.
You’ll see from the photo that you get a great view here of the falls. I think the majority of hikers stop here, and if this is all you do, well done. It’s a great intro to hiking, that will get the blood pumping, but won’t make the muscles ache tomorrow.
However, if you want the full experience, head on up to the Upper Falls. This is where most of the elevation gain happens. The switch backs kick in, and although it’s not too much further up to see the view of the upper falls, it is the most challenging part. But of course, the greatest rewards come from the greatest challenges.
Whatever ‘level’ you do, Wallace Falls rates as a fabulous place to start your love of hiking, or simply to enjoy a beautiful river and forest walk.
Moderate, 7 miles, roundtrip, elevation gain 1486 ft, Northwest Forest Pass
When researching the best hikes in Washington, Lake 22 was on most lists, so it had to be on mine. Mind you, the photos I saw of the lake totally sold it to me. I had never seen ‘countryside’ like this, and couldn’t wait to see it for myself.
Although rated as moderate, we felt it was a step up from the similarly rated Wallace Falls. I’d definitely recommend hiking boots for this trail also, as even in the height of summer, you may encounter wet areas to cross. (I lucked in when I purchased my hiking boots online, I couldn’t recommend them more. Comfy from the minute I put them on, they’ve get my feet blister free, and dry every step of the way).
It is a popular hike, so if you want to get a carpark, you do need to arrive early (ie. By 9 am is good!)
You start the hike wandering through beautiful mountain rainforest. It’s a steady climb up, with a beautiful crossing by bridge over Twentytwo Creek. You get peeps at waterfalls as you climb.
At 1.5 miles, you leave the forest and enter an entirely new landscape – a talus slope. Never before had I encountered boulder climbing like this, you definitely need to concentrate as you climb. The talus slope opens up the surrounding environment, but it also exposures you to the sun. Make sure you stop to take in the views here. It’s a great excuse to catch your breath!
You’ll re-enter the forest a little further up – this is your sign that you’re getting close.
Around the lake
Then – ta da – you’ll reach a bridge where you’ll be able to fully appreciate your climb. Your reward is front and centre (well, hopefully, it all depends on the weather right?!). Mount Pilchuck stands proud before you, and most likely also reflected in the lake. We climbed in the middle of summer, yet there was still snow down near the rivers edge. The contrast of the blue sky, the grey mountain, the green lake and the white snow is simply mesmerising. Lake 22, I’m in love!
If that scene has re-energised you, there is a trail around the lake. It’s nice and flat, it’s just 1 mile, and it offers different view points. I was in disbelief seeing people swimming, until I tested the water myself. It was surprisingly warm – the lake is so shallow, that the sunshine warms it up easily. How surreal, to be swimming in a lake with snow just metres away! Yes, I had to join them!
This is a magical hike, that really includes so much. Definitely 5 star for me!
Easy, 3.3 mile, elevation gain 636 feet, loop, Northwest Forest pass
In a ‘must do’ hiking list for Washington, there has to be at least one inclusion of Mt Rainier right?! She is an icon of Seattle, and stands so proud and strong, keeping an eye on the beautiful city she calls home.
When you’re limited on time, how do you choose just one Mt Rainier hike? Trust me, I’ve done lots of them, and it’s a tough choice.
But Naches Peak did win the choice for me, for several reasons.
- It’s an easy hike. The first time I did it, I was with a group that ranged in age from teenagers to an 80 year old! (She was a pretty fit 80 year old to be fair, but still!!) So it’s suitable for most people.
- If you’re lucky enough to go in wildflower season (July – August), you will be blessed with fields of colour every which way you look.
- Your hike includes a stunning view of Mt Rainier – it’s only from a (close) distance, that you get to appreciate her size.
- Your hike also includes a stunning view of Lake Dewey, and an ombre of mountains fading away from it. This is one of my most endearing Washington memories.
- Although I consider this a ‘Mt Rainier’ hike, you only need a Northwest Forest pass for it, unlike any hikes actually in Mt Rainier, which require a more expensive Mount Rainier pass.
For all the gen on hiking Naches Peak, check out this post.
Probably the only key thing I need to say here, to add to the above, is that I highly recommend you hike it clockwise. That way, you’ll end up hiking towards the view of Mt Rainier, instead of away from it.
Moderate, 4 miles, roundtrip, elevation gain 1160ft, no parking pass required.
This is one of the most popular hikes in Washington, perhaps because of it’s close proximity to downtown Seattle. Or, that no pass is required. Or, that it’s just 4 miles.
But don’t let that fool you. It’s 2 miles up and 2 miles down! And it’s a steady uphill climb the entire way.
Because this hike is so popular, you definitely need to arrive early to get a park. We arrived around 8am, and were able to park easily. However, by the time we left, the HUGE carpark was overflowing, with people parking on the side of the road for quite some way.
The carpark is based on the edge of Rattlesnake Lake. You’ll be able to look across the lake and see exactly where you’ll be climbing too. It’s pretty impressive!
Like many Washington hikes, the walk is through beautiful bush. It is busy, so this is not a hike to enjoy your own space.
When you reach the ledge (which is not the top), you’ll see people hanging out on various parts of the ledge. BE CAREFUL. There have been several deaths where people have fallen off the ledge, trying to capture the perfect photo, or jumping from one area to the next. This is not a place for children, and dogs should be tied to a tree while you enjoy the view. The views can be safely enjoyed from ‘near’ the ledge. You’ll see the infamous Mount Si, alongside Mount Washington, across to Lake Sammamish in the distance. You’ll also be able to see down to Rattlesnake Lake, and can be quite proud that not too long ago, that’s where you were.
If you can do this hike mid week, you’ll enjoy it more I’m sure.
After your hike, if you’ve got time, head over to the township of Snoqualmie to quench that thirst you built up, and then to the Snoqualmie Falls if you’ve never seen them.
Hurricane Hill / Ridge
Moderate, 3.2 miles, roundtrip, elevation gain 700ft, Pass required
It was a photo a friend shared from Hurricane Ridge that motivated me to add this hike to our list. I had seen many beautiful photos from Olympic National Park, but to be fair, it’s not the easiest place to get to. It’s probably at the extreme edge of ‘day trip’!
We got up early, and ferried from Edmonds to Kingston as the shortest, quickest way to get to Port Angeles from Seattle. Besides, a ferry in Washington is always a good idea.
For some it may seem a long way to go for a 3.2 mile hike, but sometimes it’s as much about the journey as it is the destination right?!
In getting to Port Angeles, we enjoyed the ferry first, then a quick stop for food in Port Gamble, and we traveled across the floating Hood Canal bridge.
Starting our ascent into the Olympic National Park, we were excited to see wild deer just strolling across the road in front of us. How special is that!
Most of the elevation gained to get to the dizzying height of Hurricane Ridge is done in the comfort of your car.
You’ll reach the visitor centre, continue on from here to reach the beginning of the Hurricane Hill trail. Hurricane Hill itself is a wide paved trail. Although the elevation gain is only 700ft, that comes over just 1.6miles, so it is quite steep. We saw more wild deer as we climbed, and were very excited at our first viewing of marmots.
But oh – the VIEWS!
360 degree views – literally from one country to another.
Blessed with a stunning Fall day, the entire 360 vista was laid out around us, even if it was clouded a little by the afternoon haze. Mt Baker peeped out of the clouds in the distance to the North East, Port Angeles sparkled in the sun below us, and beyond that we could see Victoria on Vancouver Island (Canada!). On the other side, the Olympic Mountains stretched as far as the eye could see, creating another of my loved silhouette vistas.
Looking North into the afternoon sun was not the best for photos. Instead, that view is etched into my memory.
After doing the hike, head back to the Visitor Centre, where you can find out all the information you need on the surrounding area, grab a bite to eat, and use a real toilet.
There are some other short loop trails around the centre, that you may as well do since you’re there! They offer different views to Hurricane Hill, not as spectacular, but still special.
So there you go, 5 of the most amazing day hikes and trails near Seattle. This is the list to get you started hiking in Washington. Carefully curated to give you unique experiences, and to enjoy the best most diverse landscapes this State can offer you.
Before you head away, make sure you pin this post, as I’d love you to return when you’ve done each/any of these, to let us all know how you rate it.
You may also enjoy some of the walks around Deception Pass.
I’m excited just at the thought of you heading out to one of these gorgeous places. Happy hiking,