Seattle has been called an outdoor mecca by more than a few people. And for great reason. Surrounded by mountains, waterways and remote wilderness, it’s easy to find refreshing, rejuvenating getaways. Hiking is one of the simplest ways to do so, with proper clothing, water, food and a map being the only essential requirements.
Within a short drive from downtown (or walk or bus ride) there are endless hiking opportunities ranging from casual nature walks to extreme backpacking adventures in the Cascades or Olympic wildernesses. Below are a few ideas to start the planning process. Stopping into any of the city’s outdoor outfitters is another great way to plan a hike, whether it’s a one-hour stroll or four-day adventure.
Washington Park Arboretum
The Washington Park Arboretum is filled with hiking opportunities, most of which are relatively easy and short. The bonus to hiking through this park is that walking paths all pass through the more than 40,000 plants that grow here — many of which are endangered or rare. Waterfront Trail is one of the highlights, offering a relatively short walk that follows the water to Foster Island. Stop in the visitor center at the Arboretum for a trail map or download one here.
There are several hiking options in Seattle’s largest park, the 534-acre Discovery Park. The 10 miles or so of trails
include routes along the bluffs that overlook Puget Sound and cross through more than two miles of protected tidal beaches. Views from Magnolia Bluff of the Olympic and Cascade mountains are among the park’s most gorgeous. The bluff is accessible via the main loop through the park, which takes hikers through the historic Fort Lawton military housing and open fields but misses the beach — Discovery Park’s top attraction. Instead, try hiking along the beach to the Discovery Park Lighthouse before heading to the bluff. There are numerous routes in this area. Maps and suggested walking/hiking routes are available at the Discovery Park Visitor Center.
Burroughs Mountain Loop, Mount Rainier
The Burroughs Mountain Loop
is a fantastic trail for those who want to hike around Mount Rainier but cannot commit the time to do it. Located on the northeast side Rainier, this seven-mile loop essentially has three summits (First, Second and Third Burroughs), all of which rise above 7,000 feet. The tundra-like setting makes for a unique landscape and the views include the largest glacier in the contiguous United States, Emmons Glacier. The start for this three-hour, moderate loop is at the Sunrise parking area.
The description of Mount Pilchuck can be misleading. Yes, it is perhaps the easiest and most accessible peak in the Cascade range. But that doesn’t mean the trail to its summit is an easy one. It’s a six-mile trek that gains more than 2,100 feet in elevation to an old fire lookout at the summit. The views of Puget Sound, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier and the Cascades are worth the effort, though. The route to the top is largely on trail, but the challenge comes in mustering the muscle and lung endurance it takes to reach the 5,340-foot summit. While most of the hike is in the
Olympic National Park
It’s hard to beat the Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula for backpacking experiences that are filled with beauty, tranquility and diversity of climate. For easier hikes, try any of the nature paths that explore the rain forest and leave from the Hoh Rain Forest visitor center. There are several backpacking trails throughout the park, ranging from lower elevation hikes through the rain and lowland forests to high traverses and “peak-bagging” experiences in and around Mount Olympus. This is a wilderness area, meaning there are no roads cutting through the park. Many trips require map-reading skills to navigate. Stop into any number of forest ranger stations and visitor centers in and near the park for more trail information