Living in the Pacific Northwest can have its ups and downs, like less daylight and more moody weather, but I prefer to enjoy those ups and downs in the form of towering mountains and hillsides that lead to alpine lakes so I have spent the last 3 years living here happily exploring the terrain, and I am excited to share some of my favorite day hikes near Seattle with you!
Many Seattlelites like to escape the city at one point or another and often choose the closest easier hikes nearby, like Rattlesnake Ridge and Mt Si, therefore causing these to be incredibly crowded, especially during the summer months.
I have put together a list of some great day hikes other than these near Seattle that are easy to moderate located in various parts of the beautiful Washington State and within 1-3 hours drive of the city. You can access most of these hikes in a day and be back in the city by evening, but feel free to also make a weekend out of it!
Each hike listed below also contains a link to the Washington Trail Association hiking guide, which contains driving directions, a general description of the hike including length and elevation gain, and the most recent trip reports for real-time trail conditions.
All of these are well-trafficked and I would feel comfortable hiking solo, but if you are looking for a hiking buddy you can read this guide on where to find people to go hiking with.
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1. ARTIST POINT, MT BAKER
Drive from Seattle: 3 hours
Length of Hike: 1.2 miles
This is a perfect low-risk, high-reward hike in the summer and fall, before the winter snow returns. In the summertime, this easy 1-mile loop is surrounded by sweeping views of Mt. Shuksan, Mt. Baker, and Table Rock summits.
You can usually see some trace amounts of snow even in summertime, and some small ponds from the snow melt as you meander along the trails. If you are still feeling like stretching out your legs for a longer hike, head back to the parking lot, and take the Chain Lakes loop around Table Mountain for another 6.5 miles.
At nearly 3 hours driving time but only 1.2 miles hiking, this is completely doable as a day hike and can even be combined with #5 on the list, but you might prefer to stay overnight in Glacier or Deming before heading back to the city.
At the end of the road at Heather Meadows, there are several areas to park, and a Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful are required.
Please note that this parking area and road are closed in winter, and although you can snowshoe at Artist’s Point, it is an avalanche-risk area, so please read about the risks and prepare yourself.
Many places offer avalanche risk courses, including REI for free this 2023-2024 winter season.
Be sure to grab this field guide to identify the wildflowers and other flora and fauna on your hikes around Washington
Drive from Seattle: 2.5 hours
Length of Hike: 5+ miles
Hiking through meadows of avalanche lilies, fields of snow, glacial views and snow melt streams, and rocky inclines all made the Skyline Trail at Paradise on Mount Tahoma, also known as Mt. Rainier, absolutely memorable. This 5ish mile loop starts and ends at Paradise Lodge in the Mount Rainier National Park, and is incredibly beautiful in nearly all seasons, but for that reason is especially popular in the summertime.
Arrive early to find parking, and note that entry to the park is $30 per vehicle for those without a National Parks America the Beautiful Pass. but it is well worth it. You can also stay overnight in the lodge on site, but be sure to book in advance.
This a special hike for me for many reasons, one of which being that the last time I was there, it was covered in snow in the summertime, so this was my first experience of the meadows covered in both snow and wildflowers on the hills of Mt. Rainier.
Another more important reason was that this happened to be the first hike my mom and I got to do together! We had both been hiking separately for years, but never had the opportunity to go together, but this time it finally worked out and it went super well! We both love taking photographs and breaks so we worked really well together!
This trail is versatile and suitable for many hikers, one reason being that it connects with many other side trails around the Paradise Lodge, therefore your hike can be extended or shortened for a wide range of skill levels.
We adjusted to the slight altitude change first by visiting Myrtle Falls to warm up, then began our hike clockwise taking the side trails for Deadhorse Creek and Glacier Vista.
Hiking over snow fields, with cute little marmots peeking out of the rocky juts, we headed towards Panorama Point (which has the nicest composting toilet I’ve seen in the backcountry, by the way!)
Once we realized the trail continued further up and for several more miles, we consulted the map and decided to turn at the junction that cut down through a fairly steep green valley filled with wildflowers along Golden Gate trail.
This cut about a mile out of the hike – so as you can see this hike can be customized for a variety of lengths and stunning views along the way regardless of which trails you choose.
Be sure to stop by the Paradise Lodge before heading out to pick up a map and check out the trail conditions. Even in July many of the trails were still covered in snow fields, and had only recently melted enough to lower the risk of danger. This is also a great hike to bring hiking poles.
🤩 Looking to head further out of town?
Check out our guide on a quick weekend getaway in Vancouver, BC
3. MARGARET LAKE, ALPINE LAKES WILDERNESS
Drive from Seattle: 1.25 hours
Length of Hike: 6 miles
The perfect moody hike for fall, complete with an alpine lake surrounded by dramatic cliffs and muddy trails lined with wild black huckleberries, also referred to as wild blueberries.
Be sure to read the trail notes for this one, as we and a few other hikers missed where the trail begins from the forest road and tacked on a few extra miles to this 6-mile hike.
This is the only hike on this list without restroom services provided and has a very rough road getting in towards the parking area, so we wouldn’t recommend it if you have a low-clearance vehicle.
The hike climbs up, first along a forest service road and then through a covered path through tall trees and low huckleberry shrubs, topping out at a junction to Lilian and Margaret Lakes.
Take the path for Margaret Lake, heading back down in switchbacks towards the alpine lakes wilderness.
It levels out again once more before sliding down towards the lake- be careful on the last slope as it was very muddy and slippery after fall rains for us.
The path was lined with ripe huckleberries, and we hardly saw another sole the entire hike.
We enjoyed some classic PB&Js by the lake before heading back out.
You can also backpack in for the night, but be sure to pack warm as it is very cold, especially at night!
The views constantly changed along the way, and we couldn’t stop snapping pictures as we hiked. I especially loved this view below – nearly a complete rainbow and all just occurring in nature.
This is definitely a classic PNW hike, and perfect for the fall. The distance from the city also ensures that it won’t be nearly as crowded as most popular day hikes closer to Seattle.
Parking wasn’t an issue for us, and if you don’t have a Northwest Forest Pass or an America The Beautiful Pass, you can pick up a day pass at a visitors center or online.
This is also the only hike on this list that also requires you to have a permit to hike in the backcountry, which you can pick up for free and fill out at the hike entrance.
4. NACHES PEAK LOOP, MT RAINIER
Drive from Seattle: 2 hours
Length of Hike: 3.2 miles
Beautiful year-round, but especially during summer for wildflower blooms, and autumn for fall colors and seasonal wild huckleberries, this day hike is also incredibly popular.
Plan to leave Seattle by 6-7 am to arrive before the crowds fill the parking lot and the trails, and note that you won’t need to pay entry to Mount Rainier National Park to enter or park for this one, but you will need at least a Northwest Forest Pass or day pass!
There are restroom facilities located in the parking lot, but if the line is long on your way out, the next place to stop is not a very far drive outside of the park.
You will park at Tipsoo Lake and can either hike this loop clockwise or counter-clockwise, but for the best views of Mt. Rainier we recommend hiking clockwise.
In the summer during wildflower season, the entire first half of the hike is completely covered in meadows bursting with wildflower blooms, then once you round the bend at Dewey Lake the rest of the hike boasts the iconic Mt. Rainier peak straight in front of your view. We also found Dewey Lake viewpoint to be the perfect pit stop for a snack.
5. BAGLEY LAKES, MT BAKER
Drive from Seattle: 3 hours
Length of Hike: 2 miles
This is another easy hike that can get your heart rate up on Mt Baker and could easily be combined with Artist Point for a full day of hiking. You can also snowshoe here, but we really enjoyed the vivid colors and scores of wildflowers in the summertime. You can park in the parking lot and make your way down. There are bathroom facilities at the entrance of the trailhead by the parking lot.
The clockwise side of the hike is much flatter than counter-clockwise, so if you prefer to not have much incline you could hike down and turn back at the stone bridge rather than taking the loop around.
You will see bursts of wildflowers, clear blue water, Table Mountain looming in the background, fresh snow melt streams, and even columns of basalt on this beautiful day hike, and can be back in Seattle by evening.
Drive from Seattle: 1 hour
Length of Hike: 4.6 miles
Another easy hike at only 4.6 miles, and an hour’s drive to day hike near Seattle, Heather Lake was a great fall hike to end the season. In the summertime, this hike is incredibly popular and crowded, but in September it becomes moody, chilly, and covered in thick fog so we had the place mostly to ourselves.
Car owners be weary of leaving any valuables in your car, as hikes off Mountain Loop Highway are often targets for break-ins due to popularity and proximity to other towns. We didn’t have any issues, but were sure to put any belongings left in the vehicle out of site.
Much like most of the other hikes on this list, you will need to pick up a day pass to park your car here if you do not have a Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful National Parks Pass, but by now, don’t you think it’s worth it to invest in one?
Once you get to the lake, the hike levels off and becomes fairly flat.
I highly recommend taking the loop around the lake before leaving.
You can find a nice spot by the water to rest and have a snack or lunch, and then continue around.
There is a nice boardwalk through half of it, and the rest is rocky and forested.
We stuck around at the lake for a while, resting and eating lunch, and the fog did lift enough for us to get a bit of a view.
Normally there are dramatic cliffs surrounding the lake, with rocky peaks jutting high into the air, but the moody PNW fog prevented us from seeing them on this fall hike.
This trail is well-maintained, and even includes a little pit toilet at the top, so make sure you use that instead of going off-trail if you can help it!
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