Where to Hike in Seattle: 17 Trails for Urban Hikes
The city of Seattle is known as the Emerald City, and for good reason. The sprawling city is flanked by the Puget Sound and Olympics to the West, and Lake Washington and Cascades to the East. All of this natural landscape affords the city a lush greenery worth seeing. If you are looking for where to hike in the city, this list of urban hikes in Seattle is perfect for you!
You don’t have to go far to recreate outside – there are also nearly 500 city parks with urban trails in Seattle. Many of the parks are so beautiful and well-designed that they make you forget you are in a city at all.
While the weather may turn gray in winter, one of the best ways to fight seasonal depression is getting outside. I created this round-up of some of the best urban hikes around the city to get your blood flowing.
Waterfront Hiking in Seattle Parks
Many local Seattlites will know that Carkeek is a beautiful park with a beach right on the Puget Sound. However, there is more to this city park than meets the eye.
Carkeek is home to Piper’s Creek Orchard, which is more than a century old. Discover this relic of Seattle history while meandering Piper’s Trail from the parking lot or the Eddie McAbee Entrance. If you are lucky, you will find apples, pears, cherries, or even chestnuts on old trees, hidden by blackberry brambles.
After exploring this easy hike in Seattle, head over to the beach to catch a beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains.
Golden Gardens is one of the most popular parks in the Seattle area due to the beautiful beach along the waterfront. With fire pits, volleyball court, and seasonal food stand, this beachfront park is a huge hit in the summer.
There is so much more to Golden Gardens than just the beach, however. This Seattle park boasts two wetlands, a fishing pier, boat launch, and some of the steepest hiking trails in Seattle.
This urban hike takes you along the shoreline of Puget Sound and offers stunning views of the Olympic Mountains. With easy access from downtown, it’s a great option for those looking for a good hike around Seattle. The trail is roughly 2 miles long, perfect for a pleasant morning or afternoon stroll.
For urban hiking with a lake view, head to Magnuson Park.
Located on the shores of Lake Washington this park offers easy access to both waterfront and wooded trails along with stunning views of Mount Rainer.
There is also an urban beach where you can relax and take in the beauty of Puget Sound.
Magnuson Park is a popular destination for locals looking for scenic nature in Seattle.
Pack up a picnic bag and your swimsuit to spend the next sunny day at this beachfront park. Be sure to go on a short hike in Seattle while you are there.
Union Bay Natural Area
Neighborhood: University District
This urban trail is tucked away behind the University of Washington Husky Stadium, just minutes from downtown Seattle. The Union Bay Natural Area offers two miles of easy hiking trails that wind through wetlands and woodlands. Although is it located in Seattle, once you begin to wander down the flat, easy hiking trail you will be immersed in nature and forget how close to the city you are.
Union Bay is perfect for bird watching due to the wetlands in this natural area. This urban oasis also boasts stunning views of Lake Washington as well as Mount Rainer on clear days.
If hiking is not your thing, rent a kayak or SUP from Agua Verde nearby. Paddle over through the Montlake cut to explore from the waters of Lake Washington.
Lake Washington Waterside Trail
The Lake Washington Waterside Trail is an urban hike along the shores of one of Seattle’s best-loved lakes. This easy trail is great for those looking for a low-key urban hike with plenty of beautiful views and unique wildlife sightings.
If you are looking for where to hike in Seattle, the Lake Washington Waterside Trail is a great option.
Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop
Neighborhood: Accessible from South Lake Union, Eastlake, U-District, Northlake, Fremont, Queen Ann, and Westlake neighborhoods
This urban loop offers stunning views of downtown Seattle, the Olympic Mountains, and Mount Rainer.
You’ll pass through parks, waterfront paths, and quaint neighborhoods all while discovering some of Seattle’s hidden gems like Gas Works Park.
The entire loop is just over three miles long, making it perfect for urban hikers of all abilities.
Read more about the history of the Cheshiahud Loop here.
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If you’re looking for an easy urban hike with amazing views this is the place to go.
An extended part of the Washington Park Arboretum, Foster Point is located on the banks of Lake Union. It offers stunning panoramas of downtown Seattle as well as the Olympic and Cascade Mountains.
The trail is just over a mile long and makes for a great urban trail to explore the marshy waters and look for birds.
You can also rent kayaks and stand-up paddle boards from local merchants and explore this area by water.
Olympic Sculpture Park
The Olympic Sculpture Park is one of Seattle’s most unique urban hikes.
Located along Elliott Bay this park offers easy access to both waterfront trails and wooded paths.
You’ll encounter beautiful views of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, and the Olympic Mountains along the way.
Olympic Sculpture Park is part of the Seattle Art Museum and is one of many free things to do in Seattle. It is not far from the Pike Place Market and is a great way to get out and stretch your legs. The park’s trail is an easy walk in the city while taking in the beautiful views of the sculptures of the mountains across the Sound.
Neighborhood: Seward Park (South Seattle)
Seward Park is situated on the southern shores of Lake Washington and offers easy access to urban trails that take you through lush forests, meadows, and grassy fields.
Seward Park has a lovely wide paved walking trail along the parameter of the park, as well as trails through the park with more elevation gain. There are plenty of places to relax along the way. The trail passes a beach area where you can watch boats sail in and out of nearby marinas.
Pack a picnic to make a day out of your visit and enjoy this side of Seattle’s scenic nature spots.
Alki Beach Trail
Neighborhood: West Seattle
The Alki Beach Trail is one of Seattle’s most popular urban hikes. This three-mile Seattle walking trail follows the shoreline, offering stunning views of Puget Sound, downtown Seattle and the Olympic Mountains with an urban beach experience.
Take the water taxi from downtown Seattle to West Seattle and take in the views of the city on your way. Head to Alki Beach from the drop-off point by walking the flat sidewalk, renting a bike, or taking the free shuttle offered by the city. Once at the beach, peruse the many local shops and walk along the shoreline on this easy Seattle walking trail.
Elliot Bay Park
Elliot Bay Park is located in the heart of downtown Seattle and features unique views of Mount Rainier due to its angle on the waterfront.
The trail in this park offers a great opportunity for a short hike in Seattle to get away from downtown.
Make the hike longer by following the waterfront through Centennial Park and Myrtle Edwards Park, ending at Olympic Sculpture Park.
Other Parks in Seattle Area with Urban Hiking Trails
Burke Gilman Trail
Neighborhood: Starts in Ballard, runs through Fremont, U-District, Magnusen, Wedgewood, and up to Lake Forest Park
The Burke Gilman Trail is one of Seattle’s most popular urban hikes – and with good reason. This multi-use trail stretches 17 miles through the city and into suburbs like Lake Forest Park, Seattle’s wine region of Woodinville, Bothell, and Kenmore.
Along this path, you can find urban art, waterfront views, and plenty of shopping and dining options.
The Burke, as it is often shortened to, also passes through several parks in Seattle, many of which are included on this list of the best urban hikes in Seattle, including Magnuson Park, Gas Works Park, Ballard Locks & Botanical Gardens, Fremont Canal Park, Portage Bay Park (also an excellent local brunch restaurant), Union Bay Natural Area, Ravenna Park, Matthews Beach, and Blyth Park.
It’s an excellent long walk full of nature and scenic moments for hikers of all abilities and fitness levels as it is paved and relatively flat with easy grades. Rent a bike or stick on some comfortable walking shoes to get out and stretch your legs on this incredible urban trail through Seattle.
The walking trails in Ravenna Park are one of Seattle’s hidden gems. This loop is short but sweet at just over two miles long, making it a perfect option for those looking for a quick urban hike. Along the way, you’ll find lush green forests and views of Ravenna Creek. We even passed families who had spotted an owl and little owlets in the trees above.
The trail through Ravenna Park can be started at any entrance to the park, either in the Ravenna neighborhood, at the south of the park near the University District, or to the East where Ravenna Park connects with Cowen Park.
Once inside, the dense greenery of the forest in this urban trail will have you questioning if you are, in fact, still in the city of Seattle, but you are.
Discovery Park Loop Trail
Discovery Park is located at the old site of Fort Lawton and is the largest park in Seattle, with 534 acres of cliffs, beach, and urban trails that will quickly feel like a real hike outside of the city.
The Discovery Park Loop Trail combined with the beach trails to the Lighthouse is a great urban hike for those seeking peace and quiet. This combined five-mile loop takes hikers through meadows, grassy fields, lush forests, and along the shores of Puget Sound. The Discovery Park Loop Trail is one of the best hiking trails in Seattle and a true urban escape.
At the entrance to Discovery Park is the Environmental Learning Center which has a small exhibit, and restrooms. The park offers educational programming throughout the year. It is currently closed through June 2023 due to construction for a new ADA improvement project.
Leaving from the center is also the Salmon Bay Walk, which goes through the Magnolia Neighborhood into Ballard at the Chittadem Locks and ends at Golden Gardens Park.
Finally, located within Discovery Park is also the Daybreak Star Cultural Center which serves the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation. The cultural center is open to the public and has several educational exhibits as well as a gift shop. It is also the location of the annual Seafair Powwow – a 3-day cultural festival open to the public which celebrates the history and culture of the native peoples from this area.
Washington Park Arboretum
The Washington Park Arboretum has several easy Seattle hiking trails among its 230 acres. This urban oasis offers lush gardens and tranquil ponds, perfect for an afternoon stroll or a leisurely bike ride. The wide, flat Azalea trail is ideal for an easy walk among beautiful scenery. For those looking to get their blood pumping- there is also the 1-mile Lookout trail or the 2-mile Loop trail to explore.
Along the way, you’ll encounter some of Seattle’s most beautiful urban landscapes that is the combined work of the University and city. Also located within the arboretum is the Japanese garden, which is perfect for an easy hike in Seattle during fall.
Howe Street Stairs
Neighborhood: Capitol Hill/Eastlake
If you’re looking for an urban hike that will get your heart pumping, look no further than the Howe Street Stairs. This stairway features a whopping 388 steps that lead up to stunning views of Seattle’s skyline.
I have a funny story about these stairs. There are two bus lines that pick up in the University District and drop off in the same part of downtown. However, they pass through different neighborhoods on either side of the Howe Street Stairs: Capitol Hill and Eastlake.
One day my mom and I were playing tourist and wanted to travel from the U-District to the Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill. We mistakenly boarded the bus passing through Eastlake instead. When we disembarked from the bus in Eastlake, our GPS told us we could walk along this path to Capitol Hill. Little did we know that this path included the Howe Street Stairs.
By the time we arrived at the park, we learned why so many Seattleites use these stairs as an urban hike training during the winter for mountain climbing in the summer.
Green Lake Park
Neighborhood: Green Lake
The Green Lake Park urban hike follows a three-mile loop around the lake. Walking the loop offers stunning views of the greenery along the lake with glimpses into Seattle’s vibrant city life. You can stop by one of the many restaurants or cafes to refuel before continuing your journey on this urban hike in Seattle.
Summertime is perfect for enjoying the water with stand-up paddleboards and kayaks for rent. You may even see a few blow-up floaties on the lake. Swimmers will enjoy the bathhouse, and there are several public restrooms situated throughout the park. Picnic-goers will also enjoy the expansive space around the three-mile loop, which offers many options to enjoy nature right in the middle of Seattle.
Map of Urban Trails in Seattle
Other Ways to Take an Urban Hike in Seattle
Seattle is such a green city, you can really go anywhere for an urban hike. With over 400 city parks and miles of trails, there are nearly endless options for easy walking trails to get out and enjoy Seattle’s scenic nature. One great program offered is the Tree Walks all over the city.
Another unique and easy walking trail in Seattle is the Salmon Bay Walk. You can also sign up for a program with the Seattle Urban Nature Guides to learn about the local area while on your walk.
Wrapping Up The Guide on Urban Hikes in Seattle
That was a lot of information, but as we said, there are countless opportunities to get outside and enjoy a walk in Seattle no matter your skill level. To recap, the below are just a few of many urban hikes in Seattle:
- Carkeek Park
- Golden Gardens
- Magnuson Park
- Union Bay Natural Area
- Lake Union Waterside Trail
- Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop
- Foster Point (Washington Arboretum)
- Olympic Sculpture Park
- Seward Park
- Alki Beach Trail
- Elliot Bay Park
- Burke Gilman Trail
- Ravenna Park
- Discovery Park Loop Trail
- Washington Park Arboretum
- Howe Street Stairs
- Green Lake Park
What else would you add to this guide on urban hikes in Seattle? Comment and let us know!