Laura Claypool

aspire to inspire

10 Easy Hikes Near Seattle

Seattle doesn’t have big hikes in the city itself, but you can find yourself surrounded by forests within 90 minutes.  If you’re only visiting for a few days and have a car, head to the mountains in the morning and work up an appetite for Pike Place Market!

All of these hikes and trails featured below are doable for casual day hikers and are 6 miles roundtrip or less.  I have completed all of these with my mom, and we just go pretty slow and take breaks with our tennis shoes, trekking poles, and day packs. None of these trails are challenging for experienced hikers, but I’ll list these 10 hikes from easiest to hardest on a beginner hiker scale, starting with some flat trails/nature walks with awesome #views. 

Park Passes: Sometimes you can find day passes for purchase at the trailhead, but it’s better to buy them beforehand.  Places like REI and Big 5 sell them, but call ahead to see if they have any in stock because sometimes in the summer they run out for a few days before getting a new shipment.

  • For state parks you’ll need a Discover Pass which is $10/day or $30/year.
  • For national forests in WA and OR you’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass which is $5/day or $30/year.  You can buy a single day pass online and print it out here.
  • Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades national parks are 2-3 hours’ drive from Seattle, so they aren’t on this list, but you’d need an America the Beautiful Pass which is $80/year and covers all national parks in the country, or you can buy a pass for a single park which is usually $55/year.

Washington Trails Association (WTA): You can look up pretty much any hike in Washington on the WTA website.  It’s always a good idea to read the hike description and read the recent Trip Reports before going.  Sometimes hikes are closed due to weather or roads may be washed out, so it’s good to know before you go. I’ve linked the hikes below to their WTA page.

Lastly, LEAVE NO TRACE. Please clean up after yourself and your dog and keep the trails clean for everyone.  Either dispose of your garbage at the trailhead or better yet, take it home and throw it away.

Below drive times are based on the distance from the Space Needle to the trailhead without traffic. 

1. Gold Creek Pond – 1 hour, 2 mins drive
Snoqualmie Pass, WA // Difficulty: Easy // Length: 1 mile roundtrip // Elevation Gain: 10 ft // Pass: Northwest Forest Pass
The picture on the Washington Trails Association shows a man in a wheelchair, so you know this trail is easy and accessible.  Caution, the gravel road to the parking lot has a lot of potholes! We just went very slowly in my mom’s Mini Cooper and made it ok! From the parking lot walk down the trail and keep left for the quickest view of the pond. I love all the reflections in the pond if it isn’t too windy.  We went on a typical overcast day in search of some moody PNW vibes for pictures and this was a perfect place to go! We also saw a few couples taking their wedding photos there. The path is a small loop around the pond.  It’s paved for a bit and then has some wooden bridges.  You can also go onto a grassy little outlet.  This is definitely a lesser-known place, I’d never even heard of it on social media, probably because it doesn’t give you a ton of exercise, but the views are awesome and definitely worth it!

2. Tolt MacDonald Park & Snoqualmie Valley Trail – 44 mins drive
Carnation, WA // Difficulty: Easy // Length: as long as you want it to be // Elevation Gain: 10 ft // Pass: None
Tolt-MacDonald Park is a campground that has trails along the Tolt River.  There’s a cool suspension bridge that leads to yurts and campsites.  The paths near the campsites are mostly loose gravel, and the Cottonwood Loop is a dirt trail that is popular for biking.  I prefer the walk to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.  From the far side of the parking lot, there is a trail that goes away from the campsites, into the trees.  It starts as a paved path, but then you’ll cross the street and go under a bridge and the path will become gravel as you walk next to the river.  You’ll come to another bridge and cross the paved popular Snoqualmie Valley Trail that’s 32 miles long.  There were a ton of walkers, joggers, and strollers. We decided to turn left onto the SVT and walk down a corridor of trees and it was gorgeous with all the fall colors. You can also just start on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail by parking at Nick Loutsis Park.

3. Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge – 57 mins drive
Olympia, WA // Difficulty: Easy // Length: 5 miles roundtrip // Elevation Gain: 10 ft // Pass: Pay $3 cash per car for parking at the parking lot
This is a great park for the whole family, and a great place to birdwatch.  The main trail takes you from the parking lot onto a wooden boardwalk and then onto loose gravel for a little bit before you hit the long boardwalk with lookout towers and views of Mount Rainier.  There is very little shade on this walk, so if you’re going on a hot day, definitely bring water and sunscreen!  In the summer, the tide goes out and there’s very little water under the boardwalk, so I want to go back in the winter. We saw three bald eagles from a distance, and I hope to see more of them fishing.

4. Snoqualmie Falls – 45 mins drive
Snoqualmie, WA // Difficulty: Easy // Length: 1.4 miles roundtrip // Elevation Gain: 250 ft // Pass: None
Snoqualmie Falls is one of the many iconic waterfalls in Washington.  There’s a fee to park in the main parking lot, but just drive across the street to park in the bigger, free lot.  Then walk across the overpass to get back across the street.  This will take you to the main falls viewing area, no hiking required! You can get photos from above the falls, and then follow the short trail to the falls.  You’ll start with the downhill and then will have to hike back up.  You can go on the rocks and get to the water, but most people stick to the trail and boardwalk to see the falls from below.  If you’re hungry after your little hike, the Salish Lodge right next to the top viewing area has a few delicious restaurants!

5. Franklin Falls – 1 hour, 16 mins drive
North Bend, WA // Difficulty: Easy // Length: 2.5 miles roundtrip // Elevation Gain: 400 ft // Pass: Northwest Forest Pass
This is a very popular hike and one of the most stunning hikes you can do for under 3 miles, so definitely try to get there before 9am or do it on a weekday.  This area is home to a camping sites and the Denny Creek Falls hike as well, so even more reason to try to get up early and get a parking spot.  This hike is a step up from nature walks, and you definitely have a few uphill parts.  This hike will literally lead you right up to a 70 foot waterfall, no viewing platform or anything, you can get into the water if you want in the summer.  The hike is shaded and very well-maintained, although it can get muddy if there’s a lot of rain.  It’s a slow incline and then once you can see the waterfall between the trees, it’s a swift descent and you’ll have to walk on bare rock to get down.  It can be especially dangerous if it’s slippery, so take your time.  You can only walk single file, so if people are trying to climb back up after seeing the falls, so wait your turn to walk down and vice versa.

6. Twin Falls – 40 mins drive
North Bend, WA // Difficulty: Moderate // Length: 2.6 miles roundtrip // Elevation Gain: 500 ft // Pass: Discover Pass
This is a relatively easy hike! I feel like it’s longer than 2.6 miles, but maybe we were just slow and it was kind of wet.  It’s a very low incline for most of it, except getting up to the point where you get your first view of the falls from far away.  Then you follow the easy path to the falls.  There are two waterfalls, hence the “twin” part of its name.  You could easily miss the lower falls, as it’s a staircase off the main trail your right before you get to the upper falls main viewing area.  Definitely check out both!

7. Rattlesnake Ledge/Ridge & Rattlesnake Lake – 43 mins drive
North Bend, WA // Difficulty: Moderate // Length: 4 miles roundtrip // Elevation Gain: 1,160 ft // Pass: None
This is arguably the most popular hike near Seattle because it isn’t that far.  You’ll find many high schoolers, families and their dogs for this epitome of amateur hiking. You might hear people call this Rattlesnake Ridge or Rattlesnake Ledge, it’s the same hike.  The incline is pretty moderate compared to actual hard hikes, but it can get steep nonetheless and the mud can be slick when wet.  The hike begins down by the lake, and you’ll go up the mountain to get a view of the lake below.  Once you get to the top, be careful as you walk on the rocks.  If you don’t feel like hiking, you can also just do an easy walk around the lake, which is also a pretty walk/photo opp.

8. Bridal Veil Falls – 1 hour, 18 mins drive
Gold Bar, WA // Difficulty: Hard // Length: 4 miles roundtrip // Elevation Gain: 1,000 ft // Pass: Northwest Forest Pass
I rated this as difficult because of the loose rocks toward the top.  The trailhead serves as the beginning of the trails for Bridle Veil Falls and Lake Serene and both of these hikes are quite popular, so get to the trailhead early to get a parking spot.  The first half of the hike to Bridle Veil Falls is pretty easy, you do have to cross some streams which aren’t a problem in the summer, but could be with more rain.  About a mile in, you’ll get to a few tall staircases, and beyond that, there is a rock field and some large roots, so you need to be careful not to trip or twist an ankle.  At the top, you’ll find some boardwalk stairs and can walk right up to the falls and touch the water if you want.

9. Poo Poo Point – Chirico Trail – 28 mins drive
Issaquah, WA // Difficulty: Hard // Length: 3.8 miles roundtrip // Elevation Gain: 1,760 ft // Pass: None
Don’t be fooled by the short length or the funny name, this hike burns while you gain 1,760 feet in elevation in under 2 miles to the top.  The hike is just along the side of the road, and the parking lot can fill up fast, so definitely go early in the morning! You’ll start on a dirt path that goes up to some rock “stairs” and you’ll just keep climbing.  Towards the top, you’ll reach a flat meadow, keep moving through it to the last short ascent to Poo Poo point where you can see all the way to Lake Washington on a clear day.  This is also where paragliders take off, so it’s exciting to see them get a running start before they soar above Issaquah.  My mom has climbed this a few times, and while doable, definitely take breaks and bring snacks for the top!

10. Wallace Falls – 59 mins drive
Gold Bar, WA // Difficulty: Hard // Length: 6 miles // Elevation Gain: 1,300 ft // Pass: Discover Pass
I rated this as hard just because of the length.  Elevation-wise, it’s pretty on par with Bridle Veil Falls or Twin Falls.  This is a pretty steady incline the whole way, you can definitely feel that you’re climbing up a mountain.  There are three waterfall overlooks, and the first and second are the wow-factor ones (left and center photos above).  The third waterfall is nice, but if you’re tired and want to turn back after the second waterfall, you’re truly not missing out.  Despite the WTA hike description, it’s really not much steeper than the rest of the hike, but it does add about another mile to your trip.

If you know of any other beautiful easy hikes or trails near Seattle that I missed, please let me know in the comments below!

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This entry was posted on October 4, 2020 by in adventures and tagged , , , .
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