Where to hike in Seattle area
Washington state is called the Evergreen state for a reason. Its beauty cannot be described accurately - you have to come and explore it. More than half of the state is covered in forests. So why not get outside and enjoy?
I love hiking with my family so this list of hikes are also kid-friendly. I love going outdoors from April till November. Winter is just too cold and wet for me, although plenty of trails are open year-round and offer special seasonal attractions. Let me guide you through the some of the natural beauty Seattle and Washington state have to offer. Here are my favorites.
St Edwards state park. This is absolutely my favorite park and hike because it has everything: a big playground for kids, just off the parking area, and a various trails with different levels of difficulties and lengths. Everyone can find their own favorite trail. The trail that we usually go is called Seminary trail 0.6 mile long and it goes down to the Lake Washington. North trail (or Perimeter trail) begins at the north parking area and ends on the lakeshore at a junction with the Beach Trail. Grotto Trail is more challenging and rewarding than the Seminary trail. South Ridge Trail quickly climbs above the lake and is surprisingly demanding, running through a series of short ups and downs. This former Catholic seminary sits on a high, forested bluff above the northern end of Lake Washington, providing access to one of the last stretches of undeveloped land on the waterfront via an excellent trail system.
Cedar Butte Trail. This is a 3.7 mile and 885 feet elevation gain, lightly trafficked out and back trail located near North Bend, across the street from Rattlesnake Lodge. It is good for all skill levels. When I was beginning hiking, I was enchanted with this trail. It is long enough for a good exercise and when I got tired I almost reached the summit with great view. But it is not so easy to find the trailhead. From the parking area follow the signs for John Wayne Pioneer Trail/ Iron Horse State Park. The former railroad grade is wide and graveled and gets some traffic from mountain bikers. The first part of the trail borders the Cedar River Watershed. In less than a mile from trailhead, cross Boxley Creek on a bridge edged with heavy wire mesh siding. About 100 feet beyond the bridge, a wide area on the right looks like it could lead to a trail, but that's not it. Continue on another 200 yards and find the signed Cedar Butte Trail on the right.
Meadowdale Country Park and beach. Meadowdale is a valuable rarity among the many good Puget Sound beachfront parks, thanks to restricted road access to the shore. This makes it a great choice for hikers, who will enjoy the descent on an easy trail along Lunds Creek, which runs through a beautiful forest on the way to the beach. It is 2.5 miles round trip and excellent hike for kids. Bring a pail and shovels for kids to play in a sand of Puget Sound shore in Edmonds. Railroad line follows the shore line and there is a good chance that a freight train will come thundering up the tracks. The beach serves as a frequent haul-out site for harbor seals that come up on shore from the water to help regulate their body temperatures, interact with other individuals and rest or sleep.
Wallace Falls State Park. This deservedly popular hike leads to an impressive series of waterfalls in the Skykomish River Valley, nine of which drop more than fifty feet and whose centerpiece is the 265-foot Middle Falls. The falls are not the only attraction, however, as old-growth forest, a wide network of trails and local history all converge at this year-round park. You'll have to hike 4 miles round trip to Middle Falls and 5.4 miles round-trip to Upper Falls. I didn't go to Upper because you'll have more than rewarding scenery and views with just reaching the Middle ones. But Wallace Park provides plenty of options for longer and more demanding trips. Above Upper trails, the trail climbs another 200 feet to Wallace Lake.
Chirico Trail to Poo Poo Point (not the Poo Poo Point Trail, which is longer): Tiger Mountain State Forest (also called Issaquah Alps). The Chirico Trail provides the shortest and easiest hike to two of the finest vistas anywhere in the Issaquah Alps, including spectacular Poo Poo Point. If the wind is right, you may share the trail with the paragliders, who launch from the top and fill the sky with their colorful sails, an unforgettable sight. It is 4 miles round-trip out and back, with elevation of 1650 feet - very steep, one of the steepest on Tiger Mountain. Chirico Trail has a dedicated parking just off the Issaquah-Hobart Road, but it fills up quickly and it might be challenging to find a parking on busy weekends, but if you drive a little bit around you might find private parking lots for $5. The trail is like a climber's way trail, with exposed roots and rocks, not surprising since its original intended users were paragliders seeking to reach the top as quickly as possible. The forest is pleasant, scenic and damp, with heavy moss draping the trees and mud collecting underfoot. The South Launch Viewpoint provides a great vista over the landscape to the south, from the community of Mirrormont all the way to Mount Rainier. The lack of trees makes the view panoramic and uninterrupted.
Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park: Wilderness Creek and Wilderness Peak Loop. Cougar Mountain receives many visitors, but most are concentrated at the busy Red Town trailhead, far from the mountain's high point at Wilderness Peak. The quiet Wilderness Creek Trail climbs to the park's little-known summit via an appealing valley, passing several viewpoints along the way. It is moderately difficult loop of 3.5 miles, mostly shaded. Nearby, in the fall, the kid-friendly Issaquah Salmon Hatchery is surely the yearly highlight.
Heybrook Ridge and Lookout Tower. It is moderately difficult, out and back 2.8 miles round trip, located in central Cascades, West Stevens Pass. This short and sweet hike can easily be completed in a single morning or afternoon, including plenty of time spent both lingering on the trail along the way and enjoying the sweeping views of the lower Skykomish River Valley and its stunning surrounding peaks from the fire lookout at the top. Unfortunately, when I was hiking with my family it was rainy day and lookout tower served us to change into a dry clothes and to rest, but I assume it would be very interesting for my kids to explore the tower any other day.
Hiking with children: No one is too young for a hike in the woods or through a city park.
THE TEN ESSENTIALS WHEN HIKING:
WATER: durable bottles
MAP: preferably topo map and a trail map with a route description
COMPASS: a high-quality compass
FIRST-AID KIT: a good-quality kit
KNIFE: a multitool device with pliers is the best
LIGHT: flashlight or headlamp with extra bulb or batteries
FIRE: windproof matches or lighter and fire starter
EXTRA FOOD: you should always have food in your pack when you've finished hiking
EXTRA CLOTHES: rain protection, warm layers, gloves, warm hat
SUN PROTECTION: sunglasses, lip balm, sunblock, sun hat.
It is recommended to have all of the above, but if you go on short and easy hikes with children, always bring at least water, first-aid kit, extra clothes and extra food.
Helpful material facts found in:
60 hikes within 60 miles, 2nd edition, by Andrew Weber/Bryce Stevens;