The Seattle Washington area is home to a vast network of wonderful hiking trails, so determining which ones are best for you is not easy. That is why we have sought to compile the 10 best hiking trails in the Seattle area that hikers of all abilities will love.
The 10 best hiking trails in Seattle are:
- Discovery Park Loop
- Rattlesnake Ledge
- Poo Poo Point
- Washington Park Arboretum
- Wallace Falls
- Kendall Katwalk
- Franklin Falls
- Mount Pilchuck Lookout
- Grand Forest, Bainbridge Island
- The Enchantments
These 10 best hiking trails in Seattle cover many types of terrain, with something for all abilities. Below, we will discuss the distance, difficulty, and elevation gain of each trail, and give you more detail about each one so you can pick the right trail for you.
The 10 Best Hiking Trails In Seattle
Length: 2.8 miles | Difficulty: Easy | Elevation gain: 140 ft
If you want an easy trail that is also very accessible around Seattle, then the Discovery Park Loop is the perfect solution. With some wonderful scenery to take in throughout its duration, this trail may be the ideal one to try out if hiking is brand new to you.
At 2.8 miles long, this trail is one that can be completed in a relatively short time. Based in Discovery Park some five miles north of downtown Seattle, it provides a relatively flat path without encountering too many difficulties when it comes to terrain.
There is only a total elevation change of 140 ft, and that means you will struggle to even really notice any difference as you complete the loop. That helps make this trail family-friendly, and your dog will also be welcome on it. However, you do need to keep them on their leash.
The trail covers both open land and forests, and since it’s a designated National Recreation Trail, the path is relatively well-maintained. There are also various vantage points to stop at throughout the hike, and you can look out toward Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.
This trail is one of the most accessible in the area, which makes it one of the most popular trails in Seattle. That also means it can be relatively busy at different times, so keep that in mind.
Also, because it’s located at Discovery Park, parking is not an issue. There is no parking pass required, and there is no entry fee. So, you can just park your car and enjoy the walk without any issues.
It’s best to start off at the visitor center, as that makes the trail much easier. It also allows you to pick up maps for the trail, but be aware it closes at 5:30pm.
Length: 4 miles | Difficulty: Moderate | Elevation gain: 1160 ft
Rattlesnake Ledge is a lovely hike, but it’s about a 40-minute drive from Seattle. The views it offers makes this trail worthwhile, but be aware that there is a reasonable amount of elevation gain in the hike, so that could make it more difficult for some people.
Located just slightly to the east of Tiger Mountain State Forest, this four-mile hike affords you stunning views of the surrounding area. Getting to the actual ledge requires some work on your part, but if you have the stamina, you will be rewarded in a big way.
The trail itself is relatively well-maintained, and that makes a difference. Also, changes to the trail, which includes easier to use switchbacks, means getting to the ledge itself is not as difficult as it used to be. So, more people can now benefit from the views.
Ultimately, the views are the reason you would want to access this trail. You will eventually even be able to catch a glimpse of the Cedar River Watershed. Also, if it’s a clear day, then you will also be in a position to check out views of Mount Si and Mount Washington.
Accessing the actual start of the trail is not too problematic. There is no entry fee or parking pass required. There is also a suitable parking lot with more than enough spaces (usually).
The start of the walk involves taking a short hike around the start of Rattlesnake Lake. You will find it clearly marked, and then you will come across some maps of the trail. The actual trail itself is relatively clear throughout its duration. However, there are steep sections to get to the main vantage point, and this could prove tougher for some individuals.
That means that this trail is not accessible for the entire family. It could be a tough ask for young children. Also, you will require adequate footwear to complete it safely, so ensure you pack your hiking boots!
Length: 7.2 miles | Difficulty: Hard | Elevation gain: 1748 ft
If you feel like getting some burn in your legs with your hike, and then able to take advantage of stunning views, then the Poo Poo Point trail is one you may wish to tackle. With a clear trail and wildlife to check out along the way, it’s no surprise it remains a relatively popular hike.
The entire trail covers a total of 7.2 miles, and it has a substantial amount of elevation with a total gain of 1748 ft. The trail itself sits more on the shoulder of West Tiger Mountain and it forms part of the Issaquah Alps. A lot of the hike is going to be through tough terrain, but it opens to provide you with stunning views that are completely unobstructed.
But a word of warning – When you arrive at the trail, you will be given two options to complete the hike. There is the Poo Poo Trail, which is the one we cover here, or there is the Chirico Trail, which is shorter at just over 4 miles.
Be aware that both end up at the same point, but the Chirico Trail does it in a shorter distance. However, that means the trail is steeper since it still has the same elevation gain. Also, you should know that the trail is not always well maintained. It can be rough in parts, so it’s essential you have adequate footwear, or you may struggle.
The trail is easy to access as there is no entry fee or parking pass required. You should access the trail from a site close to Issaquah High School, and that’s the point where you need to determine if you wish to complete the Poo Poo Trail, or the shorter (but harder) Chirico Trail. Both are clearly marked.
The trail is accessible to everyone, and dogs are also welcome if they are kept on a leash. Also, even though the trail does eventually open to good underfoot conditions, that’s not always the case.
This trail is not the most family-friendly, but that is more because of the difficulty level rather than anything else. Also, at over seven miles, it’s quite lengthy and that can put off some people from accessing the trail. However, the views are well worth it!
Length: 5 miles | Difficulty: Easy | Elevation gain: 50 ft
If you want a nice, easy trail surrounded by wonderful plants and flowers, then this 5-mile loop trail in the Washington Park Arboretum is perfect. Also, it’s easy for almost anybody to complete thanks to the quality of the trail.
At five miles in total length, this is a hike that will take some time to complete, but as it’s easy to walk on, thanks to the favorable underfoot conditions, you will be amazed at how easily you manage to complete the trail.
Located within the city limits, this trail is on the shores of Lake Washington and Union Bay. It provides you with ample opportunity to take in the wildlife and plant life in the area, and there’s always something that will catch your attention.
But if you feel you are unable to complete the five miles, then there is a shorter loop trail within the park that covers around two miles. However, no matter the option you take, the trail is well-maintained and makes for easy walking.
This trail is easily accessible thanks to its location, and that adds to its popularity throughout the year. You do not have to worry about an entry fee, and nor is there any need for a parking pass. Also, there will be ample parking available, so you should not run into any problems, even at fairly busy times.
The park is deemed suitable for people of all ages, and it’s considered kid friendly. Also, you are free to bring your dog with you, but they must be kept on a leash at all times.
While the park is open throughout the year, different parts look better at various times of the year. For example, the area known as Azalea Way is certainly something you would want to visit in the spring. It allows you to really take advantage of the blooms, so knowing which areas are in flower at different times of the year can be advantageous.
That aside, this is a wonderful park you can get to any time of the year and take an easy hike of varying lengths, depending on how you feel at any given time.
Length: 5.6 miles | Difficulty: Hard | Elevation gain: 1300 ft
Wallace Falls is the type of hiking trail that will certainly be more than capable of getting your legs working, but the views you get to experience throughout the trail makes it worth the effort. However, this is one of the most popular hikes in the area, so be prepared to encounter other people during your time there.
At 5.6 miles, this is a relatively lengthy hike. There is over 1300 ft of total elevation gain, so you should expect some difficult ascending. However, this trail is viewed by many as being one of the most tranquil in the area, and that is why it’s so popular.
During the hike, you will encounter nine different waterfalls, which means there is always something spectacular to look at no matter where you are on the hike. Also, even though there is a significant amount of elevation gain, you might be so busy looking at the scenery you may forget about any incline!
The trail itself varies in quality when it comes to underfoot conditions. Your task of getting through the trail is made easier by several switchbacks, which also means you get different views of the scenery.
Overall, even though this is a popular trail, it offers so much in the way of scenery and views that its popularity should make no difference.
The trail itself is surprisingly easy to access. You have no concerns when it comes to an entry pass or parking. Also, it’s less than an hour from Seattle, and that adds to its popularity throughout the year.
The trail is open throughout the year, and accessing the trailhead is not a problem. It’s clearly marked from the moment you leave the parking lot.
Be aware that as some of the upper parts of the trail become more ruggedwith their underfoot conditions, it may become more difficult for some. It may not be suitable for younger children, or individuals who are not as sure with their balance.
Overall, the trail is easy to get to, and it promises you stunning views throughout its length. The fact you can hike it at any time of the year is simply another bonus.
Length: 12 miles | Difficulty: Hard | Elevation gain: 2600 ft
A lengthy walk with a substantial amount of elevation gain, the Kendall Katwalk trail is not for the faint-hearted. However, if you manage to complete it, you will be left stunned with the views that are more than capable of making all the effort worthwhile.
The trail covers some 12 miles in total, and you have an elevation gain of over 2600 ft, but the actual apex of the trail sits at around 5400 ft above sea level, so the trail does start relatively high up. Located in the Snoqualmie Pass, the trail winds its way into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and all the beauty that comes with it.
Be aware you will encounter sections that are relatively steep. This means this is not the trail for a beginner and experience will count for a lot, as will having the required stamina to complete the trail.
The quality of the path varies quite considerably when it comes to the underfoot conditions. Some of the earlier sections are better than the later parts due to the rougher terrain that you will encounter further on.
With this trail, you are advised to start it earlier in the day to be in a position to take full advantage of the views. However, be aware that it will become even trickier after a rainfall, so that may be something to take into consideration.
To access this trail, you need to go via the Northwest Forest, and that means you will have to pay for a pass to gain entry. However, the trail is open throughout the year, and it’s actually a good idea to visit in August or September. If you do, then you will be able to check out all the blueberries that have grown over the summer.
Be aware that this area is busy during winter thanks to some amazing skiing opportunities. That means it’s only suitable for people used to hiking in those types of conditions. You may wish to avoid the area if you are not experienced with this.
But during the summer months, this trail is relatively popular even though it’s rather lengthy. Be prepared to carry extensive supplies with you to complete the trail. It will take some time, especially when it’s busy.
Length: 2 miles | Difficulty: Easy | Elevation gain: 400 ft
Located near the Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90, Franklin Falls is a wonderful trail for almost any type of hiker. Perfect for kids or those just starting out with hiking, it offers you an amazing chance to see what nature has to offer without using too much energy.
The trail is only two miles in total, and while there is a total elevation gain of 400 ft, this is an easy trail to complete. That makes it family friendly. The trail is well maintained throughout, so you won’t encounter any rugged terrain. The trails are relatively wide at parts and the scenery that surrounds you means you will spend most of your time staring at it all in amazement.
Be aware that parts of the trail have stairs included, but they should not prove to be too difficult for most people. Also, associations have worked hard at improving the paths on this trail and it has resulted in a major improvement of the underfoot conditions.
This trail is exceptionally popular during the summer months, and that often leads to the parking lot being full. Look at starting out early in the day to avoid the crowds, but this trail is accessible throughout the entire year. Also, the views in winter can be equally as spectacular.
To gain access, you will require the Northwest Forest Pass and the Sno-Parks Permit, so there is some cost involved. However, this money has been used to help improve the surrounding area, although it’s worth noting that the parking lot is still fairly small.
The trail is also suitable for people of all ages, and dogs are also allowed, but they must be kept on their leash.
Length: 5.4 miles | Difficulty: Hard | Elevation gain: 2300 ft
Mount Pilchuck Lookout is a very popular route, even though it does involve some substantial climbing to reach the main view at the top. Also, the trail is a two-hour drive from Seattle, but there’s no doubt it remains one of the most popular hikes for people from the city.
At 5.4 miles long and with an elevation gain of 2300 ft, this is an impressive trail and it’s perhaps not best for people with young children or those just starting out hiking. Keep in mind that the 5.4 miles distance is there and back, so you climb an impressive height in under three miles, which will give you an indication of how steep this trail can be.
The aim of this hike is to reach the pinnacle and to look out over the panorama from the restored fire watch tower. On a clear day, you can see for miles, and it’s easy to understand why people test themselves over the steep inclines in order to get there.
Be aware that the trail tends to have quite rough and rocky terrain. It requires good footwear and it’s not advisable to take children on this route.
The first thing to note is that the route will often be closed during winter, so check in advance to see if it’s open before you head out on the two-hour drive. Accessing the trail is easier than most people realize. Also, the overall height is made easier by the fact you join the trailhead at around 3000 ft, so it does save you a lot of climbing.
Parking is relatively limited, compared to how popular this trail is, and be aware that day hikers may spend the night in the lookout post. This is something that happens on a first-come first-served basis, so if you plan on doing that, get there early to avoid disappointment.
Length: 7 miles | Difficulty: Easy | Elevation gain: 350 ft
This trail suggestion is slightly different from the others in that it encompasses a network of trails that all exist in the Grand Forest in the heart of Bainbridge Island. These trails are easy to explore and provide you with a wonderful opportunity to see what the Grand Forest has to offer.
The trails have little in the way of elevation gain, and that helps to ensure that the trails are pretty much for everyone, no matter their hiking experience or ability. There are a number of undulations throughout the trails, but nothing that is too difficult or will require much in the way of effort.
Several trails are made of dirt, but they are clear enough with ample signage around to help you find your way. The Grand Forest is very popular with people of all ages, and it provides you with the opportunity to interact with nature thanks to the spectacular trees surrounding you at all times.
You will be required to take a short ferry ride to get to Bainbridge Island, but apart from that, there are no other requirements in the way of passes or for parking. Also, the trails are open throughout the year for anyone who wishes to check out what the forest has to offer.
These trails are family-friendly, and dogs are also welcome even though they must be kept on their leash at all times. Be aware that it’s a popular trail no matter the time of year, so there’s a good chance you will run into plenty of other hikers during your time there.
Length: 18 miles | Difficulty: Very Hard | Elevation gain: 4500 ft
If you are looking for a trail that will test you, The Enchantments is the trail for you. However, be aware that this trail involves a lot of elevation gain, and it’s only for experienced hikers who are content at pushing the pace while staying safe at the same time.
The trail is over 100 miles away from Seattle, but it’s so spectacular that it’s well worth a mention here. This is a thru-hike, and it will provide you with the opportunity to view some of the most spectacular mountain lakes anywhere in the United States.
The trail is rough and rugged, but the views you will see are breathtaking. Be aware that there is a shorter hike in place covering around seven miles, but you still need to gain over 4000 ft in elevation, so that will really make your legs burn.
To complete this trail, you need substantial footwear and adequate supplies. This trail is not family-friendly and only those with extensive experience with hiking should attempt it.
You will be required to get a Northwest Forest Pass, and if you plan on camping in the area, then you will also need to apply online for a permit in advance. Be aware that the roads in the area are often closed during winter thanks to the weather conditions. If you’re concerned, contact the ranger to find out the current conditions before you think about heading out.
Once you get there, you will find parking, but remember we are talking about a thru-hike. However, you can reach some of the spectacular lakes before re-tracing your footsteps. Just understand some of the inclines are substantial. Trekking poles will certainly be advantageous in these circumstances.
The Seattle area has some amazing trails for you to hike and they cover all distances and difficulties. The 10 hiking trails we have covered above should provide you with a glimpse into what is possible. Whether you want hike in forests, mountains, or open meadows, there really is something for everyone.