13 Great Places for Hikes and Walks
Being in the Pacific Northwest during the holidays offers an additional opportunity to stay active. You can stretch your legs in the region’s famed outdoors, which offer everything from urban trails to day hikes along the coast or in the wilderness. Raincoats, fleece and gloves may be in order this fall, but don’t let rainy weather or chilly temperatures stop you from getting out and staying active after that second helping. Check out the following 13 trails and parks grouped by location.
The Bellingham area is rich with outdoor experiences, whether in and around the Chuckanut Mountains or along scenic racecourses.
The leafy, 11.8-mile round-trip Interurban Trail, for instance, follows an old train route while offering wide-open views of the San Juan Islands. Spur trails along the way also deliver views of surrounding mountains, lakes and beaches. The path connects with nearby Larrabee State Park, where hikers can access the Chuckanut Ridge Trail, a 10.4-mile round-trip hike that’s rich with switchbacks while offering views of Mount Baker and peaks in British Columbia. Note that visitors parking at Larrabee State Park must pay a day-use fee or present a valid Discover Pass.
About 4.5 miles south of Bellingham off South Samish Way, the trail around Lake Padden offers a relaxing outing with little elevation gain. The 2.6-mile loop around the lake is an easy path, largely under a canopy of evergreens and deciduous trees that offers a splash of fall colors in late November. The lake attracts a wide variety of waterfowl, including American coots, cormorants and ducks. The park has restrooms, but they may be locked in the fall and winter.
Seattle and Bellevue
With mountain ranges on either side of the city and mild fall weather, Seattle is an outdoor lover’s dream. The city also hosts a variety of popular urban hikes. The 534-acre Discovery Park is one of Seattle’s most popular green spaces. The park sits on Magnolia Bluff, with nearly 12 miles of hiking trails that traverse forests, bluffs and beach settings. For a fun introduction to the park’s natural beauty, consider the 2.8-mile Discovery Park Loop Trail, which cuts through forests and open meadows while showcasing views of the Olympic Mountains; the path is popular with bird-watchers trying to spy woodpeckers, bald eagles, great blue herons and other species. Several parking lots are scattered throughout the park, including at the visitor center off West Government Way.
Other popular trails around Seattle include the flat loop around Green Lake Park, one of the city’s best-loved urban parks. A 2.8-mile loop circles the lake and attracts cyclists, runners and walkers all year long (even when the weather doesn’t cooperate). The park hosts small parking lots on the western and eastern shores of Green Lake, and street parking may be available along the roads and in the neighborhoods surrounding the lake.
For an easy day hike on the eastside, consider the Coal Creek Falls Trail in Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, southeast of Bellevue. The 2.5-mile round-trip hike passes through thick forests before ending at the namesake waterfall, a 28-foot cascade powered by runoff.
More adventurous hikers will find several moderate to difficult hikes a short drive from Bellevue or Seattle, including the Rattlesnake Ledge trail near North Bend. Rattlesnake Ledge is a popular urban getaway that attracts hikers and trail joggers drawn to wide-open views of Mount Si and Mount Washington. Rattlesnake Ledge is among the region’s most popular outdoor destinations, so keep in mind that the trail can be crowded with hikers and dogs on weekends and holidays. Take caution around exposed cliffs at Rattlesnake Ledge itself, and prepare for potential winter conditions by packing your hiking essentials. The trail starts from the parking area at Rattlesnake Lake; take Exit 32 off Interstate 90 to Cedar Falls Road SE.
Wherever you go in Tacoma, you don’t have to look hard for stately, tree-lined streets or expansive views of Puget Sound. Even as one of the state’s largest cities, Tacoma maintains a tight-knit connection with nature. For example, Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park hosts about 15 miles of trails. One of the most popular trails is the 2.6-mile round-trip Spine Trail, which takes hikers through Rhododendron Garden to a spectacular viewpoint of Gig Harbor. Park at Owen Beach, off Five Mile Drive, in the park.
Spokane and Northern Idaho
The 700-acre Palisades Park is one of Spokane’s most popular day-hike destinations. The park offers a network of trails and attractions, such as Indian Canyon Falls and views of downtown and Mount Spokane. For a more vigorous adventure, check out the hiking trails at Mount Spokane State Park (Discover Pass/day-use fee or Sno-Park permit required) about 25 miles northeast of the city. The park offers year-round recreation, with trails for hiking, cycling, horseback riding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing. Coeur d’Alene also hosts several scenic lake hikes. One of the most popular is Tubbs Hill, a park with several trails on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
–Written by Greg Lamm, last updated in September 2022.