As the mecca of nature and outdoor activities, one of the most popular activities in Seattle, rain or shine, is to go hiking. On the Instagram feeds of locals or visitors, you can find at least one picture of a person with their backs turned, staring into nature, as an emblem of proof they visited the great PNW. With six signature mountains covered in evergreens and snow, there are diverse trails available ranging from views with lakes, lookouts, waterfalls or mountain tops. We’ve compiled our top five day hikes for anyone who’d like a true taste of nature’s beauty and pain. Good luck fighting the temptation to drop what you’re doing, throw on hiking boots, and race to the top to let your eyes indulge in breathtaking views.
Distance: 12 miles, roundtrip Elevation: 4000 ft. Time: 4-5 hours The forces of nature have collaborated to create an incredible landscape covered with glacier lilies and wildflowers. Often referred to as Heaven on Earth, Sahale Arm is a hike that requires patience and perseverance to reach the top. The parking lot alone provides a beautiful view, and while on the trail, you can expect to find wildlife such as mountain goats or hoary mamots enjoying the sun. The beginning of the hike entails many switchbacks, but once you escape the trees, the trail levels out before the final push. To avoid the fog, summiting in the afternoon is recommended. The meadows, flowers, mountains, animals, lakes, and glaciers make this trail the pinnacle of hikes. Some even say it’s better than the European alps!
Distance: 1.4 miles, roundtrip Elevation: 250 ft. Time: 1 hour Rather than a hike, this trail can be considered a short and steep walk to the falls - but it's certainly day trip-worthy. The trail winds through ferns, western hemlock, douglas fir, and more, creating a pleasant atmosphere for beginner hikers. Once you reach the lower viewpoint, you can dip your feet in the river or stroll across the boardwalk. If you’re feeling bold, you can even climb over the railing at the end of the boardwalk to get an up-close view of the falls. If you go during the rainy months, the boardwalk will be closed due to the roaring and overflowing falls. However, on a clear and sunny day, a rare sighting of a double rainbow may occur! This trail also offers the unique option of starting the hike at the bottom and making your way to the top for the upper viewpoint. Since this waterfall is one of Seattle’s iconic falls, you might want to arrive early to avoid crowds.
Distance: 5.6 miles, roundtrip Elevation: 800 ft. Time: 3-4 hour One of Seattle’s most adored views on a clear day is when the majestic Mt. Rainier comes out of hiding. Mount Rainier National Park offers a variety of trails for beginners and advanced hikers. Fremont Lookout is one of ten trails available in the Sunrise Area. The trail begins with a fairly mild incline along a paved walkway and wraps around Frozen Lake. After Frozen Lake, the trail gains a short incline before becoming narrow and rocky until you reach the lookout. This hike offers a scenic, panoramic, up-close view of Mt. Rainier. The best time to visit is mid-June to September when wildflowers are in full bloom and goats, deer, marmots, and chipmunks are out roaming freely. Mount Rainier National Park also has an entry fee of $20.
Distance: 9.2 miles, roundtrip Elevation: 2840 ft. Time: 4-5 hours If you’re feeling bored of life's mundanities and in search of an escape, Gothic Basin will make you feel like you’ve entered into a scene from Lord of the Rings. The rough trail was originally constructed by miners, creating a steep and rocky trail with rewarding views. The journey up is a challenging, strenuous, never-ending, uphill battle. You’ll find yourself climbing over rocks, stumps, and scuffling across narrow paths. However, a variety of waterfalls and mountain views motivate you to continue trekking up for the beauty that awaits. Once you reach the top, you will find Foggy Lake and amazing views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Stuart. Make sure you bring food to keep you energized for you’ll want to explore the nooks and crannies of the basin.
Distance: 8 miles, roundtrip Elevation: 2280 ft. Time: 5 hours Colchuck Lake, one of the many trails in the Enchantments (an alpine paradise that stretches 18 miles), is a PNW favorite. Although the first 1.5 miles of the trail is mainly flat running parallel to a river, it then gets pretty tough. The last mile of the trail is so difficult you might have to embrace the inner Katniss Everdeen to climb and navigate around rocks and roots. However, once you reach the top, it’s worth every painful second. The lake’s water is a beautiful turquoise resembling the Crayola crayon color, cerulean. The bugs are also out to play and pester during the warmer months so make sure to pack bug repellant! This hike is also near Leavenworth (a city in Chelan County which reflects a Bavarian village) where you can re-energize after the hike with German food and beer.