Seattle, also known as the Emerald City, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The city is renowned for its proximity to mountains and water, making it an excellent place for hiking. If you’re looking for excellent day hikes from Seattle, you won’t be disappointed!
The surrounding Seattle area features numerous hiking trails, including Rattlesnake Ledge, Mount Si, Little Si, Poo Poo Point, Snow Lake, and Mailbox Peak, all of which offer great views and a decent hike in just over an hour or two. From challenging hikes such as Mailbox Peak to shorter, popular hikes like Little Si, Seattle’s hiking trails offer something for everyone.
Explore the Emerald City’s Surroundings: Seattle’s Top Day Hikes
Rattlesnake Ledge is arguably the most popular day hike from Seattle, and one that never disappoints, no matter the season. Don’t be intimidated by the ominous presence of the ledge, which you can see from the parking lot. It may look a long way away from there, and the 4-mile roundtrip climb is quite the workout, with 1,160 feet of elevation gain. However, the beautiful evergreen forest you hike through makes the (seemingly) neverending switchbacks pass with ease. In the end, you’re rewarded with sweeping views of Mount Washington, Mount Si, and Rattlesnake Lake.
The trailhead is located about 40 minutes from downtown off of I-90 and is very, very, popular, especially during the summer. If you plan to hike Rattlesnake between June and August, make sure to arrive early as the lot fills up. You can park along the road, although watch the signs so you don’t get a ticket. This is also a popular route for sunrise hikes, which are stellar, but again, even at 4 or 5 AM in August, the lot will be quite full.
Note: You will not need a Discover Pass for Rattlesnake Ledge, as it is not a state park.
Also, no need to worry about snake bites, the ledge, and hike was misnomered by an early settler who heard what he believed were rattles, not realizing Western Washington is free of poisonous snakes.
Mount Si (aka Big Si)
Close to Rattlesnake and off of I-90 lies Mount Si, one of the many peaks in the region. The mountain is known locally as “Big Si” as it’s taller (and thus a longer hike) compared to the neighboring peak, “Little Si.” Big Si is also known as the gateway to the Cascades, since it’s where the range begins.
You’ll hike 8 miles through the Pacific Northwest forest and ascend approximately 3,150 feet, to be greeted at the top with an amazing view of the Snoqualmie Valley. The tough route doesn’t scare many away though, as it’s neck-and-neck with Rattlesnake as the most popular day hike from the city.
On your way up, consider bringing a picnic, as there’s a nice lunch spot near the top with views of Mount Rainier. This is where many may choose to turn around and end their day hike from Seattle. However, if you continue up stone steps from here, you’ll pass through a bit more forest to the final viewpoint — where you can see Seattle, the Olympics, and the Valley in the distance.
Note that in winter, there may be snow as you climb higher, and as this is a well-frequented hike, you’ll want to arrive early, especially on weekends. Trust us when we say this is one of the more popular day hikes from Seattle!
Note: You will need a Discover Pass to park and hike for Mount Si.
Just next door is Mount Si’s little brother, Little Si, which is a smaller peak that is even more popular than its companion hike, due to the shorter length. It’s also more accessible in the winter months as there’s rarely snow at the top.
Little Si is a short-but-steep climb, coming in at 3.7 miles and 1,300 feet of elevation gain. You’ll reach the top and, on a clear day, see other peaks as well as the valley.
Poo Poo Point
On the west side of Tiger Mountain, amongst the Issaquah Alps, is this 7.2-mile route of 1,748 feet of elevation gain. From Issaquah High School, this mostly shaded hike takes you through a moss-covered forest, over old railroad grades, and small streams. At the end of the trail, you can enjoy the vistas of Issaquah below.
The Point is very popular with paragliders, and on most days, you’ll see at least a few using it as a launching-off point. The lookout gets its name from the sound of the train steam whistles that used to come through during the early logging days of the area. It’s one of the easiest day hikes to reach from Seattle, as it’s just a little over 20 minutes from downtown via I-90.
Note: You do not need a Discover Pass to park at Poo Poo Point.
Located in the Alpine Lake Wilderness, Snow Lake is just under an hour’s drive from the city, near Snoqualmie Pass. It’s also the area’s most popular lake, which isn’t surprising given the proximity to Seattle and crystal clear water. The 7.2-mile path (with 1,800 feet of elevation gain) begins with a steady climb through trees and then levels out temporarily into a sloping, but rough, terrain. The first view you’ll get of the lake may not appear that impressive, but stick with it as the pretty, but not magnificent, rolling hills only get better as you drop closer to the lake.
Catch a glimpse of an old cabin from when Snow Lake was someone’s private property, and follow the path down to the water, for a lovely picnic spot. Once you’ve rested and refueled, continue to where the trail “ends” — with an intersection of two other trails. Turn around at this point, or take one of the other options. Turn down the mountain to reach Snoqualmie Valley or climb up to other mountain peaks and lakes.
Snow Lake lives up to its name in the winter months and is a wonderful winter hike — for the experienced. Always check the avalanche watch and come prepared with the correct gear.
Note: A Recreation Pass is required to park and hike Snow Lake, or you can pay $5 per vehicle.
Just 40 minutes from Seattle is Mailbox Peak, a 9.4-mile climb with 4,000 feet of elevation gain known as one of the most difficult day hikes from Seattle. The current trail is quite new, as it was constructed as an alternative to the old, even more intense option. It’s also much safer.
Even though the path is safer, it’s Mailbox Peak is full of switchbacks and bridges that make up the majority of the hike. At the summit, you’re rewarded with views of Mount Rainier and Middle Fork Valley. Don’t forget to check the mailbox at the top to see what other hikers have left behind — and leave your own memento if you remembered to bring one!
The trailhead is off of Middle Fork Road, which you can park along as the lot fills up quite quickly despite the difficulty of the hike, so be prepared to arrive early.
Note: You do need a Discover Pass to park and hike at Mailbox Peak.
Seattle Hiking Adventures: Scenic Trails and Sweeping Views
Seattle offers incredible opportunities for day hikes just outside the city. It’s no wonder hiking is one of the most popular activities in the Northwest – we’re blessed with so many places to go, with a variety of terrain, difficulty, and beautiful views.
Seattle and its surrounding areas offer numerous hiking trails, including Rattlesnake Ledge, Mount Si, Little Si, Poo Poo Point, Snow Lake, and Mailbox Peak, all of which provide excellent views and a decent hike in just over an hour or two. These hiking trails offer something for everyone, from challenging hikes such as Mailbox Peak to shorter, popular hikes like Little Si.
We do recommend you plan ahead and arrive early, especially during the summer and weekends, as some trails can be very crowded. Whether you’re a Seattle local or visiting for the first time, make sure to take advantage of these top day hikes from Seattle and enjoy the beauty of the Emerald City’s surroundings.
Sydney is a freelance writer from Seattle who previously worked in immigration and international education at higher education institutions. She has lived in Sydney, Montreal, and Luxembourg, traveled solo across four continents, speaks French, and a little Spanish, and is always on the lookout for her next adventure. When she isn’t sipping coffee you can find her hiking in the mountains or near the water. She writes about travel, lifestyle, and language all over the internet.