Fall Hikes Near Seattle You Don’t Want to Miss
One of the undeniable benefits of living in the fertile and lush region of the Pacific Northwest is being within a day’s drive of some of the most breathtaking hikes in the world. While yes, we might be a little biased in this matter since Yesler calls Seattle home, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strap on your boots and go investigate for yourself. Even if you are not from around this area you should still make it a goal to travel to the upper left of the United States and explore these trails.
Fall is a prime time to see our rich landscape from a new perspective. While the summer months are ideal for long, warm hikes that weave you through sunlit fields, the fall invites a sharpness of new colors in the foliage. Cool crisp air is sweeping through the sky, causing some trees to change colors and eventually shed their leaves. In particular, the sub-alpine larch is especially radiant in the fall months. While some of these hikes may look a little intimidating, I encourage you to see them as beautiful challenges instead of impossible tasks. One of the best rewards of hiking is realizing you are capable of more than you originally thought. So grab your hiking gear, step outside, and breath in the mountain air.
Lake Ingalls, Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Length: 9 miles roundtrip
Distance from Seattle: 2.5 hour drive
This hike, located north of Cle Elum in the shadows of Mt. Stuart, will bring you among the changing colors of alpine larch trees. During the fall season these tree’s needles turn to a luminous gold, their colors shimmering in the afternoon light. Be sure to pack yourself a meal and plenty of water as you’ll want to settle in for a lakeside picnic. As you enjoy your food you’ll start appreciating just how idyllic some silence, fresh air, and some nature can truly be. You can even catch a glimpse of Mount Stuart, typically dusted with a blanket of snow in the fall and winter.
Granite Mountain Trail, Snoqualmie Pass West
Length: 8.5 miles roundtrip
Distance from Seattle: 1 hour 10min drive
An industrial lookout, perched high among vistas and crisp mountain air, awaits you at the end of this 8.5 mile hike. While this hike is longer and has a steep climb, it is worth it for the rugged terrain and unique landscape. As you climb switchbacks past boulders, quiet trees, and streams of cool water you’ll find yourself understanding why the trail is called “Granite Mountain.” Large granite boulders litter the trail. They provide a perfect opportunity to contemplate your own size in the world, as well as the strength and power of nature. On a clear day you can see Mount Rainier and Mount Stuart, the lookout making you to feel you are almost able to touch them.
Royal Basin Trail, Olympic National Park
Length: 16 miles roundtrip
Distance from Seattle: 2 hour 40min drive
A bit farther from the city, the Olympic National Park is rich in opportunity for outdoor fall expeditions. One hike you do not want to miss is the Royal Basin Trail, located at the northeast corner of the national park. Even though the hike tops out at a lengthy 16miles roundtrip, Royal Lake awaits you at just past the seven mile mark if you are hoping to take a slightly shorter hike. Light blue water, filled with a milky haze, is a stark contrast to the sharp colors of the jagged mountains rising behind the lake.
No matter where you end up this fall, make sure you’re taking full advantage of the beauty nature has to offer. While the weather may turn a bit more chilly, windy, or wet, don’t let that deter you from seeking adventure in your very own backyard. It can be easy (and tempting) to want to stay indoors when the weather is less-than-ideal outside, but luckily here in the PNW we are used to a little drizzle. Remember that fall is a season made for hiking and there are new colors waiting to be discovered.