10 Best Hikes Within Two Hours of Seattle WA

Did you know Seattle is known as the Emerald City? Unless you live in or near Seattle, it is very likely you immediately think of the Space Needle whenever you hear Seattle. The Space Needle is pretty cool, but just beyond the city lay stunning mountain views covered in lush, beautiful greenery, hence its nickname.

In fact, downtown Seattle is 60 miles from the summit of Mount Rainier, the “Mini Mount Everest of the U.S.” if you will. Dense is green forest, Seattle is also very well known for its amazing hiking experiences. Whether you are a novice or have years of hiking under your belt, there are plenty of trails and switchbacks for all levels.

With the Cascade Range and the Olympic Mountains within driving distance, the amount of hiking trails seems endless. However, before you get to planning, it is important to know about the different park passes you may need in order to access the trailheads or park your vehicle.

Types of Passes You Can Use to Hike 

  • Discover Pass: For tourists and visiting hikers, you will most likely need to invest in a Washington Discover Pass. A one-day pass will run you $11.50 and is only valid on the date that is printed on the pass while an annual pass is only $35.00 and is valid for one year from the purchase date. If you are lucky, maybe you will be visiting during one of Washington State Park’s “free days,” meaning a pass is not required. For more details and exact dates, you can visit Washington State’s website.
  • America the Beautiful National Parks Pass: If you love to travel and visit national parks often, you may already have one of these. This will be helpful for visiting any trail located in one of Washington’s National Parks; however, you will not be able to enter state parks without the Discover Pass. If you are interested in purchasing one, you can do so here for $80.00 and the pass will be valid for one year. 
  • Northwest Forest Pass: Some trails will require the Northwest Forest Pass, which will cost you $3 for an annual pass and just $5 for a day pass. This pass gives you access to any recreation site operated by the Forest Service. 

Now we can get to the good stuff! To help you plan your hiking trip (or day trip for those who live close), here are the 10 best hikes within two hours of Seattle, Washington. 

A view of Seattle

Hiking in Seattle offers breathtaking views.

1. Rattlesnake Ledge, Snoqualmie Region

Also known as Snoqualmie Pass, Rattlesnake Ledge is only 40-minutes east of Seattle, Washington. Being dog and kid-friendly, this location is typically crowded but don’t let that stop you. The parking lot is big enough to accommodate the large Rattlesnake Lake crowds and there are multiple (optional) trail extensions.

If you want to avoid the crowd, keep on trucking for a few more minutes until you reach the middle or upper ridge where fewer people venture to, plus even better views! You start the hike on the shores of Rattlesnake Lack and work your way up 1,000 feet through switchbacks.

The hike is only a 4-mile round-trip that leads you to an amazing panoramic view of the Cascades while overlooking the shimmering waters of Rattlesnake below. After your hike, make sure to schedule some time to enjoy the water of the lake. 

Key Takeaways:

  • 4-miles round-trip with 1,000 ft elevation
  • Kid and Dog-friendly trail
  • 40 minutes from Seattle
  • Panoramic views of the remarkable Cascade Mountains
  • Discover Pass required

2. North Bend Trailhead, Mount Si

Just across from Rattlesnake Ledge is the wonderful Mount Si. For fans of the show “Twin Peaks”, this is the mountain from the opening credits! However, if you want to make your way up the mountain from your favorite TV show, you are going to need to be prepared. The North Bend Trail is a moderate to difficult 8-mile round-trip with an elevation gain of 3,150 ft.

Once you start your trek from the trailhead, you will almost immediately begin to gain elevation. As you continue up, you will pass the inspiring old-growth forest. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with an impressive view of the Snoqualmie Valley. If you are looking for an added challenge, plan to make your way up the “Haystack,” the “true” summit those who fear heights will not want to attempt. Additionally, this is one of the few parks with year-round access!

Key Takeaways:

  • 8-miles round-trip with 3,150 ft elevation
  • Moderate to difficult skill level
  • Mountain from the famous TV Show “Twin Peaks”
  • Discover Pass required

3. Little Si, Mount Si

If you will be staying in Mount Si for a couple of days and plan on doing multiple-day hikes, you can get a fantastic view of Mount Si and the Upper Snoqualmie Valley from Little Si on a clear day. About 30 minutes from Seattle, Little Si is a 5-mile round-trip, densely forested trail with an elevation gain of approximately 1,200 feet. Even though visitors claim it is easier than Mount Si, it is still considered to be a moderate difficulty. While you are on this side of Seattle, take a moment to stop and enjoy Puget Sound as well.

Key Takeaways:

  • 5-miles round-trip with 1,200 ft elevation
  • Moderate difficulty
  • Approximately 30 minute drive from Seattle
  • Discover Pass required
A person paragliding off a mountain

Paragliding is a great way to get a bird’s-eye view of Seattle.

4. Poo-Poo Point, Issaquah

Located just outside of Issaquah, on Tiger Mountain, you will find the Chirico Trail which is also famously known as Poo-Poo Point due to the steam whistles heard throughout the Tiger Mountains in the early logging days. Poo-Poo Point is one of the few hikes you can choose to take a bus to, but if you prefer to drive yourself, it will take you 25-30 minutes to arrive from Seattle. 

With just over 1,500 ft in elevation gain, at the top, you will find gorgeous views of Lake Washington, and (on a sunny day) you can see Mount Rainier standing tall in the distance. This 7.5-mile hike is heavily traveled; therefore, it is nicely maintained and considered to be more of an “urban hike” making it a hike the whole family can enjoy (even the dog)! If you happen to be visiting on a day when the wind is good, you will very likely see paragliders flying about here as well. That is always a sight to see.

Key Takeaways:

  • 7.5-mile round-trip with 1,500 ft elevation
  • Kid and dog friendly trail
  • 25-30 minutes from Seattle
  • Views of Mount Rainier
  • No pass required

5. Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls, Snohomish County

Another one of Seattle’s popular hikes, near Mount Index, in the Cascades, is the beautiful Lake Serene. Totaling 8.2 miles, you can see the Bridal Veil Falls after a short 2.5 miles of hiking. Standing 1,328 feet tall (the tallest waterfall in Washington state), the misty Bridal Veil Falls spill over in four sections making for some fascinating photos. 

If you choose to continue, follow the stone steps (no worries, there are handrails to assist you) up 1,300 feet to your next destination which will be the glacier-fed Lake Serene. Here you can relax and take in the views of Index Peak. Don’t forget to bring your lunch! You can sit on Lunch Rock, which is a smooth stone slab at the edge of Lake Serene.

Key Takeaways:

  • 8.2-miles round-trip with 1,300 ft elevation
  • Moderate difficulty
  • Tallest waterfall in the state of Washington
  • Eat atop Lunch Rock while at Lake Serene
  • Northwest Forest Pass required

6. Twin Falls, Snoqualmie

This is another hike in the pacific northwest fit for the whole family. The path is soft and a short 2.6 miles round-trip with an elevation of only 500 ft. As you make your way closer to the waterfalls, you will pass large old-growth trees. The waterfall itself is actually three different sections that come together. The first two drops total 45 ft into the large bowl below.

The second set of drops is 30 ft. You will be pleased with the multiple views of these two sections as you continue on the path. Next, as you cross the bridge, you come across a 20-foot waterfall. The bridge provides a great opportunity to stop for some photos too! Shortly after the bridge, you will see the horsetail drop of 135 feet. Twin Falls is a popular location for families because it’s a quick half-hour drive and you can swim in the water bowl at the bottom of the lower falls.

Key Takeaways:

  • 2.6-miles round-trip and 500 ft elevation
  • Easy, soft path for the whole family
  • 30 minutes from Seattle
  • Swim at the bottom of the waterfall
  • Discover Pass required

7. Mountain Loop Highway, Mount Pilchuck

With its 360 degree views of Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and the Olympic Mountains, Mountain Loop Highway is a very popular hiking spot that is about an hour north of Seattle. Measuring 5.4-miles round-trip, this trail is steep but one of the shorter hikes on the list. Due to the steepness, this hike is not recommended for beginners or young children.

Additionally, due to the rustic nature of the path, you may want to check in with the ranger station before heading out to ensure it is safe for hiking. If the weather is going to be unpredictable, make sure to dress appropriately. If you decide to bring lunch or simply just want to take a moment to enjoy nature, there is a historically restored fire lookout that a lot of hikers will stop for a break once they reach the summit’s top, which is 5,300 feet. Don’t worry, you don’t climb all 5,300 feet! The trail starts at approximately 3,000 feet and is available year-round unless bad weather conditions do not allow for it.

Key Takeaways:

  • 5.4-miles round-trip and approximately 2,000 ft elevation
  • Moderate difficult due to its steepness
  • Historically restored fire lookout at the top
  • 360 views of Mt Rainier and the Olympics
  • Northwest Forest Pass required
A view from Mountain Loop highway.

Mountain Loop Highway an excellent spot for scenic mountain views.

8. Summerland, Mount Rainier National Park

If your trip only allows for one day hike, this is the one you will want to do because of its breathtaking views of Mount Rainier, Little Tahoma, and meadows full of wildflowers. Allow yourself at least 4 hours to enjoy and defeat this 8.4-mile hike with an elevation gain of 2,100 ft. Hikers have returned from their round-trip frequently reporting sightings of mountain goats, bears, and other wildlife.

The short switchbacks make the elevated climb easier on the knees. If you like to camp or backpack, there is a campsite that requires a permit and in advance booking that you can stay at. This is a great idea if you plan on trekking the extended part of the trail known as the “Panhandle Gap.”

The “Panhandle Gap” will most likely have plenty of snow regardless of the time of year you are planning to visit; therefore, experience, trekking poles, and an ice ax are strongly recommended. If camping isn’t your thing, that is not a problem. You can continue on from Summerland where it starts to flatten out and more wildflowers wait to greet you. 

Key Takeaways:

  • 8.4-mile round-trip with 2,100 ft elevation. 
  • Possible wildlife sightings
  • Camping available
  • Panhandle Gap for the brave and experienced
  • National Park Pass or $30 for a day pass

9. Discovery Park Loop Trail, Seattle

Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from downtown Seattle, Discovery Park is a very popular tourist destination. The park itself contains over 11 miles of trails and switchbacks; however, Discovery Park Loop is only a 2.8 mile hike allowing you to take in the beauty of the park. As you make your way around the loop, you will pass the West Point Lighthouse, Magnolia Bluff, and Fort Lawton Beach making it great for an easy day while enjoying the beauty of nature. 

Once you have completed the loop trail, head to your car and drive over to Artist Point, which is famous for the intricate reflections the waters provide of Mount Shuksan, so long as the road is open. If the road is not open, the only way to get there is by foot.

Key Takeaways:

  • 2.8-mile loop
  • 15-20 minute drive from downtown Seattle
  • Family-friendly
  • See and explore the Westpoint Lighthouse
  • No pass required

10. Mailbox Peak, Snoqualmie

We saved this hike for last because it’s definitely the most rewarding hike on the list, but mostly because it is one of the hardest hikes you can do when visiting Seattle. Mailbox Peak got its name from the mailbox that sits at the peak, which was carried there by a determined mail carrier in the 1960s. To take advantage of the photo-op at the top, you will have to make it up 9.6 miles of switchbacks that lead you up the mountain 4,000 feet!

Even though tedious, this trail is more than worth the rewards. Once you reach the summit, you will be greeted by extraordinary 360-degree views of the north and the central Cascades. If you are an experienced hiker, grab your hiking boots, because you will not want to miss out on this exhilarating adventure about 40 minutes east of Seattle.

Key Takeaways:

  • 9.6-mile round-trip with 4,000 ft elevation
  • For experienced hikers only
  • 40 minutes from Seattle
  • Take a picture with the mailbox to prove you were at the top
  • Discover Pass required

Final Verdict:

Surrounded by rich greenery, Seattle is a wonderful city to nature-lovers to hike and feel in their element. For those of us that aren’t nature’s biggest fan, there are plenty of short and simple hikes to choose from so you can still get the full experience of visiting Seattle such as the Discovery Loop Trail, Rattlesnake Ledge, and Poo-Poo Point. 

If you are more advanced when it comes to hiking, but not looking for anything too strenuous, any of the moderate difficulty challenges should be just what you’re looking for. That includes hikes such as Mountain Loop Highway, Summerland, or Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls.

If you want to visit more lakes while in Washington, Alpine Lake is always a great time. Lastly, for the advanced hikers among us, the Mailbox Peak is a must-do! Have you hiked any of these trails before? Tell us about it in the comments!

Want a second opinion? Check out this video!

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Riley Draper

Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.