Best Hikes with Views

Sweeping coastal and mountain views offer big payoffs on these hikes and walks.

Mount Constitution
Orcas Island

Map of Mt Constitution
Moderate to difficult; 6.7 miles round-trip, 1,490-foot elevation gain. Or easy; a scant eighth-mile from parking lot to tower Location
: In the San Juan Islands, about three hours from Seattle, via Interstate 5 and the ferry from Anacortes. Nearest town: Eastsound, about 20 minutes from the top. Discover Pass required; 

Take in the soaring 360-degree views from the stone tower atop Mount Constitution the easy way (drive), or the hard way (hike). Either way, summiting the highest point in the San Juans, in Moran State Park, offers spectacular vistas of the Cascade and Olympic mountains, the Canadian Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island and all of the San Juans. A twisting nine-mile drive will drop you just a jaunt from the tower; a short uphill stroll and three flights of stone stairs later, you’re atop the 45-foot-tall lookout, where maps help you identify the sweeping scene below. Heartier souls, watch for the Mountain Lake trailhead partway up the mountain; there, you’ll pick up a fairly strenuous hike that winds steeply upward through old-growth stands of western hemlock and Douglas fir. The first mile is the toughest—a relentless uphill slog—but after that, you’ll meander up switchbacks, occasionally popping out of the trees to encounter a staggering view. When you reach the top, you will have hit that perfect hiking trifecta: righteous workout, huge payoff view, and nothing but downhill between you and that sweet post-hike beer in nearby Eastsound.

Elliott Bay Trail

Downtown Seattle

Map of Elliott
Easy (paved); 5 miles (SoDo to Magnolia), no elevation gain 
Location: Downtown Seattle waterfront 

Much to the delight of the thousands of walkers, joggers and bikers who use it every day, the Elliott Bay Trail, which stretches for five miles from Royal Brougham Way near the stadiums (still accessible during construction) up to Smith Cove Park at the base of Magnolia Hill, offers some of the best and most iconic views in Seattle. Not many other walks include views of working waterfronts, gleaming city skylines and sunsets behind jagged mountain peaks—all at the same time. Along the way, stop in at Pike Place Market and grab something delicious, or detour through the Olympic Sculpture Park for a little artistic stimulation, marking time by counting passing ferryboats as they ply the waters of Elliott Bay. On a sunny day, this walk is guaranteed to increase civic pride.


Second Beach
Washington Coast

Map of Second Beach
Difficulty: Easy; 1.5 miles round-trip, 100-foot elevation gain 
Location: About four to five hours from Seattle in Olympic National Park, south of La Push off U.S. Highway 101. Nearest town: La Push, 5 miles. National Parks Pass required; dogs prohibited; 

While the tourists flock to Ruby Beach because of its convenient access right off U.S. Highway 101, those willing to get off the beaten path—specifically, three-quarters of a mile through a spooky forest of twisting cedar, fir, maple and madrona boughs—will be rewarded with more solitude and even better sunset views at Second Beach. Jagged sea stacks dominate the view near and far; you can even climb some of them and get that bird’s-eye view you crave. And during summer, when the angle is right, you can watch the sun go down framed by an eroded “hole in the wall” on the northern end of Second Beach. Don’t forget your headlamp for the hike back to the car—you won’t want to leave before sunset.

Road Trip: Concrete and East Skagit County

Road Trip: Concrete and East Skagit County

Enjoy a scenic drive and stay out in eagle country
View the eagles during the Skagit Eagle Festival; snap a pic and enter it by January 15 in the Skagit River Bald Eagle Center’s 20th anniversary photo contest. Go win it!

WHERE: Concrete and east Skagit County.

WHY: Eagles are flocking to their spectacular winter getaway—why not join them? The Skagit Eagle Festival (1/1–1/31; happens every January weekend, and your car makes a perfect blind for snapping pictures without scaring off these magnificent birds. Celebrate along the Skagit River with arts and crafts, wine tasting, photography tours and river rafting for eagle spotters.

NIGHT OWLS: Check out the Concrete Theatre, built in 1923 (45920 Main St.; 360.941.0403;, updated for films, live music and events during the festival. early birds: Stop by 5b’s Bakery (45597 Main St.; 360.853.8700; for quality gluten-free baked goods and more for breakfast or lunch. For dinner, there’s Annie’s Pizza Station (44568 State Route 20; 360.853.7227;, whose handcrafted cuisine would be a hit even in a town bigger than Concrete, population 753.

RULE THE ROOST: Spend the night in one of Ovenell’s Heritage Inn log cabins, located on a historic ranch across the river (46276 Concrete Sauk Valley Road; 360.853.8494; Pick up a steak or two—the cows are raised right there on the ranch—and throw them on the provided barbecue. Had enough of eagles? Elk, deer and coyotes are known to roam the ranch on a daily basis.