We’re used to being humbled by the nearby snow-capped peaks and glistening blue waters, lush forests and beautiful blooms. There are myriad ways to explore the outdoors in the Northwest, but if you’re a beginner, embarking on a day-long hike can be incredibly intimidating. What do you wear? Do you need to bring food? What do you mean being in hiking shape is different than being in running shape?
If you’re an aspiring hiker but, like me, have never really explored this beautiful region—don’t fret. We’ve compiled a list of local, easy to moderate hikes to get you started exploring nature’s beauty.
These hikes don’t require painstaking planning or packing for an entire day, nor do they call for a high skill level—just the desire to be outside. If your goal is to work up to more rigorous hikes in the Cascades, Mount Rainier or Mount Si, this is a good place to start.
What you’ll need:
- Tennis shoes or hiking boots
- A light jacket/pullover in case the weather changes
- Thick socks (So you won’t get blisters, because who wants that)
- A small backpack to carry all your supplies
- Light snacks (Almonds, dried fruit, trail mix or granola bars are good energy-boosters)
- WATER (This is a must! The worst thing is getting halfway there and you’re already parched because you didn’t pack enough water.)
The Coal Creek Falls hike is a great one for beginners—it’s only 2.5 miles roundtrip, is easily accessible (it’s located in Issaquah, so it’s just a quick 30-minute jaunt from Seattle) and is filled with lush greenery. Bonus: There’s no pass or permit required for this one. And if you haven’t checked out the Washington Trails Association website yet, it’s a must. It provides great detailed descriptions of hikes so you’ll know what to expect before you get on the trail. Plus, other hikers create trip reports on the WTA site, so you’ll know if the trail is muddy, whether there are mosquitos or what’s the best time of year to hike each trail.
Discovery Park Loop Trail
Located in Magnolia, the 2.8-mile, free-to-the-public Discovery Park Loop Trail is an urban hike that doesn’t feel so urban. You’ll pass through forest and meadows, and glimpse views of the Puget Sound and Mount Rainier (on clear days). It can also be traversed year-round. If you’re feeling inspired, you can walk about half a mile down from the viewpoint to the West Point Lighthouse for more picturesque views. Sandy beaches and windswept grasses frame the lighthouse—and if you’re lucky, you might glimpse a sea lion bobbing its head in the Sound.
Tiger Mountain/ Poo Poo Point
I know what you’re thinking, but yes, that’s actually the name. Poo Poo point is a great hike for advanced beginners, as it is 7.2 miles roundtrip. Pro-tip: You’ll need to get there early if you want to get a spot in the parking lot. On sunny days the lot often fills up before 8 a.m., and there’s limited street parking if you don’t want to walk a mile to start the hike. The incline can get a bit steep in parts, so you’ll definitely get a good workout from this one. But the view at the top is what really makes the trek worth it: Poo Poo Point is a launching point for parasailers—so once you reach the second lookout, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and water, and more often than not, parasailers gliding in the distance.
Denny Creek trail lets you explore the wilds of the Snoqualmie region. It’s a little more of a drive—about an hour out of Seattle—but the views are worth the trip. This hike requires a Norwest Forest Pass, an annual pass that costs $30 that you can purchase at National Forest offices and visitor centers or at the Washington Trails Association website. It’s a good investment if you think you’ll be doing more hiking in the future, as many parks require it for entry.
At 6 miles roundtrip, this hike has a gentle grade so the trail isn’t so steep. The Washington Trails Association recommends the trail for families, and notes that in addition to wandering through old-growth forest, “Keekwulee Falls offers a stunning viewpoint that is easily accessible. Snowshoe Falls maybe a bit elusive and more difficult to see from the trail, but is also a beautiful natural wonder.” The viewpoints on this trail are also great spots to stop and have a snack.
For more information about these hikes and many more, visit the Washington Trails Association website at: wta.org