Three Seattle Hikes You Can Do In a Day

Half-day hikes within 30 minutes of Seattle

The mountain snow is melting, the sun is shining and the wildflowers are in bloom. And that means it’s time to head outdoors! To kick the summer hiking season off right, we’ve outlined three great Seattle hikes for you to consider. All have relatively easy terrain and are close to Seattle – perfect for a half-day adventure. So, grab your friends, pack some snacks and water, and hit I-90 east for a quick drive.

Rattlesnake Ledge

Nowhere this close to Seattle will you find such sweeping views of the Snoqualmie Valley, especially after just a two-mile trek. Situated just past North Bend, the trail starts at Rattlesnake Lake, which is a popular summer picnic spot. As you make your way up through the trees, you’ll be surprised from time to time with unexpected gorgeous views of the bright blue lake below. As soon as you arrive in the parking lot you have a view of Rattlesnake Ledge's sheer rock face across Rattlesnake Lake. At this point it seems amazing to think you will be up there by the end of your hike, but a look at a trail map will reveal some well-engineered switchbacks -- courtesy of many WTA work parties -- that will get you to your destination with less effort than you might expect. The old trail to the summit was in bad shape from heavy use and no maintenance, but WTA work parties helped create this beautiful avenue through second-growth forest to the rocky ledges. In addition to adding a half mile to the old trail, the steepness was lessened a bit.

Roundtrip: 4 miles

Elevation Gain: 1160 ft.

Highest Point: 2078 ft.

Fees/Restrictions: No pass or permit required; dogs must be leashed.

On the trail to Rattlesnake Ledge
While the trail can still be a bit steep for beginners and small kids, it’s well worth the effort. At the two-mile mark, you’ll find signs pointing to Rattlesnake Ledge. While the ledge can be crowded in the summer, it’s one of the most popular Seattle hikes for a reason: the views are astounding on a clear day. Look out to Mount Si, the Cascade Mountains, and the sparkling lake below. If you want to escape the crowds, continue on the trail upwards for a few hundred feet more. You’ll find a second lookout with far fewer people. It’s a great place to get some sun or stop for a picnic lunch. Once you’re down from the trail, the park has expansive green lawns that are great for lounging in the sun or tossing a Frisbee. You can also find several connecting trails within the Rattlesnake Ridge parking area. At the end of the Rattlesnake Ridge trail you can continue on for a full day hike along the Ridge on the East Peak trail or complete the 10 mile trek to Snoqualmie. Additionally you can find the Snoqualmie Valley Trail just as you leave the parking area. This is a great trail if you are looking for a long hike or bike ride. The trail starts south of Rattlesnake Lake and continues up to Duval, over 35 miles of converted railroad to trail.

Getting There: From Seattle, drive east on I-90 to exit 32 for 436th Avenue SE. Turn right onto 436th Avenue SE, also signed as Cedar Falls Road SE. Proceed about four miles down the road to the Rattlesnake Lake parking lot on the right.

Contacts:

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, North Bend office: 425-888-1421

Washington Trails Association: www.wta.org

Twin Falls

This Twin Falls hike is one of many within Olallie State Park, which is six miles east of North Bend at the foothills of the Cascades. The park is filled with old-growth trees, as well as popular fishing and rock-climbing destinations. You’ll find the Twin Falls trail on the northwest side of the park, where the trail follows the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River. The trail is truly a crowd pleaser – perfect for those who are new to hiking. You’ll have your first photo opportunity a few minutes in as a set of stairs descend to a viewpoint of the Lower Falls plunging over a 135-foot cliff. A little over a mile from the trailhead, a set of stairs descends to a viewpoint of the Lower Falls as they plunge over a 150 foot cliff.

Roundtrip: 2 miles

Elevation Gain: 500 ft.

Highest Point: 1000 ft.

Fees/Restrictions: Discover Pass required; dogs must be leashed.

Middle Twin Falls
Marvel at the river pouring down a narrow gorge, creating a singularly beautiful waterfall and splash pool. From the foaming splash pool, the water drops another 150 feet creating a second stairstep of photo-worthy falls. If you hike another quarter-mile, you’ll come to a bridge that spans the narrow Twin Falls canyon for a view of the Upper Falls. From the bridge you can see several plunge pools of the Upper Falls upstream and the edge of the Lower Falls downstream. Less than a quarter mile from the bridge is a view of the Upper Falls from above. Most visitors turn around at this point as the trail starts climbing steeply. Those hearty enough to continue will find that the trail then continues another mile where it intersects with the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in a little under a mile. The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is a 108 mile long trail that follows the old Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad from Cedar Falls to Vantage. Hike east along the Pioneer Trail for a quarter mile to reach the Olallie State Park Homestead Valley Trailhead (located off I-90 Exit 38). Turn around here if you’re finished with your day hike. If you want to continue your journey, you can head down the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, which gives hikers access to hundreds of miles of trails throughout the state. The adventure opportunities are endless.

Getting There: From Seattle, head east on I-90 to exit 38 West. From the exit ramp, turn right onto SE Homestead Valley Road. Cross over the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River and take the first right. At the first and second forks, bear left. The road runs out at a junction with the Iron Horse Trail, which you will hike along for about a third of a mile before it connects to the Upper Twin Falls trail.

Contacts:

Washington Trails Association: www.wta.org

Tiger Mountain-Poo Poo Point

Tiger Mountain in Issaquah is one of the closest Seattle hikes and has numerous trails of varying difficulty. Starting at Issaquah High School, the Poo Poo Point trail is a great choice for the whole family. At just over three miles to the top, the trail takes you through dense forest and scenic water crossings to Poo Poo Point, a popular destination for paraglider pilots to start their descent. After the tough climb up, enjoy an afternoon on the grassy point and take in views of Lake Sammamish, the Bellevue skyline and Mount Baker as you watch paragliders take off from the hill. Okay, so admittedly, it's a bit disappointing when you spend a good chunk of energy to get to a viewpoint and realize upon arrival that there is a parking lot and you could have driven there in the comforts of your sleek German engineering. That said, the trail to Poo Poo Point is a favorite among local hikers and runners for its close-in proximity to the city, year-round accessibility, and challenging terrain. There's nothing on the hike that will blow your mind, but there's a nice sampling of views, water crossings, and forest canopy to keep you more than occupied as you ascend to a nice view of Issaquah and the lake stretching out beyond.

Roundtrip: 7.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 1858 ft.

Highest Point: 2021 ft.

Fees/Restrictions: No pass or permit required; dogs must be leashed.

Rock steps on the trail
From the busy hub of Issaquah High School, follow the trail that runs behind the school (about a quarter-mile) until you have the option to cut up into the hill on a well-beaten path. Head right here onto a gravel service road, and after a short distance, reach a steel gate. Pass the gate and continue on to the power lines at 1.0 mile. From here, the signs will direct you onto a more intimate trail that begins a fairly steep ascent to the view. Cross Gap Creek Bridge at 2.5 miles, and at 3.0 miles reach a intersection of three trails and a potentially confusing decision. Take the fork to the far right. You might be concerned as you begin to descend 200 feet and see a sign that seemingly points you back up the hill, but don't worry, you're headed the right way. You'll soon be at the parking lot for Poo Poo Point, which also happens to be a favorite launch point for hand-gliders in the area. Enjoy the views looking north toward Lake Sammamish, and if you're lucky, the snow-capped peak of Mount Baker in the distance. Oh, and try not to get run over by a hand-glider.

Getting There: From Seattle, head east on I-90 to Exit 17 (Front Street) and turn right (south). After 0.6 mile turn left (east) onto East Sunset Way, and in two blocks turn right onto 2nd Avenue SE. Issaquah High School is on your left. There is a small gravel parking lot and trailhead (on left) one block south of the high school, just before the intersection with Front Street. If full, park anywhere near the high school and find the path that runs in a loop behind the high school.

Contacts:

Washington Trails Association: www.wta.org