Washington has no shortage of hikes and sometimes it is hard to find a place to begin exploring. The safest way to start is by staying close to home where sometimes you will have cell service, and to choose hikes that are for beginners until you are sure your fitness level is up for more of a challenge. It can be difficult to not just run to Blanca Lake or Mount Dickerman as your first hike after seeing pictures of them, but don’t worry, there are so many other hikes that are just as beautiful and that are on your current fitness and skill level.
5 – Rattlesnake Ledge
This four mile round-trip hike has a lot of switchbacks but the view of Rattlesnake Lake from the summit is breathtaking! It is only 30 miles from Seattle and makes a fantastic day trip. Pack a picnic to enjoy by the lake and in August, look for the blackberries growing all along the parking lot.
Tips: This is an unusually busy hike, so try to go very early or during the week. The trail is dog-friendly but you’ll want to keep Fido on a leash. Total elevation gain is 1160 feet. Bring a bathing suit and bring flip flops or water shoes to wear in the water since the bottom of the lake is rocky.
4 – Little Si
There is no question about it, Big Si is a much more interesting hike than Little Si, but it is also much more difficult. Try Little Si first and enjoy a beautiful stroll through a very dense forest. The view from the peak is pretty magical and on a windy day you will see paraglider’s over on the Poo Poo Point clearing.
Tips: This hike is 4.7 miles round-trip with a 1300 foot elevation gain. Stop for a bite to eat at Twede’s after your hike, if you are a Twin Peaks fan, or get a scrumptious burger at North Bend Bar and Grill.
3 – Snoqualmie Falls
This is the shortest hike on the list at only 1.3 miles round-trip and a 300 foot elevation gain. In fact, you don’t have to hike at all to see the waterfall since you can park at both the top and bottom viewing areas, but it is an easy hike and walking is easier than parking twice. Located just outside of Snoqualmie and North Bend, this hike is only 30 minutes from Seattle.
The best part about Snoqualmie Falls is that it is stunning no matter what the weather conditions happen to be that day. On a sunny summer day, the greenery lined beach next to the waterfall pops out. When it is typical dreary Seattle weather the waterfall looks dark and mysterious. Most hikes I only do once, but I’ve been back to Snoqualmie Falls five or more times in the last year. Each time it was a unique experience and the waterfall looked very different from the previous visit.
Tips: Stop in the gift shop and grab an espresso or hot chocolate to enjoy as you stand in the mistiness of the massive waterfall. It adds an extra special touch to the memory! Snoqualmie Falls is dog friendly but if your dog is skittish of loud noises, you may want to consider leaving it home since the waterfall is quite loud.
2 – Source Lake
An hour away from Seattle in Snoqualmie Pass lies a little lake that is often over looked because of its proximity to Snow Lake. Source Lake is a six mile round-trip hike with only 300 foot elevation gain, and it is a beautiful lake! During the summer the hike is an easy walk and you can swim in the crystal clear lake once you arrive. In the winter time this trail is perfect for snowshoeing.
Tips: If you are gluten free or just love diners, stop by Summit Pancake House at the Source Lake exit. They have gluten free pancakes and they even serve crepes. You can extend this hike and do Snow Lake at the same time. I highly recommend doing so if you’re up for the extra mile.
1 – Wallace Falls
This is both the longest hike and drive in the top five. The hike is 5-6 miles long depending on how close you want to be to the top of the upper waterfall. The elevation gain is 1200 feet. It is almost 50 miles from Downtown Seattle and located near Gold Bar, WA. All of the above should make very little difference to you because this hike is wonderful. You are almost constantly in view of a waterfall (there are several along the trail). The Douglas Firs make the forest smell so fresh and the river running beside the trail is clear and gorgeous.
Tips: Grab a bite to eat at Wallace Falls Cafe after your hike! It has both American and Vietnamese food and I’ve never tried anything there that wasn’t delicious. Dress in layers! This hike frequently changes temperatures as you get close to the river and then stray away from it. Yes, you can bring your dog along too!
Once you’ve marked off all the hikes on this list you can start exploring some of the more difficult hikes in the area such as: Blanca Lake, Bandera Mountain, Colchuck, Mount Ellinor, and maybe one day Mailbox Peak! Just stick with it and you will be surprised how quickly you are ready to climb to new heights. The beauty of Washington’s nature is one of the best motivators in the world! Have you done any of these hikes? Which is your favorite? What other hikes would you recommend for beginners?