1. The city’s parks
Within Seattle’s city limits you’ll find an abundance of parks that will make you forget you’re just a short bus ride away from downtown. Discovery Park, which sits at the end of a peninsula between Shilshole Bay and Puget Sound, has kilometres of trails that weave through forests of maple and alder trees. Most routes will eventually terminate on the rocky shores of the park’s many beaches, each of which provide their own dynamic views of the surrounding water.
For more time on the waterfront, take a late afternoon stroll at Myrtle Edwards Park. The open trails and proximity to Puget Sound make it one of the best sunset walks in Seattle. On the other side of the city is the Washington Park Arboretum. The nearly one square kilometre botanical garden has trails that will take you all throughout its diverse collection of plant life and even out to the wetlands of nearby Foster Island. Don't miss the Japanese Garden within the park, home to pretty blossoms in spring, golden leaves in autumn and a tranquil environment all year round.
2. The city’s water
Seattle is a city by the water, and you don’t need to look hard to find opportunities to get your feet wet. Aqua enthusiasts should head straight to Lake Union, just north of downtown. The two square kilometre body of water is intimate enough for some stand up paddle boarding (Northwest Outdoor Center will have you covered), or to enjoy from the deck of an electric boat (The Electric Boat Company offers affordable rentals).
For something more thrilling, sign up for a kayaking tour with Ballard Kayak. They have a variety of itineraries (beginners welcome) that will take you into Puget Sound, around Discovery Point, and even through the historical Ballard Locks, which still sees approximately 40,000 boats passing through each year.
If you do find yourself on a vessel, be sure to look back towards the shore. The views of Seattle’s distinct skyline from the water are unmatched.
3. San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are renowned as a destination where you can truly feel removed from the outside world. It’s a reputation that is well earned. The smattering of islands northwest of Seattle feel otherworldly in their tranquility, with opportunities to bike and hike along the rocky shores and through the wooded interiors. There are quiet villages full of local restaurants and artisan shops to explore, as well as lavender farms to inhale. On the water, you’ll likely see orcas, seals and otters frolicking in their natural habitat.
Seattle makes a perfect gateway for a trip to the San Juan Islands. Washington State Ferries make for an easy, scenic route, departing from Anacortes, a short drive north of Seattle. For a more direct arrival, book a seaplane flight or hop on FRS Clipper from Seattle to one of several harbours on the islands.
4. Olympic National Park
At over 9,000 sq km, you'll want to allow at least a few days to explore the Olympic Peninsula. Head west from Seattle to drive along the rugged coastline of this wilderness, stopping at Ruby Beach to walk among the towering sea stacks and appreciate the boundless Pacific Ocean.
Head to the interior to visit the heart of the Olympic National Park. The Hall of Mosses – a trail that winds through a secluded temperate rainforest – is perfect for those seeking solitude. For something a bit more grandiose, get yourself to the top of Hurricane Ridge, which offers a cinematic vista of the mountains in the mist. Make sure you stay in one of the historical lodges dotted around the peninsula. At the nearly 100-year-old Lake Quinault Lodge, for example, you can sit fireside in a leather chair and unwind from a day of adventuring.
5. Mount Rainier National Park
On clear days, you can see the magnificent Mount Rainier on the city's skyline, enticing you in to explore the adventurous peak and its surrounds. Luckily, Mount Rainier National Park is an easily accessible day trip from Seattle.
Grab a car and in about two-and-a-half hours you can be surrounded by wilderness. The region on the south slope of Mount Rainier is known for its winding alpine streams and lush wildflower meadows. For a moderately challenging day hike, take the Rampart Ridge Trail, a 7.4km loop through old growth Douglas firs and along some particularly scenic ridges.
While in the national park, take some time to explore Paradise, famous for its pastel-hued carpets of wildflowers. Paradise is just as beautiful in winter, however, when a blanket of snow settles over the landscapes turning it into a playground for snowshoers, cross-country skiers and sledders.
Crystal Mountain – slightly northeast of Mount Rainier – also has a plethora of hiking and biking trails in the summer, as well as some of the Pacific Northwest’s best skiing in the winter. While it’s doable as a day trip, don’t hesitate to stay overnight. Accommodations in the area range from full-service condo rentals to high-altitude glamping.
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Start planning your dream trip to Seattle by heading over to the official website now.