It's fall season in Seattle and it's a great time of year to hike! Greenery is lit aglow in burnished red, marigold, and pumpkin orange. Warm sunrises greet shorter days and brisk mornings, and the taste of snow is on the tip of our tongues.
Now is the time to get outside and savor golden larches and fall foliage, dripping moss and sweet, earth-scented paths, and—when the rainy season kicks into gear—newly swollen rivers and waterfalls.
Fall weather can also turn on a dime, so get ready before you head out. Check the weather forecast and road and trail conditions. Pack warm layers, rain protection, and traction devices—like microspikes—for the possibility of snow.
Here are ten hikes from my book, Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle, for a taste of the fall season!
1. Foster and Marsh Islands (pg. 80)
2.2 miles roundtrip, 100 ft. elevation gain, Washington Park Arboretum
The Washington Park Arboretum, located in Seattle, has a wonderful variety of fall foliage. Head north to Foster Island to see a beautiful grove of birches and waterfront views of Duck Bay and Union Bay. If you have more time, head south on Azalea Way to enjoy Japanese maples in the Woodland Garden, and west to spot larches in the Pinetum Garden. No parking pass required.
2. Coal Creek Falls Loop (pg. 90)
3.5 miles roundtrip, 635 ft. elevation gain, Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park
The Coal Creek Falls Loop, just a 20 minute drive east of Seattle, features towering bigleaf maple and alder, bubbling Coal Creek, a peek back in time to the Ford Slope Mine, and soothing Coal Creek Falls. Wait until late fall to do this one (think Thanksgiving weekend) for decent waterfall views. You can grab a map at the Red Town Trailhead kiosk or download one here. No parking pass required.
3. Ira Spring Trail-Mason Lake (pg. 147)
7.0 miles roundtrip, 2,400 ft. elevation gain, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Hike through hillsides of fluorescent foliage with stunning views of the Cascades on a clear day. Take a rest beside Mason Lake, or continue on to Rainbow Lake and Island Lake (an additional 3.4 miles roundtrip) for more foliage and solitude. Northwest Forest Pass required.
4. Franklin Falls (pg. 168)
2.4 miles roundtrip, 375 ft elevation gain, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Franklin Falls, located near Snoqualmie Pass, is a woodsy, family-friendly hike beside the South Fork Snoqualmie River. Foliage next to Franklin Falls creates a colorful vista, while lively green moss and tall conifers pop along the trail. Northwest Forest Pass required.
5. Gold Creek Pond (pg. 175)
1.2 miles roundtrip, 100 ft elevation gain, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Gold Creek Pond features a paved, ADA accessible loop that's great for young kids and families. Highlights are the serene mountain views of Gold Creek Valley, vivid patches of red vine maple, and the chance to see kokanee salmon spawning in Gold Creek. Northwest Forest Pass required.
6. Rachel Lake (pg. 179)
7.8 miles roundtrip, 2,000 ft. elevation gain, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Rachel Lake is a quiet, picturesque lake set amidst peaks in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Enjoy patches of dusky red blueberry leaves, crimson vine-maple, and red-orange mountain ash along the trail. Add on a side trip to Rampart Ridge to explore Rampart Lakes (10 miles roundtrip) or Lila Lake (10.5 miles roundtrip) for more outstanding foliage. Northwest Forest Pass required.
7. Woody Trail to Wallace Falls (pg. 190)
5.0 miles roundtrip, 1,300 ft. elevation gain, Wallace Falls State Park
The Woody Trail to Wallace Falls is a great option for up-close views of the Wallace River, four waterfalls, scenic overlooks with mountain and valley views, and wild mushrooms. Shorten the hike with a visit to Small Falls (1.0 mile roundtrip) or Middle Falls (4.0 miles roundtrip). Discover Pass required.
8. Lake Serene (pg. 198)
7.2 miles roundtrip, 2,000 ft. elevation gain, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Lake Serene is a treat in fall: The lake's aqua blue colors are surrounded by golden greens and Mount Index is dusted in snow. Extend the hike with a trip to Bridal Veil Falls (1.0 mile roundtrip). Northwest Forest Pass required.
9. Lake Valhalla (pg. 230)
6.5 miles roundtrip, 1,400 ft. elevation gain, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Visit a beach in fall—why not? The trail to Lake Valhalla, located just east of Stevens Pass, offers a waterfall of autumnal hues, views of striking Lichtenberg Mountain, and the option to take it all in from a side trip up Mount McCausland (an extra 0.9 miles roundtrip). No parking pass required.
10. Second Burroughs (pg. 338)
6.0 miles roundtrip, 1,200 ft. elevation gain, Mount Rainier National Park
The Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park is a lovely destination in fall: Summer crowds have thinned, grasses have turned a golden yellow, and later sunrise times in the fall give you a chance to catch vistas in their early morning glow. After hiking to Second Burroughs, take the Sunrise Rim Trail on your way back for more spectacular Mount Rainier views. For a shorter option, try the Silver Forest Trail (2.0 miles roundtrip). National Park Pass required.
Tip: Check the road status here before you go. The road to Sunrise typically closes in mid-late October due to winter conditions.