The Washington Trails Association site is fantastic (as is the organization) and worth getting to know.
For trail and road status, see the National Forest Service:
Part of my Seattle Guide.
Mountain Loop Highway
1 hr northwest of the city, with no traffic. In the national forest. See this page for trail conditions. There's more to see here than I've done, but some ideas include:
- Mt Pilchuck. Popular 6mi r/t hike north of the city. Moderate difficulty, so not for everyone. Nice views, less crowded than Mount Si usually. There were a string of break-ins here in a summer past; don't leave valuables in the car. This will give you views back toward Everett and such. To feel more like you are *in* the mountains, I'd recommend Dickerman (see below) or one of the I-90 peaks. Or Gothic Basin (below), even though it isn't a peak hike.
- Gothic Basin Beautiful and somewhat epic. Lakes and peaks. 1 If you are feeling ambitious, you can clamber up above the basin. This hike also passes through Monte Cristo townsite 2, which is also a reasonable walk in its own right.
- Mount Dickerman Nice, standard peak hike. 1
- Big Four Ice Caves. This is a short walk in; about a mile round trip. Pretty. 1, 2. Don't go in.
- Vesper Lake / Peak -- also amazingly beautiful. The basin is nice but a scorcher on hot days (you may get more shade if you get a late start); if you don't like talus, the pass may nto be to your liking. You can go to the peak (views of all the North Cascades) or just poke around the lake.
- Blanca Lake It's a drive, but this is the most beautiful single-lake hike in Washington if not the United States. Not a very long hike. If you are ambitious you can also follow an unmarked trail around the lake to the glacier. 1
- Serene Lake Hike. About seven miles round trip with 2000' elevation gain; great lake 1 at terminus with a nice (small) waterfall about 2 miles in 2. Works on nice days or rainy days.
Snoqualmie Pass (I-90 corridor)
- Exit 31
- Mount Si This is the standard Seattle hike. Close to the city, good views at the top. Crowded. You can find better hikes that have views on the way up. People fall from the haystack, be careful.
- Snoqualmie Falls Large waterfall. Very pretty. View from above is only a couple of hundred feed from the car, on a paved path . A steep trail leads to the bottom. There is a nearby train museum.
- Rattlesnake Ridge - short climb (~4 mi round trip) to a rocky overlook, can see Mount Si across the valley.
- Exit 47
- Franklin Falls & Wagon Road Trail 2 mile loop (can be shortened if you leave from further up the road) that takes in a waterfall 1, 2 and some of the pass's old wagon road 3. It's a sneaker trail (i.e., you can do it in your sneakers without worrying about anything).
- Denny Creek and Lake Melakawa Pleasant walk up to the water slides where you can hang around, walk up the creek, and check out small cascades. You can all slide on them, though I find that the rock is very hard 1, 2. Those with a little more ambition can make more of a hike (9 mi r/t) by climbing up to Hickory Ridge 3 and then descending slightly to Melakwa Lake Basin 4, 5. Overall, I think Serene Lake is prettier as a lake, but the water slides make this a nice two-part hike. If you're going to the lake, bring insect repellent.
- Classic I90 Peak Hikes. These are all serious, steady ups (lots of elevation gain). Mailbox Peak has the best views, I think, but is fairly unremarkable as a mountain other than in its elevation profile - you go up, you eventually break out of the trees, you continue to go up until you can't. It is, though, pretty short. McClellan and Granite Mountain are more remarkable as mountains, but suffer from being/feeing a little closer to 90.
- Rampart Lakes (above Rachel Lake). Very pretty, lots of tiny tarns. 1
- PCT to Kendall Katwalk is a classic. I was not that enamored with it, but it was a cloudy day. 1
A good option when it is rainy on the west side, and because these hikes just look and feel different (and are also fantastic).
- Carne Mountain 1. Fantastic hike for turning larch.
- The Enchantments.. Lots of lakes and tarns. Beautiful range of landscapes - from flowers to barren rock to forests to peaks. Downside: it is an incredibly long day hike, or requires backpacking, and climbing/descending through two very serious mountain passes. Not to be done when the passes could be icy. Truly epic.
- So, yeah, the enchantments are a serious hike. As an alternative, you can go to up to Colchuck Lake, which is straightforward and just below the Enchantments Basin. 1 For a lake hike, though, Blanca should be a higher priority.
- Teenaway. Further south. 1. It is a straightforward hike up to Longs Pass & Ingalls Lake. A number of miles, but smoothly graded. Basically, this 2 + a tack on to Ingalls Lake 3. You can skip Longs Pass to save on some added elevation gain and time.
These are more than a day hike -- it's along drive each way, and you'll be tired coming back. Camping over makes it much more doable/safer.
- Cascade Pass, with the option of going up to Sahale Arm.
- Marmot Pass / Upper Big Quilcene 10.6 mi r/t hike that parallels a lovely creek 1, 2, then climbs to an expanse of endless wildflowers (which will be sparser in August), a camp where springs feed a creek, and finally the pass -- with marmots, views of Puget Sound and the Olympics, and the occasional mountain goat. Elevation gain 3600', on a very humane and recently maintained trail. More energetic hikers can turn left or right at the pass and climb another 500' - 1000' to various additional vistas on unsigned trails. Forest Service PDF.
- Summerland to Panandle Gap. A twelve mile, steady up and down hike that offers much of the best of Rainier: meadows, water, views of the peaks.