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Best Fall Hikes near Seattle

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Fall begins this week and with it my favorite time of year for hiking! It’s cooler, less crowded and generally no bugs! In the Pacific Northwest we have an abundance of gorgeous fall color and hiking trails to enjoy them. Pack a hot drink, some soup and some extra warm clothes and make sure you’re keeping track of time on these shorter days (and of course bring your ten essentials!) and get ready for the best scenery of the year! These are my Top 5 best fall hikes near Seattle (near Seattle is defined by a doable day trip):

Cedar River Trail (Renton-in town, great for biking!)

Cedar River Trail Maple Tree fall color
Maple trees turn yellow and orange along the Cedar River trail in mid October

Bad weather? Not wanting to drive far? Want a paved trail or a path to bike instead of walking? Give the Cedar River Trail in Renton a try! Some of it passes close to a road but it also has some beautiful maple trees. The peak color on this trail is generally in mid October. The trail is 17 miles long with about 800 feet of elevation gain which is not noticeable when you’re walking on the trail. Biking you’ll notice the slight downhill on the way back (fun!).

Headlight basin/Lake Ingalls (Central Cascades)

Mt Stuart Fall Lake Ingalls trail larches
Mt Stuart with it’s first dusting of snow framed by golden larches as seen from Headlight basin on the Lake Ingalls trail in early October.

Headlight basin on the Lake Ingalls Trail is filled with golden larches in late September and early October making it a spectacular moderate day hike (or overnight backpacking trip). You can continue on to Lake Ingalls (a half mile scramble further on), but the fall color is in headlight basin (and some on the way up to it). If you’re up for backpacking, headlight basin is where camping is allowed and it has amazing stars at night and is even more amazing in early morning and late evening light. The view of Mt Stuart is incredible as well. The trailhead is about a two hour drive from Seattle. The entire hike to Lake Ingalls is 9 miles round trip with 2500 feet of elevation gain.

Maple Pass (North Cascades)

Maple Pass Trail Fall North Cascades golden larches
Larches beginning to turn golden in late September with North Cascades behind as seen from the Maple Pass Trail


Lake Ann Fall color Maple pass trail north cascades
Multicolored bushes line Lake Ann in late September as seen from the Maple Pass trail

Maple Pass is a long drive from Seattle, no question. I have done this in a day trip from Seattle and it’s a long day (4 hour drive from Seattle each way) but 100% worth it. This is an amazing hike with amazing scenery of the North Cascades. In fall, this is another winner with loads of golden larches around the summit in late September and early October. The hillsides as you climb to the pass are also covered in bushes turning every shade of yellow, orange and red. There is an open rocky area about a mile in where there are usually pikas as well. This is a loop hike, which I always love! The loop is about 7.5 miles with about 2000 feet of elevation gain.

Cowiche Canyon (Yakima area)

Cowiche Canyon Fall Color
Hikers enjoying the fall color and captivating geography along the Cowiche Canyon Trail in mid October

Cowiche Canyon is another fabulous year round destination that I covered in a previous post, but it’s especially gorgeous in fall when the leaves are changing! Don’t forget this hike leads to a winery! The trail through the canyon is 3 miles (6 miles round trip) and it’s flat, although the climb up to the winery is about a hundred feet up the side of the canyon.

Naches Peak Loop (Mt Rainier/Chinook Pass)

Fall Colors naches peak loop trail
Red berry bushes peak out of the first snowfall along the Naches Peak loop in mid October

You won’t be surprised to see the Naches Peak Loop listed yet again on one of my Top-nearly-everything-lists! This moderate hike has amazing views of Mt Rainier and lots of bushes and undergrowth changing color. In fall there is also often snow, so make sure to evaluate conditions and determine if it’s safe to enjoy the trail on a snowy day. The loop (yay loops!) is about 4 miles with a bit under 1000 feet of elevation gain

Golden larch trees are seen from below against a blue sky
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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!