10 outdoor escapes near Seattle

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Seattle is undeniably awesome — a world-class city with a vibrant history, shopping, nightlife, arts and culture, food, and more.

But when you find navigating the urban core a chore, it might be time to put the evergreen back in your state of mind.

Just outside the bustling city, you’ll find myriad outdoor activities on state recreation lands managed by Washington State ParksWashington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

These agencies have joined forces to bring you a taste of what you can find just beyond the Seattle city limits. Find your next adventure just 3060, or 90 minutes from the heart of Seattle.

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Lake Washington

Lake Washington is huge — the second largest natural lake in the state and the biggest in King County. This freshwater outdoor recreation mecca is just a short hop by car or bus from both Seattle’s and Bellevue’s metro centers. Fishing, hiking, boating and paddle sports are all within easy reach of Lake Washington’s shore.

What to do

Fishing — It’s open season year-round at Lake Washington where you can catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, cutthroat trout, black crappie, and other panfish species. For more information on public piers and fishing opportunities, download the public piers of Lake Washington guide here.

Hiking —Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore offers a top-notch urban hiking experience. The quiet, forested grounds were once home to a seminary. The park offers the longest stretch of undeveloped shoreline on the lake. Or, trot over to Bridle Trails State Park for a stroll or a horseback ride along the 28 miles of classic Pacific Northwest forest trails.

Boating and paddle sports — Lake Washington’s generally tranquil waters are a hotspot for boating, sailing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Launch your craft from the WDFW ramp in Kenmore, just north of Saint Edward State Park. 

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Edmonds Pier and Edmonds Marsh

No boat, no problem. Try out fishing at the Edmonds Pier with generous seasons for salmon fishing, shellfishing (as seasons allow) and some great September squid fishing.

What to do

Fish— King salmon (Chinook) fishing peaks between mid-July and mid-August. But salmon fishing is open year-round here.

Squid jigging — Reel in a different kind of catch this summer and fall. Squid begin arriving in June and July. But starting in September, scores of migrating squid show up to feed by night. Bring your flashlight, and tackle to the pier and try something new!

Birding — One of the few urban saltwater estuaries remaining in the Puget Sound, Edmonds Marsh is a stop on the Great Washington State Birding Trail – Cascades Loop. Stroll the boardwalk, and see how many of the 90 species of birds that frequent this marsh you can spot.

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Lake Sammamish State Park and the Sammamish River

Seattleites and visitors to the area are lucky when it comes to great places to play on, in and near beautiful waterways. Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah offers wide-open spaces, tranquil waters, two swimming beaches and a state-of-the art, ADA-compliant playground. In addition, the park hosts youth programs, summer concerts, stewardship projects, boating events and more!

What to do

Paddle — Boating is big on Lake Sammamish. But you don’t need a second mortgage — or your own kayak or paddle board — to enjoy a day on the water! Rentals are available.

Fish — The Sammamish River connects Lake Sammamish with Lake Washington. Both are excellent fishing lakes. If you enjoy angling, try for smallmouth bass on the river when the weather warms and they begin to feed.

Hike — Enjoy a trek along beautiful Issaquah Creek and watch for songbirds.

Swim — If it’s warm, go for a swim at the park’s Sunset or Tibbetts beach.

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Saltwater State Park 

A beach within reach! Located on the Puget Sound, Saltwater State Park in Des Moines is a quick ride down Interstate 5 from Seattle. It offers all the fun of a day at the shore without the long drive to the coast.

What to do 

Camp — A night under the stars with just a short drive from the city? Yes, please! The park’s 47 sites do fill up quickly, but you can reserve them up to nine months in advance.

Explore tidepools —McSorley Creek’s fresh water meets the salt water here, and the volume of creatures that call it home are vast and varied. Wade in the shallows and turn over rocks (gently) to make discoveries. In the fall, you may see salmon spawning on the creek!

Dive —Saltwater is the only state park with an underwater artificial reef for diving. It is also a protected marine sanctuary.

Picnic — You’ll find ample picnic tables, shelters, and barbecue pits to cook up a great lunch or dinner.

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Tiger Mountain and Raging River state forests

Looking for that wow factor you can only get from high above the city? Look no further than Tiger Mountain. Located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range, the mountain offers spectacular sweeping views of Issaquah and Seattle. This day-use recreation area and working forest boasts more than 13,000 acres of soaring peaks, roaring river lands, and miles of sun-dappled forest trails.

What to do

Hike — You could spend years exploring the many trails at Tiger Mountain. We recommend starting with  Tiger Mountain Trailhead and Tiger Summit Trailhead off Highway 18. Want more? Head over to West Tiger Mountain Natural Resources Conservation Area for another 41 miles of spectacular hiking.

Bike — Like to bike? Bomb down the Raging River State Forest’s 17-mile bike oriented single-track system. The trails range from easy to expert-only riding levels. This recreation area is expanding, so if you have ridden it before, try it again soon!

Soar — Fly like an eagle at Poo Poo Point! Local hang or paragliding aficionados are likely familiar with this popular launch spot. Not that much of a daredevil? Why not take a hike there and watch gliding enthusiasts riding the breeze — and catch some great views. 

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Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area

Climb on, let’s go! Mount Si NRCA is home to four incredible mountain peaks just waiting for you to summit! A diverse landscape of peaks, streams and lakes, the area is also home to old-growth forest, wildflowers and host of forest creatures including black bear, elk, deer, cougar, coyote and mountain goats.

What to do

Hike — If mountain hiking is your bag, this is your destination. Get to the top of popular Mount SiMount Teneriffe and Green Mountain, then put a pin in Little Si. Once you complete all of these, go ahead and yodel — you definitely earned it.

Climb — Not every crag has a mountain and not every mountain has a crag, but these do, and they are amazing. The Mount Si NRCA has multiple locations to challenge you with world-class rock climbing. Watch out for goats! 

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Middle Fork Snoqualmie Natural Resource Conservation Area

The Middle Fork Snoqualmie NRCA is positive evidence that an Ice Age is not a bad thing. Soaring peaks and glacier-carved basins make these DNR-managed lands near North Bend a diverse outdoor playground. You’ll find legendary hiking and mountain-climbing opportunities here but also some perfect destinations for a weekend family picnic.

What to do

Hike — Middle Fork NRCA is home to one of Washington’s top hiking destinations: Mailbox Peak. Those who make it through the jagged, steeply rising switchbacks to the summit have the opportunity to leave behind a letter to the universe in — you guessed it — the mailbox at the top. But Mailbox is not the only gem. Hike up to Granite Peak to take in views of Russian Butte, or along Granite Creek Trail to Granite Lake to view some glacially carved awesomeness.

Picnic — Not all hikes need to go to the top of something to be wonderful. Plan a weekend trip with the kids to Champion Beach. Once the snow is gone, hikers of most ages should be able to manage this gentle, 1-mile hike. Bonus: kids (and kids at heart) can explore the banks of the Snoqualmie River after lunch.

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Dash Point State Park

Looking to put your toes in the sand? Craving a classic day at a sandy oasis near home?  Dash Point State Park is your destination!  It won’t seem like it, but you’ll be right near the heart of Federal Way — just a short drive to the store if you forget the marshmallows!

What to do

Camp — Dash Point is a larger park than Saltwater, with many more campsites for both tents and RVs. Don’t have either? Try a cabin! Small, cozy cabins — each with its own fire ring to gather around — are available to rent as well.

Skim board — Long, wide stretches of fine sand make Dash Point a skim boarder’s paradise. A cross between surfing and skateboarding, skim boarding carries risks but can be an invigorating pastime with practice. Get used to falling — it’s definitely part of the learning process.

Fish — You can score from the shore at Dash Point! Bring your tackle, and catch your lunch or dinner.

Fly a kite —Round up your favorite kite-flying partner, and enjoy a breezy afternoon at the beach.

Hike and/or bike — Stroll or roll. Dash Point is as nice a park for a cool, forested afternoon hike or ride as a warm day at the beach.

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Blake Island Marine State Park

Thanks to geological forces, Western Washington is rich in islands, large and small. Blake Island Marine State Park is a favorite spot for kayakers, boaters and tourists. From the island you get a commanding view of Seattle, but you feel like you’re a million miles away…

What to do

Tillicum Village — Argosy Cruises offers unique excursions from Pier 54 in Seattle that take you on a tour of Northwest native history, culture and traditions. Tours include a live storytelling show and traditional salmon feast. Tillicum Village is not a part of Blake Island State Park, but Argosy also offers shuttle service to the island for campers as well as beach exploration programs and kayak excursions.

Kayak — As a stop on the Cascadia Marine Trail, Blake Island is a favorite among human-powered boat enthusiasts. Once ashore, you can hike in and camp at one of the three marine trail campsites, or choose from one of the 44 standard campsites. Get there in time for sunset — you won’t be sorry.

Boating — Blake Island is meant for mooring, with 1,500 feet of moorage dock, 24 mooring bouys and a pumpout station. Electrical service is available at the park’s dock. Moor, then head into the interior to explore the island’s network of trails!

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Reiter Foothills State Forest 

A dramatic landscape of mountain peaks, lush forest, rivers and cascading waterfalls awaits you at Reiter Foothills State Forest. Motorized and non–motorized recreationists can find something to love in Reiter Foothills.

What to do

Go moto! — Reiter Foothills has miles of fun, challenging 4×4 trails and ATV single-track trails with more planned for the future. Bring your favorite rig, and stir up a little dust!

 Go non-moto! — Miles of hiking and biking trails snake through Reiter Foothills.

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The Discover Pass is your ticket to state recreation lands managed by State Parks, WDFW and DNR. An annual pass is $30, and a one-day pass is $10. (Transaction fees apply in some cases.)

Fishing: Pick up your fishing license and download a copy of the 2019 fishing pamphlet. (TIP: Check with the Department of Health before consuming certain kinds of fish.)

Water access sites: Where are the boat ramps? WDFW offers a comprehensive list.

Boating safety and education: Do you have a Boater Education Card? Do you know if you need one? Washington State Parks’ Boating Program has more information.

Trail etiquette: Do you know who has right-of-way on a trail?

Getting there. Don’t have a car? Try taking the bus: King County Metro Transit, Community Transit (Snohomish County). King County Metro also offers its Trailhead Direct service from late April through late October. Also, ZipCar offers a Discover Pass to its members!

Make a reservation: Book your state park overnight stay online, or call (888) CAMPOUT or (888) 226-7688.

Our agency websites offer a wealth of information you can use to plan your next dream outdoor vacation. Visit us today!

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Washington State Department of Natural Resources

Washington State Parks

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