The Best Outdoor Activities in Seattle

05/18/2022 | by Andy | Local Area Guide

While known as an urban hot spot, there are plenty of great outdoor activities right outside (and inside!) Seattle’s city limits. Known as The Emerald City due to its abundant greenery, you won’t have to work too hard to enjoy some time outside while visiting Seattle.

Some of these activities are found right inside the city limits while others are best taken advantage of as day trips or a weekend getaway. Pick and choose the ones that appeal most to you and get ready to enjoy a nice mix of urban with rural while staying in one of our vacation rental homes.

Here are a few of local favorites to shake up your vacation and enjoy some fresh air while in Seattle.

Go Hiking

Great year round, hiking in the Seattle area provides a lot of diversity in trails, distance, terrain, and difficulty. There is plenty of hiking near the city. With a plethora of mountain ranges, the Cascade Mountains to the east, the Olympic Mountains to the west, and beautiful Mount Rainier looming in the south, there are plenty of great trails to choose from. That’s not to mention the trails we have along the coastline or in our lush evergreen forests!

Ranging from easy to difficult, hikers love coming here due to the abundance of options. Some of these hiking trails are also open to mountain bikes.

A popular, moderate hike is Rattlesnake Ridge, located south of North Bend, Washington. The trailhead is only about 35 minutes from downtown Seattle. This hike covers about 4 miles roundtrip, with varying slope throughout. Views of Rattlesnake Lake from the ledge are majestic. Bring plenty of water with you for the hike.

There are numerous other hiking venues as well. Between AllTrails and The Washington Trails Association, you’ll have plenty of great trails to choose from.

Within the city limits, Discovery Park offers many wooded trails. Located in the Magnolia neighborhood on the shores of Puget Sound, this is Seattle’s largest park. Here, you can enjoy trails that take you through the woods and along the coast, just minutes away from your city rental.

Hit the Slopes

If you visit us in the winter or spring, one of the best things to do in the Pacific Northwest is to go skiing or snowboarding. We prefer to take a full weekend (or more) when we ski, and when we do so, we hop over the Canadian border to Whistler. However, there are several options that are within driving distance for a daytrip.

Be sure to check the weather and road conditions before you go – the passes close frequently in winter due to snow and avalanche dangers.

Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass is a popular choice and is about 2 hours outside of Seattle. The local town of Leavenworth is a Bavarian-esque town, ideal for grabbing a beer after your runs. Keep in mind that if you plan to drive to Stevens Pass, one of the biggest downsides is parking! Parking is really limited there and we’ve heard stories of traffic jams and even full parking lots once you’ve arrived.

Snoqualmie Pass

For an even closer place to go skiing, you’ll enjoy Snoqualmie Pass. This area is less than an hour from the city center. The area is small, but has a variety of terrain and the convenience is really hard to pass up. You’ll get great views of the natural beauty of the Seattle area from these mountains.

Crystal Mountain

The third option for skiing near Seattle is at Crystal Mountain. This is the largest ski resort in Washington State. Crystal Mountain is located on the northeast side of Mt. Rainier, about a 2 ½ hour drive from Seattle.

Head to the Waterfront

The Waterfront Activities Center (WAC) at University of Washington is a great place to rent canoes, rowboats, kayaks, and paddleboards. It is located right near the UW football stadium. For a reasonable hourly fee, you are invited to paddle yourself around Lake Washington. This is a fabulous way to get exercise and enjoy the sights on a nice summer day. During peak season, budget in a little waiting time before you are dispatched on your boat.

If you’d like to go sailing, consider Windworks Sailing and Powerboating. Our friend, Andrew, reports that boats are impeccably well kept, staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and prices are very reasonable. They offer everything from captained sailing outings to sailing classes to bareboat rentals.

Go Whale Watching

Eager to see a Killer Whale in person? With these guided tours, you’ll get to spend a day out on the water while also seeing some of the planet’s most fascinating mammals. While it won’t give you the exercise of hiking, biking, or skiing, it will give you the outdoor adventure of a lifetime.

There are a handful of tour companies that specialize in whale watching near San Juan and in the Puget Sound.

Visit Seattle’s Parks

Although most people think of great coffee, rock music, rainy days, and grunge style when picturing Seattle, there’s a lot more to our city than just our famous stereotypes. Sure Seattle has a vibrant metropolitan area but what many don’t realize is that many of the neighborhoods also have plenty of parks and greenspace mixed.

A few of our favorite Seattle parks include:

  • The Washington Park Arboretum (on the Seattle waterfront of Lake Washington)
  • Lake Union Park (not the largest but one of the most popular parks)
  • Interlaken Park (one of the city’s hidden gems and the best parks to get in a great workout)
  • The Woodland Park Zoo (the best for a family-friendly outing)
  • Kerry Park (for great views of the Seattle skyline and the Space Needle)
  • Alki Beach Park (a long strip of beach in West Seattle)

Take a Drive to Olympic National Park

Located on the Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park is where you’ll want to visit if you’re eager to see the Pacific Northwest’s rainforest. You’ll get to visit a variety of ecosystems in this park but in our opinion, the old-growth forests and lush rainforest really take the cake.

Within the park, you can drive around the outskirts or head deep into the foliage with a hike. Only about an hour away from downtown Seattle to the southern edge of the park, you can check it out as a day trip or a longer camping trip.

Take the Ferry to Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island, located just across Puget Sound from Seattle is only a short ferry ride away from the city. The ferry only takes about 30 minutes. While Bainbridge Island isn’t completely natural, there are a lot of great parks, forests, and trails to enjoy here as well.

One of the biggest perks of taking the ferry here is to be able to see Seattle by water and experience the city from a different vantage point.

Explore Seattle’s Outdoor Activities

With this, you’re ready to enjoy the best of Seattle’s outdoor adventures. You’re in for a treat when you visit our Emerald City. With plenty of city amenities intertwined with wide open greenspaces, beaches, and hiking trails, there’s no lack of things to do, see, and explore while visiting Seattle.