With over 3,000 total trails spanning across more than 700 miles throughout Washington's State Parks, there are many hikes to choose from within an hour's drive of Seattle. So many that it can get a little overwhelming scrolling through all of the different hikes listed on the Washington Trail Association or AllTrails.com.
Many of the hikes you'll see listed on these databases are over 6 miles long with upwards of 2,000 feet of elevation gain. While these hikes are great when you have the time and preparation to conquer them, occasionally you need an easy hike that you can complete in three hours or less, without the need to be in fantastic shape.
In this post, I'm going to highlight my three favorite short hikes near Seattle. These hikes are within an hour's drive from Seattle and present beautiful views without the need to hike for miles on end.
Chirico Trail to Poo Poo Point
Distance from Seattle: 24 Minutes
Length: 3.8 Miles Roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1760 Feet
If you haven't heard of Poo Poo Point before, then I realize how ridiculous it is to be reading those words! Poo Poo Point got its name from the logging industry about a century ago. Loggers would use whistles to communicate from the top of the mountain to the bottom. When logs got loaded into the cable system, the loggers would sound off two whistles making a 'poo-poo' sound; hence, the name Poo Poo Point was born.
Chirico Trail up to Poo Poo Point is perhaps the closest hiking trail to Seattle that gives you fantastic views of Issaquah, Bellevue, Seattle, Lake Sammamish, Mt Rainier, and Mt Baker. From the top, you may see some Paragliders taking off from the flattened area where the logging operation once was.
Getting to the Chirico Trail from Seattle is simple and involves a short 24-minute drive on I-90 to Issaquah. After getting off the highway, you'll make a few turns through Issaquah's town before arriving at the parking lot on the left-hand side. Like most short hikes near Seattle, the trail can be hectic. If the parking lot is full, there's an overflow across the street that you can park in. It will cost you $5.00 to park here, and you'll see a pay station located towards the entrance. You can either pay in cash or use Venmo.
The Chirico Trail starts by leading you through a large grass field. This field is the landing zone for paragliders that take off at the top of the mountain, so be sure to keep your eyes up for anyone coming in to land. The trail will take you under a gated entryway and over a small wooden bridge before you hit the actual trailhead to the hike.
As you continue past the trailhead, you will start hiking through a relatively dense forest with the help of rock steps. The Chirico Trail starts reasonably steep as you make your way up the ridgeline. At some points, the trees will open up, and you will see just how much ground you've covered compared to how far the road is below you. Eventually, the steep ridgeline climb will subside, and you will start climbing a few switchbacks mixed with a more gradual incline.
You will be in the shade amongst the trees for the entire hike, but at 1700 feet of elevation in just 1.9 miles, you climb upwards pretty quickly, so make sure you have plenty of water and snacks to keep you fueled up.
After winding through the forest for about 1.4 miles, you'll come to one opening in the trail that presents beautiful, unobstructed views of Mt. Rainier. This opening is an excellent spot for a quick break with a view, but it is not the top.
Continue winding through the forest for another quarter of a mile, and you'll reach the South Launch Viewpoint. At the viewpoint, you'll have another unobstructed view of Rainier, and you will likely see other hikers enjoying the view and eating some lunch. You can choose to stop and eat here, or you can continue another hundred feet up the trail to the top of Poo Poo Point, where you will see Lake Sammamish and the surrounding cities, along with Paragliders taking off.
The Chirico Trail up to Poo Poo Point is one of my favorite short hikes near Seattle. Being less than a half-hour from the city and being a quick and challenging hike with amazing views, it makes for a great afternoon or early morning excursion.
Distance from Seattle: 34 Minutes
Length: 2.6 Miles Roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 500 Feet
Second up on the list of short hikes near Seattle is Twin Falls. More of a nature walk than a hike, Twin Falls features some beautiful views of rivers, waterfalls, and old-growth forests.
Just a 34-minute drive from Seattle, the trailhead to Twin Falls is easily accessible and straightforward. You will need a discover pass to park here to avoid extra fees or tickets. If you don't have a pass, you can purchase a day pass at the trailhead.
The hike will start parallel to the river. You'll likely see people and dogs playing in the river amongst mossy trees and rocks. Continue to hike along the river on a relatively flat trail until eventually, you veer away from the river and start climbing a hill. You'll wind around a few switchbacks before reaching the top of the first hill. At the top, you'll find benches if you need a quick break, and you'll get the first views of lower Twin Falls in the distance.
As you continue to Twin Falls, you'll walk down the hill you just climbed until you are once again parallel with the river. After walking along the river for a few hundred feet, you will begin climbing the second hill. The second hill, like the first, features a few switchbacks to help you navigate the terrain. After reaching the top of the second hill, you'll start down a gradual downhill until you see a wooden stairway leading down to a lookout on your right-hand side. This viewpoint will present you with terrific views of lower Twin Falls.
After filling your camera with photos of the unique looking waterfall, climb the steps back up to the trail and continue hiking along the path until you reach another staircase that takes you down to a large bridge crossing. From the bridge, you'll have fantastic views of the valley, along with upper Twin Falls.
Once you reach the big bridge, you are best to turn around and begin your hike back to the car. You'll see a trail that continues past the bridge, but it doesn't feature any more notable viewpoints.
Dirty Harry's Balcony
Distance from Seattle: 39 Minutes
Length: 4.0 Miles Roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1410 Feet
Third, on the list of short hikes near Seattle is Dirty Harry's Balcony. A 40-minute drive from downtown Seattle, the trailhead to Dirty Harry's Balcony is just off of exit 38 on Interstate 90. In total, the hike is 4 miles roundtrip, with an elevation gain of 1,410 feet. On a clear day at the summit, you will have fantastic views of the surrounding Cascade Mountains along with I-90 winding through the valley far below you.
There is a decent-sized parking lot at the trailhead, so parking shouldn't be too much of an issue unless it is a beautifully sunny day or a holiday - then I would be sure to get there early! You need to have a discovery pass visible on your car while you are hiking, so make sure you don't forget your pass. If you don't have one, you can purchase a day pass right at the trailhead.
When you start the hike, you'll follow a flat trail through the woods for about a tenth of a mile. It won't be long before you come to an opening in the path that leads on to a road. At this point, you'll want to walk along the road over the concrete bridge. At the end of the bridge on the right-hand side, you'll see a sign where Dirty Harry's trail resumes.
As you continue hiking on the trail, you'll walk amongst ferns, dense forests, and large boulders. Rock climbers commonly use the Dirty Harry's Balcony trail, and you'll see a fair amount of signage dictating the popular climbing spots. After hiking parallel to the river for a few hundred feet, the trail will open up to these giant boulders, and you'll start going through switchbacks weaving around them. Thanks to fantastic work from volunteers and the Washington Trails Association, the entire trail is well maintained and marked with signs.
Eventually, the switchbacks will end, and an overlook will present you with the valley's first views. Just be careful when stepping down to the viewpoint, especially when it is wet, as there are some massive cliffs. After this first overlook, you'll have just under a mile to go before reaching Dirty Harry's Balcony. The final mile is a mix of human-made steps out of the rocks, along with open, easy to navigate terrain. Before you reach the summit, you'll go downhill a few times, which can be slightly confusing, making you think you might have missed something. But don't fret; at the bottom of one of the sweeping downhills, you'll reach a split in the trail. To the left, you'll see the path to Dirty Harry's Peak, while to the right, you'll see signage for Dirty Harry's Balcony. Take the trail to the right and hike another tenth of a mile before you reach Dirty Harry's Balcony.
We hiked the Balcony trail on a stormy, foggy day, so we didn't see much for views. If the skies are clear, you should see some terrific views of the mountains to the east.
Distance from Seattle: One Hour
Length: 2.2 Miles Roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 830 Feet
The final short hike near Seattle is Garfield Ledges. Although a little further compared to the other hikes in this post, Garfield Ledges provides a very scenic viewpoint with a minimal effort to reap its benefits. At just 2.2 miles roundtrip, and an elevation gain of 830 feet, the hike is relatively steep, but with such a short distance, it is very friendly to hikers of all ability levels.
The trailhead to Garfield Ledges is precisely an hour outside of Seattle, and like every other hike included in this post, it is straightforward to get to from Interstate 90. Along the way to the trailhead, you'll pass by a few trailheads for other hikes, such as the famed Mailbox Peak Hike. Once you reach the parking lot for Garfield Ledges, you'll find the start of the trail located just behind the public restrooms on the right side of the parking lot.
Once you're on the trail, the hike quickly ascends. You'll walk amongst ferns, towering trees, and stumps left over from the logging operations that took place over a century ago. There are sections of the hike that have wooden stairs to help you ascend the steep terrain. As it is only one mile to reach the top, it won't be long before you reach the sizeable cliff-face viewpoint known as 'Garfield Ledge.
Enjoy the vast views of Taylor River and Middle Fork River down below, along with the surrounding Cascade Mountain Range.