Must-Do Outdoor Activities in Seattle, Washington

With its evergreen forests, shimmering waterways, and breathtaking scenery, Seattle is a nature-lovers paradise. From hiking in the mountains to kayaking on tranquil lakes, there’s no shortage of exceptional outdoor activities in Seattle to enjoy.

Explore the numerous hiking trails that wind through the nearby Cascade Mountains and Olympic Mountains. Discover everything from easy nature walks to challenging backcountry adventures. Seattle’s bike-friendly culture is evident in its extensive bike lanes and trails network. Rent a bike and pedal along scenic routes like the Burke-Gilman Trail or explore the city’s neighborhoods on two wheels.

Puget Sound offers endless possibilities for kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing. Spend time on the waters while enjoying breathtaking views of the city skyline and the surrounding islands.

Seattle is a gateway to some of the country’s most iconic national parks, including Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park. These pristine wilderness areas offer a chance to connect with nature on an epic scale. Don’t overlook Seattle’s urban parks, like Discovery Park, Green Lake Park, and Gas Works Park, which all provide a refreshing escape within the city limits.

Inspired to get out and about? Plan your adventures in & around the Emerald City with this complete Seattle outdoor activities guide!

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Go hiking in Discovery Park

Lace up those boots and hit the trails at Discovery Park. A short drive from Downtown Seattle, the 534-acre park is a beloved treasure, offering hiking trails, historical landmarks, and breathtaking views of the Puget Sound.

Situated on the historic grounds of Fort Lawton in the Magnolia neighborhood, Discovery Park boasts a network of trails that wind through lush forests, along picturesque bluffs, and down to the beautiful Puget Sound shoreline. Perfect for beginners, the Loop Trail is a 2.8-mile loop that takes you through a forested area and sprawling meadows, boasting breathtaking panoramic views of the sound.

For a coastal experience at Discovery Park, venture down the South Beach Trail. This two-mile round-trip trail will lead you to the sandy beach, where you can explore tide pools and enjoy the serene shoreline.

Hiking in Discovery Park

A bit more challenging, the North Beach Trail is a 3.5-mile loop. It leads you through thick forests and offers glimpses of wildlife while taking you to the northern beach.

If you crave breathtaking vistas, don’t miss the Bluff Trail. It’s a short and easy hike with views of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier, and the Cascade Mountains. Explore the historic West Point Lighthouse at the park’s western tip. It’s a fantastic spot for photos and offers a glimpse into maritime history.

While in Seattle, don’t miss the chance to hike the iconic Mount Si, about 30 miles east of the city. Offering a different hiking experience than Discovery Park, Mount Si is a popular Seattle hiking destination if you want a challenging and rewarding adventure.

Go kayaking on Lake Union or Lake Washington

Bright, sunny Seattle days call for hitting the water on a kayak! Seattle’s vibrant waterways, including Lake Union and Lake Washington, offer a unique perspective of the city and its natural beauty.

Spanning 580 acres, Lake Union is surrounded by neighborhoods like South Lake Union, Eastlake, and Wallingford. To the east, Lake Washington is the second-largest natural lake in Washington State, spanning over 20 miles long and covering more than 22,000 acres.

Paddle around Lake Union and get up close to iconic Seattle landmarks like the Space Needle and Gas Works Park. The ever-changing cityscape makes for an exciting urban kayaking experience. Cruise past the famous houseboats featured in the movie Sleepless in Seattle and marvel at their unique architecture.

Kayaking on Lake Union

On Lake Washington, you’ll find a more serene and natural setting. Paddle through lush wetlands, take in views of Mount Rainier, and feel like you’re miles away from the city despite being in its midst. Many public beaches line the shores of Lake Washington, making it easy to pull ashore for a picnic or a swim on a sunny day.

Both lakes offer fantastic opportunities to watch seaplanes take off and land. Lake Washington is known for its bass, trout, and salmon if you’re into fishing.

Cool off with some swimming at Alki Beach

If you’re craving a quintessential Seattle beach experience, look no further than Alki Beach. Nestled along the shores of Puget Sound in West Seattle, Alki Beach offers a delightful mix of sun, sand, and water activities right in the heart of the city.

One of the most popular beaches in Seattle, Alki Beach boasts a beautiful saltwater swimming area, perfect for a refreshing dip on a warm day. Spread out your towel on the sandy shore and soak up the sun. Beyond swimming, you can try paddleboarding, kayaking, or even beach volleyball.

Swimming at Alki Beach

The paved Alki Beach Trail is perfect for biking and rollerblading. You can rent bikes from local shops and enjoy a scenic ride with panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains and downtown Seattle.

And don’t miss the breathtaking sunsets! Alki Beach offers some of the best sunset views in Seattle. It’s a perfect spot for a romantic evening walk.

Enjoy a picnic at Gas Works Park

While the name may not conjure images of picnics and lawn games, Gas Works Park is a unique and iconic urban oasis with a blend of history, industrial charm, and scenic beauty. Set on the northern shore of Lake Union, the park is an exceptional spot for a picnic.

Located in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, Gas Works Park sits on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant. Spread your picnic blanket on the lush, grassy hills overlooking Lake Union and the Seattle skyline. The panoramic views are awe-inspiring, providing the perfect backdrop for relaxing.

Picnic at Gas Works Park

Wander around the park to admire the industrial art sculptures and the machinery from the gas plant. These industrial artifacts make for a fascinating and unusual picnic setting and offer a chance to learn about Seattle’s industrial past.

The park’s wide-open spaces and often breezy conditions make it an ideal spot for flying kites. Pack your favorite kite and enjoy the skies above Lake Union. Kids can burn off energy at a dedicated playground.

Play a round of golf at The Golf Club at Newcastle

Practice your swing with a relaxing round of golf at the Golf Club at Newcastle. Tucked into the hills overlooking Seattle, The Golf Club at Newcastle is a golfer’s paradise with unparalleled views of Seattle, Lake Washington, and the Olympic Mountains.

The Golf Club at Newcastle is located about 15 miles southeast of Downtown Seattle. It boasts two spectacular championship courses: The China Creek Course and The Coal Creek Course. Each offers its unique challenges and beautiful landscapes.

Before your round, warm up at the expansive driving range and practice greens, ensuring you’re ready for the challenges ahead. Tee off with a backdrop of the Seattle skyline and the majestic Cascade Range. The scenic vistas are reason enough to visit, even if you’re not an avid golfer. Beginner golfer? Don’t despair! The club offers golf lessons and clinics with PGA-certified instructors.

After a round of golf, enjoy a meal or a drink at The Calcutta Grill, a restaurant known for its delicious cuisine and spectacular views. Stock up on golf gear, apparel, and souvenirs at the on-site golf shop.

Embark on a whale-watching tour in the Salish Sea with FRS Clipper

Embark on a thrilling journey with FRS Clipper to witness the incredible marine life of the Salish Sea. On this renowned whale-watching tour, you’ll see magnificent orcas, humpback whales, and other marine creatures in their natural habitat.

FRS Clipper operates its whale-watching tours from the heart of downtown Seattle. Board their comfortable and spacious vessels at Pier 69, conveniently located along the city’s bustling waterfront.

The Salish Sea, encompassing the waters between Seattle and Vancouver Island, is a globally recognized hotspot for whale watching. It’s home to a thriving population of orcas, humpback whales, gray whales, and more. While whales take center stage, the Salish Sea is also home to seals, sea lions, bald eagles, and various seabirds. Keep your camera ready to capture these incredible moments.

Beyond the wildlife, the tour offers scenic views of the Pacific Northwest coastline, including rugged shorelines, picturesque islands, and lush forests. Experienced naturalists lead each tour and share their knowledge about the region’s marine life.

FRS Clipper is so confident in their whale-watching experience that they offer a ‘Whale Sighting Guarantee.’ If you don’t see a whale, you’ll receive a complimentary return trip!

Go skiing or snowboarding at The Summit at Snoqualmie

When the snow falls in Seattle, it’s time to hit the slopes at one of two iconic destinations: The Summit at Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass. These mountain resorts, located just a short drive from Seattle, offer thrilling winter sports experiences for all ages and levels.

The Summit at Snoqualmie encompasses four distinct ski areas—Alpental, Summit West, Summit Central, and Summit East—each with its character and terrain. Whether you’re a beginner seeking groomed runs or an expert craving challenging steeps, there’s a slope suited to your skill level.

Skiing at The Summit at Snoqualmie

Take a break from the slopes and experience the thrill of zooming down groomed lanes on inflatable tubes at the Summit Tubing Center. Embrace the tranquil beauty of the Cascade Mountains with a Nordic skiing adventure at the Summit Nordic Center.

Stevens Pass, another cherished winter playground, offers a wide variety of slopes, from gentle beginner runs to challenging expert trails. Freestyle enthusiasts can explore terrain parks featuring jumps, rails, and other features to hone their skills and catch some air.

Stevens Pass offers night skiing and snowboarding, extending the fun into the evening hours. Explore the serene Nordic skiing trails, offering a tranquil escape into the snowy wilderness. Rentals and lessons are available if you’re new to cross-country skiing.

Take a bike ride on the Burke-Gilman Trail

When it comes to biking adventures in Seattle, the Burke-Gilman Trail is a top pick, and a ride that includes a visit to Golden Gardens Park is nothing short of spectacular.

Named after Judge Thomas Burke and Daniel Gilman, the Burke-Gilman Trail spans about 18 miles from Golden Gardens Park in Ballard to the suburb of Bothell. This former rail line turned multi-use trail has been a beloved Seattle destination since the 70s.

The trail offers a mix of flat, paved sections and gentle inclines, catering to bikers of all levels, including families and beginners. As you pedal, admire the beautiful scenery, including sparkling Lake Washington, meandering creeks, lush forests, and charming neighborhoods.

Bike ride on the Burke-Gilman Trail

Golden Gardens Park is a must-stop on your bike ride. Nestled along the shores of Puget Sound, this waterfront gem is perfect for relaxing on the beach, dipping in the Sound, or enjoying a picnic with views of the Olympic Mountains.

If you don’t have your bike, rent one from one of the bike shops in Seattle. Some shops even offer delivery and pickup services, making starting and ending your ride at any point along the trail convenient.

Go sledding or snow tubing at Mount Rainier National Park

When the snow blankets the landscape around Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park becomes a magical playground for snow enthusiasts. If you’re looking for thrills and chills, snow tubing and sledding on the slopes of this iconic national park are must-try winter activities.

Mount Rainier National Park’s winter landscape is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Towering snow-capped peaks, frosted forests, and frozen waterfalls create a picture-perfect backdrop for your snowy adventures.

Paradise Area at Mount Rainier National Park

The Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park transforms into a snow paradise during the Seattle winter months. The Paradise Snowplay Area is designated for snow tubing and sledding fun. While you can bring your sled or snow tube, you’ll also find rental options nearby, making joining in on the snowy action easy, even if you didn’t pack winter gear.

If you want to explore the park on foot, try snowshoeing. Guided snowshoe walks are often available, offering a unique way to experience the park’s winter wilderness.

Take a boat cruise with Argosy Cruises

Discover the beauty and history of Seattle from the water on a boat cruise with Argosy Cruises. Explore the vibrant urban and natural landscapes that connect Elliott Bay to the serene beauty of Lake Union on this unique voyage.

Your sailing adventure begins in Elliott Bay, a bustling harbor in downtown Seattle’s heart. The cruise follows historic waterways that have been pivotal in Seattle’s development since its early days.

Throughout your voyage, attentive guides provide fascinating narratives about Seattle’s history, maritime heritage, and the captivating stories behind the landmarks you pass. As you move from Elliott Bay to Lake Union, you’ll get a fresh perspective on Seattle’s urban landscape, contrasting the cityscape with the tranquility of the lake.

Boat cruise with Argosy Cruises

On the first leg of your journey, enjoy views of the iconic Space Needle, the bustling waterfront, and the historic piers of Seattle. Keep an eye out for harbor seals and other marine wildlife.

Your cruise may take you through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, also known as the Ballard Locks. Witness these locks’ impressive operation, allowing boats to move between the saltwater of Puget Sound and the freshwater of Lake Union.

As you arrive at Lake Union, marvel at floating homes, houseboats, and beautiful views of the city’s skyline reflected in the calm waters. It’s a peaceful contrast to the hustle and bustle of downtown.

Go for a walk around Green Lake

Enjoy a gentle stroll around Green Lake and soak up the beautiful scenic vistas. This natural gem rests in the heart of Seattle and offers a picturesque escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Formed over 50,000 years ago, Green Lake has been a recreational hub since the late 19th century.

Amble along the Green Lake Trail, a 2.8-mile paved path encircling the lake. Take in picturesque views of the lake, framed by a backdrop of lush trees and charming homes. The park surrounding the lake features playgrounds, picnic areas, and open spaces for sunbathing and relaxation. It’s an ideal spot for families and picnickers.

Walk around Green Lake

On a warm day, kayakers, paddleboarders, and swimmers enjoy Green Lake’s calm, clear waters. Don’t miss an iconic piece of Seattle’s cultural history – the Green Lake Aqua Theater. This historic venue has hosted concerts, movies, and theatrical performances.

Grab your binoculars! Green Lake is a haven for birdwatchers with many species of waterfowl, including herons, ducks, and Canada geese.

Take a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island

Love the feeling of salty sea air whipping through your hair? Hop on a ferry and enjoy a delightful journey from downtown Seattle across the Puget Sound to picturesque Bainbridge Island. This charming island has a rich history, captivating attractions, and many outdoor adventures.

Head to the Seattle Ferry Terminal to board the Bainbridge Island ferry. As you depart, take in breathtaking views of Seattle’s skyline, the Olympic Mountains, and the shimmering waters of the Puget Sound. The ferry offers comfortable seating, restrooms, and even a cafeteria where you can grab a bite to eat or a warm drink.

Upon arrival at Bainbridge Island, stroll through the charming downtown area. You’ll find a variety of shops, galleries, and restaurants to explore. Be sure to visit the renowned Bainbridge Island Museum of Art for a dose of culture.

Ferry ride to Bainbridge Island

Nature enthusiasts should head to the Bloedel Reserve, a fantastic 150-acre landscape garden featuring diverse plant collections and tranquil settings. It’s a peaceful oasis for a leisurely walk.

If you prefer hiking, Bainbridge Island offers a range of trails, including the Grand Forest, Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve, and the IslandWood Trail.

Learn about an essential piece of history at the Japanese-American Exclusion Memorial. It commemorates the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and is a poignant reminder of the island’s past.

Mia Russell

Mia Russell is a freelance writer based in South Africa with a passion for travel. She’s travelled to 35 countries and counting, and when she is not in the water swimming, freediving, or snorkeling in beautiful places around the world, she is writing about her experiences. Before becoming a freelance travel writer, Mia worked as Chief Copy Editor for Glamor magazine and Managing Editor for One Small Seed Magazine. She's a regular contributor to travel websites like Go City, Bookmundi, The Maldives Expert, and Heritage Safaris.

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