Fall is a splendid time of year to see spectacular fall colors in the Pacific Northwest. The natural beauty and terrain of our area means this is a great time of year for a hike through the fall foliage but hurry out there, some of the listed trails are beginning to get a dusting of snow!
Washington Park Arboretum
If you can’t make it out of the city but still want to experience a flood of vibrant reds, oranges and brilliant golds and yellows, head on over to the Arboretum. Stop by the Graham Visitors Center to get information on fall hikes at the information desk or to pick up a few books in the gift shop which is managed by the Arboretum Foundation. Stroll through Azalea Way toward the Seattle Japanese Garden at the south end of the park. You’ll pass through the Woodland Garden, Japanese Maples and Asiatic Maples along the way. The Japanese Garden is awash in colors this time of year.
Some of the most specular fall sights start at the Paradise Jackson Visitor Center. The high up elevation of Paradise means some of the trails have steeper sections. The extensive trails mean there are something for everyone from paved trails to more rustic ones. The Nisqually Vista Trail holds some beautiful views and if you can make it over to Fairy Pond, you’ll be rewarded with lovely fall foliage. https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/paradise.htm
Heather-Maple Pass Loop
The Heather-Maple Pass Loop in the North Cascades has some awe-inspiring views. This is one trail that offers up changing views throughout the seasons with fall as it’s most beautiful. The 7.2 mile trail loop features lakes with golden larches and fragile alpine meadows. Stop for a rest at Lake Ann for a view of the pass before heading up above it for simply amazing views. Make sure to get this hike in before the highway closes for the season though.
Head up to Snoqualmie Pass for a fall foliage extravaganza at Granite Mountain. The lush vegetation makes for great views but don’t be fooled, this is one of the harder hikes on this list. The steep 1000-feet of elevation gain per mile makes for a hard hike. The views of Kaleetan Peak, Crystal Lake and Mount Rainier more than make it worthwhile.
The craggy, steep, debris-filled avalanche chute makes this a danger for inexperienced hikers in the winter and early spring so check the weather before heading out. The Granite Mountain Lookout provides a nice place for a break and some fantastic views but limit your time as space can be tight.
Another hike in the North Cascades that lends itself to fall is Blue Lake. Just over two trail miles from Highway 20, the trail is full of granite peaks, forests, meadows, wildflowers and a mountain lake with deep blue water. This hike is doable for almost all hikers with a short elevation gain of 1050 feet. Find the old dilapidated log cabin along the trail for a fun treat and if you are lucky, you’ll also spot some mountain goats.