We are lucky to live in such a beautiful area so close to mountains, lakes, and waterfalls! Here are 10 hikes for you to enjoy with family and friends. They are not too far from Seattle/Bellevue and not too difficult for children, so everyone can have fun.
(Note: for most of the hikes you will need a Discover Pass or a Northwest Forest Pass to park your car in the lot. Passes can be purchased online or at REI or Big 5 Sporting Goods stores or at some gas stations.)
** In springtime, some trails may still be covered with snow. You can check trail conditions before you go by reading the other hiker's "trip reports" found by scrolling to the bottom of each WTA link given below.
1) Ashael Curtis Nature Trail- This short loop off of I-90 is an easy escape to nature. The trail is just 1 mile long, circling 500 acres of old-growth forest. You'll see enormous Douglas fir trees, cedars, and hemlocks. If you're new to hiking, this is a good, easy way to try it out! http://trailsnorthwest.com/asahelcurtis
(Northwest Forest Pass Required)
2) High Point Trail- A nice trail system that's a great forest setting and good for all skill levels. It's located in the Tiger Mountain area, not far at all from Seattle/Bellevue. There are babbling creeks and small lakes to see along the way. The hike is 2 miles roundtrip. http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/high-point-trail (Discover Pass required)
3) Snow Lake- This high mountain lake is one of the most beautiful places that you can hike to so close to Seattle. The hike is 3.5 miles one-way, so plan for a 7 mile hike round-trip, with approximately 1,700 ft in elevation gain. This is a more challenging hike and also a very popular hike, so you will have plenty of company along the trail, especially on the weekends. During the early spring, conditions may be snowy and dangerous, but as the temperatures warm, the area becomes quite nice. It's definitely worth seeing!
http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/snow-lake-1 (Northwest Forest Pass required)
4) Franklin Falls- This waterfall is impressive because you view it from the bottom looking upward, and it is tall, high, and narrow. It's a great hike for children because the trail is not difficult and not too long, just 2 miles round-trip. Plus, the trailhead is only about 45 minutes drive from Bellevue area.
(Northwest Forest Pass required)
5) Denny Creek Slippery Rocks- While it's not exactly a waterfall, more like a waterslide, this is one of my favorite hikes to do with kids in July or August. The hike is about 2 miles through a pretty forest, and then you reach a spot where the water runs over big, flat granite rocks and makes a natural waterslide. Kids and adults alike love to splash in the shallow water here on a hot summer day!
http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/denny-creek (Northwest Forest Pass required)
6) Boulder River Waterfall- A gently sloping trail takes you through an old-growth forest beside a glacier-fed river. You will find a spectacular waterfall about 1.5 miles into your hike (best in spring, less water in summer). Plenty of big trees, lush ferns, berries, and mosses will treat you along the trail. You can turn back at the waterfall or keep going for a longer hike, if you prefer. This hike is along the Mountain Loop Highway, off of I-5 north of Seattle. http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/boulder-river (NO pass required)
7) Big Four Ice Caves- Ice Caves! What else is there to say? These cool caves are etched by streams beneath the snow at the shaded base of a mountain. Some years there are 2 or more caves. Use caution and DO NOT enter the caves, as the melting ice and snow can fall in large chunks and cause injury or death. The hike is an easy 1 mile to reach the snow area where the caves form. It's located along the Mountain Loop Highway, off of I-5 north of Seattle. http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/big-four-ice-caves (Northwest Forest Pass required)
8) Cooper River Trail- A very nice hike that follows along a raging river as you walk through a forest of old Douglas fir trees and hemlocks. There are many birds to listen to as you hike this trail. The entire trail is about 3.25 miles, but you can turn back at any point, if you get tired. This hike is located off of I-90, beyond Snoqualmie Pass.
http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/cooper-river (Northwest Forest Pass required)
9) Wallace Falls- After a 2.5 mile hike through beautiful old-growth forest, you will be rewarded with these spectacular falls. Wallace Falls is actually a series of several waterfalls. The hike is a bit steep in some places and there is about 1,100 ft of elevation gain, so come prepared with plenty of water and energy snacks. This hike is located off Highway 2 in the Goldbar area (about 1 hour drive from Bellevue/Seattle area).
http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/seasonal-hikes/hikes/wallace-falls (Discover Pass required)
10) Barclay Lake- This alpine lake lies beneath the massive north face of Mt. Baring. You will find huge boulders and cross some small creeks during your hike to the lake through a lush forest. The hike is about 1.5 miles to reach the lake. Once there, you can enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains and have a picnic or cool off with a splash in the lake. http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/barclay-lake (Northwest Forest Pass required)