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The 5 Best Fall Foliage Hikes North of Seattle

These are your best bets for seeing beautiful autumn leaves north of Seattle.

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Finding a good hike isn’t too hard in Washington: drop your finger on a map and you’re bound to hit a trailhead. Planning a hike during the changing fall season is something different altogether, and for that purpose, the Washington Trails Association (WTA) provides more information than you can shake a walking stick at.

Seattle NorthCountry offers a great deal of maintained, quality trails for the autumn season, and the WTA has great notes on what hikes have golden sights, nearby bohemias and even some spooky history.

Perry Creek

10.5 miles, roundtrip
Gain: 3400 ft.
Highest Point: 5250 ft

Perry Creek offers the best sightlines, summits and vistas that you can ask for during the Fall climate. One can see old growth forest, wildflowers, waterfalls, meadows, expansive mountain views, lakes can be viewed at some great heights. A wealth of wild blueberries and autumn colors add to the majestic quality of these peaks and valleys.

The way to Perry Creek is just more than an hour away from the coastal community of Everett, so why don’t you stop by the Everett waterfront before heading back home for the night? You can also make a reservation in advance at the Inn at Port Garner.

Hannegan Pass (And Cooper Ridge Loop)

10.4 miles, roundtrip
Gain: 3100 ft.
Highest Point: 6200 ft.

Hannegan Pass, in the North Cascades, takes a while to ascend, with numerous switchbacks rewarded with fantastic sightlines of forests and alpine meadows. You always want to bring snacks and water to hydrate, and this hike is no exception. Reaching Cooper Ridge isn’t as leisurely an adventure as other hikes on this list and offers a bit of a challenge.

Once you reach the summit, it’s a long way back down and the stretch home can be exhausting. The River Rock Inn may be a rewarding stay after this challenging hike; a real lodge for real hikers.

Japanese Gulch

This hike is located in Mukilteo and offers a multitude of trails that lead to a dog park, a pass by some railroad tracks, a creek or a sandy beach. The area was used for defense during World War Two and by the Boeing Company during the 1960s. The community of Mukilteo prevented the area from being turned into an industrial park, instead creating the Japanese Gulch Wildlife Habitat in 2014 when they purchased the land and preserved it for public use.

This trail is just near the Mukilteo Ferry station… stop by Ivar’s or the Mukilteo Farmers Market at Lighthouse Park.

Lime Kiln

7.0 miles, roundtrip
Gain: 625 ft.
Highest Point: 750 ft.

For a “spooky” Fall hike, the WTA suggest that you read up on Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Ethan Brand" before heading down the Lime Kiln trail, a place that served as inspiration for Hawthorne’s story of a madman who went in search of an “unpardonable sin.” It’s a heavy read, but the hike is more leisurely than anything thanks to park management.

The Lime Kiln trail near Granite Falls may have a haunting story but it’s a very pleasant hike, even with all the saw blades and machinery parts strewn along the trailside. The lime kiln is still standing, covered with moss. This hike is near Granite Falls, passes by a winding river and looks great with the leaves falling.

Iron Goat Trail

6.0 miles, roundtrip
Gain: 700 ft.
Highest Point: 2800 ft

The legacy of the Iron Goat Trail is that it marks one of the worst railroad disasters in US history. A massive avalanche, two trains, and a terrible snowstorm all added up to one great tragedy and a large loss of life at Cascade Crest in 1910.

These tracks were abandoned in 1929 in favor of the current Cascade tunnel, and what is left has been transformed into the Iron Goat Trail. The man-made tunnels of one century passed offer a shady hike and opens up the macabre of the imagination under the Fall sun.

The WTA suggest that you read “The White Cascade” by Gary Krist, an account of the Wellington Avalanche Disaster. Hiking the Wellington trailhead may give a deeper appreciation of history and knowledge of our Cascade mountain weather.

Be prepared and stay safe!

Consider these hikes a great introductory to adventure in Snohomish County and beyond in Seattle NorthCountry. The WTA recommends all of these trails, and they also recommend that you hike and adventure smartly. Here are some important tips to consider before you take on these trails:

Safety For Fall Hiking

Wade T. Oberlin
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