Early this October, I took a trip up to Seattle to visit a friend and it was definitely a tree-t 😉
And by that, I mean the leaves changing color put on quite a show with all different colors of red, orange, and yellow blending in with the green. Some even seemed like they were fluorescent!
So while I wouldn’t consider myself an expert of Seattle after spending a grand total of four days there, I would consider my friend, who’s lived there most of her life, someone who knows Seattle well. And every single place she took me was beautiful!
Now, I’m sharing some of her insider’s secrets about where to go around Seattle in fall.
The Best Itineraries Have Flexibility (and Options)
I’m a strong believer in spontaneity in travel (and life).
Do I always follow it?
Nope. But I always believe in it.
However, I’ve also learned that with spontaneity, you do still want to have some sort of idea or plan so if the perfect spontaneous activity doesn’t crop up, you’ll still have something to do.
And my friend absolutely nailed this with a list of possible adventures to spontaneously choose from each day. If you’re planning a trip to Seattle (or anywhere), it’s okay to have more things on your list than what you’ll be able to do — it just means you have options, more room for flexibility, and a reason to return another time.
1. Take a Walking Tour Through Downtown and a Ferry Ride to Bainbridge Island
As with most cities, walking the downtown area and seeing the popular sights is always a good shout. While many cities will have a lot of the same things — shops, restaurants, roads, architecture — they each have their own flavor and it can be fun to see what’s unique. And Seattle definitely has plenty of unique parts!
For our downtown tour, some of the key places we saw were:
- Pike Place Market
- The Space Needle
- The Gum Wall
- The Olympic Sculpture Park
After tasty treats from Mee Sum Pastry (Hom Bow buns and a green tea sesame ball), we got a ferry to Bainbridge Island for more small-town vibes, a windy ferry ride, and more beautiful fall colors.
2. Bike Ride and Washington Park Arboretum
This was really a leaf peeping day appreciating the changing colors both along the roads on our ride and through the many different trees at the Arboretum.
Seattle is known for being a bike-friendly city with plenty of bike lanes and bike paths to explore. We didn’t do a long ride, though you absolutely could make a full day of riding. If you tend to die on hills (same), you can also test out some pedal-assist electric bikes to give you that extra boost and focus more on the gorgeous fall colors rather than struggling up a hill.
Since we opted for only a part-day bike adventure, we had a bit more time and did more tree admiration at the Washington Park Arboretum. I didn’t know this at the time, but 62-acres of this 230-acre park used to be a landfill! It’s been a park for over 60 years and you’d never guess the area was once a dumping ground.
3. Rachel Lake Hike and Snoqualmie Falls
Our out of the city adventure day took us about an hour east to Wenatchee National Forest and the Rachel Lake Trail. We didn’t make it all the way to Rachel Lake (I got distracted quite a bit taking photos), but the entire trail was brilliant even without the Rachel Lake endpoint.
With two waterfalls along the trail and stunning fall foliage, I was a very happy camper.
On our way back, we stopped off at the more touristy site, Snoqualmie Falls, which isn’t as much of a hike, but boy is that one huge waterfall! (268-feet to be exact.) This would be one of those stops I could see a driving tour would take, because it’s close to the road, has low effort, and a huge payout — plus public toilets and accessibility. It’s not hard to see why this place is popular (who doesn’t love a massive waterfall). But if you’re wanting something really nature-y and more wild, stop here first, see the views, then go hike somewhere a little less popular.