Seattle Outdoors

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Seattle Outdoors
Wrapped around a lake the size of Monaco, Seattle sits between snow-gilded mountains and Puget Sound's vast inland ocean. Residents love to play in their big, beautiful backyard—hiking, biking, skiing, paddling, and taking on more extreme adventures like skydiving. Gear up at Filson or REI's flagship store to explore like a local.
By Amanda Castleman, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Jeff Caven/The Summit at Snoqualmie
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    Ski and Board
    Snow bunnies typically hit the slopes between November and March, flocking from all over the country to enjoy the North Cascades' varied conditions and terrain. Not an Olympic skier? Stick close to the city at the beginner-friendly Summit at Snoqualmie. Experienced boarders and skiers can head two hours southeast to Crystal Mountain, which boasts dazzling views of Mount Rainier, the most glaciated peak in the continental United States.
    Photo courtesy of Jeff Caven/The Summit at Snoqualmie
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    On the Water
    Thanks to its many lakes and coves—not to mention Lake Washington Ship Canal—the Emerald City sparkles green and blue. Take a page from the local playbook and hit Lake Union, just northeast of the Space Needle and downtown core. Rent a kayak or paddleboard from the Northwest Outdoor Center and explore the houseboats made famous by the film Sleepless in Seattle. Or hit the Center for Wooden Boats beside the Museum of History and Industry and rent anything from a Maine peapod (an American Indian rough-water canoe) to a Blanchard Junior Knockabout sloop. Feeling mellow? Chill out on the Sunday Ice Cream Cruise or the Water Taxi's catamarans, the cheapest way to cruise Puget Sound.
    Photo courtesy of Howard Frisk/Visit Seattle
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    Seattle by Bicycle
    Seattle kicks off its annual summer solstice parade with several hundred nude cyclists freewheeling through the funky neighborhood of Fremont. But you don't have to strip down to hit the streets! Routes like the 19-mile Burke-Gilman Trail help bikers avoid annoying traffic. Or embrace the chaos with a microbrewery crawl on the 16-passenger Cycle Saloon (powered solely by beer-imbibing pedalers: A sober guide pilots the contraption through the streets of Ballard).
    Photo courtesy of Anne-Marije Rook/Cascade Bicycle Club
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    Hikes and Trails
    No need to venture beyond city limits to start hiking—you can wind through Discovery Park's 11 miles of dense forest groves and serene tidal beaches. When you're ready for a proper day trip, hit Ebey’s Landing, a two-hour drive northwest. The former pioneer seaport remains one of the region's best all-season hikes. Follow a 5.6-mile route through lush green fields, high coastal cliffs, and soaring mountain vistas. More ambitious travelers often head to the San Juans, a National Monument comprising 450 rocks, pinnacles, and islands. Companies like Kenmore Air and Evergreen Escapes will get you there the fastest.
    Photo by Amanda Castleman
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    Parks and Gardens
    Seattle's bountiful open spaces boom with riots of flowers and greenery. To see its brilliant gardens, stroll around tranquil Green Lake, then head for the city's largest public park: Discovery. Its meadows, forest groves, and sea bluffs stand sentinel, keeping an eye on the Cascade and Olympic mountains. Picnic in nearby Gas Works Park, a superb kite-flying hill overlooking the rusted splendor of the world’s last remaining synthetic-gas plant. Ready for a saltier experience? Head to Golden Gardens, a popular Puget Sound beach with the Northwest's most electric sunset. Or opt for reflection at the Kubota Garden, a historic landmark crafted by a Japanese immigrant who was relocated to an internment camp during World War II.
    Photo by Terry Eggers/age fotostock
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    Outdoor Art Exploration
    Over 400 permanent installations—and nearly 3,000 portable works—grace Seattle, thanks to the city's 1973 decision to funnel 1 percent of eligible capital-improvement funds toward art. Some installations are playful, like the three-story troll crushing a VW Beetle and a slyly critical Slovakian statue of Vladimir Lenin, which residents of Fremont often costume. Others strike a more somber note, like Interbay's Fishermen's Memorial, commemorating local workers who lost their lives at sea. The crowning jewel remains the Olympic Sculpture Park, nine acres of industrial land transformed into a green space for art. Entry is free, as are the jaw-dropping views across the mountains and Puget Sound.
    Photo by Stelios Michael/age fotostock