Top 10 Trails in Washington

 

You'll have a variety of trail experiences to choose from in Washington, from rustic backcountry adventures to well-groomed paved routes through city centers. But they all share something in common: the splendid scenery of the American Northwest. Pristine lakes and rivers, peaceful forests, mountain vistas and rolling prairie—you'll find it all here.

1

John Wayne Pioneer Trail

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Photo by: John Wells

For those looking for adventure, the John Wayne Pioneer Trail should be at the top of the list. The rail-trail offers a mountain biking ride through remote and sparsely populated areas of Washington that are rich in wildlife and natural beauty. Although there are some gaps on the eastern side of the trail, they can be connected via on-road riding for a route totaling 285 miles from the Cascade Mountains to the Idaho border.

2

Centennial Trail State Park

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Photo by: barbara

Side by side, Centennial Trail State Park and the Spokane River run together for nearly 40 scenic miles through eastern Washington, offering both a city and country experience. A highlight of the paved pathway is Spokane's Riverfront Park, an old railroad site that was revitalized for the 1974 World's Fair and now includes such unique attractions as a 155-foot historical clock tower, a turn-of-the-century Looff Carrousel and a cable car ride that offers panoramic views over a series of rushing waterfalls.

3

Olympic Discovery Trail

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Photo by: Barbara Richey

The 35 miles of Olympic Discovery Trail stretching between Sequim Bay and the Elwha River are considered the crown jewel of the developing 126-mile trail route across the northern part of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Bounded by a sparkling tidal estuary in the east and a recently undammed river in the west, the paved rail-trail visits the towns of Sequim and Port Angeles as it crosses the base of the Olympic Mountains.

4

Chehalis Western Trail

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Photo by: roycben

From the Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area, the Chehalis Western Trail weaves in and out of lush forests and open farmland as it heads south into the hills overlooking the scenic Deschutes River valley. The 21-mile paved pathway also traverses Lacey, a suburb of Washington's capital Olympia, for easy access to restaurants and shops along the way.

5

Foothills Trail

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Photo by: Gene Bisbee

Southeast of Tacoma, the Foothills Trail offers a 30-mile system of pathways that connect a handful of communities near the base of Mount Rainier. You'll find a mix of different surfaces on this trail, but striking views of the snow-capped mountain, the Carbon River, forested hillsides and historical railroad bridges reward intrepid travelers.

6

Burke-Gilman Trail

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Photo by: Bryce Hall

With its views of Puget Sound, Lake Union and Lake Washington alone, Seattle's Burke-Gilman Trail could claim its rightful place in the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. Combine that fantastic backdrop with the ease of a nearly 19-mile paved pathway connecting city amenities and several parks—including a standout with the unique Gas Works Park—and you have a world-class trail experience.

7

Snohomish County Centennial Trail

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Photo by: mark.whiteside

The Snohomish County Centennial Trail rolls past picturesque farmland, through forested watersheds and across creeks and rivers that drain the Cascade Mountains, whose snowy summits are visible in the east. A welcome rest stop for the 30-mile trail is at Lake Cassidy, where travelers can gather at picnic tables or walk out onto the pier. History buffs will also enjoy the historically preserved storefronts and homes in Snohomish and Arlington, and the replica train depot in Machias.

8

Ferry County Rail Trail

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Photo by: J. Foster Fanning, courtesy Ferry County Rail Trail Partners

It sounds too good to be true. Northeast Washington’s Ferry County Rail Trail winds through a forested valley carved by the pristine Kettle River, passes through an otherworldly rock tunnel and crosses a 770-foot trestle that skims over a vast lake. Framed by mountains, the 25-mile trail is especially breathtaking in the fall, brightened with the golden hues of aspen, western larch and cottonwood. Every few miles, a quaint town welcomes visitors in a place so remote there’s not even a single stoplight in the whole county.

9

Fish Lake Trail

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Photo by: Karen Jurasin

Beginning on Spokane's western end, Fish Lake Trail runs south through quiet rural areas and pine tree forest to Queen Lucas Lake. As much of the paved pathway overlooks Marshall Creek, you'll be treated to some beautiful views, and portions of the trail also dive through cool rock cuts.

10

Cedar River Trail

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Photo by: tonya.leroy.3

The Cedar River Trail whisks travelers out of the Seattle metro area and into the rural countryside. Beginning at the edge of Renton's historic downtown, the trail rolls upstream along the fast-flowing Cedar River to Landsburg Park. The first 11 miles of the trail, stretching just past the Maple Valley trailhead, are paved; the remainder of the nearly 16-mile trail is packed gravel. In the fall, watch for the bright-red sockeye salmon that head up the river to spawn.

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