Fall in Washington is more than the end of the summer and a time to wait for the next six months of dark, wet winter.
If you know where to look, fall in Washington is a wonderful showcase of fall foliage, an abundance of unexpectedly large and colorful mushrooms, and places with a touch of Halloween spirit.
Below are my favorite fall hikes in Washington State — some for foliage, some for spooky, Halloween vibes!
Fall Foliage Hikes in Washington
On the east side of the Cascade mountains, tucked away in dry alpine environments, is the larch tree.
The larch tree is a unique tree, as it both has needles like an evergreen tree that keeps its foliage year-round, and its needles turn yellow and drop each year. Finding these yellow trees is a favorite hobby for hikers.
To add to the fall beauty of larches, you can find bright red huckleberry foliage covering hillsides and some berries if you’re lucky.
A rare uncrowded larch hike, Grasshopper Pass is worth the long drive on the rough road. With slow caution, a normal car can make it up the road.
The full hike to Grasshopper Pass is 9.5 miles and requires 1200 feet of elevation gain, but there are many other places to turn around without missing out on larches or views.
This trail starts at the Brown Bear trailhead, where you hike 100 yards to the Pacific Crest Trail, and then turn left towards Rainy Pass.
The trailhead is accessed from Mazama on Highway 20, where you follow Lost River Road then USFS 5400. After the Meadow Campground, turn left and continue for 1.7 miles until the trailhead.
A popular and beautiful hike any time of the year, Lake Ingalls is a 9-mile hike with 2500 feet of elevation gain.
A hike that is worth the hype, the path travels through a forested valley, wildflowers, rocky hillsides, views of the craggy peaks and pass, and a brilliant blue alpine lake.
In the fall, you will also be greeted by the yellow larches surrounding the trail.
The trailhead is located off exit 85 to Highway 970 off I-90. 7 miles down Highway 970, take a right onto North Fork Teanaway Road, travel 6 miles to FR 9737, follow signs to Beverly Campground, then go to the right on the road for Trail 1394.
A beautiful section of the Pacific Crest trail, and less crowded than the nearby Maple Pass Loop, the trail up to Cutthroat Pass wanders by brilliant red and yellow fall colors.
The moderately-strenuous trail is a total of 10 miles and 2000 ft of elevation gain on a nicely graded trail. The colors get more vibrant the further you go, with a view of the surrounding mountains and bright yellow larches at the top of the pass.
To get to the trail, drive 51 miles east on Highway 20 to Rainy Pass, and make a left across the road from Maple Pass and drive down the gravel road to the parking lot and trailhead.
Bellevue Botanical Garden
Fall colors come in many forms besides alpine larches, and luckily, they do not all require long drives into the mountains!
If you are looking for fall colors close to Seattle, you can take a nice stroll through the Bellevue Botanical Garden.
The garden is located within the city of Bellevue and provides a refuge from the concrete bustle. In the fall, the Japanese Garden section is lined with Japanese maple trees that turn bright colors.
The Lost Meadow Trail is lined with more maple trees. The Lost Meadow Trail is the longest trail in the Garden (a 1/3-mile loop), and is frequently visited by wildlife, including deer, raccoons, birds, and coyote.
Fall Hikes in Washington State for Mushrooming
Mushrooms thrive in wet, dark environments along the forest floor.
Identifying mushrooms takes skill, but anyone can go out on a walk trying to spot them.
Hikes along valleys, near rivers, and in damp forests are good bets on where mushrooms will be thriving. If you need some ideas to start your mushroom finding adventures, here are a few ideas:
Another fall hike in Washington State worth taking within the city limits of Seattle is Carkeek Park.
There are a few parking areas, but if you park at the first one within the park, you can start your walk at the river. A walk down the river across the little bridges in the fall is full of falling leaves and the dampness of a Seattle fall. As you walk, you can find mushrooms hidden under the fallen leaves.
In late October and November, adult Chum salmon return to the river to spawn. The bridges across the river by the grass lawn are the best spot for viewing salmon.
When you make it down to the main parking lot, you can wander across the railroad tracks on the grated bridge down to the beach. From here you can take a stroll down the beach or enjoy a picnic watching the boats drive by and keep an eye out for sea life.
Old Sauk River Trail
The Old Sauk River Trail is a flat 6-mile, roundtrip hike along the Sauk River. The trail wanders through the mossy green forest. The forest canopy creates the perfect atmosphere for a rainy fall hike, blocking just enough of the drizzle to keep you from getting drenched (but I would still recommend a raincoat).
The damp forest creates a perfect fall atmosphere and also provides the perfect habitat for mushrooms growing on the forest floor. Hike during the late fall, and you will also find a beautiful range of fall colors: making this easily one of the best fall hikes in Washington State.
To access this trail from I-5, take exit 208 to Highway 530 to Arlington/Darrington, then take a right onto the Mountain Loop Highway. There are a few access points to the trail, the first is 3.6 miles from the intersection in Darrington and the second and third are just down the road.
Spooky Fall Hikes in Washington State
In addition to the beginning of the rainy season, fall is also Halloween season.
If you’re not as interested in plants and mushrooms, perhaps abandoned buildings and old relics will interest you! Luckily there are several fall Washington hikes that feature spooky, dark, or abandoned buildings.
Wellington Ghost Town
A hike out to the old town of Wellington, which was renamed to Tye after a 9-day blizzard caused an avalanche that hit a train and killed 23 passengers in 1910. After the fatal avalanche, the town was renamed to avoid its legacy, and snowsheds were built to protect the rails from future avalanches.
The town was abandoned in 1929 with the completion of the second Cascade Tunnel which bypassed the town. The trail to Wellington follows the eastern part of the Iron Goat trail near Stevens Pass.
West of Stevens Pass Ski area turn north onto Tye Road, also known as the Old Cascade Highway. Head east from the parking lot on the trail to see the old foundations and entrance to the Cascade Tunnel, and west from the parking lot to see the snow sheds and site of the 1910 avalanche.
Another historic relic of the railroad era, the Snoqualmie Tunnel is an old train tunnel with a trail through it.
The tunnel is more than two miles long, long enough that when you are standing in the middle, both ends of the tunnel are small dots of light. Turning off your flashlights in the center of the tunnel makes for a fun exercise in trying to see your own hand.
The trail is mostly smooth but not entirely, and a bright headlight and careful steps are recommended. Alternatively, the outing can be done as a bike ride down the gravel trail.
If you go through the entire tunnel, the trail is just over 5 miles long. The tunnel is in Iron Horse State park and can be accessed from Exit 54 off I-90. After the exit, turn right at the first stop sign and left at the second, and look for signs towards the park.
Once you wrap up, consider hiking Snoqualmie Falls as well!
Monte Cristo Ghost Town
This is an 8-mile hike with 700 feet of elevation gain to an old mining town, where rustic mining buildings and historic artifacts remain.
The mining town is from a mining boom in the 1890s, when a railroad was built along the Sauk River, and homes and mills filled the valley. There are informational signs scattered around the area describing the history of the town and explanations of the remaining buildings.
A clean-up of hazardous mine tailings in 2016 has made the area safer for visitors, but do follow all signs and avoid drinking water from the area.
Make sure to allow plenty of time to explore the area, and you might consider making it an overnight hike and staying at one of the undeveloped campsites near the town.
To get to this hike, take the Mountain Loop Highway east 31 miles to the Barlow Pass trailhead, where you then hike on the closed road.
What to Read Next
More Hikes: 21 Best Hikes in Washington State
Waterfalls: 11 Inspiring Waterfalls in Washington State
Small Town Getaways: 25 Best Small Towns in Washington State