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College Town Trails

College is a time for exploration and trying new things. Whether you plan on staying in your hometown or moving across the state, consider venturing out to one of these close-to-campus trails.

Whether you plan on staying in your hometown or moving across the state, college is a prime time for exploration and trying new things. A great way to familiarize yourself to your new community is by hitting the trail and seeing what the nearby public lands have to offer. Next time you have a break between midterms and study groups, consider venturing out to one of these close-to-campus trails.

Need a hiking buddy? Try reaching out to one of Washington's many Hiking Groups, or look into outdoor clubs at your university.

Have a favorite after-class hike? Share your own favorites in a Trip Report.

University of Washington

Union Bay Natural Area

Location: Everett
Distance from Campus:
20 minutes (by foot!)
Length: 1.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal

Union Bay at sunset.
Can you believe this view is in the middle of Seattle? Photo by austineats.

Union Bay Natural Area is an absolute gem just east of campus. It's easily reachable by foot or public transit from the dorms, and is home to some of the best bird watching opportunities within Seattle city limits. Along with the hiking trails throughout, Union Bay is home to the UW Farm (a great place to volunteer after class or on the weekends) and the Botanical Gardens — so there is plenty to see and do here!

> Plan your visit to the Union Bay Natural Area using WTA's Hiking Guide

Spencer island

Location: Everett
Distance from Campus:
40 minutes
Length: 6.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal

Spencer Island by science4sail.jpeg>
Even if you're not a birder, Spencer Island is home to unique and beautiful waterways. Photo by science4sail.

Spencer Island is part of a larger area known as the Snohomish River Estuary and is a stop on the Washington State Great Birding Trail. The mix of saltwater from Possession Sound and fresh water from the Snohomish River create a unique ecosystem, making it one of the best birding spots in Puget Sound. Wipe the dust from your ornithology textbook and grab your binoculars for this one.

> Plan your visit to Spencer Island using WTA's Hiking Guide

Anti-Aircraft Peak

Location: Issaquah Alps
Distance from Campus:
30 minutes
Length: 4.75 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 450 feet

Anti-Aircraft Peak by Melissa.jpegTrails in the Issaquah Alps are a haven of wilderness vibes for those living in Seattle or nearby towns. Photo by Melissa.

If your history class is leaving a little to be desired, the Anti-Aircraft trail is for you. Looping past sites associated with coal and clay mining, and a former 1950s-era anti-aircraft missile installation, the 1,483-foot "peak" is one of the high points in Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. The name dates from the cold-war era of the 1950s, when a battery of Nike anti-aircraft missiles and its associated radar was installed here as a defense against manned bombers. Later, in the era of inter-continental ballistic missiles, the Nikes became obsolete and were removed, but the name of the peak stayed on.

> Plan your visit to Anti-Aircraft Peak using WTA's Hiking Guide

Evergreen State College


Location: Olympia
Distance from Campus:
45 minutes
Length: 2.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Porter Creek by Bob and Barb.jpeg
You can spend weeks or months exploring all of the trails that Capitol Forest has to offer. Photo by Bob and Barb.

Capitol Forest provides Olympia residents with an amazing network of trails less than 30 minutes from doorstep to trailhead. Porter Falls is one of the forest's highlights, the tranquil sounds of the falls helping to mitigate the stress of a busy week.

> Plan your visit to the Capitol State Forest using WTA's Hiking Guide


Location: Hood Canal
Distance from Campus:
1 hour
Length: 6.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3500 feet

Mount Rose by Doogs.jpeg
Pick a clear day to visit Mount Rose, and you'll get a view of the Lake Cushman unlike any other. Photo by Doogs.

If you're looking for a workout, Mount Rose is the hike for you. With over 3,000 feet of elevation gain over the course of 3 miles, you quads are guaranteed to be sore in the morning. Thankfully, your hard work will be rewarded with expansive views of the beautiful Lake Cushman and the Puget Sound. Looking for more high-elevation hikes? Try summiting nearby peaks Mount Ellinor and Mount Washington.

> Plan your visit to Mount Rose using WTA's Hiking Guide

Western Washington University


Location: Bellingham
Distance from Campus:
30 minutes
Length: 4.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal

Point Whitehorn by Jen Coleman.jpeg
Bellingham is home to numerous shoreline parks and trail, Point Whitehorn boasts the added perk of scenic wetlands. Photo by Jen Coleman.

This hike boasts a great combination of wetland and sea shore. It is doable by hikers of all ages, and most of the trail is wheelchair accessible. There are a few interpretive signs, describing the vegetation and wildlife. There are a few geocaches in here as well, and most are in good condition.

> Plan your visit to Point Whitehorn using WTA's Hiking Guide


Location: Bellingham
Distance from Campus:
20 minutes
Length: 9.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1950 feet

South Lost Lake Trail by Bob and Barb.jpeg
The South Lost Lake Trail is one of many you can explore in Larrabee State Park. Photo by Bob and Barb.

Tucked away atop Chuckanut Mountain is shallow Lost Lake. The south trail to the lake leads through a recovering forest of bigleaf maple, alder, Douglas fir, and western hemlock, meandering 4.5 miles to a riparian hideout, providing waterfalls, old growth, fall color, and year-round hiking to those who make the journey. Pro Tip: WTA hosts volunteer work parties at Larrabee State park every Wednesday, sign up here to help preserve these trails!

> Plan your visit to Lost Lake using WTA's Hiking Guide

Central Washington University

Umtanum creek falls

Location: Yakima
Distance from Campus:
30 minutes
Length: 3.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 700 feet

Umtanum Creek Falls by camckenna.jpeg
The sound of rushing falls make for a peaceful post-class retreat. Photo by camckenna.

Identify the sweet fragrance of sagebrush, while keeping an eye out for bighorn sheep on nearby canyon walls. The trail opens up to reveal Umtanum Creek Falls, a pretty little waterfall that cascades into a pool surrounded on three sides by basalt walls. Hike downhill and throw rocks into a punchbowl at the bottom of a 40-foot waterfall.

> Plan your visit to Umtanum Creek Falls using WTA's Hiking Guide

baldy mountain

Location: Yakima
Distance From Campus:
45 minutes
Length: 5.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1972 feet

Baldy Mountain from a distance by PiperMarmalade.jpeg
A view of Baldy Mountain in the distance. Photo by PiperMarmalade.

Due to the lake of shade along this steep hike, Baldy Mountain makes for a perfect shoulder season hike when the temps have lowered and the clouds start rolling in. Autumn hikes will yield bountiful fall colors across the Yakima valley, and will reward you with a panoramic gold crest on a clear day.

> Plan your visit to Baldy Mountain using WTA's Hiking Guide

Washington State University


Location: Palouse
Distance From Campus:
20 minutes
Length: 3.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 900 feet

Kamiak Butte by RLucido.jpeg
Enjoy wide vistas over the plains of eastern Washington on the Kamiak Butte trail. Photo by RLucido.

Expansive views, rolling hills, and less than 15 miles from classroom to trailhead. If you're new to the Eastern side of the state, Kamiak Butte is a must see addition to your hiking list. Pack a picnic, toss your bio textbook in your bag, and the you'll have the perfect study spot after a long day.

> Plan your visit to Kamiak Butte using WTA's Hiking Guide


Location: Blue Mountains
Distance from Campus:
2 hours
Length: 11.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1435 feet

Wenatchee Guard Station by D. Inscho.jpeg
Reserve the historic cabin on your visit to the Wenatchee Guard Station. Photo by D. Inscho.

If you're up for a drive, a night at the Wenatchee Guard Station cabin will be well worth your time. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid 1930's, this rare historic structure has been maintained by the forest service for year-round rental. Complete with beds, cooking equipment, and a fridge, reward yourself after a tough exam with a trip to the Guard Station.

> Plan your visit to the Wenatchee Guard Station using WTA's Hiking Guide

Eastern Washington University


Location: Spokane Valley
Distance from Campus: 
45 minutes
Length: 9.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 732 feet

Antoine Peak by Holly Weiler.jpeg
Pictured here in spring, the Antoine Peak Conservation Area is a great spot for outdoor recreation in all seasons. Photo by Holly Weiler.

Acquired in three phases through Spokane County’s Conservation Futures Program, the Antoine Peak Conservation Area offers fantastic views overlooking Liberty Lake, the Spokane Valley, and north to Mount Spokane and the Selkirk Range. Hikers, snowshoers, birders and mountain bikers alike could potentially spot red-tail hawk soaring overhead, listen to pileated woodpeckers at work on surrounding trees, come across signs of the resident white-tailed deer, moose, and elk populations, or spot such locally rare trees as Pacific yew.

> Plan your visit to Antoine Peak using WTA's Hiking Guide

Hog Canyon Lake

Location: Fishtrap
Distance from Campus: 30 minutes
Length: 5.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 670 feet

Hog Canyon by combs.mariah.jpeg
Photo by combs.mariah.

Hog Canyon has something new every season; aspens in the fall, fishing in the winter, and balsamroot blooms in the spring. Find a dry day and make yourself at home on the shores of the picturesque Hog Lake.

> Plan your visit to Hog Canyon using WTA's Hiking Guide

Mount Spokane State Park

Location: Spokane
Distance from Campus: 
60 minutes
Length: varies
Elevation Gain: varies

Spokane State Park with a bit of snow.
A sprinkle of snow and a view from a structure at Mount Spokane State Park. Photo by RichP.

A bit farther away from campus, Mount Spokane State Park is a wonderful place for year-round outdoor recreations and absolutely worth the drive. In the summer and shoulder seasons, enjoy a massive network of hiking trails. Once winter rolls around, pack up your snowshoes and Nordic skis for a day of snowy fun.

> Plan your visit to Mount Spokane using WTA's Hiking Guide

Whitman College

Bennington Lake

Location: Walla Walla
Distance from Campus: 
15 minutes
Length: 20 miles of trail
Elevation Gain: varies

Photo by trip reporter BDCrew.

A local spot to cool down when the temperatures soar in Walla Walla, Bennington Lake is a favored spot for hikers, birders, anglers, runners, and lots of local wildlife. There are more than 20 miles of trails at Bennington Lake, whether you want a long perimeter walk, or just a quick out and back for views of the lake.

> Plan your visit to Bennington Lake using WTA's Hiking Guide

Twin Sisters Rock

Location: Wallula Junction
Distance from Campus:
30 minutes
Length: 1.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Twin Sisters by Rodney L.jpeg
The unique landscape of Twin Sisters Rock will impress more than just geology majors. Photo by Rodney L.

Clocking in at only one mile, Twin Sisters Rock serves as a great leg stretcher in a beautiful location. After you finish your loop, hop on the US-12 for a few miles to hit the McNary Wildlife Refuge before returning to campus. Before your hike, be sure to take a few minutes to brush up on the Native American legend of Two Sisters Rock.

> Plan your visit to Twin Sisters Rock using WTA's Hiking Guide

Sawtooth Ridge

Location: Blue Mountains
Distance from Campus:
1.5 hours
Length: 8.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 500 feet

Sawtooth Ridge Luke Bakken.jpeg
The southeast corner of our state is home to beautiful, remote wilderness. Photo by Luke Bakken.

This flower-lined trail with big views will make you wonder if the Blue Mountains earned their name from the carpets of larkspur along the route. This pleasant ridge romp works well as either a dayhike or an overnight backpack. The trail starts high and gradually descends, remaining in the forest for the early miles, then breaking out onto the high Sawtooth Ridge with fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.

> Plan your visit to Sawtooth Ridge using WTA's Hiking Guide