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Hiking Around Puget Sound

Because Puget Sound isusually the last place in Washington to collect snow and ice, it is a great outlet for winter hikes. WTA features ten hikes spread throughout the Puget Sound region, encompassing a range of habitats and showcasing some of the best that the area has to offer.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Herons are one of many species that thrive on Puget Sound. Photo by Paul Raymaker.

Hemmed by the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, Puget Sound melds the allure of the ocean with the intimacy of a secluded cove. Its waters harbor breaching orca whales. Bald eagles, elk, and river otters forage along its shores. Its creeks and rivers sound with the slap of spawning salmon. It is a region unique within the lower forty-eight and for many of us, we can smell its salt air from our front porch.

The Sound, as Washingtonians affectionately call it, is always changing. Tides, currents, and weather and seasonal patterns alter the Sound's mood minute by minute. Whether you are cresting one of its many bluffs or enjoying a sunset walk along one of its countless beaches, Puget Sound always has a surprise.

And a lesson. Educational facilities including the Mary E. Theler Wetlands Nature Preserve and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge offer information about this complex and important ecosystem.

Below you'll find ten hikes spread throughout the Puget Sound region, encompassing a range of habitats and showcasing some of the best Puget Sound has to offer. Because it's usually the last place in Washington to collect snow and ice, the Sound's a great outlet for winter hikes. Nevertheless, before you hit the trail, dress in layers and be prepared for weather changes. Check the latest Trip Reports, and always pack the Ten Essentials.

Enjoy the sights and smells of the Sound!


North Puget Sound

Padilla Bay

Maple Pass fall
Smooth surfaces, gorgeous views characterize Padilla Bay. Photo by Craig Romano.

Location: Near Burlington
Round Trip: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 30 ft

Birds of many different feathers flock to this food-rich bay where the Skagit River and Puget Sound have created immense mud flats. As part of our National Estuarine Research Reserve System, Washington's only such site, Padilla Bay acts as a living classroom and laboratory for citizens and scientists studying the importance of estuarine habitat. Find out about local programs and have your Padilla Bay questions answered at the Breazeale Interpretive Center.

>> Read more about Padilla Bay in WTA's Hiking Guide


Deception Pass Headlands

Rosario Beach Tide Pools

Location: Near Anacortes
Round Trip: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 350 ft

With over 4,000 acres including saltwater shoreline, old growth forest, and freshwater lakes, Deception Pass State Park is a recreationist's treasure-trove. Sample tide pools, windswept grassy bluffs, lofty firs, and fantastic views of Deception Pass and the San Juan Islands on this fabulously diverse hike.

>> Read more about Deception Pass Headlands in WTA's Hiking Guide


Fragrance Lake

Fragrance Lake viewpoint

Location: South of Bellingham
Round Trip: 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1000 ft

Climb above the Puget Sound shoreline for vistas encompassing Samish Bay, Lummi Island, and the San Juan Islands. A hiker-only trail leads to cedar and Douglas-fir encircled Fragrance Lake.

>> Read more about Fragrance Lake in WTA's Hiking Guide



Central Puget Sound

South Indian Island Park

South Indian Island
Hike bluffs or beaches at South Indian Island Park. Courtesy of Jefferson County.

Location: Near Port Townsend
Round Trip: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 ft

Sandy beach, ever-changing lagoon, native Douglas-fir and madrona trees - what's not to like about South Indian Island Park? Views of Mount Rainier and a beautiful beachscape make this park a four-season delight.

>> Read more about South Indian Island Park in WTA's Hiking Guide




Lunds Gulch

Lunds Gulch beach
The beach at the terminus of Lunds Gulch. Photo by retromama.
Location: Lynnwood
Round Trip: 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 425 ft

Wait, don't click your ruby red hiking boots - you're still in Lynnwood! This trail carries you away from suburban hustle and bustle to a forested ravine complete with wetlands, mature second growth forest, and salmon-bearing Lunds Gulch Creek. Puget Sound and the distant Olympic Mountains cap off this excellent hike.

>> Read more about Lunds Gulch in WTA's Hiking Guide



Mary E. Theler Wetlands Nature Preserve

Mary E. Theler Wetlands Nature Preserve

Location: Hood Canal
Round Trip: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 ft

This trail system has a little of everything: Hood Canal, the Union River, forest, tidal and freshwater marsh, and views of the Olympic Mountains. The level trails and boardwalks are friendly to hikers of all ages and are wheelchair accessible. Stop by the Wetlands Project Center to enjoy the hands-on exhibits and to learn more about this diverse preserve.

>> Read more about the Mary E. Theler Wetlands Nature Preserve in WTA's Hiking Guide


Dosewallips Steam Donkey Trail

Steam Donkey Trail bridge sign
A sturdy bridge crosses Phantom Creek in Dosewallips State Park. Photo by Bob Griffith.

Location: Hood Canal
Round Trip: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 400 ft

Dosewallips State Park merges Puget Sound's fabulous forests and bountiful beaches. Look for whales and seals in Hood Canal or delve into the woods for views of the Dosewallips River and a chance to see a resident elk herd.

>> Read more about the Dosewallips Steam Donkey Trail in WTA's Hiking Guide


Gazzam Lake and Close Beach

Gazzam Lake and Close Beach
Close Beach is the highlight of this hike on Bainbridge Island. Photo by Emily's Dad.

Location: Bainbridge Island
Round Trip: 3.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 500 ft

This hike packs a one-two lake-saltwater punch. Keep your peepers peeled for owls, deer, and the occasional black bear while hiking to and from wooded Gazzam Lake. On Close Beach, relax to the waves of the Port Orchard Narrows, framed by the Kitsap Peninsula and Olympic Mountains.

>> Read more about Gazzam Lake and Close Beach in WTA's Hiking Guide


South Sound

Penrose Point State Park

Gazzam Lake and Close Beach
A brilliant sea star may reward your next Puget Sound beach walk. Photo by Terry Kottwitz.

Location: Kitsap Peninsula
Round Trip: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 140 ft

Of all the state parks overlooking Puget Sound, this often forgotten gem combines some of the best views of Mount Rainier with uncrowded trails. Walk the beach looking for sea stars or saunter through the forest where iconic Douglas-fir and madrona make this a quintessential South Sound hike.

>> Read more about Penrose Point State Park in WTA's Hiking Guide


Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Gazzam Lake and Close Beach
The new Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk extends a full mile over the tidal flats, providing unprecedented wildlife viewing opportunities. Photo by Tomas.

Location: Near Olympia
Round Trip: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: level

Bring your binoculars to this bird haven to view waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds and more. The refuge is the site of exciting restoration efforts to improve estuary habitat and promote a healthy Puget Sound. Stroll the new Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk as it extends a mile over the ebb and flow of Puget Sound. Do note that the last 700 feet of boardwalk is closed from October to January during the seasonal waterfowl hunt.

>> Read more about the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in WTA's Hiking Guide