5 best places in Washington to see fall colors

fall colors Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ahh, summer in the Northwest: blue skies, long, light-filled evenings and sunny days filled with fun. Don’t get too upset, but it’s just about over.

Thankfully, the region’s fantastic summer months are followed by colorful falls that act as the perfect buffer between the warmest and coldest of seasons. Washington may not be on the exact same fall foliage par as the storied hardwoods of Vermont or New Hampshire, but the Evergreen State hardly disappoints when it comes to fall color.

Below are some easy walks, hikes and drives for taking in some of the most beautiful shades of autumn in Washington.

King County — For a pure explosion of fall color, it’s hard to beat the show put on by the Bellevue Botanical Garden. Beautiful year-round, this 53-acre urban sanctuary goes wild with color in the fall, making the easy stroll around the grounds vibrant beyond belief. Other options in King County include a simple hike along the Cedar River heading west from Landsburg Park or the 2.4-mile walking path around Seattle’s Seward Park.

Pierce County — When fall comes to Mount Rainier country, the Cascades’ tallest peak becomes even grander still. A beautiful drive, complete with scenic overlooks, heads out of Naches toward White Pass on Highway 12, then snakes up toward Ashford and into Mount Rainier National Park. In Tacoma, walk the Wright Park Arboretum or the quiet trails of Point Defiance Park.

Snohomish County — Whether you’re walking or driving, Snohomish County is full of fall colors. Try the 50-mile Mountain Loop Scenic Drive for grand mountain views and autumn grandeur, or trek the flat trail along the Boulder River amidst its giant old-growth trees. Some lovely Norway maples and European sycamores also add bright dashes of color to the paved 1.6-mile walk around Lake Tye in Monroe, and Lord Hill Regional Park in Snohomish, with its six miles of trails, has quite the fall palette, too.

Thurston County — You can stick close to Olympia for brilliant fall colors at the Yashiro Japanese Garden or wander the easy trails of the city’s Watershed Park, Priest Point Park or Friendly Grove Park. But there’s color to be found outside the city, as well. For starters, just down the road in Tumwater is Tumwater Falls Park, which offers short walking trails and groves of native trees and shrubs that light up in the fall. Not up for a walk? The Thurston Bountiful Byway is a scenic driving route through the county’s agricultural region. 

Spokane County — Though it’s actually north of Spokane County, a fun way to take in Eastern Washington’s fall splendor is to hop on board the North Pend Oreille Valley Lions Club’s popular train, which makes scenic runs between Ione and Metaline Falls along the Pend Oreille River. In Spokane proper, you’ll find all the fall color you’re looking for at the John A. Finch Arboretum or along the easy three-mile roundtrip trail to a gorgeous grove of cedars at Liberty Lake Regional Park.


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