Washington state may be known as the Evergreen State, but it has it fair share of russet, gold, and auburn shades as the days get shorter and the chill wraps closer around our favorite Patagonia fleeces.
Whether you’re based on the westside or the eastside of King County, there is sure to be little pockets of autumn paradise where you can take as many photos of falling leaves as you want and reveal in the small joys that are harbingers of an approaching winter.
I’m forever wandering my home and finding new places to enjoy fall foliage. For now, here are a few of my favorite spots to spend a sunny afternoon in October, or stay for sunset to watch a harvest moon:
Seattle Japanese Garden
I make a point of spending an afternoon at theSeattle Japanese Gardenat least twice during the autumn (I haven’t yet this year, but don’t judge me). A canvas of colors and foliage will warm your eyes, and the gardens – located just a short distance off of the I-5 corridor, offers a discount entrance fee for students. Entrance is only $4 if you show your student ID at the admission booth.
Or, head there the first Thursday of the month and entrance is free from 3:00 pm to closing.
If you’re like me, you could literally just sit on one of the park benches and gaze at the scenery for hours. Breathe in. Perk your ears to hear the wind rustling through the leaves of the trees. Watch the reflection of the sky in the still surface of the pond. Smile at children running along the gravel paths.
It’s a paradise nestled in an always interesting city.
I know, I know. Snoqualmie Fallsis the no-brainer of the valley: no one has to be told to make the legendary waterfall a must-see if they’re heading east of Seattle. I’m biased, since I live only a six-minute drive away from the falls, but they’re a fantastic location to not only watch water cascading down into the Snoqualmie River, but you get a panorama of the ridges surrounding the river – all brightening slowly and subtly as the trees change colors with the season.
If you have the time, don’t end you visit at the falls. Take the walkway that winds around the back of the visitors center and walk down the trail that will lead you along a slightly steep grade into the valley at the base of the river. There you can get a more unique and less cliche view of the waterfall and gaze in the opposite direction at a stunning vista of river winding through a pathway of deciduous trees.
And – if you’re in the mood to add a new level of epic to your visit, head to downtown Snoqualmie (just down the road on Railroad Avenue) to stop at the Snoqualmie Falls Candy Shoppe. I recommend the fudge (made on-site) and the sundas are to die for. Or sip on some coffee or tea if the day is a little nippy.
I can think of a family or two who go out to Rattlesnake Lakeand take photos with a backdrop of still waters stretching out to a distant forest, with the shade of Rattlesnake Ledge leaning into one side of the lake.
It’s like an autumn postcard; you can enjoy falling leaves and colorful foliage and a trail that meanders through it all and up to a ledge where you can soak up an aerial view of it all. If you head out the lake earlier in the fall season (like September), you can gorge yourself on blackberries, since the park is home to a gazillion blackberry bushes with the berries free for picking.
If you decide to visit on the weekend, I would consider heading out earlier in the day, as the parking lots tend to fill up fast with both locals and visitors.
Phinney Ridge and Greenlake
I like to tell people that Phinney Ridgeis the hidden gem of Seattle. If you’re more into the city scene, then you’ll get a taste of a small community that is still located close to downtown. Stroll down the main street that winds through the heart of the neighborhood, and – if you’re a coffee fanatic like me – you can make a pit-stop at Herkimer Coffee and then take a quick browse through the consignment store (great steals there, by the way).
And don’t get to enamored by the maze of colors winding through the leaves of the trees lining the sidewalk; stop by Phinney Booksto check out their suggested reads and a stellar selection of children’s books.
Since you’re in the area, you can meander (or drive) down the hill and take a walk around Greenlake. The neighborhood lake boasts lovely views, older trees and excellent trails for walking, running, or biking. You’ll be sure to snap some photos for the ‘Gram or ask a friend or stranger to take a new profile photo for your Facebook account.
University of Washington campus
Perhaps best known for its iconic cherry blossoms that brighten up the campus in the spring, the UW Seattle campus needs to be added to your list of autumn jaunts. You can criss-cross the brick walkways and paths that wind around beautiful fauna that is framed by some stunning architecture and the familiar shades of autumn: scarlet, fiery orange, a pale green tinted yellow, deep golds, and russet browns.
I suggest strolling across Red Square and talking the broad walkway that leads you down towards the Drumheller fountain and faces Mount Rainier. Take a moment to admire the view and then continue your walk down the slight grade, ending up near the Forest Sciences building (an older, stone building where vines cling to its exterior) and you’ll end up facing an expanse of green grass that faces the Husky Stadium.
Wherever your autumn wanderings take you, may the sun shine on your back and, if not, let’s hope that it at least doesn’t rain.