Pierce County is the perfect basecamp for amazing outdoor adventures, no matter your age, ability or the terrain you would like to explore. Close to water, mountains and intoxicatingly beautiful forests, seeing the scenic wonders of Pierce County on foot gives not just a better appreciation of the area we call home, but also connects us to the region’s public lands.
Whether you are looking for a quick day hike close to Tacoma, or hope to spend some time in the splendor of wilderness, we have a great list of six stunning destinations to help you get started with your summer hiking plans. Hike one or hike them all and explore the beauty of Pierce County!
Mowich Lake and Spray Park
In a country with hundreds of miles of breathtaking trails, the Mowich Lake area of Mount Rainier National Park is considered a classic. Offering breathtaking views of Mount Rainier, a picturesque alpine lake and one of the best trails in the national park, a trip to Mowich Lake along the bouncy gravel road will leave you wanting to return here every weekend. The best trail to see the sights and smell the smells of pure mountain wilderness is the Spray Park Trail. Offering an 8-mile trek or a 16-mile loop, summer adventures at Mount Rainier’s Spray Park reward you with unique views of Mount Rainier, seemingly endless wildflowers and a chance to walk along the famous 93-mile Wonderland Trail that circumnavigates Mount Rainier. The trail is not for beginners, as it does have some elevation gain on rocky steps.
For those hoping for something a little easier to get to and hike, the Sunrise Region of Mount Rainier National Park is perfect for all levels of families. Offering easy trails for kids, serious trails for adults and everything in-between, Sunrise makes for the perfect day of hiking and mountain watching. Families will enjoy the short Sunrise Nature Trail and Emmons Vista Overlooks, while more serious hikers should take the six-mile hike to Second Burroughs along the Burroughs Mountain Trail. With more than seven trails possible to hike in the Sunrise area, don’t miss this destination.
Tipsoo Lake and Naches Peak
Finally in Mount Rainier National Park, the Naches Peak and Tipsoo Lake trails are perfect for families of all ages. Whether you trek around the short path near the lake, or hike the longer and stunningly scenic trail at Naches Peak, this area will become a family favorite each summer. The Naches Peak Loop is just 3.5 miles, gaining just under 500 feet of elevation, and is highlighted by wildflowers and insanely gorgeous views of our iconic mountain. An important tip while hiking here is to hike the loop in a clockwise direction, as it gives the best views of the mountain.
Two trails stand out as your best bets for incredible hikes along well-maintained paths in the Pack Forest. The first is the 4.5-mile run trip trek up to Hugo Peak, which gains around 800 feet of elevation. While steep for some, the trail is beautifully maintained and worth the effort. Keep in mind that while this is a peak, it is only 1,790 feet above sea level and offers minimal views. For a more visually rewarding hike that isn’t as steep, head to Little Mashel Falls, which is five-miles roundtrip. Gaining just 500 feet, the path passes three waterfalls in a pristine forest setting. With bridge crossings and gorgeous trails, this is a must hike for all!
Swan Creek is a hidden gem for hikers looking for great forests in Tacoma. As part of Metro Parks, Swan Creek has numerous programs all summer for families, including family nature walks, walking tours and even a camp fire program! Offering nearly five miles of trails to hike and even more to mountain bike, exploring Swan Creek is easy and fun for the whole family. Combine the Swan Creek Trail with the Canyon Rim Trail to give you a perfect loop of hiking. You’ll be impressed with how rugged and wild this park feels!
The trails at Point Defiance never disappoint. While many of us have driven 5 Mile Drive or hung out at Owen Beach on a summer day, few take the time to get out and have an adventure along the trails. Whether you walk the 2.6-mile round trip Spine Trail with stunning viewpoints, explore the 4.6 miles of forests and views along the Square Trail or walk the 1.6 mile out and back along the promenade at Owen Beach, you and your family will fall in love with discovering the trails here. The entire park has nearly 15 miles of trails to wander, each offering a new glimpse of the region, its history and the beauty of the park.