Splendid Scenery: Where to See Fall Foliage around Seattle

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Summer’s over, but Seattle overflows with silver linings that greet the next season. We look forward to back-to-school, the Seahawks, apple cider, pumpkin patches, and crisp autumn evenings, as well as the annual foliage fireworks that mark the transition. Take the kids leaf-peeping for true Pacific Northwest magic—our annual fall festival of red, orange and gold. Read on for the best fall color viewing options around the city, with some nearby road trips to bask in the splendor.

Kubota Garden

The hidden jewel of Rainier Beach, Kubota Garden is the loveliest way for families in south Seattle to enjoy the fall colors. Japanese maples are the marquee star of this autumn show, and Kubota Garden has over 140 different varieties. Kids will love the waterfall and fish pond, and you’ll appreciate the easy parking and relaxed vibe. Kubota Garden is free to all, from sunrise to sunset, every day of the year. Get your self-guided tour map here, or in a box by the kiosk.

9817 55th Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98118
206-684-4584
Online: kubotagarden.org

Washington Park Arboretum

The name says it all, it's the Arboretum! Of course they would have some of the most spectacular fall colors in the heart of the city. Bring the bikes and a picnic lunch to cruise around the two-mile loop, or just wander the trails and keep your eyes peeled for colorful trees in this 230-acre park and Seattle institution. Whether you spend 30 minutes or three hours, you can't go wrong at this urban oasis. Buy timed tickets to visit the Seattle Japanese Garden at the south end of the Arboretum ($4-$8/person; free, ages 5 & under). Well worth the effort, the Japanese Garden is smaller, more intimate, and even more colorful than the garden next door.

2300 Arboretum Dr. E.
Seattle, WA 98112
206-543-8800
Online: botanicgardens.uw.edu

Bloedel Reserve

Bainbridge Island’s Bloedel Reserve turns into nature's kaleidoscope every autumn, with colors that shimmer and shift before your eyes. Your family can explore the collection of 12 gardens on 150 acres, amid such diverse environments such as their award-winning Japanese Garden and their lush, green moss garden. Fall is a magical time at the Reserve. Amaze your kids with a unique sensory, botanical experience. Inhale the fresh, sweet scent that drifts off the Katsura trees in the Japanese garden. The fragrance comes from the leaves themselves as they turn colors and float to the ground.

7571 N.E. Dolphin Dr.
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
206-842-7631
Online: bloedelreserve.org

photo: Kathy Compagno

Green Lake

Green Lake is Seattle's beloved summer hang, but did you know that adjacent Woodland Park (of Zoo fame) continues on the east side of Aurora down to the south end of Green Lake? The best fall colors can be found here, near the many picnic areas and the large, wooded dog off-leash area.

7201 Green Lake Trail
Seattle, WA 98115
206-684-4075
Online: seattle.gov

Discovery Park

Discovery Park is Seattle's most dramatic (and largest) park, with a lighthouse, 534 acres of hiking and biking, and epic views of Puget Sound. The trees don't disappoint either, with 11 miles of trails opening up countless opportunities for leaf gawking. Pack a picnic, toss the football or play Cornhole, and enjoy an autumn day to remember.

3801 Discovery Park Blvd.
Seattle, WA 98199
206-386-4236
Online: seattle.gov 

Lincoln Park

Colman Pool is closed for the season but Lincoln Park still beckons, with 4.6 miles of walking paths and one mile of sea-walled rocky beaches. The fam will enjoy trees ablaze with orange, red and yellow leaves along the paths, contrasting with dark green kelp on the beach and the slate-gray waters of the Sound below. With five picnic shelters, two playgrounds and acres of play fields, this West Seattle gem is a popular spot for families and a fine place to spend an autumn afternoon.

8011 Fauntleroy Way S.W.
Seattle, WA 98136
206-684-4075
Online: seattle.gov

Bellevue Botanical Garden

This delightful park, located smack dab in downtown Bellevue, offers 53 acres of cultivated gardens, meadows, wetlands and woodlands for visitors to explore. The 1/3-mile Lost Meadow loop trail offers picturesque fall colors. Be sure to stroll through the Dahlia Garden; flowers should be in full bloom through mid-November (or the first frost). The Botanical Gardens are free and open from dawn to dusk every day. Look out for the hidden door—it's sure to delight the little tinies.

12001 Main St.
Bellevue, WA 98005
425-452-2750
Online: bellevuebotanical.org

Mukilteo

Less than 30 miles from Seattle, Mukilteo is a charming nautical village with tremendous views and fun things to do. And fall colors! The Japanese Gulch hike offers a multitude of trails that lead to hidden coves and sandy beaches. The area was used for defense during World War II. But instead of turning the lovely area into an industrial park, the community of Mukilteo created the Japanese Gulch Wildlife Habitat in 2014, purchasing the land and preserving it for public use. Bring your kites, the kids will love to fly them high above the beach while you wait to feed the fam at Ivar's or Diamond Knot

Online: mukilteowa.gov

Leavenworth

The kiddos will love a good fall road trip and none is more magnificent than the road to Leavenworth. The scenic drive, via Highway #2 or Highway #97, is awash in fall foliage, with numerous colorful turnoffs. Book a night or two at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, revel in the town's Bavarian Oktoberfest vibe, take hikes deep into the hills in search of "Larch Madness" and visit the local fruit stands, farmers markets, and farm parks for fall's fresh treats.

Online: leavenworth.org

Mount Rainier

The Lower 48s second tallest mountain calls out to Seattle every day, from its mystical perch on the southern horizon. If it’s been a while since your last trip to Mount Rainier, fall is a fantastic time to go. The crowds are less plentiful, and the mountain is beautifully exposed after the long summer runoff. Check out our guide for a number of day hike itineraries just for families, or you can participate in park service recommended hikes. Vine maple and high elevation huckleberry bushes begin to turn in late September, and the larch burns brightly yellow well into October.

Good to know: All park visitors centers, including the one at Paradise, are currently still closed until further notice.

Online: nps.gov

—Natalie Compagno, Kristina Moy & Allison Ellis

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