Exploring Near Seattle: Sunset and Sunrise Hikes

Sunrise and sunset hikes are a wonderful way to greet the day or night. Hiking at these different times of day mixes up your hiking routine and creates memories with friends and family. It also brings unique challenges—timing your hike for sunrise or sunset, hiking in dim light, and watching the show in cooler twilight temperatures. Here are a few tips for enjoying a cozy, colorful view near Seattle:

Be a sleuth. Check the weather forecast (www.weather.gov or www.usairnet.com) for a partly cloudy day with a cloud base above 10,000 feet that will reflect vivid colors. Skyfire is a handy tool for tracking and predicting colorful sunrises and sunsets.

pink sky over Snoqualmie waterfall
Sunrise over Snoqualmie Falls. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.

Think insulation, illumination, and nutrition. Warm layers, a hat, and gloves will keep you warm while you’re admiring the view, while a seat pad provides cushion against a cold picnic bench or rigid ground. A flashlight or headlamp will help you hike safely in fading light. Bring a hot drink and a snack to stay warm and savor the experience.

Plan ahead. Look up the sunrise or sunset time. Plan to arrive at your viewpoint at least 15 minutes prior to find a nice viewing spot, set up your blanket or tripod, crack open a thermos of hot tea, and put your layers on.

Consider fall and winter. Air circulation is quicker in fall and winter, clearing out the dust and haze in the atmosphere for more brightly colored sunrises and sunsets. Plus, trails are less crowded and you’ll have more time to sleep before sunrise.

Here are three sunrise hikes from scenic vistas:

  • Dege Peak, located in the northeastern corner of Mount Rainier National Park, is an easy-to-follow trail to 360-degree views and the chance to watch a line of summer climbers ascending Mount Rainier. Crash at the White River Campground (late June-Sept.) to ease the early morning wake-up call. (4.1 miles round-trip, 900 feet elevation gain, Mount Rainier National Park-White River Ranger Station)
  • Rattlesnake Ledge, located in North Bend, makes a lovely winter sunrise hike when summer crowds are scarce and the Cascade foothills are dusted in snow. Check trail conditions and bring traction devices, like microspikes, if snow is present. (4.1 miles round-trip, 1,200 feet elevation gain, Seattle Public Utilities)
  • Snoqualmie Falls, located in Snoqualmie, is a classic Seattle destination made even more special by bubblegum pink and pearly blue hues at sunrise. Enjoy the misty view from the Peregrine Viewpoint, then hike to the Lower Falls Viewpoint for an eye level view. (1.4 miles roundtrip, 310 feet elevation gain, Puget Sound Energy)
purple sky over the ocean at Meadowdale Beach
Sunset at Meadowdale Beach in Edmonds, WA. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.

Here are three sunset hikes with waterfront views:

  • Lighthouse Point, located on Fidalgo Island, is a great way to enjoy wide-angle views of Deception Pass and the bridge at sunset. Park at Bowman Bay and follow signs to Lighthouse Point. For a weekend getaway, reserve a campsite at Bowman Bay and explore nearby Rosario Head. (1.8 miles round-trip, 300 feet elevation gain, Deception Pass State Park)
  • Meadowdale Beach, located in Edmonds, features beachside views of the Olympics, Puget Sound, and Whidbey Island. Follow a pedestrian tunnel under train tracks to the beach. (Bring waterproof boots, as the tunnel can flood.) The gate to the parking area closes at dusk—plan to hike back after sunset. (2.3 miles round-trip, 425 feet elevation gain, Snohomish County Parks and Recreation)
  • Padilla Bay Shore Trail, located in Mount Vernon, is a gently winding trail along Padilla Bay with a sunset backdrop of Mount Erie, Guemes and Lummi Islands, and the snow-capped Cascades. (4.2 miles round-trip, less than 100 feet elevation gain, Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve)

Melissa Ozbek

About the Author

Originally from North Salem, New York, Melissa Ozbek fell in love with hiking in Washington State when she hiked to the summit of Mount St. Helens for the first time. Since then she has hiked hundreds of miles throughout the state, from beachside strolls to alpine lakes to spectacular mountain summits.

In 2015, she became a hiking guide correspondent and contributor to the Washington Trails Association, writing and researching trail descriptions on wta.org. In addition to writing, Melissa loves photographing trailscapes and is always looking to capture a hike’s distinctive personality. In her free time she enjoys finding NPR podcasts and audiobooks to listen to on her drives to hikes, cooking and baking, paddle boarding, playing piano, and going for walks along Lake Washington with her husband, Onur. Check out her work at melissaozbek.com.

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Sunset over Deception Pass, Washington, with birds flying across sky. Pinterest graphic.