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Traversing Bellevue's Best Trails: From Urban Oases to Backcountry Escapes

July 8, 2024 - by Rachel Pfalzer

Bellevue’s location in the heart of the Pacific Northwest means it’s just a stone’s throw away from some of the country's most beautiful trails and natural areas. Whether you’re a seasoned hiking pro or just looking to spend some time outdoors, check out some of these local favorites to get moving and enjoy some fresh air under the summer sun.

For the urban sightseer:

It may come as a surprise to some that the city can be a nature-lover’s playground. With numerous parks nestled within Bellevue city limits, true oases can be found in the middle of high-rises and shopping centers. These paved or gravel spots are perfect for a lunch-break stroll, a dog walk, or a glimpse at some seasonal flora.

Downtown Park Loop

Length: 0.4 mi / Elevation Gain: 22 ft

For those looking for a brief respite right outside of the office, this loop offers shade and water features to soothe on even the busiest days. The path leads visitors along a row of trees to cascading, manmade falls. If that’s not enough, the park’s sprawling lawn is perfect for a variety of outdoor activities.

Mercer Slough Nature Park

Length: 2.5 mi / Elevation Gain: 124 ft

Despite being a quick bus ride away from Downtown, Mercer Slough feels like a remote, peaceful sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The slough is Lake Washington’s largest wetland, home to hundreds of plant species with views to match.

Bellevue Botanical Garden and Wilburton Hill Park

Length: 1.9 mi / Elevation Gain: 150 ft

Enjoy beautifully curated lush gardens featuring native plants on this loop through the natural gem of Bellevue. The 53-acre haven offers numerous opportunities for visitors to stop and smell the flowers (literally). Check out one of the many specialized gardens to see this summer's fuchsia, dahlia, rhododendron, and hydrangea blooms on display.

For the local explorer:

Wanting to stay close to home but still looking for an immersive nature escape? These trails aren’t too hard on the knees but still offer a more isolated, woodsy feel.

McTavish Trail

Length: 2 mi / Elevation Gain: 255 ft

This lush, tree-covered trail promises a cool-down on a hot day. Visitors admire McTavish’s well-maintained path and steady elevation gain accompanied by slowly trickling streams. Be on the lookout for some neat multicolored fungi lining the path and trees!

Lake Hills Lake to Lake Trail

Length: 3.1 mi / Elevation Gain: 82 ft

Starting in Bellevue's own Lake Hills neighborhood, make this trail yours as you stride alongside waterfalls, creeks, wetlands, old-growth, and blueberry fields. If you’re feeling adventurous, the trail in its entirety connects nine parks and Lake Sammamish to Lake Washington. Or, just take an hour to walk, run, or bike and keep it local!

Coyote Loop Trail

Length: 3.7 mi / Elevation Gain: 180 ft

A favorite for local equestrians, Coyote Loop offers gently rolling hills and all shades of greenery throughout. Feel cocooned by majestic trees as you traverse smooth terrain. Bonus - you’ll likely make friends with a few horses or dogs along the way.

For the backcountry adventurer:

For those looking to escape outside of the city and tread some rockier terrain, it is essential to visit some of the Eastside’s regional wildlands. Boasting waterfalls, lush greenery, and stunning views, these trails are a little bit more work for an incredible reward. Each trail is less than an hour’s drive from Downtown Bellevue.

Coal Creek Falls Loop via Red Town and Cave Hole Trail

Length: 2.7 mi / Elevation Gain: 547 ft

Step a bit further out of town into Cougar Mountain Regional Wildlands, where the conditions are perfect for a day of birdwatching or salmonberry picking. Along this loop trail, enjoy this season’s blooming wildflowers before making it to majestic Coal Creek Falls.

West Tiger #3

Length: 5.5 mi / Elevation Gain: 1,948 ft

This trail is the busiest on Tiger Mountain for good reason. Frequented by families and seasoned backpackers alike, West Tiger #3 boasts stunning 360 views of Seattle and Mount Rainier on a clear day. Its steady incline is perfect for those looking for more of a challenging workout who are ready to work up a sweat.

Otter and Big Creek Falls via Taylor River Trail

Length: 9.5 mi / Elevation Gain: 902 ft

Despite being the longest on this list, Taylor River Trail to Otter and Big Creek Falls offers scenic views throughout while remaining mostly flat. The trail is green and lush, passing by a series of small waterfalls and creeks before ending at the stunning Big Creek Falls. Visitors recommend getting an early start to enjoy an empty trail – just be ready for some short creek crossings!