If variety is the spice of life, the four seasons of outdoor fun that Bellevue, Washington, offers might just take the cake. Add a dash of winter snow skiing to a splash of spring waterfalls, a hint of summer on the golf course with a pinch of fall color and you get a delicious mix of outdoor activities sure to satisfy any appetite. Choose your season — and your activity — à la carte style. Substitutions are not only allowed, they’re encouraged! One thing is certain — a great experience is always on the menu.
Sure, we look forward to our annual dose of summer sun, but savvy locals know winter offers its own powdery rewards. Take advantage of what the stunning Cascade Range has to offer and head outside for some serious snow play.
You’ll find skiing and snowboarding at Crystal Mountain — about 75 miles southeast of Bellevue — high on everyone’s list of winter to-dos. If bigger is indeed better, Crystal Mountain pulls ahead of other area options. Boasting 2,600 acres and more than 80 named runs, it’s Washington’s largest ski resort. And if you find yourself at Crystal during the summer months, don’t miss the scenic Mt. Rainier Gondola ride up to the top for exhilarating mountain views.
About 45 miles east of the city, more winter fun awaits at The Summit at Snoqualmie, a resort located at Snoqualmie Pass, which offers everything from alpine skiing and snowboarding to Nordic skiing and winter tubing. And don’t overlook Stevens Pass, about 75 miles northeast of Bellevue. Its 52 major ski runs and variety of passes to choose from help deliver on its promise to be “Epic for Everyone.” You might even decide to give night skiing a try.
If the slopes aren’t really your bag, consider an REI-led snowshoeing tour. It’s great exercise, safely social, and requires mastering only a few basic techniques before you are out enjoying some invigorating exercise with beautiful views.
This time of year, the temperature begins warm up, the sun pops out to say hello a little more frequently, and the Pacific Northwest landscape begins to resemble a giant flower bouquet. With spring comes a slew of new activities to enjoy and rejuvenate you.
Spring is the perfect time to pull out the paddles and go rafting or kayaking on one of Washington’s famed rivers. Experience whitewater thrills on the Skykomish or Wenatchee Rivers. Look for bald eagles while kayaking the milder sections of the Skagit River. The Hoh River entices beginners and families due to its gentle rapids. If you’ve never kayaked before, consider a beginner’s class with REI Bellevue, which takes place at Lake Washington’s Meydenbauer Bay Park in Old Bellevue.
Another top spring activity is touring area waterfalls, of which there are many. Hiking to Wallace Falls is practically a no-brainer as it sports nine waterfalls, verdant forest scenery, and is less than six miles round trip. Both shorter than three miles, the hikes to Twin Falls and Coal Creek Falls are also solid options. The half-mile trail to Deception Falls is ADA-accessible and never disappoints. But don’t miss the crowning glory of the area — Snoqualmie Falls, considered by the Snoqualmie Tribe to be the birthplace of humanity. Travel a little over a half a mile along an interpretative trail and you’ll encounter plenty of prime viewing locations for taking in the falls’ spectacular 268-foot drop.
The sun is bright and temperatures continue their march upwards, much to the delight of, well, everyone. Thankfully, the outdoor options are practically limitless this time of year, and it’s time to glory in all the PNW has to offer.
Summer is a great time to head to one of the area’s gorgeous lakes. Visit one of the numerous lakeshore parks dotting their perimeters, where you can stroll the shoreline or pack a picnic. Lake Washington, the second largest natural lake in the state, lies between Bellevue and Seattle and serves as a playground for anglers, boaters, kayakers, and more. Bass, perch, trout, and salmon tempt fishermen. Sailboats, powerboats, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards share the lake’s inviting waters and provide primo views of always-breathtaking Mt. Rainier. On the east side of Bellevue, Lake Sammamish offers fishing, in addition to waterskiing, wakeboarding, tubing, and jet skiing. Lake Sammamish State Park — at the south end of the lake — is great for swimming, kayaking, and soaking up the sun on either of its two beaches. From beaches to trails, you can really take your pick of park activities: In all, Bellevue Parks & Community Services encompasses more than 2,700 acres of parks and open space, and features more than 80 miles of trails. Pick berries, hike, fish, hit the beach, launch watercraft, watch the sunset — it’s all yours for the taking.
If you’re one of those folks whose vacation isn’t complete without a round of golf, Bellevue has you covered. If you feel up to a challenge, head to Tam o’Shanter Golf & Country Club, where your mettle will be put to the test. Just want to practice your drive and hit a bucket of balls? Make for Bellevue Golf Course’s driving range. Bellevue Golf Course’s Crossroads Par 3 Course is the perfect place to bone up on your short game. Take your pick between the two impeccable courses, both with incredible views, at The Golf Club at Newcastle. The practice range at Newcastle also offers heated bays for those who want to keep their game sharp through the colder months of the year.
Summer in the Pacific Northwest is synonymous with whale watching. Minke, humpback, and orcas routinely make appearances between May and October, while gray whales are more commonly spotted in March and April as they head north for the summer. There are a number of local companies that can help you on your quest to see these majestic mammals, including Puget Sound Express, San Juan Safaris, and the San Juan Clipper. In addition to whales, you might also spot seals, sea lions, eagles, and more. Or get a whole new perspective on whale-watching — literally — by booking one of Kenmore Air’s Scenic Flight and Whale Watching Boat Tours, which combines a seaplane flight north to Friday Harbor, with a three-hour whale-watching boat tour led by experts from San Juan Safaris. Afterward, it’s a quick flight back to Bellevue to rest up for your next adventure.
Autumn around these parts rivals anything you’ll find Back East — and then some. Vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds usually appear around mid-September and continue well into October. The air is crisp, and the delights of the season are found around every corner.
One of the best ways to experience fall’s color bounty is to hit the trail of one of the area’s uber-scenic hikes. The only problem is there are so many to choose from! For an easy jaunt, hop on the Gold Creek Pond Trail, a one-mile ADA-accessible trek which leads to great views of the mountains around Snoqualmie Pass. The Ira Spring Trail to Mason Lake is a little more challenging at 6.5 miles and with an elevation gain of more than 2,000 feet. But the payoffs are big in terms of fall color. Bonus: On a clear day you get a spectacular view of Mount Rainer. (As always, check the weather forecast before heading out.) Mercer Slough Nature Park, Lewis Creek Park, Weowna Park, and Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park are also some great options for spectacular fall colors. Of course, don’t overlook the popular Bellevue Botanical Garden — but let’s be honest, it’s a winner at any time of the year. And then there are numerous additional city parks that are easily accessible and where the well-tended foliage also puts on quite a fall-color show.
Nothing beats a good old-fashioned leaf-peeping drive, and the 90-mile scenic byway that is the Stevens Pass Greenway is just the ticket. The road stretches from Monroe, northeast of Bellevue, to Peshastian in Chelan County. Along the route, Tumwater Canyon offers lots of photo ops with fall foliage as well as spawning salmon, which is at its peak during the fall. Eventually you come to the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, where biergartens abound and an Autumn Leaf festival is held each September. Sample the pears and the views in the small town of Peshastian before turning the car back toward Bellevue.