Outdoor Activities in Seattle: Earn That Frosty Beverage, Ladies!

As we write this, spring is winding up in Seattle and quite true to form, going out like a lamb. Despite 40 degree temperatures and surprise snow last month, we know that sunnier days are approaching. In anticipation, we’re already tuning up our bikes and getting ready for a delightful summer’s worth of outdoor adventures. The geography is a huge part of what makes us love our city, and we like to take advantage of everything our region has to offer.

If you’re joining us from out of town, we know that the airlines are a bit stodgy about letting you pack oversized carry-on items like kayaks or snowshoes, but we will hook you right up if that sort of thing is your jam. Of course, it doesn’t take any special gear to enjoy your time in Seattle (check out all of our other Seattle Week posts for just a slice of the wonderful things there are to do here), but if outdoor adventures are up your alley, check out these places for gear rental and where to take it. And, when you're finished with your outdoor activity of choice, we'll enable you by encouraging you to celebrate with your favorite cocktail.  You have earned it!

// Kayaking: A nautical adventure is a really lovely way to explore Seattle’s beautiful waterways. You can get a one or two hour rental, or a whole weekend if you want to go further afield. The staff at the various rental facilities are knowledgeable and helpful and can help you figure out an appropriate route, or you can take a guided tour from one of the fine establishments below.

If you start at Agua Verde near the University of Washington, you can make a loop past the iconic Ivar’s Fish House, historic Gasworks Park, down to South Lake Union with a great view of downtown Seattle, and back up past beautiful houseboats to Agua Verde. You could also take a shorter loop around Portage Bay and check out more gorgeous houseboats (including the one from Sleepless in Seattle!). A quick trip through the Montlake Cut exhibits the pride of University of Washington’s various rowing clubs in painted slogans and puts you in the marshes of the Arboretum, with dreamy quiet lanes of overhanging trees. Agua Verde also offers killer margaritas and tacos at their cafe upstairs.

A trip that originates at Northwest Outdoor Center or Moss Bay, both just north of downtown, could take you along the Ship Canal through Fremont, down the canal past the Theo chocolate factory and into historic Salmon Bay in Ballard, which ends in the iconic Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, which allow boats to go 20 feet down from fresh water in Lake Washington to the salt water in the Puget Sound.

ridin bikes
ridin bikes

// Bicycles: Seattle’s current mayor is a huge champion of Seattle’s status as a bike friendly city, encouraging citywide bike lanes, safe places to ride, and bicycle safety and awareness. Though our copious hills and corresponding steep roads are not for the faint of heart, there are plenty of lovely places to ride your bike without needing calves like a Tour de France participant. The Burke Gilman Trail is one of our favorites; it is long, mostly flat, well maintained, beautiful, and a great way to get some exercise. There is a dodgy bit through Ballard as you can see on the map, where it is not a very clear trail, but you can get from beautiful Golden Gardens Park in Ballard all the way to Bothell, north of Seattle. Jump onto the Sammamish River Trail in Bothell and hop off in Woodinville for wine tastings at any of the local wine tasting rooms, or the Red Hook Brewery for a beer and a burger. You’ve earned it!

For rentals, check out the Bicycle Repair Shop downtown, Recycled Cycles near the University district (right on the Burke Gilman!), Montlake Bike Shop for a nice ride through the Arboretum, Ride Bicycles near Greenlake, or Dutch Bike Co. in Ballard.

snowshoeing at crystal mountain
snowshoeing at crystal mountain

// Skiing/Snowboarding/Snowshoeing: Seattle boasts a number of awesome ski resorts within easy driving distance of the city. Our local climate affords skiing most years from Thanksgiving through April. The most convenient are: the Summit at Snoqualmie, the closest resort about 45 minutes east of Seattle; Stevens Pass, under 2 hours northeast of the city; Crystal Mountain about 2 hours south near Mt. Rainier; and Mt. Baker, 2 and a half hours north. Ski Washington has a great website with handy info on lift tickets, pass conditions, and other information you might need. All of these resorts have full services with convenient parking, rental offices, lessons, and food and drink.

// Climbing: If scaling a rock wall is your cup of tea, there are plenty of indoor options both in Seattle and on the Eastside to get your climb on. Stone Gardens, Vertical World, and the Seattle Bouldering Project are by most accounts the top three in the city, but if you find another one that’s off the charts, we’d love to hear about it!

For the outdoor enthusiast, any trip to Seattle would not be complete without a visit to REI’s flagship store in the South Lake Union neighborhood just north of downtown. In addition to all the usual outdoor gear, supplies, maps, and clothes that you expect from REI, they offer on-site outdoor trails to test hiking shoes, running shoes, and bicycles; a wide variety of rental gear; tune up shops for skis, snowboards, and bikes; and a pinnacle climbing wall in the entry hall.

You’ll fit in perfectly with the locals in fleece jackets, gore-tex, and hiking boots, so get on out there and do your thing! And if you have a particularly great outdoor adventure with your ladies during a girl trip to Seattle, we’d love to hear about it.