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A Kaleidoscope of Colors: Fall Foliage in Washington

As fall arrives in the Pacific Northwest, the scenery makes a swift departure from the greenery of summer. Shades of yellow, burnt orange, and scarlet blend with hints of purple in a beautiful spectrum of colors that extends from the mountain ranges to the parks of Seattle.

Hikers in Washington During The Fall - Woodmark Hotel

At The Woodmark, the changing trees reflect off the serene waters of Lake Washington, with many taking on fall colors as early as mid-September and the best time to see the foliage being in early October (try Columbus Day weekend).

Maples, Pacific Dogwoods, and Red Alders take on warm tones in Seattle, while Kirkland is known for Black Hawthorns and Oregon Ash trees, among many others. There are wonderful trails near the hotel, which Guest Services Supervisor Katie Focher can direct you to, including the walking path on the lake’s shore and the path that leads from the hotel to downtown Kirkland.

Nearby, the fall foliage is thriving in the towns of Woodinville—make sure to stay for a wine tasting—and Issaquah, which has a trail system going through town and beneath a canopy of trees along the creek. And in Seattle, the Washington Park Arboretum offers 230 acres blanketed with Oaks, Magnolias, Birches, Poplars, and other beautiful trees.

But the best way to see the fall scenery, by far, is hiking. And Katie has some wonderful insight for family-friendly (and pet-friendly) destinations close to The Woodmark. 

Fall Hiking Trail Near Kirkland Washington - Woodmark Hotel

Rattlesnake Ridge

Rattlesnake Ridge is a beautiful mountain offering a forested trail dotted with mossy boulders. The path leads to Rattlesnake Ledge, an exposed rock that offers clear views of the Cedar Ridge Watershed, Mount Si, Mount Washington, Rattlesnake Lake, and Chester Morse Lake. “It’s incredibly gorgeous,” says Katie. “When you get up to the top of Rattlesnake Ridge, pack a lunch and stay up there for an hour or so and soak up the scenery.”

Best View: Upper Ledge, located about 0.5 miles above Rattlesnake Ledge, offers more sweeping views to the northwest and is generally less crowded.

Difficulty: Medium, 4 miles roundtrip

Little Si

The path to Little Si tends to attract families with children and beginner hikers. A sharp incline at the beginning of the trail quickly flattens out into woodlands and boulder fields, and the hike ends with a short push to the top. “Little Si, I would say, is the most scenic,” says Katie. “You’re walking in the woods, seeing all of the moss and the rocks and the trees.”

Best View: The summit of Little Si affords panoramic views of the valley and the surrounding peaks, Mount Si and Mount Washington.

Difficulty: Easy, 4.7 miles roundtrip 

Hiker and Dog in Washington During Autumnl - Woodmark Hotel

Big Si

More formally known as Mount Si, Big Si is a strenuous hike with a spectacular reward. The trail begins with steep switchbacks, then levels out into Snag Flat where hikers can walk among enormous ancient trees. A final climb through a much younger forest reveals the slope at the top with scenic views of Mount Rainier in the distance. “The hike is a bit steep but still family-friendly,” says Katie. “The paths are wide enough for everyone.”

Best View: The end of the trail is a wonderful place for a picnic and incredible fall scenery, but further exploration will expose another vantage point. Head up the stone steps near the slope and through a stretch of forest to reach the overlook for Snoqualmie Valley, Seattle, and the Olympics.

Difficulty: Challenging, 8 miles roundtrip 

Fall Foliage - The Woodmark Hotel in Kirkland, Washington

Poo Poo Point

A summit of West Tiger Mountain, Poo Poo Point was named for the steam whistles that used to sound nearby in logging days. The trail is marked by rocky slopes, vibrant deciduous trees, and the gentle creeks of Many Creeks Valley. At the point, hikers will find a picnic area and a small knoll topped with a windsock.

Best View: With the right wind, hikers can see paragliders taking flight from the point. But Katie also enjoys a second overlook farther up: “You can see Issaquah, Sammamish, Lake Sammamish, and Lake Washington. It will be incredible in the fall with the leaves changing.”

Difficulty: Challenging, 7.2 miles roundtrip (or 3.8 miles roundtrip on the more direct Chirico Trail) 

Autumn Leaf - Woodmark Hotel in Kirkland, WA

Annette Lake

The winding path to Annette Lake is one of the most beautiful in the region, flecked with waterfalls, delicate wildflowers, and glimpses of nearby mountains. The trail begins in an evergreen forest of Fir, Hemlock, and Cedar, and continues past the first falls, through level forests and rolling slopes, and finally to the north shore of the alpine lake. “It’s intense and then flattens out, intense and then flattens out,” says Katie.

Best View: From the lake’s edge, hikers (and campers) can see Abiel Peak to the southwest, Silver Peak to the east, and a beautiful waterfall tumbling into the lake.

Difficulty: Challenging, 7.5 miles roundtrip

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After you have taken in Washington’s seasonal foliage, stay for some of the spectacular fall events at The Woodmark. We offer a game day shuttle across the lake for every University of Washington home football game and also host the Howl at the Moon Mutt Mixer, a costumed party for dogs and their owners, in late October.

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9 Ways to Indulge in Fall

The air is growing crisp, the leaves are changing colors and the sun is setting earlier. Summer has quickly turned into fall in Washington. Washington is a great place to be for fall, with all the fall festivals, pumpkin patches, orchards, and ways to take in the season. There is something for everyone to enjoy. Here are some ways that you can embrace fall to the fullest:

  • Take a Staycation: Savor a weekend away and enjoy the flavors of fall. Bundle up in a cozy sweater and take in Lake Washington. Explore the surrounding area and let the beauty of nature sweep you away! 

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Image: Fox Hollow Farm

  • Visit an Apple Farm: This activity is great for families. With orchards all over Washington State, you can make it a day trip or a weekend away. Bring the apples home & create a new fall recipe. We recommend The Farm at Swan's Trail in Snohomish

Picking your own Jonagold and Honeycrisp apples at The Farm at Swan’s Trail is fun for the whole family and the apples are great for fresh eating and pies, dumplings and other home baked treats.

Image: The Farm at Swan's Trail

  • Go on a Hike: Pick from one of the many trails in the Pacific Northwest. Get out and enjoy the scenic foliage and the crisp fall air. Visit Washington Trails Association to find the right hike for your level & interests. 

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  • Celebrate Oktoberfest: This is a fall favorite! All around the state, you can find an Oktoberfest that is filled with food, drinks and fun. From Kirkland (this upcoming weekend!) to Leavenworth, this is an event you won't want to miss.

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Image: Kirkland Views

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  • Try a Fall Farmer's Market: Pick up fresh flowers to bring fall colors into your home. Add fresh ingredients for the recipe you've been wanting to try. We recommend the Kirkland Wednesday Market (through September), or the Ballard Farmer's Market (year-round). 

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Watersports on Lake Washington

The surface of Lake Washington is often as smooth as glass in the early morning, serene and untouched except for the occasional paddling of ducks. 

It’s around this time—when the sun peers over Seattle—that the first watersports enthusiasts are entering the shallows. Paddles in hand, they slip their kayaks and paddle boards into the water, and soon they are joined by small fleets of boats, jet skis, wakeboarders, and swimmers as Lake Washington becomes a playground for summer activity. 

On the western shore of the lake, The Woodmark’s recreation booth, aptly named Waterfront Adventures, is already open for the day welcoming hotel guests and locals alike to one of the most beautiful destinations in the Pacific Northwest. Here families can rent kayaks, paddle boards, boats, and jet skis or reserve a driver for a gentle cruise around the lake. The watersports team is available to instruct visitors on something new or set them up with a favorite summer activity.

Recreation booth, Waterfront Adventures, on Lake Washington by the Woodmark Hotel, Bellevue, Washington 

Our iconic yellow and blue kayaks are complimentary for hotel guests for up to four hours, available in both singles and doubles.

To start your kayaking adventure, we recommend taking an easy trip to the nearby Yarrow Bay Wetlands. The serene 73-acre wildlife preserve is only accessible by water, and motorized craft are not permitted so the atmosphere is ideal for wildlife viewing. In the shallows, you may spot great blue heron, while ospreys and even bald eagles have been known to rest in the trees above. Chances are you will also see turtles, beavers, and a great variety of fish in the water.

For a longer paddle, head to Juanita Bay Wetlands 5 miles to the north. The lush park is a popular picnicking spot for Kirkland and Bellevue locals, so it’s a fun stop-off during the summer.

Paddleboard Yoga on Lake Washington by the Woodmark Hotel in Bellevue 

Those with the right balance will enjoy paddle boarding on the lake and even paddle board yoga for experienced yogis. Just steer clear of fast-moving boats if you don’t want the wake to toss you into the water (though it can actually be very refreshing in August!).

As for thrill seekers, our high-powered jet skis and wakeboarding boat make for an adrenaline-filled day on the water. Wakeboarding is similar to other board sports, so even visitors who are attempting it for the first time should be able to adjust quickly.

Jet Skis on Lake Washington by the Woodmark Hotel in Bellevue, WA

For a slower, more scenic excursion, we recommend a boat cruise or a walk along the lakeside trails. When boating, the entire lake is open to you—whether you wish to circle Mercer Island or motor to Lake Washington’s shore for an up-close view of Seattle. Alongside the lake, a network of trails starts at Carillon Point, and visitors can walk among the collection of outdoor sculptures. There are also beach cruisers for rent at The Woodmark.

As for renting options, Waterfront Adventures has several boats that can accommodate up to 12 people, and we also offer cruises on The Woodmark II, our vintage, 28-foot boat for six with a sleek, retro design and beautiful mahogany decks. And as the activity on Lake Washington quiets down at the end of the day, a sunset cruise on the smaller boat can be an intimate and memorable way to end your time at The Woodmark.

Woodmark Boat on Lake Washington by the Woodmark Hotel in Bellevue, Washington

Walk-ups are welcome, but reservations are strongly encouraged for all watersports and special events on Lake Washington. Waterfront Adventures is open from May through September and can be reached at 425-216-2257.

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