Whether you’re interested in hiking, biking, water sports, or other summer fun, Issaquah makes the perfect hub for family friendly outdoor adventure!
With a plethora of outdoor activities for all ages located a mere 5-30 minutes from downtown Issaquah, it’s easy to fill a weekend in this charming mountainside town. In this piece we’ll share not just our top outdoor experiences, but our favorite local food finds, and affordable, family friendly lodging. Read on to discover why we LOVE to stay and play in beautiful Issaquah, WA!
Outdoor Activities for All Ages
First things first – what to do for fun! Situated at the base of three small mountains (referred to by locals as the “Issaquah Alps”), along the perimeter of gorgeous Lake Sammamish, and with incredibly easy access to the more remote Cascade Mountain trails down the I-90 East corridor, Issaquah truly makes the perfect basecamp for a summer weekend of outdoor activity.
With hundreds of local trails it’s hard to choose just our top few! We’ve shared a handful of local favorites in and around Issaquah below, but be sure to check out our Five Beginner Friendly Waterfall Hikes post as well for even more ideas.
Best Bang For Your Buck: A shorter hike with some of the best views offered by the Issaquah Alps can be found by hiking a little less than 4 miles round trip on the Chirico Trail, up to Poo Poo Point and back. Over the course of about 1,500 feet in elevation gain, hikers will make their way through the forests of Tiger Mountain, up to the North Launch pad (used by paragliders that frequently use Poo Poo Point as a take-off spot for flights).
Best Hike for Young Kids (In Issaquah): While Chirico Trail makes a great out and back for families with older kiddos, those with littler legs will appreciate the gentle terrain and lower elevation gain on some of Tiger Mountain’s Tradition Plateau hikes. The .7 mile Bus Trail takes hikers by a mysterious and creepy broken down bus from ages ago, and the 3.4 mile Tradition Plateau Loop is a nice loop for some lake views. The 1 mile Swamp Trail is a fun hike for youngsters, with signs along the trail to tell a story about the animals found in our local forests, but while it’s a short distance we have found this route slightly confusing to navigate.
Best Hike for Young Kids (Near Issaquah): Hands down our FAVORITE local hike for young kids in the Greater Seattle area is the Oxbow Loop Trail. We’ve done this 2 mile loop with our 3 year old several times and the stunning mountain views never disappoint. There is very little elevation gain, and the drive out to the remote trailhead in nearby North Bend provides additional mountain views and big adventure on a smaller hike.
Favorite Trail On Squak Mountain: For a little more distance, head to the other side of Issaquah to Squak Mountain’s Margaret’s Way Trail. At 6.5 miles round trip and 1500 ft of elevation gain, this hike combines steeper sections with more gradual slopes through thick forests. Follow signs to “Debbie’s Viewpoint” at the end of the trail for an additional .7 mile of hiking and views of Mt. Rainier and gorgeous green hillsides.
Best Middle Distance Hike with a View: Another option for a middle distance hike with phenomenal Mt. Rainier views is Tiger Mountain’s Tiger #1 via Fred’s Corner Trail. At 7 miles round trip and a bit heftier 2400 ft of elevation gain, this hike requires a bit more navigation, and some extra oomph for a challenging last mile to the top.
For Serenity and Alpine Lake Views: If taking a short drive out of town for some longer distance and more remote challenges sounds more your style, give Granite Creek Trail to Granite Lakes in the North Bend area a try. This trail leads you to gorgeous tucked away views of Granite Lakes on an 8.8 mile out and back type trail.
Favorite Trail For A Big Challenge: While Mt. Si is a popular and very highly trafficked local favorite for a more challenging adventure, neighboring Mt. Tenerriffe (also in North Bend) offers jaw dropping summit views in reward for 13 miles of hard work. Definitely a hike recommended for experienced hikers only, those with a love for challenge ought to add Mt. Tenerriffe to their PNW hiking bucket list.
If you’re looking to head off road on two wheels, Issaquah, WA and surrounding mountain bike destinations make the ultimate all-ages playground.
A mere 10-15 minutes from just about anywhere in Issaquah you’ll find:
Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park – Arguably one of the top mountain biking destinations in the state, the 120 acre Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park offers over six miles of intertwined trails for adventurous riders. With a variety of cross-country trails, free ride trails, jumps, and more, all ages and abilities of mountain bike fans will be happy here.
Grand Ridge Trail System – Right across the road from Duthie Hill’s main parking lot you’ll find one access point to the 26-mile Grand Ridge Trail system. With multiple access points in downtown Issaquah and Issaquah Highlands as well, this enormous trail system offers a great cross-country workout and hill climbing challenge.
Tiger Mountain East – One of Seattle’s most popular mountain biking destinations, the Tiger East trail system begins with a one way climbing trail from the parking lot leading about 3/4 of the way up to the summit. From there, riders can explore the trail system, head on down the mountain with true downhill options, or continue on to the summit for some additional elevation gain.
A gem of Seattle’s Eastside, the beautiful Lake Sammamish State Park is a must-visit destination during any stay in Issaquah. Whether to take a quick swim after a long day of hiking or riding, or to spend a day paddling on the water. This 500+ acre park offers two large swim beaches, onsite paddle sport rentals from Issaquah Paddle Sports, a huge playground, and plenty of grassy areas for large family gatherings, BBQs, and sports. Just a couple miles down the road from the main State Park entrance is the boat launch for motorized watersports and fishing access.
No list of adventurous outdoor activities in Issaquah would be complete without a shout out to our friends at Seattle Paragliding! If flying down the mountainside sounds more your style, they’ve got you covered. We have yet to work up the nerve to try one of their tandem, no-experience-necessary flight from the top of Tiger Mountain, but thrill-seeking friends tell us this is a once in a lifetime experience!
Fuel Your Fun
All good adventures start and end with food – are we right, or are we right? After your day of fun, be sure to visit one of our favorite spots in Issaquah to refuel!
Formula Brewing – Tap Room, Beer Garden & Wood Fired Pizza
Formula Brewing, Issaquah’s first brewery and beer garden, is the spot to be for any beer loving visitor to Seattle’s Eastside. Their taps include an ever-rotating selection of “true to style” brews, and a friendly, relaxing setting for all ages. They offer a huge, open indoor and outdoor seating areas, and in addition to their beers (we’ve never tried one we didn’t like!) they offer some of the best wood fired pizzas we’ve ever had. With crusts that have a slight crunch on the bottom, but still a good bit of chew, our mouth is watering just thinking about our last visit!
PS: They are walking distance to Issaquah’s two signature hotels!
Chinoise Sushi Bar & Asian Grill
Chinoise is a local Asian fusion restaurant serving up gourmet Pan-Pacific Rim cuisine. Located in the Issaquah Highlands area, Chinoise is owned by Chef Thoa Nguyen, winner of the popular Food Network cooking TV show “Beat Bobby Flay.” With a huge menu of wok fare, noodle and rice entrees, sushi and other seafood specials, there is something for everything at Chinoise. We’d highly recommend trying some of the signature craft cocktails as well! We tried the mango mojito and lychee martini – both were incredibly delicious and fresh, as you can see by the whole lychee garnish in the photo!
Orenji Sushi & Noodles
Don’t let the quaint exterior of Orenji fool you – some of the best Sushi and ramen around can be found at locally owned Orenji’s. Here you’ll find reasonable prices on unique sushi rolls, sashimi, and nigiri, as well as one of the best bowls of ramen we’ve had. Located right down the street from Lake Sammamish State Park, they make a great spot for a grab and go dinner in the park.
Focused on locally sourced, scratch made food and cocktails, Levitate Gastropub offers modern American cuisine in a hip, family-friendly environment in the historic Downtown Issaquah area. We love their outdoor patio for family friendly dining, and hands down they have the best fish and chips in town.
Black Duck Cask and Bottle
Looking to leave the littles at home and head for a night out? The Black Duck Cask & Bottle offers an ages 21+ gastropub experience with 17 local taps, a rustic “open air garage” type restaurant and a gourmet twist on traditional pub fare. They’re located at the historic Gilman Village shopping center which makes for a fun place to wander and shop before or after your day of play.
Where to Stay
When you’re finally ready to wind down for the day, head to one of Issaquah’s signature hotels for a place to stay! Both properties are located just minutes from Lake Sammamish, Issaquah Alps hiking, and I-90 freeway access for exploring the Eastside region.
Hilton Garden Inn Issaquah: For the premium Hilton experience, visit Hilton Garden Inn Issaquah located at 1800 NW Gilman Blvd, Issaquah, WA, 98027. Accommodations include access to an indoor pool, 24 hour fitness center, and full-service Trailhead Kitchen and Bar. Click here to check out their special summer rates!
Marriott Springhill Suites Issaquah: Offering roomy suites and an indoor pool, the Springhill Suites in Issaquah is located at 1185 NW Maple Street, Issaquah, WA, 98027.
This post was graciously sponsored by the City of Issaquah. All opinions are our own.