Fall Foliage: Places to View in Seattle, Portland & More!

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Fall Foliage: Places to View in Seattle, Portland & More!

Fall in the Northwest is such a beautiful time of the year, and we are fortunate to have so many beautiful areas to view fall foliage at. We share some of our favorite places to enjoy the autumn season with our families including pumpkin patches, trips to view the fall foliage & more on the blog.  However, one of my favorite parts about autumn is heading out to check out all the beautiful, changing colors of the leaves. I spent half of my life on the East Coast & we used to head to Skyline Drive in Virginia for some incredible views of the changing colors. So, I’ve been on the hunt for locations around the Northwest where we can enjoy the same type of views.

But before you head out to see the leaves, you will want to know when to go. Generally in Washington that is from late September into October. You can check out this fall foliage map here to give you a better idea of when you might want to go (just move the little dial under the map to the dates you are interested in, to see what things should be looking like).

Places to view Autumn Leaves in the NW

Where to See Fall Foliage in Washington:

Often times you will find beautiful scenery right in your own neighborhood or in local parks. There are a handful of streets lined with gorgeous trees which I can enjoy just on my daily commute in my own neighborhood.

Beyond that, though, there are many areas that are well known in the Northwest as great spots to visit to view autumn leaves. Here are some of our favorites, as well as others that have been recommended by Thrifty NW Mom readers throughout the years.

Wooden Japanese Gate and lush fall foliage in Kubota Garden, Seattle

Seattle Fall Foliage

Kubota Gardens – Seattle, Wa.

The Kubota Gardens is a 20 acre Japanese garden which is a Seattle public park. It’s located in the Rainier Beach neighborhood in south Seattle.  This spot is beautiful in the fall as you find vibrant colors in both the Japanese Maples as well as the Burning Bush “Euonymus alatus” in the fall. I love the combination with the vibrant fall colors, the reflections of the ponds & the darling bridges, making it such a picturesque spot.  Definitely worth a visit and its free!

fall foliage at Washington Park Arboretum botanical Garden
Dreamy fall foliage landscape in Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum botanical Garden

More Places around Seattle:

  • Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle WA (see below for more details on this favorite spot in the Seattle area)!
  • Volunteer Park – Seattle, WA – we love this urban park in Capitol Hill. These are huge trees around the park & you can also enjoy the observatory &
Fall Colors at Mt Rainier
Paradise meadows covered with autumn colors at Mount Rainier national park

Eastside Areas

This encompasses all of the areas east of the Seattle area (Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, Kirkland, Snoqualmie, North Bend & more)

Snoqualmie Valley

  • Marymoor Park – Redmond, WA
  • Oxbow Loop Hike – North Bend, WA – this is such a gorgeous spot along the Middle Fork river for families. It’s flat & short, right next to the river with plenty of beautiful fall colors to enjoy along this hike
  • Snoqualmie Valley – Snoqualmie WA – this site shares a wonderful wealth of information about the Snoqualmie Valley, events, farms, best places to visit & eat & more

South Sound Areas

Mount Rainier Fall Foliage

More locations south of Seattle:

This includes Tacoma fall foliage spots as well as around south King County, Pierce County, Thurston County & more

  • Wright Park – Tacoma, WA (this is an incredibly popular spot for photographers because of the abundance of gorgeous colors on the huge trees. It’s right in the heart of downtown Tacoma & next to the Tacoma General hospital, but walking in this urban oasis amidst these big trees is such a nice bit of calm
  • Northwest Trek – a fun place to see the animals on a tram ride or the walk-thru section of the park. Plus, enjoy the beautiful fall colors along the tram ride & as you walk along the trails in the park
  • 5 Mile Drive at Point Defiance Park – Tacoma, WA. This is one of our favorite local places to view the fall colors as there are tons of walking trails throughout the park. And we love to see the colors in the Japanese Gardens at Point Defiance – so pretty!
  • Tumwater Falls Park  – Olympia/Tumwater, WA – check out our review of this beautiful park just right off I-5 – great stopping off point if you’ve got a long drive. During the early fall (Sept & early October) it’s a great time to see the salmon spawning & jumping up the fish ladders & more!
  • Billy Frank Jr Nisqually Wildlife Refuge – Lacey, WA. The wildlife refuge is located where the Nisqually River joins the Puget Sound and it offers a variety of trails to enjoy the wildlife & birds in this refuge. You can take in the autumn leaves while birdwatching & walking along the trail & boardwalks

North of Seattle Areas

Chuckanut Drive

Drive from Bow, WA to Bellingham, WA. This drive is beautiful anytime of the year, but makes a really fun fall day trip too. We share more tips on where to stop and explore, eat and more on this drive here too.

More Areas:

  • Whatcom Falls Park – Bellingham, WA – this was one of my all-time favorite places to see the fall colors. The colors are so vibrant within this whole park & the combination of the fast flowing waterfalls (thanks to lots of rain typically in the fall)  + fall colors made it so memorable.
  • Peace Arch Park – we love visiting Peace Arch park at the boundary for the US & Canada. And it was a surprise for us to learn this was a beautiful spot with fall foliage, too, as they have a number of large trees in the park to enjoy
  • Downtown Lynden – if you love a darling, little Dutch town filled with mature trees & loads of fall color, Lynden is the perfect place to visit for a day trip
  • Snohomish Riverfront Trail – we adore the cute town of Snohomish & the waterfront trail in town along the river is a great way to see some fall colors on a short walk & then head up to the downtown for antique shopping & enjoying their many restaurants

Central Washington Fall Foliage

Leavenworth, WA

Take Highway 2 over the pass for a beautiful drive along the way to Leavenworth. The drive along Highway 2 once you get over the mountains is so beautiful as it winds along the river with beautiful fall colors. And once you come to Leavenworth, you’ll see gorgeous fall leaves in this picturesque Bavarian village. We love to head to the Waterfront Park in Leavenworth for easy walks to view the pretty fall colors along the river.

Fall leaves in Leavenworth

Octoberfest is also happening in October in Leavenworth and it is a fun time to visit for both the fall foliage and festivities.

fall foliage riverfront park Wenatchee

More Places in Central Washington:

  • Lake Wenatchee State Park – Plain, WA (near Leavenworth). This is over 500 acres of beautiful forest, beach & waterfront with beautiful fall foliage.
  • Wenatchee Riverfront Park – Wenatchee, WA – Not far from Leavenworth, this is a an area where you can walk around the river and enjoy the changing colors of the fall foliage, and usually without large crowds. Stop for lunch at the Pybus Market to make it a perfect day.
  • Icicle River
  • Swauk Forest Discovery Trail – Blewett Pass, WA – This trail is known for being a beautiful, family-friendly trail for larches in the fall. Many of the popular larch trails are further away in the North Cascades & longer, more difficult trails. However, this trail is under 2 1/2 miles with 600 elevation gain, so a very doable hike for many families. It’s also a central location in between Ellensburg/Cle Elum & Leavenworth areas in the pass.

More Tips On Visiting the Washington Park Arboretum & Japanese Garden:

Since the Arboretum is such a popular spot to see fall colors in the Northwest, we provided a more detailed review of what you can expect to find there.

Our favorite place to view the fall colors in the Puget Sound area is to head up to the Washington Park Arboretum near the University of Washington campus in Seattle. It is 230 acres located just south of the campus across the Mountlake Bridge. I love that it’s so close off the freeway in the middle of Seattle (literally 5 minutes off I-5 or the 520 bridge). Once you’re there, you’ll find an amazing assortment of plants & trees within this park.

I love that the Arboretum is so family-friendly – they have large paved pedestrian paths that run throughout the park which are great for bike rides, stroller walking, jogging & more. These paths can get pretty busy on beautiful fall weekends, so we mainly use them to get to certain areas of the park & then head into the smaller trails that wind thru the woods. Even with the smaller paths, we have taken our girls even as toddlers & they have been able to walk on the trails easily & we’ve been able to take a jogging stroller thru the trails.

You’ll find plenty of opportunities for jumping in the leaves & rolling down the hills – my girls’ favorite pastime in the fall! 

As I mentioned, this park is very popular on the beautiful, sunny weekends in the fall, so if you’re wanting to take a lot of fall photos, you may want to wait until the weekdays or just head there in the mornings or the evenings on the weekends for more opportunities to get your photos without people. However, there are plenty of trails throughout the park, so just look for those paths that are less traveled.

Washington Park Arboretum offers free admission; however, the Japanese Garden is also included within this park & you do have to pay admission prices for the park – adults are $8, seniors/youth 6-17/college students with ID/disabled is $4; & children ages 0-5 are free.

Other posts you might be interested in for more Fall Fun:

Make sure to check out all of our fall-related posts – everything from pumpkin patch reviews, favorite places to view the fall colors, fall recipes & more!

Here are a few of our favorites:


Best places to see fall foliage in the northwest

Where is your favorite place to view the autumn leaves around the Pacific Northwest? Make sure to leave a comment so we can add it to our list!

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