Living in a city like Tacoma is great, in part because you’re so close to all the storied outdoor amenities— think Mt. Rainier National Park, the Olympic Mountains or the North Cascades.
Tacoma is home to some fantastic urban hikes within—or just outside—its own city limits. From a go-to waterfront stroll to towering forests that seemingly transport you from city to wilderness in just a few steps, here are a few of the best urban hikes in Tacoma.
Every city should have a park like Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park. The largest park in the city, Point Defiance is home to everything from a zoo and aquarium to renowned rose gardens and, yes, hiking trails. The 2.6-mile round-trip Spine Trail will take you from the Rhododendron Garden to a Gig Harbor viewpoint and back, while the 4.6-mile Square Trail takes you on a loop around the outer perimeter of the park through second-growth forest and past views of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the Olympic Mountains and more.
Mileage: Up to 7 miles
The Ruston Way path in northern Tacoma’s Old Town neighborhood is a classic urban waterfront stroll unfolds along Commencement Bay, through several parks and past a handful of places to stop for a bite to eat or happy hour. It’s flat, paved, great for kids and an ideal way to spend a day taking in some of the sights and sounds that define Tacoma.
The half-mile or so of shorefront at this picturesque state park draws lots of beachcombers, but there is also an impressive, 11-mile network of trails that winds its way throughout the forested hillside past lush ferns and some sizeable Northwest trees.
Mileage: From .3 miles to 2.4 miles
This subtle gem on Tacoma’s east side is home to some pleasant trails that will take you along a salmon-bearing creek and through a scenic forested canyon not far from the bustle of the city. The bird watching is great here, and if you’re a mountain biker, rejoice: The park is home to the first mountain biking trail system in Tacoma.
Mileage: 1.3 miles
Sure, it’s not far from a shopping mall and a housing development, but the West Hylebos Wetlands in Federal Way feel like they’re far from the urban scene. A year-round set of trails lets you string together a 1.3-mile hike that passes two calm, quiet lakes, a series of lush wetlands and two historic cabins that date to the late 19th century.
Image by Michael Zeigler