15 Best Trails for Hiking and Running near Tacoma, WA

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Tacoma is a bustling city with business hubs, the port, and the university. Yet, it has plenty of exciting hikes with classic PNW forests, creeks, Sound views, and historical landmarks. 

Most of the trails in the area are easy, or at best, moderate. There are no grueling climbs or long backpacking routes. For this, you will have to drive to Mt Rainier National Park, which is an hour and a half away.

The list of the top-rated trails below is mainly for day-hikes and family-friendly adventures. It will help you stay in shape or prepare for more strenuous expeditions.

Trails near Tacoma:

  1. Sequalitchew Creek Trail
  2. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
  3. Point Defiance Loop
  4. Franklin Ghost Town
  5. Grandview and Soundview Trails Loop
  6. Pinnacle Peak
  7. Dash Point State Park
  8. Swan Creek Trail
  9. Soos Creek Trail
  10. Maury Island Natural Area
  11. Ruston Way Trail
  12. Cedar River Trail from Landsburg
  13. Green River Natural Area
  14. Drummond Forest
  15. BPA Trail

1. Sequalitchew Creek Trail

  • Highlight: Relaxing, easy-to-follow trail with a beach, a tunnel, and a railway track; fantastic views of the Sound.
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 228 feet
  • Time to Complete: 1 hour 30 min
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Near police station at DuPont: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 19 miles (25 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Sequalitchew Creek Trail is a 3 mile out and back trail near Dupont, best used for hiking, running, and dog walking.

The trail is easy for all skill levels and only has an elevation gain of 228ft. This gentle, relaxing hike is an excellent option for families.

The route passes old train tracks and under a tunnel before finishing at a beach with beautiful views across the water and the Sound.

Because it’s such a fun walk, it can get a little busy, but head here early, and you will avoid the crowds.

The trail is primarily well-maintained, although litter is sometimes an issue. Yet, the route is also easy to follow and a lot of fun.

Related: Top-rated trails near Olympia.

2. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

  • Highlight: Fun estuary area with many boardwalk trails; diverse wildlife, great for birdwatching, stroller-approved.
  • Type: Varies
  • Trail Length: from 1 to 10 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 100 feet
  • Time to Complete: from 20 min to 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: At the HQ: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 23 miles (25 min)
  • Dog Friendly: No

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is full of hiking options ranging from 1 to 10 miles. Most are suitable for hiking, bird watching, and nature trips.

Almost all of them are easy for all skill levels, with a maximum elevation gain of around 100ft. It’s partially paved around the Wildlife Refuge, too, making it easier to access.

Depending on the route you take, there are many things to see, from the winding McAllister Creek to the wide Nisqually River Estuary. Also, there are many viewing platforms for wildlife watching and photography.

The main problem with this route for keen hikers is how busy it gets. It’s to be expected considering how accessible it is, but the views are worth it.

Every area of the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is well-maintained and clearly signposted, so picking one of the many trails is always easy and fun to do!

Related: Top-rated trails near Olympia.

3. Point Defiance Loop

  • Highlight: Stunning trail with Puget Sound views, picnic areas, and wildlife; great for families, trail running, and hiking.
  • Type: Loop
  • Trail Length: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 344 feet
  • Time to Complete: 2h
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Zoo Parking Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 7 miles (15 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Point Defiance Loop is a 4.6-mile trail near Ruston, mainly used for hiking, dog walking, and running.

This trail is partially paved with just 344ft of elevation gain.

The route is great to take with family, as it passes viewing platforms of the Sound and winds past the historic Fort Nisqually.

Some hikers complain about poor access to Owen Beach, but there are still plenty of overlooks to soak in the views.

The entire Point Defiance Park is well-developed, with plenty of restrooms, water filling stations, and even an aquarium and zoo on site. This is the perfect family day out.

4. Franklin Ghost Town

  • Highlight: Short and easy historic trail to the ruins of a mining town; not as many features as people hope but still a fun family hike.
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 211 feet
  • Time to Complete: 1h
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 30 miles (40 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Franklin Ghost Town is a 2.2 mile out and back trail near Black Diamond, used primarily for hiking and sightseeing.

The short hike is easy for any skill level, with just 211ft elevation and the gravel surface.

The trail heads past Franklin Ghost Town, the ruins of the former mining town. There is also a waterfall and a few cascades on the route as it follows the Green River.

The major complaint about this hike is that there aren’t many historical remains, especially at Franklin Cemetary, which is the turnaround point. Nature reclaimed most of the space back.

However, this trail is full of history, and this alone makes it worthwhile. It’s a fun, short hike that’s worth one hour.

5. Grandview and Soundview Trails Loop

  • Highlight: Cool family-friendly paved trail around the golf course on the Sound; wheelchair-friendly and stroller-approved. 
  • Type: Loop
  • Trail Length: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 297 feet
  • Time to Complete: 1h 30min
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 9 miles (20 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Grandview and Soundview Trails Loop is a trendy route near University Place. It is used by runners, road bikers, and hikers.

The trail is easy for all skill levels, with just 297ft of elevation. The path is also paved, so it’s smooth and easy to follow.

Views of the Puget Sound are excellent from this trail, as it skirts around the Chambers Bay Golf Course. There are some rolling hills, but this just adds to the fun.

The main complaint about this trail is that it seems crowded no matter the time of day. Amazing places have to be shared with others, though, and this lovely family-friendly walk is one of them.

It’s well maintained, has plenty of restrooms and benches to relax. Also, there is a playground by the Sound, which is fun for kids and has lovely views for adults.

6. Pinnacle Peak

  • Highlight: Short but steep peak climb with a fire lookout on top; Mt Rainier views; the perfect introduction to hiking in the mountains.
  • Type: Lollipop
  • Trail Length: 3.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,088 feet
  • Time to Complete: 1h 30min
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 27 miles (35 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Pinnacle Peak is a 3.1-mile lollipop loop trail near Buckley, primarily used for hiking and snowshoeing in the winter.

This trail is moderate, with 1,088ft of elevation. It’s made more difficult in winter when snowshoeing season begins.

This trail heads to Pinnacle Peak, standing at 1,759ft tall, and is the perfect introduction to mountain hiking trails near Tacoma. Views from the lookout over Mt Rainier and the nearby wilderness are stunning, too.

The biggest complaint about this trail is the lack of things to see on the route up to the peak, but really it’s the challenge and the views at the top that make this hike worthwhile.

It’s a well-maintained route that is well-marked and easy to follow. Overall, it is a little steep and challenging but rewarding.

7. Dash Point State Park

Dash Point State Park
Photo: Fotos_PDXCC BY 2.0
  • Highlight: Charming area with access to Puget Sound and a selection of paved and gravel tracks; perfect for families, runners, hikers, and cyclists.
  • Type: Varies
  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Elevation Gain: Flat/ Hilly Sections
  • Time to Complete: Varies
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: State Park Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 13 miles (20 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Dash Point State Park is an excellent hiking destination near Tacoma. It is family-friendly and is ideal for mountain biking and hiking.

There are multiple routes, but most of them are easy for all skill levels. The loop around the park is 4.4 miles long with 500ft of elevation gain, for example.

Dash Point State Park has creeks, bridges, beaches, and some wildlife. Look out for various birds, as well as starfish and crabs on the beach.

Some hikers complain that the sound of nature is interrupted by commercial sounds. But with the park’s urban location, that’s to be expected.

The paths in the park are well-maintained, and almost every crossroad has clear signs, so you can stick to the trail you’re exploring on the day. Overall, a fun family day out with plenty of hiking trails to explore.

8. Swan Creek Trail

  • Highlight: Easy walk along the creek and through the moss-covered woods; great for trail running and hiking.
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 5.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 433 feet
  • Time to Complete: 2h 30min
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 5 miles (10 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Swan Creek Trail is a 5.5 mile out and back route close to Tacoma, ideal for running and hiking.

This trail is easy and rises only 433ft. This isn’t challenging but offers a beautiful slice of nature right by the city.

The trail follows Swan Creek through the 373 acre Swan County Park and later passes through the woods filled with animals and interesting-looking mushrooms.

Some people complain the trailhead is covered in graffiti and seems a little sketchy, but the moment you pass the bridge, you’re surrounded by peaceful nature.

This trail is heavily trafficked, so it’s well-maintained and always easy to follow. The sound of the nearby Swan Creek is especially relaxing.

9. Soos Creek Trail

  • Highlight: Highly-rated greenway trail near Kent; paved all the way; fantastic for biking, running, and rollerblading; stroller and wheelchair-approved.
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 12.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 688 feet
  • Time to Complete: 6h
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 23 miles (30 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Soos Creek Trail is a 12.1 mile out and back trail near Kent, best used for running and road biking.

It’s an easy trail for all skill levels, with just 688ft of elevation gain. The route is simple to follow across rolling hills and is great for the whole family.

This trail follows Soos Creek Park all the way to the edge of Boulevard Lane Park. The paved trail is perfect for biking and running in nature.

There aren’t many complaints about this route. Just remember to use a bell if cycling or keep to one side if running or hiking.

It’s a well-maintained trail with benches along the route to enjoy eagles, frogs, and ducks frequent on this beautiful greenway trail.

10. Maury Island Natural Area

  • Highlight: Fun area with lots of trails, a beach, and Sound views; popular with MTBs; ferry ride required.
  • Type: Varies
  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Elevation Gain: Varies
  • Time to Complete: Varies
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 19 miles (1h)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Maury Island Natural Area is an excellent place for hiking near Vashon. All trails here are great for birdwatching and mountain biking too.

Most routes are easy, and the Maury Island Natural Area Loop is just 3.9 miles long with 679ft elevation gain.

This fun area has a lot to offer. The fern-covered forest feels magical, and the beach has excellent views over the Sound back towards Dash Point.

Some hikers complain that the Maury Island routes are not well signposted and are more appropriate for mountain bikers.

However, the area isn’t crowded, and with a good GPS app or a map, you will find remote spots to enjoy the peace and quiet.

11. Ruston Way Trail

Ruston Way Trail
Photo: pflyCC BY 2.0
  • Highlight: Fun urban trail with lots of landmarks, piers, and sweeping views of the Sound; popular with runners, cyclists, and families.
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 61 feet
  • Time to Complete: 3h
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Jack Hyde Park: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 2 miles (5 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Ruston Way Trail is a 6 mile out and back trail in Tacoma. It’s popular with birdwatchers, hikers, and runners.

This trail is easy for all skill levels and only has a slight elevation gain of 61ft. It is paved and easy to follow.

Starting at Jack Hyde Park, the route turns around at Ruston. There are plenty of beaches, piers, and viewing stations along the way, all of which look out over the Sound. This is the perfect slice of Old Tacoma.

The biggest complaint is about how busy this area is. And some keen hikers complain about the slow-moving foot traffic.

However, this trail is perfect for a more leisurely hike and is filled with beautiful places to stop and take in the Sound sights!

12. Cedar River Trail from Landsburg

  • Highlight: Charming riverside trail with lots of shade and access points to the river; popular with cyclists, hikers, and runners; extends to Renton.
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 321 feet
  • Time to Complete: 4h
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 33 miles (35 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Cedar River Trail is an 8 mile out and back route near Maple Valley, great for hiking, cycling, and birdwatching.

The trail is easy and only has an elevation gain of 321ft. It’s perfect for families too, thanks to the river access points.

The route runs alongside the Cedar River, and the sound of the running water is relaxing and can be heard the entire way, with serene forests and old railway bridge crossings too.

The main problem with this trail is that some hikers complain about how popular it is with cyclists. However, the gravel path is wide, and there is plenty of space for everyone to enjoy.

This riverside route is a beautiful example of relaxing trails near Tacoma. The views from the bridge crossing the Cedar River are worth stopping for too.

13. Green River Natural Area

Green River Natural Area
Photo: Doug KerrCC BY 2.0
  • Highlight: Hilly area with beautiful woods, wildlife, access to the Green River, and many trail options; bring GPS. 
  • Type: Varies
  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Elevation Gain: Varies
  • Time to Complete: Varies
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 23 miles (30min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Green River Natural Area is a perfect spot for varied hiking trails near Lake Tapps. Hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking are popular here.

Most trails in the area are moderately difficult. The inclines and declines vary, but you’re guaranteed to face some no matter the route.

There’s lots to see in the area, from calming walks through the woods with chirping birds to meadows with access to the Green River.

The main complaint about this route seems to be about horse mess throughout the trail as it’s a popular horse riding spot.

The paths are all well-developed and clearly marked, so choosing one of the many hiking trails and exploring the peaceful area won’t be a problem!

14. Drummond Forest

  • Highlight: Tranquil forest with many trails; overgrown in places but feels wild and has lots of wildlife; an ideal place for hiking and trail running.
  • Type: Loop/ Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 1-7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 10-350 feet
  • Time to Complete: Varies
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Off Drummond Dr NW: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 15 miles (20min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Drummond Forest is an excellent place for hiking near Gig Harbor and a brilliant spot for mountain biking.

Most trails are moderate in difficulty. This is mainly because of the muddy, rocky terrain. Elevation varies, with the Drummond Forest Loop trail being one of the more challenging routes, and that’s only 6 miles long, with a 334ft elevation gain.

Drummond Forest is the perfect place for hiking if you’re someone who enjoys the feeling of remoteness. Deer, bees, and various birds are common in the forest too.

The only complaint about the trails seems to be that they are overgrown in parts and not always well-marked.

Still, it’s the perfect place for a hike filled with exploration in an area that’s surrounded by natural beauty, whichever route you take.

15. BPA Trail

  • Highlight: Paved urban trail in Federal Way; great for skating, rollerblading, cycling, and running; wheelchair and stroller-approved.
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 7.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 511 feet
  • Time to Complete: 4h
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Celebration Park: Google Maps
  • Distance from Tacoma: 12 miles (15 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

BPA Trail is a 7.9-mile paved route, perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and city walking.

The trail is rated as moderate, with 511ft of elevation gain. It is also entirely paved, which makes it easy underfoot but tough on the joints.

Starting in Celebration Park, this urban trail winds through downtown Federal Way and past Panther Lake, so it has a great mix of natural and urban landscapes.

Some hikers will complain about the urban sections of the walk, but the trail is fun with lots to see and do.

It’s a pleasant location to take a family out on a biking trip or just have a fun day skating and rollerblading.

Final Thoughts

Tacoma’s best hiking trails are perfect for all skill levels. There are beautiful parks, urban areas, and a stunning coastline to explore. 

If you are looking for more strenuous routes or mountain climbs, you will have to venture out to Mt Rainier National Park.

And if you are looking for motivation, check out a collection of hiking quotes that will inspire you to go on adventures.

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