Seattle | Adventure Travel Guide
Why is the city in the heart of the Pacific North West the best keep secret in adventure travel?
Once described by none other than MTV as “the centre of the universe", Seattle is the port city at the top left hand corner of mainland USA (assuming we’re excluding Alaska, and for the purposes of this introduction, we are). Seattle is many things to many people, but you may be surprised to find out it’s one of the best kept secret adventure hot spots anywhere in the world .
Getting to Seattle from the UK couldn’t be easier. Since September 2017, Norwegian have opened up a new route flying direct to Seattle from Gatwick airport four times per week. From Sea-Tac airport, you can get to the centre of Seattle in around 25 minutes by car, or get the Sound Transit Link train for under $5 which takes about 40 minutes.
To some, Seattle is the birthplace of the flannel shirted, Teen Spirit smelling, Grunge Rock movement of the late 1980’s and early 1990. To others, it’s the birthplace of coffee empire Starbucks. While some think of blue-chip billionaire companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing and more who call Seattle home.
However, for anybody that loves adventure travel, Seattle is one of the best places on the planet to visit during any of the four seasons. There’s a reason why outdoor companies as diverse as Ride Snowboards, MSR, Outdoor Research, and Sherpa, to name but a few, call Seattle home.
If skiing and snowboarding are your thing, then there are number of mountains all within a two hour drive of downtown Seattle. Stevens Pass to the East of the city is well known around the world for it’s good snow. The downside, of course, is that with popularity come crowds, and Stevens Pass can get busy.
However, head toward Mt Ranier - the mountain you can see from Pikes Place Market in Seattle - and you’ll find Crystal Mountain. Along with being less well known than Stevens Pass, the 2,600 skiable acres means that your chance of finding some untracked snow is significantly higher.
Although further afield, Mt Baker is the home of the annual Mount Baker Classic - arguably the most credible snowboard competition in the history of the sport, and a must for any snowboard nut visiting Seattle.
If you prefer to have your adrenaline spiked on two wheels, the Seattle is home to an embarrassment of mountain bike trail riches. Hell, there’s even a mountain bike trail (well, an ‘urban skills park’) built in the city, under the I5 - Seattle's main highway.
Still within the city itself is Steward Park, which boasts a more natural mountain bike trail than the I5 park to its north. However, Seattle is surrounded by Mountains, and this is where you’ll want to head to really send the mud flying.
East Tiger Mountain is an hours drive from downtown Seattle and has six multi-use trails that stretch over 12 miles, ranging from mellow, wide runs through to tight, technical runs filled with enough roots to challenge even the gnarliest of rider.
40 minutes East of Seattle is Duthie Hill Bike Park, which has trails to suit just about every level of rider, and a dedicated two-mile freeride trail. That said, with so many trails surrounding the city, it’s hard to go wrong, whichever direction you head in.
The unique geology of Seattle and the surrounding area mean that the climbing here is more akin to that found in the Alps than in other areas of the US. Roughly a two hour drive from Seattle, or a 20 minute flight via Wenatchee airport, should that be in your budget, is Mountain Home in Leavenworth. It’s one of the best bouldering spots in the entire Pacific Northwest. In the summer months, it gets humid, so liquid chalk is a better shout than the more traditional stuff.
70 minutes East of Seattle is Index, which is renowned for both traditional and aided climbing. Over 400 routes from between 20 to 200 metres on well protected granite walls make for a really special place to climb.
And all of this is without mentioning the Kayaking, hiking, camping, sailing, whale watching, trail running, paddle boarding, skydiving… the list of adventure sports all within easy access of the Emerald City is why Seattle really is one of the world’s ultimate adventure destinations.
Where to Stay
Virtually in the shadow of the Space Needle is Hotel Five, a contemporary hotel that’s ideal for people who want to use Seattle as a base of their adventures.
While it’s suitable for guest of any age, the feel is quite young, with bright colours and blocky designs matching the comfortable rooms. With prices starting from $116 (roughly £88) per night, it’s not incredibly cheap, but does offer good value for money.
If your tastes are a little more luxurious, the slightly confusingly named Kimpton Monaco is right in the heart of Downtown Seattle, ensuring retail therapy is never far away, should that be your thing. Furnishings are luxurious, and rooms, which start at $149 (about £114) per night, are large enough to warrant an A to Z to navigate.
If your budget has been spent on adventure, and you’re looking for somewhere to lay your head without breaking the bank, Air BnB’s in the city centre are available from as little as £36 per night.
Where to Eat
At the southern end of the Capitol Hill district is Oddfellows Cafe and Bar. By the evening, it’s a restaurant that walks the fine line between being pleasingly hipster without ever straying into being smug.
The food has a positively European feel to it, and somehow feels healthy to eat, while not at all being the perennially off-putting ‘health food’. While you’re there, grab a cocktail. Their signature Oddfellow is a take on an Old Fashioned that will get you jazzed in no time.
If you’re looking for something a little lighter, then make your way to the world famous Pikes Place market. While there’s not one lone highlight to go to, this public market offers a whole host of places to eat that are high on quality, and low on cost.
If you can’t make your mind up where you want to eat, the Savor Seattle Tour will see you taken around the market by a local guide who’ll fill you with insider knowledge, not to mention samples from all the best stalls.
Where to Drink
On 707 East Pine Street, where Capitol Hill meets Downtown, you’ll find Linda’s. Easy to miss if not for the neon lights from inside that light up the street at night, Linda’s is a genuine American dive bar that’s popular with locals. It also attracts more than its fair share of tourists as it’s the last place that Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was seen alive, back in 1994.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a mawkish tourist spot for flannel shirted 30-somethings. The atmosphere is good, beer’s cold, cocktails are strong, and the music is excellent.
If you’re only in Seattle for a short time, but you want to pack in a variety of watering holes, including those secret spots only a local would know, the Road Dog Tour is a must. The three hour tour takes in three breweries, in which time you’ll get through enough small glasses of craft beer to make even the most reckless darts enthusiast get a little wavy. The guides are knowledgeable, funny, and charmingly understated.
As Seattle is very much a coffee town, and (sort of) the home of Twin Peaks, honourable non-alcoholic mentions must go to Broadcast coffee, which has two spots in Seattle serving superb coffee, and Storyville in Pikes Place market, which does among the finest joe Mpora has ever tasted. Damn fine coffee.
What the Locals Say
“People are drawn to Seattle for its natural beauty. It’s absolutely gorgeous here. There’s a lot of opportunities for hiking, skiing, kayaking, and all of that kind of thing."
Bruce Pavitt, Seattle resident since 1980 & co-founder of SubPop, the record label that released the first Nirvana record along with championing many other bands from the area.
Thank you to Norwegian, who fly four times a week direct from London Gatwick to Seattle using brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, with a choice of Premium or economy cabins.
Economy fares start from £179.90 one way and Premium fares start from £599.90 one way, which includes lounge access and more than a metre of legroom. For more information see the Norwegian website.
To find out more about the city, and plan your visit, visit the Seattle, Washington website.