We’re gonna say it – Tacoma/Pierce County is the dark horse of Washington State.
Where else in the US can you have a world-class mountain resort, beautiful shoreline, and incredible city parks within reach?
Sandwiched between Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula, you can get the best of both worlds with adventure, beautiful scenery, and access to tons of quintessential Pacific Northwest activities.
This summer, we partnered with Tacoma South Sounds Sports Commission to showcase some amazing outdoor activities in Pierce County that are within reach for everyone in the Puget Sound!
We’re sharing accessible adventures in the mountains, beautiful city parks, and amazing water activities for weekend warriors, summer lovers, and anybody who wants all the adventure in one place!
Welcome to your new favorite area of Washington.
Fun and Adventurous Outdoor Activities In Pierce County
This post is in partnership with Tacoma South Sound Sports Commission. All opinions, photos, and writing are completely our own. This blog post is also inspired by Tacoma South Sound Sports Commission’s tagline:
Mountain, City, Sea
Berty and I were inspired by this tagline and loved the accessibility to all three elements during our weekend in Pierce County. Therefore, we’ve broken this post into three sections, highlighting all the amazing activities you can do in each one!
Pierce County is lucky to have one of Washington’s beautiful national parks within reach.
Just 50 miles away from the city of Tacoma, you’ll arrive at the foot of a magnificent dormant volcano, Mount Rainier. Many think that the mountains are exclusively for skiing and snowboarding, but there’s actually so much to do in the “off seasons”.
Here are some of the things we did with Tacoma Sports:
Have Lunch With A View of Mount Rainier
During the summer months, Crystal Mountain Resort runs one of their gondolas as a scenic ride to their Summit House Restaurant.
This unique eatery sits at 6,872 feet with a full view of Mount Rainier from your dining table. On a clear day, you can also spot Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Baker and Glacier Peak – check out the directional plaque in the viewing area and try to spot them all!
We recommend sitting out on their patio to enjoy the sunshine, flowers, and fresh mountain air.
You will also likely spot some of the resident chipmunks, who boldly come to steal your food when you aren’t watching! The Summit House Restaurant is open 7 days a week during lunch and dinner, with reservation requirements only for Saturday night dinners.
Hike Around Crystal Mountain Resort
After lunch at the Summit House Restaurant, instead of taking the gondola back down, try choosing from one of Crystal Mountain’s many summer trails.
Along the way, you have to opportunity to visit hidden lakes, streams, and wildflower fields for some magical scenery.
Crystal Mountain Tip: Make sure to grab a pair of mismatched ski poles at the trailhead before you start. These abandoned poles are collected around the mountain after the snow melts and used as hiking poles for balance and stability on the trails. Even if you don’t regularly use hiking poles, your knees will thank you after the first few miles downhill!
Make sure to grab a celebratory beer at the Snorting Elk when you’re finished!
(These photos were taken on the Crystal Mountain Trail – you can find a map of all the routes right here.)
Grab A Bite To Eat At Mountain Pubs
After a full day of hiking, nothing can beat a good beer and burger!
To experience the mountain culture and meet some friendly locals, visit Naches Tavern on the foot of Mount Rainier and Crystal Mountain.
The Naches Tavern (often called the Chez by the community!) has a traditional bar inside and outdoor seating for families and groups.
Morning Yoga At The Crystal Mountain Resort
The class is fit for all different levels so that beginner to advanced yogis can all benefit from the 90-minute class. The resort will also provide yoga mats if you don’t have one with you!
Take A Hiking Trail Around Mount Rainier
One of the most quintessential outdoor activities in Pierce County would be exploring Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park.
You don’t have to be a hard-core mountain climber to enjoy trails around Mount Rainier. There are plenty of scenic and interpretive trails to enjoy the unique characteristics of this area of Pierce County.
We loved hiking here in the summertime for the beautiful blanket of wildflowers that covered the meadows. If you want more ideas for beautiful hikes in Washington state, read our full list here!
One of the most beautiful places to experience a sunrise in Pierce County would be the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park. When the light peeks over the horizon on a clear day, Mount Rainier glows with beautiful oranges, pinks, and yellows!
There are several short trails to capture incredible photographs of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range in the Sunrise area.
Other Mountain Outdoor Activities in Pierce County:
- Horseback riding
- Mountain Biking
- Multi-Day Backpacking Trips
- Renting Cabins
- Frisbee Golf
The cities of Tacoma and Puyallup are just two of many places that offer ways to participate in outdoor activities in Pierce County.
From their several amazing parks, bike paths, and golf courses, there’s room for everyone in the city to be active! Here are some suggestions if you are planning to stay in the metro areas:
Rent Some Water Gear In The City
The Thea Foss Waterway is the area that covers the entire waterfront of downtown. This calm and protected waterway makes for enjoyable kayaking, SUPing, and other human-powered adventures!
Rent some water gear at the Dock Street Marina to take inland towards the Tacoma Dome or out towards the Puget Sound. Each way provides lots of opportunities for city views, lush greenery, and friendly encounters with other recreational boaters.
Get Active At Point Defiance Park, Tacoma
Point Defiance Park provides many opportunities to get outside and be active.
This area of Tacoma includes a zoo and aquarium, flower gardens, boardwalks, a dog park, and even a ferry dock to get to local islands. It’s the second largest urban park in North America, which means you will need to come back often for new adventures each time!
Take one of Point Defiance Park’s several marked trails, grab a bike to explore the perimeter, or wander the beautiful gardens in the summertime. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong!
Get Your 10,000+ Steps In At The Washington State Fair
The Washington State Fair is an annual late summer/early fall event in Puyallup, Washington that attracts more than a million (!!!) visitors every fall. This fair runs for four weeks starting labor day and ending right after the autumn season begins.
From expositions to fair food to crazy rides, there’s never a shortage of fun things to do at the fair!
Some of Pierce County’s most visited cities are located right on the shore!
The South Sound area is rich with wildlife, sports, and opportunities to get out on the water. From boat rides to kayaking to walking along the beachfront, there are many ways to explore Pierce County’s South Sound area. Here are some suggestions we recommend:
Take On A Human-Powered Water Adventure
By human-powered, we just mean that you are the engine! These adventures include but are not limited to paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boats.
Don’t have your own gear? No problem. You can rent equipment at Lee’s SUP in Gig Harbor, or head over to the Dock Street Marina in Downtown Tacoma. Both places give you an opportunity to paddle through the marina with the rest of the large boats. Try going with your friends and spotting the boat with the funniest name!
In Gig Harbor, you can paddle all the way to the other side of the marina and visit the harbor’s lighthouse. In Tacoma, you can cross under downtown’s many bridges, and even paddle your way over to the Tacoma Dome!
Take A Boat Ride Around Gig Harbor
One of the best ways to experience the South Sound is to take a boat ride to its many scenic landmarks! Explore the Tacoma Narrows (and maybe even see the giant octopus too!), watch wildlife at Point Defiance, or visit some of the quieter islands like Vashon or Anderson Island.
Tom’s Destiny Harbor Cruises provide fun and educational rides around the Gig Harbor area. Tom also owns Riviera Cruises, where you can book your own manned charter and rent it out for special events or private tours!
Grab a Bite To Eat By The Water
With all these outdoor adventures, you’ll need to eat at some point, right? Lucky for you, there are so many delicious places to eat in Pierce County that are right on the water!
Dock your boat right at the foot of the Tides Tavern and grab a beer and burger before you head back out. For a fancier affair, try the best seafood at Anthony’s locations in Point Defiance as well as in the Gig Harbor area.
Want More Ideas For Outdoor Activities in Pierce County?
We’re always searching for new adventures and adding them to posts! If you’d like to be updated on our recent adventures here in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, you can subscribe to our newsletter right below!
What are some of your favorite outdoor activities in Pierce County? We’d love to hear more of your suggestions in the comments below!
MORE PACIFIC NORTHWEST ADVENTURES
Want more outdoor activity inspiration for the Pacific Northwest? Follow our PNW board on Pinterest for more ideas!
Want to find the best places in the PNW?
Stop searching through internet noise and download our curated list just for you.
Enter your email below and we'll send you your PNW Bucket List!