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Dirty Harry’s Balcony: One of the Best Day Hikes Near Seattle

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The area surrounding Seattle, Washington is full of incredible hikes, both in the Olympic and Cascade Mountains. But it can take hours to drive to the most popular trails- with some up to four hours (or more!) away from the city.

So if you’re looking for a stunning day hike you can reach in less than an hour’s drive from the Emerald City, boasting soaring trees, primeval ferns, and incredible mountain views, look no further- here’s everything you need to know about Dirty Harry’s Balcony, one of the very best day hikes near Seattle. 

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About Dirty Harry’s Balcony Trail

Length: 4.1 miles

Elevation gain: 1,358 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Dog-friendly? Yes, but only on a leash

Man looking at McClellan Butte along Dirty Harry's Balcony trail

How to get to Dirty Harry’s Balcony Trail

The trailhead for Dirty Harry’s Balcony is located here on the western edge of Snoqualmie Pass, near North Bend, Washington (which, if you’re a fan of trippy ‘90s television, was the setting of the show, Twin Peaks).

While there’s tons of amazing trails in the Puget Sound region, there are a limited number of super iconic trails that are around or under an hour from Seattle, including Rattlesnake Ledge trail, Lake 22, and, conveniently, Dirty Harry’s Balcony (although it’s worth noting that there are plenty of incredible trails that are a bit more under-the-radar that are close to the city!). From Seattle, it’s just about a 40 minute drive east of the city to the trailhead along I-90.

The road is well-maintained and virtually pothole-free the entire time, unlike a lot of Washington’s best hikes (I’m looking at you, Skyline Divide and Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout). While the parking lot is large, this hike is quite popular, given its proximity to the city- so, at busier times (like on weekends in the summer), I’d recommend getting here early to ensure you snag a spot!

Man hiking along Dirty Harry's Balcony trail

When to Hike Dirty Harry’s Balcony

One of the coolest things about this hike is that, unlike many of Washington’s mountainous trails, it’s open and accessible year round.

That being said, there’s a good chance you may encounter snow or ice on the trail if you visit between late November through March, so if you visit during that window, I’d recommend bringing along microspikes and trekking poles to provide you some additional traction.

What’s up with the name, Dirty Harry’s Balcony?

Although many people assume that the hike is named after the classic Clint Eastwood film, the trail is actually a namesake for a fearless logger from the 1940s named Harry Gault- or, his affectionate nickname, Dirty Harry. There’s scant information floating around the internet about Dirty Harry, but from the meager dregs I can gather, he aggressively logged and built roads in areas that others thought were too dangerous or inaccessible to venture.

I’m not totally sure why this trail was named after a dude who was notoriously ruthless about cutting down its majestic trees- but now that the lush second-growth forest has totally reclaimed the mountainsides, I guess we can leave ol’ Dirty Harry’s transgressions in the past. 

Woman standing along Dirty Harry's Balcony trail, overlooking  McClellan Butte

What to Expect Along Dirty Harry’s Balcony

You’ll find the trailhead towards the northern side of the parking lot, which will lead you 0.1 miles through a forested trail and will spit you out onto a road that traverses the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River. Here, you’ll cross over a bridge- make sure to stop and take in the clear green waters of the river rushing below- and keep an eye out for a trail to your right, immediately after the bridge.

From here, the trail will follow along the river for about 0.25 miles through a forest that looks straight out of a fairytale, until the switchbacks (and your burning thighs) kick in. As you start your ascent, you’ll notice several almost comically enormous boulders sprinkled around the trail. In fact, you may even see some folks scaling up said enormous rocks, given this area’s popularity with boulderers and rock climbers.

And while there’s several spur trails to rock climbing routes which branch off the main path, there’s about a bazillion signs for “Dirty Harry’s Balcony” along the trail, so it’s unlikely you’ll be led astray. 

Boulder along the Dirty Harry's Balcony trail

About a mile or so in, you’ll start reaching a few social trails to your right which lead to cliffsides overlooking the surrounding behemoths, McClellan Butte, Mount Kent, and Mount Washington. To reach the actual balcony, though, continue past these overlooks and on the trail (which will have, blessedly, leveled out by this point!) for another mile.

You’ll make one last push up a steep natural staircase made of roots and you’ll reach the balcony, a large rocky outcropping that’s perfect for taking a breather and drinking in the spectacular views of the Snoqualmie River Valley that lies before your feet.

If you feel like getting some extra cardio in, you can backtrack 0.1 miles along the trail, where you’ll run into a junction- if you follow the path to the left for another 2 miles (and a killer 2,100 feet in extra elevation gain), you’ll reach Dirty Harry’s Peak, which offers even more spectacular views of the Cascades. Plus, on your way back down, you can follow a boot trail to your left hand side (1.3 miles on your return trip from the summit), which will lead you to “Dirty Harry’s Museum”- i.e., Gault’s abandoned GMC truck from the 1940s. This trail really has it all!

Tips for Dirty Harry’s Balcony

  • Some of the overlooks you reach before the balcony actually offer better views. Truth time- after stopping at some of the overlooks on our way up, I was a little disappointed by the time we reached the balcony itself. Beyond being WAY more crowded than the other overlooks, there’s a large pine-tree covered hillside that obstructs most of your views to the west while you’re at the balcony. And given that you’ve only gained about 100 feet in elevation from the other overlooks, the view is largely the same as the ones further down the trail. 

    The hike up to the balcony is absolutely gorgeous, with some jaw-dropping peekaboo views of McClellan Butte, which is worth the additional mileage alone. But, if you’re looking for the best lunch spot, I’d suggest stopping at the Winter Block overlook (on your right hand side 1.5 miles into the trail), which was virtually empty during our visit and offers completely unobstructed panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
Hikers sitting on Dirty Harry's Balcony
View of Snoqualmie Pass from Dirty Harry's Balcony
  • If you’re looking to be completely ‘one with nature’, this hike may not be for you. Between the constant noise from (and the views of) the neighboring I-90, frequent gunshots from a nearby range, and lots of other hiker friends on the trail, this perhaps isn’t the very best trail to feel totally immersed in nature.

    That being said, this hike has so many other things going for it- from its endlessly green forest to its stunning overlooks- that the noise didn’t really detract from my experience on the trail at all. But if you’re looking to partake in some hardcore forest bathing or otherwise just want to get lost in the natural world, I’d suggest you hit another trail. 
Woman standing overlooking Dirty Harry's Balcony
  • Wear proper footwear. Between the occasionally muddy and always rocky and root-y trail, I’d strongly recommend wearing actual hiking boots here (like these for women or these for men), as opposed to your regular ol’ sneakers. Boots provide additional traction in the seemingly ever-wet Pacific Northwest environment and protect your feet from particularly stabby rocks. 

    And while you’re at it, be sure to pack plenty of water to keep you hydrated as you zip your way up those switchbacks. My husband, Justin and I, each take our giant Nalgene bottles with us everywhere, from exploring international vacations to, yes, even Dirty Harry’s Balcony. They’re way better for the planet than single use plastic bottles and easier on your wallet!

Where to Stay Near Dirty Harry’s Balcony

Whether you’re a visitor to the Pacific Northwest or simply looking for an indulgent staycation from Seattle, Snoqualmie Pass would be an incredible place to explore for a few days (there’s so much to see and do- Snoqualmie Falls! Franklin Falls! Tons of breweries!).

So if you’re looking to kick back near Dirty Harry’s Balcony for a few days, check out:

  • Salish Lodge and Spa: If you’re a Twin Peaks fan, the Salish Lodge and Spa actually served as the inspiration for the Great Northern Hotel. And even if you’re not a David Lynch fan, you’ll appreciate the lodge’s spectacular views of the 260-foot Snoqualmie Falls, world-class spa, and a frickin’ pillow menu (yes, you get a choice of six pillows to sleep on as a guest here).
  • Moon Suites: If you’re traveling with a large group or just want a bit more space than a typical hotel, consider instead staying at this peaceful townhouse, with a grill, a patio with beautiful river views, and your very own hot tub, for maximum cozy vibes.
Snoqualmie Falls in Snoqualmie, Washington

I hope you have an awesome time hiking to Dirty Harry’s Balcony- is there anything else you’d like to know about the trail? Let me know in the comments below!

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