Washington State, the US’ most northwestern state,  is the land of water, mountains and evergreen forests. The State of Washington is known for its main city, Seattle, but is an outdoor paradise with half the state covered in forests, and an extensive coastline along the Pacific Ocean. Washington is also home to numerous national parks and wilderness preserves. We detailed here some of the best places to visit in Washington on a road trip from Seattle, a trip which we enjoyed every second! Hopefully our suggestions and ideas will help you in planning a trip to Washington State!

Best Places to Visit in Washington State

7- Day Road Trip from Seattle

Washington State is packed with so much cool things to see that it’s hard to select what to do on any Washington road trip! You can also combine this itinerary with a trip to Vancouver and British Columbia top attractions, creating a loop that would leave and return to Seattle. We did this road trip from Seattle to Vancouver loop, but you can approach both regions individually.

Day 1: Seattle

Start your trip with a visit to Seattle’s Space Needle, a 1962 World’s Fair legacy, and the city’s most iconic landmark. Make sure to head to the top of the tower, where you can take in panoramic views of the city – if the weather cooperates, of course!

Best Places to Visit in Washington State: Road Trip from Seattle // Seattle Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle

Next, head to Pike Place Market, a historic public market that features a variety of vendors selling fresh produce, seafood, and handmade crafts. You can pack on snacks for your road trip!

After lunch, visit the Museum of Pop Culture, where you can explore exhibits on music, science fiction, and popular culture. End the day by taking a stroll through the Chihuly Garden and Glass, a beautiful exhibit featuring glass sculptures by artist Dale Chihuly.

Where to Stay in Seattle

Day 2: Olympic National Park

Drive to Olympic National Park, where you can explore the park’s diverse ecosystems, including rainforests, beaches, and mountains. Some of the must-see sights in the park include the Hoh Rainforest, the Rialto Beach, and the Hurricane Ridge. Each area is so different from the other. Imagine being in an alpine setting one minute, then in a rainforest the other, and hop, now by the ocean! It’s almost unreal! So much too see!  And Olympic is a great park for hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing. We actually spent three days in the park during a prior trip, and could not get enough of Olympic National Park!

However, with just a day to explore, you might want to focus on one or the other areas.

Best Places to Visit in Washington State: Road Trip from Seattle // Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a guided hike to the summit of Mount Olympus, or go on a ranger-led kayak tour of the coast.

Drive from Seattle to Olympic Peninsula: 110 miles / about 2 hours
Where to stay around Olympic National Park: You can stay within the park, or just outside.

Day 3: San Juan Islands

Drive to Anacortes, where you can board the ferry to the San Juan Islands. This beautiful archipelago features picturesque landscapes, historic lighthouses, and opportunities for whale watching, kayaking, and boating. Among the different islands you can visit, the main attractions are on San Juan Island and Orcas Island, both serviced by ferries.

Some of the must-see sights on San Juan Island include the historic Lime Kiln Point State Park, the Roche Harbor Resort, and the Friday Harbor. You can easily drive around the island to check each of these areas.

Best Places to Visit in Washington State: Road Trip from Seattle // San Juan Island

San Juan Island

Drive from Olympic Peninsula to Anacortes: 70 miles / about 2 hours
Where to Stay on San Juan Island:

Day 4 : San Juan Islands Kayaking / Whale-Watching

Join a kayaking tour or rent a kayak if you have previous experiences. Exploring the islands’ shorelines by water is one of the top things to do in the San Juan Islands! An incredible experience, where we got lucky to spots whales on the horizon!

Of course, you can also head to Orcas Island for the day – either for sightseeing the island, check Mount Assumption, or kayak from Orcas Island (note that kayaking there is more challenging than San Juan Island).

Best Places to Visit in Washington State: Road Trip from Seattle // Kayaking San Juan Island

Kayaking San Juan Island

Make sure to check the weather forecast and the tide timetable before going kayaking by yourself.

An alternative activity is joining a a guided whale-watching tour.

Day 5: North Cascades National Park

Go on a scenic drive to North Cascades National Park, especially the North Cascades Highway. The park is  known for its rugged, mountainous terrain, and which offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and rock climbing.

Best Places to Visit in Washington State: Road Trip from Seattle // Diablo Lake Overlook Milky Colors

Diablo Lake Overlook Milky Colors

Some of the must-see sights in the park include the Diablo Lake, the Ross Lake, and the Washington Pass.

In the afternoon, go for easy hikes like Rainy Lake, Blue Lake, or Thunder Knob.

Drive from Anacortes to North Cascades NP: 65 miles / a little over 1 hour
Where to Stay around North Cascades NP: There are limited lodging options if you are not camping. Campgrounds: there are about a dozen campsites around North Cascades to choose from. Otherwise, here are the two possible lodging:

  • North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin
  • Ross Lake Resort on Route 20

Day 6: North Cascades National Park

Hiking in North Cascades National Park is simply incredible, as you can enjoy some sweeping high alpine views. Among the best hikes in North Cascades National Park, consider Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail,  Desolation Peak, or the Maple Pass Loop Trail.

Best Places to Visit in Washington State: Road Trip from Seattle // Hiking Hidden Lake Lookout, North Cascades NP

Hiking Hidden Lake Lookout, North Cascades NP

To stay off from the crowd, Hidden Lake and the Cutthroat Lake Trail would be great options.

The hike to the Hidden Lake Lookout is really neat, though it feels like never ending as you can’t see the lookout until you are actually arrived! The lookout is actually on this photo, but good luck in finding it – it’s so tiny and fits perfectly in the landscape!

Adventurous spirits might want to consider taking a guided climb to the summit of Mount Baker, or going on a ranger-led hike to learn more about the park’s natural history.

Day 7: Seattle

Drive back to Seattle, and depending on how long you have prior your return flight, you can visit the city again and grab a coffee. This day concludes the one-week road trip from Seattle.

Alternative Washington State Itinerary Suggestions

You can of course adapt this Washington itinerary to your needs:

3-Day Road Trip from Seattle

To avoid driving too much, we recommend staying within a hour or two from Seattle for your 3 days in Washington State itinerary. Therefore, pick one destination and focus your time there. For the most diverse scenery and things to do, we would recommend either the San Juan Islands from Seattle, or Olympic National Park from Seattle.

5-Day Road Trip from Seattle

If you have only 5 days, consider dropping North Cascades National Park. That would save you on driving time, while still allowing you to visit the San Juan Islands. Or if hiking is your thing, forgo the islands and spend more time in North Cascades for your 5-day itinerary Seattle trip.

2-Week Road Trip from Seattle: Our Road Trip Seattle Vancouver

As mentioned, we did the whole loop from Seattle, and here is a quick breakdown on how we combined our Seattle to Vancouver road trip itinerary:

  • Day 1: Seattle to Vancouver
  • Day 2: Vancouver
  • Day 3: Whistler
  • Day 4: Vancouver Island Ferry and Sightseeings
  • Day 5: Vancouver Island Galloping Goose Trail Biking
  • Day 6: Vancouver Island Pacific Rim National Park Hiking
  • Day 7: Vancouver Island Victoria
  • Day 8: San Juan Islands Ferry
  • Day 9: San Juan Island Kayaking
  • Day 10: Orcas Island
  • Day 11: Scenic Drive to North Cascades National Park
  • Day 12: North Cascades National Park Hiking
  • Day 13: Seattle
  • Day 14: Olympic National Park
  • Day 15: Seattle

This itinerary could be considered a 2 week national park road trip Washington State – British Columbia as it covers 5 national parks and preserves! For us, this was definitely the best road trip from Seattle we put together!

You could also change the starting point and transform this plan as a road trip Vancouver to Seattle instead.

Day Trips from Seattle

You can add any of these following attractions as part of your Washington State road trip, and switch with some of our recommended attractions.

Snoqualmie Falls

This 270-foot waterfall is a popular tourist destination, offering hiking trails and observation decks for views of the falls.

Best Places to Visit in Washington State: Road Trip from Seattle // Snoqualmie Waterfalls

Snoqualmie Waterfalls

Drive from Seattle to Snoqualmie Falls: 30 miles / 30 minutes


This charming Bavarian-style village is a popular tourist destination known for its annual Oktoberfest celebration, the Christmas Lighting Festival, the Front Street Park and the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Outdoor activities include guided rafting trips down the Wenatchee River.

Drive from Seattle to Leavenworth: 104 miles / 2 hours


This city is known for its wineries and orchards, and offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and hot air balloon rides.

Drive from Seattle to Yakima: 140 miles / 2 hours

Mount St. Helens

This volcano is a popular destination for hiking and sightseeing. Visitors can take a guided tour to the volcano’s crater and learn about the eruption that occurred in 1980.

Best Places to Visit in Washington State: Road Trip from Seattle // Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens

Drive from Seattle to Mount St. Helens: 130 miles / 2 hours 30

Mount Rainier National Park

This park features the 14,410-foot active stratovolcano and offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and skiing.

Some of the must-see sights in the park include hiking to the summit of Mount Rainier, the Nisqually Glacier, and the Paradise area, which offers great views of wildflowers in the summer.

Drive from Seattle to Mount Rainier: 105 miles / 2 hours 30


This city offers a variety of cultural attractions, such as the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, and the Riverfront Park. Technically, Spokane would not be considered a proper day trip from Seattle given the distance, but it could be included into a road trip from Seattle to Idaho.

Best Places to Visit in Washington State: Road Trip from Seattle // Spokane


Drive from Seattle to Spokane:  290 miles / 4 hours.

Washington State National Parks & Wildlife Refuges

The State of Washington features three national parks, nine national forests, wilderness preserves and wildlife refuges. You could certainly turn our suggested itinerary to be solely a Washington National Parks road trip.

These numerous wilderness areas are inhabited by wild animals. Some of the bigger marine mammals are killer whales, gray whales, and humpback whales around the San Juan islands. Native mammals include black bears, cougars, bobcats, gray wolves, moose, mountain beavers, river otters, and muskrats.

Marmot sightings are pretty common, and we got to see some pretty up close – be it in Olympic National Park like this one below, or in North Cascades National Park.

Best Places to Visit in Washington State: Road Trip from Seattle // Marmot at Olympic National Park

Marmot at Olympic National Park

Remember that these animals are wild – make sure to keep a safe distance and follow posted guidelines to avoid any dangerous encounters.

If you plan on visiting multiple national parks in Washington, it may be worth investing in a National Parks Pass. This pass will give you access to all national parks and can be purchased online or at any national park.

When to Visit Washington State

Washington state can have unpredictable weather, so be sure to check the forecast and pack accordingly. If you’re planning to visit the mountains or go hiking, be prepared for colder temperatures and bring warm clothing and rain gear.

The average summer temperatures can reach 80° F – 90° F (27° to 34° C),  and in winter, 30s to 0° F (3° to -17° C. During a 4th of July 3-day weekend visit, we experienced a hot, sunny day, a cold and windy stormy day filled with thunders, and a foggy day where you could barely see a short distance away. Washington State is the perfect ground to apply the layer concept!

If you are planning for some hikes in the North Cascades, plan for a summer visit. Indeed, you might still find some snow in July, so August and September would be the best months for hiking the North Cascades.

How to Visit Washington State

The state is nestled by British Columbia, Canada to the north, Idaho and the Rocky Mountains to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and Oregon to the south, a region usually referred as the Pacific Northwest.

You will most likely land at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (IATA: SEA), also called Seattle Airport, SEATAC Airport, or Sea-Tac.

From there, you can:

  • Rent a car to start your WA road trip directly.
  • Take a Bus to Downtown Seattle
    The 12-mile drive from the airport to Seattle takes about 40 minutes but the bus ride might take longer as it stops at different locations.

Given the weather changes, give yourself time when you travel in Washington State.

If you are planning on combining this Washington State itinerary with a visit to British Columbia, make sure to verify that you can take your rental car across the border.

Washington State Travel Tips

  • Take public transportation: Seattle and other cities in Washington state have great public transportation options. The Light Rail and buses in Seattle are a great way to get around the city and save on parking costs.
  • Pack comfortable shoes: Washington state has a lot of natural beauty to explore, so be sure to pack comfortable shoes for hiking and exploring. And dress in layers! A good rain jacket is a must-have!
  • Before explore Washington State, grab a copy of Lonely Planet Seattle, and a couple of good maps if you are planning on driving in remote locations that might not have full cell (and GPS coverage).
  • Make sure to research the timetable if you are planning on visiting the San Juan Islands, and book ahead as the ferries tend to be busy in the summer months.
  • Seafood Galore! If you like seafood, you are in for a treat! Given the location by the Pacific Ocean, fresh seafood and fish are everywhere.
  • If you are headed to road trip from Seattle to Vancouver Canada, remember to bring your passport with you and verify visa requirements ahead of your trip.

Have you been to Washington State? What was your experience? Are you planning your WA trips  soon? Share with us your adventures in the Comments section!

You can also consider expanding your plan to a Pacific Coast highway road trip itinerary. If you are looking for more trip ideas in the US, check out our posts on:

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