The Best Day Trips from Seattle to Plan NOW: Complete Guide
While the Emerald City is packed with shimmering lakes, art exhibits, craft beer and cocktail bars, and unpretentious and hopelessly hipster seafood establishments, there is so much else to do within a short drive (or ferry ride) from Seattle. Pull yourself away from the buzz of urban life and explore some of the best day trips from Seattle.
From small harbor towns and lush islands in the Puget Sound, to mountain towns offering evergreen forests, alpine lakes, and wineries, experience the best of the Pacific Northwest’s nature and culinary delights in these destinations that are accessible as day trips from Seattle.
As a PNW native who was born in the area, went to university in Seattle, and has continued to explore the region ever since, I hold a deep reverence and familiarity for the Pacific Northwest. Despite all my time spent in the region, I still continue to find new treasures in small towns, isles, trails, and ever-emerging culinary and artisan endeavors in the region.
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10 Great Seattle Day Trips: Planning Your Next Day Trip from Seattle
Below, you’re going to find everything you need to plan your next Seattle day trip – from where to go and how to get there, to the best things to do, see, eat, and drink while you’re there.
Have a day trip that you think should be included? We’d love to hear it – let us know in the comments!
Distance from Seattle: 35 miles/ 1 hour 15 minutes
How to Get There: There are a number of routes to reach Vashon from Seattle but all of them require you hopping on a ferry from Fauntleroy in West Seattle. Although you can go by foot, if you want to explore the island at all, a car is recommended.
When to Go: Vashon has mild weather even in the off seasons, but the sun-soaked days of summer are always the best time to enjoy island life.
Read More: The Best Things to Do on Vashon Island
Set off mid-morning to maximize your time on Vashon, which has quiet beaches and a vibrant artisan and music community that are worth exploring.
Shinglemill Creek Preserve: Located on the north side of Vashon Island, Shinglemill offers a three-mile trail winding through pristine forest and along a large stream. The preserve is a perfect spot for a short and mild hike through the wilderness of Vashon with views over canyons and the creek.
Browse Art Galleries and Shops Downtown: Some of Vashon’s best art and culinary ventures can be found right in the compact downtown area. Wander through coffee shops, bakeries, and antique shops. Vashon Brewing offers delicious Pacific Northwest-inspired craft beers on an outdoor patio. During spring and summer, you can explore the Saturday farmers market, filled with fresh produce, mouth-watering baked goods, and seasonal flowers.
Point Robinson Park and Lighthouse: Point Robinson is a park and marine conservancy on the eastern shore of Maury Island, which is connected to Vashon by an isthmus. Take a walk along the shore, keeping your eyes peeled for seals and views of Mount Rainier. Here, you’ll also find an iconic lighthouse constructed in 1914.
Feast on Thai Food at May Kitchen and Bar: If you’re looking for a place for lunch or dinner, look no further than May Kitchen. Although it is a departure from the traditional northwest eateries, May serves some of the best Thai food in the region in a space constructed from teak wood and decorated with local art and photographs that will transport you straight to Thailand.
Sip a Pint at Dragon’s Head Cider: Seattle isn’t just about beer and wine. The city is also known for its ciders, a testimony to the apples that grow in abundance in Washington state. If you’re thirsty, head to Dragon’s Head for a glass of fresh, crisp hard cider that is made predominantly from an orchard on Vashon Island.
Do a Tasting at Palouse Winery: If you’re craving a glass of wine during your excursion to Vashon, make a stop at Palouse Winery on the north end of the island. Offering hand-crafted wines that draw grapes from valleys across Washington, Palouse is a small-scale, family-run winery that focuses on quality and a personalized experience.
Strawberry Festival: The eclectic culture and creative scene on Vashon is at its best during the island’s strawberry festival that takes place annually in mid-July and has origins that date back over a century. Dance to live tunes played by local Vashon musicians, admire antique cars, browse local artisan stands, and sample food from Vashon’s best eateries. Although the island used to be famous for their strawberry production, you won’t find many strawberries at the festival today.
Distance from Seattle: 54 miles/ 1 hour
How to Get There: From Seattle, jump onto I-90 east. After nearly an hour of driving, you’ll reach Snoqualmie Pass. However, there are a number of activities in the general region of the pass that are closer to Seattle than the pass itself.
When to Go: Like most other destinations in Washington state, Snoqualmie Pass completely transforms during the seasons. To partake in hiking opportunities, pay a visit from late spring until mid-fall. However, if you’re a fan of winter sports, Snoqualmie Pass is a winter wonderland and has prime skiing during winter months.
Read More: The Best Hikes in Snoqualmie Pass
Snoqualmie is packed with activities for outdoor lovers. Head out in the morning and drive to the trailhead for your chosen hike. Enjoy your time in the mountains and stop off at Dru Bru for a beer and lunch on your way back. Continue on to admire the roaring Snoqualmie Falls before returning to Seattle.
Snoqualmie Falls: Located just about a thirty-minute drive east of Seattle, Snoqualmie Falls is a 268-foot waterfall (psst – if you’re a waterfall lover, make sure to read our guide to the best waterfalls in Washington State!) surrounded by trees. There are short walking paths to reach the falls, as well as an information center, gift shop, and restaurant. The falls can be visited any time of the year and are especially powerful during heavy rains or snow fall, particularly from November through March. They’re free to visit and can be as short or long of a stop as you want.
Snow (and Gem) Lake: (Distance: 7.2 miles or 10.0 miles roundtrip / Elevation Gain: 1,800 ft) The trailhead for Snow Lake is accessible from the Alpental Ski area. After an initial ascent, the trail levels off and continues over an unshaded trail on a rocky cliff. Eventually you’ll reach a hill that leads down to the lakeshore. Pick a boulder to take a rest on, overlooking the serene lake with evergreens reflecting in the still waters. You can turn around at Snow Lake or continue on about another 1.5 miles to reach Gem Lake. Continue all the way around Snow Lake. The trail will take you over a rock field and mountain meadows to reach the petite Gem Lake.
Franklin Falls: (Distance: 2.0 miles roundtrip / Elevation Gain: 400 ft) The trailhead for this easy, family-friendly hike is not far from Snoqualmie Pass and just past the Denny Creek Campground. Walk along the trail through a canopy of trees with a very gentle incline. The pinnacle of the hike provides a viewpoint of the largest drop of the spectacular Franklin Falls. You can choose to get closer to the falls by following a narrow trail, although be aware that the rocks may be slippery.
Melakwa Lake: (Distance: 8.5 miles roundtrip/ Elevation Gain: 2,700 ft.) Start your hike from the trailhead near Denny Creek Campground, which begins as a wide trail through old-growth forest for the first mile. You’ll need to cross over a creek to reach the main trail, which will soon become more difficult with switchbacks, narrow paths, and significant elevation gain. About two miles in, you can take a break and marvel at the powerful Keekwulee Falls. Eventually you’ll reach the rocky shores of the blue waters of Melakwa Lake, whose name comes from the Chinook word for “mosquito.” As beautiful as the hike is during the summer, beware that the trail will be crowded. This hike is perhaps even more magical during winter, when the surrounding evergreens are draped in snow.
Winter Sports at the Summit at Snoqualmie: Even though most hikes won’t be available in Snoqualmie Pass during winter due to trail closures after snowfall, you can still try out different winter sports. From the Summit at Snoqualmie, you can ski, snowboard, tube, or snowshoe. Book a ski lesson if you’re a newcomer to the sport, or if you prefer to take a more laid back approach, take a scenic chairlift up the mountain.
Dru Bru: After finishing your hike, head to Dru Bru for lunch. Dru Bru is a taproom on the pass that serves locally crafted brews and filling pub-style food.
Distance from Seattle: 10.3 miles/ 40 minutes
How to Get There: Bainbridge is a quick ferry trip from the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal at Pier 52 in downtown Seattle.
When to Go: Although Bainbridge is more enjoyable during the sunny days of late spring, summer, and early fall, the island can be explored any time of the year. Bainbridge isn’t impacted by road closures or winter storms and is mild even during the winter.
Catch the ferry to Bainbridge mid-morning to enjoy a full day of driving around the island, finding beach spots, and indulging in wine and beer tastings at island wineries and breweries.
Bloedel Reserve: A northwest forest transformed into colorful curated gardens and landscapes, Bloedel is a natural wonder that spans 150 acres on Bainbridge Island. Set aside a significant portion of time to wander the sprawling gardens that transform throughout the seasons. It is required to book tickets in advance.
Bainbridge Brewing: The PNW has no shortage of craft breweries, and Bainbridge Brewing, an independent brewery on Bainbridge Island, is no exception. Making craft beers (with an emphasis on IPAs, naturally) from primarily locally sourced ingredients, Bainbridge Brewing is a great place to grab a pint or a tasting beer flight in an unpretentious taproom.
Bainbridge Vineyards: Bainbridge Vineyards produces all of its wine with grapes from vineyards that are certified organic, which is always a plus in my book. This women-led business is dedicated to both the farming and wine production side in processes that are as sustainable as possible. Their casual tasting room makes for an enjoyable stop during a day out on Bainbridge.
Eagle Harbor Wine Co: A community-oriented winery that is focused on producing quality wine made from hand-picked grapes that are barrel-aged, Eagle Harbor will be a welcome stop on your day trip to Bainbridge Island. Enjoy small-batch wines in a laid-back, friendly setting.
Rockaway Beach Park: If you’re looking for a quiet place to take in the views and the sounds of the ocean, head to Rockaway Beach Park. Here, you’ll find wetlands and a quiet shoreline perfect for a walk or a picnic.
Distance from Seattle: 35 miles/ 1 hour 15 minutes
How to Get There: To reach Whidbey Island, you’ll need to drive and then hop on a short ferry. Drive north on I-5 and then head east to reach Mukilteo, where you’ll catch the ferry to Clinton. Enjoy about a 20-minute ferry ride and then continue onto Whidbey Island.
When to Go: Summer and fall are the best times to visit Whidbey, bringing agreeable weather as well as a lot of activities to partake in. However, Whidbey can be visited year-round as it has mild winters and infrequently experiences snowfall.
From wild beaches to local wineries, Whidbey Island packs the best of the PNW in a space that is easily covered in a day, which makes it one of my personal favorite day trips from Seattle. Head out mid-morning to give yourself time to drive all the way around the island from south to north.
Whidbey Island Distillery for Fruit Liqueurs: Whidbey Island Distillery goes beyond your typical distillery experience. This family-run distillery draws upon local ingredients to create absolutely delicious liqueurs in flavors like loganberry, boysenberry, blackberry, and raspberry. Partake in a complimentary tasting on the distillery’s lush property.
Wine Tasting at Spoiled Dog: Located in Langley, Spoiled Dog hosts wine tastings under gazebos as well as in their vineyard gardens. The unique marine microclimate at the vineyard, including cool summers, has created distinct tasting notes within the wines. Spoiled Dog is committed to using sustainable, chemical-free growing processes, so you can enjoy your glass of wine worry-free at this stunning vineyard tucked into the countryside of Whidbey.
Glendale Shepherd: Stop by Glendale Shepherd, a sustainable Whidbey Island dairy farm, for a farm and cheese experience. Take a tour of the farm, walk through the forests, meadows, and pond on the property, greet the friendly goats and sheep, and sample delicious sheep and goat’s milk cheese and yogurt.
Deception Pass State Park: Deception Pass State Park spans both Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands, which are connected by Deception Pass bridge. This state park spans over several thousand acres with an expansive shoreline and is filled with old growth forest, coves, and sandy beaches that will capture the attention of any nature lover. Try to catch the sunset at Deception Pass to end your day on Whidbey.
Fort Ebey State Park: Located on the west side of Whidbey Island, Fort Ebey was originally formed as a coastal defense fort during WWII. Today, you can still explore some of the fort’s historic monuments or simply walk or bike along the nature trails and bluffs overlooking the glistening water.
Eat Local at Orchard Kitchen: At Orchard Kitchen, you can eat dinner in the fields for the ultimate farm to table experience. The restaurant is located in the middle of an organic farm and the menu is designed weekly drawing from the bounty of the farm, along with local cheesemakers, oystermen, vintners, and farmers. Make reservations to guarantee a table. The experience, from the food to the locale, is absolutely worth the stop.
Distance from Seattle: 20 miles/ 30 minutes
How to Get There: Woodinville is best reached and navigated by car in order to explore the many wineries in town. Hop on 520 east, cross over the bridge, and drive on 405 north to reach Woodinville. The trip typically takes 25-35 minutes, traffic dependent.
When to Go: Woodinville is accessible year-round. During the summer, you can enjoy the outdoor seating in beautiful gardens, picnics, and special events like summer concert series. However, the tasting rooms are just as enjoyable any time of the year. Warm up with a wine or whiskey tasting and enjoy other seasonal events throughout the year.
Woodinville is just a short drive northeast from Seattle but is set among the sprawling countryside and is home to the highest concentration of wine tasting rooms in Washington.
In Woodinville, you’ll find the tasting rooms of Washington wine estates that grow their grapes and make their wine in the vineyards across the mountains. You can plan to leave Seattle mid-late morning and try out a handful of wineries with a lunch break somewhere in between.
Wineries in Woodinville
Chateau Ste. Michelle: The oldest and perhaps the most recognized winery in Washington State, Chateau Ste. Michelle is a must-visit during your trip to Woodinville. Although I typically gravitate towards small, family-run wineries, the elegant tasting rooms at Chateau alongside their sprawling gardens are not to be missed. You can select from a number of tastings, depending on if you’re looking to try their premium wines, seasonal favorites, or annual bestsellers. You can also buy artisanal cheese, charcuterie, and other snacks to take with a bottle of wine and have a picnic on their beautiful grounds.
JM Cellars: A family-owned, small-scale winery that endeavors to produce exceptional, hand-crafted wines, JM Cellars is an unmissable winery on your trip to Woodinville. The wines are produced drawing inspiration from old world techniques and always with the environment in mind.
Kestrel: Kestrel offers a more intimate wine tasting experience, taking the time to talk to you to select which wines you like for a personalized tasting. They grow their grapes in Yakima and are one of a handful of wineries in Washington that have received the stamp of being certified organic. Choose from a variety of types of wine, including the winemaker’s select and their infamous artist’s series.
Milbrandt: Another of my favorite wineries in Washington, Milbrandt produces a range of everyday wines to premium vintages, all made with exceptional quality and care. While you really can’t go wrong with any of Milbrandt’s wines, their premium block Syrah is velvety, full-bodied, and incredibly delicious.
Other Things to Do in Woodinville
Woodinville Whiskey Company: If you’re wanting to have a change from wine, make a stop at Woodinville Whiskey Co., which is among my favorite distilleries in the state. Partake in a whiskey tasting or simply get a glass of your chosen whiskey. Mine is the bourbon aged in port barrels, which offers an exceptional depth and smoothness to the liquor.
Summer Concerts: There are a number of summer events that take place in Woodinville, among the most notable being the summer concert series at Chateau Ste. Michelle. Enjoy live music on the lawn of the winery with your favorite bottle of wine and a charcuterie platter.
The Herbfarm: The Herbfarm offers an exceptional culinary and wine experience each evening during dinner. They have a 9-course dinner paired with wines that rotates each week to showcase the best of the farm, forest, and sea of the Pacific Northwest. Enjoy your experience in an eclectic dining room with art and goods collected from around the world. Make reservations well in advance to guarantee a table.
Hollywood Tavern: The Hollywood Tavern is more than just a place to grab a bite to eat. The historic country wine tavern offers pub fare made with local ingredients in an atmospheric setting complete with lawn games, a fire pit, and a music series.
Get a Caffeine Boost at Sidekick Coffee: If you’re in need of a bit of caffeine and a break from all of your wine tasting, stop by Sidekick Coffee for a cup of brew served in a bright, chic space.
Distance from Seattle: 90 miles/ 1 hour 30 minutes
How to Get There: Bellingham is reachable from Seattle by car. Head north on I-5 and follow it most of the way there.
When to Go: May to October are the most optimal months during which to visit Bellingham. These months offer prime weather to enjoy the outdoor activities in the Bellingham area, and avoid the rainiest, coolest time of the year.
Read More: The Best Things to Do in Bellingham, Washington
Head out first thing in the morning to reach this town near the Canadian border. Waterfalls, artsy towns, and hikes overlooking the water are among the activities to explore in this picturesque part of the state.
Chuckanut Drive: This scenic byway, which curves around sandstone cliffs of the Chuckanut Mountains, will take you through some of the best of the Bellingham region. Chuckanut is the place where the Cascade Mountains reach the sea. Catch views over Samish Bay as well as the San Juan Islands, and perhaps stop for a walk along the sandy beach and search for sea glass.
Fairhaven: Fairhaven is an eclectic historic district located within the Bellingham area filled with shops, restaurants, and sea views. Each year, a number of festivals are hosted in Fairhaven throughout the seasons, including a festive Winterfest that offers horse-drawn carriage rides, Christmas markets, and twinkling light displays. Be sure to check out the Whatcom Art Market, a cooperative that features over 40 local artists and hosts rotating art displays. With countless options to eat at, Magdalena’s Creperie is among my favorite, offering an extensive menu of sweet and savory crepes, as well as homemade Polish perogies.
Whatcom Falls: While the falls themselves are beautiful, there is much to see in Whatcom Falls Park beyond the waterfall itself. Explore the miles of peaceful forest trails that transition throughout the seasons. Within the park, you can also find Whirlpool Falls, which have a popular swimming hole during the summer.
Caffeinate at Camber Coffee: If you need a caffeine boost, stop by the modern, relaxed Camber Coffee in downtown Bellingham. Find award-winning coffees along with simple fare on offer at this café.
Hike to Oyster Dome (Distance: 5.0 miles roundtrip / Elevation Gain: 1,050 ft.): The hike to Oyster Dome is best accessed from the Samish Overlook parking area. You’ll start out on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, which soon turns into switchbacks through Douglas fir forest. The final portion of the trail is a steep climb, which will bring you to Oyster Dome that opens up to views over the Skagit River Flat, Lummi and Orcas islands, Samish Bay, and the Olympic Mountains in the background. Look out for bald eagles circling overhead.
Distance from Seattle: 120 miles/ 2 hours 15 minutes
How to Get There: There are two major routes from Seattle to reach Leavenworth. The slightly faster route goes northeast through Redmond and then follows US-2 through the mountains until you reach Leavenworth. For the alternative route, which adds only marginal time and distance, head southeast on I-90 through Issaquah and North Bend before heading back north on WA-970 and US-97 North to reach Leavenworth.
When to Go: Leavenworth offers something during every season. In summer months, enjoy long, sunny days floating down the Wenatchee River, hiking the nearby trails and outdoor wine tasting. During the fall, the hikes are still open (albeit chillier) and the town hosts an impressive Oktoberfest celebration, echoing the Bavarian elements of the city. Leavenworth turns into a winter wonderland once the snow falls. You can go skiing or snowshoeing and enjoy the town lit up for the holiday season.
Read More: The Best Things to Do in Leavenworth
Head out early in the morning to make a full day in this Bavarian mountain town. Choose from hikes, river floating, and wine and cheese tasting in downtown.
Hike Colchuck Lake: You’ll need to leave Seattle very early in order to make it to the trailhead by around 8am at the latest. Colchuck Lake is one of my favorite hikes in Washington and can be completed as a day hike in the Enchantments region. The trailhead is located outside of Leavenworth, from the same location as the Stuart Lake trailhead. The 8-mile round trip hike gains about 2,300 feet of elevation across rushing creeks, up through evergreen forests, and over boulders with views over surrounding valleys. At the top, enjoy views right over the crystal waters of Colchuck Lake, one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Washington. On a warm summer day, taking a dip in Colchuck is the perfect way to refresh after the hot hike to the top.
Wine, Cider, Beer: There is no shortage of places to grab a drink in Leavenworth and quench your thirst. There are a wide range of tasting rooms for Washington wineries in downtown. Ryan Patrick is one of my favorite tasting rooms in town. If you’re more into cider, then stop by Leavenworth Cider for a pint of hard cider. Choose from apple, marionberry, blackberry, and a wide range of creative flavors of cider.
Float the River: During summer months, rent a tube and take a lazy, sun-soaked float down the Wenatchee River. Floating the river is a relaxed way to take in the scenery of the surrounding mountains and forest and is one of my favorite summer activities in the PNW. You can rent a tube from Blue Sky Outfitters for a partial or full day, and can even opt to join a rafting trip with them to experience a more adrenaline-pumping side of the river.
Be Transported to Bavaria in Sausage Garten or Munchen Haus: In a different time, Leavenworth was a thriving logging town. When logging started to become a failing industry in the early 1960’s, the University of Washington business school held a competition to find a way to save the town of Leavenworth. Turning it into a Bavarian-style mountain town was the winning solution. In and around downtown Leavenworth, you’ll find Bavarian-inspired buildings, shops, and restaurants. To transport yourself to Bavaria, stop by the Sausage Garten or Munchen Haus for a bite of semi-Bavarian cuisine, including pretzels, bratwurst, and potato salad.
Wine Tasting Outside of Town: Beyond the tasting rooms in town, there are a handful of wineries in more picturesque settings just outside of Leavenworth that make for an enjoyable stop on an afternoon.
- Eagle Creek Winery: Eagle Creek is the oldest winery in town that has deep roots in the Leavenworth wine history. Located about five miles out of town, drive down beautiful winding roads to reach the serene setting of Eagle Creek. The secluded location among vineyards combined with the commitment to quality wine making makes this one of my favorite wineries to visit in the area.
- Silvara Cellars: Located just about a five minute drive from central Leavenworth, Silvara is set on a spacious hill overlooking the surrounding mountains. Silvara is a serene spot away from the business of downtown to do a wine tasting in the garden with friends and perhaps indulge in a cheese plate.
The San Juan Islands
Distance from Seattle: 103 miles/ 3 hours (including a beautiful ferry ride)
How to Get There: From Seattle, drive north to Anacortes, where you’ll catch the ferry to your island of choice. The drive takes about 1.5 hours to reach Anacortes. The ferry ride to San Juan Island is about 1 hour, while the ferry to Orcas Island is approximately 1.5 hours.
When to Go: The San Juan Islands are at their most spectacular from late spring to early fall. Summer is the prime time on the islands, with the sun glistening in the blue waters and the long, warm days allowing ample time to kayak, swim, and hike. However, the winters are milder on the islands and you can still take walks and enjoy the views from a cozy house and partake in the artsy towns.
The two main islands in the San Juan Archipelago are Orcas and San Juan Island. It’s worth noting that you will have to PICK ONE of the islands to do as a day trip from Seattle – you’ll need to stay overnight if you want to tackle both.
Although it will make for a long day, head out first thing to catch an early morning ferry. The ferry ride is part of the adventure, offering picturesque views over the blue waters of the Puget Sound. The islands offer a mix of outdoor adventures with local art and food experiences.
Things to Do on Orcas Island
Hike Mt. Constitution: Mt. Constitution is the highest point on the San Juan Islands and located in Moran State Park in the center of the island. The road is open annually and there are various trails that can be hiked, biked, or even driven to the summit. The top offers spectacular panoramic views over green forests, blue waters, and the other San Juan Islands dotted across the horizon.
Swim in Mountain Lake in Moran State Park: On sunny days, one of my favorite spots to be is Mountain Lake in Moran State Park. The pristine lake is surrounded by evergreen forests and is pure magic to float in on a warm summer day.
Explore the Shops of Eastsound: Eastsound is the small downtown area of Orcas Island and is filled with art galleries, artisan shops, bookstores, and tasty cafes. The area is a pleasant place to walk through and feel the friendly, laidback energy of Orcas. Treat yourself to a freshly baked croissant or scone at the delicious Brown Bear Baking, which serves equally delicious coffee. Wild Island is a fantastic spot for a heartier breakfast or lunch, with a focus on nourishing bowls, juices, and smoothies.
Grab a Drink and Food at The Barnacle: The Barnacle is a fun and eclectic nautical-themed bar that serves creative cocktails made from locally produced spirits. You can also try beers produced on the island and fill up on tasty snacks made from seafood and local produce.
Relax and Catch Music at Doe Bay: Doe Bay is a resort, spa, and café located on the southeastern shores of Orcas Island on expansive, wooded waterfront property. Eat lunch at the organic garden café or catch local musicians at the annual Doe Bay Fest.
Visit Orcas Island Pottery: Orcas is an island filled with creative initiatives and Orcas Island Pottery encompasses the best of the island’s creativity. Set amidst beautiful gardens and a forest of cedar and fir trees, colorful vases, pitchers, dinnerware, and mugs are on display. I’ve found some phenomenal pieces of pottery here and even if you’re not looking to buy, the setting itself is worth a visit.
Things to Do on San Juan Island
Kayaking on the West Side of the Island: Hop in a kayak for a few hours on a guided tour, or even longer, and take a marine tour with San Juan Kayak Expeditions. Paddle on the peaceful waters of the Haro Strait and explore the various ecosystems and habitats of the island. With views of the Olympic Mountains and the opportunity to paddle right past orca whales, kayaking around San Juan is a memorable experience.
Explore Friday Harbor: Friday Harbor, a historic seaport just steps from the ferry landing, offers a handful of shops and restaurants that are worth exploring. Browse shops on Spring Street, stop by the San Juan Islands Museum of Art to experience local art exhibits, brush up on marine knowledge at the Whale Museum. Relax with a craft beer or cocktail, raw oysters, and seasonal dishes sourced from local farms on a sunny patio overlooking the water at Friday Harbor House.
Hike to Young Hill at English Camp: This easy-moderate hike is located near Friday Harbor. Spot colorful wildflowers along the way and enjoy spectacular views over the island and the Sound at the top.
Visit Pelindaba Lavender Farm: The lavender fields are at their peak in July and August, displaying brilliant shades of purple. Take a stroll through the organic farm, harvest your own bouquet of lavender, take a picnic among the fields, and learn about the many different varieties of lavender in the demonstration garden. Don’t leave without sampling the lavender flavored ice cream, lemonade, or cookies.
Make Friends with Alpacas at Krystal Acres Farm: Take a walk among the rolling fields of grazing alpacas and learn about the eco-friendly, sustainable alpaca fibers that make some of the softest textiles available. Stop by the store and invest in a hat or sweater made from alpaca fiber.
Take a Walk on the Shores of South Beach: The longest beach in the San Juan Islands, South Beach is located right next to American Camp. Go for a walk on the pristine sand and pebble beach where driftwood is scattered and admire the views over the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains.
Hike to Mt. Finlayson (Distance: 3.6 miles/ Elevation Gain: 408 ft.): On the south side of the island, you’ll find the scenic Mt. Finlayson loop, which makes for a fantastic, low elevation walk. The loop passes through grassy meadows and forests of towering trees. Wild roses and honeysuckle dot the path during spring and summer months and the trail offers views of the water.
Mount Rainier National Park
Distance from Seattle: 110 miles/ 2.5 hours for Paradise; 100 miles/ 2 hours 10 minutes for Sunrise
How to Get There: To reach the Paradise section of Mount Rainier, take I-5 south to WA-7 south to WA-706, which will bring you to Paradise Road that will lead you to the park. For Sunrise, head south on I-5 to WA 410-E, through the town of Enumclaw. From there, follow White River Road, which will turn into Sunrise Park Road and lead you to the Visitor Center.
When to Go: Mount Rainier National Park is best visited in summer and fall, with peak months falling between July and October. The only section of the park that is open during the off-season is Paradise, with limited hiking and activities available. However, there are other seasonal activities during the winter, such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Hey! We have an entire guide to planning a day trip to Mount Rainier – INCLUDING an itinerary for both Sunrise and Paradise.
Mount Rainier National Park is home to the iconic peak in Seattle’s skyline. The park has numerous sections, which all offer unique scenery, trails, and wilderness.
The two most popular sections are Paradise, in the northwest of the park and Sunrise, which is in the southeastern section of the park. Sunrise is slightly closer to Seattle and offers a greater variety of challenging hikes, while Paradise has more developed walking paths with close-up views of the glaciers and easy access to a number of waterfalls.
Exploring the Paradise Side of Mount Rainier
Hikes at Paradise: A few of the best hikes in the park are in this area, and are well-worth adding to your itinerary.
- Skyline Trail: Length (5.5 miles/ Elevation Gain: 1,450 ft.): The Skyline Trail is a classic Mount Rainier hike offering a moderate trek through striking landscape. On this roundtrip hike, you’ll walk through sloped, green valleys that are blooming with brilliant wildflowers in the summer months. During the fall season, the valleys turn warm shades of gold and red. Throughout the hike, you’ll be nearly face-to-face with Mount Rainier and upon reaching Panorama Point, you’ll be greeted with views of Paradise Valley, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams. Expect the hike to take approximately three hours, dependent on your pace.
- Nisqually Vista Loop (Length 1.1 miles/ Elevation Gain: 200 ft.): This short but sweet loop is a great option if you are looking to experience the grandeur of Mount Rainier without embarking on an all-day hiking adventure. Follow a paved path from the Paradise parking lot, catching views of the immense Nisqually Glacier along the way.
Waterfalls: As the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, Mount Rainier National Park has over 150 waterfalls. Many of these waterfalls can be viewed from the road, while others are a reward along a hike. Although the falls are dotted all around the park, a high concentration of them sit within the Paradise section of the park.
- Narada Falls: Perhaps the most popular falls in the park, Narada is located just one mile from the Paradise entrance to the park. With easy parking, make a stop to admire the 176-foot-high two-tiered falls plunging into a pool below.
- Myrtle Falls: The roaring Myrtle Falls cascade into a deep gorge with views of Mount Rainier in the backdrop. Just a quarter mile from the Paradise parking lot, this short walk brings high rewards.
Packwood: The mountain logging community of Packwood is a gateway to Mount Rainier and a great spot to grab lunch not too far from the Paradise entrance to the park. Stop by Packwood Brewing Company for an unpretentious spot that captures the spirit of a classic Northwest brewery. They have a fairly typical menu for a brewery, with tacos, burgers, sandwiches, and salads, among other options to choose from. If you’re a craft beer lover, this is a great spot to quench your thirst with a local brew.
Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center: A number of the hikes at Mount Rainier start from the Visitor Center, which is worth a quick stop before heading off on an adventure. The Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center has informational displays detailing the cultural and ecological histories of the park, along with the various habitats and wildlife within Mount Rainier.
Grove of the Patriarchs & Ohanapecosh: About a 20-minute drive from Packwood is Ohanapecosh, a smaller section of the park that has access to the Grove of the Patriarchs trail. This easy hike should take you an hour or less, bringing you on a walk beneath majestic, ancient Douglas firs, western hemlocks, and western red cedars that have been preserved on a small, isolated island for over 1,000 years.
Exploring Sunrise at Mount Rainier
Hikes at Sunrise: This part of the park is home to the best hiking in Rainier, with amazing mountain views around every bend in the trail, and crystal clear lakes with near-perfect reflections.
- Summerland Trail (Length: 8.4 miles/ Elevation Gain: 2,100 ft.): Access this moderate hike from the White River entrance after about an hour and forty-five-minute drive. The hike gently ascends through mature forest before opening up to grassy meadows and sweeping views of Mount Rainier. During the summer, the fields are dotted with fuchsia and violet wildflowers and by autumn, they have turned fiery shades of orange and red. This is one of my absolute favorite hikes in Mount Rainier National Park and will take three to four hours.
- Mt. Fremont Lookout (Length: 5.6 miles/ Elevation Gain: 1,200 ft.): A moderate hike to a classic lookout point, Mt. Fremont is the perfect way to spend a morning at Sunrise. The trailhead will take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach from Seattle. After setting out on the trail, you’ll cross open meadows and climb up rocky escarpments. This will eventually lead you to a historic cabin that is one of the original fire lookouts in the park. From the lookout, enjoy views of Mount Rainier, the Cascades, and the Olympic Mountains before turning around and heading back down the trail. The hike should take two and a half hours.
- Burroughs Mountain (Length: 9.0 miles/ Elevation Gain: 2,500 ft.): The trail for this moderate hike begins from Sunrise Visitor Center, which is about a two hour drive from Seattle. Burroughs Mountain is a more challenging hike if you choose to go all the way to the second mountain. The hike can also be modified for a shorter, slightly easier hike if you choose to only go to the first Burroughs. Start out on a dry, open trail that passes over snowfields before ascending steeply to reach the First Burroughs mountain. Turn around here or continue on to the Second Burroughs, where you can often find mountain goats wandering the hillsides and views over Glacier Basin and Berkeley Park. Allocate about three and a half to four hours for the hike.
- Sheep Lake and Sourdough Gap (to Sheep Lake, 3.6 miles/ Elevation Gain: 400 ft. – All the way to Sourdough Gap, 6.0 miles/ Elevation Gain: 1,100 ft.) For a short and relatively low elevation hike, get off the road right at Chinook Pass and hike to Sheep Lake. While the views of Rainier aren’t as spectacular as other parts of the park, the hike is accessible for most levels and will allow time to explore other parts of the park during the rest of the day. During summer, the meadows are dotted with wildflowers and in the autumn, they are ablaze with red huckleberry plants. Take a dip in the frigid but refreshing Sheep Lake or lounge in the grassy fields on the lake’s edge. After you enjoy a leisurely walk to Sheep Lake, you can also continue to Sourdough Gap and Crystal Lakes. As you continue to climb, the landscape becomes increasingly beautiful. At the end of the 1.4-mile elevation gain, you can find sparkling blue Crystal Lake in the basin below, surrounded by views over the south Cascades, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens. The hike will take three to four hours, depending on pace and if you stop for a dip in Sheep Lake.
Wildflowers: From approximately late July through August, Mount Rainier is blooming with wildflowers. The valleys around Sunrise have some of the most spectacular wildflower viewings, as they are glimmering with shades of violet, fuchsia, and yellow.
Distance from Seattle: 44 miles/50 minutes
How to Get There: From Seattle, you’ll need a car to reach Gig Harbor. Drive on I-5 south before getting off on WA-16 west and then crossing the Tacoma-Narrows Bridge to reach Gig Harbor.
When to Go: You can go to Gig Harbor year-round. The climate is mild and rarely sees snow. However, late spring through early fall does offer better weather for beach walks and kayaking.
Gig Harbor encompasses the best of a PNW maritime town. The heart of the town is centered around a charming marina lined with shops and cafes on one side and by yachts and sailboats moored in the Puget Sound on the other with views of Mount Rainier.
The town expands into tangles of evergreen trees surrounded by beaches and islands. Leave in the morning and spend the day wandering the beaches and downtown area.
Downtown Marina/Skansie Brothers Park: Take a walk along the marina, admiring the views and stopping to look at the shops. If you’re feeling thirsty, you can grab a pint at Gig Harbor Brewing, one of the town’s outstanding local breweries that is situated right on the marina. Skansie Brothers Park is right next door and a great spot to have a picnic or walk down to the marina and window shop for boats.
Have a Pint Overlooking the Sound at Tides Tavern: Perhaps the most iconic restaurant in town, Tides Tavern is located in downtown Gig Harbor in an understated establishment. On sunny days, make sure to get a table on the deck, which has fantastic views over the Puget Sound—and Mount Rainier, if the sky is clear. Tides offers a mix of tasty pub fare with seasonal dishes, featuring the phenomenal seafood of the region. The Dungeness crab avocado sandwich has me dreaming about it long after I’ve left. Although there is a great selection of beers on tap, the house margaritas are typically my drink of choice.
Indulge in Upscale PNW Cuisine at Brix 25: For a more upscale dining experience, book a table at Brix 25, which is also located in downtown Gig Harbor. The elegant menu features the best of Pacific Northwest seafood, along with an impressive wine list.
Brush Up on Maritime History at Harbor History Museum: While you’re in downtown, stop by the Harbor History Museum, which details the fascinating mix of Croatian and Nordic history that Gig Harbor was built upon.
Kayak or Sail on the Puget Sound: If weather permits, rent a kayak or SUP from Lee’s SUP and Kayak Rentals and paddle around the marina for an hour or two, experiencing Gig Harbor from the water. The Sound is extremely peaceful on calm days and taking a kayak is one of my preferred pastimes in the PNW.
Explore Fox Island: Located about a 20-minute drive from downtown Gig Harbor, Fox Island is one of my favorite spots in the region. The drive across the Fox Island bridge alone is breathtaking and will lead you to a rocky beach where you can take walks, search for tide pools and sea creatures, or go for a swim. Continue driving on the island along the winding roads through thick trees, finding small beaches, viewpoints, and Zog’s, the island’s very own pub.
Take a Walk on Narrows Beach: Narrows Beach is located on your way to or from Gig Harbor, tucked down a small road just before the Tacoma-Narrows Bridge. You can walk far along the rocky beach during low tide, take a seat on one of the fallen trees, or dip your feet in the icy waters.
MORE TO EXPLORE IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
If you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, we’ve got you covered with all sorts of super detailed travel guides to our favorite places in Washington and Oregon.
- Seattle: Find the perfect place to stay in Seattle, use our itinerary and complete Seattle city guide to plan your weekend in Seattle (we also have a guide to one day in Seattle for shorter trips), find a new hike near Seattle to tackle, and plan your next day trip or weekend getaway.
- Portland: Get a local’s take on what to do in Portland and where to stay in Portland, plan your weekend itinerary (we also have a guide to one day in Portland for shorter trips), find the best hikes in and around Portland, and discover the best day trip and weekend getaway destinations.
- Road Trips: Explore the best of the Pacific Northwest on a 14 day Pacific Northwest road trip. Plan an amazing Washington road trip or Oregon road trip with our detailed guides, including a couple of itineraries that you can copy/paste.
- The Oregon Coast: Explore the best of the Oregon Coast on a 7 day Oregon Coast road trip. Discover the best hikes on the Oregon Coast, and figure out what to do in Cannon Beach and Astoria.
- Hiking in Oregon: Get a local’s take on the best hikes in Oregon, the most spectacular Oregon waterfalls, and dive deeper into each region with our guides to the best hikes at Mt. Hood, in the Columbia River Gorge, and more.
- Hiking in Washington: Add to your Washington hiking bucket list with our guide to the best hikes in Washington. Then dive into our regional hiking guides to discover the best hikes near Seattle, hiking at Mount Rainier, in Olympic National Park, in the North Cascades, and at Mount Baker.
- Mount Rainier National Park: Plan the perfect trip to Mount Rainier with our guides to the best things to do, the best hikes, and how to plan a perfect day trip to Rainier.
- Olympic National Park: Explore the best that Olympic National Park has to offer – the best hikes, a complete itinerary, and exactly where to stay in Olympic National Park.
- North Cascades National Park: The least visited of the National Parks in Washington, learn how to plan a perfect itinerary, and figure out the best hikes to add to your list.
- Crater Lake National Park: Discover the best that Oregon’s only national park (isn’t that crazy?) has to offer with our guide to planning your Crater Lake itinerary, and our guide to the best hikes in Crater Lake. Plus, a guide to planning an amazing Seattle to Crater Lake road trip.