Road Trip From Seattle
Seattle is the capital of culture in the Pacific Northwest. Via a lovely road trip from Seattle, a lot of places from spectacular national parks to quaint beach towns and bustling cities are within easy reach hence making the Emerald City a perfect starting point for epic road trips all around the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
There are so many beautiful places to choose from, so here is a filtered list of some of the most scenic drives from Seattle.
1. Portland, Oregon
Taking a quick road trip to the Pacific Northwest’s second city: Portland, Oregon is a perfect way to spend your day off. Just under three hours south of Seattle, Portland has everything to keep you entertained.
Portland’s Washington Park has everything, the world-famous International Rose Test Garden, a zoo, and museums. The zoo features animals from across the world, including African crocodiles, American beavers, and Asian elephants. Also, the Portland Japanese Garden, encompassing 12 acres within Washington Park is one of the largest outside Japan. It offers cultural demonstrations, lecture series, mindfulness tours, and tea at the Umami Café and Japanese finger foods served in a bright and modern cafeteria.
Portland Art Museum, founded in 1892 is the oldest museum in the Pacific Northwest. Including Native American artifacts, graphic arts, English silver, Asian art, photography, and Northwest art, the number of items exceeds 50,000. Its most notable piece is Vincent Van Gogh’s Cart with Black Ox.
Powell’s City of Books, home to more than a million books attracts bibliophiles from all over the world. It has something interesting nearly every day, be it author readings, panel discussions, or writing workshops.
Also, if you are looking for road trips you can also check out road trips from Portland.
2. Olympic Peninsula
This Park presents an adventurous environment found nowhere else in all of America. Rain forest hikes, glaciated views, a rugged coastline, and a vast network of hiking trails as well as an ideal place to camp. Though ferries are available but coming from Seattle, a road trip is also a good option.
From the tidal beaches at sea level to the alpine ridges and summit of Mount Olympus, the park offers an enormous spectrum of different landscapes.
The Hoh Rain Forest is a major attraction. 90 miles from Port Angeles, it offers three nature trails, including the family-friendly Hall of Mosses and Spruce Nature Trail. The Hoh Campground, home to 78 campsites provides the perfect basecamp to explore the forest. The camps are granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center with an altitude of 5,200 feet offers magnificent views of the glacier-covered Olympics and over the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island in Canada.
The town of Forks, near the coastal western section of the national park, offers a lot of hiking opportunities, waterfalls, and hot springs. To learn about the equipment used by the forest industry, The Forks Timber Museum is there to answer all your questions. For some insta worthy pictures, head to Ruby Beach as it is filled with changing tides, dramatic sea stacks, and an abundance of driftwood.
3. Bonneville Dam
A 3.5 hour Drive through Tacoma and Portland will land you to the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. The area is a playground that offers deep engagement as it is home to many of the Gorge’s most popular hikes, waterfalls, and lookout points as well as major towns like Troutdale, Hood River, and The Dalles.
It is a hub of water activities, you can experience everything from windsurfing (something this area is known for, but more on that later), kayaking, canoeing, catamaran sailing to stand-up paddleboarding, or jet skiing. For renting water gear companies like Hood River Waterplay and for lessons Hood River SUP and Kayak got you covered.
One of the first American roads specifically built for scenic auto-touring, Historic Columbia River Highway is a unique 20-mile stretch of US Highway 30. It is full of enchanting stonework railings and bridges, Columbia river views as you drive through the lush green forest. To stretch your legs there are numerous hiking trails that will take you past creeks and waterfalls.
For the windsurfing squad, the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge is famous for its windsurfing conditions as well as its stunning beauty. It’s also a great fishing spot.
To learn about the history of the area, head to Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center. It is a fun museum located at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge in The Dalles. Here, you can also learn about the Oregon Trail, the pioneer era, and regional flora and fauna.
Lastly, Columbia River Gorge sternwheeler cruises provide full-length tours of the Columbia River Gorge and even covers iconic landmarks like Multnomah Falls, Beacon Rock, and Bonneville Dam
4. San Juan Islands, Washington
The San Juan Islands are an archipelago of islands in the Salish Sea that connects Vancouver and Seattle.
There are 128 named islands, 44 named reefs and rocks, and another 250 or so rocks in the area whereas. Whereas only four of the islands are accessible and they are San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island, and Shaw Island.
One of the best things to do on San Juan Island is the Pelindaba Lavender Farm. The relaxing scent of lavenders will take all the driving fatigue away.
Humpback, minke, and grey whales all make an appearance around the San Juan Islands, but orcas, also known as killer whales are what people visit for.
Whale Watch Park
Whale Watch Park makes spotting a little easier. But the best option is to take a boat tour, several whale watching companies offer half-and full-day excursions.
For some beautiful Instagram content, capturing a sunset at the Lime Kiln Lighthouse is perfect. Though any time of the day is good, come here at sunrise or sunset for the best pictures.
On the south of the island in a rural setting, the San Juan Island National Historic Park provides numerous walking trails and bird-watching opportunities alongside a bunch of history on the region.
5. Mt. Rainier
One of the most scenic and spectacular national parks in Washington, Mount Rainier National Park is home to the impressive namesake peak, the 14,411-foot Mount Rainier. The National Park is divided into several regions, the most popular one being Paradise, which is also open year-round. Since this place can be explored best by car, a road trip is the best option, also, Seattle makes for a perfect starting point.
Here, on every other step adventure awaits those who want to explore this rugged and enchanting environment. This 236,00-acre park can be best explored via hiking. The popular Skyline Trail begins at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center and circumnavigating the iconic Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park is suitable for all levels of hikers. A close-up view of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier is the ultimate partner.
The Silver Falls is a must-visit. The Silver Falls Loop is a family-friendly trek, offering a high return on scenic beauty for the short walking distance.
Mount Rainier National Park operates four campgrounds within its boundaries. Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh are the most popular ones. These campgrounds provide access to major areas of the park, like Paradise and Sunrise.
6. Snoqualmie Falls
You might feel familiar with the place, yes, if you’ve watched Twin Peaks, Snoqualmie Falls got featured in the opening of every episode of this show.
The best part is that if you’re looking for a road trip from Seattle with less driving time, this is the one for you. It takes just 33 minutes to get to this beauty.
Being one of the most popular attractions in the state, it attracts more than a million visitors every year.
The 270-foot waterfall has left a permanent mark on the region’s history, and community. There are viewing platforms, float trips, and the Salish Lodge and Spas near the falls.
Some of the best hiking trails also surround the area. Rattlesnake Ledge is the best one to explore the area. It’s a challenging but short hike with beautiful views. The nearby Mount Si is also a popular hike and for some real hiking, the challenge is Mailbox Peak.
To get a dose of history, head to The Snoqualmie Depot hop aboard the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad. This scenic heritage line takes passengers 5.5 miles down the tracks to North Bend and through the Upper Snoqualmie Valley.
To beat the summer heat, floating the section of the Snoqualmie River beneath Snoqualmie Falls is all you need. Fall City Floating got you covered with tube rentals and sales.
Overlooking the rushing water of Snoqualmie Falls, Salish Lodge offers cozy rooms, spa services, two delicious restaurants, and access to a local golf course.
7. The Sea-to-Sky Highway
This highway will take you to take to the beautiful town of Whistler and finally to Vancouver. Your first stop can be in 90 minutes at the laidback Bellingham. This one is a common and the most opted option for a road trip from Seattle
On one side it has fantastic blue waters and soaring cliffs on the other. In a short amount of time, you’ll get out of the city and get into the rugged mountains of the Coastal Range which stretch up to Alaska. There are tons of places you can stop by as this highway passes by several waterfalls, rivers, canyons, and mountains, as well as several small towns.
Don’t forget to catch a ride on the Sea to Sky Gondola to the top and enjoy beautiful, panoramic views of Howe Sound. You can also head to West Vancouver for picturesque views of Howe Sound.
The best part is you can cut this trip as short or make it as long as you want. In short, without stopping, you can get to Whistler in just over an hour and a half, but if you wish to take in all this highway has to offer, get ready to press the brakes often. For the latter, Squamish is a great place to book overnight accommodation.
The journey back is over 4 hours, another opportunity to enjoy a scenic drive on this Highway. You can opt to stop at Canada’s famous White Rock Pier on your way back.
8. VANCOUVER ISLAND, BC
Head north from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada, and make your road trip an “international” one. But make sure your car has the permit to cross the border.
For a short break, you can stop at the Mount Vernon Lions Club Roadside Park. There are picnic tables where you can lay back and enjoy the view.
Vancouver Island is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Canada and is home to some major adventures. Rainforests, mountains, rugged coastlines, and scenic towns and cities, this road trip offers a variety of landscapes.
Two of the most popular places to visit are Victoria and Tofino, which are on opposite sides of the island.
The charming little city of Sooke is a good place to make a stop at and Sitting Lady Falls just makes relaxing here easier. The next stop can be at the Jordan River, one of the top surfing destinations on Vancouver Island.
The cute little Fairy Lake is another popular lake. It is a good option for swimming, fishing, and camping, but famous for its bizarre little “bonsai tree”.
Finish the trip with one of Tofino’s stunning sunsets along with some fun. Surfing, hanging out at the beach, hiking, eating delicious food, whatever your vice is, you’ll find something you love in Tofino.
Right in the heart of Washington state, there’s this village, modeled after a traditional Bavarian village. Everything here from the buildings to the buses and horse carriages looks distinctly Bavarian. It’s just a 2.5-hour drive away making it neither short nor long for a road trip from Seattle. The winter is the best time to visit because the Christmas spirit here is unmatchable.
Stunning mountain backdrops and national forests surround Leavenworth, providing ample opportunity for adventure and hence attracting tons of visitors.
Exploring Icicle Creek is a must, it begins high in the Cascade Mountains and connects to the Wenatchee River near Leavenworth.
Next is skiing at Stevens Pass. This renowned ski resort is on the Cascade Range crest and receives a whopping 460 annual inches of snow on average, leading to plenty of powder stashes and a perfect spot to try skiing.
A spa treatment is a must on a Leavenworth vacation. The Alpine Spa at Icicle Village Resort is always a popular choice for guests. Some others include Spa at Posthotel and Aspen Leaf Day Spa.
10. Yellowstone National Park
The Oldest and one of the most famous National Parks in the USA, Yellowstone National Park is on the bucket list of many. A road trip from Seattle makes the journey also as exotic as the destination, along the scenic drive through Snoqualmie Pass and maybe stopping in Spokane for fuel, food, and rest.
Being famous for its spectacular scenery, diverse ecosystems, and fascinating geothermal wonders. But most importantly it is a land of contrasts, each season paints a dramatically different scene – from the lush greens and sparkling blues of spring and summer to the white wonderland of the freezing winter.
For a basic view, you can drive around the Grand Loop, a 142-mile-long road that covers the park’s most striking natural features. For a zoomed view, hiking trails are the best. A close-up of main features, as well as breathtaking viewpoints, is all you need to refresh yourself. Many of the paths are also wheelchair-friendly.
To enjoy a relaxing drive you can opt for a Yellowstone Old Faithful, Waterfalls, and Wildlife Day Tour. This full-day coach tour saves you the hassle of driving and also includes convenient hotel pickup and drop-off, as well as an expert guide. Stops include Old Faithful, the Lower Falls of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and many more.
Your trip to Yellowstone is incomplete without visiting the geyser known as Old Faithful. It is named for the regularity with which it erupted, shooting columns of water high up into the air.
There are three geyser basins – upper, middle, and lower, make sure not to miss any since each is unique in its own way.
To sleep under the stars, Yellowstone camping options offer abundant options on camping. For a comfy room, head to Kelly Inn West Yellowstone. They offer totally clean rooms, with bright log-cabin-style decor, a heated indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, and continental breakfast.
11. Whidbey Island
This is a large island situated between the mainland and the Olympic Peninsula. From Seattle, it’s just 1.5 hours away, making it perfect for a day road trip.
To stretch your legs, you can stop at Langley, a charming seaside village filled with little independent shops, cute cafes. Also, an informative whale center to know about the cute animals you spot there.
The island is home to one of the largest historic districts in the nation and the only National Historic Reserve. Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve is a private and public land patchwork. The public land includes three Washington State Parks: Fort Ebey, Ebey’s Landing, and Fort Casey where you can hike, fish, and camp.
Deception Pass State Park, encompassing 4,000 acres, including 14 miles of saltwater shoreline. Spending the night is the best way to get the most out of a Deception Pass State Park. They offer 300 campsites, including both tent sites and partial hookup RV sites. But make sure to make the reservations in advance.
Fort Casey is a fascinating state park that also offers campsites at an affordable price.
For some casual hiking and beachcombing, Joseph Whidbey is a small, 200-acre state park with a tremendous view that is perfect. before the sunset, it’s quite peaceful too.
12. Whistler, BC
No matter what the season, a road trip from Seattle to Whistler can never go wrong. Plus, having one of the largest ski resorts in all of North America is right in Seattle’s backyard is truly a blessing.
In summer, it offers world-class golfing, hiking, and mountain biking were as, in winter, the skiing at Whistler Blackcomb is one of the best in the world.
The two mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb are connected by one of the most stunning gondola lifts in the world – it holds the record for being the highest above ground at 436 meters and until recently held the record for the longest span between supports at over 3 km!
It is also home to the Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural Centre which has a collection of carvings, weavings, and stories that introduce the history and culture of the local Squamish and Lil’wat peoples. (reservations recommended).
Lost Lake is a year-round destination for activities as the small lake features a beach area. So be it mountain biking, hiking, and bird-watching in summer, or snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter, this area will keep you entertained.
There is too much to cover in one day, which is why many visitors plan to spend a week or at least a weekend. So, for accommodation, Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside provides ski-in, ski-out suites with a full kitchen, a balcony with dramatic mountain views.
13. North Cascades National Park
The drive along the scenic North Cascades Highway is an adventure all its own and connects many dramatic attractions along the way, including the Skagit River, Diablo Lake, and the Methow Valley. It also includes various campgrounds to explore the area deeply. hence, making it to the list of best road trips from Seattle.
These public spaces cover more than two million acres of rugged mountain scenery on the northern border of Western Washington. Its rugged nature makes it a little difficult to access but multi-day hiking or ferry-boat riding into North Cascades National Park is worth the effort.
It has numerous hikes to offer for every level. For a family-friendly hike, the paved quarter-mile Washington Pass Overlook Trail provides amazing views of Liberty Bell Mountain.
To really experience the grandeur, North Cascades offers many unique overnight opportunities. Options vary from boat-in campsites, scenic community campgrounds to remote backcountry sites. Colonial Creek because of its central location is one of the most popular campgrounds in the North Cascades.
Don’t forget to include Diablo Lake on your list. It sits in the upper part of the North Cascades National Park. The area is a massive wilderness of peaks, glaciers, and forests, with nothing around but wildlife and a few backpacking trails.
14. Glacier National Park, Montana
Seattle is the closest major city to Glacier National Park, making it a reliable road trip option. Being true to its nickname the Crown of the Continent, it offers roaring rivers, dramatic mountain peaks, and the world’s only inland cedar rain forest.
For some water adventure head to Lake McDonald, the largest body of water in Glacier. Non-motorized boat rentals and guided horseback rides are available. You can spend the night at the historic Lake McDonald Lodge that was constructed in the 1910s on the banks of the water.
Logan Pass is the highest point at an elevation of 6,646 feet. It is the starting point to two of the most iconic hiking trails in the Glacier. The first one is the Highline Trail that stretches from Logan Pass to the Granite Park Chalet, and then the Hidden Lake Trail. You can also make some new friends like marmots, mountain goats, and the occasional grizzly bear.
The 10-mile St. Mary Lake is home to the second-largest campground in Glacier, with 148 sites available and the tiny Wild Goose Island, seemingly floating in the middle of the water.
If you want to get the vacation feeling, the Many Glacier Hotel offers modern accommodations within rustic settings. It has a snack shop, dining room, and a unique Swiss-style lobby with a large billowing fireplace and rustic features. Make sure to book in advance.
15. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
This little city on Lake Coeur is the perfect blend of small-town charm and rugged nature. Coeur d’Alene is a fun and happening destination all year round. The culture and community of Coeur d’Alene are what draw the crowd. A road trip from Seattle takes around 4.5 hours.
To get some water adventure, one of the twelve public boat launces of Lake Coeur d’Alene offers activities like jet skiing, fishing, kite surfing, and launching a watercraft. Campgrounds and hiking trails are also available here. Every winter hundreds of bald eagles fly in here to feed on spawning kokanee salmon making for a insta worthy picture.
McEuen Park the perfect place for a family day out. Its main features are basketball courts, impressive pavilions, and a leash-free dog park, a beautiful grand plaza area with landscaped waterfalls and garden beds.
Downtown Coeur d’Alene
Be it shopping, dining, or live entertainment, the streets of downtown Coeur d’Alene got it all. A weekly Farmers Market takes place on Wednesdays throughout summer and Community celebrations include holiday lighting events and festive parades which are too beautiful to miss.
Featuring elevation and overlooking the Lake Coeur d’Alene, Hike at Tubbs Hill is perfect to burn some calories. The main trailhead located next to the Rotary Harbor House provides restrooms and concessions, alongside interpretive information about the area.