It’s been a tough year with COVID19 pandemic all around the globe. For us as well, this meant staying away from our families for long, multiple cancelled travel plans throughout the year and a lot of stay at home. The only silver lining during this period has been the local travel we have been able to do in our home state of Washington. Known to be the evergreen state, Washington is home to many national and state parks and every part of the state has something to offer.We always tell people that we live in a POSTCARD state. Every direction we go, a few miles down the road becomes so scenic and unbelievable. So here’s our 10 favourite places in Washington that one can take as a day or overnight trip from Seattle. It is absolutely hard to put one over the other so we are not going to rank them.
- Mount Rainier National Park
We have to begin with Washington’s pride- Mount Rainier. It’s undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous places to be in Washington. It’s a hiker’s paradise offering about hundreds of trails right from beginner to summit level hikers. Not into hiking? Absolutely do not worry, there are some amazing views of the mountain with scenic drives all along offering breath-taking views. If you enter from the north entrance, our favorite point is the Tipsoo Lake. This place has gorgeous views in each season and off course the sunrise point where we did star gazing, slept in the car & woke up to sunrise. Sunrise point is the highest point in the park that you can drive with a car at about 6K elevation and is usually open from late June to September and is our favorite for stargazing as well as sunrise.
If entering from the west entrance and going to the Paradise point, you can have multiple stops on the way & not to miss the Reflections Lake & the Narada Falls. Before you enter the park, make sure to stop by the beautiful Alder lake. There are many waterfalls in the paradise area such as Narada, Myrtle, Comet falls and each can be seen at full strength in late spring when snow is melting fast. If you are arriving outside of Seattle and wish to spend some days here, there are some really nice cabins in the Ashford/Packwood area that you might want to check.
For those who are looking for hikes in the area, there are some wonderful hikes in Rainier area. Some are directly accessible via paved roads, while others may require a 4 wheel drive as roads can be quite rough. Some of our favorites include Bench and Snow lake, Tolmie Peak, Summit lake
2. Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is one of the destination events for the Pacific Northwest, held from April 1-30, celebrating millions of tulips bursting into bloom. As with all things governed by Mother Nature, the tulips bloom according to their own schedule sometime during the festival. Just a little over an hour drive from Seattle, Skagit county is home to many fields, and these come to life in early spring, starting with daffodil fields then lilies and then eventually the Tulip festival. There are multiple fields that visitors can check out with an entrance ticket.
Our favorite site is the Roozen garden which is open throughout the year for one to pick up bulbs, fresh flowers, or for you to plan an event at site. If you cant plan a visit here, a shipping option is also available directly to your home. One bonus thing to look for while you are in Skagit county is the local coffee roasters/milkshakes/ice-cream as they mix fresh flavors. For those looking for some shopping , make sure to stop by the Seattle premium outlet mall on your way back to Seattle.
3. Lake Wenatchee State Park & Leavenworth
At 2 hour drive from Seattle, the German town of Leavenworth is beautiful getaway away from the city. While the city is quite small, it has plenty to offer to tourists in all seasons. In spring, one can enjoy the wonderful river rafting experience, in summer there is plenty to do in the city itself, in fall it is time for the famous Oktoberfest and see the fall colors and by winter the city is a wonderland and has some amazing night lights to offer. In all seasons, there are multiple resorts/hotels that you can choose from.
The drive to Leavenworth is beautiful with wonderful views of Wenatchee river and the valley. At about 35 minutes before you get to Leavenworth on US highway 2, one can stop by at the Lake Wenatchee State park, which is a wonderful picnic spot with picturesque views of Lake Wenatchee and the mountains. If you don’t mind dipping into the water, make sure to bring your water rafts/kayaks as you enjoy this perfect scenery from the shores.
US highway 2 itself is very pretty throughout and as a bonus tip, make sure you stop by the town of Index on your way to Leavenworth. This mountain town is nested with amazing mountain views and North fork Skykomish river that flows through the town.
4. Lavender Festival of Sequim
The beautiful lavender farms of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State have long been known as the source for premium lavender and lavender products. Located in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, the Sequim lavender farms enjoy the ideal climate for growing lavender, making it America’s Provence. These farms are family-owned and family-friendly, inviting visitors from around the world to come experience the beauty and fragrance of this amazingly versatile herb.
The lavender festival takes place every year in July and you can see lavender signs throughout the town of Sequim. There are multiple fields and you can indulge in all things lavender and a whole lot more. Make your own lavender crafts, pick a lavender bundle or two, learn how to cook with lavender, observe essential oil distillation, and enjoy all that the musicians, food vendors, and craft vendors have to offer.
If you have time remaining during your visit, do stop by the Olympic game farm as you can drive through the farm to spot different animals including bears, zebra, bobcat, fox, bison and many more.
5. Glamping in Whidbey
Have a few days off, or even longer, and wondering how to spend the free time? Consider going glamping in Whidbey Island, Washington and explore some pretty amazing outdoor locations nearby. We went here this year to celebrate Yesha’s birthday & we just can’t tell you how much we loved it here. Just an hour away from Seattle, Whidbey island feels close yet far away to escape from the city life. The glamping site WT at the Whidbey itself has two different tents, 1 styled like a Moroccan tent, the other inspired from a world traveler. Both the tents look into the woods and similar views can be seen from the bar at the site, which was our favorite.
The glamping site has a wonderful open kitchen was our favorite , a separate dining area to enjoy your meal, a yoga platform for those wanting to stretch-out and a fireplace to cozy up in the evening. There are games/cards available for pickup and the wonderful hosts also have a very good collection of the music CD’s you can play during your visit. Generally both tents can be booked at same time but due to Covid, only 1 tent could be booked at a time, and other wouldn’t be to keep social distancing or if you are one party then you can book both.
Whidbey island has some nice wineries and viewpoints with views of Mount rainier and Mount Baker, and none is more spectacular than Ebey’s landing, with it’s stunning landscape at the gateway to Puget Sound and the rich farmland and promising seaport. If you go in early summer, you will also see some wonderful flowers in your track that adds to the scenery.
6. Picture Lake & Artist Point- Mount Baker
Probably a close favourite for both of us, Picture lake and Artist point are aptly named. While the drive to getting to Artist point can be 3.5 hours or even 4 If there is traffic, it is surely not to be missed. As you approach the Mount Baker wilderness, one can spot a few nice short hikes from the road such as heliotrope ridge, skyline divide or just stroll across the stream on side of the road. As you get further closer, magnificent views of Mount Shuksan starts showing up with none better than at picture lake. There are two lakes here, so make sure you stop by both of them get a jaw dropping reflection picture of the mountain.
You can see many ski lifts in the area as this is a famous spot for skiing in the winter with the snow it gets every year. Just a mile ahead, stop by the heather meadows area to explore a quick short walk of the mountain views and picturesque lakes. As you head up from here towards the Artist Point, you can see the top of table mountain, which is yet another popular hike in the region. Lot of people just walk up from heather meadows to artist point via chain lake loop that takes you on a journey of mountains, lakes, alpine meadows , all clubbed in one.
If you are not in the mood to hike though, just get to the Artist Point, and you can see why the place is so artistic with splendid views of Mount Baker, Baker lake on one side and Mount Shuksan on the other. A couple of ponds up on the ridge provide yet another reflection view of Mount Shuksan.
On your way back, stop by the cathedral of trees or the whatcom lake for a quick detour if you have time permitting.
7. Speely Beach, Cle Elum & Palouse Waterfalls
Driving 2 hours east of Seattle, you can cross over the Snoqualmie pass and explore the town of Cle Elum and Roselyn which have some pretty scenic spots like Speely Beach park. On a lucky day, depending on the hightide/lowtide conditions, one can just drive down on the beach by at least half a mile to get on the edge of the water. This is specially seen in summer mornings, and the colour of the lake and mountain stands out even more.
If you continue down the road from speely beach park, you can head into the woods with some really pretty hikes near the Mount Stuart, Enchantments etc. If you are on leisure trip, we also recommend stopping by the Easton lake park just around exit 70 on i90.
The dramatic change in landscape can be observed as soon as you cross the Columbia river and Ellensburg on I90 and one can see the dessert including some sand dunes by the river. The scenery gets even more dramatic as you approach the Palouse Waterfalls with huge fields of wheats seen for miles & miles. The waterfall itself is a sight to behold as you see the Palouse river take a 200 feet fall through the rigged canyons before meeting snake river.
If you don’t mind driving a bit longer, we highly recommend driving to Steptoe butte which is another 1.5 hours away and provides a fabulous 360 degree view of the colourful and stunning wheat fields all around. The drive to Steptoe from Seattle and back can be 9 hours or more so make sure you plan early or plan to stay overnight to avoid fatigue.
8. Gold Creek Pond, Franklin Falls & Snoqualmie falls
If you are looking for a half a day kind of a escape with a relatively easy to medium hike/walk, look no further than this trip. Starting your journey at Snoqualmie falls is a perfect trip as you see this 268 feet waterfall provide magnificent views of the valley, with Mount Si in the backdrop. There are plenty of parking options (free and paid) at the waterfall and for those looking to eat/stay in the area the Snoqualmie lodge is situated right on the edge of the waterfall.
Continuing east towards Snoqualmie pass, one can take exit 47 and get to Franklin falls parking lot ( usually directly accessible if there is no snow in summer/spring). From here, its just a quick 10-20 minutes walk to get to the waterfall which remind us of waterfalls in Iceland every time we visit. The waterfall is a sight to behold even in winters when it completely gets frozen and while that may require you to hike 8 miles (relatively flat), it still sees a lot of visitors.
Just a few miles ahead, as you cross Snoqualmie pass, one can take the exit 54 to stop by Hyak to explore the gold creek pond. This picturesque manmade lake has got something to offer to visitors in every season. There are picnic tables available on the pond and there is short and leisurely 0.5 mile hike around the lake offering a wonderful walk into the nature.
9. Hurricane Ridge & Lake Crescent- Olympic National Park
With its incredible range of precipitation and elevation, diversity is the hallmark of Olympic National Park. Encompassing nearly a million acres, the park protects a vast wilderness, thousands of years of human history, and several distinctly different ecosystems, including glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rain forests, and over 70 miles of wild coastline.
One probably needs days, weeks, months and still find plenty of things remaining in this natural wonderland. However, if you are looking for just a quick day trip, we highly recommend exploring the Hurricane ridge area and couple that with a visit to Lake Crescent. Hurricane Ridge is the most easily accessed mountain area within Olympic National Park. In clear weather, fantastic views can be enjoyed throughout the year.
Hurricane Ridge is located 17 miles south of Port Angeles on Hurricane Ridge Road, off Mount Angeles Road. One can observe islands as far as Canada from the top or see the magnificent mountain range in the opposite direction. There is also a visitor center at the top and plenty of picnic spots/mini trails if you wish to explore further
Nestled in the northern foothills of the Olympic Mountains, Lake Crescent lies about 18 miles west of Port Angeles and the pristine waters of this deep, glacially carved lake make it an ideal destination for those in search of natural beauty. Lake Crescent has several hiking trails, some of which climb the surrounding mountains, and others that explore the lowland forests and creeks. Or you can just choose to relax at this wonderful lake admiring the natural beauty all around you.
While these two places will pretty much take up a day , there are plenty of other areas to explore in the park. Some of our favorites include the rainforests- there are a couple with Hoh rainforest and Quinault Rainforest, Lake Quinault, the coastline that has some amazing beaches like Ruby Beach, Rialto beach, Shi Shi beach or the north western most point of USA like cape flattery, but these typically require at least a 2-3 days to explore, so recommend covering them over multi day trip.
10. Mount St Helens
At 8400 feet, one can easily mistake Mount St Helens as just another mountain in Washington, but in reality this massive volcano once erupted in 1980 changing the geology of the reason forever with ash from the volcano travelling to almost all USA states.
Getting to St Helens is about 3 hour drive from Seattle and as you get closer, you clearly see the new trees that have been planted after the volcanic eruption of 1980, and as you inch closer, the massive volcano can be seen with some activity at the crater still fuming. In summer, the wildflowers at the volcano are a treat to watch and one a clear day one can observe picture perfect views of Mount Adams as well.
The best spot to watch the volcano is from Johnston ridge observatory which has a visitor center as well. We highly recommend watching the two movies that gets played here one about the eruption itself and the other about how life came back in the area. The rim of the observatory offers some nice hikes in the region as well with views of the Mount St Helens.
Just a few miles outside the observatory, there is Coldwater lake that was created from the debris and volcanic ash of the eruption surround the Coldwater ridge which is a nice picnic spots with some short trails in the woods.
11.Diablo Lake, Washington Pass and the North Cascades
North cascades is probably the most precious gem of Washington state. The national park is huge and has so much to offer and one can do a hike every day of the year in this park and still be left with more to do. Our favorites here are a couple of different spots, some accessible directly with a drive, some with a hike, but there is something for everyone.
Diablo lake is probably the most picturesque lake in all of Washington with its turquoise blue colour and snow capped mountains all around. You can get to the bottom of the lake as well and picnic or just kayak in the lake. Over the years, this region has experienced some massive fires which still show up on the drive but the new vegetation is taking over and the drive will offer plenty of that along with waterfalls and dams and vista points for you to look at.
As you drive another hour north from diablo lake, you will approach the Washington pass overlook, which is also home to a dozen of popular hikes in the cascades. Overlook is magnificent with views of the valley and the hikes are mind-blowing, more so in the fall when the yellow larches lit up the whole valley with some snow in backdrop.
Generally if hiking, you will need to plan ahead and if you are looking at our recommendations- they would be Blue lake, Cut throat lake, Maple pass loop.
12. Mount Adams
About 4.5 hours away from Seattle, Mount Adams is a sight to behold much like Mount Rainier, albeit slightly less explored and accessible. Situated in southern Washington, closer to the Portland & Hood river, Mount Adams situated in the eastern Cascade range, east of Mount Saint Helens and north of Mount Hood, is the second most massive and the third tallest volcano in the Cascade range. It’s eruptive volume is about 48 cubic miles and only Mount Shasta is larger in volume in the Cascades
We decided to stay in Getaway Cabins during our stay which is about an hour outside of the main volcano, a must to be explored stay if you are planning a trip to Adams. (Don’t forget to use code “DESTINUTS” to get 25$ off on your booking). The wonderful stay in the woods is one of our favorites and we recommend everyone to experience the same.
Within Adams, there is plenty to be seen with numerous lakes like Takhlakh lake, Ollalie lake, Council lake with different mountain vistas along the road and some small waterfalls/streams very close to the main road. Local stores in Trout lake(nearest town to Adams) offers some delicacies and you shouldn’t miss the local huckleberry shake while you are there. Read all this and our stay in the blog to plan your trip to Majestic Mount Adams.