Now that you’ve visited the world-renowned Pike Place Market and have taken a ride to the top of the famed Space Needle for a panoramic view of this spectacular region, it’s time to get a taste for what’s beyond the city’s borders. While the Emerald City offers more than enough things to keep you busy in an entire lifetime, there are a number of easily accessible destinations that beckon travelers. Join us on the best Seattle day trips to discover breathtaking beauty as well as a multitude of activities and attractions from the Olympic Mountains to the west, the Cascade Mountains to the east and everything in between.
A journey across the sparkling waters of the Puget Sound via the Washington State Ferry is considered a “must” experience, and a day trip to the Olympic National Park will allow you to enjoy this fun adventure. Hop on the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island, enjoying spectacular views of the Seattle skyline during the 35-minute jaunt. Be on the lookout for dolphins, seals, whales and other marine life in the water below as well as bald eagles soaring above.
A scenic 90-minute drive from Bainbridge will take you to the park entrance just south of Port Angeles. At this less-traveled park you’ll often find more waterfalls than people among nearly 1 million acres of pristine wilderness. Marymere Falls, which plunges 90 feet into an emerald pool below, can be easily accessed from the Storm King Visitor Center via a 1.6-mile round-trip trail. On a warm summer day bring a picnic and sit at the edge of Lake Crescent, a deep-emerald lake with pristine waters ideal for taking a cool dip or paddling across. There are several outfitters on the lake where you can rent pedal boats, rowboats, kayaks, canoes and hydro bikes to enjoy the scenery from atop the water.
There are a number of stops you might make on the return journey, including the Purple Haze Lavender farm for a chance to sample delicious lavender ice cream or stop in at one of several wineries along the way and pick up a bottle of a fine Washington state-grown varietal, like Black Diamond Winery or Olympic Cellars Winery.
For a shorter day trip, trek about 40-minutes east of Seattle to the town of Snoqualmie Falls, which boasts some of the most magnificent roaring falls that come thundering down a 270-foot cliff. A small park and observation deck at the top provides a picture-perfect photo op, and just next door, the dining room at the Salish Lodge & Spa provides a stunning location for an elegant meal.
Just a little over an hour’s drive north of Seattle, the historic town of La Conner, set along the edge of the Swinomish Channel, is filled with art galleries, interesting shops, and fabulous eateries as well as remarkable museums. During the month of April, the internationally known Tulip Festival is held here and throughout the Skagit Valley. Miles and miles of brightly colored tulips dot the landscape as far as the eye can see during the spring months. For the ultimate view, embark on a helicopter field tour for a thrilling bird’s-eye view from above.
Just a few miles west of La Conner, don’t miss Deception Pass State Park with its awe-inspiring scenery that includes a picturesque saltwater shoreline with towering rugged cliffs dropping straight down to emerald green waters. It’s well worth the slight splurge to take a boat tour of Deception Pass, as it is the most photographed attraction in the entire state.
The North Cascades are often referred to as the ‘American Alps’ and can be reached in less than two hours from Seattle. The North Cascades Highway makes for an ideal scenic drive with numerous highlights along the way, like Ross Lake and its intense turquoise-hued waters as well as cascading falls around practically every bend in the road. Continue the drive to Winthrop to take a walk back through time to the Old West. Browse galleries filled with the works of local and regional artists, or dress up like a cowboy, outlaw, or a sultry saloon girl at an old-time photo parlor. Activities abound in this region with the opportunity to go horseback riding, soar above the valley in a hot air balloon, play a round of golf or even take an exhilarating whitewater rafting adventure down the Methow River.
If you’re fortunate enough to be there on a clear day, the sight of Mount Rainier may be one of the most impressive you’ll ever see. A two-hour drive south of the city will get you up close and personal with this majestic mountain and its massive glaciers, beautiful waterfalls and alpine meadows. Mount Rainier National Park is especially brilliant in the summer when the wildflowers create a kaleidoscope of colors across the landscape.
Hike the easy, but rewarding Skyline Trail for the chance to see snowfields, 1,000-year-old giant firs, glaciers and golden meadows as well as classic Mount Rainier views. On a clear day you might just see the snow-capped peaks of Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens,and Mount Adams too.
After you’ve worked up an appetite, enjoy lunch in Paradise at the Paradise Inn with its inspirational views and a menu featuring Pacific Northwest specialties like sautéed brook trout and signature buffalo quesadillas.
Almost any direction you go from Seattle will lead you to a fantastic destination. So get out of the city, pick a passion and explore all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.