If we were to personify cities, Seattle would fall under the “people pleaser” category: anyone and everyone can find something to entertain, whether you’re in the outdoors, hipster hotspots, participating in something sports-related or family-friendly—the city invites you to revel in its innovative culture (it is home to the first Starbucks®, after all). However, it’s always fun to change up the scenery and explore nearby areas! This article will introduce you to some epic day trips from Seattle that will appeal to all ages.
Flanking Seattle sits an incredible outdoor playground, where national parks and spectacular island locations await, such as Puget Sound, Mount Rainier National Park, San Juan Islands, and Olympic National Park. If you’re in the mood to say, “I’ve been to a different country and back in one day,” an adventure to Victoria in Canada’s British Columbia may be in store for you! No matter what you choose, you will find something that works for your explorer style.
Read on to find a compilation of the most epic day trips from Seattle for your bucket list.
1. Deception Pass State Park in Puget Sound
Explore Puget Sound for a day, an archipelago boasting exceptional seafront scenery. While the islands consist primarily of local communities, the surrounding nature makes for a fun getaway from the city. One of the more popular outdoorsy destinations along Puget Sound is Deception Pass State Park, where 27.0mi of hiking trails carve through the land. A notable spot worth checking out for fantastic hikes is Bowman Bay.
If you aren’t in the mood to hike, there’s always the Rosario Tide Pools, which require a reservation if you’re visiting with more than ten people in your group. On top of these activities, there are also some water activities to consider, such as boating, kayaking, and swimming on either two freshwater lakes (Cranberry Lake, Pass Lake) or in tranquil saltwater spots (Bowman Bay, Cornet Bay).
How to Get to Deception Pass State Park in Puget Sound from Seattle
By car: 1 hour and 30 minutes
To get to Deception Pass State Park from Seattle, you’ll follow I-5 N before taking exit 230 toward Burlington/Anacortes/Skagit Airport. Then, you’ll head left onto the State Rte 20 W/WA-20 W/Avon Cutoff, keeping left to stay on the same road. En route, you’ll pass through two roundabouts, taking the second exit on both, followed by a right to head into Deception Pass State Park. After, you’ll take a quick right, then left, and another right.
Do know that you will have to pay for a Discover Pass. However, visiting the north or west beach and buying a pass at the entrance will cost less ($10 per day, $30 per year). The signs spread throughout this park make it easy to pinpoint where you want to go.
2. Mount Rainier National Park
Claiming the fifth highest peak in the contiguous United States, Mount Rainier National Park is worth exploring, especially since it’s laden with the suspense of imploding sometime in the future. That’s right! Mount Rainier is a stratovolcano. The all-imposing natural wonder sits within 368-sq-miles of the national park, where hikers can choose one of 50 trails to explore. The 5.5mi Skyline Trail Loop makes for a great day hike! You’ll find mountain biking trails around the park as well, such as the Mud Mountain Rim Trail, Osborne Mountain Trail, and more!
Overall, Mount Rainier National Park can seduce anyone with its meadows blanketed in flowers backed by lines of snow-capped peaks.
How to Get to Mount Rainier National Park
By car: 1 hour and 45 minutes
To get to Mount Rainier National Park from Seattle, you’ll head along I-5 S before branching off onto WA-164 E and WA-410 E. From here, you’ll head to Sunrise Park Road/White River Road in Pierce Country, where you’ll take a right. Do note that this road may be closed at various times or days!
You can buy an annual pass for Mount Rainier National Park at $55 or pay $15 for a per-person fee, which gives you unlimited entries for seven days.
3. Olympic National Park
Immerse in Olympic National Park and revel in an explosion of diverse scenery: lush rainforests, glacier-cloaked peaks, and 57.0mi of the unruly Pacific Coast. There’s also something otherworldly about standing amid the thousand-year-old cedar trees! Backcountry explorers can traverse Olympic National Park’s remarkable terrain via hiking, kayaking, fishing, or skiing! Of course, one of the most popular activities is walking to the Olympic Hot Springs.
How to Get to Olympic National Park from Seattle
By car: 2 hours and 5 minutes
To get to Olympic National Park from Seattle by car, you’ll follow I-5 S and US-101 N to WA-119 N/N Lake Cushman Road. After, you’ll continue onto NF-24. Unfortunately, part of this road is closed from November to May!
You will have to pay $30 for a park pass, but it’s valid for seven consecutive days.
4. San Juan Islands
Step back a few decades when you visit the wistful San Juan Islands, where sleepy, laid-back communities and timeless outdoorsy activities replace popular city must-haves. If you want a quick 180-degree change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Seattle, the San Juan Islands are your go-to spot. This archipelago will have you either cycling, hiking, kayaking, fishing, and thinking about what life was like during simpler times.
One thing you can do here is head to the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, where you have a high chance of spotting whales from shore. And if you’re by the sea, you might as well go kayaking, right? Discover the beaches lining the shore while the Olympic Mountains grab attention in the background. You could also rent a moped, go scuba diving, or check out some museums, such as the San Juan Historical Museum.
How to Get to San Juan Islands from Seattle
By car/ferry: 3 hours and 18 minutes
Reaching the San Juan Islands from Seattle requires a ferry and a toll, but trust us, the longer distance is well worth the journey. To get there, you’ll follow I-5 N before taking exit 230. And then, you’ll continue onto State Rte 20 W/WA-20 W. Followed by taking WA-20 Spur W to Anacortes. From here, you’ll take the Friday Harbour ferry to Friday Harbour. Again, this will require a toll!
We’ve listed a few outdoorsy places so far, so why not switch it up with something German? That’s right. Leavenworth is a German-styled town replete with German beer, sausages, and Bavarian architecture. Another great thing is that it’s tucked into the Cascade Mountains, making it a platform for all sorts of outdoor activities. But it’s fun to visit this town and explore the German-influenced storefronts that give you a taste of European vibes in the thick of the United States. Random? Yes. Epic, though? Oh, yeah!
If you’re around in October, you need to head here for Oktoberfest, which takes place every weekend during the month.
How to Get to Leavenworth from Seattle
By car: 2 hours and 15 minutes
To reach Leavenworth from Seattle, you’ll take I-90 E to WA-10/WA-970 in Kittitas County. Followed by taking exit 85 from I-90 E. Next, you’ll head to WA-970 and US-97 N to Evans Street/Sherbourne Street in Leavenworth.
6. Snoqualmie Falls
Roaring in the incredibly scenic Snoqualmie Valley is the 270ft Snoqualmie Falls. The viewing platform for the all-mighty attraction sits near the parking lot, making it a super accessible spot for everyone. But you probably don’t want to travel over half an hour to snap a quick photo of the waterfall and then drive back to Seattle. Talk about uneventful! Thankfully, Snoqualmie Valley boasts a haven for outdoor adventure. You can float the Snoqualmie River or take on a hike, such as Rattlesnake Ledge, the challenging Mount Si, or the beyond intense and physically demanding Mailbox Peak.
How to Get to Snoqualmie Falls from Seattle
By car: 35 minutes
To get to Snoqualmie Falls from Seattle, you’ll follow signs for the I-90 E before taking exit 25 for WA-18 E. Eventually, you’ll follow Snoqualmie Parkway, taking a left to reach Railroad Avenue. Through the roundabout, take the third exit to remain on Railroad Avenue. 0.3mi later, turn left to arrive at Snoqualmie Falls.
7. Victoria, BC, Canada
Start your morning in the United States, end it in the United States, but spend daylight in Canada in the ever-so-lovely Victoria. This coastal town fuses British-influenced architecture with easy-going island-like vibes. And between the lingering English influences, you’ll find a crazy number of bicycles—almost enough to rival Holland. When you’re here, enjoy a walk along the Inner Harbour for stunning views of the oceanfront backed by parliament buildings, and check out the funky Cook Street Village.
A visit here entails a lot of sightseeing, so prepare to walk around, enjoy local dishes, craft beer, and fantastic coastal scenery. Victoria is a fun place for all ages to explore!
How to Get to Victoria from Seattle
By ferry: 2 hours and 45 minutes
To get to the ferry, head to Pier 69 in downtown Seattle and you’ll head to the Belleville Terminal, which is located by Victoria’s Inner Harbor.
8. North Cascades National Park
Step into a wash of unspoiled wild on a day trip to North Cascades National Park, which melts into the Canadian Border, earning the title of the Canadian Cascades. While North Cascades National Park sits just two hours shy from Seattle, the drive to this rugged adventure oasis is more than worth it. Most visitors flock here to take on one of the many incredible hikes carved into the lush valleys hugged by amphitheatres of jagged peaks.
An unreal hike in North Cascades National Park is the moderate-ranked Maple Pass Loop that winds above untouched alpine lakes. The Hidden Lake Trail also boasts an alpine lake, fir forests, and mountain scenery punctuated by blankets of wildflowers. Lastly, the more strenuous Cutthroat Pass Hike unveils a montage of unruly images along a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail that doesn’t disappoint.
How to Get to North Cascades National Park from Seattle
By car: 2 hours
To get to North Cascades National Park from Seattle, you’ll have to get to the I-5 N and follow it to WA-530 E/State Rte 530 NE in Snohomish County. From the WA-530 E/State Rte 530 NE, you’ll head to State Rte 20 E in Rockport. Then, take a right onto State Rte 20 E in Rockport (North Cascades Highway) and follow it until you reach the national park.
Looking for a quick change of scenery? The coastal town of Tacoma is only 40 minutes from Seattle! The short journey paired with kid-friendly activities makes Tacoma a fun spot for families. Head to the Museum of Glass, Wild Waves Theme and Water Park, or Point Defiance Park, which packs beaches, the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, gardens, and trails into 760-acres.
How to Get to Tacoma from Seattle
By car: 40 minutes
To get to Tacoma from Seattle, you’ll follow the I-5 S to A Street in Tacoma. From the I-5 S, take exit 133 for I-705 N. Shortly after, you’ll take the middle lane to exit toward City Center. Continue onto A Street from here before turning left onto S 11th Street.
10. The Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island
Feel like you’re meandering a page of a fairytale storybook as you immerse in the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, a 150-acre garden paradise just a ferry ride away from Seattle. The former not-as-manicured scenery transformed into a paradise of dreamy flowers and polished landscapes under the vision of Prentice and Virginia Bloedel. Nothing beats breathing in the fresh air of one of North America’s top 10 botanical gardens!
How to Get to the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island
By car and ferry: 1 hour 10 minutes
To get to the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, head to the Seattle Ferry Terminal. When you reach the island, you’ll follow the WA-305 N before turning right onto Agatewood Road NE and then take another right onto Dolphin Drive. After 0.3mi, take a left to reach Agate Point Road NE, and your destination will be on the right.
Well, there you have it—10 epic day trips from Seattle for your bucket list. Which one stands out to you?