Seattle is a great city with plenty to do and see, but sometimes it’s nice to get out and explore beyond the city limits. If you’re looking for interesting and scenic day trips from the Emerald City, you won’t be disappointed.
Within a few hours’ drive, you can explore everything from pristine mountain forests to beautiful coastal towns. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can take a ferry to one of the nearby islands, even cross into Canada!
No matter what your interests are, there’s sure to be a day trip that’s perfect for you.
Best Day Trips From Seattle, Washington
Distances have been taken from Downtown Seattle and can vary with traffic and road conditions.
Mount Rainier National Park
Distance from Seattle: 103 miles ~ via WA-161 (2 hours 15 minutes)
Mount Rainier National Park is one of the most popular national parks in North America, and for good reason. The most glaciated peak in the continental US draws climbers from all over the world, and the views from the summit are truly breathtaking.
However, Rainier is more than just a mountain. The park also contains a diverse range of ecosystems, including lowland forests, alpine tundra, and wetlands. In addition, the park is home to an abundance of over one thousand plant and wildlife species, including the northern spotted owl, Pacific fisher, elk, black bear, and mountain goats.
A day trip to Mount Rainier National Park is the perfect way to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The 80-mile drive to the park is stunning, and once you arrive, plenty of activities keep you busy. Hiking is a popular activity in the park, and there are trails of varying difficulty levels to suit all fitness levels.
For those looking for a scenic hike with not one but two lakes, the Bench and Snow Lakes Trail offers a moderate 2.5-mile round-trip hike. The trailhead is located off Stevens Canyon Road, about 1.5 miles east of Reflection Lakes.
Along the way, hikers will pass through meadow flowers and bear grass in the summer months before arriving at Bench Lake and then continuing on to Snow Lake. Time needed: 2 hours.
For a shorter hike with equally stunning views, try the Skyline Trail. This paved 1-mile round-trip trail begins at the upper Paradise parking lot and takes hikers through beautiful subalpine meadows to Myrtle Falls lookout with views of Mount Rainier and Tatoosh Range along the way. Time needed: 35 minutes.
Or, for a memorable family hike with an amazing payoff, try the popular Silver Falls Loop Trail. This 2.7-mile round-trip hike through an old-growth forest takes you to a gorgeous 75-foot waterfall that the kids will never forget.
Keep your eyes peeled for deer, and listen for woodpeckers along the way. Access the trail from the Ohanapecosh Campground at Loop B near the visitor center. Time needed: 2 hours.
Top Tip: Avoid summer weekends when the park entrances become very congested. NPS recommends arriving before 10:00 AM or after 2:30 PM to avoid peak queuing; car parking may be limited too. In winter, vehicles can only enter from the Nisqually entrance – check road status here.
Distance from Seattle: 67 miles ~ via I-5 ( 1 hour 10 minutes)
For a day trip with a more relaxed vibe, head to the quaint town of La Conner. This artsy town on the Swinomish Channel is a little over an hour’s drive north of Seattle with a lot to offer.
It’s known for its beautiful tulip fields, which attract visitors from all over during the tulip season in April. The colorful flowers are a perfect backdrop for a picnic lunch or a leisurely walk.
After admiring the tulips, stroll through the charming downtown area with its galleries, shops, and cafes. Be sure to check out the MoNA – Museum of Northwest Art – for a dose of culture.
If you’re feeling active, rent some bikes and explore the scenic backroads, or go kayaking or paddle boarding in one of the many nearby waterways.
And, of course, no trip to La Conner would be complete without sampling the local cuisine. Be sure to try the famous Dungeness crab cakes at the La Conner Seafood and Prime Rib House. And don’t forget to sample the fresh oysters, too!
Distance from Seattle: 107 miles ~ via US-101 (4 hours 20 minutes with ferry)
For a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of Seattle, Victoria on Vancouver Island, BC, makes for a great day trip destination (though a full weekend may be preferred, or it’s a long day of driving!).
Just a short ferry ride across Puget Sound will take you to the laid-back capital city of British Columbia, Canada. With its colonial-era architecture, quaint cafes, and abundance of green space, Victoria has a distinctly old-world charm and a British feel.
And while it may be small in size, there’s no shortage of things to see and do. Visitors can explore the majestic Craigdarroch Castle, wander through the picturesque Butchart Gardens or simply relax on one of the many beautiful beaches.
You can also enjoy some of the city’s best views from atop Vancouver Island’s highest point, Mount Tolmie. If you’re feeling adventurous, go whale watching or sea kayaking while in town.
When it comes to food, Victoria is renowned for its fresh seafood. Be sure to try some of the local specialties like afternoon tea and fish and chips.
And, of course, no trip to Victoria would be complete without trying the Butter Chicken Pizza!
Olympic National Park
Distance from Seattle: 82 miles ~ via WA-305/US-101 (2 hours 25 minutes including ferry)
If you’re looking for a breathtaking day trip from Seattle, Olympic National Park is the perfect destination. Olympic National Park is one of the most diverse national parks in the country, a UNESCO site, and a must-see for any nature lovers.
Known for its dramatic landscapes, including snow-capped mountains, pristine rainforests, and rugged coastline, the park is home to some of the tallest and most interesting trees in the world.
Of course, hiking is a popular activity in the park, and there are trails of varying difficulty levels to suit all fitness levels. Animal lovers will go wild over the endemic species that call this isolated peninsula home, like the wily Olympic short-tailed weasel and adorably chubby Olympic marmot.
More commonly seen on hikes are Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, mountain goats, and river otters. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles, Peregrine falcons, and red-tailed hawks as you explore the many different ecosystems in the park.
The park’s popular tide pools are teeming with life and a great place to explore with family at low tide. The most popular is Mora’s Hole in the Wall, which is about a 2-mile walk from the Rialto Beach parking lot. Here you’ll find a variety of tidepool creatures like urchins, anemones, barnacles, and crabs.
Be sure to be aware of the tides, take caution as you explore the pools, and don’t remove any of the creatures you find. The park ranger-led tidepool walks are a great way to learn about the inhabitants of these fascinating ecosystems.
As you listen to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore, you’ll understand why Olympic National Park is such a special place.
Top Tip – Whilst the main park entrance near Port Angeles is within easy driving distance of Seattle, there’s no through roads between attractions and major trailhead points. If you plan to explore deeper into Olympic National Park and visit the Olympic Peninsula coast, you’ll need to allow yourself several days for this immensely scenic drive.
Distance from Seattle: 134 miles ~ via I-90/US-97 (2 hours 15 minutes)
For a day trip that feels like you’ve been transported to a different country, head to the charming Bavarian village of Leavenworth. Located about 2.5 hours east of Seattle in the Cascade mountains, this quaint little town is the perfect place to enjoy some time outdoors.
In the summer, enjoy hiking or biking on one of the many trails in the area, or go whitewater rafting down the Wenatchee River. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a zipline tour through the treetops or go paragliding off Castle Rock.
After a day of outdoor activities, stroll through the town to explore the unique shops and stop for some German food and beer like sauerbraten (beef roast) and strudel (apple pastry). Don’t miss the opportunity to try some world-famous Leavenworth bratwurst (sausage)!
Distance from Seattle: 30 miles ~ via I-90 (45 minutes)
Snoqualmie Falls is one of the most popular day trips from Seattle, and for good reason. This stunning waterfall is located just 45 minutes east of the city. It makes for a great short drive from Seattle and is an easy stop if you’re driving to or from the mountains.
At 270 feet, the falls are one of the tallest in Washington state, and they’re especially stunning when viewed from the observation deck. The park surrounding the falls also has plenty of hiking trails, making it the perfect place to get some fresh air and take in the incredible scenery.
In addition to the falls themselves, another highlight of Snoqualmie Falls is the nearby Salish Lodge. This historic hotel is known for its spectacular views of the falls and its fine dining restaurant, which serves up fresh Northwest cuisine.
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Distance from Seattle: 148 miles ~ via I-5 (2 hours 30 minutes)
Located about 2 hours south of Seattle, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is a must-visit for anyone interested in volcanic activity or the history of its 1980 eruption.
Today, the park offers visitors a chance to see the active volcano up close and learn about its impact on the environment. Mount St. Helens is still active, and visitors can see steam rising from the crater!
The park offers plenty of opportunities to learn about the mountain, including ranger-led talks and walks, an interactive visitor center, and the Johnston Ridge Observatory.
The Hummocks Trail is a family-friendly, relatively easy, 2.3-mile round-trip route where you can see the devastation caused by Mount St. Helens’ eruption and witness nature’s rebirth in action.
While the volcano tends to be what Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is known for, there are also plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in the park, like exploring one of the longest lava tubes in the world, geocaching, and horseback riding.
In the winter, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular activities. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you explore the park – some common sightings include elk, deer, rabbits, squirrels, and birds.
These are just a few of the amazing day trips you can take from Seattle. Each one offers something unique and special, whether it’s the opportunity to see incredible natural scenery, learn about local history, or sample delicious local favorites. So pack a bag and get ready for your Pacific Northwest adventure! Which day trip will you take first?
Extra Tips & Inspirations for Visiting Seattle & Washington State
- Always keep an eye on weather and traffic conditions in Washington. Weekends especially you can catch a lot of congestion coming out of Seattle as many day and weekend trippers have the same road trip ambitions! We recommend you check your journey on the WSDOT website before you set off.
- Want to add some fun family activities in Seattle to your itinerary? Check out these great family guide to Seattle.
- Learn more about road tripping all the national parks on the West Coast, from North Cascades through to California’s mighty Yosemite and Kings Canyon
- Alternatively, heading west here’s what to see and do on the way to Glacier National Park, Montana, or extend your trip even further with this loop Seattle to Yellowstone National Park.
- It’s the Pacific Northwest. Pack a raincoat! And a hat & sunscreen!
- Never forget an important road trip item again. You can grab a printable road trip essentials checklist over here.
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