As a traveler, you’ve likely heard of Seattle’s iconic skyline dominated by the Space Needle, but Washington State offers a treasure trove of experiences beyond its urban heartbeat. These are the best places to visit in Washington state.
Imagine trekking through lush pathways leading to misty waterfalls or soaking in panoramic views of towering, snow-draped peaks. Washington’s landscapes are a patchwork of awe-inspiring scenery, from the serene islands peppered along its coast to the somber quiet of its dense forests.
Your adventure in the Pacific Northwest could be as diverse as the region itself, effortlessly switching from the vibrancy of city streets to the tranquil vastness of its national parks. When planning your itinerary, consider the full spectrum of places that pulse with life and history throughout Washington State.
Whether seeking solitude among nature or the excitement of metropolitan culture, you’ll discover that this corner of the world holds a little something for every kind of explorer.
1. Lake Chelan
Nestled at the foot of the North Cascades, Lake Chelan invites you to embrace its natural splendor. Here, you can indulge in the Pacific Northwest’s finest wines at esteemed establishments like Vin du Lac or Karma Vineyards.
- Wine Tasting: Explore local vineyards; each offers a unique palate experience.
- Seaplane Adventures: Witness the landscape from above with a thrilling seaplane journey.
- Water Activities: In summer, dive into water skiing or swim in the crystal-clear lake.
- Hiking: Traverse the surrounding trails to find breathtaking views.
- Dining: Sample farm-to-table delights along the Historic Main Street.
Your escapade to this serene valley will blend adventure with the tranquil pleasure of sipping wine amidst magnificent vistas.
2. Glimpses of the Columbia River Gorge
Wedged between Washington and Oregon, the expansive Columbia River Gorge ushers you into a landscape where nature’s artistry is on display. Peer over the edge to observe the Cascade Mountains parting ways for the river’s path. Notably, the iconic Multnomah Falls plunges into the gorge, amplifying its aesthetic appeal.
Chart a course along State Route 14 in Washington for an immersive experience. Each turn offers a new portrait-worthy panorama, enticing shutterbugs to capture their own slice of the scenery. Permit yourself pauses at the many lookouts as you traverse the Gorge, each vantage as breathtaking as the next.
Nestled in Washington’s eastern reaches, your journey takes you to Spokane, Seattle’s proud neighbor and a treasure trove of natural splendor. At Riverfront Park, tread pathways where the world connected in ’74, and savor views of the meandering Spokane River.
Here’s a snapshot of what to explore:
- Riverfront Park: A relic of the global fair, now a green haven.
- John A. Finch Arboretum: Immerse yourself in botanical beauty.
- Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture: Dive into regional heritage.
- Spokane Falls: Gaze upon the city’s cascading centerpiece.
- Golf Courses: Swing into action on pristine greens.
- Brewery Tours: Sip your way through Spokane’s craft beer revolution.
Each spot tells part of Spokane’s story, from its arboreal whispers to the roar of Spokane Falls. While you wander, indulge in the urban landscape’s thriving culture, or challenge yourself on manicured golf greens. For a flavorful finish, embark on a brewery circuit, toasting to the entrepreneurial spirit that bubbles through this Eastern Washington gem.
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4. Cascading Gem of Washington
Nestled within the emerald embrace of the Pacific Northwest, Snoqualmie Falls gushes as a spectacle of natural splendor. A favorite among both shutterbugs and nature lovers, these falls have graced screens in the renowned series “Twin Peaks”, remaining etched in the minds of viewers ever since.
- Location: Midway between Snoqualmie and Fall City
- Views: Majestic water plummeting into the Snoqualmie River
- Hiking: Short trails weaving through towering trees and vibrant greenery
Amble along the trails and let the mist kiss your skin; an immersive experience magnifying the area’s tranquility. Should the urge for mementos arise, the nearby visitor center offers an array of souvenirs, capturing the essence of your journey through the evergreen state.
5. Discover the Wilderness of North Cascades National Park
- Animal Encounters: Your exploration might thrill you with sightings of lynx, gray wolves, or even grizzly bears.
- Glacial Landscapes: The park safeguards the largest collection of glaciers in the contiguous U.S.
- Vistas from Mount Baker: As you ascend the paths leading to Mount Baker’s summit, gaze upon the iconic Mt. Shuksan.
- Outdoor Adventures:
- Alpine Climbing: Scale the craggy heights for a rush of adrenaline.
- Back Country Camping: Pitch a tent amidst the park’s untouched wilds.
- Day Hikes: Trek on trails wrapping through lush forests and past sparkling streams.
- Mountain Biking: Feel the summer breeze as you pedal over diverse terrains.
6. Exploring the Archipelago of the San Juan Islands
Off the coast of Washington, nestled between the mainland and Canada’s Vancouver Island, lies the serene and verdant archipelago named for the San Juan Islands. Here, your escape from the every day awaits amidst tranquil waters and lush backdrops.
What to Experience:
- Kayaking: Paddle silently across pristine waters.
- Wildlife Tours: Witness the majestic Orca whales.
- Culinary Delights: Savor the catch of the day at local eateries.
- Hiking Trails: Wander through the historical landscapes of the San Juan Island National Historical Park.
While Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor serve as the islands’ heartbeats, offering dining, shopping, and a taste of the local culture. Access the islands by commercial flights or boat, and don’t miss the lesser-known museums that tell the tales of this unique locale.
See Related: Best Hotels in Washington, District of Columbia
7. Discover the Olympic National Park
At Olympic National Park, your journey unfolds amidst emerald forests and towering peaks. Wander through the Hoh Rain Forest, where elk graze majestically, and trails lead to the awe-inspiring summit of Mt. Olympus.
Should tranquility be your pursuit, Hurricane Ridge presents fields of vibrancy with its summer wildflowers. At Cape Flattery, meander by bluffs sculpted by time, overlooking caves carved by the powerful sea.
Surrender to the serenity of Lake Crescent’s crystalline waters, set against a backdrop of breathtaking scenery. For those who favor scenic drives, the Coastal Strip offers vistas accessible right from the comfort of your vehicle.
8. Mount St. Helens: A Monument to Nature’s Power
At Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, you stand on the grounds of a dramatic historical event of 1980. Just a day’s getaway from Seattle, this landscape invites you for both a swift visit and an extended stay amidst its diverse attractions.
- Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake: Begin with insights into the area and the eruption.
- Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center: Combine educational tours with meals that come with a view.
- Johnston Ridge Observatory: Experience commanding views of the volcano’s north side coupled with informative exhibits.
Take in these sights where the echoes of Earth’s transformative power are palpably felt and deeply educational.
In Seattle, tucked between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, your senses are treated to an urban mosaic. Savor the tang of the sea breeze as you wander through Pike Place Market—its stalls brimming with the morning’s fresh catch and vibrant produce.
Lose yourself in the melodies at the Experience Music Project, a shrine to the pulsating rhythms of music and pop culture. The Space Needle beckons next; ascend this iconic spire for sweeping vistas of the cityscape and the sound. For a slice of tranquility, meander around Green Lake and watch the day-to-day of local Seattleites unfold amidst natural beauty.
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10. Explore the Majesty of Mount Rainier
Ascend just a stone’s throw from Seattle, and your eyes will meet the crowning glory of Washington, Mount Rainier. This park, celebrated for its year-round allure, thrives despite winter’s touch curtailing access to its lofty reaches.
Paradise: Vibrant wildflower meadows beckon you to tread along pristine trails, immersing in nature’s palette.
- Hiking Trails: Traverse this wonderland, from leisurely walks to the invigorating Skyline Trail.
Sunrise: Drive up to the park’s pinnacle point, and you’re rewarded with awe-inspiring panoramas that carve memories for a lifetime.
- Mountaineering: Embrace the challenge, scale glaciers, or relish in the serenity of simpler paths.
- Green Lake Trail: A gentle jaunt past ancient forests, culminating in the soothing sounds of cascading waterfalls.
So, strap on your boots and seize the day in the shadow of this dormant giant. Whether craving serene solitude or the adrenaline pump of elevation gain, your path awaits at Mount Rainier National Park.