Seattle, Washington, the Emerald City of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, is a haven for culinary arts and outdoor lovers. From stunning fields of flowers and unforgettable food to ferries with spectacular mountain views, there are a variety of fantastic day trips from Seattle for the solo traveler.
I’ve lived near Seattle for over twenty wonderful years. I often think that I could spend the rest of my life exploring Washington and never run out of new things to see and do. It’s truly a paradise, in every season and whatever the weather.
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Day Trips from Seattle
Guest post by Tammi Kaeberlein from Wander Healthy
The Seattle area is famous for its rainy weather, usually falling between October and May. Summers in Seattle are often mild and dry however, with temperatures averaging in the mid-70s.
Summer may be the best season to visit, but there’s something for everyone whenever you go. Here are the best Seattle day trips by season.
Best Seattle Day Trips in the Summer
Summer in Seattle is heavenly for outdoor adventurers of any kind. There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, including hiking biking or paddling in the nearby mountains and lakes or taking a scenic drive through it all. These are the best places to visit outside of Seattle in the summer months.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier is a beautiful destination any time of year, but particularly stunning in the summer, when the wildflowers are in bloom and clouds give way to epic mountain views. Take a scenic drive on the Paradise Loop, hike one of the many trails, or visit the beautiful Christine Falls or Myrtle Falls.
Wildflower season at Mt Rainier is generally from mid-July through August and a few of the best hikes to see wildflowers are Tipsoo Lake, Nisqually Vista Trail and Skyline Trail to Myrtle Falls. These are extremely popular and busy hikes, suitable for all ages and hiking ability, solo or as a group.
Mt Rainier is one of THE best road trips from Seattle you can take in the summer and one of the best national parks in the USA. You’ll need a to have a car or take a tour to get there, and you should check in advance with the park website for entry requirements as they’re currently considering a reservation system.
San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are a group of islands in the Puget Sound with stunning beauty, charming island communities, great restaurants, and plenty of outdoor activities. You can take a ferry day trip from Seattle to the islands and spend the day exploring beaches, hiking trails, and shopping in the charming island towns.
The San Juan Islands are home to several unique island communities, including Friday Harbor, Orcas Island, and Lopez Island. These communities have a lovely, laid-back island vibe, with quaint shops, art galleries, local eateries, and friendly residents. They have a slower pace, scenic surroundings, and overall serenity that make them an ideal destination for a relaxing visit.
The best time to see whales in the San Juan Islands is in July and August. Be sure to check the ferry schedule in advance and make a reservation if your schedule allows it. Stay in tune with the weather as well, as that can influence your plan and experience.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is an unforgettable destination any time of year but especially beautiful in the summer when the weather is warm and the wildflowers are in bloom. Visit the impressive Hoh Rainforest, hike through the forest, along the shore or relax on one of the park’s many, beautiful beaches.
The most popular places to visit are Rialto Beach, Sol du Falls and the Tree of Life. These are popular destinations, especially on weekends. But all of them are worth your time and effort. You might also consider a very long day trip to some of the quieter beaches, ones you need to hike to reach such as Shi Shi Beach or Cape Alava.
Vancouver Island, B.C.
Vancouver Island is approximately 3 hours driving from Seattle, depending on traffic, weather and the wait at the border crossing. The island is an absolute paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
During the summer, you can enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, and wildlife viewing in its many parks, forests, and waterways. The island is home to many stunning beaches, rugged coastlines, and majestic mountains.
Some of the best things to do are to take a water taxi to Branville, hike the Capilano Suspension Bridge and visit the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coastal Art. In addition, Nuba is a fantastic restaurant if you enjoy Lebanese food.
Vancouver Island also hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the summer, such as the Nanaimo Marine Festival, the Victoria International Jazz Festival, and the Pacific Rim Whale Festival.
Best Seattle Day Trips in the Fall
All of Washington is jaw-droppingly beautiful in the fall, with colorful foliage and crisp, clear days. The trees turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red, creating a stunning backdrop for exploring parks, gardens, and nature reserves. As you might imagine, the fall is a great time for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and sightseeing.
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is a stunning destination any time of year, but is particularly beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing colors. Take a scenic drive on the North Cascades Highway, hike one of the park’s many trails, or enjoy a picnic in the beautiful Ross Lake National Recreation Area.
Easier hikes with unbelievable views are Artist Point, Blue Lake and Thunder Knob. Maple Pass Loop and Chain Lakes are incredible moderate hikes that I’ve repeated several times, while Cutthroat Pass and Hidden Lake are fantastic hikes for those with a lot of energy.
The most common route to the North Cascades National Park will take you right by Bellingham, another destination well-worth your time.
A charming college town close to the Canadian border, Bellingham is surrounded by natural beauty and fall foliage in every direction. Visit Lake Whatcom or hike at Whatcom Falls Park to enjoy the stunning colors of the changing leaves.
Bellingham hosts several fall festivals that highlight the area’s culture and community. SeaFeast in September celebrates the city’s maritime heritage, while the Bellingham Farmers Market Harvest Festival in October features live music, food vendors, and fall-themed activities. Fairhaven is a particularly lovely neighborhood and has some amazing restaurants and great bookstores.
Bellingham also has a thriving arts community, with many galleries, studios, and public art installations throughout the city. Visit the Whatcom Museum, Allied Arts of Whatcom County, or the Bellingham Arts District to see some delightful local art and attend events.
Leavenworth is a charming Bavarian-themed town nestled in the Cascade Mountains, with no shortage of things to do in the fall. The town is famous for its Bavarian-style architecture, which is especially enchanting when surrounded by the changing colors of the fall foliage.
One of the most enjoyable activities in the fall is the annual Oktoberfest celebration, which takes place over three weekends and has live music, food vendors, and plenty of beer. It’s crowded and crazy and a lot of fun. Be sure to make reservations in advance if you wish to visit during this time.
Apart from Oktoberfest, there are plenty of other fall activities in Leavenworth. The nearby Icicle Creek Canyon offers stunning views of the changing leaves, and is a great place for hiking, biking, and rock climbing. You can also take a scenic drive on the Cascade Loop, which passes through Leavenworth and has breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Finally, Leavenworth is known for its local produce and farm-to-table dining, which is especially delicious in the fall. You can sample freshly harvested apples, pears, and pumpkins, as well as locally brewed beer and cider. There are many restaurants and cafes in town that specialize in using local ingredients, making it easy to enjoy the flavors of the season.
While the summer months draw large crowds for water sports and outdoor activities, fall is a great time to visit Lake Chelan for those who enjoy beautiful fall colors and a relatively quieter atmosphere.
With cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, it’s a great time for hiking in eastern Washington. The nearby Chelan Sawtooth Mountains offer many trails with excellent views of the changing leaves and surrounding mountains. Some easier hikes include the beautiful Chelan River Trail and Elephant Head hike, for the views especially.
Chelan is known for its apple orchards, and many offer U-pick opportunities during the fall months. It’s a great way to enjoy the beautiful fall weather and bring home some fresh, locally grown produce.
Lake Chelan also hosts a variety of fall festivals and events, including the Lake Chelan Crush Festival in October, which celebrates the grape harvest and local wineries. The Manson Apple Blossom Festival in September is also a popular event that features a parade, live music, and local food vendors.
Day Trips from Seattle in Winter
While Seattle itself may not have much snow, the nearby mountains offer a number of fun things to do outside of Seattle. Sports like skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing are the most popular.
Snoqualmie Pass, just an hour east of Seattle, is a popular destination for winter sports lovers. Go skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing at the Summit at Snoqualmie. You can rent skis, boards and snowshoes at the pass or snowshoes at the REI in Issaquah along the way.
The most beautiful snowshoe for beginners is Gold Creek Pond. REI also offers stunning sunset snowshoe tours to Gold Creek, depending on the weather. There are a several awesome hikes here, even in the winter, including Franklin Falls and Annette Lake. Be sure to check conditions and come prepared for the weather and snow conditions.
Crystal Mountain is a popular ski resort located in the Cascade Range and has a variety of wonderful winter activities. The main attraction at Crystal Mountain is its world-class skiing and snowboarding. With over 2,600 acres of skiable terrain and 57 runs, there’s something for everyone from beginners to experts.
The resort also has several lifts, including a gondola and six high-speed quads, to get you up the mountain quickly.
If skiing and snowboarding aren’t your thing however, you can explore the mountain on snowshoes. There are several snowshoe trails at Crystal Mountain, ranging from easy to difficult, and the resort offers guided tours for those who want to learn more about the area.
Day Trips from Seattle in the Spring
Seattle and its surrounding areas are beautiful in the springtime when the cherry blossoms bloom, the snow is melting in the mountains and the skies are becoming blue again.
Skagit Valley, north of Seattle, is known for its beautiful tulip fields, which usually bloom in April. Take a scenic drive through the valley, visit a tulip farm, or take a bike ride on the Skagit Valley Tulip Route. Calico Cupboard, in Mount Vernon, is one of the best places to stop for a bite to eat on your way in, or out.
Also near Skagit Valley is a beautiful area called Deception Pass. There are a lot of hikes in this area, as well as paddling, camping and wildlife watching. Cross the famous Deception Pass bridge, explore the coastline and walk along the beautiful beaches of Deception Pass State Park.
The Snoqualmie Valley is about 30 miles east of Seattle and includes such charming cities as Fall City, Snoqualmie and North Bend. It’s bordered by the mountains of Snoqualmie Pass as you head east and has a weather system entirely of its own.
There are several worthwhile places to visit in Snoqualmie Valley in the spring, You can marvel at the powerful Snoqualmie Falls, which offer beautiful views for very little effort. Or you can go a bit further to North Bend and take an easy hike to see the Twin Falls raging.
North Bend is also known for some great hikes, including Rattlesnake Ledge, Mt Si, and Granite Lakes. There are several fantastic golf courses, as well as frisbee golf, in both Snoqualmie and North Bend, as well as berry picking in season and paddling on Rattlesnake Lake.
The Best Day Trips from Seattle Without a Car
If you’re in Seattle and don’t have access to a car, there are still plenty of fantastic day trips you can enjoy using public transportation or organized tours. Personally, I believe that the organized tours are a far better way to get around in Seattle, as you’ll get a great local perspective and the transit system is slightly less than reliable.
A short ferry ride from downtown Seattle, Bainbridge Island offers charming shops, art galleries, and restaurants. You can rent a bike to explore the island’s scenic beauty, visit the Bloedel Reserve, or relax at one of the many coastal parks.
Accessible by bus or tour group, Snoqualmie Falls is a majestic waterfall located just outside Seattle as mentioned above. Enjoy the scenic views, take nature walks, and visit the Salish Lodge for a fantastic local meal with a stunning backdrop.
San Juan Islands
You can reach the San Juan Islands by taking a ferry from downtown Seattle. Rent a bike and enjoy the island life, spot whales on a boat tour, visit charming Friday Harbor, or explore the natural beauty of the archipelago.
Woodinville Wine Country
Just northeast of Seattle, Woodinville is a renowned wine region. Take a bus, shuttle or tour to explore the wineries, taste local wines, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. They usually have fantastic concerts during the summer months as well.
Traveling Solo in Seattle
When traveling solo in or outside of Seattle, there are several things to consider for a safe and enjoyable trip:
- Research the areas you plan to visit and be aware of any potential risks. Avoid isolated or poorly lit areas, especially at night. This includes most of downtown Seattle. Keep your belongings secure and be cautious of your surroundings.
- Choose a safe place to stay. When I’m traveling solo, I look for accommodations in well-populated and well-reviewed areas. It just takes a little planning ahead. There are a lot of safe places, but be sure to read the reviews. Consider factors such as security, accessibility to public transportation, and proximity to attractions or areas you want to explore.
- When traveling alone, it’s always important to stay connected and inform someone about your itinerary. Share your plans with a trusted friend or family member, and regularly update them on your whereabouts.
Day Trips from Seattle FAQs
There are many commonly asked questions about visiting Seattle and exploring outside of the city.
What cities are one hour from Seattle?
There are several cities that are approximately one hour away from Seattle by car, depending on traffic conditions. Bellevue, Olympia, Bremerton, Mount Vernon, Marysville and Snoqualmie are about an hour from Seattle.
Can you do a day trip from Seattle to San Juan Islands?
Yes, it’s possible to do a day trip from Seattle to the San Juan Islands. You can take a ferry from downtown Seattle to any of the islands and spend the day exploring. Be sure to not miss the last ferry back!
Can you take a day trip to Canada from Seattle?
Yes, you can take a long day trip to Canada from Seattle. The closest Canadian city is Vancouver, which is about a 2.5 to 3-hour drive from Seattle, depending on traffic, weather and the wait at the border crossing.
Final Thoughts on Seattle Day Trips
Whether seeking adventure, relaxation, or cultural exploration, these day trips from Seattle promise unforgettable experiences that capture the unique beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
From stunning national parks to charming coastal towns and picturesque islands, Seattle offers something for every traveler.
About the Author
Tammi Kaeberlein is the owner and author of Wander Healthy, a travel and lifestyle blog that provides practical tips, inspiration, and motivation to move more. To learn, grow and make simple choices in the direction of a healthier lifestyle, so that you can adventure as far and as long as you want to.
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