Washington

The 10 Best Weekend Road Trips From Seattle, Washington

by Arthur McMahon

weekend road trips seattle wa
Photo: Lukas Proszowski, Getty Images

One of the best things about Seattle is how the best of the Pacific Northwest is only a short drive (or ferry ride) away.

Taking a ride out of Seattle can mean anything from hopping on a ferry across the Puget Sound to skiing through the clouds on Washington’s sky-high Cascade peaks.

You can get to just about any corner of The Evergreen State on a weekend road trip from Seattle or easily cross borders into Oregon, Idaho, or even Canada. There’s an entire world of ecosystems, topographies, and towns to explore only a few hours from the city.

Below, you’ll find a list of the best Seattle road trips for your next mini-vacation or weekend getaway. Along with suggestions of things to do, you’ll also find recommended lodging and camping options.

Road Trip Planning

While the coast and the eastern half of the state are accessible year-round, the mountains in the High Cascades of Washington can be difficult and dangerous to explore in winter — some roads normally accessible during summer are closed for much of the year due to the snowpack. Skiers and snowmobilers will still be able to get to ski resorts and sno-parks, but hazardous road conditions are always possible.

Elsewhere, weather and seasonal changes are hardly a hindrance. Be sure to check the Washington State Department of Transportation website for the latest road, traffic, and weather conditions before you hit the road.

If you need a vehicle for your Seattle road trip, consider renting from Escape Campervans or Cascade Adventure Vans. And if you’re taking a ferry, be sure to book ahead and make appropriate accommodations for the specific vehicle you’ll bring on board.

1. Coeur d’Alene

Seattle road trip to Coeur d’Alene
Lake Coeur d’Alene // Photo: Getty Images

The city of Coeur d’Alene is the Pacific Northwest’s Lake Tahoe. A beautiful waterfront bookends the adorable town with a stunning mountainscape as the backdrop. In this case, those mountains are the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

For Seattleites, Coeur d’Alene’s atmosphere is often a welcome change from the Pacific side of the region. You can laze the day away on the lake, take a stroll along the lively waterfront district, or spend your time at one of the local resorts.

There are also several ski areas on the outskirts of the city, multiple golf courses, a casino, and the Silverwood Theme Park, which is the largest theme and water park in the PNW. Of course, taking a hike near Spokane is always an option too.

Lodging: There are several resorts in town. Perhaps the most iconic is the Coeur d’Alene Resort, which occupies large portion of the town’s waterfront. The Blackwell Hotel is another classy boutique option in the heart of the waterfront district.

Camping: RV drivers can park near Coeur d’Alene’s waterfront at the large Blackwell Island RV Park. Tent campers (or those who want to park their RV outside the city) will find the Wolf Lodge Campground to be one of the best options in the area.

Distance from Seattle: 311 miles (approx. 4 hours, 45 minutes)

2. Lake Chelan

lake chelan pnw road trip
Lake Chelan // Photo: Fen Kuntz, Shutterstock

Lake Chelan is a multi-faceted weekend destination with several different types of outdoor recreation available. Those who want plenty of civilization with their lakeside fun can stick to the southern end of the lake in the bustling and beautiful town of Chelan, which has a charming downtown Main Street and farmer’s markets every Thursday during the summer.

For a more remote retreat, take a ferry across the lake to the small town of Stehekin, which you can only reach by boat or trail. From town, you can access the Pacific Crest Trail and many other hiking trails, and there are great views of the lake — consider a helicopter tour for amazing birds-eye views.

Adventurous folks can opt to set up camp at one of the many boat-in campgrounds along the lakeshore or backpack into the Cascades. Glacier Peak reigns above all else in the area, and there are many other lesser-known summits to discover in the area.

Lodging: There are many options in Chelan, but outside of town, consider the Mountain View Lodge and Resort. If you make the trip to Steheiken, give the North Cascades Lodge a look.

North Cascades Lodge offers cabin-style accommodations with lake views and private balconies and decks

Camping: You’ll find multiple campgrounds on the lake’s south shore, a couple at the northern end, and multiple boat-in campgrounds along the shoreline, like Coral Creek Campground. For a more traditional camping experience, stay at Lake Chelan State Park.

Distance from Seattle: 180 miles (approx. 3 hours)

3. Leavenworth

Seattle road trip to Leavenworth
Autumn foliage in Leavenworth // Photo: Getty Images

A cute town with German influences set on the Cascade Range’s eastern slopes, Leavenworth offers a unique experience hard to find elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest. There are many reasons why you would want to visit this charming town, but its lovely Germanic design what draws in most travelers. T

he town’s architecture is reminiscent of a mountainside Bavarian village. There are German beer houses and restaurants along the main strip. Monthly festivals are a cause for celebration throughout the year, especially, of course, in autumn, when Oktoberfest celebrations draw in the crowds.

There’s more to explore outside of town. The nearby Cascade range is full of hiking trails and several ski resorts lie within a short drive from the village, as do several wineries.

Lodging: The recently remodeled Blue Elk Inn has expansive grounds and complimentary cruiser bicycles for guests. For something more lavish (and thematic.) check out the Bavarian Lodge, which features ornate decor and mountain views.

Camping: Adjacent to each other and within walking distance of a grocery store, the Leavenworth/Pine Village KOA and Alpine View RV Park & Campgrounds offer clean campsites and is close to town.

Distance from Seattle: 117 miles (approx. 2 hours)

4. Long Beach

seattle roadtrip to long beach wa
Bolstad Avenue in Long Beach during the annual Washington State International Kite Festival // Photo: iStock

Long Beach is a lovely oceanside getaway that has more to it than its namesake sandy shoreline. At the ends of the 28-mile beach are freshwater deltas and two outdoor recreation areas: Cape Disappointment State Park and Leadbetter Point State Park.

The beach boardwalk near the heart of town serves as a launching point for the 8.5-mile coastal Discovery Trail that continues to Cape Disappointment. There are several lakes to enjoy along the way plus access to the ocean and Willapa Bay.

Speaking of the Bay, visitors can opt to travel a few miles north to the village of Oysterville for fresh-from-the-sea food at Oysterville Sea Farms. Near town, the Cranberry Museum is a source of local agricultural history and has nearby cranberry fields (bogs) that make for an interesting and colorful afternoon stroll.

Lodging: Located as close to the ocean as any structure dare get, the Inn at Discovery Coast is a beach lover’s dream stay. The Boreas Bed & Breakfast Inn is a cozy, well-kept 1920s home with views of sand dunes.

Camping: Eagle’s Nest Resort is an amenity-rich experience with mini-golf, a clubhouse, and a game room. Those who want more of a rustic experience should look into one of the campgrounds in Cape Disappointment State Park.

Distance from Seattle: 171 miles (approx. 3 hours, 15 minutes)

5. Mount Baker

seattle roadtrip to mount baker
Sunset on Mount Blum from Baker Lake // Photo: iStock

Aside from the main road that heads to the Mount Baker Ski Area on the northern side of the mountain, Mount Baker is relatively remote and difficult to access. There are many accessible forest service roads during the summer, but you’ll need a capable (usually 4WD) vehicle to travel them. If you’re making a winter road trip, you’ll definitely need snow tires and AWD or 4WD.

Its remoteness makes Mount Baker one of the best Seattle road trips, especially when the city is feeling packed. It offers nearly 200 miles of snowmobile trails, multiple ski slopes, and countless hiking opportunities. Backpackers seeking solitude should head this way.

The southeastern end is also fairly accessible. Baker Lake is a great reservoir for fishing and other watersports. There are also several trails to backcountry lakes where few people roam.

Lodging: The Logs at Canyon Creek offers cozy cabin rentals on the north side of the mountain ideal for skiers. On the south side, you’ll want to take a look at the Cascade Mountain Lodge.

Camping: Surrounded by old-growth forest and the gushing whitewater of the North Fork Nooksack River, the Douglas Fir Campground is a beautiful place to spend the night on the north side of Mount Baker. Those heading to Baker Lake will enjoy Swift Creek Campground or Horseshoe Cove Campground.

Distance from Seattle: 110 miles (approx. 2 hours)

6. Mount Rainier National Park

Seattle road trip to mount rainier
Summer wildflowers at Paradise Valley in Mount Rainier National Park // Photo: Roman Khomlyak

Mount Rainier National Park is an alpine wonderland like no other, and you’ll also find it on the list of Portland’s Best Weekend Road Trips. Mount Rainier is the tallest peak in Washington state as well the Cascade Range, and there’s plenty to see here to fill more than a few weekend getaways.

Seattleites may want to work on tackling the Wonderland Trail one piece at a time, or check the trails on the list of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park one by one. Be sure to visit the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout for amazing mountain views.

Paradise Valley and Crystal Mountain Resort are the more tourist-heavy areas around the mountain. You’ll want to stick to the western and northern sides of the park to avoid crowds. That’s where you’ll find less-trafficked hikes like the Summit Lake Trail.

Be sure to check road conditions before you go — outside of summer, many of the park roads are closed due to the insane accumulation of snow on this mountain.

Lodging: Check out the rustic and outdoorsy Alta Crystal Resort or opt for the Carbon Country Shady Rest B&B for a quiet and restful getaway.

Camping: Mowich Lake Campground is on the bank of a serene lake 17 miles northwest of Rainier. The Dalles Campground is just as beautiful, though easier to access as it’s just off the highway on the park’s northeastern side.

Distance from Seattle: 82 miles (approx. 1 hour, 45 minutes)

7. Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Seattle road trip to mount st helens
Mount St. Helens from Johnston Ridge Observatory // Photo: Laura Eckleberry, Getty Images

At Mount St. Helens, it’s all about the views, trails, and interpretive learning centers. That’s because most everything else burned when the mountain erupted in 1980. The active volcano is still home to lush forests and cascading waterfalls to discover, however.

At 2.5 miles long, Mount St. Helen’s Ape Cave is the third-longest lava tube cave in the U.S.

The main highway into the monument passes popular lakes and several notable points of interest. The Mount St. Helens Forest Learning Center is a free information resource with interactive history lessons, Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center is equally informative, and the Johnston Ridge Observatory offers astounding panoramic views.

Of course, there are trails galore across the mountain. You’ll need a permit to hike above 4,800 feet, which includes the summit. You’ll also need a permit when camping in the Mt. Margaret Backcountry. Be sure to take a tour of the Ape Cave Interpretive Site during summer visits.

Lodging: Blue Heron Chateau is an exquisite property near Silver Lake, and the Anderson Lodge is a great choice south of the summit.

Camping: You’ll find rustic lakeside camping at Merrill Lake Campground on the south end. For something with a bit more sophistication, take a look at Eco Park Resort or Silver Lake Resort, both along the main highway east of the mountain.

Distance from Seattle: 148 miles (approx. 2 hours, 30 minutes)

8. Ocean Shores

Seattle road trip to ocean shores
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Shores Beach // Photo: Getty Images

A peaceful and quiet oceanside vacation destination, Ocean Shores is the best of the Seattle road trips on this list if all you really want to do is relax. The coastline here is a bit rough and wild, making it ideal for sightseeing, but not so much for swimming.

Ocean Shores lies between the Pacific Ocean and Washington’s North Bay. Fishing is popular in the area, and the North Bay Natural Area Preserve is a great place for birdwatching. The town offers scenic interpretive areas, a golf course, art galleries, restaurants, and more.

And Ocean Shores lies only a short drive from Olympic National Park —which on its own could be considered one of the best Seattle road trips. There are a number of long and short trails to hike in the park, but the scenic drive and viewpoints are spectacular on their own. There’s no need to hoof it on your vacation, unless you want to.

Lodging: There are many fantastic resorts and cottage rentals in Ocean Shores. Of particular note are the Judith Ann Inn and the Polynesian Resort. The latter is pet-friendly and has multi-room suites for larger groups.

Camping: If you have an RV, the Quinault Marina & RV Park is adjacent to a wildlife refuge and offers sand volleyball, fire pits, as well as marina access. Tent campers will find a clean and well-protected place to set up at Ocean City State Park.

Distance from Seattle: 132 miles (approx. 2 hours, 30 minutes)

9. Portland

Seattle road trip to portland
Portland’s famous “White Stag Sign” // Photo: Getty Images

Portland is the heart of the Pacific Northwest. It’s where the mighty Willamette River feeds into the state-dividing Columbia River. Mount Hood looms over the city, and you can see the snow-capped Washington peaks of Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens on a clear day.

Downtown has everything you could ever want in a city, and there plenty to see on the outskirts, as well. Check out the best hikes in Portland to find local attractions such as Mount Tabor, the Japanese Rose Garden, and the Riverfront Path, plus destinations outside the city like Multnomah Falls and Mount Hood (check out these incredible Mount Hood hikes too). Only a few hours from Seattle, Portland serves as a great weekend home base for exploring Oregon.

Lodging: The options are seemingly endless, so explore the top hotels in Portland if you’re overwhelmed by choices. A standout is the Edgefield Hotel with it’s wacky and historic charm and superb amenities like a warm saltwater wading pool.

Camping: Check out the 10 best campgrounds near Portland. A few are on the outskirts of town and the rest are further out in the wildernesses.

Distance from Seattle: 174 miles (approx. 2 hours, 45 minutes)

10. Vancouver Island

Seattle road trip to vancouver island
Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia // Photo: Getty Images

There’s a lot of variety on Vancouver island, which is probably why it’s one of the most popular Seattle road trips. If it’s your first time visiting, spend time in Victoria (an amazing spot to go whale watching) and explore the smaller town of Tofino.

It’ll take about four hours to get from Victoria to Tofino, so this road trip is best done over a week or long weekend, rather than in a 48-hour weekend window.

You can get to Vancouver Island from Seattle by plane or ferry. Most cruises and flights arrive in Victoria, where the scenic Inner Harbour overlooks the Juan de Fuca Strait. If you love flowers and plants, head to the vibrant Butchart Gardens outside the city.

Tofino is more rural. It’s on the western shore, surrounded by old-growth forest. The town is a great basecamp for adventures into Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve.

Lodging: Spring for Fairholme Manor — a historic estate with lush gardens — or browse the list of the top hotels in Victoria.

Camping: Fort Victoria RV Park is the closest you’ll get to the capital city. For something closer to Tofino, look at Surf Grove Campground or Green Point Campground.

Distance from Seattle: 107 miles (approx. 4 hours, 30 minutes)

 

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