The Top Five Road Trip Destinations Around Seattle

There are numerous amazing sights and stunning landscapes that you can explore from downtown Seattle. Here are the top five road trips from Seattle.

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What are the best places to take a road trip around Seattle?

Some of the best road trips from Seattle include the Olympic Peninsula, San Juan and Orca Islands, Sea-to-Sky Highway, North Cascades Highway and the Oregon Wine and Cheese route. The off-peak months of fall and spring are the best times for these road trips.

Whether you are simply visiting Seattle or you live here, the Emerald City is the perfect jumping-off point for those looking to explore incredible sights. This is a place that can leave you with a lot of unique experiences.

Around Seattle, there are breathtaking mountains, pleasant waters, verdant forests, quaint towns, serene islands and stunning beaches. In short, with Seattle, you will not have a shortage of travel options. 

And, all these spectacular sights and amazing destinations are easily accessible through navigable routes and roadways. You just need to hop into your car and hit the road. In this guide, we lay out the top five road trips from Seattle.

Olympic Peninsula Road Trip

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Seattle is located a few miles away from three great national parks. These are Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park and Mount Rainier National Park.

Olympic National Park tends to be the most popular one among the three. Also, it attracts more visitors than the other two.

While you can spend an entire week in the Olympic National Park admiring and marveling at its beauty, a round trip around the Olympic Peninsula provides a better way of reconnecting with nature and unplugging from your busy life

This peninsula is renowned for its beaches, beautiful mountains and plenty of other incredible sights along the way.

For this road trip, you will need to make your way from downtown Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula. And, you have two options. 

First, you can take a ferry to Bremerton, from where you can start your road trip. 

The second option is heading south through Tacoma. However, it’s highly advisable to avoid the Tacoma route, due to its awful traffic.

Some of the best stops to make along this route include Port Townsend for its Victorian-era homes, Sequim for lavender farms, and Port Angeles for seafood. You should plan to spend a night in each of these towns.

If time allows, you should also take a detour to the Olympic Mountains to hike Hurricane Ridge. 

Other notable stops to make on your Olympic Peninsula road trip include Elwha Dam, Forks, Hoh rainforest, Aberdeen, and Ruby Beach.

May is the best time to go for this road trip from Seattle. 

During this time of the year, the temperatures are mild, the destinations are less crowded and the road repairs on Highway 101 are yet to commence.

San Juan and Orcas Islands

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If you’re planning a road trip from Seattle to the San Juan and Orcas Islands, you’re in for an amazing adventure filled with stunning natural beauty and outdoor experiences. This area is a must-visit for nature lovers, and you won’t be disappointed by the breathtaking views and exciting activities available.

Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of your trip:

Drive time: The drive from Seattle to the ferry terminal at Anacortes, where you’ll board the ferry to the islands, is about 2 hours. Once you arrive at the ferry terminal, the ferry ride to the islands takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Once you arrive at the islands, you can expect to spend several hours exploring by car, so be sure to plan accordingly.

What to pack: Since you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors, it’s important to pack appropriately. Bring comfortable clothing and shoes for hiking and exploring, as well as rain gear in case of inclement weather. You’ll also want to pack a camera, sunscreen, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun. If you’re planning on hiking, be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks to keep yourself fueled throughout the day.

Best times to visit: The best time to visit the San Juan and Orcas Islands depends on your personal preferences and interests. Summer is the busiest season, with warm weather, long days, and plenty of outdoor activities. If you’re looking for fewer crowds and a more peaceful experience, spring and fall are excellent times to visit. Winter can be more challenging, with shorter days and inclement weather, but it’s also a magical time to experience the islands, with fewer visitors and a quieter, more contemplative atmosphere.

Crowds: The islands can be quite busy during the summer months, especially on weekends and holidays. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, try visiting during the week or during the shoulder seasons (spring and fall).

Food and snacks: The islands offer a variety of dining options, from casual cafes and seafood shacks to more upscale restaurants. You’ll also find several grocery stores and convenience stores where you can purchase snacks and supplies.

Gas stations: Gas stations are available on the islands, but they can be few and far between. Be sure to fill up before you embark on your road trip, as you may not have another opportunity for several hours. It’s always a good idea to have a full tank of gas and a backup plan in case of emergencies.

Best sights to see:

  • Mount Constitution: This is the highest point in the San Juan Islands and offers panoramic views of the surrounding islands, mountains, and waters. The 2.4-mile trail to the summit is well-maintained and offers a challenging hike for experienced hikers.
  • Lime Kiln Point State Park: This park is known for its beautiful shoreline, including a historic lime kiln and several hiking trails that wind through the forest and along the shore. The park is also a popular spot for whale watching, and visitors can often see orcas from the shore.
  • Moran State Park: This is the largest state park in the San Juan Islands and offers over 38 miles of hiking trails. The park features several scenic lakes, waterfalls, and peaks, including the summit of Mount Constitution.
  • American Camp: This historic site was once the location of a military encampment during the Pig War and now offers several miles of hiking trails that pass through meadows and forests. Visitors can also explore the historic buildings and learn about the area’s history.

Best outdoor experiences:

  • Whale watching: The San Juan and Orcas Islands are home to a variety of wildlife, including orcas and other whales. Several local companies offer guided whale watching tours that take you out on the water to see these magnificent creatures up close.
  • Kayaking: The waters around the islands offer some of the best kayaking opportunities in the Pacific Northwest. Rent a kayak or take a guided tour to explore the stunning bays and inlets that surround the islands.
  • Hiking: With so many miles of trails to explore, hiking is a must-do activity for visitors to the islands. Choose from a variety of trails, from easy walks along the shore to challenging summit hikes, to find the perfect hike for your skill level.

These are just a few of the many amazing sights and experiences you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy while visiting the San Juan and Orcas Islands. With so much to see and do, you’re sure to have an unforgettable adventure!

Sea-to-Sky Highway

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If you only have time for a single road trip throughout the year, then it has to be this one. This road trip will take you from Seattle, Washington over to the border and into the Canadian town of Whistler.

Popularly called the Sea-to-Sky Highway, this remains one of the best road trips from Seattle. 

On the way, you will pass through lush coastal rainforests, scenic pine-covered mountains and blue turquoise waters of the Howe Sound fjord. Simply put, there are spectacular views wherever you look.

You will leave Seattle, travel north and hit Interstate 5. From there, you will arrive in the town of Bellingham, located close to the Canadian border.

Here, you can make a brief stop to explore the various local businesses in the area such as microbreweries, coffee shops, galleries and indie boutiques.

Also, there are several lakes, waterfalls, fishing spots and hiking trails to explore in and around this laid-back town. You can spend the night in town or head over to the nature parks a few miles away.

From Bellingham, you will then cross over to the Canadian side and into Vancouver. Vancouver is an awe-inspiring mountain town that will simply steal your breath. 

You should then proceed to Whytecliff Park, where you can stop for some lunch while exploring the rocky islands.

From Whytecliff Park, you should proceed to Shannon Falls, where you can make a brief stopover for coffee. Your next stop should be Garibaldi Provincial Park where you can explore the wilderness areas through hiking.

Whistler should be your final stop. Here, you can spend a day or two exploring Whistler or Blackcomb mountain peaks, riding the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, and wine-tasting, just to name a few.

North Cascades Highway

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Another amazing road trip from Seattle is a drive along the North Cascades Loop. 

This road trip will take you to the North Cascades National Park, which is one of the most beautiful national parks in the country. You will have an opportunity to explore mountains, alpine lakes and mountain lakes.

For this road trip, you will hit Interstate 5 and then follow Washington Route 20 eastwards. This route will take you to Diablo Lake, located in the North Cascades National Park. 

This glacier-fed, bright-blue lake offers various activities like swimming and fishing.

Also, there are a couple of hiking trails around the lake, with the main ones being the Diablo Lake Trail and the Thunder Knob Trail. You can spend a day or two here exploring this amazing ecosystem.

From North Cascades National Park, you should then hit US-97, which will lead you to Lake Chelan where you will enjoy more stunning views. 

You should then head westward along Highway 2, which will take you to Leavenworth – an amazing Bavarian Village. 

After Leavenworth, you can make stops at Wellington, Skykomish, Baring, Index, Gold Bar, Monroe and Redmond.

Oregon Wine and Cheese Road Trip

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The Oregon Wine and Cheese route is one of the best road trips from Seattle for foodies. This road trip will allow you to explore Oregon’s wineries while sampling some of the best wine and cheese the state has to offer.

From Seattle, you will travel south on Interstate 5 and stop briefly at Portland. Here, you can purchase some necessary supplies or even stop to have lunch.

From there, you will proceed to McMinnville, which is home to some of the best wineries in Oregon.

You can spend a few evening hours here exploring the different wineries or simply stretching it to an entire day if you want to check out as many wineries as possible. If you’ve had your fill of wine, you should then proceed to Tillamook, located on the Oregon coast. 

Here, you will enjoy some of the best cheese in the region. 

From Tillamook, you will then head back to Portland, where you can spend the night and then leave the following day for Seattle.

Key Takeaways

  • The areas around Seattle have amazing sights and destinations for road trips
  • You will explore forests, mountains, charming towns, farms and other landscapes
  • You can go for a day-long or week-long road trip
  • The off-peak seasons of fall and spring are the best times for these road trips