One of the best things about Seattle, besides great coffee and music, is its proximity to stunning ecosystems, landscapes, and towns only a few hours from the city. Want to explore the best of the Pacific Northwest? Here are the best road trips from Seattle.
Fabulous Road Trips from Seattle
Mount Rainier National Park
61 miles / 1.5 hrs.
Head south from Seattle via I-5 S, then take WA-410 E toward Mount Rainier National Park, which surrounds glacier-capped, 14,410-ft. Mount Rainier—an active volcano. Fields of wildflowers spread throughout the park, and wildlife such as bears, eagles, and elk are abundant. Be sure to visit the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout for amazing mountain views or the less-trafficked Summit Lake Trail, which has smaller crowds than some of the other areas. Make a stop for lunch with a view at the historic Paradise Inn, a relaxing retreat inside the park.
110 miles / 2 hrs.
Just two hours from Seattle via I-5 S and US-101 N is the Olympic Peninsula, home to Olympic National Park. It’s one of the most diverse National Parks with a sweeping variety of scenery, landscapes, wildlife, and climate. You’ll see alpine mountains, pebbly beaches, and a temperate rainforest. The central feature of the park is 8,000-foot Mt. Olympus, quite popular with climbers.
135 miles / 2.5 hrs.
You could fly to Germany…or you could drive 2.5 hours east from Seattle along I-90 E and US-97 N to Leavenworth. This Bavarian village is a mountain town with all the traditional German touches you’d expect: pretzel shops, beer halls, a Bavarian Lodge, and an Oktoberfest that can compete with the real event in Munich. Plus, Leavenworth is near great skiing and wineries.
143 miles / 2 hrs. 45 mins.
Drive north from Seattle along I-5 toward the Canadian border. (Tip: The Aldergrover crossing is slightly out of the way but usually has a shorter wait time.) On the other side of the border, you’ll find striking mountains, cerulean ocean, lush rainforests, and stunning foliage—that’s what makes Vancouver one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Thanks to all its natural beauty, Vancouver is a hub for outdoor adventures like biking and hiking. It’s also an ethnically diverse city with a burgeoning arts, theater, and music scene.
San Juan Islands
109 miles / 3 hrs. 15 mins.
To reach the San Juan Islands, drive about 90 minutes north from Seattle along I-5 N to the Washington State ferry terminal in Anacortes. From there, you can take a passenger ferry to this archipelago that is beloved for its incredible wildlife. The most popular islands within the chain are San Juan Island, Lopez Island, and Orcas Island (aptly named for its orca spotting). Around the islands, you’ll also see humpbacks, minke whales, and gray whales, plus sea lions, porpoises, and harbor seals. At night, take a kayak tour to see bioluminescent microorganisms light up the water with a sparkling green burst of light.