Seattle is a gateway to outdoor themed vacations. In my opinion, adding outdoor recreation to your Seattle vacation allow you to experience more than touring museums and city sights. Get your hiking boots, climbing shoes, or skis and get ready for some outdoor adventures in Washington!
Most of these options may require renting a car or being creative if you don’t want to drive. Booking tours is an option, but then you’ll be tied to a schedule and may not be able to pull off at a viewpoint to take pictures.
This is a list of outdoor weekend trips to get you started on your planning. Use the links under each trip to see how I’ve explored the areas.
Note: Access to some of these may require permits or fees to enter. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.
A Bavarian-themed tourist town that is known for its brats and Oktoberfest. Don’t let the Tudor-style facades fool you, there’s plenty of hiking and rafting in the area, along with mountain biking or skiing in the winter. Wind down from a day in the “Alps” with Icicle Creek Brewing or local Washington wine.
Rock climbing in Leavenworth.
A trip to Leavenworth can be done in a day. Drive over one of the mountain passes (Stevens and/or Snoqualmie) and see the outdoors fly by from your car windows. Pro tip: Take one pass on the way and the other on the return to maximize what you see on your visit.
- Are the Enchantments Worth the Hype?
- Leavenworth Trip Report: Fourth of July Creek to Icicle Ridge
- Trip Report: Early Snow on Bootjack Mountain
San Juan Islands (San Juan Island or Orcas Island)
Take a whale watching tour.
Take a ferry and find the heart of the Puget Sound. Go on a whale watching or kayaking tour. Hike on Orcas Island to the top of Mt. Constitution (or you can drive) to get a good view of the islands. If you’re lucky, it will be clear enough to see Mt. Baker and even Mt. Rainier. Fun and easy to get around, but staying there can be pricy. Rent a bike and see the sights when getting a workout. There’s plenty of little shops to wander around.
- A Weekend Vacation to the San Juan Islands
- Flying in a Biplane Over the San Juan Islands
- Fun for Locals and Tourists: Clipper Vacations Whale Watching Tour
- Tour Review: Outer Island Expeditions
My sister, Bethany, at the western-most point of the continental U.S. – Cape Flattery.
Take a ferry to the coast and see the Olympic Peninsula. Rainforests and beaches in one destination. Check out Port Angeles or drive to Forks, WA and explore Third or Rialto beaches. Drive to the Hoh rainforest and see mossy covered trees, along with some of the tallest trees outside of California. Drive the windy roads and climb up to Hurricane Ridge. Walk the boardwalks to Neah Bay & Cape Flattery as waves crash up against a rugged, rocky coastline.
- Olympic Peninsula: Hiking Between Rain Forest and Beach
- Trip Report: Hiking Mount Townsend via Dirty Face Ridge
- Trip Report: South Coast Wilderness Trail – Toleak Point
Mount Rainier National Park
Hiking around the trails of Mt. Rainier.
Drive the 3.5 hours on a clear day and hope to see Rainier. Go to either Paradise Visitor Center for an upclose view or get a wide, sweeping view from the Sunrise Visitor Center. Find some day hikes in the park to make a full day out of it.
- Day Hike: Mount Rainier NP’s Summerland – Panhandle Gap Trail
- Learning to Backcountry Ski Near Scenic Washington Volcanoes
- Washington Microclimates – From Tieton to Rainier
North Cascades National Park
Enjoying the spring sunshine as we’re leaving Stehekin.
Get access to Stehekin via boat or even seaplane and stay the night in the national park at the lodge. Some easy to moderate hiking trails exist or rent kayaks or canoes. Don’t forget to go to the bakery. This can also be done in a day trip but may be worth combining it with Leavenworth to break up the driving.
Taking visitors to one of my favorite places: Washington Pass.
Drive up to Washington Pass and see some epic rugged peaks. Stop at Diablo Lake and see the aqua blues from a high viewpoint. Drive all the way to Mazama and check out the general store. Continue to a western themed town called Winthrop. Plenty of moderate to challenging hikes.
- Girls Gone Wild – Bachelorette Backpacking Trip
- North Cascades: Visiting Stehekin in the Off-Season
- North Cascades National Park: South Early Winter Spire Attempt
- Trip Report: Scrambling Boston Peak in the North Cascades
Other things to do outside of the park:
Mount St. Helens
Friend skiing Mt. St. Helens with Mt. Adams in the background.
A few hour drive from Seattle, go to the visitor center and hike around there. See the remnants of one of the most famous known volcano eruptions in the U.S. It’s a decently remote attraction, so it’s a better one if most other on the list have already been done.
Watching the sunset while at base camp for climbing Mt. Baker.
A little further out of the way, Mount Baker is a great escape from the national parks, especially in the summer. Head to Mount Baker and hike along the many trails and see climbers ascend and descent the mountain. Artist Point is a short hike (you can drive up the road in the summer) with views of Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker. There’s plenty of camping and day hikes. Mount Baker also has a ski area close-by if visiting in the winter. Consider renting a place to stay in Glacier, WA.
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Do you have any other highlights or places you recommend to people visiting Seattle? Please share in the comment below.