Ultimate Washington National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

Last Updated on April 18, 2022

Looking for everything you might want to know about visiting Washington National Parks? Washington has three National Parks – Olympic, Mt Rainier and North Cascades as well as nine other national park units and two national monuments.

Thinking about planning a road trip to visit them all? You’re in the right place! This article will tell you everything you need to know about each of Washington’s three national parks as well as the other national park units and national monuments in our state.

We’ll go from the wild Pacific Coast to towering volcanoes to forests of towering ancient trees, to desert to wine country! I can’t wait to show you the many varied climates and landscapes of Washington State.

I’m a born and raised Washingtonian and I go to these amazing places frequently. I have even worked as a guide taking guests to Mt Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park and Mt St Helens National Monuments, you can be sure I’m giving you the best insider information, with lots of links to even more in depth details about the places you’re most interested in visiting, so let’s get started!

How many national parks are in Washington State?

Washington State has three National Parks – Olympic National Park, Mt Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park.

Washington has nine additional park service units that are mostly national historic sites or national historical parks plus Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

Mt St Helens National Monument and Hanford Reach National Monument are part of the US Forest Service rather than the park service, but they are also discussed here.

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    Which Washington National Park is best?

    It’s probably not a surprise that I can’t tell you which one is the best! You’ll have to decide for yourself but I’ll help.

    We’ll get into more detail about each park in the itineraries below. Here are a few basics about each Washington National Park and resources to learn more about them.

    Olympic National Park

    rocks and tidepools along a sandy beach next to forested cliffs on the Pacific Coast in Olympic National Park

    Olympic is for you if you like variety – within just one national park you’ll find epic mountains, glaciers, raging rivers, alpine wildflower meadows, wildlife, waterfalls, lakes, hot springs, old growth forest and the wild Pacific coast full of open spaces and fascinating tidepool animals.

    The land within the boundaries of Olympic is the homeland of many indigenous people who still live on this land and have for thousands of years. This includes the Klallam, Makah, Ozette, Quileute, Hoh and Quinault people, among others.

    Related: Three days in Olympic National Park

    Mt Rainier National Park

    Tahoma (Mt Rainier) on a clear sunny day. There is ice and glaciers on the top and forested hillsides below. Part of a lake is just barely visible in the foreground. Mt Rainier is one of three Washington National Parks
    “The mountain is out” as we say

    Mt Rainier is for you if you like a really impressive mountain that towers above the others, covered in year round ice and snow. Love volcanoes and geology? This park is for you! It also has quite a bit of variety in ancient forests, rushing waterfalls and alpine wildflower meadows.

    The land within the park is the land of the Yakama and Puyallup People.

    Related: Mt Rainier Summer day trip with less crowds

    North Cascades National Park

    a turquoise blue lake surrounded by forested hillsides
    Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park

    North Cascades is for you if you like remote areas without services and stunning scenery. While the trailheads along the North Cascades Highway are very busy, if you get off that area or go further into the park, you’ll see very few people. North Cascades is mostly about epic mountain views.

    Most people visit along the North Cascades Highway, though some take the boat ride up Lake Chelan to even more remote Stehekin. Others set out with backpacks to kayaks to see how far they can go. However you do it, you’ll be stunned by the jagged peaks and impossibly turquoise lakes.

    The North Cascades National Park Complex has a deep and long history of people who have and still call this land home. This land is home to the Nlaka’pamux First Nations People, OkanaganWenatchi, Chelan, Methow and the Skagit and other Coast Salish people

    Related: Best North Cascades National Park Itinerary

    All three parks have plenty of incredible hiking trails and scenic drives, so if you’re into either of those activities you can’t go wrong in Washington National Parks. Mt Rainier and North Cascades have incredible fall colors. Olympic and North Cascades have plenty of opportunity for human powered boating (kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding). All have gorgeous wildflowers in mid summer (peaking late July and early August).

    When is the best time to visit Washington National Parks?

    Olympic National Park and Mt Rainier National Park can be visited year round. North Cascades is mostly inaccessible except to backcountry users when the North Cascades Highway is closed (usually sometime in November through late May, though it varies).

    The itineraries below utilize some roads that are closed in winter, so if you’re doing one of those itineraries they are designed for June (or July in the case of Sunrise at Mt Rainier) through early October.

    If you’re visiting outside of those times you can still do it! You’ll just need to do a bit of rerouting on slightly different roads.

    If you’re visiting any of Washington’s National parks, make sure to regularly check the road conditions report for each park (Olympic, Mt Rainier, North Cascades)

    Related: Winter day trip to Mt Rainier National Park, Complete Guide to winter in Olympic National Park

    How many days do I need to see Washington National Parks?

    You can easily spend many days exploring each of Washington’s National Parks, especially if you’re a hiker or photographer! Trust me, a lifetime is not enough time to hike every trail, admire every tree and waterfall, see all the wildlife or take all the photos. But, you can get an excellent start even on a short trip.

    For Olympic National Park, I recommend 3-5 days as the ideal amount of time for a typical visitor. You can do a great three day road trip around the park and really get a feel for it’s diversity (included in the itineraries below). You can also do a day trip to Olympic from Seattle, but you’ll have to pick just one part of the park to visit (for example, Hurricane Ridge or Lake Quinault). The Hoh Rainforest is too far from Seattle for a day trip in my opinion, since you’re looking at 10 hours of just driving.

    Mt Rainier National Park makes a pretty good day trip from Seattle, Tacoma or Yakima. You could use one of those cities as your base camp and go multiple days if you wanted to check out different parts of the park. Having two days in the park gives you a chance to see more than one area, and even more time (up to a week) is perfect for hikers. Overnight lodging is a challenge in Mt Rainier. There are two lodges that fill quickly, the Paradise Inn and the National Park in at Longmire. Camping is also always full and unfortunately there are not nearly enough campgrounds or sites for the number of people who want to camp. If you find everything in the park full but want to be close, check out the vacation rentals and small inns just outside the park, either near Ashford or Greenwater. There are also campgrounds outside the park on the east side that are operated by the forest service. They are also always full in summer, but don’t fill quite as early!

    North Cascades National Park is a doable day trip from Seattle, but it’s a LONG day. I’ve done it plenty of times, but I highly recommend staying one or two nights in Winthrop to make it more leisurely. There are quite a few campgrounds along the North Cascades Highway and near Mazama and Winthrop, though they fill early in the day in summer. If you just want to do the scenic drive, one day works fine, but if you want to get some hikes in, I recommend 2-3 days.

    Cell Service in Washington National Parks

    Many visitors are surprised to learn that there are many areas of Washington State without cell service, including many you’ll encounter in National Parks. Here are some of the common places without cell service or with limited cell service:

    • Olympic National Park – the majority of the park does NOT have cell service. On the north side of the park (Hurricane Ridge and Deer Park) you will get a cell signal from Canada which can get very expensive if you don’t have an international plan (use airplane mode or turn off international roaming to avoid this, or check with your cell provider). As you’re driving around the park on Highway 101, service comes and goes but it is not consistent between towns, especially along the west side of the park
    • Mt Rainier National Park – a cell tower was recently installed at the Paradise area, but other than that most of the park does not have service, or very little. This includes the drive between Enumclaw and Yakima (there is almost no service the entire way)
    • North Cascades National Park – there is no cell service along the North Cascades Highway
    • Eastern Washington – towns and cities have good cell service just like anywhere else, however in between towns there are often areas without service, or with limited or spotty service.

    Where should I stay in and near Washington National Parks?

    Lodges in and near Washington State Parks

    All of Washington’s National Parks have at least one lodge, and plenty of hotels, motels and vacation rentals nearby. North Cascades has two lodges, the Ross Lake Resort or the Stehekin resort, both are only accessible by boat or hiking (no road service). For North Cascades, you can stay in Burlington or Mt Vernon on the west side, or Winthrop on the east side.

    Olympic has several lodges, some of which are open year round. There are also lots of hotels and vacation rentals around Port Angeles and Forks.

    Mt Rainier has two lodges in the park and there are quite a few small inns and rentals near Ashford and Greenwater. You can also do day trips from Seattle, Tacoma or Yakima.

    Camping in Washington National Parks

    I’m sorry to say that none of Washington’s National Parks have adequate camping for the number of people who want to camp! This is very frustrating, but with a bit of planning and flexibility you can make it work.

    North Cascades has three reservable campgrounds. There are also several forest service campgrounds along the North Cascades highway or near it.

    Olympic only has four reservable campgrounds, which leaves most of the park first come first serve. There are many campground options, but it is really difficult to find a spot, which is extremely frustrating. Plan ahead and get a reservation if at all possible! My favorites are Kalaloch and Sol Duc.

    Mt Rainier has two reservable campgrounds, one that is not reservable and one walk in (also not reservable). This is completely inadequate but fortunately there are several other forest service campgrounds on the east side of the park along Highway 410. This still isn’t enough but it helps! There are also several along 410 closer to Yakima, which I’ve had better luck finding a spot at.

    Mt St Helens National Monument

    Mt St Helens, a volcano with only a bit of snow in mid summer in the background with red wildflowers in the foreground

    The National Monuments are not part of the National Park Service, but they’re no less spectacular! If you’re checking out Washington National Parks, you really need to add Loowit (Mt St Helens) to the list.

    Until 1980, Mt St Helens was another lovely volcano sticking up above the crowd in the Cascade Mountains. When it violently erupted, it took out and forever changed an entire landscape. Mt St Helens is an amazing place for anyone interested in geology, and it’s hard to not be intrigued by the other worldly landscapes and the way that nature is reclaiming the devasted area.

    Mt St Helens is the homeland of the Cowlitz People.

    Related: Perfect Mt St Helens day trip from Seattle or Portland

    Other National Park units in Washington State

    Minidoka National Historic Site

    A stone and wood memorial going along the side of a gravel path in a forest with a few flowering trees
    Japanese American Exclusion Memorial

    The majority of Minidoka is located in Idaho, where Americans of Japanese descent were imprisoned during World War II. A small area of the historic site is located on Bainbridge Island, a memorial to the many Americans who were forced to leave their homes during the war. The memorial is a beautiful park near the water at the site of the pier where people were taken away.

    Bainbridge Island is the homeland of the Suquamish and Duwamish People.

    Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

    Seattle’s place as the gateway to Alaska was sealed during the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s. People from all over the world raced to Seattle to get outfitted and to Alaska as quickly as possible so they could make their way to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory. This museum tells that story. For the rest of the story, you’ll have to go to Skagway, Alaska to see the rest of the park! Seattle is the homeland of the Duwamish People.

    Related: Best things to do in Skagway, Alaska

    Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

    In the very early 1800s, the Corps of Discovery lead by Lewis and Clark made their way across the continent to see if they could get to the other side and what they could see along the way. Their adventure included many near misses where they had to be saved and helped by indigenous people in order to survive and continue their journey. Lewis and Clark National Historical Park includes sites commemorating it in Washington and Oregon. From epic landscapes to a recreation of their meager winter’s lodgings, there’s plenty to explore.

    Lewis and Clark traveled the land of many indigenous people on their journey across North America. The land around the national historical park sites in Washington and Oregon is primarily the homeland of the Chinook People.

    Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

    Fort Vancouver is what remains today of a Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading post on the lower Columbia River in the 1820s. The current buildings are carefully built reconstructions, and regular ranger programs and living history demonstrations provide a great educational opportunity.

    Fort Vancouver is built on the homeland of the Cowlitz and Multnomah People, among others.

    Manhattan Project National Historical Park/Hanford Reach National Monument

    Hanford Reach is a section of the Columbia River in Eastern Washington. The river and an island in it are seen from the bluffs above, surrounded by bluffs and distant mountains at sunset on a sunny day
    The Columbia River in Hanford Reach National Monument

    The Manhattan Project was a super secretive government program that built the atomic bomb during World War II across multiple sites in multiple states. The Washington site, located near Richland in Eastern Washington was extremely secretive at the time. Locals had no idea what was going on over there, only that the land was off limits.

    The top secret defense project had the side effect of preserving a section of the wild Columbia River during a time when dams were being built along its entire length. Agriculture was also growing but there was no agriculture or irrigation in the immediate area.

    Today, this is a unique landscape that you can explore on foot as the land is now protected as a National Monument. It’s possible to take a tour of the B Reactor as well as hike around the landscape and imagine what the Columbia was like before dams and irrigation. Of course, the river is hardly untouched by these factors along with the nuclear reactor, but it’s still a fascinating place.

    Hanford Reach is the homeland of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, Palouse and Wanapum People.

    Related: Hanford Reach hike – a unique landscape in Washington

    Whitman Mission National Historic Site

    The Whitman Mission is a difficult place to visit, but tells an important story about the impacts of colonialism and settler growth in the west. Built on Cayuse land without permission in 1836, the mission became an important stop for white settlers traveling the Oregon trail in the 1840s.

    In 1847, after a Measles outbreak killed many Cayuse people but far fewer white people, the Cayuse killed the Whitmans and others at the mission and led to an 8 year war.

    The park service has done an admirable job of attempting to interpret this difficult history at the site. Visitors can explore Cayuse and white settler history at the visitor center museum as well as walk the grounds and consider the difficult realities and impact of colonialism.

    Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area

    Lake Roosevelt is a long and skinny lake formed behind the Grand Coulee Dam. It is very hot and dry here in the summer, but it’s a great place for swimming, boating and camping and often doesn’t see as many people as Washington’s other outdoor spaces.

    The land that is now underwater and around newly formed Lake Roosevelt is the homeland of the Nespelem and Syilx (Okanagan) People.

    San Juan Island National Historical Park

    a wide trail above a bluff next to a forest above the ocean
    Hiking in San Juan Island National Historical Park

    San Juan Island National Historical Park commemorates a very short and minimal almost war between the US and Great Britain in the late 19th century. Today, it’s a sweeping island landscape with great views of mountains and the Salish Sea, hiking trails and beaches located on San Juan Island.

    San Juan Island is a crossroads of important indigenous land and is the homeland of the S’Klallam, Lummi and Samish People as well as the Tulalip Tribes and the W̱SÁNEĆ and Songhees First Nations. 

    Ebey’s Landing National Historical Park

    A sandy spit on the beach encircles a lagoon. It is seen from above from a grassy hillside on a Whidbey Island hike. There is blue calm water stretching away into the distance on a sunny blue sky day
    The beach at Ebey’s Landing

    Ebey’s Landing is located on land that has been and continues to be a crossroads of many indigenous Coast Salish People for millenia on what is currently called Whidbey Island. White settlers also found the area desirable and built farms in the area. The National Park Service eventually ended up “owning” the land and have preserved some of the farm buildings. The real treasure here is the wonderful loop hike with views of multiple mountain ranges, the Salish Sea, marine mammals and birds. This is one of my favorite places in Washington State! Read more about my favorite hike at the end of this article in the itineraries.

    Washington National Parks Road Trip 7 day Itinerary

    This itinerary takes you to the three Washington National Parks in just a week! This itinerary includes a lot of driving time and moving to a new location every night. If you have more time, I’ve included how to spend it below. You could also add in some side trips to see all the National Park Units in Washington, covered in the next section.

    Some of the roads on this itinerary are closed in winter. They are:

    • Hurricane Ridge road – usually only open weekends and holidays November through March. Sometimes closed entirely in April
    • Highway 410 through Mt Rainier to Yakima is closed generally November through late May. When it’s closed, you need to go to Paradise instead. You can cross over to Yakima by going back out of the park and over Interstate 90 (Snoqualmie Pass) or US Highway 12 (White Pass)
    • Road to Sunrise usually doesn’t open until late June or early July and it closes typically in early October.
    • North Cascades Highway is generally closed November through late May. To get back from Winthrop when it’s closed, go south to US Highway 2 or Interstate 90.

    This chart includes a summary of this Washington National Parks 7 day itinerary, with details below.

    DayRouteHighlights
    1Seattle to Port AngelesBainbridge Island, Olympic National Park – Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent
    2Port Angeles to ForksSol Duc Falls, Sol Duc Hot Springs, Olympic Coast Beaches
    3Forks to TacomaOlympic National Park – Hoh Rainforest, Olympic Coast Beaches, Lake Quinault
    4Tacoma to GreenwaterMt Rainier National Park – Sunrise trails and views, waterfalls and ancient forest
    5Greenwater to YakimaMt Rainier National Park – Chinook Pass views and wildflowers, wine tasting
    6Yakima to WinthropGeology and deserts of Eastern Washington, produce stands and wine tasting
    7Winthrop to SeattleNorth Cascades National Park – views, lakes and hikes

    Day 1 – Seattle to Port Angeles (Olympic)

    The Seattle city skyline from the ferry. The deck of the ferry is in the foreground
    Downtown Seattle views are great from the ferry

    Today you’ll depart Seattle by ferry and head to Olympic National Park. You’ll be exploring the epic mountain landscapes of Olympic National Park at Hurricane Ridge. You can also head over to Lake Crescent and explore the beautiful lake as well as the many hiking trails around it. Lake Crescent also has canoes available for rent in the summer months. If you have time, head out the the Dungeness Spit for a beautiful beach experience near the mountains at a wildlife refuge.

    From the ferry, follow the main road out of town and over the Agate Pass bridge, leaving Bainbridge Island. Continue until the left turn to cross the Hood Canal Bridge. After the bridge, continue until you join Highway 101 towards Port Angeles. It’s all very well signed, just keep going towards Port Angeles.

    • Driving distance and time: 88 miles, approximately 3 hours (depends a bit on the ferry schedule and the wait)
    • Highlights: Bainbridge Island ferry, Minidoka National Historic site, exploring Bainbridge Island, exploring Port Angeles, exploring Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park
    • Stay at: Port Angeles has plenty of hotels and vacation rentals. None of the national park service campgrounds near Port Angeles take reservations, but you can get reservations for the nearby Dungeness Spit. There is first come first serve camping at the large Heart o’ the Hills campground (which fills early in the summer) and the campgrounds around Lake Crescent (which also fill early). There is also a park lodge at Lake Crescent.
    • What to do if you have more time: If you have more time for your Port Angeles stay, you can spend more time hiking on the North side of Olympic National Park – at Hurricane Ridge or around Lake Crescent. I also highly recommend heading up to Deer Park to beat the crowds (gravel road).

    Day 2 – Port Angeles to Forks (Olympic)

    A waterfall with three crashing sections over the rocks in the rainforest in Olympic National Park, one of the Washington National Parks
    Gorgeous Sol Duc Falls

    Today you’ll be going deeper into Olympic National Park! Leaving Port Angeles and passing Lake Crescent, head up the Sol Duc Valley for the short hike to spectacular Sol Duc Falls. After, take a soak at Sol Duc Hot Springs before continuing your drive to Forks.

    Continue your drive west on US 101, past Lake Crescent until you reach the town of Forks. To head out to the coast, take Highway 110 towards La Push and Mora. The road splits before La Push, with left going to the village of La Push and right going to the Mora Campground.

    If it’s a clear day, make sure to get down to the coast in time for sunset. A short hike takes you to the beach near La Push at Second or Third Beach and you can drive to the beach at Mora. If the timing works out, tidepooling at Rialto Beach is excellent!

    • Driving distance and time: 85 miles, 2 hours (including driving to the coast at La Push or Mora)
    • Highlights: Sol Duc Falls, Sol Duc Hot Springs, Olympic coastal beaches, tidepools and sunset
    • Stay at: Forks has several motels and a few vacation rentals (I like the Dew Drop Inn). Camping can be reserved at Mora and the Hoh Rainforest (and fills quickly). You can also get a backpacking permit to camp at Second or Third Beach near La Push
    • What to do if you have more time: If you have more time to spend in Olympic, consider a longer hike at Sol Duc Falls up to Deer Lake. You can also spend days exploring the coast or backpacking there.

    Related: Guide to Sol Duc Hot Springs

    Day 3 – Forks to Tacoma (Olympic)

    The grassy shores of Lake Quinault, surrounded by forested hillsides in one of the Washington National Parks
    Lake Quinault

    Today you’ll visit the world famous Hoh Rainforest, more Olympic coast beaches and the epic forests surrounding Lake Quinault.

    From Forks, head south and then take a left at the well signed Upper Hoh Road for the Hoh Rainforest. You’ll come to the end of the road at the Hoh visitor center and trailhead in just under 20 miles. Make sure to get out and experience the towering trees, draping moss and impressive ferns that fill this famous forest. There is a short ADA trail that’s a loop just under a mile, which is a great option for those who aren’t into hiking. If you are into hiking, head up the Hoh River Trail, which is mostly flat for the first 5 miles. Keep your eyes out for elk in addition to the incredible forest.

    Back on the road, you’ll pass along the Olympic Coast with several beaches (including the dog friendly Kalaloch Beach). Leaving the coast, you’ll pass Lake Quinault. The Lake Quinault lodge is a wonderful place to stop for lunch, and there are plenty of forest trails here that are dog friendly.

    After Lake Quinault, you’ll eventually leave Highway 101 to head east towards Olympia on Highway 8. In Olympia, meet up with Interstate 5 and head north (which is really more east in this location) to Tacoma.

    • Driving distance and time: 217 miles, approximately 4.5 hours (including the Hoh Valley and Hoh Rainforest)
    • Highlights: Hoh Rainforest, Olympic Coast, Lake Quinault, Quinault Rainforests, food in Tacoma!
    • Stay at: Tacoma has lots of hotels and vacation rentals from residential neighborhoods to art and food centered neighborhoods. If you’re camping, you might want to go ahead and drive out part of tomorrow’s drive to camp along Highway 410 (both reservations and first come first serve available).
    • What to do if you have more time: If you have more time, I recommend staying or spending more time at Kalaloch or Lake Quinault, or giving yourself a couple of days off the road to explore the delightful city of Tacoma.

    Related: How to visit the Hoh Rainforest

    Day 4 – Tacoma to Greenwater (Mt Rainier)

    Mt Rainier in shadow with a bit of lens glare from the setting sun. In the foreground are evergreen trees
    Mt Rainier at Sunrise, at Sunset

    Today you’ll get to explore Mt Rainier National Park! This route avoids the busiest part of Mt Rainier (at Paradise) with it’s nearly impossible parking. The side of the park I’m taking you to on this itinerary avoids that and takes you to places that are just as beautiful, but a little less of a crowd.

    Get up early and drive to the Sunrise Visitor Center. Get to the entrance gate as early as possible to avoid a long wait at the gate for a parking spot. Avoid the temptation to stop and set up your camp or check into your lodging on the way, getting to Sunrise as early as you can is super important to this day going smoothly.

    From Tacoma, head towards Enumclaw (there are a couple ways to do it but Google maps will give you the best option for current traffic). From Enumclaw, head East on Highway 410. Once you enter the park (big beautiful log sign over the highway), keep an eye out for a road on the right to go up to Sunrise. It’s very well signed. Once on the Sunrise road, you’ll pay the entrance fee and head up to Sunrise. The road up to Sunrise is very windy and slow (and stunningly gorgeous).

    When you get to Sunrise, you’ll have the best view of Tahoma (Mt Rainier) of anywhere in the park you can drive to! There is a wonderful picnic area here and many hiking trails to explore. Wildflowers are beautiful along these trails in mid summer.

    When you’ve had your fill of exploring Sunrise, head back down and backtrack towards Greenwater to your lodging for the night.

    If you have enough time, I recommend exploring the Eastside Trail, which is a gorgeous trail along the Ohanapecosh River and past several waterfalls. This trail is never busy except for the area right around Grove of the Patriarchs, which is an incredible old growth forest with trees over 1000 years old!

    • Driving distance and time: 130-150 miles depending on exactly where you stay, at least three hours of driving time
    • Highlights: Sunrise view of Tahoma (Mt Rainier), wildflowers, hiking
    • Stay at: If you’re camping, the Ohanapecosh Campground is a good option you can reserve ahead of time, along with the Dalles and Silver Springs along Highway 410 outside of the park, along the White River. The White River Campground is wonderful in Mt Rainier National Park, but it’s difficult to get into because it’s small and not reservable. If you’re looking for lodging, there are lots of vacation rentals near Greenwater that serve the ski area in the winter.
    • What to do if you have more time: Spend more time exploring Sunrise, or head up to Paradise via Stevens Canyon Road, which is beautiful. The Paradise area is extremely crowded in summer, with the parking area filling by 8am. If you have an extra day and are an early riser, then check it out! You can also head up there in the evening (after 6pm).

    Day 5 – Greenwater to Yakima (Mt Rainier)

    A field of purple, magenta, yellow and white wildflowers near Chinook Pass in Mt Rainier National Park, one of the Washington National Parks
    Wildflowers near Chinook Pass

    Today you’ll explore more of Mt Rainier National Park, with more views and wildflower meadows, before making your way to the hot and dry town of Yakima. Yakima is the hop growing center of North America and is also in the heart of Washington’s wine country. It is also surrounded by fruit trees so make sure to stop by the side of the road for cherries, peaches, apples and more.

    When you leave your rental or campsite, you’ll return to Highway 410, crossing into the park as you did yesterday. This time, instead of heading up to Sunrise, you’ll continue a bit further and then go left to continue on Highway 410 to Chinook Pass and Yakima.

    When you get to Chinook Pass you have to stop and check out the wildflower meadows which are absolutely stunning. Keep an eye out for marmots too, as well as mosquitoes. If you’re a hiker, I highly recommend doing the Naches Peak Loop here. It’s about four miles of incredible mountain views and wildflower meadows! This is also a great picnic area if you’re not a hiker and just want to admire the views and flowers.

    Continuing on, you’ll start descending on the east side of the mountains and the climate changes completely to drier forest and then arid farmland.

    When you arrive in Yakima, take the time to do some wine and beer tasting and enjoy the local fruit you picked up along the way. Grab a tamale for lunch or dinner at Los Hernandez!

    • Driving distance and time: about 80 miles (depending on exactly where you stayed), about an hour and a half of driving time
    • Highlights: Chinook Pass wildflowers and views, wine country and roadside fruit stands
    • Stay at: Yakima has lots of hotels and vacation rentals. If you’re camping, there is reservable camping at Yakima Sportsman State Park. There are also a couple of BLM campgrounds in the Yakima Canyon on Canyon Road between Yakima and Ellensburg
    • What to do if you have more time: There are some wonderful hikes around Yakima, including the awesome hike to a winery.

    Day 6 – Yakima to Winthrop (North Cascades)

    Apple trees in the Yakima Valley on one of the best weekend getaways from seattle
    Apples ready for harvest near Yakima

    This is the day to explore the endlessly sunny eastern side of Washington State as you make your way up to Winthrop and the North Cascades. You’ll be driving by dramatic desert scenery, plenty of farms and fruit and produce stands along the road and one winery after another!

    Starting from Yakima, head up I-82 towards Ellensburg and then north on US 97 (Blewett Pass). If you’re up for taking a little more time, take Canyon Road from Yakima to Ellensburg through the stunning Yakima Canyon. Blewett Pass has plenty of good hiking opportunities if you want to stretch your legs.

    You’ll join up with Highway 2 just outside of Leavenworth, you can take a slight detour if you like to explore the quirky Bavarian mountain town. Wenatchee is a great place to stop and stretch your legs, there are some great food options and a lovely trail along the river. I love Lemolo for a wonderful lunch stop in downtown Wenatchee.

    Leaving Wenatchee, you’ll continue north along the Columbia River to Lake Chelan, another worthwhile stop for amazing scenery and stretching your legs (and swimming in summer).

    From Chelan, continue north on Highway 97 until you come to a junction in Pateros with Highway 153. Take it, heading towards Twisp and Winthrop. This will take you directly into Winthrop along the beautiful Methow River.

    If you get there in time, explore the fun, tiny and historic town for a few minutes you can get an early start in the morning.

    • Driving distance and time: 200 miles, about 4 hours of driving time
    • Highlights: Eastern Washington’s incredible desert scenery, fruit stands, wineries, fun towns
    • Stay at: Winthrop and Twisp have a number of small hotels, and the valley is full of vacation rentals (book far ahead in peak seasons of both summer and winter). Reservable camping is available at Pearrygin Lake State Park near Winthrop, and there are lots of forest service campgrounds in the surrounding area.
    • What to do if you have more time: You can easily spend a long time in Winthrop, especially if you’re a hiker, skier or fisherperson. There are loads of trails nearby as well as lakes and rivers for fishing. Pearrygin Lake is also a wonderful place for swimming in the summer.

    Related: 13 Fun things to do in Winthrop

    Day 7 – Winthrop to Seattle (North Cascades)

    Blue Lake Trail in North Cascades National Park in fall
    Hiking to Blue Lake in North Cascades National Park

    Today you’ll explore the jaw dropping scenery of North Cascades National Park and return to Seattle. Start the day in Winthrop and head west on Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway.

    Get ready to be stopping and taking photos all the time as you drive this amazing highway. Make sure to bring snacks and drinks with you and have a full tank of gas because between Mazama and Concrete there are absolutely no services of any kind.

    There are, however, about a million hiking trails and viewpoints! At a minimum, make sure to stop at the Washington Pass Overlook as well as the Diablo Lake Overlook. If you’re looking for a half day hike, try Blue Lake or Thunder Knob. Both of those hikes are about 4 miles round trip and have great views. Those who want more hiking should check out Maple Pass (which is extremely crowded on weekends, try to get there on a weekday if possible). The area around Diablo Lake and Ross Lake is a good place to take out a kayak or stand up paddleboard.

    After plenty of amazing scenery and two high mountain passes, you’ll be descending towards the west side of the Cascade Mountains. I highly recommend stopping at Newhalem, a historic Seattle City Light facility with a beautiful waterfall you can get to on a short hiking trail, Ladder Creek Falls. While the way to Ladder Falls is very short, there are a LOT of stairs.

    Continuing on along the Skagit River towards the Skagit Valley, you’ll be in bigger trees again and a rainier forest. The weather may also become more rainy! If you get to the west side with enough daylight, there’s plenty to explore in the Skagit Valley. Another rich agricultural area with plenty of delicious food and craft beer, this is a good place to stop before returning to Seattle.

    • Driving distance and time: 200 miles, approximately 5 hours driving time
    • Highlights: Washington Pass Overlook, Diablo Lake Overlook, hiking, Newhalem and Ladder Creek Falls, Mt Vernon/Skagit Valley
    • What to do if you have more time: If you have the time, I highly recommend staying another night in the Skagit Valley. If you have a few more days, go to the nearby San Juan Islands or Whidbey Island.

    Washington National Parks Road Trip including ALL the National Park units in Washington in 14 days

    This Washington National Park road trip is two weeks long and takes you to every single national park unit in Washington State, from the coastal rainforest to the inland desert, arid Washington wine country, towering volcanoes, the Salish Sea and everything in between. This itinerary has you in a new place almost every night. If that sounds like too much moving around, you could choose a few base camps for exploring instead.

    Great places to spend more time that work well as base camps include: Seattle, Port Angeles, Yakima and Winthrop. These are places with lots of hotels and vacation rentals and lots of things to do. It’s a bit more driving overall, but you don’t have to move every night.

    The best thing about this itinerary is it gives you the chance to experience the vast diversity of the landscape, culture and climate across Washington State!

    Some of the roads included in this itinerary are closed in winter. See the note in the 7 day itinerary about the Hurricane Ridge Road, Highway 410 through Mt Rainier National Park, the road to Sunrise in Mt Rainier and the North Cascades Highway. The Spirit Lake Highway to Johnston Ridge Observatory in Mt St Helens National Monument is also closed in winter.

    This chart includes a summary of this Washington National Parks two week itinerary, with details below.

    DayRouteHighlights
    1Seattle to Port AngelesKlondike Gold Rush Park, Japanese American Memorial, Olympic National Park – Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent
    2Port Angeles to ForksOlympic National Park – Sol Duc Falls, Sol Duc Hot Springs, Olympic Coast Beaches
    3Forks to Long BeachOlympic National Park – Hoh Rainforest, Olympic Coast Beaches, Lake Quinault, Cape Disappointment, Long Beach Peninsula
    4Long Beach to CentraliaLewis and Clark Historical Park, Astoria, Fort Vancouver
    5Centralia to TacomaMt St Helens National Monument
    6Tacoma to GreenwaterMt Rainier National Park – Sunrise trails and views, waterfalls and ancient forest
    7Greenwater to YakimaMt Rainier National Park – Chinook Pass views and wildflowers, wine tasting
    8Yakima to RichlandHanford Reach National Monument
    9Richland to Walla WallaWhitman Mission, wine tasting
    10Walla Walla to Electric CityGrand Coulee Dam, Lake Roosevelt
    11Electric City to WinthropNorth Cascades hikes, Winthrop
    12Winthrop to AnacortesNorth Cascades National Park – views, lakes and hikes
    13AnacortesFerry ride to San Juan Islands, San Juan Islands Historical Park
    14AnacortesWhidbey Island, Ebey’s Landing Historical Park and loop hike

    Day 1 – Seattle to Port Angeles (Klondike Gold Rush, Minidoka, Olympic)

    This is the same as Day 1 described above, but make sure you make time for the side trip to see the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. It’s about a five mile side trip when you leave the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal. The site is small, you can easily walk around it in about 15 minutes, but the lovely memorial invites you to stay longer.

    Before you leave Seattle, or when you return, make sure to visit Klondike Gold Rush National HIstorical Park. The Seattle Unit, located in Pioneer Square, tells the story of the Klondike Gold Rush, when Seattle officially became the gateway to Alaska for the rest of the world. Their small and excellent museum is well worth a visit. While you’re in the neighborhood, I also highly recommend the excellent Wing Luke Museum of the Asian American experience. This visit will also help prepare you for your visit to the memorial on Bainbridge Island.

    • Driving distance and time: 88 miles, approximately 3 hours (depends a bit on the ferry schedule and the wait)
    • Highlights: Bainbridge Island ferry, Minidoka National Historic site, exploring Bainbridge Island, exploring Port Angeles, exploring Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park
    • Stay at: Port Angeles has plenty of hotels and vacation rentals. None of the national park service campgrounds near Port Angeles take reservations, but you can get reservations for the nearby Dungeness Spit. There is first come first serve camping at the large Heart o’ the Hills campground (which fills early in the summer) and the campgrounds around Lake Crescent (which also fill early). There is also a park lodge at Lake Crescent.
    • What to do if you have more time: If you have more time for your Port Angeles stay, you can spend more time hiking on the North side of Olympic National Park – at Hurricane Ridge or around Lake Crescent. I also highly recommend heading up to Deer Park to beat the crowds (gravel road).

    Related: 14 fun things to do on Bainbridge Island

    Day 2 – Port Angeles to Forks (Olympic)

    This is the same as Day 2 described above. Explore lakes, waterfalls and epic forests in Olympic National Park!

    • Driving distance and time: 85 miles, 2 hours (including driving to the coast at La Push or Mora)
    • Highlights: Sol Duc Falls, Sol Duc Hot Springs, Olympic coastal beaches, tidepools and sunset
    • Stay at: Forks has several motels and a few vacation rentals (I like the Dew Drop Inn). Camping can be reserved at Mora and the Hoh Rainforest (and fills quickly). You can also get a backpacking permit to camp at Second or Third Beach near La Push
    • What to do if you have more time: If you have more time to spend in Olympic, consider a longer hike at Sol Duc Falls up to Deer Lake. You can also spend days exploring the coast or backpacking there.

    Day 3 – Forks to Long Beach (Olympic)

    A sandy beach is below a green hill. There are waves breaking on the beach. In the distance is a river mouth and beyond that, mountains
    The beach at Cape Disappointment with the mouth of the Columbia River in the distance

    Today you’ll explore more of Olympic National Park and then head further down the Washington coast to the mouth of the Columbia River, visiting more impressive public lands and learning about Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery, dispatched from Washington DC in 1804.

    To start your day, follow the same itinerary as Day 3 above, starting from Forks and exploring the Hoh Rainforest, beaches along the coast and Lake Quinault.

    When Highway 8 branches off towards Olympia, stay on Highway 101 to continue further south. Follow Highway 101 until you reach a spur heading to the Long Beach Peninsula.

    Stretch your legs at Cape Disappointment State Park, with it’s many hiking and biking trails through the forest and to the beach at the mouth of the Columbia River. From high above the mouth of the river, you can watch the ships attempting to navigate the infamous and tricky Columbia bar to enter the river.

    When you arrive, make sure to spend some time walking the beach (you can even have a fire on the beach here) or riding a bike on the Discovery Trail. If it’s clear, don’t miss the sunset!

    • Driving distance and time: 215 miles, approximately 5 hours (including Hoh Valley and Hoh Rainforest)
    • Highlights: Hoh Rainforest, Olympic Beaches, Lake Quinault, Cape Disappointment, Long Beach
    • Stay at: There are many wonderful hotels along the Long Beach Peninsula as well as vacation rentals. Cape Disappointment State Park has a large campground (reserve in advance) and a number of yurts for rent. I like the Adrift Hotel in Long Beach (dog friendly) which has a wonderful restaurant with an incredible view. Make sure to stop at the distillery here and try the Cranberry Liqueur even if you don’t stay here.
    • What to do if you have more time: You can spend more time exploring the Hoh, the Olympic Beaches, Lake Quinault or Long Beach.

    Related: Things to do in Long Beach Washington

    Day 4 – Long Beach to Centralia (Lewis and Clark, Fort Vancouver)

    Today you’ll head across the Columbia River on the scenic Astoria bridge to the delightful town of Astoria, Oregon. Here you’ll see my favorite part of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Fort Clatsop. Then you’ll head upstream to Vancouver, Washington to check out Fort Vancouver before spending the night in Centralia.

    Fort Clatsop, part of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, is a recreation of the camp the Corps of Discovery made when they arrived at the Pacific Coast and the mouth of the Columbia River. There is a lot to learn here about what life was like during the difficult winter they spent in this location. This is a particularly great place for kids, I loved Fort Clatsop as a kid!

    Astoria is a fun town to explore, so I recommend walking around and finding some lunch before heading upstream to Vancouver. You’ll continue on historic US Highway 30 on the Oregon side of the river before meeting up with Interstate 5 and returning to Washington. Head south on Interstate 5 to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver.

    At Fort Vancouver you can explore a historic Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading post turned historic site. The ranger programs here are excellent!

    After your visit, head north on I-5

    • Driving distance and time: 200 miles, approximately 4 hours
    • Highlights: Fort Clatsop, Astoria, Fort Vancouver
    • Stay at: There are plenty of hotels in and near Centralia. I really love McMenamin’s Olympic Club for it’s historic vibe in the historic part of town (and it’s excellent bar food). If you’re camping, head to Seaquest State Park instead, which has reservable camping and yurts.
    • What to do if you have more time: Spend more time exploring Astoria, Vancouver or Portland.

    Day 5 – Centralia to Tacoma (Mt St Helens)

    a lake surrounded by trees with a mountain sticking up behind the trees
    Coldwater Lake was created in the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens

    Today is mostly about exploring Mt St Helens National Monument. After spending a couple of days more focused on human history, here you will see relatively recent explosive volcanism! Mt St Helens is a fascinating place to visit and an absolute must see for anyone even remotely interested in geology.

    To start the day, you’ll backtrack slightly on I-5 south to Highway 504, the Spirit Lake Highway. It’s very well signed. There are plenty of interesting places to stop along the way. Make sure to stop at the Buried A-frame, a cabin that was mostly taken out by the eruption and is located next door to a Sasquatch shop. I also recommend the forest discovery center. Even though it’s a bit rah-rah for the timber industry, you can learn a lot here about the business and work of forestry, which remains a major component of Washington’s economy.

    The biggest attraction however comes at the end of the road when you get to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The view here is directly into the crate of Mt St Helens and is absolutely stunning. Make sure to check out the visitor center and especially the movie, which in my opinion is one of the best movies on any federal lands (makes sure to stay for the finale after the credits). There are also plenty of hiking trails here for those who want to explore more. No shade exists here so bring plenty of water and sun protection. The wildflowers here are stunning in July.

    On the way back, stop and check out Coldwater Lake, which didn’t exist at all before the eruption! There’s a trail you can follow here and it’s a good picnic stop.

    • Driving distance and time: 200 miles, 4 hours
    • Highlights: Buried A-frame, Forest Discovery Center, Johnston Ridge Observatory, Coldwater Lake
    • Stay at: Tacoma has lots of hotels and vacation rentals from residential neighborhoods to art and food centered neighborhoods. If you’re camping, you might want to go ahead and drive out part of tomorrow’s drive to camp along Highway 410 (both reservations and first come first serve available).
    • What to do if you have more time: Take a couple of days off to explore the wonderful city of Tacoma

    Day 6 – Tacoma to Greenwater (Mt Rainier)

    a waterfall coming over rocks in an evergreen forest
    Silver Falls on the east side of Mt Rainier National Park

    This is the same as Day 4 in the 7 day itinerary above. You’ll spend the day taking in epic views of Tahoma (Mt Rainier), seeing wildflowers and beautiful rivers and ancient trees.

    • Driving distance and time: 130-150 miles depending on exactly where you stay, at least three hours of driving time
    • Highlights: Sunrise view of Tahoma (Mt Rainier), wildflowers, hiking
    • Stay at: If you’re camping, the Ohanapecosh Campground is a good option you can reserve ahead of time, along with the Dalles and Silver Springs along Highway 410 outside of the park, along the White River. The White River Campground is wonderful in Mt Rainier National Park, but it’s difficult to get into because it’s small and not reservable. If you’re looking for lodging, there are lots of vacation rentals near Greenwater that serve the ski area in the winter.
    • What to do if you have more time: Spend more time exploring Sunrise, or head up to Paradise via Stevens Canyon Road, which is beautiful. The Paradise area is extremely crowded in summer, with the parking area filling by 8am. If you have an extra day and are an early riser, then check it out! You can also head up there in the evening (after 6pm)

    Day 7 – Greenwater to Yakima (Mt Rainier)

    This is the same as Day 5 in the seven day itinerary, a day full of amazing views, wildflowers, amazing roadside fruit, craft beer, Washington wine and amazing food!

    • Driving distance and time: about 80 miles (depending on exactly where you stayed), about an hour and a half of driving time
    • Highlights: Chinook Pass wildflowers and views, wine country and roadside fruit stands
    • Stay at: Yakima has lots of hotels and vacation rentals. If you’re camping, there is reservable camping at Yakima Sportsman State Park. There are also a couple of BLM campgrounds in the Yakima Canyon on Canyon Road between Yakima and Ellensburg
    • What to do if you have more time: There are some wonderful hikes around Yakima!

    Day 8 – Yakima to Richland (Manhattan Project/Hanford Reach)

    A sand dune with a river in the background and a person standing on top of the dune with their hands in the air
    Wild sand dunes at Hanford Reach National Monument

    Today you’ll make the drive even deeper into Washington’s arid agricultural land and wine country that is also home to some fascinating history.

    During World War II, a stretch of the Columbia River was closed off and made off limits to people (enraging many locals) with no explanation. The US government began working on the technology that eventually become the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project, which was worked on at multiple facilities in multiple states. The large area of land surrounding the reactor was not dammed as the rest of the river was and it remains the only stretch over the Columbia without dams. There was also no agriculture done there, though its surrounded by farmland. Of course, the landscape and river are forever altered by the other dams on the river, as well as the presence of a giant nuclear reactor nearby!

    Despite this history, the area is an absolutely gorgeous place to visit. Those who are interested can take the park service’s tour of the B Reactor, while those not wanting to go that far can explore the area on foot.

    If you hike at Hanford Reach, you can see the B Reactor in the distance which is really bizarre! It is also fascinating to see such a fascinating landscape. I’ve never seen more than one or two other people in this entire area.

    A word of warning about the summer, it is sweltering hot and there is almost no shade. If you hike in this area, make sure you have lots of sun protection and water and I would recommend an early morning or evening outing in the summer.

    From Yakima, head east towards Richland. There are a couple of ways to go, either Highway 24 and 240 (more rural farmland) or I-82 and Highway 12 (more wineries and trucks). However you get there, start at the Manhattan Project Headquarters. If you’re doing a tour, this is where you’ll meet it.

    If you’re on your own, I still recommend grabbing lunch and a beer at the Bombing Range Brewing Company next door (they have multiple house special home made mac and cheeses!).

    To go for a hike around the monument, or just to drive around and check out the landscape, head north from Richland on Highway 240 and across the Columbia River to enter Hanford Reach. To reach the North Trailhead (a great starting point), follow the road to a right turn at North Glade Road. Follow this bumpy gravel road to a parking area with a trail heading across the hill in the distance and park.

    After you’re done exploring, return to Richland to stay overnight (unless you’re camping at Potholes State Park, then continue on to there). You can make a loop driving back for variety (Highway 24 and 395).

    • Driving distance and time: 188 miles, 3.5 hours of driving time (including out and back from Richland to Hanford Reach)
    • Highlights: wineries, Hanford Reach hiking, B Reactor tour
    • Stay at: Richland has plenty of hotels and motels. There are not many vacation rentals around and weirdly no camping close by! The best camping option is Potholes State Park, which takes reservations and has a couple of cabins also. To camp, go to Richland, then Hanford Reach and then on to Potholes (about 45 miles from Hanford Reach)
    • What to do if you have more time: If you have more time, there’s an awesome trail around the Tri Cities along the river for biking, walking or running. There are also some great swimming beaches along the Columbia River. Richland and the Tri-Cities are surrounded by wine country, so there’s plenty of opportunity for wine tasting!

    Day 9 – Richland to Walla Walla (Whitman Mission)

    To visit the Whitman Mission, you can either drive to and stay in Walla Walla or you can stay in Richland (or Potholes if camping) for another night.

    Walla Walla is a beautiful historic town in the heart of Washington’s fabulous wine country and is a wonderful town to visit.

    The Whitman Mission National Historic Site is located just outside of Walla Walla and invites visitors to learn about and contemplate the complicated history of colonialism in the United States and the impact of white settlers moving west in the 19th century.

    Walla Walla is just about an hours drive from Richland, so it’s up to you if you want to move where you’re staying or stay put and make a day trip.

    • Driving distance and time: 58 miles one way (116 miles round trip), approximately an hour of driving time (two hours round trip)
    • Highlights: More fabulous Washington wine country, Whitman Mission National Historic Site
    • Stay at: There are plenty of motels, hotels and vacation rentals in Walla Walla. Like nearby Richland, there are not many public camping options nearby (it’s about 100 miles from Potholes if you wanted to keep your base camp there).
    • What to do if you have more time: Walla Walla is a charming, historic college town surrounded by wineries. It’s easy to spend days exploring it! You can also explore the nearby Blue Mountains in both Washington and Oregon.

    Day 10 – Walla Walla to Electric City (Lake Roosevelt)

    Today you’ll make your way to Grand Coulee Dam and long Lake Roosevelt behind it. There are a few different routes you can take, use Google Maps to find the best option when you’re actually driving it. No matter what, you’ll be driving through open farmland on your way to the lake.

    Lake Roosevelt is a great place for swimming, boating and camping without crowds. I also recommend visiting Grand Coulee Dam while you’re in the neighborhood.

    • Driving distance and time: 180 miles, 3.5 hours
    • Highlights: Grand Coulee Dam, Lake Roosevelt lake fun
    • Stay at: There are motels in Electric City and there are campgrounds along Lake Roosevelt.
    • What to do if you have more time: More lake time!

    Day 11 – Electric City to Winthrop (North Cascades)

    A river passing through trees at sunset
    The Methow River in Winthrop

    It’s a shorter drive today to the delightfully historic town of Winthrop at the edge of your next Washington national park – North Cascades! Along the way you’ll see more amazing geology and farmland and more produce stands! You should get to Winthrop in time to explore the town and check out some of the local trails.

    Head west from Grand Coulee Dam to meet up with Highway 17 and then go north to Highway 20, which takes you west into Winthrop.

    • Driving distance and time: 100 miles, 2 hours (from Grand Coulee Dam)
    • Highlights: Geology and rock formations, fruit stands, Winthrop
    • Stay at: Winthrop and Twisp have a number of small hotels, and the valley is full of vacation rentals (book far ahead in peak seasons of both summer and winter). Reservable camping is available at Pearrygin Lake State Park near Winthrop, and there are lots of forest service campgrounds in the surrounding area.

    Related: Things to do in Winthrop

    Day 12 – Winthrop to Anacortes (North Cascades)

    A waterfall over rocks
    Ladder Creek Falls near Newhalem

    Today you’ll follow the itinerary for day 7 in the week long itinerary described above, taking in the amazing scenery of North Cascades National park and a hike or paddle if you have time and enjoy it.

    You won’t head back to Seattle yet though, you’ll head to the charming port of Anacortes for your island adventure.

    • Driving distance and time: 150 miles, 3 hours driving time
    • Highlights: Washington Pass Overlook, Diablo Lake Overlook, hiking, Newhalem and Ladder Creek Falls, Mt Vernon/Skagit Valley
    • Stay at: Anacortes hotel, motel or vacation rental. If you’re looking for camping, Deception Pass State Park and Bayview State Park are both close.

    Day 13 – Day trip to San Juan Island from Anacortes (San Juan Island)

    The ferry approaching the dock in the small town of Friday Harbor Washington
    Friday Harbor

    Today you’ll take a scenic ferry ride through the beautiful San Juan Islands to the town of Friday Harbor to explore the hiking trails of San Juan Island Historical Park.

    I recommend leaving your car behind and walking on the ferry. You can take the bus to the hiking trails around Cattle Point and 4th of July Beach.

    • Driving distance and time: None! You’re on the ferry, which takes a bit over an hour each way
    • Highlights: Ferry ride through the San Juan Islands, town of Friday Harbor, hiking around Mt Finlayson, Cattle Point lighthouse, 4th of July Beach
    • Stay at: Same place in Anacortes
    • What to do if you have more time: If you have more time, spend more time in the islands! You could bring your car over or not, but there’s plenty to do for a long time on this laid back island.

    Related: 11 Interesting things to do on San Juan Island

    Day 14 – Anacortes to Seattle (Ebey’s Landing)

    a hiker on a trail along a bluff next to an expanse of blue water
    Along the bluff at Ebey’s Landing

    Today you’ll wrap up your trip and head back to Seattle! But you’ve got one more adventure and one more national park site to stop at today. Ebey’s Landing is a great place to go for a hike or a beach walk, or just sit and have a picnic looking at the water. This is an amazing place to catch a sunset too.

    From Anacortes, head “west” (which is really going south) over the Deception Pass Bridge and onto Whidbey Island. When you’re near the town of Coupeville, you’ll make a right turn on Sherman Road that will take you there.

    After you’re done exploring, check out tiny and adorable Coupeville if you have time (eat some Penn Cove Mussels!) before heading back to Seattle. Continue south on the main highway down the island to the ferry at the south end of the island which takes you to Mukilteo and then drive on south to Seattle.

    • Driving distance and time: 88 miles, around 3 hours depending on the ferry wait
    • Highlights: Deception Pass Bridge, Ebey’s Landing loop hike and beach, Coupeville
    • What to do if you have more time: Whidbey Island is a wonderful place to spend a day, a weekend or a week or more, so spend as much time here you as can!

    Related: 13 Fantastic things to do on Whidbey Island

    Final Thoughts

    Washington National Parks let you experience the vast beauty of Washington State as well as the massive diversity of landscape and climate throughout the state. Wherever you decide to go, you’re sure to see the majestic beauty and joy of this gorgeous state!

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    Jennie Flaming
    Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!