Planning a day trip from Seattle?
A city filled with greenery and surrounded by even more natural beauty, Seattle was dubbed the Emerald City and not without a reason. Once you are done touring its attractions, you can start exploring the Evergreen State of Washington by means of day trips, touring amazing sites like Mount Rainier, exploring the volcanic landscape of Mount St. Helens, or taking a ferry ride to visit the San Juan Islands and the Friday Harbor. An urban explorer? Look no further and take a day trip from Seattle to Victoria BC, home to the worldwide famous Butchart Gardens.
Mount Rainier National Park Tour from Seattle
As one of the few peaks that exceeds 14,000 feet in the US outside of Colorado, Mount Rainier stands majestically in the skyline of Seattle, begging visitors for an up-close look at its majesty. It is an active volcano, but it also has the most glaciers of any one peak in the entire continental United States. Six rivers begin from Mount Rainier and that’s just the start of the amazing things you’ll see on this mountain.
Carbon Glacier sits at just 3,500 feet, making it easy to access and explore. It’s nearly 700 feet thick and is the lowest glacier in the lower 48 states of the US. This is just one of many day hikes that will provide some amazing views in the park. The trail in Grand Park is breathtaking. Some trails, such as the Wonderland Trail, require advanced reservations. Fees may apply, but not generally for day hikes.
As you approach the summit of Mount Rainier, you’ll find some beautiful splashes of color throughout the year along to icy edges of the mountain’s glaciers. If you arrive somewhere near the peak blooming season, which is typically mid- to late-July, then you will have an unbelievable experience. Frost can hit as soon as the first week of August for the sub-alpine wildflowers, however, so your viewing window can be brief.
If you prefer peace and quiet during your encounter with nature, then consider spending a morning enjoying Green Lake. There aren’t many fishing spots on Mount Rainier, but that also means you won’t need to get a fishing license. Visitors are encouraged to use barbless hooks to prevent injuries to the native fish.
Many consider Mount Rainier the perfect day trip from Seattle. Plan for a weekday visit if you can during the spring and summer because the weekends will be crowded. Your reward will be a perfect moment of serene beauty with Mother Nature.
Touring Friday Harbor and the San Juan Islands from Seattle
Just an hour north of Seattle is the Washington State Ferry system that runs between Anacortes and Friday Harbor and the San Juan Islands. Even the drive to get there has spectacular views with endless tulip fields and organic farms that have seasonal products throughout most of the year. Once you get on the ferry, however, you will be in for a special treat.
Friday Harbor is the gateway to some of the best outdoor activities that Washington has to offer. Biking, hiking, and kayaking are all common activities if you decide to park in Anacortes and walk onto the ferry. If you take your vehicle in the summer, however, you’ll get to experience the immense lavender fields that surround this island community.
You’ll need about 60 minutes of leeway time to make sure you reach the boat. The Washington State Ferries system accepts reservations for this route, so take advantage of this fact if possible. When waiting to return, go through the galleries of Friday Harbor, grab some ice cream, and explore the open-air market.
Lime Kiln State Park is also a place you’ll want to find yourself. Often called Whale Watch Park by the locals, orcas, humpbacks, and gray whales can all be seen from this little cove that has 1,000 feet of beach to explore.
Four islands in total are accessible to you from the ferry system when visiting the San Juans. Visiting all of them on a single day is virtually impossible, but each one has something unique to see. From lighthouses to lavender, Friday Harbor provides the perfect small town experience. For those who want to get away from the city, this is the perfect day trip.
Visiting Mount St. Helens from Seattle
Mount St. Helens is one of the view active volcanoes in the United States. It’s most famous eruption occurred in 1980 when the volcano literally exploded. Ash and pumice rained down on the area and the combination was so dense that sculptures have been made from it by local artists. Now a national monument, there is something for everyone who visits this volcano.
One of the top attractions is the Ape Cave. It is a paved path that leads through an interpretive site and is just a short walk from the visitor’s center. For those who wish to keep exploring, the trail steepens and will continue to the upper entrance of the park. This site features one of the longest lava tubes in North America, recently measured to be over 13,000 feet long.
Lakes Trail 211 is perfect for those who want an all day adventure at Mount St. Helens. This trails goes into the Mount Margaret backcountry. The views that overlook Panhandle Lake take some effort to reach, but it’s well worth the work it takes.
Don’t forget to visit the South Side Forest during your stop at the volcano. Despite all of the activity, this forest has been untouched – even through the 1980 explosion. There are numerous lahar flows and lava tubes to explore, but some of the area is closed until Memorial Day.
Fishing, rock climbing, and horseback riding are all possibilities for this day trip from Seattle. If you’ve always wanted to visit a volcano or want to see one of the Ring of Fire’s great natural wonders, then a stop at Mount St. Helens is the perfect way to spend the day.
Waterfalls of North Cascades National Park
If you love the rustic outdoors, then you’re going to love a day trip to the Northern Cascades National Park. With hundreds of miles of trail to explore, more than 100 waterfalls to see, and some waterfalls coming right up to the primary road that runs through the park, a drive here will be one of the most beautiful drives you’ve ever experienced.
One of the most unique features of this park is the small community of Stehekin. The name of this community comes from an ancient word in the Salishan language which means “The Way Through.” The only way to reach this small town is to walk there, take a boat there across Lake Chelan, or fly there. Be sure to hike out to Rainbow Falls and the Buckner Orchard if you get the chance.
Birding is also an essential component of the Northern Cascades experience. Two threatened species call this park home: the Spotted Owl and the Marbled Murrelet. In total, more than 200 different species of birds can be seen. There are also wolverines, gray wolves, and many other types of wildlife to see.
Horseback riding and bicycling are great day trip activities in this national park, but mountain climbing provides the best experience. With sheer cliffs, 300+ glaciers, and backcountry access that is as rugged as you want it, there is an adventure that is just waiting for you.
The North Cascades National Park has enough space that you’ll find peace and tranquility here in your own way. If you love the outdoors and are visiting Seattle, this is one of the places you’ll want to consider exploring.
Touring the Olympic National Park from Seattle
One of the largest national parks in the world sits on the western Washington coast and provides many incredible landscapes to explore. From the purple sands of Ruby Beach to the Hoh Rain Forest with its quiet wonders, there is something for everyone to see in this amazing park.
The first stop for many travelers will be Hurricane Ridge. It’s the easiest mountain area in Olympic National Park to access and the views can stretch all the way to Vancouver Island on a clear day. There is only one road to access the summit, so from September to March, checking local conditions before driving up the road is a best practice. In the winter season, all vehicles must carry chains to access this part of the park.
Before hitting the coastal beaches, take a slow drive around Lake Crescent. There are waterfalls to find and if you bring a canoe or kayak, most days you’ll have the lake all to yourself.
At the coast, there are numerous beaches to visit. Ruby Beach offers amazing seastacks and tide pools to explore. Kalaoch has a large sandy beach and plenty of room to run about. The beaches around Lake Ozette offer a look at the ancient cultures that have called western Washington home for thousands of years.
If you have extra time, make your way to the Skokomish River Valley to see the Staircase. It’s not the most popular area of the park and it is often closed in winter, but the views are spectacular.
With changing landscapes, gentle tides, and miles of trails to explore, a sunset along the coast is perfect in Olympic National Park and is the perfect day trip when visiting Seattle.
Snoqualmie Falls Day Trip from Seattle
One of the most popular attractions in all of Washington is Snoqualmie Falls. It seems more than 1.5 million visitors every year, so on a beautiful day, you’ll want to expect a crowd. It’s a small park with just two acres to explore, but the 270 foot waterfall is well worth the trip.
You can park and view the waterfalls for free from dawn until sunset every day. Lights have been installed to illuminate the waterfalls in the twilight hours for an amazing view. From the parking lot to the viewing platform is a simple 200 foot trail that is wheelchair accessible. There’s also a lower viewing platform that is accessible with a 10+ minute hike down a smooth trail.
For those who have always called this area home, Snoqualmie Falls is considered a spiritual location. Visiting the waterfall during a period of inclement weather will help you to see why. It has a roaring thunder that can literally make the ground shake with enough rain.
Bring your camera, a picnic lunch, and bring your courage to take the boardwalk that leads up close to the base of the falls. The hiking trail ends when the boardwalk ends, but you’ll find many brave explorers who continue on to get right up next to the waterfall when water levels are low enough. There are days when the river comes right up next to the trail.
When the weather is rough in Seattle, consider a day trip to Snoqualmie Falls. It might be one of those experiences that you never forget.
Visiting Victoria, BC From Seattle
If you have your passport or an Enhanced Driver’s License with you, then a day trip from Seattle to Victoria can be a wonderful experience. The city features one of Canada’s best attractions, the Butchart Gardens, where activities happen from April-September. One of the best deals is a luncheon and admission combination so that you can enjoy a fine dining experience with the blooms and bulbs that are on majestic display.
Whale watching is also a popular activity in Victoria. Even if no whales are spotted, there are plenty of dolphins, seals, and sea lions that call the area home. A total of 80 whales are known to live off of Victoria’s waters, however, so the odds are good that you’ll see some amazing wildlife during your day trip.
Victoria is also one of the few places in North America where one can tour a castle. Hatley Park and Craigdarroch Castle both have different opportunities to explore from gardens to stained glass, and both provide a glimpse of Victorian culture with a Canadian twist.
There are numerous beaches that offer views of the Olympic Mountains and the surrounding ocean, but China Beach offers a bit of everything. It’s the classic Northwest pebble beach, so it is perfect for tide pool exploration, hiking, and wildlife observation. You can watch the shipping channels in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and enjoy the roar of the incoming surf.
Dining in Victoria is an experience in itself. Choose a waterfront pub, grab a local cider, of experience fine dining that uses fresh, local ingredients.
Many who visit Victoria on a day trip from Seattle find themselves wanting to return there more than once. Make time to visit Butchart Gardens, explore the waterfront, and you will have an amazing experience.
Day Trip to Bainbridge Island from Seattle
If you want to explore an island in one day, you can do that while in Seattle. Take a ferry to Bainbridge Island, where you can enjoy splendid marine scenery, big waterfront parks, interesting museums and art galleries.
Considered one of Seattle’s sleeping communities for a long time, Bainbridge Island has become one of the main destinations for day trips from Seattle.
One of the gems on the island – the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial – a 276 feet long wall created in the honor of the island’s 227 residents who have been sent to the interment camps.
Art lovers, head to Bainbridge Island Museum Of Art, and to immerse even further in the island’s culture, have a coffee at Pegasus Coffee House And Art Gallery.