Post Summary: The Best Things To Do In Washington State & Exactly Where To Find Them
Where do you go when you want to see a little bit of everything?
We’re talking snowy mountain peaks, desert waterfalls, secret ocean coves, and rolling wheat fields. Any guesses?
We’re so incredibly lucky to call this little corner of the US our home, and we’re on an endless pursuit to see it all. From outdoor lovers to big city dwellers, high desert to the temperate rain forest, there are so many beautiful places in Washington State to explore!
In this post, we’re sharing some of the best things to do in Washington State and how you can experience the best of the Evergreen State, too!
All The Best Things To Do In Washington State (30+ Destinations!)
Planning Your Trip To Washington State
Quick Facts About Washington State
- There are 3 National Parks in Washington State: Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and North Cascades National Park.
- Washington State Nickname: The Evergreen State.
- Population: A little over 7.6 million people call Washington home.
- Average Weather: Rainy and cloudy on the west side, sunny and dry on the east side.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Washington State?
Every season in Washington brings its own unique activities and things to look forward to. The types of activities you are looking to do will determine what time of year is best for you to visit Washington state. Here are some of the highlight activities for each season:
- Winter: Skiing at Mount Baker, Mount Stevens, Crystal Mountain, etc, renting snow-covered A-frame cabins, taking scenic flights.
- Spring: Wildflower hikes in the mountains, waterfall trails, exploring the Washington coast.
- Summer: Hiking in Washington, camping on the beach, summer wine tasting in Walla Walla.
- Autumn: Seeing the larch trees in the North Cascades, driving around the Olympic Peninsula.
How Do I Get To Washington State? And How Do I Get Around?
The easiest and most convenient way to travel to Washington state is by flying into Seattle, Washington. The main airport is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), commonly referred to as Sea-Tac.
If you’d like to explore the east side of the state, we recommend flying into the Spokane International Airport (GEG). Fewer flights come into Spokane, but there are direct flights from places like San Francisco, Boise, Denver, and even San Diego.
For getting around the state, we recommend renting a car and driving to your favorite Washington destinations. There are several scenic routes in Washington state to explore, that the journey can be an adventure in itself!
Looking to stay in B&Bs, Hotels, or resorts? Rent a regular car – our preferred car rental company is Avis, as they constantly give us free upgrades for being members!
Trying to camp, hike, and experience outdoor activities in Washington State? We highly suggest renting a recreational vehicle. Try booking your next ride on Outdoorsy – it’s like Airbnb but for vehicles, and you can choose anything from a vintage VW bus to a tricked-out Sprinter Van for a little taste of van life.
We also highly recommend downloading the app The Dyrt. The Dyrt is the largest online campground database, sharing reviews and details of over 44,000 public and private campgrounds. We love using their Trip Planner tool to help us find camping spots (and gas stops) along our Washington road trip route.
Try the pro membership free for 90 days when using our code MANDAGIES90 for your next trip to Washington!
What To Pack When Visiting Washington State
The weather in Washington state is often unfairly stereotyped as rainy and gray, all. the. time.
Thankfully for you, that’s only some of the time! Yes, the late fall, winter, and early spring can be a little rainy most of the month, but the summer months are some of our favorite months of the year.
When packing for a trip to Washington state, here are some of the unique items you should be packing (in addition to the basics!):
Raincoat: You never know when a rainstorm will come, especially when you’re hiking in Washington state. Choose a lightweight raincoat like this one from Outdoor Retailer to stuff in your bag on your next hike.
Waterproof Hiking Boots: Both Berty and I have the Vasque St Elias GTX boots, and they are our absolute favorite. We can trudge through puddles and get them super muddy without a care in the world!
Rain Boots: From exploring the tide pools on Washington beaches to camping, rain boots are essential for off-season traveling in Washington. We own the original Hunter Boots and they do an excellent job, while also being super stylish.
Layers: When planning a trip to Washington state, it’s important to know that the weather can change drastically, even in the span of one day. Make sure to pack plenty of layers, so you can peel them off as the weather heats up. Our favorite layering items are from Smartwool!
Waterproof Day Backpack: Hands down, our favorite travel bags are made by WANDRD. We especially love their new Veer 18L day back, which can compress down into a tiny bundle that can fit into your hand for easy storage.
Dry Bag: If your Washington activities include kayaking, lake jumping, or literally being anywhere near the water, it’s smart to have a dry bag. We use the Sea To Summit 3 Liter one, where we can store our phones, and even a big camera to keep them dry.
Camera: Depending on your needs, cameras can vary! See what kind of travel photography gear we’re currently exploring with here.
Looking for a more detailed list? Check out our Pacific Northwest packing list for a more in-depth look at exactly what to pack on your trip!
Camping In Washington State
There are so many amazing campsites in Washington State! Camping in Washington is a great way to travel on a budget, get closer to nature, and experience the Pacific Northwest in a unique way.
We can’t possibly list all the campgrounds in Washington because that would take up an entire blog post in itself! However, we CAN share our favorite camping spots, and give you resources to find ones near you as well.
Our Favorite Campsites In Washington:
Don’t want to pay for camping? Here’s how to find free camping spots in Washington!
THE WASHINGTON COAST
We’ll share some of our favorites in depth in this post, but below is an overview list of some of the most well-known Washington coast destinations to check out.
With easy boardwalks and accessible trails, this place is a historic stop on any Pacific Coast Highway road trip (actually the very first stop!). Make sure to spend some time reading the interactive signs – they share information on the geography and history of Cape Flattery.
Shi Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach is a hike-in-only beach, perfect for camping, tide pool exploring, and photography. It’s best enjoyed in the summer months (July – September) when the weather is the mildest.
Want to stay overnight? Make sure to make a camping reservation! This Washington Beach requires an overnight permit, which you can get online or in-person at any Wilderness Information Center.
- Best For: Backpackers, photographers, campers
- Special Notes: Permits required for overnight visits
Rialto Beach is one of the most popular beaches to visit in the Olympic National Park.
From its vast walkable coastline to the interesting tide pools and rock formations, you’ll be entertained the entire time you’re here! If you’ve got a few extra hours, make sure to check out their famous Hole-In-The-Wall Hike, a beautiful trail that leads you to a literal hole in rock.
Don’t forget to check out the tide pools and watch for eagles along the way!
Rialto Beach is Best For:
Ocean Shores, Washington
Ocean Shores is the ultimate Washington beach destination if you’re looking for a little bit of everything. Convenient hotels, delicious food, wide-open sandy beaches, and family-friendly activities are just the start of what makes Ocean Shores amazing.
Make sure to rent motorbikes to ride on the beach, and check out the jetty for some crab hunting and beachcombing!
Ocean Shores Is Best For: Young families, relaxing vacations, beach house rentals.
Westport, Washington is the sleepy sibling of Ocean Shores, across the bay from Grays Harbor. Here, you can check out the annual Westport surf competition (The Clean Water Classic), which actually brings huge waves considering it’s Washington State and not Orange County, California!
Westport, Washington is Best For Cold-water surfers, small-town lovers.
Kalaloch Lodge/ Tree Of Life (Olympic National Park)
If you’re looking for a place to stay in the Olympic National Park by the ocean, the Kalaloch Lodge is your dream destination. This lodge is perfectly located on the Washington coast, with several options to stay overnight from camping to the main lodge, to private cabins along the shore.
During the day, make sure to check out the Tree of Life during low tide. This amazing natural phenomenon is a tree, conspicuously situated between a ditch, that is determined to hang on for dear life. It’s really an incredible sight and worth a trip during any Olympic Peninsula road trip!
Kalaloch Area Is Best For: Beach explorers, people on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip!
Opposite of Cape Flattery, Cape Disappointment is located in the most southwestern corner of Washington State.
Here, you can find a handful of beautiful trails to discover, and each hike highlights a unique section of the park. Here are some places you can find when hiking around Cape Disappointment:
- Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
- North Head Lighthouse
- Deadman’s Cove (check to see if the trail is open – this area is currently undergoing a facelift as of January 2020)
- Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center
- Fort Canby
- Waikiki Beach
La Push First Beach, Second Beach, and Third Beach
La Push’s First, Second, and Third beach were made known by the popular book series Twilight, but they are popular for good reason!
Each beach has varying levels of difficulty when it comes to beach access, but all are worth a visit. Second Beach is the most popular of these Washington beaches to explore because you are able to camp along its coast.
Want to camp here as well? Read our tips on Washington beach camping and secure the proper permits before setting up your tent!
Ruby Beach is an incredible Washington beach because of its tide pools, sea stacks, and piles and piles of gorgeous sun-bleached driftwood along the shores. Part of the Olympic National Park, it’s one of the most highly anticipated places to see on the Olympic Peninsula.
Plan on getting your feet wet because part of the fun is exploring its rocky shores, rock formations, and crossing nearby creeks and rivers!
Washington Trip Tip: Make sure to come during low tide to have the most access for exploring Ruby Beach!
OLYMPIC PENINSULA + PUGET SOUND DESTINATIONS
The Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound host some of the most beautiful places in Washington State! This temperate rainforest is full of amazing hiking trails, camping opportunities, and chances to explore the beautiful Olympic National Park.
Islands, waterfalls, and ferry boats are common here – let’s get to showing you the best things to do in Washington around the Olympic Peninsula!
San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are located in the northwest corner of Washington state, accessible only by ferry or charter boat! This is a popular place for yachters, sailors and recreational boaters to island-hop from nearby locations (Orcas Island, Lopez Island, and Lummi Island are the most popular).
Most popular activities to do on the San Juan Islands: Take a whale watching tour, hike around Lime Kiln Point State Park (pictured below), visit the Lavender Farms in the summer, and spend a luxurious weekend in Roche Harbor.
Olympic National Park
The Olympic National Park is likely the most popular Washington location on the Olympic Peninsula. This Washington National Park is famous for its temperate rainforest, amazing Washington beaches, and gorgeous hiking and camping opportunities.
Don’t forget to stop by the Hoh Rainforest and take the short but incredible Hall of Mosses trail for tons of examples of Washington native plants! Spend some time watching the sunrise at Lake Cushman, hike the iconic Mount Storm King, and visit Marymere Falls to see a beautiful Washington waterfall.
Other great activities here include hiking the Ridge Trail at Hurricane Ridge (views of Mount Olympus in one direction and the Salish Sea in the other), hiking to Sol Duc Falls, and even going to the southern part of the park to experience the lesser-known Staircase Area.
Best Things To Do In The Olympic National Park:
- Hike The Hall of Mosses Loop Trail in the Hoh Rainforest
- Explore Tide Pools on Ruby Beach
- Hike to the Hole In The Wall on Rialto Beach
- Climb to the Top of Mount Storm King Trail (EPIC views of Lake Crescent!)
Port Angeles, Washington
Port Angeles, Washington is a city on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s a great place to stay overnight when exploring the Olympic National Park for its many hotels and Airbnb options.
You can also take the ferry over to British Columbia, Canada from here! The city of Victoria on Vancouver Island is a great way to explore a new country without having to travel far at all, and you can take the Black Ball Ferry across the Salish Sea right from downtown Port Angeles.
Also, consider camping or renting a cabin along Lake Crescent for a quintessential Washington summer experience!
Seattle, Washington is the most populated city in Washington, which means there are lots of amazing neighborhoods to explore and food to try!
There are many things to do in Seattle that are perfect for any visitor at any time of year. Here are some of our favorite places to explore in Seattle:
- Volunteer Park
- Pike Place Market
- Jose Rizal Park
- Kerry Park
- Starbucks Roastery
- The New Seattle Waterfront
Tacoma, Washington is a port city south of Seattle, located in Pierce County.
Located on the Puget Sound, Tacoma has a great mix of urban downtown life as well as waterfront activities and opportunities to get out on the water. Take a nature walk around Point Defiance Park, go paddleboarding near the Dock Street Marina, or take a stroll at the nearby Wright Park.
In the city, you will find fun attractions like the Chihuly Glass Garden, concerts at the Tacoma Dome, and the up-and-coming food and beer scene, too!
Commonly mistaken for Seattle, the Washington State capital is actually located in Olympia, Washington! Spend some time taking a tour of the Washington State Capitol Building and enjoying some local food and coffee (like Olympia Coffee Roasters) downtown.
Olympia is conveniently located for easy access to the Hood Canal, the southeast section of the Olympic National Park, and an easy drive to Mount Rainier National Park.
Gig Harbor, Washington
Gig Harbor is known for its historic harbor, boutique stores, and delicious food along the water’s edge. It’s also known to be one of the “Gateway to the Olympic” cities, with easy access to the Olympic Peninsula and the amazing attractions there.
If you’re looking to spend some time in the city, checking out the waterfront is a must-do activity in Gig Harbor. Rent a stand-up paddleboard at Lee’s SUP, take a boat ride around the area with Destiny’s Harbor Cruises, or even a Gondola ride in the marina!
Photo Tip: Check out Anthony’s Restaurant and their famously misspelled sign.
NORTHWEST WASHINGTON DESTINATIONS
The Cascade Mountains and huge metro cities dominate this part of Washington State. Here you’ll find that you can be in a big city in the morning and deep in the mountains in the afternoon.
Keep on reading to see more of our favorite spots in Northwestern Washington.
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is one of three national parks in Washington State.
It’s accessible during the summer months, but the road that goes through the park (Highway 20) closes in the winter due to heavy snowfall. Generally a summer destination, this national park is FILLED with amazing backpacking routes, longer Pacific Northwest day hikes, hidden fire lookouts, and lots of amazing opportunities to go camping in the PNW.
The easiest places to access in the park would be Diablo Lake Overlook, Washington Pass Observation Site (views of Liberty Bell Mountain), and Ross Lake.
If it’s your first time in the park, we suggest driving the full Highway 20 route your first time to see the highlights and come back again to explore deeper in the park.
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is one of the most visited forested areas in Washington. And it makes sense – stretching 140 miles all the way north to Mount Baker and south to the borders of Mount Rainier National Park, this area covers a huge majority of the western slope of the Cascade Mountains in Washington.
There is a lot to do here, including several backpacking trails, day hikes, waterfalls, alpine lakes, and fire lookouts.
Some of the more notable destinations are as follows:
- Explore Artist Point in Mount Baker for its incredible sunrise views of Mount Shuksan in the distance.
- Hike the popular Rattlesnake Ledge trail, an easy 4-mile RT hike 30 minutes from Seattle
- See Snoqualmie Falls, one of Washington State’s most popular attractions!
- Hike to Wallace Falls, one of the most accessible hikes from Seattle!
Lake Wenatchee is part of the larger Lake Wenatchee State Park, located on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains on Highway 2.
Here, there are incredible hiking trails to explore, and some of the best camping spots in the entire state. If you’re looking for some good ‘ole classic car camping, reserve a spot in Lake Wenatchee Campground. During the day, you can spend your time relaxing on the beachfront, exploring Emerald Island via kayak, or take a hiking trail like the challenging Dirty Face Trail or the easy Hidden Lake Trail.
Leavenworth, Washington is one of the most unique towns in the state, perfect for a weekend getaway from Seattle! Known for its Bavarian-themed community, this town hosts all sorts of European-inspired events, including Oktoberfest, the Christmas Lighting Festival, and Maifest.
Come any time of year, but we especially love visiting Leavenworth in the summer. We love coming to float down the river that runs through town, getting beers with friends, and enjoying the ambiance of this Cascade Mountain escape.
Leavenworth also serves as a ‘basecamp’ for backpacking adventures, specifically for the Enchantments in the Alpine Lake Wilderness area of Washington. These overnight backpacking trips require a permit, but for easy day trips you can just hike up to Colchuck Lake for the day.
EASTERN WASHINGTON DESTINATIONS
Eastern Washington is full of amazing things to do in Washington State! From the rolling hills of the Palouse to a powerful force of the Grand Coulee Dam, this area is full of unique opportunities for adventure. Here are some of our favorite places in Washington State on the eastern side:
Palouse Falls State Park
Palouse Falls State Park is located in the southeastern part of Washington State. The waterfall, Palouse Falls, is the main feature of this 94-acre park. The falls are fed by the Palouse River and drop around 200 feet into the canyon below.
The easiest way to reach Palouse Falls is from cities like the Tri-Cities or Spokane.
Camping and hiking are available at the park, but it should be noted that reservations and parking require a camping permit or a Washington Discovery Pass. You can get a day pass for $10 or an annual pass for $30.
There is little cell service here, so come prepared for all safety concerns, weather, and pack enough food and water for your trip.
Fun Fact: It’s the official Washington State waterfall!
Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland)
The Tri-Cities is located east of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, in the south-central part of the state. Consisting of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland, these closely situated cities are unique in their own way but share the same core climate, economy, and way of life.
This area boasts a plethora of activities, including boating, bike trails, golf courses, wine tasting, and more!
Spokane is the second-largest city in Washington and the largest on the eastern side of the state. Berty and I recently moved to Spokane and we now call this amazing city our home.
We love that there are so many amazing coffee shops in Spokane (our favorites being Ladder Coffee and Indaba), artisan breweries, and opportunities to get outside and explore around the city. We are lucky to have some great state parks and natural areas in Spokane, and we’re sharing our favorites below:
- Riverfront Park – Come watch the free light show every weekend under the Pavilion!
- Riverside State Park – Several hikes are located along the river, including the iconic Bowl & Pitcher rocks, and a suspension bridge.
- Iller Creek Natural Conversation Area – Explore the ridge lines on the edge of the Palouse under a lush shaded forest with tons of amazing views!
- Greenbluff – We love coming to Greenbluff in the summer to enjoy the breweries, and in autumn for amazing harvest bounties!
- Mount Spokane State Park – Our favorite winter hike in Spokane is to Quartz Mountain Fire Lookout! (pictured below)
The Gorge is an area of Central Washington that includes Columbia River access, the famous music venue called The Gorge, and hidden semi-arid climate gems.
If you are taking a scenic drive in Washington, consider stops like Wild Horse Monument, and Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park to discover this less-traveled area of the state!
Walla Walla (and Clarkston, Washington)
Walla Walla is located in the southeast corner of Washington State and has quickly become known to be a hub for wineries, boutique shops, and a spot for romantic getaways from Seattle and Spokane!
Just a few hours east of Walla Walla is the neighboring town of Clarkston, Washington. Here, many adventure outfitters will run tours of Hells Canyon, one of the deepest gorges in North America! Here you can explore many difficult (but beautiful!) hiking trails, pack rafting trips, and so much more.
Pend Oreille County
Pend Oreille County (pronounced pond-oh-ray) is rarely talked about but widely underrated! Here, you will find a perfect blend of small-town friendliness and a slower way of life, but most of all, EPIC hidden destinations.
Some of the most iconic places to visit in northeast Washington are Sullivan Lake, the Gardner Cave in Metaline Falls, and the Salmo Mountain Lookout.
Stay in Newport, Washington for easy access to these areas, and even use it as a starting point to extend your trip into a North Idaho road trip, too!
SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON DESTINATIONS
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park is arguably one of the most beautiful places in Washington State. From the gorgeous early summer wildflowers to the snowshoeing adventures in the winter, there is something to do here every time of the year.
Take some time exploring the very popular Paradise Area of the park, which hosts beautiful trails in Washington like the Nisqually Vista Loop, Narada Falls, and the Henry M Jackson Visitor Center. We recommend coming early to grab a parking spot – this area of the park fills up fast!
If you are looking for less-traveled areas of the park, we recommend visiting other sections like the Sunrise Area, the nearby Crystal Mountain, and fun hikes like the Grove of Patriarchs, Skyline Divide, or the through-hike – The Wonderland Trail!
Looking for an even bigger adventure? Check out some of the most popular Washington fire lookouts – located in all four corners of the park. Of all the things to do in Washington, Mount Rainier is arguably the most packed with diverse adventures!
Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument is another iconic place to visit in Washington State. In 1980, the volcano erupted, causing ash, lahars (huge, destructive mudflows) and debris to cause a lot of commotion all over the state of Washington.
Today, the volcano is still actively monitored, but reasonably safe for visitors. Don’t let the threat of eruption deter you – this place is absolutely worth a visit for the beautiful views, many wildflowers, and gorgeous hikes in the area.
Daredevils can apply for a permit to climb to the active volcano or even explore the deep caverns of the Ape Caves. There are also plenty of Washington camping options here, as well as several hikes around Spirit Lake.
Columbia River Gorge (Gifford-Pinchot National Forest)
When you hear “Columbia River Gorge” you often think of the Oregon side – places like Multnomah Falls or Rowena Crest come right up. However, just across the Columbia River on the Washington side is a whole other set of gems! Epic hikes like the trail to Falls Creek Falls or Lower Lewis Falls will keep you coming back for more.
Don’t forget the mysterious Maryhill Stonehenge! This Washington State Monument was erected in 1929 to honor the WWI veterans of Klickitat County.
Another beautiful place to discover is Beacon Rock State Park. This state park is right along the Columbia River as well, with incredible views of the river. Make sure to take the Beacon Rock Trail – this 1.8-mile out and back trail gains 578 feet with 52 switchbacks for some epic views at the top!
Washington State Itinerary Examples
So you’re planning a trip to Washington. It can be overwhelming to figure out what to see in just a limited number of days! Therefore, below, we’re sharing several examples of Washington State Itineraries so you can cater a trip to your exact needs.
Washington In One Day
Have a long layover or just making a quick stop in Washington? Here’s what you can do in just a day’s drive from Seattle!
- Take a quick ferry ride to explore Bainbridge Island
- Drive to Deception Pass State Park
- Explore the many hiking trails near Seattle (all within an hour’s drive!)
Washington State Weekend Itinerary (Washington in 3 Days)
If you are making Seattle your home base when spending 3 days in Washington, there are SO many amazing places to go in just a weekend! Read the post below to find out all the best options.
Washington In 5 Days
Let’s say you’re planning to see Washington in 5 days. We think that’s a perfect time to really dive deep into one part of the state! We highly recommend taking a long weekend road trip around The Olympic Peninsula, for the sheer amount of diverse adventure to be had!
From lush rainforests, rocky ocean shores, and fun rides on the ferry across the Puget Sound, you’ll experience a lot of classic Washington State activities in just one trip! Here’s an example of how to break down your days:
- Day 1: Take the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton, Washington. Drive to Hurricane Ridge for sunset. Sleep in Port Angeles.
- Day 2: Drive to Cape Flattery, Explore La Push Beaches. Sleep in Forks or camp on the Washington Coast.
- Day 3: Explore Hoh Rainforest, Rialto Beach, and Ruby Beach. Sleep at the Kalaloch Lodge.
- Day 4: Explore more rainforest hikes at Lake Quinault.
- Day 5: Explore Staircase Area of Olympic National Park, have lunch in Olympia, WA, drive back to Seattle.
Washington In 10 Days (Western Washington)
Staying longer in Washington? Below, we’re sharing our 10-day Washington Itinerary, seeing the western part of the state! This guide includes all three national parks, with driving directions and suggested stops along the way!
Download our 10-day guide below – it’s completely free!
(we’re running some email maintenance now – the download will be back soon!)
Washington State Bucket List
Can’t get enough of all the amazing things to do in Washington State? We’re in the same boat! That’s why we created this Washington State bucket list. It helps us keep track of our outdoor activities in Washington and where we want to go next!
Berty and I have made our Washington State bucket list available to you, just because we like you! (And you’ve read this far into the post, so you must be serious about visiting Washington State!)
Save this image easily on Pinterest by clicking here, to keep it in your folder of Washington State travel inspiration!
MAP OF THINGS TO DO IN WASHINGTON STATE
Overwhelmed with all the adventurous things to do in Washington state? We’ve created a map (see below) to make it a little easier to plan your next trip!