This article originally appeared on PCH1 Road Trip: Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip & Travel Guide and has been republished with permission.
Planning a Washington State road trip and looking for the perfect Washington State road trip itinerary? Find must-visit attractions including Seattle, the Olympic Peninsula, Mt. Rainier, and North Cascades. You might also like our post Best Things to do in Washington State.
Welcome to our Washington Road Trip Planner! Whether you are planning a Tacoma or Seattle road trip or want to skip the cities and instead go on a Washington Coast Road Trip, we have got you covered! You can use our itinerary to plan the best road trip in Washington State.
In this itinerary, we recommend spending anywhere from 7 to 10 days to see the highlights at a leisurely pace. We suggest beginning this one-week road trip from Seattle because it is easy to fly in and has excellent connectivity.
Then explore the state’s natural beauty! Visit Cascades National Park and Ross Lake before making your way to Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula to complete an epic Washington State National Parks itinerary.
We have also given suggestions to have a short 4 day WA road trip or ways to plan a flexible, longer two week WA road trip itinerary that explores the petrified forest trails of eastern Washington.
If you want to explore Highway 101 Washington State attractions and head further south along the Beaver State coast, then we even have suggestions to convert this into a terrific Oregon Washington PNW Road Trip Itinerary!
And with that, let’s get to planning your best Pacific Northwest road trip ever. We hope you like our WA road trip planner!
Ultimate Washington State Road Trip Itinerary
Washington is one of the most unique states in the country! It has a magical rainforest and trees so big that they tower above all others. It has Seattle, a trendy bohemian city, and Tacoma, a paradise for art lovers!
Washington has summer wildflowers, deep blue glacier lakes, snow-clad mountain ranges, and stunning hiking trails. It also has a desert and petrified trees in its eastern part!
Washington, honestly, is one of the best states to visit. You can’t road trip WA without getting overwhelmed and excited at the beauty that surrounds you at every place. No wonder, it’s nicknamed the ‘Evergreen State’!
Known as the Emerald City, Seattle is one of the most charming cities in the country. It is a tech and culture capital. The city is also famous for its coffee houses and everyone’s favorite Starbucks started right here! The city enjoys an amazing location on the Puget Sound and water activities abound in the city.
After seeing Seattle, drive northwards along the coastline to Bellingham. This coastal city is closer to the Canadian border than to any other major US city. Located in the shadow of Mt. Baker, Bellingham is an important port for Alaska cruises. The city is charming and has plenty of outdoor excursions for enthusiasts.
North Cascades National Park
From Bellingham, take the road to North Cascades National Park. The distance is merely an hour and a half. North Cascades has stunning alpine scenery and abundant wildlife. Here you will find frozen glaciers, volcanic peaks, turquoise lakes, waterfalls, and stunning views. On the summer, you will find berry laden and flower filled meadows. Take a scenic drive or two or go hiking and camping in the park to explore its delights.
Optional: Ross Lake National Recreation Area
A part of the Cascades, Ross Lake National Recreation Area is definitely worth the visit if you have time. This glacier fed lake is extremely picturesque. To get the most iconic view of this turquoise lake surrounded by the mountain ranges, stop by the overlooks on Highway 20. Rent a boat to get on the lake or stay in a cabin by its shores to enjoy this spectacular landscape.
Optional: Lake Chelan National Recreation Area
Also a part of the North Cascades National Park units, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is also great to stop. This is one of the most remote areas in the country and has no accessible roads! That’s right, you need to take a ferry from the town of Chelan to access the area and its attractions. But the untouched nature here is the reward for your efforts!
We definitely recommend adding the Bavarian alpine town of Leavenworth on your Washington State bucket list. Located in the Cascade mountains, Leavenworth has intriguing history. Take a stroll along the pretty chalet architecture and indulge in Bavarian delicacies. If you happen to plan a winter time Washington State road trip, then you will find Leavenworth even prettier, sporting stunning holiday decor.
Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park
Forget the snowy mountains and the foggy coast. Step foot into eastern Washington’s arid desert. Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park and the adjacent Wanapum Recreation Area are unique geological attractions. Here you can see many species of petrified wood and Native American petroglyphs. The on site museum explains the unique history of the park.
From the state park, start driving west towards the famous Mt Rainier National Park.
Mt Rainier National Park
Mt. Rainier provides the fascinating backdrop to the Seattle skyline. This iconic peak and its surrounded meadows are preserved as a part of Mt. Rainier National Park. The park has enchanting scenery and the wildflowers that bloom here during the summer are simply incredible. You really cannot complete a Washington State road trip without visiting the famous Mt Rainier.
Mt St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
The volcanic peaks of Mt St Helens offers a special attraction to those who love geology. The Johnston Ridge Observation located very near the crater rim offer splendid views of the volcanic blast area. The views from Johnston Ridge are simply fantastic.
After seeing Mt St. Helens Volcanic Monument, make your way to the Olympic Peninsula. We have also covered all the attractions here in a separate Olympic Peninsula Highway 101 Loop Trip post, we suggest reading that post before you plan your Washington road trip. Here are some of the must-sees in the Olympic peninsula.
Hoh Rainforest, located in Olympic National Park, is a magical and enchanting place. It is one of the largest rainforests in the country and frequently receives over 150 inches of annual rainfall. The trees here grow tall and immense and the mosses and lichens that grow over their trunks and branches provide a canopy so thick that sunlight can barely reach the forest floor.
Another must stop on your Washington Coast road trip! Rialto Beach is popular due its striking sea stacks and driftwood that line the beach. The views of the beach on a foggy day or at sunrise or sunset are just spectacular. This is one of the most Instagram famous destinations along the Washington Coast.
Cape Flattery is the northwesternmost point of mainland USA. Located on the Makah reservation, Cape Flattery viewpoint is an absolutely beautiful place that can be reached by a short mile long trail. From here, you have stunning views of the carved out coastal bluffs, trees that grow right up to the ocean, and marine life.
Located inside Olympic National Park, Lake Crescent is one of the deepest lakes in the country. The lake is located right along Highway 101. The lake waters almost always appear calm and placid, making the lake appear like a glistening mirror, broken by the occasional boat on its surface. Visitors can rent a canoe or a kayak and enjoy the splendid views from the surface.
Olympic Hot Springs
Another must stop on the Olympic Peninsula are Olympic Hot Springs. Drive along the Olympic Hot Springs Road till you reach the trailhead. A moderate 4.8 miles round-trip hike leads visitors to the hot springs. To enjoy the hot springs without hiking, stay at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and enjoy the lukewarm water in the comfort of a pool.
Olympic National Park is unique and diverse. It encompasses everything from the coastal bluffs to the icy mountain ranges. To experience the towering peaks on the Olympic Peninsula, visit Hurricane Ridge. Here you can ski and snowboard in the winter and go hiking in the summer.
Port Angeles & Port Townsend
Port Angeles and Port Townsend, both, make excellent places to stay while visiting the Olympic Peninsula. Port Angeles is big and bustling while Port Townsend is a small Victorian community with quaint buildings and architecture. Here’s a little information about both destinations, we recommend spending some time in both to enjoy their vibes.
Port Angeles makes a great vacation destination with it’s proximity to the national park and other outdoor attractions as well as a variety of indoor attractions. Visit the art galleries, Feiro Marine Life Center, Olympic Coast Discovery Center, and more in the city. You can also tour nearby wineries and go wine tasting.
Sequim, which is located close to Port Angeles, as well as the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge are also worth visiting while in the area. From here you can have excellent views of the San Juan Islands. Sequim is famous for its lavender farms.
After visiting the park and Port Angeles, visit Port Townsend. This charming town enjoys a strategic location on the Puget Sound. It is most famous for the Victorian houses that can be found throughout the town. Check them out as well as the well maintained gardens, stroll through downtown, and spend time at the marina. From here, you can also go on whale watching tours.
After seeing the Olympic peninsula, head back to Seattle. You can either take the ferry back from Port Townsend or continue along Highway 101 to Olympia and Tacoma before reaching Seattle.
Olympia is the state capital of Washington. It is located on the southern end of Puget Sound in the shadows of Mount Rainier. Olympia’s main attraction is the Washington State Capitol building. You can tour the grounds as well as the interior and admire this beautiful structure. Also check out the farmers market and the Olympia waterfront area.
Tacoma is one of the most culturally buzzing destinations in the state. It’s museums are equal to those of Seattle. Tacoma is also the state’s largest port city and was once the western terminal of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Visit the famous Tacoma Glass Museum and admire the unique glass artwork. Visit Fort Nisqually and learn about Lewis and Clark at the Washington State History Museum. Tacoma also has many restaurants and cafes and a diverse dining scene.
If you have more time, you can also make a day trip to Snoqualmie Falls from Seattle.
Optional: Snoqualmie Falls
While Snoqualmie Falls need you to make a detour from this Washington Road Trip, they are certainly worth a visit. Located just half an hour away from Seattle, they make an excellent outdoor destination. The 268 foot waterfalls are beautiful to look at. You can hike to the Upper Falls Viewpoint or have a picnic in view of the lower falls. The falls are very scenic and make a great addition to your Washington itinerary.
Optional: Drive south to Portland
If you want to go on just a western Washington road trip, then you can see Seattle, Tacoma, Olympic Peninsula and then drive south along Highway 101 to Oregon Coast.
Oregon Coast is even more dramatic and wild than the Washington Coast. In northern Oregon you have sea stacks, in the Central Oregon Coast, you have towering sand dunes, while in southern Oregon, you have the giant redwood trees.
See the highlights of the coast, then make your way to the unique city of Portland. Read the below articles to plan the Oregon part of your road trip:
We hope you liked our Washington road trip itinerary. Did we miss any major attractions in Washington state? Let us know in the comments.