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Enchanted Lakes, Washington Enchanted Lakes, Washington Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Welcome to the Bigroads ultimate travel guide to Washington! Hopefully this page and its information helps provide some inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip to Washington.

Take note that I build and maintain this website as both a hobby and public service. I take joy in performing travel research and sharing my experiences and adventures. I currently do not make a profit from this website, and you will see no invasive or annoying ads on it. Your constructive feedback about this site and its content is encouraged. Please email me if you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement.

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons


The variety of scenic landscapes found in Washington state is simply incredible, and those landscapes plus the city of Seattle is what pulls most travelers in. Washington has the best rainforests and some of the most stunning mountain scenery in the country. Mount Rainier will blow your socks off if you catch it on a clear day. Washington also has amazing waterfalls and Seattle and Tacoma both have several great museums. The San Juan Islands provide some outstanding boating and whale-watching (killer whales).


Are you short on time or struggling to choose something to do or see in Washington state? Here are my selections for the top 10 attractions or experiences in Washington, in no particular order:

Explore the Paradise area of Mount Rainer National Park, preferably on foot on a clear and sunny day when the mountain is visible
Spend a few days and nights exploring Seattle, one of the top tourist cities in the U.S.
Stay in or near Port Townsend and explore the diverse terrain of Olympic National Park (e.g. mountains, beaches, rainforest, hot springs, etc.)
Go on an orca/killer whale-watching boat tour around the San Juan Islands
Visit some of Washington's world-class waterfalls (e.g. Snoqualmie Falls, Palouse Falls, Panther Creek Falls, etc.)
Shop at one of the U.S.'s most famous public marketplaces at Pike Place Market in Seattle
See the most active volcano in the continental U.S. at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Marvel at the stunning art of the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum in Seattle
Visit the lovely Bavarian village of Leavenworth and take a hike in the nearby mountains while you're there
Catch a concert at the outstanding outdoor Gorge Amphitheater in George

If I could select only one place to visit in Washington, I would choose Mount Rainier National Park. It contains some of the finest mountain scenery in the U.S. For many visitors, Mt. Rainier will be the largest mountain they'll ever seen. It's the size of entire mountain ranges in other parts of the country. Start with the "Paradise" area of the national park, and then go from there.

Interested in discovering great attractions in other U.S. states? My 10 Great Attractions in Each U.S. State guide covers the best attractions from coast-to-coast. And here is a guide to the best One-Week Vacations in the U.S..


Here is my opinionated list of 5-star attractions in Washington state. Here is my opinionated list of 5-star attractions in Washington state. I believe each of these attractions should be on your Washington state bucket list since they are all noteworthy from a national perspective:

Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington (including Olympia and Port Angeles)
Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island - attractive forested gardens
Cape Flattery, Makah Indian Reservation - rugged coastal views from the most northwesterly tip of the contiguous lower 48 states
Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, Sequim - excellent bird-watching and a scenic view of a sand spit from an elevated platform
Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend - historic coastal fort plus high bluffs with scenic views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca
Hands on Children's Museum, Olympia - excellent children's museum
Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park - one of the finest remaining temperate rainforests in the U.S.
Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park - take a scenic drive to see even more mountain views
Olympic National Park - one of the most diverse national parks in the U.S, with beautiful mountains, beaches, rainforests and more
Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park - scenic beach with sea stacks; wilderness camping possible with a permit
Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park - scenic beach with sea stacks; you can explore the beach for several miles
Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park - multi-channel waterfall in a lush forest landscape
Olympic Discovery Trail - cycle one of Washington's best rail trails; 130+ miles long, and some segments are paved

Seattle (see above and below for the rest of northwestern Washington)
Benaroya Hall - concert performance venue and the home of the Seattle Symphony
Chihuly Garden and Glass - the finest glass art museum in the U.S.
Discovery Park - the largest green space in Seattle
Downtown Seattle - walkable area with tons of things to see, do, and eat
Freemont Troll - famous roadside attraction of a giant troll under a bridge; a can't miss Seattle attraction if you like weird/odd things
Gas Works Park - public park on the site of an old gasification plant (which you can see the ruins of)
Guided food tours - several companies in Seattle offer excellent guided food tasting tours
Kerry Park - offers beautiful views of the Seattle skyline
Lumen Field - home of the Seattle Seahawks NFL team and also several major league soccer teams
Museum of Flight - one of the best aircraft museums in the U.S.
Pac-Man Park - a small park with pavement that has been painted as a Pac-Man video game
Pike Place Market - one of the U.S.'s most famous public marketplaces
Seattle Center/Space Needle - an extremely popular arts, educational, tourism, and entertainment center
Sky View Observatory - the best observation deck/scenic views in Seattle
T-Mobile Park - an excellent MLB baseball park; home of the Seattle Mariners; formerly known as Safeco Field
Woodland Park Zoo - one of the best zoos on the West Coast

Northwestern Washington (including Tacoma; see above for the Olympic Peninsula, Olympia, and Seattle)
Bellevue Botanical Garden, Bellevue - one of the best botanical gardens in the Northwest
Bob's Java Jive, Tacoma - a diner shaped like a giant coffee pot; a classic roadside attraction
Canopy Tour Northwest, Camano Island - excellent zip-lining tours
Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Tacoma - 500-foot pedestrian bridge featuring beautiful glass art
Deception Pass State Park, Oak Harbor - a nature park with great views, old-growth forests, and good wildlife watching
Fairhaven Historic District, Bellingham - historic tourist district
Future of Flight Aviation Center/Boeing Tour, Mukilteo - excellent aircraft museum and you can take a tour of the Boeing factory
LeMay: America's Car Museum, Tacoma - one of the best auto museums in the U.S.; 350 cars
Lime Kiln State Park, Friday Harbor - coastal park that is one of the very best places for land-based whale-watching in the U.S.
Moran State Park, Olga - you can drive, hike, or cycle up to the summit of Mt. Constitution for great scenic views of the San Juan archipelago
Point Defiance Park, Tacoma - reconstructed fur-trading post plus a zoo and aquarium
Roozengaarde Display Garden, Mount Vernon - beautiful flower displays, including tulips, daffodils, and more
Sea-kayaking the San Juan Islands - one of the premier sea-kayaking destinations in the U.S.
Skydive Snohomish, Snohomish - a gorgeous place to go sky-diving; distant views of Mount Rainier
Snoqualmie Falls, Snoqualmie - this 268-foot tall waterfall east of Seattle is one of the most scenic waterfalls in the U.S.
TreeHouse Point, Issaquah - famous overnight treehouse accommodations
Whale-watching around the San Juan Islands / Puget Sound (many companies offer tours) - famous area for spotting killer whales (orcas)
Whatcom Falls Park, Bellingham - pretty nature park with several sets of waterfalls

Southwestern Washington

Ape Cave Lava Tubes, Longview - explore an underground lava tube that goes on for miles; bring a headlamp (and a sense of adventure)
Beacon Rock State Park, Stevenson - hike up a mile-long switchback trail to great views of the Columbia River Gorge
Cape Disappointment State Park, Ilwaco - excellent state park with beaches, two lighthouses, hiking trails, and a campground
Johnson Ridge Observatory, Toutle - interpretive displays and beautiful views of Mount St. Helens from the end of highway WA-504
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument - fascinating volcanic landscapes; adventurous climbers can attempt to reach the summit
World's Largest Egg, Winlock - a famous large roadside attraction
World's Largest Oyster, South Bend - a famous large roadside attraction

Central Washington (including Leavenworth, Mt. Rainer National Park, and North Cascades National Park)

Alpine Lakes Wilderness / Enchantment Lakes - beautiful alpine environments; permits required for some areas
Crystal Mountain Resort, Enumclaw - the largest ski resort in Washington
Downtown Leavenworth - Bavarian town popular with tourists; gateway to many amazing outdoor adventures (e.g. Alpine Lakes Wilderness)
Downtown Winthrop - historic tourist area to the east of North Cascades National Park
Franklin Falls, Snowqualmie Pass - scenic waterfall that is also popular in winter
Gorge Amphitheater, The/The Gorge, George - the #1 or #2 best outdoor concert venue in the U.S.
Leavenworth Nutracker Museum, Leavenworth - a small museum featuring more than 9,000 nutrackers
Leavenworth ZipLines, Leavenworth - excellent zip-lining tours
Mount Baker Ski Area, Deming - one of Washington's best ski areas
Mount Rainier National Park - famous for its gorgeous mountain scenery, waterfalls, historic lodge, world-class hiking, and wildflowers
North Cascades Highway - highly scenic drive through North Cascades National Park (highway WA-20)
North Cascades National Park - features uncrowded and under-appreciated alpine scenery; excellent mountaineering and backcountry skiing
Paradise Inn, Mount Rainier National Park - beautiful lodge in the spectacular Paradise area of the national park
Skamania Lodge Zip Line Tour, Stevenson - excellent zip-lining tours
Snoqualmie Falls, Snoqualmie - one of the most scenic waterfalls in the U.S.; only 30 minutes east of Seattle
Wenatchee – Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort, Wenatchee - one of Washington's best ski areas

Eastern Washington (including Spokane)
Manito Park, Spokane - city park w/arboretum, botanical gardens, & conservatory
Mica Moon Zip Tours, Spokane - excellent zip-lining tours
Palouse Falls, Palouse Falls State Park, Lacrosse - one of the most scenic waterfalls in the U.S.
Riverfront Park, Spokane - excellent public park with several attractions (including Spokane Falls & the Red Wagon); "the gem of Spokane"
Spokane Falls, Spokane - see powerful waterfalls within Riverfront Park

There is also fantastic whitewater rafting on many rivers in Washington (e.g. Methow River, Sauk River, Skykomish River, Tieton River, Wenatchee River, White Salmon River, etc.). I didn't bother including them in the lists above since there are roughly a dozen rivers that you can raft in Washington state.

Are you aware of any other 5-star attractions in Washington state? If so, please email me at

Discover 5-star attractions in neighboring states using these state guides:  ID  |  OR


These towns and cities in Washington are generally regarded as the most interesting to travelers:

Anacortes - a small coastal city with great boating opportunities and coastal views; historic downtown area; gateway to the San Juan Islands
Bellingham - a medium-sized coastal city with great boating and coastal views; historic downtown area; gateway to the San Juan Islands
Chelan - a picturesque lakeside town on Lake Chelan; popular for water sports and fishing; several nearby wineries
Friday Harbor - a small town that offers great kayaking and whale-watching; accessible by boat or seaplane only; Lime Kiln Point SP is here
Gig Harbor - a small town with great views of Mt. Rainier from a picturesque harbor; good boating; walkable waterfront; maritime history
Leavenworth - a small Bavarian-themed tourist town with many shops & restaurants; gateway to outdoor recreation (e.g. Alpine Wilderness)
Port Townsend - a small city that is a major gateway to Olympic National Park; full of Victorian architecture, art galleries and tourist shops
Seattle - a majority city famous for its many tourist attractions, museums, professional sports, and museums; a "coffee-lovers paradise"
Winthrop - a small town with a lively historic downtown area that has several shops and restaurants; eastern gateway to the North Cascades

My favorite city in Washington is Seattle - I recommend that first-time visitors spend at least 2-3 nights there

My favorite small town in Washington is Leavenworth - I recommend that first-time visitors spend at least 1-2 nights there. You should spend more time than that if you plan on doing some of the outstanding outdoor adventures offered in the area (e.g. hiking in the Alpine Wilderness).

If you want to visit North Cascadses National Park, stay in nearby Winthrop.
If you want to visit Mt. Rainier National Park, stay inside the national park (e.g. Paradise Inn) or in nearby Ashford.
If you want to visit Olympic National Park, stay inside the national park (in one of several lodges) or in nearby Port Angeles.

Read my Favorite Places in the U.S. Guide to find new and interesting towns and cities across the country.


Here are some things that Washington is famous or well known for:

alpine lakes
aerospace industry
evergreen forests
fish markets / throwing fish (e.g. Pike's Place Market)
glaciers / glaciated mountains
glass art / blown glass
grunge rock / grunge movement
lavender farms
orcas / killer whales / whale-watching tours
rain forests
tech companies

Visit my What is Each U.S. State Famous For? guide to explore the unique characteristics of other states.


There are three national parks and many other federally-managed parks and /properties in Washington, including:

National Parks
Mount Rainer National Park - one of the premier national parks in the U.S.; features outstanding mountain scenery, including majestic waterfalls and glaciers; also features overnight accommodations in a historic lodge, several scenic drives, world-class hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering, and several drive-in campgrounds
North Cascades National Park - offers excellent scenic drives with dramatic mountain scenery; many remote hiking, backpacking, backcountry skiing, and mountaineering opportunities exist
Olympic National Park - outstanding mountain, coastline, and rainforest scenery; several beautiful waterfalls and scenic drives; great hiking and backpacking trails

National Monuments
Hanford Reach National Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument - active stratovolcano in southwestern Washington; adventurous climbers can reach the top
San Juan Islands National Monument

National Forests
Colville National Forest
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Idaho Panhandle National Forest
Kaniksu National Forest
Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest
Okanogan–Wenatchee National Forest
Olympic National Forest
Umatilla National Forest

National Recreation Areas
Lake Chelan National Recreation Area
Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area
Ross Lake National Recreation Area

National Historical Parks / Other National Parks
Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail
Klondike Gold-Rush Seattle Unit National Historical Park
Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
Lewis & Clark National Historical Park
Manhattan Project National Historical Park
Minidoka National Historic Site
Nez Perce National Historical Park
Oregon National Historic Trail
San Juan Islands National Historical Park
Whitman Mission National Historic Site

There are also nearly two dozen national wildlife refuges in Washington state.

For more information on Washington's national parks, visit the Washington page of the National Park Service. For an overview of all of America's national parks, explore my U.S. National Parks Guide.


Washington has a staggering amount of state parks-more than 100! Many would agree that these represent Washington's finest state parks:

Flagship / Premier State Parks:
Cape Disappointment State Park - old growth forests; lakes; ocean shoreline; Lewis & Clark history; good hiking, fishing, and camping
Deception Pass State Park - most visited state park in WA; shoreline coves and cliffs; 30+ miles of hiking trails; biking & horseback trails
Moran State Park - large park on Orcas Island with hiking and biking trails; camping; great views from stone observation tower
Palouse Falls State Park - one of the best waterfalls in the U.S.: the falls sit in an impressive desert setting

Other Notable State Parks:
Beacon Rock State Park - hike up switchbacks to the top of 848ft Beacon Rock; other hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails; campground
Fort Worden State Park - historic park with hiking and biking trails; camping and boating too
Lime Kiln State Park - famous spot to watch for passing orcas/killer whales; walking trails
Mount Spokane State Park - lots of hiking, biking, X-C skiing, and horseback riding trails; panoramic views from Mt. Spokane
Wallace Falls State Park - hike to one of Washington's best waterfalls; miles of hiking and biking trails; cabin rentals

My favorite state park in Washington is Deception Pass State Park.

Find the best state parks across the country using my Top 100 State Parks in the U.S. guide.


Washington has literally thousands of natural waterfalls. Here are some of the best waterfalls in Washington that are either visible from the road or accessible by trail (meaning none of these require bushwhacking or off-trail adventures):

Olympic National Park and surrounding area (northwestern WA)
Madison Creek Falls
Marymere Falls
Murhut Falls
Sol Duc Falls

Mount Rainier National Park
Comet Falls
Myrtle Falls
Narada Falls
Spray Falls

Central Washington
Franklin Falls in Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest - this waterfall is gorgeous even in winter (when snowshoes will likely be needed)
Snoqualmie Falls in Snoqualmie - a nice day trip from Seattle (30 minutes east)
Twin Falls in Olallie State Park
Wallace Falls in Wallace Falls State Park

Southern Washington
Fall Creek Falls in Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Lewis River Falls in Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Panther Creek Falls in Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Eastern Washington (including Spokane)
Spokane Falls in Riverfront Park - these falls have a dam directly above them, so it's not an entirely natural scene

Southeastern Washington
Palouse Falls in Palouse Falls State Park, LaCrosse

You could spend a lifetime waterfall hunting in the Pacific Northwest, especially if you are willing and able to go off-trail and do some bushwhacking. The list above is just a sampling of what the great waterfalls in this region.

For a listing of all known waterfalls in Washington, visit the World Waterfall Database website.

Chase more waterfalls across the country with my Best Waterfalls in the U.S. guide.


Here is a list of the best scenic drives in Washington:

Chinook Scenic Byway/WA-410 - a seasonal 85-mile paved route from Enumclaw to Naches that runs just to the east of Mount Rainier
Hurricane Ridge Road, Olympic National Park - a 17-mile paved route from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge; limited access in winter
Mount Baker Scenic Byway/WA-542 - a seasonal 24-mile paved route from Glacier to Artist Point in the Mount Baker Wilderness
North Cascades Highway/WA-20 - a seasonal 128-mile paved route from Sedro-Wooley to Winthrop; can be extended via the 'Cascade Loop'
Ricksecker Point Road, Mt. Rainier National Park - a seasonal 1-mile one-way paved route offering two great views of Mt. Rainier
Spirit Lake Memorial Highway/WA-504 - a seasonal 52-mile paved route from Castle Rock/I-5 until the road ends in Mount St. Helens NVM
White Pass Scenic Byway/US-12 - a 120-mile paved route from Marys Corner to Naches via Gifford Pinchot and Wenatchee National Forests

I-90 from Seattle across Snoqualmie Pass is also quite scenic, and I was close to including it in the list above.

Although the the Olympic Peninsula Loop offers many stops/trailheads and side excursions along its route, the drive itself really isn't on par with those listed above. The 37-mile Sherman Pass Scenic Byway on US-20 from Republic to US-395 is also a lovely drive, but again, it's not as scenic as the roads mentioned above. The same is also true with the Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway.

Discover great scenic drives across the country with my Best Scenic Drives in the U.S. guide.


Here is a list of some of the best rail trails (or similar cycling paths) in Washington:

Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington (including Olympia and Port Angeles)
Chehalis Western Trail
Olympic Discovery Trail

Northwestern Washington (including Seattle; excludes the Olympic Peninsula and Olympia)
Burke-Gilman Trail - this trail is often rated one of the best rail trails in the U.S.
Cascade Trail
Green River Trail
Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail
Sammamish River Trail
Snohomish County Centennial Trail

Central Washington (including Leavenworth, Mt. Rainer National Park, and North Cascades National Park)
Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail
Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail

Eastern Washington (including Spokane)
Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail

For detailed information on all known rail trails in Washington, visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.


Washington only has a few notable amusement parks. The best amusement parks in Washington include:

Slidewaters, Chelan - a water park in central Washington
Surf 'n Slide Water Park, Moses Lake - a water park in central Washington
Wild Waves Theme & Water Park, Federal Way - located near Tacoma (roughly 30-45 minutes south of Seattle)

The biggest amusement park in Washington is the Wild Waves Theme & Water Park near Tacoma. This park has several rollercoasters and a good number of water slides.


Washington has many excellent museums. The best museums in Washington include:

Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington (including Olympia and Port Angeles)
Hands On Children's Museum, Olympia
USS Turner Joy Museum Ship, Bremerton

Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle
Museum of Flight, Seattle
Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle

Northwestern Washington (including Tacoma; see above for the Olympic Peninsula, Olympia, and Seattle)
Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum, Everett
LeMay-America's Car Museum, Tacoma
Museum of Glass, Tacoma
Pacific Bonsai Museum, Federal Way
Whale Museum, Friday Harbor


Washington state has thousands of miles of hiking trails, many of which are world-class in their scenic value. Here are some of the premier day hikes in Washington state:

Olympic National Park and surrounding area (northwestern WA)
Hurricane Hill
Klahhane Ridge Trail to Lake Angeles
Marymere Falls Trail
Mount Ellinor Trail, Olympic National Forest
Mount Storm King
Rialto Beach / Hole in the Wall
Second Beach
Shi Shi Beach
Sol Duc Falls
Spruce Nature Trail & Hall Of Moses, Hoh Rainforest
Third Beach

North Cascades National Park and surrounding area (northcentral WA)
Cascade Pass, North Cascades National Park
Chain Lakes Loop, Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
Desolation Peak, North Cascades National Park
Hidden Lake Lookout, North Cascades National Park
Maple Pass Loop, North Cascades National Park
Maple Pass Trail, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Park Butte/Railroad Grade/Scott Paul Trail, North Cascades National Park

Mount Rainier National Park (central WA)
Burroughs Mountain Loop
Comet Falls
Crystal Peak
Gobbler's Knob
Mount Freemont Lookout
Myrtle Falls
Pinnacle Peak
Skyline Trail Loop
Spray Park
Tolmie Peak Trail

Central Washington
Colchuk & Stuart Lakes, Alpine Lakes Wilderness/Wenatchee National Forest
Franklin Falls Trail, Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
High Rock Lookout Trail, Tahoma State Forest
Kendall Katwalk, Alpine Lakes Wilderness / Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Mailbox Peak, Middle Fork Snoqualmie Natural Resources Conservation Area
Mount Pilchuck Trail, Mount Pilchuck State Park
Mount Si Trail, Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area
Rattlesnake Ledge, Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area
Wallace Falls, Wallace Falls State Park

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument (southcentral WA)
Ape Cave Trail
Boundary Trail
Harry's Ridge Trail
Mount St. Helens - permits are required to climb this volcano (obtain well in advance as they do sell out)

Southern Washington
Beacon Rock Trail, Beacon Rock State Park

The highpoint of Washington is Mt. Rainier (14,411'). A challenging and potentially dangerous multi-day mountaineering expedition is the norm for reaching this summit. This is a professional climb that requires training. RMI Expeditions is a local guiding company that has been climbing the peak for decades.

To find more hikes in Washington or to learn more about the hikes I've listed above, I recommend purchasing hiking guidebooks on Amazon (or from your local retailer). Another option is using AllTrails, but you have to be very careful when using that website as its information is sometimes wrong or incomplete. Published hiking guidebooks will likely always be significantly better than the information you find online.


Washington offers some of the very best backpacking opportunities in the country. Some of premier backpacking routes/areas in Washington include:

Olympic National Park and surrounding area (northwestern WA)
Enchanted Valley, Olympic National Park
Hoh River Trail / Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park
North Wilderness Beach, Olympic National Park
Royal Basin, Olympic National Park
Seven Lakes Basin Loop, Olympic National Park
Shi Shi Beach, Olympic National Park
Third Beach-Hoh River Wilderness Beach, Olympic National Park

North Cascades National Park and surrounding area (northcentral WA)
Cathedral Basin, Pasayten Wilderness/Okanogan National Forest
Desolation Peak, North Cascades National Park
Gothic Basin, North Cascades National Park
Hannegan Peak & Copper Ridge, North Cascades National Park
Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

Mount Rainier National Park (central WA)
Carbon River to Mystic Lake, Mount Rainier National Park
Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park

Central Washington
Enchantment Lakes, Alpine Lakes Wilderness / Wenatchee National Forest
Ice Lakes, Glacier Peak Wilderness / Wenatchee National Forest
Image Lake, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

Southern Washington
Loowit Loop Trail, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

Permits are required for many of the backpacking routes listed above, and some are incredibly difficult to obtain due to strong demand. The weather window is also very short for most of the hikes listed above (with July-September being the general season for most of them).


Washington offers many excellent adventures, including these classics:

Backpacking the Enchantment Lakes/Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail
Backpacking the Wonderland Trail
Backcountry skiing Mt. Baker
Backcountry skiing Mount Rainier National Park
Backcountry skiing North Cascades National Park
Canoeing/kayaking the Pend Oreille River
Cycling the Burke-Gilman Trail
Cycling the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail
Day hiking the Burroughs Mountain Loop
Day hiking to Cascade Pass in North Cascades National Park
Day hiking the Enchantment Lakes/Alpine Lakes Wilderness - this is a long, hard hike and two vehicles is needed!
Day hiking to Hidden Lake Lookout in North Cascades National Park
Day hiking the Kendall Katwalk on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)
Day hiking the Maple Pass Loop in North Cascades National Park
Day hiking Mount St. Helens
Day hiking the Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier National Park
Hot air ballooning in Burien, Snohomish, or Woodinville
Kayaking the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
Kayaking on Lake Chelan - some campsites can be found along the lakeshore
Kayaking in Port Angeles
Kayaking the San Juan Islands (e.g. Cascadia Marine Trail)
Mountain biking the Plains of Abraham - designated by IMBA as an "epic" mountain biking trail
Mountain biking Ape Canyon / Plains of Abraham on the south side of Mt. St. Helens
Mountain biking Cooney Lake/Angels Staircase/Horsehead Pass loop
Mountain biking Duthie Hill Park
Mountain biking Galbraith Mountain
Mountain biking Kettle Crest Trails in Colville National Forest
Mountain biking Moran State Park
Mountaineering on Mt. Adams
Mountaineering on Mt. Baker
Mountaineering on Glacier Peak
Mountaineering on Mt. Olympus
Mountaineering on Mt. Rainier
Mountaineering on Mt. Shuksan
Rock climbing in/near Index
Rock climbing in/near Leavenworth (e.g. The Enchantments, Icicle Creek Canyon, etc.)
Rock climbing in North Cascades National Park
Sea-plane rides in Renton
Snowmobiling in/near Leavenworth
Skydiving in Chelan, Ritzville, Shelton, Snohomish, or Toledo
Whitewater rafting the Hoh River
Whitewater rafting the Klickitat River
Whitewater rafting the Methow River
Whitewater rafting the Nooksack River
Whitewater rafting the Sauk River
Whitewater rafting the Skagit River-Upper
Whitewater rafting the Skykomish River
Whitewater rafting the Sol Duc River
Whitewater rafting the Spokane River
Whitewater rafting the Suiattle River
Whitewater rafting the Tieton River
Whitewater rafting the Wenatchee River
Whitewater rafting the White Salmon River
Whitewater rafting the Wind River
Whitewater rafting the Yakima River

For more information on Washington's whitewater rafting trips, see my U.S. Whitewater Rafting guide.


There are more than 15 ski/snowboard resorts in Washington. These ski resorts are generally considered the best in the state:

Premier Ski/Snowboarding Resorts:
49 Degrees North Mountain Resort - 75 trails; 1,851ft vertical drop; 5,774ft summit
Crystal Mountain - 57 trails; 3,100ft vertical drop; 7,012ft summit
Mission Ridge - 36 trails; 2,250ft vertical drop; 6,820ft summit
Mt. Baker Ski Area - 38 trails; 1,500ft vertical drop; 4,300ft summit
Stevens Pass - 37 trails; 1,800ft vertical drop; 5,845ft summit

Other Notable Ski/Snowboarding Resorts:
Mt. Spokane - 52 trails; 2,000ft vertical drop; 5,889ft summit
White Pass - 45 trails; 2,050ft vertical drop; 6,550ft summit
The Summit at Snoqualmie - 65 trails; 1,025ft vertical drop; 3,865ft summit

Crystal Mountain is the largest ski resort in Washington.

The Summit at Snoqualmie includes four mountain bases, three of which (Summit East, Summit Central, and Summit West) are all adjacent. The fourth base is Alpental, but it's on the other side of I-90. Alpental has the steepest terrain of the four.


For offbeat and unique Washington attractions, visit one or both of these amazing websites: Atlas Obscura and Roadside America

Vancouver, Canada is only 3.5 hours north of Seattle away. You'll obviously need a passport if you wish to visit Vancouver. Canada may have other entry restrictions as well.

If you are visiting southwestern Washington, you should also consider visiting Portland, Oregon and/or the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.


Here are some unique / specialty foods to try while you are in Washington:

coffee houses
crab louis
seafood chowder
smoked salmon

For a list of unique foods and mom-and-pop type eateries and restaurants in Washington (or any other U.S. state), visit the website.
For a list of unique foods to try in each U.S. state, explore my Road Trip Food guide.
For a list of the top-rated beers to try in Washington (or any other U.S. state), visit the Beer Advocate website.


Here is some helpful key information about Washington:

State Capital:

Major Airports:
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is by far the largest airport in Washington; Spokane International Airport (GEG) is a distant second

Largest Cities:
Seattle (762,687), Spokane (233,003), Tacoma (223,536), Vancouver (196,739), Bellevue (157,752)

Primary U.S. Interstates:
I-5, I-82, I-90

State Highpoint:
Mount Rainier (14,411') in Mount Rainier National Park; a serious mountaineering effort is required to reach the summit

Professional Sports Teams:
MLB: Seattle Mariners
NFL: Seattle Seahawks
NHL: Seattle Kraken
WNBA: Seattle Storm

Funny or Unique Town/City Names:
Big Bottom, George (aka " George Washington"), Humptulips, Tillicum, and Walla Walla

Take note that in general this travel guide intentionally excluded restaurants, lodging/hotels, breweries, wineries/vineyards, and certain other types of attractions (like arcades, ax-throwing, bowling alleys, and escape rooms). These types of places tend to come and go, and keeping up with that would be too challenging. I encourage you to use Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and other travel sites that have reader reviews to find the latest and greatest places that I haven't covered here.

Enchantment Lakes, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Enchantment Lakes area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington

Enchantment Lakes, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Enchantment Lakes area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington

Skyline Trail, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Enchantment Lakes, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Enchantment Lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington

The Gorge concert venue in George, Washington
The Gorge concert venue in George, Washington

the famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington
the famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington

North Cascades Scenic Highway, Washington
North Cascades Scenic Highway, Washington


In addition to the information found on my website, I personally recommend purchasing these road trip/travel-related guidebooks. Click on any link to read reviews and/or purchase these books on (affiliate).

Fodor's Bucket List USA (1st edition; 2021)
Moon USA State by State (1st edition; 2021)
Your Guide to the National Parks (3rd edition; 2022)
Road Trip USA (9th edition; 2021)


Did you enjoy this state travel guide? If so, here are links to more of my comprehensive U.S. state travel guides:

Alabama Maryland Oregon
Arizona Massachusetts Pennsylvania
Arkansas Michigan Rhode Island
California Minnesota South Carolina
Colorado Mississippi South Dakota
Connecticut Missouri Tennessee
Delaware Montana Texas
Florida Nebraska Utah
Georgia Nevada Vermont
Idaho New Hampshire Virginia
Illinois New Jersey Washington
Indiana New Mexico Washington DC
Iowa New York West Virginia
Kansas North Carolina Wisconsin
Kentucky North Dakota Wyoming
Louisiana Ohio  
Maine Oklahoma  

As an Amazon Associates affiliate, this website contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any products after clicking any link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. I only endorse products that I have personally used or those that come highly recommended by trusted peers.

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