Seattle is not just about the iconic Space Needle, the bustling Pike Place Market, or its rich coffee culture. It’s also the perfect starting point for some of the most breathtaking road trips in the Pacific Northwest. From majestic mountains and serene lakes to charming towns and verdant forests, these routes offer a little something for every traveller. Having driven through these routes myself, I can assure you that each trip promises a unique blend of adventure and beauty. So as part of our Seattle travel tips, buckle up and let’s hit the road!

Road Trip Safety

Before we dive into the scenic splendours, let’s talk about road trip safety. T-bone collisions, or broadside collisions, occur when a vehicle hits another from the side, forming a letter T. Victims of these accidents only have the door to shield themselves from impact and are at risk of severe injury or death.

In fact, T-bone collisions account for 18% of accident fatalities in the country. Knowing how to avoid such accidents and what steps to take if you’re involved in one is crucial. Always drive defensively, be aware of your surroundings, and know the emergency procedures to follow should the worst happen. Now, let’s get back to planning your adventure!

The North Cascades Highway

If you’re looking for a journey that combines dramatic landscapes with tranquil stops, the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) is your go-to. Imagine winding through jagged mountain peaks, past turquoise lakes, and dense forests. This route is like nature’s roller coaster, with every twist and turn unveiling a new vista.

Key Stops:

  • Diablo Lake: With its striking teal waters, Diablo Lake is a photographer’s dream. The colour is thanks to glacial flour, and trust me, it’s as mesmerising in person as it is in photos.
  • Washington Pass: The highest point on the highway offers panoramic views that are nothing short of awe-inspiring.
  • North Cascades National Park: Often called the “American Alps,” this park is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.

Activities: Hiking, photography, and simply soaking in the serene beauty. Just a tip – keep an eye out for wildlife; I once had a close encounter with a curious deer here!

Watch this video to get a glimpse:

Olympic Peninsula Loop

The Olympic Peninsula Loop is like stepping into a nature documentary. This route takes you through a variety of ecosystems, from rugged coastlines and lush rainforests to alpine peaks.

Key Stops:

  • Hurricane Ridge: With its sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains, it’s a perfect spot for a picnic.
  • Hoh Rainforest: One of the few temperate rainforests in the US, it feels like entering another world.
  • Rialto Beach: Known for its dramatic sea stacks and tide pools, it’s a great place to explore or just relax.

Activities: Hiking, beachcombing, and exploring rainforests. If you’re into photography, the foggy mornings can provide some ethereal shots.

Watch this video to get a glimpse:

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier is not just a mountain; it’s a legend. This active stratovolcano is an omnipresent figure on the Seattle skyline, and driving up to it is like visiting an old friend.

Key Stops:

  • Paradise: Aptly named, this area offers stunning wildflower meadows in the summer.
  • Sunrise: The highest point reachable by car in the park, with unbeatable views of the mountain.
  • Grove of the Patriarchs: A short hike that takes you through ancient, towering trees.

Activities: Hiking, wildlife viewing, and just standing in awe of nature’s grandeur. On my visit, I saw a black bear (from a safe distance, of course) and it was the highlight of my trip!

Watch this road trip that ended at Mount Rainier:

Whidbey Island and Deception Pass

Just a short ferry ride from Seattle, Whidbey Island is the epitome of quaint charm. The drive itself is peaceful and offers a pleasant escape from city life.

Key Stops:

  • Deception Pass Bridge: The views from here are nothing short of spectacular.
  • Ebey’s Landing: Offers beautiful coastal hikes with sweeping views of the Puget Sound.
  • Langley: A charming town perfect for a leisurely stroll.

Activities: Exploring small towns, beach walks, and scenic viewpoints. Don’t miss the mussels in Coupeville – they’re the best I’ve ever had!

Check out this video to get a glimpse:

Leavenworth and the Cascade Loop

Leavenworth is like taking a trip to Bavaria without leaving Washington. The Cascade Loop takes you through diverse landscapes, from lush forests to arid canyons.

Key Stops:

  • Leavenworth: This Bavarian-themed village is perfect for a fun, kitschy stop.
  • Stevens Pass: Offers stunning mountain views and great hiking trails.
  • Wenatchee: Known as the “Apple Capital of the World,” it’s a great place for fresh produce and local wine.

Activities: Wine tasting, exploring the Bavarian village, and river rafting. The Christmas lights in Leavenworth are a magical sight, so plan a winter trip if you can.

San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands are all about serenity and natural beauty. A short ferry ride from Anacortes takes you to a world of idyllic island life.

Key Stops:

  • Friday Harbor: The main hub, with its charming shops and restaurants.
  • Lime Kiln Point: One of the best places in the world to watch orcas from the shore.
  • Orcas Island: Known for its stunning Moran State Park and Mount Constitution.

Activities: Whale watching, kayaking, and visiting local farms. The islands are also great for cycling – just beware of the hilly terrain!

Watch this video to learn more:

Yakima Valley Wine Country

For wine enthusiasts, Yakima Valley is a must-visit. The drive is scenic, with rolling vineyards and orchards.

Key Stops:

  • Yakima: The heart of the valley, with numerous wineries and tasting rooms.
  • Zillah: Known for its unique wineries and quirky attractions like the Teapot Dome.
  • Red Mountain AVA: Offers some of the best wines in the state.

Activities: Wine tasting, vineyard tours, and fruit picking. I recommend visiting during the harvest season for a full sensory experience.

Watch this video to learn more:

Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge is a natural wonder that offers dramatic scenery and a plethora of outdoor activities.

Key Stops:

  • Beacon Rock: A challenging but rewarding hike with panoramic views.
  • Multnomah Falls: Oregon’s tallest waterfall and a must-see.
  • Hood River: A charming town known for its windsurfing and breweries.

Activities: Hiking, windsurfing, and exploring waterfalls. The gorge winds are perfect for kite surfing – though I stuck to admiring the professionals from the shore.

Watch this to learn more:

Summary and Tips for Road Trippers

Here are a few general tips for making your road trip enjoyable and safe:

  • Best times to travel: Spring and summer offer the best weather and longest days.
  • Packing essentials: Don’t forget snacks, a first aid kit, and a good playlist.
  • Safety tips: Always check road conditions and have a backup plan for accommodations.


Road trips from Seattle offer a diverse array of experiences, from majestic mountains and serene islands to charming towns and lush wine country. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, these routes provide the perfect escape. So, grab your keys, gather your favourite travel buddies, and set out on an unforgettable journey. Happy travels!