7 Amazing Must-Do Day Trips From Seattle (2024 Guide)

Looking for fun things to do outside of Seattle? Here are the best day trips from Seattle, including lush natural beauty, fascinating wildlife and so much more!

Seattle is a charming city in the Pacific Northwest. From unique attractions in downtown Seattle to the majestic mountains in the distance, this beautiful city has much to offer.

From the world’s longest floating bridge to being the home base of the first-ever Starbucks situated across from Pike Place Market, Seattle has continued to lure in visitors from all over the world for years.

Its impeccable music scene, arts culture, and top-class schools have given the city a classy and upscale reputation. And its lush forests have tagged Seattle’s name as the “Emerald City” for its unrivaled scenic natural beauty. 

After experiencing Seattle’s iconic architecture, historic landmarks, and culture, it’s time to hit the road and explore more of the Pacific Northwest on a day trip!

Near Seattle are some of the most breathtaking locations in the state of Washington. So if you have a day to spare, try to fit one of these day trips from Seattle into your itinerary!

Check out our list of the best things to do in Seattle so you can make the most of your time in the city!

The 7 Best Day Trips From Seattle

After spending some time in downtown Seattle, head for the surrounding national parks, islands, mountains, and forests. The Pacific Northwest’s natural beauty is unrivaled, and these day trips from Seattle will help you see it with your own eyes.

Public transport is available for these day trips from Seattle, but your best option for exploring the area is renting a car. Having your own vehicle will give you enhanced flexibility and freedom while traveling around!

The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.

Olympic National Park

  • Distance from Seattle: 111 miles/179 km
  • How Long it Takes: 2 Hours

One of the best day trips from Seattle, Olympic National Park is the perfect outdoor getaway from city life’s constant hustle and bustle. 

Thriving with prosperous ecosystems such as a temperate rainforest, pacific coastline, and white mountain peaks topped with snow, this place is a rejuvenating step into the world of nature.

Olympic National Park is frequently said to be three parks in one, thanks to its intriguing combination of ecosystems that lures visitors from Seattle and all over the nation looking to experience the lush nature.

What Is There To See and Do?

As one of the most visited national parks in the nation, Olympic National Park is surprisingly larger than the state of Rhode Island and the very popular Yosemite National Park.

It features wonderful sightseeing opportunities for animal species like flying squirrels, marmots, and the Olympic torrent salamanders, which are endemic to the Olympic Peninsula. 

Along the rocky coastline are whale-watching opportunities for Orca and gray whales during their migratory season in April, May, October, and November. Away from the coastline are the forests and mountains within the park which offer amazing hiking trails and camping spots. 

On this small group tour, you can experience the full splendor of the park with the help of an expert guide to show you the ins and outs of the enchanting Olympic National Park. 

Top sights in the park include:

  • Lake Crescent
  • Hurricane Ridge
  • Rialto Beach
  • Sol Duc River

Popular trails to hike:

  • Hall of Mosses Trailhead
  • Mount Storm King Trail
  • Marymere Falls Trail
  • Sol Duc Falls Trail

Getting There and Away

Driving a car is the fastest way to reach Olympic National Park from Seattle.

The cheapest transportation option is to take the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, then transfer to the Bainbridge Ferry Terminal to ride the bus to Port Angeles Gateway Transit Center. Finally, take the bus to Hurricane Ridge. 

If you don’t mind spending a little more money to avoid all the transfers or renting a car, you can take the bus from Seattle Virginia Mason Hospital to Olympic National Park for a direct route that is only a few hours. 

Best Time Of Year To Visit

The best time to visit Olympic National Park is summer. During this time of year, the weather is mild, and the rainfall is at its lowest average, meaning you can savor the great outdoors.

However, in July and August, the weather typically remains in the high 60s and can drop lower as you hike to higher elevations. So it is recommended to pack warm clothes for this day trip, even in summer!

Olympic National Park
Olympic is one of the USA’s most incredible national parks.

North Cascades National Park 

  • Distance from Seattle: 107 miles/172 km
  • How Long it Takes: 2 Hours

The only park in the United States outside of Alaska to feature more than 300 glaciers, and 300 lakes to pair with it, North Cascades National Park is a breathtaking place to experience. 

Termed the “American Alps”, North Cascades National Park is notorious for its emerald-rich slopes and jagged mountain peaks, making it an imposing sight that continues attracting visitors worldwide.

It is one of the top Seattle day trips for enriching outdoor activities and memorable vistas. 

Read next: The Perfect 3 Days In Seattle Itinerary

What Is There To See and Do?

Sightseeing at one of the many overlooks, such as Gorge Lake Overlook, and on the many scenic hiking trails is one of the most popular activities in North Cascades National Park.

The park is thriving with animal and plant life, with sightings of pika, elk, bighorn sheep, and otters often amazing travelers. 

Top sights include:

  • North Cascades Highway
  • Diablo Lake Vista Point
  • Gorge Lake Overlook
  • Mount Shuksan

Popular trails to hike:

  • Cascade Pass Trail
  • Sterling Munro Trail
  • Trail of the Cedars Nature Walk
  • Skagit River Loop Trail

Getting There and Away

Without a car for transportation, you must take the bus to reach the park. Unfortunately, it will require a few transfers. 

The Seattle bus heads to Bellingham, where a transfer is required to Viking Union. This bus is a short ten-minute trip to Lincoln Creek Park & Ride.

Then, you must hop on the bus to White Salmon Day Lodge. Rides are on demand from the lodge to finally stop at North Cascades National Park. 

To avoid the numerous transfers required on this route, we recommend taking a car or renting one for this day trip from Seattle.

Best Time Of Year To Visit

We recommend visiting North Cascades National Park anywhere from the middle of June to late September.

The weather is most comfortable for journeying the trails in these months, and in July, the snow typically melts on the highest trails so you can fully explore the park.

North Cascades National Park
Get ready for some dramatic mountain scenery!

Mount Rainier National Park 

  • Distance from Seattle: 90 miles/144 km
  • How Long it Takes: 2 Hours

Another one of the most incredible day trips from Seattle is Mount Rainier National Park, which features the largest alpine glacial system in the United States outside Alaska. It also has the world’s largest volcano glacier cave system.

Founded in 1899, this is the fifth national park established in America. The park’s mountain, Mount Rainier, is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, with 25 pinpointed glaciers embellishing the mountain. 

Mount Rainier National Park is a breathtaking sight with its flowered meadows, snow-tipped mountain peaks, and valley-carved forests that has continued to remain a sacred place for six Native American tribes.

Archaeological evidence uncovered signs that indigenous tribes lived in the area more than 9,000 years ago.

What Is There To See and Do?

One of the most popular activities in the area is taking on the challenge of climbing Mount Rainier. The reward of completing the feat of climbing the 9,000 elevation gain across a stretch of over eight miles is one many fail to succeed in.

The ones that do can witness the splendor of the rugged landscapes before them atop Mount Rainier’s peak. 

Anyone looking to hike on their Seattle day trip will have a blast here, as there are plenty of other pic hikes to take on in addition to the prominent Mount Rainer peak.

Top things to see in the park include:

  • Myrtle Falls
  • Crystal Mountain
  • Narada Falls
  • Comet Falls

Best hiking trails:

  • Skyline Trail Loop
  • Tolmie Peak Trail
  • Mount Fremont Lookout Trail
  • Naches Peak Loop Trail

Getting There and Away

Without a car, the fastest way to reach Mount Rainier National Park from Seattle is by taking the train from King Street Station to Sumner Station. From there, rides are by demand to Mount Rainier National Park. 

Another consideration is to take the train from King Street Station to Auburn Station, then transfer to the bus at the Auburn Transit Center – Bay 1 to Griffin Ave and Roosevelt Ave E. Once you reach this destination, rides are on demand to the park. 

A professional tour guide leads this full-day tour from Seattle to Mount Rainier. The guided day trip winds through panoramic vistas, old-growth forests, roaring waterfalls, and wildflower meadows for an out-of-this-world journey through the park.

A guided tour is the easiest way to complete this day trip from Seattle if you don’t have a car.

Best Time Of Year To Visit

To experience the glorious wildflower-speckled subalpine meadows of the park, the best time of year to visit the park will be in the summer.

Specifically, we recommend a day trip from Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park in July or August. This is when you can experience these beautiful flower-dotted fields and enjoy warmer weather. 

Myrtle Falls
Myrtle Falls is a gorgeous spot!

San Juan Islands

  • Distance from Seattle: 90 miles/121 km
  • How Long it Takes: 3 Hours 45 Minutes

If you’re looking for the closest day trips from Seattle, this is a great option!

An archipelago of more than 400 islands and only 172 named, with only five of which are reachable by ferry, the San Juan Islands offer a unique adventure.

The five accessible islands include Lopez Island, Orcas Island, San Juan Island, Lummi Island, and Shaw Island. 

The largest and most popular of the islands is San Juan Island, home to Friday Harbor, the main town packed with homey restaurants, historic lighthouses, lively farms, and other cool treats like an alpaca farm and a winery! 

What Is There To See and Do?

Paradise for the outdoor enthusiast, the San Juan Islands presents a myriad of activities to participate in, from kayaking, hiking, sailing, and camping.

Whale-watching is incredible here because the resident Orca pod, nicknamed the Southern Resident Killer Whales, calls the area home. If you’re hoping to do some whale watching on your day trips from Seattle, this is one of your best options!

Top things to see include:

  • San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Lime Kiln Point State Park
  • Moran State Park
  • The Whale Museum

Getting There and Away

The best option for getting to the San Juan Islands from Seattle is taking the ferry from Seattle to Friday Harbor. This is the only direct route from the two locations and the only recommended travel option other than flying, which can be a hassle going through TSA.  

Heading south? Check out our list of the best things to do in Portland, Oregon!

Best Time Of Year To Visit

The San Juan Islands offer optimal year-round mild weather. It is ideally the sunniest and warmest from May to September, which is the perfect time for a weekend getaway from Seattle.

July and August are the peak season for tourism, and this is when you’ll have the warmest weather. 

San Juan Island
San Juan Island has that classic Washington rugged coastal scenery.

Bainbridge Island

  • Distance from Seattle: 93 miles/148 km
  • How Long it Takes: 2 Hours

Previously a hub for the logging and shipbuilding industries, Bainbridge Island was also where Japanese-American residents were the first to be sent to internment camps during World War II.

In recognition of this, the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial was established and opened in 2011. 

Despite its history, Bainbridge Island is a beautiful place to escape from city life in Seattle. Whether you are looking for a weekend trip or a quick and easy day trip, this is the top spot near the city.

The ferry ride to the island is short and wonderfully scenic, crossing the deep blue waters. The island’s “Main Street” on Winslow Way is teeming with charming shops, cafes, bookstores, and local restaurants to explore. 

What Is There To See and Do?

From shopping along Winslow Way to seeing eye-catching art in the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, this beautiful spot offers something for everyone.

And for nature enthusiasts and history buffs, Bloedel Reserve intertwines a pristine residence on a 150-acre property with a forest reserve and public garden open for visitors to adventure. 

Other popular things to see include:

  • Bainbridge Island Historical Museum
  • Bloedel Reserve
  • Battle Point Park
  • Fay Bainbridge Park

Popular trails to hike:

  • Grand Forest Park Trail
  • Gazzam Lake Park Trail
  • Forest to Sky Trail
  • Blakely Harbor Park Trail

Getting There and Away

The ferry is the fastest direct route to Bainbridge Island from Seattle, with less than a 40-minute travel time. The ferry ride is also cheap and incredibly scenic!

The next best option is to drive to the island. However, this route will take longer as you must drive through Tacoma and Gig Harbor.

Read next: The Perfect 3 Days In Portland Itinerary

Best Time Of Year To Visit

Summer is the most popular time to visit because of the appealing warmer weather. During this time, costs for lodging and travel will be more costly because it is peak tourist season.

It is a top weekend trip from Seattle, so get there early in the morning to avoid the rush. Otherwise, we recommend going in late spring or early fall to evade the swell of crowds and costlier expenses. 

Bainbridge Island
Nautical views on the way to Bainbridge Island.

Whidbey Island

  • Distance from Seattle: 62 miles/100 km
  • How Long it Takes: 1 Hour 10 Minutes

Located on the northern boundary of Puget Sound, a short distance from Seattle, Whidbey Island is notorious for its grand sights of rugged coastline, sprawling farmlands, and serene freshwater lakes. 

The island is where the strategically placed Naval Base, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, is situated. The station’s founding was set in stone after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. After its official establishment in 1942, it would play a significant role in World War II. 

Today, Whidbey Island’s charm has continued to lure in musicians, artists, writers, and the like to bask in the serenity of the island’s awe-inspiring scenery.

The many prosperous farms on the island reap fresh food for locals and visitors to taste the richness of the island’s ecosystem at the different farmer’s markets, cafes, and restaurants. 

What Is There To See and Do?

Home to many scenic parks, Whidbey Island is a nature enthusiast’s dream vacation. Deception Pass State Park is named after the iconic bridge that stretches imposingly across the water below to connect Whidbey Island to Fidalgo Island.

The park is notorious for its eerie coves and refreshing waters, making it a kayaking, crabbing, fishing, and diving paradise. 

A historic district and park, Fort Casey State Park is a great place to go eagle-watching, camping, and sightseeing for stunning views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Admiralty Inlet. A camping park, Fort Ebey State Park, was once used as a coastal defense during WWII.

Today, the park is a family-friendly attraction with walking and biking trails, scenic overlooks, and exploration of Fort Ebey open for kids and adults alike to explore its underground rooms and concrete gun emplacements. 

Top things to do include:

  • Deception Pass Bridge and State Park
  • Greenbank Farm
  • Joseph Whidbey State Park

Popular trails to hike:

  • Ebey’s Landing Trail
  • Coupeville Coast to Coast Trail
  • Kettles Trail
  • Goose Rock Trail

Looking for more USA hiking destinations? Check out our list of things to do in Denver, Colorado!

Getting There and Away

There are a few options for getting to Whidbey Island from Seattle. If you have a car or a rental car, this is the most convenient transportation. If not, there are two other choices to consider. 

The first is to take the train from Seattle to Mount Vernon Amtrak Station on the island. The second is to ride the bus from the Seattle Bus Station to the Mt Vernon Bus Stop. Both are direct routes that do not require any transfers. 

Best Time Of Year To Visit

We recommend making the trip from Seattle to the island in spring and summer. Temperatures are more comfortable for walking around outdoors in July and August when rainfall is also less frequent.

Whidbey Island is a grand trip no matter the time you visit. The island gets a bit more crowded in the summer when tourism peaks.

Whidbey Island
Whidbey Island has its own scenic lakes and golf courses!

Tiger Mountain State Forest

  • Distance from Seattle: 29 miles/46 km
  • How Long it Takes: 30 Minutes

Last but not least on your list of the best day trips from Seattle is Tiger Mountain State Forest.

Tiger Mountain State Forest has six named mountains, including the highest and most iconic East Tiger Mountain. Then, there is South Tiger, Middle Tiger, West Tiger 1, West Tiger 2, and West Tiger 3 Mountain.

So if you’re looking for the best Seattle day trips for outdoor adventures like mountaineering, hiking, rock climbing, and more, consider this stunning location!

What Is There To See and Do?

Tiger Mountain State Forest is an outdoor recreation paradise. From horseback riding to parasailing, here is where you can find people flocking to pursue their passions or for others to try something new.

Examples of popular things to see include:

  • East Tiger Mountain
  • West Tiger 3
  • Lake Sammamish

Examples of popular trails to hike:

  • Poo Poo Point Trail
  • Tradition Lake Loop Trail
  • Talus Rocks Loop
  • South Tiger Mountain Loop

Getting There and Away

The cheapest way to travel to the forest from Seattle is by car. A more costly option is to hail a taxi for a ride or to take a bus halfway to Tiger Mountain State Forest and then hail a taxi for the rest of the way. 

Best Time Of Year To Visit

The best time of year to visit Tiger Mountain State Forest is anywhere from late spring to early fall. Late spring is when you can relish in the fresh greenery and flowers blooming across the expanse of the forest for the ultimate rejuvenating experience. 

In the summer, the weather will be warm and comfortable for exploring outdoors. It will be busier, too, as many people like to travel from Seattle to escape city life’s hustle and bustle.

Finally, the weather will begin to cool down in fall, and the crowds will simmer, creating a beautiful and serene ambiance.

Tiger Mountain State Forest
Tiger Mountain State Forest is one of the best day trips from Seattle, even in rainy weather!

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About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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