These Are The Best Day Trips from Seattle For Nature Lovers

November 18, 2020

We all need a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of a city as busy as Seattle, Washington. This blog post will cover the best day trips from Seattle, perfect for both locals and tourists visiting the area.

What are the best things to do outside of Seattle?

Seattle is one of the most frequently visited cities in the United States. Many visitors stay within the city, overlooking some of the great attractions that are accessible just a drive away from town. These are the best day trips from Seattle.

Beautiful sunset and Mount Rainier National Park make the perfect backdrop for the skyline of Seattle, Washington.
Sunset in Seattle

What is the best way to travel around Washington?

Unarguably, the best way to see all of these spectacular attractions around Washington State is by car. If you’re here by car, that’s great!

However, if you flew into Seattle, or you don’t have access to a car, it’s best to get a rental car for these day trips. Use Rentalmoose to browse tens of rental cars available in the city and pick your ideal car for this trip.

Olympic National Park

Travel time: 2 hours 30 minutes one-way.

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, Washington, United States of America. Spectacular rock formations on a dark, sandy beach
Photo by Roger Mosley

The Olympic National Park is one of the best parks in the entire nation, and an absolute must on a day trip from Seattle. Take note that the drive to this National Park is around 2 and a half hours one-way, though you can easily add an overnight stay around the park.

Before visiting the park, check the official website for any closures and safety alerts. The entrance fee, as of October 2020, is $30 per vehicle.

Note: If you love National Parks, check out this blog post where we showcase the 7 best National Park road trips!

What are the best things to do in Olympic National Park?

Kalaloch

The first stop on your drive from Seattle to the Olympic National Park will be Kalaloch, one of the most popular destinations within this park. Kalaloch Beach is a perfect spot to catch the sun rising or setting. If you’re lucky, you might spot some of the park’s diverse wildlife.

If you wish to stretch your legs after the drive from Seattle, hike the mile-long Kalaloch Nature Trail through the vibrant forest.

Don’t miss the spectacular Tree of Life, located near the Kalaloch Campground. The tree is alive despite its roots being clearly visible, creating a truly impressive sight.

Kalaloch is home to a campground, as well as the waterfront Kalaloch Lodge, where you can spend the night.

Ruby Beach

Before you head back inland, make a stop at Ruby Beach. This spot is a beach like no other. Instead of sunbathing or swimming in the ocean, travelers come here to admire the spectacular rock formations, photograph wildlife, and hike the nature trails.

Ruby Beach is worth at least a short stop on your day trip from Seattle.

Hoh Rain Forest

After a drive along the coast, turn right into Upper Hoh Road and drive into the vibrant rainforest. The winding road will take you to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, where you can pick up a comprehensive map ideal for your self-guided tour of the Olympic Park.

Hike along one of the trailheads and explore this lush forest. There are two pleasant hiking trails that form 1-mile loops around the forest: The Hall of Mosses (0.8 miles/1.3km) and The Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles/1.9km). If you’re down for a longer stroll, hike The Hoh River Trail which is over 17 miles long (27.4km) in total.

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach is a perfect destination in the Olympic National Park, where you can observe the breathtaking force of the ocean. Waves crash against the coastal rocks, putting on a spectacular show to admire.

Don’t miss the Hole In The Wall, this location is perfect for exploring tide pools and makes a great photo opportunity. Beware of high tides, as the area may quickly become accessible. Click here for details.

Lake Crescent

This deep-blue lake, carved by a glacier, is another incredible spot at this National Park. It’s a perfect getaway, located just west of Seattle.

During the summer and autumn, travelers can rent a canoe and explore the lake on their own. There are different hiking trails that you can hike to take in the serene vibe of this part of the park.

Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is yet another must-see during a day trip from Seattle. Drive down the Hurricane Ridge Road to get here. Leave your car and admire the panoramic views. Afterall, Hurricane Ridge is the most accessible mountain area in the park.

During the glorious winter season, you can enjoy snowshoeing or skiing. You can get more information about the winter activities and equipment rental right here.

Note that Hurricane Ridge Road is only open on weekends during the winter (if the weather permits it), and all-week during the summer season. Consult the park’s website for information on current closures.

Alternatively, check out the other day trips from Seattle listed below.

Mount Rainier National Park

Travel time: below 2 hours one-way.

Reflection of snow-covered Mount Rainier seen in crystal-clear alpine lake surrounded by tall, green trees. Washington State
Photo by Skeeze

Mount Rainier National Park is another must-visit destination, ideal for day trips from Seattle. The park is located just south of Seattle. Mount Rainier is the tallest mountain in all of Washington State.

Check for any closures and safety alerts on the park’s official website right here. The admission fee costs $30 per vehicle, as of November 2020.

What are the best things to do at Mount Rainier?

Paradise

Take the scenic chicane-filled Paradise Valley Road until you reach Paradise. As the name suggests, this area looks straight out of a fairytale. Expect truly spectacular scenery, including tall waterfalls and wildflower meadows. Take in the view at Inspiration Point, this pullout offers amazing mountain views.

Rental Moose mascot sitting happily on a wooden bench overlooking the forest in Washington, United States. See Mount Rainier with the best Seattle day trips with Rentalmoose

You can pop by the Paradise Jackson Visitor Center and pick up a comprehensive pamphlet to learn more about the park.

This part of the park is home to exciting hiking trails, such as Nisqually Vista Trail, Alta Vista Trail, or Pinnacle Peak.

Rentalmoose insider tip: Drive up to the Reflection Lake and take the perfect photo, capturing the mountain’s reflection in the deep-blue water. Remember to post your photos online using #Rentalmoose for a chance to win a free rental car!

Grove of The Patriarchs Trail

This fascinating 1-mile (1.6 km) trailhead will take you to a fairytale-like island, via a fun swinging suspension bridge. Once on the island, travelers are surrounded by thousand-year-old Douglas fir trees.

The grove is easily accessible, perhaps the easiest hike in the entire national park. Don’t miss it on your day trip!

Silver Falls Trail

The Trail to Silver Falls is a moderate, 3-mile (4.8km) loop ideal for an afternoon stroll. The total duration to cover this loop is around 2 hours, the easy hike is child-friendly and perfect for a family adventure.

What’s more, you will also see natural hot springs when hiking along this trail. After the hike, feel free to pop by the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center to learn more about the area.

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park, beautiful autumn colors on green hills, alpine lakes and snow-covered mountains in the distance.
Photo by E. Thorsen

Travel time: 2 hours one-way.

The North Cascades National Park is widely regarded as one of the best National Parks you can visit in this part of the United States. It is just 2 hours away from Seattle, making it the perfect destination for one of your day trips from Seattle.

You can easily spend one day to cross this scenic park by car, stopping at different overlooks, and completing a few hikes.

Before visiting the park, make sure to double-check the current safety alerts and closures on the official website. North Cascades can be visited free of charge!

What are the best things to do in North Cascades National Park?

North Cascades Highway Scenic Drive

Enter the park via the scenic North Cascades Highway. Expect wonderful panoramic views during this 30-mile (50km) drive, scattered with pullouts and overlooks where you can stop by to take in this wonderland. Pretty much all of the park’s attractions are situated along this drive.

If you’re short on time, make sure to at least see Diablo Lake from the Diablo Lake Vista Point.

Sterling Munro Trail

This trailhead is the perfect chance to get an unobstructed view of the impressive mountains. Trust me, the views are simply unbeatable!

The 300-foot long (90 meters) boardwalk is worth at least a short visit. Its easy accessibility makes it perfect for the entire family.

What’s more, you can pop by the North Cascades Visitor Center which is right at the beginning of the trail.

Diablo Lake Vista Point

The Diablo Lake Vista Point is unarguably one of the prettiest sights in the entire park, you simply have to see it on your day trip from Seattle. The picturesque Diablo Lake is known for its unique, nearly turquoise shade of water. It makes for a perfect photo opportunity, with the enormous mountains as a backdrop.

Ross Lake Overlook

The point that overlooks Ross Lake may not be as impressive as the one overlooking Diablo Lake, though it is still worth at least a short peek. This overlook is located right on the North Cascades Highway, no detour required.

Rainy Lake

Continue further down the North Cascades Highway and stop at the Rainy Pass car park. Leave your car here and follow the 2-mile (3.2km) paved trailhead to enjoy a perfect view of the serene Rainy Lake.

Take note that you need to be a Northwest Forest Pass holder to hike down this trail. It is sold for $5 at the trailhead.

Washington Pass Observation Point

The final must-see in the North Cascades during your Washington day trip is the Washington Pass Overlook. You can admire the view as Highway 20 twirls around the monstrous Liberty Bell Mountain. It is the perfect sight to take in before heading back to Seattle.

Mount Saint Helens National Monument

Travel time: 3 hours one-way

Mount Saint Helens National Monument, erupted back in the 1980s causing enormous damage to the state of Washington. Snow covered mountain seen during sunset on a clear day
Source: Public Domain Pictures

Mount Saint Helens is a volcanic site, infamous for its eruption back in May 1980. This eruption, the most catastrophic in US history, claimed 57 lives and ruined hundreds of homes.

What are the best things to do at Mount St. Helens?

Mount St. Helens Visitor Center

Before heading to see the Volcanic Monument itself, be sure to pay a visit to the Visitor Center located in Silver Lake. Inside, you can learn about the history of the mountain, and the terrible effects of its eruption.

You can check the opening hours and the admission fee on this website. As of October 2020, the visitor center remains closed due to COVID-19.

Coldwater Lake

Coldwater Lake is a fun recreational area at the foot of Mount St. Helens. During the summer season, visitors can enjoy canoeing on the waters, or go for a picnic at one of the tables near the parking area.

If you wish to stretch your legs after the 3-hour drive from Seattle, hike down the Birth of A Lake. The 0.6 miles (1km) trail is easily accessible and opens up to panoramic views of the lake.

Windy Ridge Viewpoint

Don’t miss the Windy Ridge Viewpoint during your day trip from Seattle. From here, visitors can get a true sense of the scale of the volcano’s eruption. This eerie sight, although beautiful, is a chilling reminder of what nature is capable of.

The access road to Windy Ridge Viewpoint is closed in winter.

Chuckanut Scenic Drive

Travel time: 1 hour 20 minutes

View of the Pacific Ocean seen from Chuckanut in the northern part of Washington State. Chuckanut is famous for its scenic coastal drive
Photo by E. Thorsen

The Chuckanut Scenic Drive is a Scenic Byway less than 90 minutes north of Seattle, and it is the perfect destination for day trips from Seattle. It is the only spot where the Cascades meet the ocean, providing some spectacular natural beauty.

Oyster Dome Trailhead

One of the must-see stops on this coastal drive is the beginning of the Oyster Dome trail. This scenic hike will take you up to the Samish Overlook, where you can admire the perfect views from an elevated perspective. On a clear day, you should be able to see San Juan Island!

Larrabee State Park

Pass the town of Chuckanut and turn right into the Larrabee State Park, Washington’s first-ever State Park. This area is known among locals for its great hiking trails, fishing opportunities, and shellfish harvesting. Off the coast, the waters are a popular dive spot.

Bellingham

The scenic drive finishes in the cute town of Bellingham, which is another must-see during a day trip from Seattle. This small town is the northernmost city in the United States (excluding Alaska, of course). Pop by the town and peek inside its local museum, shops, or head for lunch to one of the cozy restaurants.

Don’t forget to book your rental car via Rentalmoose for your next adventure. On our platform, you can find the top rental companies at the best price, along with tens of curated travel guides around the globe. Get your car from Rentalmoose!

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Post your pictures from your next road trip online using #Rentalmoose! Our favorite ones will be featured in the upcoming blog posts.

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