In the 90s, Seattle may have been known for grunge and coffee, but these days, the high-tech mecca attracts a young generation of outdoor-loving adventure seekers. And why shouldn’t it? The city, nicknamed the Emerald City because of its lush, pine-filled hillsides, is also a treasure trove for lovers of food, art, and libations. But sometimes, You can’t just let those gorgeous mountains sit in the distance. Sometimes, you need to venture outward… As John Muir put it, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”
So pack your bags and some of your favorite coffee, because it’s time to discover the five best day trips from Seattle!
SAN JUAN ISLANDS
The San Juan Islands is an archipelago north of Seattle, near Victoria, Canada. To get there, you simply hop on one of the ferries from the mainland. The islands are famous for their gorgeous views and laidback charm. The main islands have quaint towns filled with local shops and restaurants, as well as vineyards (the islands are becoming quite famous for their wines) and organic farms. After filling up on a delicious lunch, hit the trails. The islands are wonderful for hiking and biking.
But the real draw to the islands is life on the water. The sea around the San Juan Islands are popular with whales and orcas, and there’s no better way to experience them than by getting out on the water. Because of the region’s adventurous spirit, it’s easy to find kayaks, canoes, paddleboats, and sailboats to rent by the hour or day. Kayak tours are also a great way to discover the area and make new friends, all while safely staying socially distanced.
Wallace Falls is the perfect day trip for anyone looking for some easy, no-fuss adventure. The park (which is home to a total of 9 waterfalls) has well-maintained trails, is pet-friendly, and is loaded with stop-off points and lookouts throughout. Better yet, the climb up to the falls is surprisingly easy, yet still provides a great leg workout. Does a hike in the woods get any simpler than that?
In total, there are 12 miles of hiking trails, 5 miles of biking trails, a bridge over a rushing river, stunning mountain views at every turn, and of course, the absolutely gorgeous Wallace Falls. Pack a lunch, and enjoy a day in the forest, or, head to the nearby Wallace Falls Lodge or the Wallace Falls Campground and stay for the weekend.
MOUNT BAKER NATIONAL FOREST
If you’re looking for the picturesque Pacific Northwest escape, Mount Baker is the place to go. At less than two hours away from Seattle, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to escape into a living postcard image.
With glacier-covered mountains, rolling meadows, crystal-clear lakes, and old-growth forests, beauty is all around you at Mount Baker, which, is actually an active volcano. The snow-covered peak is really a 1,300 ft deep mound of packed ice, which fills the volcanic crater created when Baker erupted some 100,000 years ago.
During the warmer months, the park is home to some excellent hiking, biking, fishing, and lounging lakeside. By winter, the park opens up for skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling.
Located just offshore from Seattle in the Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island is the perfect escape that’s surprisingly close to home. The large island is loaded with delicious local restaurants and delis, vineyards, parks, and shorelines. A must-visit is the Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre public garden, complete with manicured walkways, geese-filled ponds, and even one of the nation’s top-rated traditional Japanese gardens.
If you’re looking to stay on the island for the weekend, it’s full of quaint inns (like the Eagle Harbor Inn) B&Bs, and guest cottages. During your stay, be sure to visit the Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve, which Bainbridge residents decided to leave completely untouched, in order to give nature a space to grow freely.
One of the most famous waterfalls in the world, the Snoqualmie Falls, and adjacent Salish Lodge and Spa, shot to international fame after being used as the setting for the hit show Twin Peaks. The falls drop 268 feet to the river below, and hiking trails (as well as a waterfall observation deck) provide visitors a fun day outdoors and breathtaking views.
In 2019, the native Snoqualmie Tribe bought the falls and adjoining resort in order to stop the overdevelopment of the land. That means a trip to Snoqualmie not only helps give money back to native peoples, but also supports the outdoors and fights overtourism.
For the full Twin Peaks experience, be sure to book a night at the Salish Lodge. Inside, you’ll not only get massive David Lynch vibes, but you’ll also find the stunning Chef’s Studio, an interactive chef-driven dining experience that gets you up-close and personal to the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest. You’ll also find suites complete with fireplaces and oversized bathtubs that overlook the falls.