One of my absolute favorite things to do throughout the year is to go on road trips from Seattle and explore new areas. Who doesn’t love the thrill of hitting the open road and discovering all sorts of hidden gems along the way? I know it’s not always affordable to go on vacation, or you may not have the time, so the best part about road trips is being able to go on these for any duration, any time of the year.
If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know there are so many amazing places to choose from in the Seattle area, so narrowing down your options can be tough. Luckily for you, I’ve been cruising around the Pacific Northwest for years now, so I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite scenic drives from Seattle that you can turn into epic Seattle road trips of your own.
To make things even easier, I’ve organized these road trips based on their length – so you can pick and choose what works best for you based on your time constraints. Whether you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway from Seattle or an extended adventure, I’ve got you covered. With that, let’s dive into some of the best road trips from Seattle and all the essential info you need to prepare for them!
Need help planning out your road trip? I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to see exactly how long it’ll take from one point to the next and find new places to add to my itinerary!
Tips for a Seattle Road Trip
Here are some tips to consider first before going on a road trip near Seattle.
- Check traffic first. This may seem obvious, but many people forget that traffic tends to get worse around Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia at rush hour, so this can add hours to your road trip if you don’t time it right (and I say this from experience!). The best place to check it for Washington is the WSODT website.
- Be prepared if crossing passes. Similar to the tip above, always check the same website to see how the passes look if you’ll be crossing them. This is the worst place to be stuck, as there often isn’t anywhere to turn around. I once planned a trip to the other side of the mountains after we’d had a warm week in April, only for the day of my planned trip to get completely dumped in snow and the passes ended up closing. If it’s snow season, always bring chains, blankets, and food/water just in case.
- Check the weather. Even if you’re not going into the mountains, you’ll want to know if the roads you plan on going around might be slick with rain or ice and pack appropriately.
- Don’t have a tight itinerary. I know not everyone can take as many days off as they want for a vacation, but avoid the temptation to jam-pack your trip with stops. It’s more enjoyable when you know you have time to make random stops along the way or don’t have to get stressed if you do get caught in traffic.
- Take breaks. I’m the queen of making a tight itinerary when I travel, but I’ve learned over the years this doesn’t benefit anyone. You and your passengers will get tired, which is not only unsafe for the driver but means the trip won’t be as fun. Plan for breaks ahead of time or be flexible and take one if it feels like a good time.
This post was first written in 2021 and last updated in February 2023.
What to Pack for a Road Trip
You’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for any Seattle road trip you take, whether it’s only a few days or a week. I have an entire article on road trips essentials, but here are some of the ones I recommend most:
- Water bottle – I fill up multiple water bottles and put ice in them so they stay nice and cool, and I’m also hydrated during my trip.
- Cooler – Save money by bringing your own snacks and keeping them cold in your cooler. This is also helpful if you buy food on the road and don’t finish it but need to keep it cold.
- Coffee mug – I love treating myself to a latte now and then, but I don’t want to waste cups on the road every day getting a new drink. Having a reusable coffee mug helps with that problem.
- Polarized sunglasses – It can get really bright on the road depending on what the sun reflects on, so keep yourself safe and have a good pair of sunglasses.
- Sunscreen – You’ll need sunscreen when you’re out and about exploring, but it’s also important to have it on when you’re in the car as well. You can have one side of your face and arm exposed for hours, depending on the time of day.
10 Road Trips From Seattle You’ll Want to Go On
With so many amazing destinations to choose from, it’s hard to narrow it down to just 10, but I’ve compiled a list of some of the best road trips from Seattle that are my favorites. Get ready to hit the open road and explore the stunning natural landscapes and charming towns of the Pacific Northwest!
1. Olympic Peninsula
Distance: 361 miles
Number of Days: 3
A road trip around the Olympic Peninsula is the perfect way to reconnect with nature and the best road trip from Seattle for many people. I live near one of the ferries going here, so I am lucky to be able to visit the area often.
Take your car on the Bainbridge Ferry to Bainbridge Island. The ferry ticket costs $20.40 (for the vehicle and the driver) and will take you over Elliott Bay, offering stunning views of the water during one of the best Seattle road trips. Alternatively, you can also take the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston (make sure to check out all the things to do in Edmonds first).
From Bainbridge Island, head south on Highway 305 and cross Hood Canal Floating Bridge. Get onto the Olympic Highway (Highway 101), which will take you on a picturesque drive past Discovery Bay and the west side of Sequim Bay.
Spend the night at the quaint coastal town of Port Angeles at a place like Port Angeles Inn during one of the short road trips from Seattle. It has a bustling marina and beautiful natural landscapes you can explore in the morning before you head out on the road again. You can also look at my full list of where to stay in Olympic National Park.
In the morning, travel inland past Lake Crescent on your way to the magnificent Olympic National Park, where you can spend the night. There are plenty of Olympic hikes to do if you want to get some exercise (my favorites are Marymere Falls and Hurricane Ridge).
On the morning of day three, take the Olympic Highway along the west coast through Queets. Then travel south to Aberdeen and up through Tacoma to return to Seattle.
Alternatively, you could do a quick trip here if you only have one day in Olympic.
Looking for the ultimate Seattle travel guide written by a local that tells you all the best places to go and what to see? My new ebook is now live, so click here to buy your copy!
2. Columbia River Gorge
Distance: 389 miles
Number of Days: 3
Drive through Tacoma and Portland for 3.5 hours to get to the glorious Columbia River Gorge on your road trip near Seattle. The 4,000-feet deep canyon demarcates Washington from Oregon and offers one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in the country.
The canyon spans a whopping 80 miles as the river bends through the Cascade Range. You’ll be glad you braved the long road trip from Seattle for this view.
You can either take the same way home or make a loop trip going through Yakima and Snoqualmie Pass. The latter journey will take you one hour longer, but you may be keen on seeing Snoqualmie Pass if you haven’t before.
On this Seattle road trip, you can spend a night in Yakima, Washington (my favorite hotel there is Hotel Maison, located centrally). Otherwise, if you’re going through Portland and looking for things to do in Portland, be sure to check out Washington Park on your way back to Seattle.
There are also plenty of short day trips from Portland to explore before you head home.
If you’re a little tired from your journey, the 400-acre park is the perfect place to rejuvenate with some fresh air and a picnic. You can take the 3- or 4-hour road trip to Seattle in the morning, or you can continue on a Seattle to San Diego road trip.
3. San Juan Island
Distance: 214 miles
Number of Days: 3
Take I-5 north from Seattle north until you reach Burlington, where you can take exit 230 on your road trip from Seattle. You’ll then travel west towards Anacortes, where you can take the ferry (you’ll need an advanced reservation).
The drive to Anacortes should take about 90 minutes, and the ferry trip is just under 1.5 hours long. I think traveling by ferry is one of the best parts of getting to the San Juan Islands, so enjoy it.
You’ll likely be exhausted once you get there, so book a room at the luxurious Earthbox Inn & Spa. You can familiarize yourself with the incredible San Juan Island in the morning. Filled with activities like whale-watching and kayaking, you’ll never be bored here during one of the more exciting road trips around Seattle.
Take a walk along Friday Harbor or take photos at the extraordinary Pelindaba Lavender Farm. I recommend taking the time to browse all the items in the store (I always get the lavender linen spray). You’ll have to take the same route back, but the ferry over the water is just as inspiring the second time around.
There are also plenty of hikes on the San Juans if you want to get some exercise in.
If you’d like to make a stop on the way home, pull over halfway home at the Boeing Future of Flight Museum. The museum has fascinating exhibits on the evolution of aviation, not to mention the actual disused planes hanging from the ceiling.
If you want to go to another island, Orcas Island and Lopez Island are both easily accessible from San Juan. I do recommend taking a day for each of these so you don’t rush through them, however.
4. Sea-to-Sky Highway
Distance: 436 miles
Number of Days: 3
One of my absolute favorite drives in North America is Sea to Sky Highway, where you can go on a road trip to Whistler, Canada, and back. Your first stop is 90 minutes outside of Seattle in the laidback Bellingham. The area has plenty of waterfalls, lakes, and fishing spots, not to mention tons of hiking trails for you to explore.
Boundary Bay Brewing makes the perfect pit stop for lunch and a beer (and it’s my old stomping grounds from when I went to college here years ago).
Spend the night getting to know the town, or head to the rugged coastline of Larrabee Park. Watch a spectacular sunset over the water before you turn in for the night at a local Bellingham lodge, such as Hotel Bellwether.
On Day 2, cross the Canada border on a Seattle to Vancouver drive and stop in Vancouver on your way to Whistler (want to experience more of the city? You can spend 2 days in Vancouver, BC or visit Vancouver in three days on the way up).
This stunning mountain town will take your breath away. I’ve been here in every season, and it’s hard to pick the best time to go because each season has its own charm to it. Go mountain biking in the summer or sledding in the winter. Whistler is postcard-perfect all year round, whether you visit Whistler in the summer or are looking for things to do in Whistler in the winter.
Stay at the superb Summit Lodge Boutique Hotel for a night of luxury. You’ll want to get a good night’s rest before heading back to Seattle in the morning.
The journey back is over 4 hours, but this is your second opportunity to be captivated by the view on the Sea-to-Sky Highway. You can also stop at Canada’s famous White Rock Pier on your way back.
5. North Cascades Highway
Distance: 424 miles
Number of Days: 3
Explore Seattle’s north country on an unforgettable loop trip around the North Cascades National Park, which is one of the best national parks in Washington. The North Cascades Highway is a classic route used by locals and tourists for weekend road trips from Seattle. This is only open from about June until October, so make sure to check road conditions first.
Drive east along Stevens Pass, and you’ll see lush orchids, pine forests, and the slopes of the Cascade mountains until you reach your first stop, Leavenworth.
Stop to check out the Waterfront Park for panoramic views of the Wenatchee River and spend the night in a local lodge (I recommend Icicle Village Resort). The park has loads of hiking trails for you to explore in the morning, or you can take a kayak out on the water before you get back on the road.
If you want to see a magical Bavarian village in the snow, visit Leavenworth in the winter. Just be aware that the pass can get heavy snow, so make sure your car is prepared with chains.
Once you’re done exploring, take Highway 97 up to visit Lake Chelan for more sightseeing, pass the town of Winthrop, and then head west until you reach North Cascades National Park.
There are plenty of hikes in North Cascades for you to explore the following day (Heather-Maple Loop Pass is one of my favorites), after which you can complete the loop of your road trip.
You can go through Rockport and Concrete, heading west towards Mount Vernon, then travel south to get back to Seattle. Since the park is only open seasonally, Seattle in the summer or fall in Seattle are the best times to visit.
6. Vancouver Island
Distance: 337 miles
Number of Days: 3
Head north from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada, during this international road trip from Seattle. Stop at the Mount Vernon Lions Club Roadside Park if you need to stretch your legs on this charming Vancouver weekend trip. This charming park sits on the edge of the Skagit River, and there are picnic tables where you can kick back and enjoy the view.
Don’t leave Vancouver without catching the sunset from the Vancouver Lookout. The observation deck offers panoramic views of the city from 550 feet above the ground! This is an excellent way to get a snapshot of the city before you turn in for the night (you’ll love the Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront).
On Day 2, take the 90-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, a bay town on Vancouver Island that looks out over the Salish Sea. Stop at one of the many restaurants on the harbor for a bite with a waterside view, and then head to Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort for your lodging for the night. I keep staying here every time I come because it’s so charming being right on the ocean.
After spending the night, drive south to Spectacle Lake for a pleasant swim surrounded by forest trees. Then, hit the road until you hit Victoria on this driving trip from Seattle. This town is also known as the “City of Gardens” thanks to its abundance of parklands. Be sure to check out the renowned Butchart Gardens for an afternoon stroll.
You can rest for the night in Victoria (you may like the Strathcona Hotel). In the morning, take the ferry to Port Angeles and drive down the Olympic Peninsula to get home.
7. Willamette Valley
Distance: 554 miles
Number of Days: 4
Discover the south coast on a drive through Willamette Valley, one of the best road trips from Seattle if you love wine. You can travel through Portland on your way to McMinnville, where you can indulge in some of the best wine tours in Oregon.
This is also a popular weekend getaway from Portland for many locals – I felt like I was in Sonoma the first time I visited!
There are dozens of wineries to choose from in the area, so you won’t need to worry about a shortage in that department. I personally love Kings Estate Winery, Irish Vineyards, and Kason Vineyards if you want to narrow down your selection. For lodging, I recommend staying at a place like McMenamins Hotel Oregon to relax for the night.
The People’s Coast, Oregon’s stunning coastline, is perfect for whale-watching, tidal pooling, and amazing Pacific Ocean views. Spend the night at the nearby Starfish Manor Oceanfront Hotel to fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean.
On Day 3, take a detour to Ecola State Park on Cannon Beach as you make your way back to Portland (this is especially nice during wintertime in Portland). Spot Haystack Rock – one of Oregon’s most famous landmarks – a stunning 234-foot rock formation on the edge of the shoreline. This is one of my favorite parts of an Oregon Coast drive.
Spend the afternoon exploring Portland, where you’ll find loads of coffee houses, parks, cycling trails, and microbreweries. You can check in at the Mark Spencer Hotel downtown and drive back to Seattle in the morning.
8. Washington Coast
Distance: 462 miles
Number of Days: 4
When you want road trip ideas from Seattle, consider this 3-hour drive from Seattle to Astoria, Oregon. After a night in Astoria, you can embark on a 4-day adventure along the Washington Coast. This is an ideal trip during winter in Seattle, as you won’t encounter much if any, snow.
First, visit Cape Disappointment, the headland of the Pacific Northwest. You won’t be staying here long, but the views of the lighthouse at the end of the beach are worth a quick stop.
You can spend both your first and second nights in Long Beach (I stay at the Adrift Hotel every time I visit this area!). You’ll be delighted to wake up in this fun coastal town, where you can horse ride on the beach, swim in the ocean, or shop on the boardwalk.
When you’re done frolicking on the sand in Long Beach, drive out to Westport for more beach activities, great views, and fishing on the pier. The trip will take you about an hour and a half, but don’t worry – it’s worth it.
You can book a room in Westport (LOGE Westport is always a fun place to stay) and wake up early to explore the place (and check out some amazing Washington surf spots if you’re into that!).
In the morning, take a picturesque drive around North Bay. You’ll go through Aberdeen (the birthplace of legendary Kurt Cobain), where you can stop for fuel. Check out the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park in town if you’re a Nirvana fan.
Your final stop is in Ocean Shores, where you’ll be right by the ocean for your whole trip. The Polynesian Resort is a good choice for an affordable hotel with a view of the water. Luckily, your drive back to Seattle will be under three hours from this charming coastal village.
Want to extend your oceanfront trip? Head down to California for a Big Sur one day trip.
9. Yellowstone National Park
Distance: 1,690 miles
Number of Days: 6
People from around the world dream about one day visiting Yellowstone National Park. Here’s your chance to go on one of my favorite road trips from Seattle!
You can take a scenic drive through Snoqualmie Pass and stop in Spokane for fuel, food, and rest. If you’re looking for a great hotel, try The Davenport Grand.
Drive past the breathtaking mountain lake Coeur d’Alene on Day 2. You’ll then take the Interstate through the gorgeous scenery of Montana until you reach Missoula. Check out the Missoula Art Museum and spend the night at the La Quinta Inn.
You can hike the Mount Sentinel trail in the morning before hitting the road. It’ll take you three hours to reach Bozeman, Montana, where you can spend the night at The Mountainview Lodge after a long day of hiking and driving.
Alternatively, you could also decide to extend your trip and do a Glacier National Park road trip before heading to Yellowstone.
Drive from Bozeman early on Day 3, and you’ll finally reach Yellowstone, the majestic national park replete with canyons, rivers, and forests. Yellowstone is massive, so you’ll want to spend another day exploring the over 3,000 acres of wilderness.
I have a whole post on taking a road trip from Yellowstone to Seattle for a more detailed itinerary.
Additionally, if you want to spend multiple days at the park, you can look at my Yellowstone 4 day itinerary for suggestions.
To get back to Seattle, travel south through Idaho. You can stop at the Craters of the Moon National Monument and the Umatilla National Forest on your way back. If you need another stop-over town, you can spend the night of Day 5 in Boise.
10. Washington National Parks
Distance: 705 miles
Number of Days: 8
Keep reading if you want to see all three of Washington’s national parks on one monumental Pacific Northwest road trip. The North Cascades Highway will take you to North Cascades National Park in about two hours from Seattle.
If you arrive early, you’ll have the entire day to check into a hotel and explore the expansive park. I recommend spending two nights in the area, and Winthrop is a great base (I always stay at Hotel Rio Vista).
After this, drive through Twisp, Chelan Falls, and Wenatchee. You can spend the night there (Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel is in the middle of downtown) and go to spend a day at Mount Rainier in the morning.
Take the scenic drive through Snoqualmie Pass until you reach Mount Rainier. After a long drive, you’ll probably be quite drained, so get some shut-eye and reserve your energy.
You can stay at one of the few hotels there, such as the National Park Inn in Longmire, or a vacation rental like a cute cabin near Mount Rainier. You can spend Day 4 and 5 going on Mount Rainier hikes, riding bikes, and kayaking in the park.
If you’re visiting Mount Rainier in the winter, make sure to read my article first to be prepared for the snow.
On Day 6, take the 702 for hours until you reach Olympic National Park. Welcome to the third and final Washington national park! There are activities aplenty in the park, such as plenty of Olympic National Forest hikes, so you can traverse the impressive wilderness for two whole days.
On the morning of Day 8, it’s time to bid the park goodbye and drive two hours back to Seattle through Tacoma.
The hardest part will be choosing which of these road trips from Seattle to go on first!