Pack your bags. Prime your road trip playlist. You’re going on an epic Washington road trip. Here’s a stop-by-stop guide to eight days of exploring Washington’s farmlands, rainforests, historic city squares, spectacular natural features — mountains, lakes and coastline. Quaint towns and fine food await as you embark on beautiful day-long drives filled with “let’s pull over!” stops.
Of course, you could compress the trip into fewer days with more direct routes, but you’d see less of Washington’s noteworthy destinations and miss out on some stellar sights. Enough talking, let’s go.
Day 1. Seattle to Lake Chelan: ~286 miles.
Get up early — you’ve got a long drive ahead. Leaving from Seattle, you’ll first head toward Spokane, Washington — taking the long way. Head north on I-5, then take the North Cascades Highway toward North Cascades National Park, now basking in glinting glory. Don’t miss taking shots of Diablo Lake, framed by evergreens and surrounded by mesmerizing peaks.
Stop for lunch in the Methow Valley‘s western-themed town of Winthrop, then head for Lake Chelan, where you’ll spend one night lakeside. Enjoy good food and wine at one of the town’s many restaurant patios.
Day 2. Lake Chelan to Spokane: ~187 miles.
Get up early to enjoy Lake Chelan’s waters before the landscape heats up. By mid- or late-morning, set your destination to take back roads through Eastern Washington countryside to Grand Coulee Dam to check out the visitor center and public plant tours (resuming May 28, 2022).
Then, you’ll motor your way toward Spokane. There, you’ll catch concerts and evening light shows at Riverfront Park, check out funky independent boutiques and bookshops, and dine well. Sleep in a historic hotel or a contemporary stay, and enjoy summer’s late-setting sun.
Day 3. Spokane to Walla Walla: ~153 miles.
Take I-90 out of Spokane, and set your map toward Palouse Falls south along Southeast Washington’s curving backroads. Plan to hike and lunch at Palouse Falls State Park Heritage Site, a spectacular natural destination with picnic tables overlooking columns of ancient basalt.
Then, set your maps app for Walla Walla for a late afternoon and evening of dining alfresco in the town’s excellent restaurants, wine-tasting the valley’s grapes, and relaxing. Rise early the next morning to get an eagle’s eye view of Walla Walla’s Pioneer Park aviary.
Day 4. Walla Walla to Stevenson: ~193 miles.
Set your map for Stevenson, Washington, in the Columbia Gorge. You’ll follow Highway 14 all the way west along spectacular granite walls, remnants of the past’s great floods. Stop at the beautiful and unusual Maryhill Museum of Art to investigate the museum’s sculpture garden, full-scale replica of Stonehenge and fine art collection. Spend the night in either Carson or Stevenson, Washington and ride the ziplines at Skamania Lodge.
Day 5. Stevenson to Long Beach, Washington: ~160 miles.
Head west along State Highway 14 to Vancouver, to travel back in time at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site’s fort replica and graceful military homes. Eat lunch in the Uptown Village neighborhood.
After you’ve digested lunch a bit (perhaps with a walk in one of Vancouver’s spacious parks), continue making your way west. You’ll end up in Long Beach, Washington, where couples and families alike can ride beach bikes, hang out with Lewis and Clark, check out oddities in Marsh’s Free Museum and sleep in.
Day 6. Long Beach to the Central Washington Coast. ~101 miles
Heading north along US-101, appreciate the small-town logging and coast communities as you pass through fog-kissed grasses, wildlife-filled tidelands and sleepy, misty forests before the sun and sand of central Washington’s coast. Sleep at Seabrook next to the beach, or simply stop for a long lunch and shopping in the town’s upscale retail center.
If you want to keep moving, stay a little further north at the historic Lake Quinault Lodge or nearby towns — perhaps you’ll get lucky and catch a late-spring or summer Washington coast storm.
Day 7. Washington Coast to Port Townsend. ~199 miles.
Another big driving day. Set your destination for Port Townsend and head North along US-101 to explore the Olympic Peninsula. Popular stop options include the moss-drenched Hoh Rain Forest, rugged Kalaloch and Rialto beaches, Salt Creek recreation area’s fantastic tidepools, Hurricane Ridge’s tremendous views and Port Townsend’s sculpture park.
Spend the night in Port Townsend, Washington’s quintessential Victorian-era town with handsome brick buildings run by independent storekeepers, restauranteurs, and cafe-owners. Arrive early enough for at least a brief stop through Fort Worden State Park, salt-water dip at Soak on the Sound, and a film at Rose Theatre.
Day 8. Port Townsend to Seattle. ~56 miles
Head through Kitsap communities, including the Scandinavian-themed town of Poulsbo and charming Winslow on Bainbridge Island, where you’ll catch a Washington state ferry home.
Or extend by one more day with one of a few options en route. Sneak over on the ferry for an Instagram-worthy rural respite amid gardens, gazebos and gourmet bites on Whidbey Island.
The more adventurous might swing south to dine at Hama Hama Oyster Farm and check out Alderbrook Lodge’s new renovations in green, pristine Hood Canal, before feasting on history and art in Tacoma‘s Museum District.
Notes: A Washington Discover Pass is a must-have for any state parks you hope to visit, and it’s wise to keep extra cash on you for any incidental admission. Always check road openings and closures before you go — summer road repairs can lead to long waits and lineups, at times — and watch for any safety warnings and traffic conditions en route.
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