Weekend Getaways and Day Trips in the Area

The Puget Sound region is one of the most picturesque areas in the United States offering mountains, forests and water virtually in the same place. A few hours away in any direction, you can find urban adventures and small town charms throughout the Puget Sound area and its islands, breath taking nature to take in at the Olympic National Park and Cascade Mountain Range that make great weekend getaways, day trips or even a fun staycation. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Gig Harbor – The Maritime City, located on Puget Sound, the harbor is rich in maritime history as commercial fishing and boat building played a large role in the area’s growth. You can visit the Harbor History Museum for exhibits on the Gig Harbor Peninsula. Additional attractions include the Eddon Boat Building and the Historic Netsheds. The waterfront offers restaurants, galleries and shops. They host monthly events including the Gig Harbor Beer Festival in May, Summer Arts Festival in July and December Tree Lighting and boat parade.
  2. Bainbridge – The island features fine food and unique local bounties surrounded by the scenic vistas of the Pacific Northwest and opportunity for outdoor adventure. Attractions include the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, the Bainbridge Performing Arts community theater and the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum. Outdoor lovers will enjoy the 150-acre Blodel Reserve public garden and the 225-acre Islandwood environmental education center. The island is also home to commercial districts for shopping, with several award winning wineries and more.
  3. Bellingham – Located between the ocean and 10,000 acres of farmland, Bellingham offers strolling the arts district of downtown, enjoying the local craft beer scene or taking off into the hills for mountain biking or an outdoor adventure. Ride a bike along the South Bay trail to Fairhaven or cycle throughout the surrounding scenic roads and trails. Along the Shoreline, enjoy bird watching from any of the Audubon Society’s six choice locations or rent a kayak to explore Bellingham Bay or the Salish Sea.
  4. Castle Rock – Locates at the western base of Mount St. Helens, its best known for its proximity to the 1980 eruption. Find antiques, collectibles and Mt. St. Helens souvenirs in this quaint town along the Cowlitz River. You can find an exhibit hall displaying the area’s history through photographs as well as an inscribed stone at the Harry Truman Memorial Park memorializing the owner of the lodge on the mountain who refused to leave even after evacuation orders were announced. Though the same name, this was a local hero who perished from the lava flow, and not the US president.
  5. Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park – Located in King County, Cougar Mountain park protects over 3,000 acres of wilderness as well as being connected to the nearby Squak Mountain State Park who together span over 5,000 acres at an elevation of nearly 1,600 ft. Claypit Peak at 1,560 ft is the highest peak within the park. Enjoy 35 miles of trails through wetlands, streams and old-growth forests so you can hike to views of Lake Sammamish, Bellevue and the Cascade Mountains. Some trails even allow horseback riding and have other park facilities.
  6. Desolation Peak Trail – Desolation Peak Trail is in the North Cascades National Park and is popular with boaters staying near Ross Lake or anyone looking for a challenging day hike. The trail is accessed by boat from Ross Lake or via the East Bank Trail in the park. There is an easy hike of about 3 miles one way to Lightning Creek and beyond is rated more strenuous with a large elevation gain of close to 5,000 ft.
  7. Green Lake Trail – Mount Rainier National Park’s Green Lake Trail is a 10 mile round trip journey through old growth forests to a breathtaking waterfall. The kid friendly trail is accessible by foot or bicycle. The hike begins in the Carbon River Valley before climbing over 1,300 ft to a small lake at the base of Tolmie Park. A canopy of forest keeps the trail shaded on most hot days and on the way to Ranger Falls, (ranked as the most beautiful in the Carbon River Valley) you’ll pass trees over 800 years old and come upon the triple tiered falls that drop for 170 ft with an unobstructed view.
  8. Hood River – Where the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River Gorge intersect and is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. It is the windsurfing capital of the world, Hood River is now a favorite of kite surfers and offers miles of hiking and biking trails, wineries, craft breweries and farm-to-table dining. The downtown historic district for shopping, art galleries, outdoor recreation outfitters and over 30 restaurants. The 35 mile Hood River Fruit Loop is a scenic drive past several orchards, farms and agricultural communities. And don’t forget to take in the water with the area’s top outfitter for kayak, SUP or sailing rentals.
  9. La Conner – La Conner is among the state’s most romantic getaways and the beautiful agricultural area is located on the shores of the Salish Sea and is home to a charming marina and miles of farm land. Museums in the area include MoNA, Museum of Northwest Art and Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum. Take a walking tour of the town’s outdoor sculpture or historic landmarks. La Conner is the area’s oldest non-native community where you can shop Morris and First streets for unique and locally crafted gifts and browse several galleries interspersed with restaurants and bars. Be sure to check out the fresh seafood along the waterfront or visit the Pioneer Market.
  10. Leavenworth – It began as a 19th century lumber town, and in the 1960s was completely renovated to resemble a Bavarian village of the Black Forest. The town’s yearly festivals including the Autumn Leaf festival, Maifest, and the Christmas Lighting Festival create this as a top tourist destination where millions walk the streets each year enjoying local food, beer, wine tasting, spas and plenty of outdoor recreation in an area that resembles the Bavarian Alps.
  11. Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument – The Mount Saint Helens National Park surrounds the infamous volcano which last erupted in 1980. Volcano watching is a popular activity at the park and can be done by climbing the volcano, hiking the nearby trails or taking a helicopter tour. There is a limit of 100 guests per day may climb the volcano with permits required. The Johnston Ridge Observatory is managed by the US Forest Service and is located in the heart of the blast zone. Check out its many exhibits, films and history of the mountain.
  12. Mt. Baker – Mt. Baker is among the peaks in the Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest. SR 542 (Mt. Baker Highway) is a scenic route that visitors can take past the small communities of the foothills to Artist Point at an elevation of over 5,000 ft. The final 24 miles of the road are designated as a National Scenic Byway where along the road you can visit breweries, vineyards, farmlands and locally owned shops. Popular stops from Bellingham to the peak include the Nooksack waterfalls and Picture Lake as well as the Glacier Public Service Center and the Heather Meadows Visitor Center that are both official ranger offices for the National Forest.
  13. Ocean Shores – Located on the jetty of Washington’s North Bay, this beach front destination offers Pacific Ocean waterfront to the west with protected North Bay waters to the east. Many outdoor activities are available in the area including nature trails to hike, beach-combing and renting mopeds or go-carts. Bird watching is also popular in the area as many birds migrate through the Damon Point and North Jetty areas.
  14. Olympia – Check out the state capitol located at the southern end of Puget Sound where you’ll find the 1909 Governor’s Mansion and the legislative building. Take a stroll at Percival Landing Park along the waterfront boardwalk to view public art. At the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge over 200 species of birds migrate through this estuary habitat. Olympia is also known for its farm-to-table dining, handcrafted coffees, beers and desserts and the Olympia Farmer’s Market is the second largest in the state offering everything from organic fruits, vegetables and meats to fresh flowers and handmade crafts.
  15. Olympic National Park – This park is a designated International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. The park offers diverse natural beauty, outdoor recreation and education. Day trippers can enjoy hikes of various length and difficulty, boating or fishing along the many rivers and lakes and even the Pacific Coast. For the best wildlife viewing, be there at dawn and dusk to see goats, bears, deer and elk, salmon, whales and birds. There are four visitor centers and a ranger station within the park displaying exhibits on natural and cultural history.
  16. Port Townsend – The town’s motto is “America’s coolest small town” and it just might be. The historical, Victorian era village is located between the Salish Sea and Puget Sound, booming in the early 19th century as a port town with a quickly growing waterfront and commercial district. Now recognized as one of three Victorian era seaports on the National Register of Historic Places, you can explore the Jefferson Museum of Art and History or join one of the walking tours. Fort Worden State Park is located at land’s end and offers beaches, open plains and wooded hills as well as the Centrum, a non-profit arts venue that draws thousands annually for performances and exhibits.
  17. Portland – Portland, Oregon is only a three to four hour drive from Bothell and offers an eclectic mix of experiences for every type of traveler. The top cites in the city include the Lan Su Chinese Garden, a botanical delight based on Ming Dynasty style gardening. The International Rose Test Garden is the oldest public rose garden in the US, and in the hills just above the rose garden is Portland’s Japanese Garden whose 12 acre space includes an authentic Japanese tea house. Don’t forget to try the famous Voodoo Doughnuts, grab a cup of joe from Stumptown Coffee Roasters and peruse the aisles for your next read at Powell’s books.     
  18. San Juan Islands – The cluster of islands in the Salish Sea are known for their wildlife and classic Pacific Northwest natural landscapes. Orcas Island, one of the largest of the islands is home to an old growth forest and the Moran State Park. On San Juan Island, you’ll find Lime Kiln State Park and the seaside village of Friday Harbor where orca whales are frequently spotted. Lopez Island is home to Spencer Spitz State Park and Lopez Village where you can enjoy quaint cafes and a historical museum. And you get to enjoy your journey by taking a ferry, water taxi or seaplane to get there.
  19. Seattle – The urban city located in the heart of Puget Sound is surrounded by evergreen forests, water and mountains. The most iconic landmark is the Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair. At Pike Place Market enjoy fresh food, drink and locally made crafts and take in the world-famous fish tossing. There are plenty of diverse neighborhoods like West Seattle’s beach vibes, Capitol Hill and its foodie restaurants or the history and art around Pioneer Square. Outside the urban core, enjoy the thousands of acres of park land or take a cruise through Puget Sound.
  20. Snoqualmie – In the hilly rural region located west of Seattle, you’ll find Snoqualmie. Most famous as the shooting location of the cult classic tv series Twin Peaks, fans worldwide travel to see many of the show’s landmarks like the Grand Northern Hotel (aka the Salish Lodge and Spa) as well as the Double R Diner (Twedes Café). Snoqualmie Falls however is the area’s best known landmark with 300 ft of falling water over granite cliffs.   
  21. Vancouver – Not the BC version, Vancouver, WA is located on I5 just north of Portland at the shore of the Columbia River. It offers history, culture, outdoor recreation, charming shops and a lively craft beer scene. Historic sites date back to the settlement of Fort Vancouver and the Native American fur trade. The Clark County Historical Museum gives the accounts of the area’s past. Don’t miss the Arts in the area including the Orchestra, a summer concert series and June’s Recycled Arts Festival and has over 190 parks as well as the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge for no shortage of outdoor enjoyment.
  22. Vashon Island – Just a short picturesque ferry ride from Tacoma or Seattle, Vashon offers simple two lane roads, rural landscapes, ocean views and the sense of being completely removed from the urban Seattle landscape. The 37 square mile island has one sandy beach but offers ample places to bring a picnic, rent a kayak or enjoy beachcombing and fishing. Don’t miss the iconic 1915 Point Robinson Lighthouse as you take the 25 mile route through the city and into the countryside to circumnavigate the island by bike or car.
  23. Whidbey Island – Whidbey and Camano Islands are located just outside of Everett, north of Seattle where you can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing or a visit to any of the area’s many beaches. In town sample the local fare and shop independently owned boutiques. Bass fish in the islands many lakes or aim for salmon and sturgeon as are the popular salt-water catches from the island. And, with over 40 public oyster and clam beaches, you’ll see people clamming and crabbing along the shoreline when in season. Hike the 40 miles of trails or rent a bike or kayak while you enjoy the many galleries of local artwork inspired by the natural landscape.
  24. Woodinville – Just across the highway is the small agricultural town less in the picturesque river valley town of Woodinville, most known for its high density of artisanal wine makers, craft brewers and distilleries. Enjoy tasting in the warehouse district or take a chauffeured-driven tour of many of the local wineries. Annual food and wine events such as the autumn’s Sammamish Valley Harvest Celebration or the summer’s Chateau Ste. Michelle Concert Series are among those you shouldn’t miss. There are plenty of recreational opportunities including kayaking, horseback riding and even a ropes course at the Adventura adventure park. And after all is said and done, you can relax and unwind at the highly rated Willows Lodge and Spa.

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