Updated in 2019: This Washington State itinerary is centered around food and forests as you make your way through it’s three beautiful national parks: Mount Rainer, North Cascades, and Olympic National Park.
No time now? You can save this post for later by pinning it!
Driving through these scenic forests and getting to be in the presence of so much raw beauty will fill you with awe.
Plus, if you love quality food, you will love all the eating experiences in the Pacific Northwest. My family still talks about the amazing soup we had at a farmers market in Bellingham. Getting fresh produce from roadside stands makes eating healthy very easy on this trip.
If you are in Washington state in the summer, you will find wild blueberries and blackberries growing along the hiking trails. Or, stop by one of the blueberry farms and see the delight on your kid’s faces when you buy a wooden flat of blueberries and let them eat to their heart’s content.
Make sure you bring good hiking shoes because making this an active holiday will be no problem since there will be an overwhelming number of trails to choose from.
If your feet need a break from the trail, try out your climbing skills in Leavenworth or near Deception Pass.
If you don’t get your ocean fix on the ferry ride from Deception Pass to Port Townsend, head over to the San Juan Islands to see orcas. Note: The orcas come by San Juan Island NOT Orca Island.
You’ll also get to explore the beautiful beaches of Kalaloch with this road trip. We loved this area and the efforts they are making to preserve nature. The ranger presentation at Kalaloch Campground was one of our all-time favorites.
If this is your first road trip be sure to check out our related blog, How to Plan a Successful Road Trip
- Day 1: Seattle
- Day 2: Mount Rainier National Park
- Day 3: Leavenworth
- Day 4: North Cascades National Park
- Day 5: Anacortes or Deception Pass
- Day 6: Olympic National Park
- Day 7: La Push
- Day 8: Kalaloch
Map of the Washington National Parks Itinerary
Before you get started with this Washington State itinerary, I’ve included a map to help you get oriented with Washington and the route we’ll be recommending. The map below can be saved to your Google Maps account so you can view it any time on your phone or computer.
The basic itinerary is the basic general route, however I also included alternative ferry routes and detours routes.
Washington State National Park Itinerary
Day 1 | Seattle, Washington
We didn’t see nearly enough of this city. We did, however, take a unique tour called Seattle Underground that gave us a history lesson into how Seattle was originally built and then rebuilt on top of the first level after a fire wiped out most of the mining town.
No trip to Seattle would be complete without walking through Pikes Place and taking a picture of the original Starbucks.
If you stay in the area longer, you can take the ferry to Bainbridge or explore the many nice beaches close by. (When we were in the Seattle area, we stayed with friends in the small nearby town of Snohomish, which was quaint and worth stopping at if it’s on your route.)
As you head to Mount Rainier, your next desitnaoint, take the slightly slower route hit Snoqualmie falls. Snoqualmie Falls is Washington State’s most popular scenic attraction and the short 0.7-mile interpretive hike to a 268-foot waterfall is a good pit stop on your road trip.
Busy? Download this itinerary and check it out later!
Day 2 | Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park, 65 Miles
You can’t go through a Washington state national park itinerary without the mention of Mount Rainier.
We just made a second trip up to Rainier in July of 2019 and it was an incredible reminder that Rainier does in fact live up to the hype. We hadn’t visited this national park in 4 years and I forgot how beautiful it was.
It is no doubt one of America’s most beautiful national parks and it feels very wild and raw still here. In fact, on one of our hikes, a baby deer and mom walked right up to us.
The short popular trails are beautiful and even seeing Mount Rainer from the visitor center is amazing. However, if you can get on the the more strenuous trail trails, you will be amazed by the tranquility and solitude you can find.
Like other national parks, the ranger programs are fantastic (my kids love them). Make sure you pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the visitor center when you arrive. The visitor center also has a great movie on volcanoes and geology.
For the adventure enthusiast: Hike or backpack some of the very popular Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile long trail that encircles Mount Rainier and draws hundreds of hikers every year. If backpacking isn’t your thing, there are many beautiful day hikes all over the park that are arguably more beautiful than the Wonderland TRail.
While the Paradise area of Rainier is surely stunning, visiting the north side of Rainier, Sunrise, is a afar more magical expense. Check out our tips for visiting Mt Rainier blog for more details.
Day 3 | Mount Rainer to Leavenworth, 170 miles
Campground: Lake Wenatchee State Park
Leavenworth, known for its Bavarian charm, supposedly has so many trails that you can hike every day of the year and not see the same thing twice.
This town is an outdoor enthusiasts fantasy due to the abundance of rock climbing, biking, mountain biking, paddle boarding, kayaking, river tubing, and much more (and that’s just in the summer).
Get your fill of the great German beer and brats at Icicle Creek Brewery which was our favorite place to hang it in the evenings.
If you’re brave, hike the famous Enchantments. This hike is one of the 10 Most Epic Day Hikes in the Western USA (click here find out what the other 9 are)!
The Enchantments is a strenuous 19 mile day hike (unless you can get the elusive backpacking permits). while extremely strenuous, the views you get up here are worth every step. Though one of the hardest day hikes we’ve ever done, this hike is also one of absolute best hikes in whole world.
Day 4 | Leavenworth to North Cascades, 180 miles
Campground: Colonial Creek Campground
If you have more time on your road trip, I highly recommend spending more than just a day on the incredible Cascade Loop. The Cascade Loop is a route that can start and end in Seattle, goes through the central cascades (which is where Leavenworth is), then loops back through the North Cascades.
The North Cascades are definitely on of the most incredible mountain destinations in North America. If you love sharp, jagged mountains and epic hikes, be sure to check out related blog, Cascade Loop Road Trip! P.S. The destinations on days 3-5 are our absolute favorite places in Washington!
I loved Glacier National Park, so when a ranger there told me that she liked North Cascades even more because there were more glaciers here, I had a hard time believing her. She was right though.
With over 300 glaciers and countless snowfields, the North Cascades has more glaciers than anywhere in the U.S. outside of Alaska.
Between the hundreds of miles of hiking trails; power boating, kayaking, and canoeing on Lake Ross; bouldering and sport climbing in Skagit Gorge; mountain biking in Methow Valley; and road biking on North Cascades Highway, squeezing in everything you want to do will be the biggest challenge here.
Detour to Fairhaven, which is a small town within Bellingham, and visit their market. It was one of our all time favorite small towns and all the food in the area is great.
Updated for 2019: The Bellingham Farmers Market that was held in Fairhaven is no longer held there. The Farmers Market has moved to Barkley Village Green but contains most of the same vendors. No more Superior Soups though 😢
Fairhaven is still super cute and foodie friendly even without the farmers market and I would still recommend visiting.
Day 5 | North Cascades to Anacortes + Deception Pass, 70 miles
Campground: Deception Pass State Parks or Washington City Park in Anacortes
Drive just west of Anacortes to Washington Park where you can take the ferry to the San Juan islands. Public transportation is very easy on the islands so you can just leave your car on the Mainland.
I’d highly recommend you visit San Juan island because we got to see killer whales, which was very exciting! Orcas are on San Juan Island, not Orca Island. You do have to be patient though because you never know when the pods will swim by. The lighthouse has a lot of information on the pods that live in the area. If you go, bring binoculars to help see the whales better.
If you have time, stay an extra night at the nice campground at Washington Park, on the west end of Fidalgo Island. I’d recommend adding a night here to your itinerary before heading south to Deception Pass. The campground works as easy base camp to leave your vehicle so you can go explore the San Juan Islands for a entire day. The campground also has a great 2-mile biking/running trail through forested hills and sits next to a beautiful beach full of driftwood and views of the San Juan Islands.
After seeing the San Juans, head down to Deception Pass, which is only a 15 minute drive south of Anacortes, and explore Washington’s most popular State Park.
Deception Pass is a wonderful area of driftwood beaches and hiking trails.
Here you can hike, bike, fish, and explore or you can even stay at the popular campground. Due to the nature of Deception Pass, which is made up of two islands connected by a bridge, there is camping spread out on both sides with a total of 172 tent sites, 134 partial-hookup . Even though there are a lot of sites, being Washington’s most popular state park makes it book up fast. Make camping reservations early to get a spot. Click here to make reservations.
For the occasional climber that may be reading this: Mount Erie has some incredibly scenic climbing and we loved being able to overlook the ocean while enjoying Top-Rope routes. Get the beta on mountain project by clicking here.
Day 6 | Anacortes to Olympic National Park, 100 miles + ferry
Campground: Heart O’ the Hills (First-Come First-Serve)
Olympic National Park consists of nearly a million acres spread out over four different regions and is made up of several very different ecosystems. The first one you will come to on this road trip is Hurricane Ridge, which is known for its wildflowers. It is just a few miles south of Port Angeles.
Hurricane Ridge is a popular backpacking destination and has numerous day hiking trails to subalpine lakes and valleys, many of which are easy to moderate and can make a nice way to spend a day. Although you could stay longer, I’d recommend just making a nice day out of it and then moving on unless you’re going to tackle one of the epic backpacking trails.
Tip: If you’re a foodie, both Port Townsend, which is a slight detour unless you decide to take the ferry from Fidalgo Island to Port Townsend, and Port Angeles have really good farmers markets and natural foods stores.
Day 7 | Olympic NP to La Push, 40 miles
Campground: Second Beach, Olympic National Park (Permit Required)
The next area, Lake Crescent, was a good stopping point for us to have a picnic and hike the popular trail through old growth forest to Marymere Falls. Being less than one mile each way, it was a nice leg stretcher. If you want something more challenging, the Spruce Railroad trail is a popular route. If you feel brave (& hot after hiking), jump off the dock and swim in the cold lake.
There is a campground nearby at Fairholme, which is a good option because Second Beach can get crowded. The third area is right next to Forks and La Push, which is an Indian reservation popularized by the book/movie Twilight. The coastline here is a unique combination of fauna and beach. We loved the forested trails and haystack beaches that were great for tide pooling.
A popular thing to do here is to camp overnight at Second Beach. It’s a short 0.7-mile hike in from the parking lot. Make sure to get a wilderness camping permit, pack plenty of potable water, a bear canister, and to choose a spot above where high tide will rise to.
Day 8 | La Push to Kalaloch, 85 miles
These next three areas of Olympic National Park are beautiful. First, stop at Hoh Rainforest and see how incredible this temperate rain forest is. With 12-14 feet of rain a year, you will see elk grazing through a dense understory of mosses and ferns that cover the forest floor. I think the epiphytes draping off the branches of maple trees like tendrils makes this area so unique. There are two easy hikes from the visitor center, Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Nature Trail, that were very educational for the kids (and me).
Second, spend your days combing the beaches and searching for sea life in the tide pools at Kalaloch. While enjoying these pristine beaches, keep an eye out for marine wildlife such as dolphins, whales, otters, and seals that live in this protected environment.
Last, stop by the Quinault area and drive the scenic loop or hike one of the many hikes in the area. We enjoyed the Kestner Homestead and Maple Glade loop. Keep an eye out for the many elk that are protected here.
Tip for Camping in Washington
Want more details on camping in Washington? Check out our blog on the Best Campgrounds in Washington
This is a great resource for finding awesome camping destinations. >>> Camping Washington: The Best Public Campgrounds For Tents & RVs <<<
- 13 Best Campgrounds in Washington State
- Cascade Loop Road Trip: Leavenworth to Newhalem
- Best Hikes in Mount Rainier NP
- Camping Guide to Mount Rainier
- 11 Can’t Miss Things to do in Mount Rainier (+ Tips for Visiting)
- Best Hikes in the PNW
- How to Plan a Successful Road Trip
- 14 Tips for Planning Your First Road Trip
Let us know if you have any questions about a Washington state national park road trip in the comments below! We’d be happy to share any tips, tricks, or details!