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.
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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.