For someone who moved to Seattle from Texas, the number of things to do here on weekends feels overwhelming. We’ve spent six years here, and sure we don’t get to go out every weekend with kids classes and social commitments, but we do try to spend time outdoors whenever we can. And I’d say in six years, we haven’t even touched the tip of the ice-berg. There is so much to do, and even if you go to the same place more than once, it never feels the same. Most of the times, you can go to the same place in different season and it has something new to offer, and then there are in-between seasonal events. Every place has really really good for a specific experience, but then is also good for any lazy sunday. I am writing her about the places I’ve visited so far, and therefore, this page will keep getting updated as I get to see more and more of Washington and Oregon and Canada and Idaho. All of these only a weekend trip away!!
Mount Rainier is Seattle’s signature mountain. It shows up in every picture you could take from practically any backyard in Seattle. The famous Kerry Park view in Seattle downtown nicely places Rainier as the backdrop of the Seattle’s skyline with the puget sound in between. In less than a hundred miles away, Rainier sits 14411ft high, mighty as the Himalayas, and always covered with snow. There are many entrances to the park, two most prominent ones if you’re coming from Seattle are the North-east entrance and South-east entrance. North-east entrance gets you to Sunrise point, Chinook pass, and Tipsoo lakes first. You can drive from one end to the other end of the park, so no matter which direction you enter from, you can cover the park in a circle. The south-east entrance gets you to the Paradise point and Reflection lakes areas first and then you can drive north-east to get to the other points. Driving inside the park is beautiful rain or shine. And in my five trips to Rainier, I have always found something I didn’t see before, and there are still many areas of the park I am yet to explore.
There are also dozens of trails for any fitness level that you can explore if you have time. I’ve done day-trips, weekend trips, long weekend trips and night photography trips and each one of them I returned with hundreds of pictures and many more memories.
Crystal Mountain is its own little world right before Rainier’s Northeast entrance. You can either cover this area in an extended Rainier trip or spend a weekend at the Crystal mountain resort , take the Gondola ride up the mountain and enjoy a nice meal at the summit restaurant. There are also many trails near the resort to explore and in August during the Perseid Meteor shower, the resort hosts a stargazing party with some fancy telescopes. Weather is always unpredictable so while we have made a Perseid meteor shower weekend trip to this place, an untimely storm came in and the star gazing party had to be cancelled due to risk of lightning strikes at the top. The trip was nevertheless still beautiful and the sky cleared up a few hours into the late night.
Vancouver is an across-border 2 hour drive from Seattle. This is the place where I secretly fell in love with the pacific northwest on a trip we made from Dallas. Three months after the trip, we officially moved to Seattle. None of this was planned, but my husband blames me for making this happen by the way of some conspiracy of the universe! You do need a Canadian visitor visa if you are not a US citizen or green card holder to visit Vancouver or Victoria which is a ferry ride away from both Seattle or Vancouver. Stanley park is just amazing, straight from the movies, and Garibaldi mountain, Victoria, Whistler deserve separate trips of their own.
Where should I start! Olympic national park is a hidden gem in the crown of Washinton. This park is so beautiful, and I think I need to visit it a couple of times every summer for a few years to see everything this park has to offer and I’ll still not be done. To enter the park, you can take a ferry from Edmonds, or drive south from Seattle through Tacoma and enter the park through land. Just like Mount Rainier, you can see different things depending on which side you enter from. South entrance from land, you should see the Kalaloch Lodge area which hosts the “tree of life“, Ruby beach with live tidepools, Lake Quinault area, Forks (the town of the movie Twilight), Hoh Rainforest and the Rialto beach. Driving north, you can take an easy hike to Shi-Shi beach, the haystacks beach from your dreams, and Neah bay (the northwest most point of US). Camping at the shi-shi beach on a summer night is a bucketlist item for many people as you can watch the milky way light up against the waves of the sea full of haystacks, provided you are willing to hike 2 miles with your camping gear on, and there is no freshwater at the beach. It’s still worth the effort and is on my bucketlist for sure. Entering through the ferry ride, you can see Port Angeles, Olympic Game farm, Lake Crescent, Hurricane Ridge and Sol-duc falls areas.
San Juan Islands
From Anacortes, some 50 miles from Seattle, you can take the ferry to one of the three main islands of San Juan – Friday Harbor, Orcas and Lopez. We did Orcas last year, and are yet to see Friday Harbor and Lopez. The view from top of the Moran state park was breathtaking and can be seen either through a short or long hike or by driving directly to the view-point. We did both a short 4 miles hike for sunset view and drove to the viewpoint for a sunrise view. I couldn’t decide which one was more beautiful but the sunset stood out like the sky melted into the earth somehow and spread its warmth all over. It was a sight to behold.
If you’re tired of talking about mountains, let’s take you to a flat landscape, well..relatively flatter. Lake Chelan feels very different than it’s western cousins, and within a three hour drive, you’ll start to feel like you’re starring in “A walk in the clouds” movie looking for your Keanu Reeves. Well, I did. Miles and miles of wineries, and U-pick fruit plantations, deep clear blue skies and a very naked terrain is how I remember Chelan. The drive ends in the small town of Chelan where you might think that life revolves around the lake. But it is a beautiful one. If you want a lazy weekend of doing nothing but sipping wine and sun bathing at the lake, and if you’re lucky like us, catch the July 4th fireworks on the lake, it will be a weekend to remember forever.
If you’re a shopaholic, then the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Oregon may be – No Sales tax. But I think, once you see the Gorge area, you won’t ever step into any mall in portland, because it will feel like you’re wasting your precious time not exploring everything nature has to offer in this pretty pretty state. Even before you hit portland, you will come across the Columbia River Gorge area, and I feel that Gorge is just a short form for Gorgeous! There are over seven waterfalls within a ten miles distance, most of them accessible through a parking lot of a very short walk. The Multnomah falls, probably the busiest of them all, standing over 620 ft, is split in two levels with a bridge in between. Its a postcard picture no matter where you stand to look at it. Then there is the Gorge itself, the mount baker fruit loop, and Oneonta Gorge, requiring you to walk through water to get to the actual fall will be your Costa Rica experience on the cheap. I’d recommend taking a trip just to see this area and then doing a separate Portland trip coz if you live here, there is no need to act like a tourist. And the most beautiful parts are only seen when you’re not rushing in the car from once place to another. Take a hike, start small, pack a sack lunch and be one with nature.
Portland – Oregon
Portland is about 4 hours drive from Seattle, as per Google maps. But we’ve rarely made it there in that time, may be once when we started at 10PM. The traffic is terrible during main hours, but once you reach portland, there is so much to do that you’ll forget the fatigue from drive as soon as you reach your destination. If you’re truly only doing a weekend trip, I’d recommend just staying close to the downtown area, try out the very unique and amazingly tasty food trucks, the famous Voo-Doo donuts for the instas and may be hang out near Canon beach or Astoria. Pay a visit to the Tillamook Cheese factory, and drive near the coast as much time as you have. On one weekend, I wouldn’t try to do more. But in subsequent trips, portland opens the door for a weekend or more at Seaside, a very very beautiful nice little town, a longer weekend or week to Crater Lake, an even longer trip to drive through the oregon coast passing the White Sand Dunes. Specifically in august, Long beach hosts a Kite festival which is worth a day trip too.
Just a two hour drive from Seattle, and on the way to Lake Chelan is this bavarian town which deserve a visit in every season. Spring and summer will give you sunny days for a lazy walk around the town, to stop on the many trails between Seattle and Leavenworth for a quick hike on the way. Drive from Seattle to Leavenworth is part of the scenic Cascade loop, so driving on this road during fall will present you with a very scenic and colorful drive full of orange, yellows and reds and you will land right into Leavenworth’s famous Oktoberfest. Starting december, Leavenworth hosts a christmas lighting festival which goes on till 3rd or 4th week of January and if you’re a ski enthusiast, you can stop at Stevens pass ski resort on the way to try out your snow skills.