I've lived in western Washington for decades and am admittedly addicted to seeking out all the beauty and adventure it has to offer.
There's Something for Everyone in Western Washington
Being a western Washington native myself, I have to admit that I'm a little biased and truly believe that it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. But even if you aren't the outdoorsy type, you won't be disappointed by all the exciting activities that western Washington has to offer.
Having moved away, I love to go back and pretend to be a tourist from time to time. Sometimes I visit some of my favorite places from my childhood, and a lot of times I like to check out something totally new.
This is a list of some of my favorite adventures as well as some that I haven't tried yet. I hope that it will be useful to you.
I've included links to informational websites for as many of these places and activities as possible to make this list more user friendly.
In order to make this list a little bit easier to navigate, I'll give you an idea of what order the activities and locations will be listed in to get you started. some of these categories do overlap a little bit. For example, the list of waterfalls may include some hiking.
Also, I've included the locations where these activities can be found to make planning a little bit easier for you.
- Hiking (1-26)
- Puget Sound Beaches (27-33)
- Ocean Beaches (34-40)
- Waterfalls (41-51)
- Caves (52)
- Mountain Biking (53-63)
- Animals and Wildlife (64-71)
- Sports (72-78)
- Seattle Tourist Attractions (79-87)
- Museums (88-105)
- Ferries, Cruises, Water Adventures (106-111)
I hope this list will be useful to you. Now go out there and enjoy all of the awesomeness that western Washington has to offer!
If you have been to some of these places, I'd love for you to vote on some of my polls about which places and activities are the best. That way other people who read this hub can easily figure out which tourist attractions are the tried and true favorites.
Thanks for your help!
Obviously, this isn't a complete list of hikes in Washington. There are way too many awesome hikes for me to include them all here, but these are some popular hikes as well as some well-kept secret type hikes that you might enjoy.
- Cathedral Falls-4 miles round trip (Mount St. Helens)
- Cape Flattery-1.5 miles round trip (Makah Indian Reservation near Neah Bay)
- Snow Lake-2.6 miles (Mt. Rainier)
- Surprise Lake-9 miles (Off Hwy 2 near Stevens Pass)
- Skyscraper Pass-8 miles (Mt. Rainier)
- Cascade Pass-up to 12 miles round trip (North Cascades National Park)
- Harry's Ridge-8 miles (Mount St. Helens)
- Little Bandera-7 miles (Snoqualmie Pass)
- Mount Townsend-8.2 miles (Olympic Peninsula)
- Ozette Triangle-9.4 miles (Olympic Peninsula)
- Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk-4 miles (Olympia area)
- Hummocks Trail-2.3 miles (Mount St. Helens)
- Beacon Rock State Park-2 miles (Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area)
- Deception Pass Headlands-up to 5 miles (Anacortes)
- Lime Kiln-5 miles (Mountain Loop Hwy)
- Point Wilson-2.5 miles (Fort Worden State Park-Port Townsend)
- Mount Constitution and Mountain Lake-6.7 miles (Orcas Island)
- Guemes Mountain-2.3 miles (Guemes Island)
- Goose Rock-2.5 miles (Widbey Island)
- McLane Creek-1.5 miles (Capitol Forest-Olympia Area)
- Watershed Park-1.4 miles (Olympia)
- Gazzam Lake and Close Beach-3.4 miles (Bainbridge Island)
- Iceberg Pt.-3 miles (Lopez Island)
- Guemes Mountain-2.3 miles (guemes Island)
- Camano Island State Park-2.5 miles (Camano Island)
- Island Center Forest-9 miles (Vashon Island)
My Top Pick
Out of the hikes listed above, Cape Flattery is my personal favorite. It's a long drive from just about anywhere, with Forks being the closest city (which is convenient for any of you Twilight fans who might want to do some vampire hunting).
I mention the long drive not to scare you away, but to point out that even with the drive, I think it's totally worth it to go at least once.
When you get to the end of the hike, you will be on the farthest northwest point of the contiguous United States (other than a small island that you'll be able to see just in front of you). The land reaches out like rocky fingers being beat upon by the Pacific Ocean down below. You can literally feel the land shaking when some of the waves hit.
It's an amazing experience, and definitely one that you won't want to miss.
That being said, I haven't tried all of the hikes on this list, so it's probably worth exploring them all.
Puget Sound Beaches
Again, this isn't a complete list of all the Puget Sound beaches in western Washington, but these are some favorites.
27. Salt Water Park (Des Moines)
28. Burfoot Park (Olympia)
29. Priest Point Park (Olympia)
30. Tolmie Park (Olympia)
31. Seahurst Park (Burien)
32. Dash Point State Park (Federal Way)
33. Alki Beach (West Seattle)
My Top Picks
If you're looking for a beautiful hike through lush forest down to a beach that is full of fun tide pools and lots of sea creatures, Burfoot Park in Olympia is the beach for you.
Make sure to go at low tide and you will see tons of sea life, not to mention that you will get plenty of laughs when you get squirted by geoducks (large clams that this particular beach has in abundance).
You can't walk along this beach on a low tide day without getting squirted at least a few times.
If you're looking for a beautiful beach with a unique opportunity to get an amazing cityscape view across the way, go to Alki Beach.
You can either walk on the beach or on the pathway that goes along the side of it to enjoy beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains and one of the best views of the Seattle skyline to be found.
From my experience, sunset is the perfect time to visit this beach, because you can watch the sunset over the mountains and watch the Seattle skyline light up as dusk overcomes day.
Make sure to stop in at an ice cream shop too!
These beaches are listed from south to north for your convenience.
34. Long Beach (Long Beach)
35. West Port Beach (West Port)
36. Ocean Shores (Ocean Shores)
37. Ruby Beach (Olympic National Park about 40 miles south of Forks)
38. La Push Beach 1, 2, & 3 (Forks...look out for Vampires and Werewolves!!!)
39. Rialto Beach (-Forks)
40. Shi Shi Beach (Clallam Bay)
My Top Pick
Ruby Beach is definitely my favorite beach from the list above. It might not be convenient to kite shops, ice cream shops, and salt water taffy like Ocean Shores is, but it's natural untouched beauty is enough to take anyone's breath away.
At low tide, this beach comes to life with tide pools galore and you will likely see starfish and sea anemomes.
I also highly recommend Shi Shi Beach. I've heard it is actually the best ocean beach in Washington, but I haven't made it there yet. It's definitely on my bucket list though.
This beach takes a bit more effort to get to, so research the hike before you plan your trip.
You will also want to pay attention to tide tables, since if you plan on going south of the Point of Arches some of the headlands disappear at high tide.
Western Washington Waterfalls
I'm sure that you are aware that Washington has a reputation for having lots of water. That being said, there are a lot of waterfalls in western Washington. Again, I'm just giving you a short list of attractions, but don't be afraid to venture out on your own and visit a waterfall that isn't listed here.
41. Mima Falls (Olympia area)
42. Tumwater Falls Park (Olympia Area)
43. Snoqualmie Falls (Snoqualmie Pass)
44. Sol Duc Falls (Olympic National Park)
45. Wallace Falls (Stevens Pass)
46. Cedar Falls (North Cascades Hwy)
47. Twin Falls (North Bend Area)
48. Bridal Veil Falls (Stevens Pass)
49. Marymere Falls (Olympic Peninsula)
50. Lower Falls Creek (Columbia Gorge)
51. Cathedral Falls (Mount St. Helens)
My Top Picks
If you're looking for a large waterfall, Snoqualmie Falls wins hands down. It's especially impressive after a particularly wet winter (which we have from time to time in this part of the country).
If you're looking for a hike to a waterfall, Twin Falls and Wallace Falls are both great options. While not as big as Snoqualmie Falls, both of these falls are quite beautiful, and the hikes make the adventure even more fun.
Just make sure that you stay on the trail at Wallace Falls. Multiple people have fallen to their deaths because they strayed from the trail for one reason or another.
Western Washington Caves
52. Ape Caves (Cougar Washington)
If you want to explore caves in western Washington, the Ape Caves is really the only safe place to go. These lava tubes from Mount St. Helens make for a fun, but not too difficult adventure that can be enjoyed by almost anyone.
There are two parts of the Ape Caves. There is one area that is fairly flat and easy to navigate where they do tours, and if you are up for a bigger challenge, you can explore the rest of the cave, but it is a little bit more difficult.
Regardless of which part of the cave you explore, make sure to bring a light, because like most caves, it is dark in there.
There are some ice caves at Mt. Rainier (Paradise Ice Caves) and in Snohomish County (Big Four Ice Caves), but I can't recommend exploring them, because there are multiple warnings that they are unsafe.
You can hike a trail that goes to the Big Four Ice Caves and look at them from a distance, but people have been killed there (the most recent death in 2010), so please do not try to venture into these caves!
I'm going to be honest, I'm not a mountain biker, and I've never tried mountain biking at any of these locations, but in doing some research, these appear to be some of the most popular places to mountain bike in western Washington.
53. Galbraith Mountain (Bellingham)
54. Duthie Hill (Issaquah)
55. Anacortes Community Forest Lands (Anacortes)
56. Capital Forest (Olympia)
57. Swan Creek (Tacoma)
58. Moran State Park (Orcas Island)
59. East Lake Sammamish Trail (Seattle)
60. Island Center Forest (Vashon Island)
61. Chehalis Western Trail (Lacey)
62. Mima Creek (Olympia)
63. Section 36-Beaver Lake (Sammamish)
Western Washington Animal and Wildlife Exhibits
64. Pt. Defiance Zoo and Aquarium (Tacoma Area)-This is one of my favorite places to see the animals, because both the zoo and the aquarium here are quite impressive. It also features a zipline course, and if you are in town during the holiday season, you can go to Zoo Lights and see the zoo completely decked out in Christmas lights.
65. Woodland Park Zoo (Seattle)-This zoo is well known for creating very natural environments for the animals so that they can feel right at home.
66. Seattle Aquarium (Seattle)-One unique feature of this aquarium is that it is built right out into the sound so that you can see what is going on in the waters of Seattle.
67. Northwest Trek (Eatonville)-Northwest Trek has 435 acres of land where you can check out native wildlife. They offer foot tours, tram tours, and even zipline tours.
68. Olympic Game Farm (Sequim)-This is an awesome place to get up close and personal with wild animals. You go on a car tour through the park and are able to feed the animals wheat bread (which you purchase at the beginning of the tour). The animals come right up to your car and will eat from your hands. This place is a lot of fun for kids and adults alike. Personally, I loved it! Just make sure to buy plenty of bread. The first time we went, we only bought one loaf and we were wishing we had more.
69. Wolf Haven (Olympia area)-Wolf Haven provides a unique opportunity to see wolves up close and the tour guides do a fantastic job of teaching you a lot of interesting facts about wolves that if you are like me, you never knew before. This place was a great deal for the price in my opinion. Don't forget to do the short hike to the grandfather tree while you are there. Your tour guide can tell you where to go. It's pretty cool!
70. Cougar Mountain Zoo (Issaquah)-The master plan of this zoo is to focus on unique and endangered species with a high educational value.
71. The Reptile Zoo (Monroe)- If you want to pet a tortoise, watch a two headed turtle swim around and come face to face with a lot of reptiles that many people never see in real life, this is the place for you!
Western Washington Sports
Whether you are a huge fan of the Seattle teams or not, it's always fun to catch a live sporting event.
72. Seattle Seahawks (NFL)
73. Seattle Sounders (MLS)
74. Seattle Mariners (MLB)
75. Tacoma Rainiers (minor league baseball)
76. Seattle Thunderbirds (hockey)
77. Everett Silvertips (hockey)
78. Everett Aquasox (minor league baseball)
Seattle Tourist Attractions
79. Pike Place Market-buy some fresh cut flowers and fresh fruit or just enjoy the show of the famous Pike Place Market flying fish
80. Ivar's-you won't get chowder or fish and chips like this anywhere else, and don't forget to save a few fries to feed the seagulls.
81. Space Needle
84. Troll Under the Bridge-you can find this guy hanging out in the Fremont neighborhood
85. Kubota Japanese Garden-This place is absolutely beautiful year round, and it's free! You've definitely got to check it out if you've got the time.
86. Ballard Locks
87. Ye Old Curiosity Shop-stop into see some interesting artifacts that you won't find anywhere else, and don't forget to ask for a free sample of Seattle Fudge.
My Top Picks
For the classic Seattle experience, you've got to go to Pike Place Market. No trip to Seattle would be complete without a trip to this lively farmers market.
Watch the fish mongers throwing fish, buy a bouquet of fresh flowers, and make sure to check out Piroshky Piroshky just across the street.
There's often a long line of people waiting to get into this little bakery, but once you bite into one of those authentic Russian pastries, your taste buds will tell you that it was totally worth the wait.
Kubota Garden is my other favorite Seattle attraction. It isn't in the downtown area, but it is within the Seattle city limits.
This garden is actually a huge park and it is absolutely breath taking. You will very likely see photographers in the park. I've seen several weddings there too. It's one of the most beautiful parks I've ever been to.
Western Washington Museums
88. Museum of Pop Culture aka MoPOP (Seattle)
89. America's Car Museum (Tacoma)
90. Museum of Flight (Seattle)
91. Museum of History and Industry aka MOHAI (Seattle)
92. Museum of Glass (Tacoma)
93. Seattle Art Museum aka SAM (Seattle)
94. Seattle Pinball Museum (Seattle)
95. American Museum of Radio and Electricity aka SPARK (Bellingham)
96. Bremerton Naval Museum (Bremerton)
97. Forks Timber Museum (Forks)
98. Fort Lewis Military Museum (Between Olympia and Tacoma)
99. The Whale Museum (Friday Harbor)
100. Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum (Kent)
101. Museum of Northwest Art aka MoNA (La Conner)
102. World Kite Museum (Long Beach)
103. Makah Cultural and Research Center (Neah Bay)
104. Washington State Capital Museum (Olympia)
105. Olympic Flight Museum (Olympia)
My Top Pick
I haven't been to all of these museums, and obviously your unique interests will shape which museums you have a desire to visit, but one I highly recommend is the Museum of Flight.
This flight has exhibits covering just about everything related to flight. You can see old planes, learn about space shuttles, try to fly a plane yourself using flight simulators, and even join a flock of birds to practice the dynamics of flying with wings in an interactive video game.
Also, the flight museum has extended hours and is free the first Thursday of every month.
Cruises, Ferries, and Other Water Adventures
106. Bremerton-Seattle Ferry-If you haven't come into Seattle on the Bremerton ferry yet, you are missing out on a beautiful slow paced adventure.
107. Victoria Clipper-This is the fastest way to make it from Seattle to Victoria, Canada
108. Argosy Cruises-Argosy offers a variety of cruises around the Puget Sound. The one I'm most interested in, but haven't tried yet is Tillicum Village which I will list separately below.
109. Tillicum Village on Blake Island- Come here for a cultural experience that you will never forget. Take the opportunity to learn about Native American culture, watch Native American dance performances and of course eat a delicious salmon meal baked over an alderwood fire.(You can get here from Seattle or Bremerton)
110. Deep Sea Fishing-You can do this from several different ports on the coast. It's a great adventure, and you end up with a lot of delicious fish to take home with you.
111. Whale Watching-This is honestly an amazing experience that I can't even put into words. I spent several years thinking I'd go do it "some day," but now that I've done it, I just want to do it over and over again. There is something so humbling about being able to be so close to these majestic and beautiful creatures.
My Top Pick
I have to say whale watching is definitely my favorite on this list. Nothing compares to seeing these majestic animals in their natural habitat. It's also really fun to listen to the naturalists on the whale watching boats. I think I've learned something new every time I've gone.
Just make sure to dress for cold weather. Even on a warm sunny day, it's pretty chilly out on the boat. If you think you're going to be to too hot, dress in layers. It's better to be prepared than to end up miserable and cold.
If you don't have the time or money for whale watching, the ferry between Bremerton and Seattle is also a great way to get out on the water with the bonus of getting the great view of Seattle from out on the Puget Sound.
© 2015 Rebecca Young
Callie on April 07, 2020:
Another one you could add for the tourist section is the gum wall in Seattle.
Rebecca Young (author) from Renton, WA on July 17, 2019:
Thank you for your suggestion! That area is beautiful!
Donovan Kroum on July 17, 2019:
I noticed you did not include Hood Canal among your Puget sound beaches. Personally I prefer all of the public beaches on the Canal over everything on the east side.
Rebecca Young (author) from Renton, WA on November 15, 2018:
I'm so sorry I was slow to see this. I hope I'm not too late to help you out. Did your vacation already happen? What areas do you plan on being in specifically? What types of things do you like to do?
Laura on October 31, 2018:
Need vacation ideas Please
Duran on February 22, 2018:
Thanks for this guide, my family and I are moving up to Washington later this year an we are very excited. This we help us with things to do when get there.
Rebecca Young (author) from Renton, WA on May 11, 2017:
Thanks! I'm glad you were able to find my page, and I hope you have a great time visiting!
Leona on May 10, 2017:
AMAZING page! Thank you so much. Planning on visiting your beautiful state and it'll be a valuable resource.
Rebecca Young (author) from Renton, WA on September 24, 2015:
Sajesh from India on September 23, 2015:
Interesting information with nice images and videos. Superb!
Daniel Winzer from Budapest on July 29, 2015:
The Wallace Falls are amazing. Your animal and nature photos are funny and spectacular.
Rebecca Young (author) from Renton, WA on July 28, 2015:
Thanks! You should definitely visit again. It's a great place!
Rebecca Young (author) from Renton, WA on May 19, 2015:
Thank you for all of your comments! I'm particularly grateful for those of you that have added new suggestions to my list. I wish that I could have included every single fun activity in western WA, but as many of you know, there are just way too many to list, and I didn't want to overwhelm people. For example, I started out not knowing there were any hockey teams in western WA, then someone told me about the Thunderbirds in Kent, and I just barely had another person tell me there's a hockey team and a minor league baseball team in Everett. I guess I need to spend more time up north. I'm missing out!
Akriti Mattu from Shimla, India on May 17, 2015:
Thank you so much for writing this post.
The information is good and the pictures posted are superb. Voted up :-)
Aaron Reed on May 16, 2015:
For Mountain Biking I really enjoy the Japanese Gulch trails in Mukilteo.
You'll find lots of variety and challenges for all kinds difficulty levels.
Rebecca Young (author) from Renton, WA on May 11, 2015:
Thanks for the input! I love it!
Lori Colbo from United States on May 11, 2015:
Oh sister. I am a Western Washingtonian too and this is fabulous. I belong to the Key Peninsula Washington facebook page and will share this. I am sad to say I've never been to most of these places. I live on the Key Peninsula near Gig Harbor and the beauty here keeps me from going other places, plus, I can't hike much anymore due to physical issues. I would invite you to come to Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula. We have two state parks here - Penrose Point State Park, and Joemma Beach State Park both and several other beautiful parks and beaches. Western WA is a photographers paradise. Like you, I think it's the best place on earth to live. I wrote a hub on Key Peninsula Washington. Not sure if we are allowed to share in comments section, so if you're interested, you can find it in my article list. Nice job!!
Rebecca Young (author) from Renton, WA on May 10, 2015:
Thanks David!!! There's no way I could capture everything that western Washington has to offer so your suggestions are very welcome. I appreciate it!
David Hymel on May 10, 2015:
Welcome to the Town of Eatonville. There are some seriously beautiful bike trails, waterfalls, hiking and camping in the Eatonville area. The recently established Bud Blamcher trail connects the Town and UW Pack Forest along the Mashel River. A few miles West construction is starting on the Nisqually State Park with parking, toilets, trails and access to the Nisqually River. All of this can be enjoyed under the shadow of Mt Rainier National Park, just a few miles East along Hwy 7.
Isaac Kahiri from Nairobi, Kenya on May 09, 2015:
Thank you so much for compiling such a great list! Next time I'm on the road, that's the list to be crossed off one by one.
Rebecca Young (author) from Renton, WA on May 04, 2015:
@Jill-one of my favorite road trips ever was doing the coast from CA up to WA. You will love it! I'm excited for you...and a little jealous. :-)
Rebecca Young (author) from Renton, WA on May 04, 2015:
I meant to add Ye Old Curiosity Shop in, and I forgot...I might need to do some editing and make my list longer, because I keep thinking of places that are missing.
Sandy on May 04, 2015:
Awesome list! Makes me want to schedule a trip you visit! I also enjoy Yet Old Curiosity shop in Seattle as well as other things you mentioned.
Jill Winkler on May 04, 2015:
Wow! I am so glad to get this link!! I am printing the whole thing. We live in Oklahoma and have always dreamed of driving from California to Washington and seeing all the neat things in the Pacific Northwest. Thank you for creating this!
Rebecca Young (author) from Renton, WA on May 03, 2015:
Thanks Rachel! I'm going to take that as an extra awesome compliment since that's my family in the rain forest, and I'm the girl holding the star fish. The rain forest and the beach are two of my favorite places on the planet, but of course I still have a lot of places to explore. :-)
Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on May 03, 2015:
Your pictures are absolutely beautiful. I love the one with the rain forest and the one with the girl holding the starfish. Great hub. Voted up, awesome and beautiful.
Blessings to you.
Rebecca Young (author) from Renton, WA on May 03, 2015:
Thanks! I hope it will prove to be useful to a lot of people. I had a lot of fun researching for this hub and finding new places to visit. I'll be up there in June, and I'm excited to try some of these new (to me) hikes that I found.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 03, 2015:
I have only spent a few days total time in the State of Washington. We started and ended our trip in Seattle; saw Leavenworth and Snoqualmie Falls; spent the night on the coast and took a San Juan Island's day cruise; saw Port Washington and unfortunately did not see much of the mountain drive there due to fog...but suffice it to say...that part of the country is beautiful. We spent most of that trip in Canada that year. Would love to see more of Washington sometime. You have certainly compiled a great list of places to see and experience!!!