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Top Places to Drive Near Seattle

Updated on February 8, 2013

Take a drive trip near Seattle

The city of Seattle is consistently ranked in a number of places as one of the nicest destinations for a vacation, especially during the beautiful Pacific Northwest summers that can be had there. The city offers a great deal to the traveler including art galleries, historical sites, museums, wonderful shopping, a vibrant waterfront area, landmarks like the famous Space Needle, professional sporting events and more. Seattle also has a number of natural attractions that travelers can enjoy, most involving the waterfront area and all of Puget Sound which sits right at the city's front door. One of the biggest strengths that Seattle has though is either not known about, or simply not taken advantage of by many people, and that is the surprising amount of quality attractions and communities that are all within easy driving distance.

Mount Rainier. Photo by: pfly

Probably the most famous and recognizable landmark in the entire state of Washington, Mount Rainier is also one of the more gorgeous mountains in the entire United States of America. Mount Rainier is located inside Mount Rainier National Park and there are a number of activities to do within the boundaries of the park. Mount Rainier National Park was established in 1899 and was actually the fifth national park ever designated in the United States. There are numerous camping, hiking, backpacking and exploring opportunities in the park with some of the highlights being the Wonderland Trail which circles the entire mountain, the visitor center at Paradise, the lodge and visitor center at Sunrise, and the many historic buildings at Longmire. There are also a number of waterfalls within the park including Narada Falls, Christine Falls and many others. Anyone heading to Mount Rainier would be advised to bring their camera, as there are many beautiful areas that are viewable either from the car or after a short walk from the parking lot.

Mount Rainier Video

Mount Rainier. Photo by: indywriter

One of the few chances anyone from the continental United States has to ever experience an actual rain forest is located on the Olympic Peninsula west of Seattle. In this area, called the Hoh Rain Forest, there are tremendous old growth vegetation and a great number of species of plants that cannot be found elsewhere. The rain forest averages approximately one hundred and fifty inches (about 13 feet) of precipitation a year and the spring floods regularly cause the Hoh River to change its course. The Hoh Rain Forest is located within the Olympic National Forest and features a number of well groomed trails as well as a great visitor center.

The most popular trail to take is the Hall of Mosses which leads visitors into an area of the rain forest that is easily accessible, but still gives an accurate representation of what life in the rain forest is really like. Among the many species of wildlife that can be viewed from time to time in the rain forest are black bear, Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, raccoon, bobcat, cougar, pacific tree frogs, and the northern spotted owl. Walking into the Hoh Rain Forest is like entering another world.

Bavarian Village. All buidings in town must have a Bavarian theme.
Photo by: starmist1

A trip east across the Cascade Mountains on US highway 2 leads the traveler to the small community of Leavenworth, Washington. The community of Leavenworth was originally a small but vibrant logging town and an important railroad depot, but when the logging industry and the railroad both left the town, it turned to the industry it is famous for today, tourism. Leavenworth has been converted into a Bavarian Village and the entire town has braced the theme. Every building in the town is required to be built and maintained with the Bavarian theme. The Bavarian theme is fitting for Leavenworth as the surrounding mountains make it seem as though the traveler has been transported back to a small European village of yesteryear. The city is a great place to shop as many unique items can be purchased from the many storefronts that cater to the tourists that flock there each year. The Christmas Tree Lighting Weekends during December are particularly popular times to take in the little mountain village. Leavenworth is also a great place to stay for anyone interested in outdoor recreation as the area is popular with hikers, mountain bikers, snowmobilers, skiers, backpackers, rafters, rock climbers and kayakers. Few people are disappointed with a visit to the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth.

4. Ocean Shores, WA

Located on the Pacific Coast of Washington, just west of Seattle, Ocean Shores is a great place to spend the day or even a long weekend. The community of Ocean Shores was actually planned and designed to be a resort town for the rich and famous, and briefly during the 1960s many stars from Hollywood would frequent the area. Currently it is a great oceanfront community with a number of activities that are attractive to families, couples and travel groups of all sizes. Built on a long sandbar that separates Gray's Harbor from the Pacific Ocean, Ocean Shores is a nice way to experience a beach vacation but still enjoy the calm and quiet of a small town. Along with all the standard activities associated with beach vacations, Ocean Shores also offers boating, fishing, kite flying, and more. One of the more unique features to some Washington State beaches is that vehicles are allowed to drive on them, and one of the more fun things to do in Ocean Shores is to drive the beach whenever traveling into or out of the town. Ocean Shores is still a favorite of many people who live in the state of Washington, and it has the ability to satisfy those from outside the region as well.

5. Mount St. Helens

The destruction and force of Mount St. Helens' last eruption in May of 1980 is still a vivid memory in many peoples minds. Though the mountain was responsible for more than fifty deaths, miles of ruined roadway, more than two hundred destroyed homes, and a number of obliterated bridges, the scenery that was left behind is simply awe-inspiring. While in a number of places it is possible to see how the forest has been able to heal itself and regrow in areas affected by the eruption, in other areas it is easy to still see the evidence of the destruction and devastation. The eruption changed what was once a pristine mountain peak into a horseshoe shaped crater that can now be accessed by those willing to climb to the rim and peer inside. Views of the mountain can be enjoyed from a number of locations, but the Johnston Ridge Observatory provides for some of the best. A number of local communities have museums and other businesses that tell the story of the day the mountain erupted, and travelers can even take a charter helicopter ride over the crater. Visiting Mount St. Helens is a great way for anyone interested in the great outdoors to get a real feel for the power of nature.

A tour near Mount Saint Helens

There is much to explore near Seattle

From natural resources like the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, to man made attractions like hydroelectric dams, communities and historical sites, there are a phenomenal amount of things to do that are all within an easy drive from the city of Seattle. Washington State and the entire Pacific Northwest have a large amount of beautiful scenery available to offer to the travelers that are lucky enough to head its way, and it would be a shame to miss much of it because someone confined their vacation to the boundaries of the city of Seattle. The western side of the state is known for its forests and oceanfront locations, while the eastern side of the state is less populous and much of it enjoys an almost desert type climate. Whatever direction a visitor to Seattle decides to venture out in will lead them to some of the nicest scenery and wonderful communities a traveler could ever hope to find. A visit to Seattle is a great way to spend a vacation, but vacationers shouldn't forget to take advantage of the rest of what Washington State has to offer as well.

A great resource for booking your trip near Seattle is by using Expedia. Expedia is one of the top resources for travel and along with an expedia coupon code from you may find you can reduce your costs substantially.

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    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      8 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Actually, I've visited three of the places in your poll, since we lived in Auburn for four months while my husband was on contract at Boeing in 1988. We camped in the rain forest, and discovered why its called a rain forest. We didn't see much outside the tent in our very small campground where we were the only campers. We loved Mt. Rainier. It's always in sight but we did get to its official home. We loved the Seattle area.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 

      8 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Being a "local" I've visited all of these places and agree that they are some of the best places to go on a roadtrip near Seattle. Nice lens!


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