If you’re looking for the best things to do in Washington State, look no further because this travel guide covers the state’s top attractions, best activities and highlights that are bucket list worthy only!!!
In this guide you’ll learn all about Washington’s must see places and quintessential things to do that will inspire you, and hopefully help you plan the perfect trip, no matter if it’s exploring the state’s Pacific coastline, impressive Cascade Mountains, or least-visited eastern plains.
The list begins with the best things to do in the Seattle Metro area, then covers Northwest Washington, the Olympic Peninsula, Central Washington, Southeast Washington, and finally, Northeast Washington.
From the state’s dreamy, fog-soaked forests, to its wild and rugged coastline, and golden rolling hills covered in vineyards in the eastern half of the state, you will be captivated by Washington State’s unmatched beauty.
Whether you’re standing on a mountain peak, staring at a roaring waterfall, or enjoying a serene moment by a glacial lake, you are guaranteed to be impressed by this upper left corner of the United States.
Best Things To Do In The Seattle Metro Area
See The Space Needle
The Space Needle is a Seattle icon and a must see whether you’re standing below and gazing up at the towering landmark or taking in the Seattle skyline from the top of the building on the Observation Deck.
The Observation Deck sits 520 feet above the ground and provides panoramic views of Seattle and beyond. See the snow-capped peaks of the Cascade Mountains to the east, the majestic Olympic Mountain Range to the west, and Mount Rainier to the south.
Up at the Observation Deck are tilted glass benches that lean out over the city for the ultimate viewing experience. Not only that, but the deck also features the world’s first and only revolving glass floor! Do you see why the Space Needle experience needs to be at the top of your Seattle and Washington bucket list? There is truly nothing like this anywhere else in the world.
To reach the Observation Deck, you ‘ll need to take a quick forty-one second elevator ride to the top. Once up there, you’re free to spend as much time as you like taking in the astonishing views. Included in the admission price is a photo of your experience that will be available for instant sharing.
While you’re up there, grab a beverage or a quick snack from the Atmos Cafe or Wine Bar.
Travel Tip: If you can plan to visit the Observation Deck around sunset, you’ll be able to take in the Seattle views while it’s light outside, and stay up there until it begins to get dark and watch the city lights brighten the night skies.
Ride The Seattle Great Wheel
The Seattle Great Wheel is a landmark feature on the Seattle waterfront and an iconic tourist attraction. If you’re trying to tick off the big ticket items on your Seattle or Washington bucket list, then you’ve got to ride this Ferris Wheel at least once in your lifetime if you get the opportunity.
While the ride isn’t thrilling (unless you’re afraid of heights like myself), it does provide fantastic views of Seattle’s skyline and of Elliot Bay. On a clear day you’ll be able to see Mount Rainier and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains in the distance. While the views are great during the day, they become even more incredible at night when all of the buildings and skyscrapers are lit up.
Even if you don’t ride the Ferris Wheel at night, it is totally worth visiting he waterfront once it gets dark to see this attraction put on an LED light show. The wheel is covered in 500,000 LED lights so as you can imagine, puts on quite a spectacular show!
The spectacular visual effects are displayed every evening from Friday through Sunday. During mid-week, only the ring is illuminated. On holidays and game days, you might be lucky enough to see a special themed light show. The light shows are lots of fun to watch!
Built in 2012, the 175-foot tall Ferris Wheel has 42 enclosed cabins that can hold up to eight people each. While inside cabins, riders will hear an interesting narration on Seattle’s waterfront history.
The duration of the ride depends on how many riders are onboard but generally last between ten and twenty minutes. There is one cabin with a glass floor however to ride this cabin you will need a reservation.
Travel Tip: You can find the Seattle Great Wheel on Pier 57 near Pike Place Market and Seattle Aquarium. Metered parking is available on Alaskan Way near the Seattle Great Wheel, but street parking is free on Sundays in and around the Seattle waterfront.
Explore Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is synonymous with Seattle and is the city’s top tourist attraction hosting ten million visitors each year. Tourists come to experience the unique sights, sounds, and smells of the Seattle waterfront and to get acquainted with the culture of Washington state.
Everything from the iconic neon Pike Place sign to the cobblestone streets, notorious gum wall, and gorgeous views of the Seattle waterfront, draw locals and tourists alike. But the most popular attraction here is the Pike Place Fish Market famous for its fish flinging fish mongers.
The fish market is located at the main entrance of Pike Place and where you’ll be able to watch the crowd pleasing antics of the fish mongers as they throw the daily catch into the air and across to staff members who’ll wrap purchases behind the counter. It really is a must see on every visit to Seattle.
Pike Place spans nine acres and besides the fish market, you’ll also find vendors selling art, crafts, baked goods, local produce, wine, flowers, and more.
Take The Amtrak Cascades Train From Seattle To Bellingham
The Amtrak Cascades Train provides daily services between Vancouver and Eugene stopping in several Washington cities along the route including Bellingham, Olympia, and Centralia.
While the entire route between Oregon and Canada is incredibly scenic, the most stunning stretch is between Seattle and Vancouver. However, if you’re not looking to leave the country, one way to enjoy this train service is by taking the journey between Seattle and Bellingham. Along this route, passengers can experience parts of Washington state that are not accessible by vehicle, and see amazing views of the Puget Sound and its hidden emerald bays.
Not only is the train travel really cool, but it’s also a great day trip idea from Seattle. The trip to Bellingham is only two hours and arrives in the city before 10am which means you’ll have plenty of time to explore. Forget driving and dealing with that crazy traffic on Interstate-5, just relax and soak in the glorious Pacific Northwest scenery. The train fare is quite reasonably priced and with the way gas prices have been sky rocketing, it might actually be a cheaper way to travel.
Best Things To Do In Northwest Washington
Take A Scenic Drive Down Chuckanut Scenic Byway
Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway is a twenty-two mile stretch of road that features lush evergreen forests and gorgeous emerald bays. The curvy road hugs tall sandstone cliffs as it travels alongside the shoreline of picture perfect Samish Bay.
This beautiful byway which has been dubbed Washington’s version of Big Sur, is the state’s first ever scenic byway! Picturesque views seem to appear around every bend so don’t let the sights distract you from driving. There are several pullouts along the way so you won’t miss out on seeing the enchanting scenery.
Sample Pacific Oysters At Taylor Shellfish Farm
Taylor Shellfish Farms are known throughout the Pacific Northwest for growing the finest shellfish including geoduck, clams, mussels, and oysters. Although they do have several oyster bars in Seattle, there is nothing like enjoying their bounty directly from where the shellfish are raised on Samish Bay.
Not only is the shellfish fresher here, and therefore more delicious, but it is a total experience seeing where they are grown and being able to try them on the shores of the beautiful Puget Sound.
The farm is located in an idyllic bay where diners can enjoy picturesque views that are typical to this northwest corner of the state. Think lush and moody evergreen forests adjacent to mesmerizing emerald bays. An outdoor picnic area provides space for guests to enjoy freshly prepared meals directly on the waterfront.
We recommend picking up a tray of freshly shucked oysters and enjoying them with a local brew. Although the farm grow a variety of very tasty oysters including Kumamoto and Shigoku, the Pacific oysters are especially exquisite.
Enjoy A Romantic Getaway In Fairhaven
Fairhaven is a charming place adored for its beautiful Victorian-era architecture. Situated on the shores of calm Bellingham Bay, Fairhaven’s glorious water views coupled with the district’s quaint downtown area lined by cobblestone streets and full of fabulous restaurants, make it the perfect destination for a romantic getaway or relaxing retreat.
Settled in 1853, Fairhaven’s historic downtown core is full of nineteenth century red brick buildings. Inside the historic buildings are an eclectic mix of art galleries, boutique stores, book shops, cafes, and coffee shops.
This community offers a range of activities ideal for those looking to unwind. Whether it’s wandering through the downtown area to admire the architecture, relaxing inside a cozy book shop, strolling the over-water boardwalk at Boulevard Park, or indulging in a seafood dinner, you are guaranteed to leave Fairhaven feeling rejuvenated. For those of you who prefer to stay active and outdoors, there are a number of hiking trails and water activities that can be enjoyed at nearby Larrabee State Park.
The two top-rated places to stay in Fairhaven that are best suited for romantic escapes and relaxation are Fairhaven Village Inn and Chrysalis Inn & Spa.
The Fairhaven Village Inn is a charming Victorian property located in the heart of the historic district. Rooms feature either partial views of Fairhaven’s working harbor or the Village Green. All stays come with locally made baked goods, breakfast cookies and seasonal fruit.
The Chrysalis Inn & Spa By Hilton is a four-star hotel situated on the Fairhaven waterfront. Rooms at this property come with partial of full bay views, as well as a fireplace. Unwind at the hotel’s spa with steam baths, body scrubs, facials, and massages. There is also an onsite restaurant with panoramic views of Bellingham Bay that serves creative northwest cuisine.
>>Read: 10 Fun Things To Do In Fairhaven
Discover Bellingham’s Craft Beer Scene
Bellingham, once a city known for its canneries, lumber industry, and coal gas production, now draws people for its abundant outdoor opportunities, thriving cultural landscape, and phenomenal craft beer scene.
This coastal city of ninety thousand residents has nearly twenty craft breweries which means Bellingham has one of the highest number of breweries per capita. Pretty impressive right?
One of the best things about Bellingham’s breweries is that many of them are located within a few miles of each other in the downtown district which means you can easily visit multiple bars without needing to drive between them.
Some of the best breweries to check out in the downtown core area include Boundary Bay, Aslan Brewing Co., and Gruff Brewing. Boundary Bay is the oldest brewery in Bellingham having been around since 1995. They offer wide variety of brews from IPAs to pilsners and stouts, which are all brewed with water from Bellingham’s own Lake Whatcom watershed.
Another favorite among locals is Aslan Brewing who make refreshing lagers, hoppy brews, as well as seasonal surprises like ginger rye pale ale and blueberry Saisons.
Gruff Brewing (located directly across the road from Boundary Bay) offer sixteen taps pouring pilsners, ambers, Belgian blondes, pale ales, and a creamy nitro Irish stout.
There are many other great options but you would need to spend at least two days in Bellingham to cover half of the breweries here. Since Bellingham is only a short two hour drive north from Seattle, it’s an easy day trip destination for Seattleites, however it’s best to stay overnight if you’re planning on spending the day drinking. There are so many cool things to do in Bellingham that you’ll be glad you extended your stay.
Explore The Mount Baker Wilderness Area
Mount Baker is an impressive, glacier-covered volcano that dominates the Northwest Washington landscape. Standing at 10,781 feet, it is one of the tallest mountains in the Cascade Mountain Range (third highest mountain in Washington and fifth highest in the Cascade Range). Mt Baker is so tall that it is clearly visible from Seattle, Vancouver, and even from Vancouver Island.
Not only that but Mount Baker is also one of the most snowiest places on earth! In 1999, the Mount Baker Ski Area set the world record for highest recorded snowfall in a single season at 1,140 inches. That is a whopping 95 feet of snow!
To see this monumental mountain, head out to the Mount Baker Wilderness Area where there are several hiking trails that lead up to the mountain’s flanks. Some of the hiking trails that provide outstanding close-up views of Mount Baker include Heliotrope Ridge Trail and Ptarmigan Ridge. These are strenuous hiking trails, however there are many easier trails that are just as interesting like the Chain Lakes Loop Trail and the hike to Table Mountain.
Even if you don’t have time to hike, the Mount Baker Wilderness Area is still worth visiting because there are stunning views of the Cascade Mountains that can be seen from Artist Point, a panoramic viewpoint that sits at an elevation of 5,100 feet. From this viewpoint you’ll be able to see Mount Shuksan, another iconic Washington peak, and Picture Lake, one of the most photogenic alpine lakes in the state.
Hike To Lake Twenty-Two
If you’re looking for an interesting hike that will lead you to a gorgeous alpine lake in Northwest Washington, look no further than Lake 22, or Lake Twenty-Two. The trail to the lake, which is located in Mount Pilchuck State Park, is 5.4 miles roundtrip and rated as moderately difficult.
This popular hike in Washington will take you through classic scenery that is characteristic of the evergreen state; think granite mountains, wet and foggy old growth forests, ferns and mosses that cover the forest floor. The trail never wanders too far from the sound of rushing water. At the end of the trail inside an amphitheater-like bowl is a silky glacial lake that reflects surrounding rocks, trees, and sky.
So how did the curiously named lake beget its name? The origins of Lake Twenty-Two’s name is uncertain but one theory is that nineteenth century railroad maps listed local creeks numerically; one particular creek and its source lake were assigned “22.” The name stuck, and in 1947, the 790 acre Lake Twenty-Two Research Natural Area (RNA) was created, putting an end to logging and allowing future generations to appreciate the remaining old-growth cedars and hemlocks.
Although this hike can be completed in winter with snowshoes, it is best to wait until the snow has melted as the route to Lake Twenty-Two is avalanche prone. Because this trail is perpetually wet, be sure to wear waterproof boots for your hike.
Best Things To Do On The Olympic Peninsula
Camp In The Enchanting Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh Rainforest is a lush temperate rainforest where giant Sitka Spruce, Red Cedar, Big Leaf Maple and Douglas Fir trees thrive. Underneath these towering trees are thousands of shade-loving mosses and ferns that drip from tree branches and blanket the forest floor.
In this part of the state, rainfall seems eternal, apart from a short break during the summer. In fact, it rains so much in the Hoh Rainforest that the yearly rainfall average amounts to a sopping wet, one hundred and forty inches of precipitation! The result is a lush, green canopy of both coniferous and deciduous species.
This enchanting place is one of the best examples of temperate rainforest in the United States, and camping under the canopy of these ancient trees is an otherworldly experience.
The Hoh Rain Forest has a campground that is open year round with 72 sites located in the old growth forest along the Hoh River. Each space feels secluded, even during the peak summer period when the campground is often full.
If you’re lucky, you may be able to secure a coveted riverside campsite. If not, you can still enjoy the Hoh River along the many miles of hiking trails that originate from this area. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may even be able to take a dip in the river’s invigorating waters.
While you’re here, be sure not to miss hiking the legendary Hall Of Mosses Trail, an iconic loop that takes you through old growth forest and features a grove of maples trees draped with abundant club moss, or the equally as impressive Spruce Nature Trail, another short loop trail through both old and new growth forest alongside Taft Creek and the Hoh River.
Stay At Lake Quinault Lodge
The Lake Quinault Lodge, built in 1926, is a grand and rustic lodge surrounded by some of the largest living specimens of Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock and Western Red Cedar trees. Sitting on the shores of quiet Lake Quinault, this resort is the perfect place to disconnect and soak in the unique beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
Imagine starting your morning curled up on a luxurious leather lounge inside a stately sitting room with a warm cup of coffee in hand as you watch fog lift from heavily forested mountains. Now picture yourself enjoying a peaceful afternoon basking in the sunshine on Adirondack chairs while listening to the lake’s waters lap against the shoreline. Sounds like pure bliss right? That’s why the Lake Quinault Lodge is one of the most idyllic places to stay in the entire state of Washington.
The lodge is located just outside of Olympic National Park in the adjacent Olympic National Forest. It is well positioned for an overnight stop along the popular Olympic Peninsula Loop Road Trip as there aren’t many other lodging options (besides camping) on this section of the drive.
Whether you plan to visit in summer when you can take advantage of lake activities like canoeing and fishing, or visit in winter once the moody weather sets in and the velvety green forests have dampened, you are destined to have a serene and magical time.
Explore The Lavender Trail in Sequim
Sequim, on the Olympic Peninsula, is known as the “Lavender Capital of North America”. With nine lavender farms all concentrated in the one place, it’s not hard to see why the destination has earned this nickname.
The beautiful lavender farms of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley in Washington State, have long been known as the source for lavender and lavender products. The first Sequim lavender farms began over twenty years ago when local farmers recognized that the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains made Sequim the ideal growing climate for lavender.
Today, numerous lavender farms with thousands of fragrant lavender plants dot the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, and visitors from around the country come to “America’s Provence” to experience, photograph, smell, taste, and celebrate all things lavender!
Lavender season is all summer long, lasting from June through September. During this time, visitors can stop by any of the lavender farms located on the lavender trail to learn about lavender farming, watch essential oil distillation, enjoy u-cut flowers, shop for artisanal lavender products, and more.
You can also plan your visit to the lavender capital of North America during the third weekend of July when the annual Sequim Lavender Weekend is held, a festival that celebrates the sweet smelling purple plant, and a time when most of the farms hold special events, classes, and a street fair.
Watch Cranberries Get Harvested In Long Beach
Cranberries are as American as apple pie. The cranberry is one of only three native North American fruits that are commercially grown in the United States (the other two are the blueberry and Concord grape), and is a popular accompaniment to Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes.
Cranberries date back to glacial times. When the ice caps shrank after the last ice age, glaciers left wide swaths of low-lying wetland perfect for cultivating cranberries, especially in the region now known as New England.
The native Wampanoag people had been cultivating these berries for more than 12,000 years before the arrival of Europeans in the 1600s. It wasn’t until two hundred years later in 1816, that the European settlers began cultivating cranberries too.
Cranberries have since become a major commercial crop in certain American states. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, cranberries played a significant role in the economies of Massachusetts and its neighboring New England states. However, Wisconsin has now taken the lead, and produces more cranberries than any other state, a whopping 4.64 million barrels in 2020, to be exact!
Although the east coast is most associated with the deep-red, tart tasting berry, the Pacific Northwest greatly contributes to the nation’s cranberry crop industry too. I’ll bet you didn’t know that? As a matter of fact, Oregon is the third biggest domestic producer, and Washington State grows its fair share too coming in at fourth place.
Cranberry farming in the southwest corner of Washington State has a history dating back more than one hundred years. A Massachusetts visitor observed the native berries growing in the marshes around here and was impressed with the area’s resemblance to Cape Cod. Convinced that the peat soil could be successfully adapted to the cultivation of commercial cranberries, a partnership of four entrepreneurs purchased more than 1600 acres of peninsula land between 1872 and 1877 for as little as $1 an acre.
One of the best fall experiences you can have in Washington State is to watch cranberries get harvested during the October Harvest in Long Beach. The Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, produces cranberries and maintains a demonstration cranberry farm as an educational facility for tourists.
Harvesting usually happens sometime in the first or second week of October. Visitors are welcome to come watch, enjoy music, and consume cranberry treats. If you can’t make it for harvest time, there is a Cranberry Museum & Gift Shop located onsite that is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Visitors are more than welcome to take self-guided tours of the cranberry bogs any time of the year from dawn to dusk.
Travel Tip: Pick up a brochure from the white mail box at the head of the sidewalk, just next to the front parking lot. Follow the sidewalk toward the bogs, go through the evergreen huckleberry hedge and walk on the grassy path in between the bogs.
Things To Do In Central Washington
Central Washington divides the western half of the state from the east, extending from the border of Canada in the north, to Oregon in the south. This central part of the state is often divided into the north-central region and south-central. For the purposes of this travel guide, we will list destinations under Central Washington from north to south.
Spend The Day In Winthrop
Adventure in the air with a certain western flair. Welcome to Winthrop, a tiny old western town with antique boardwalks, unique boutiques, restaurants, and cozy overnight options.
Situated on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains, this charming vacation destination is completely off-the-beaten path and is the perfect place for you if you’re looking for somewhere to unplug and take in that fresh country air.
Although Winthrop is situated along the North Cascades Scenic Byway, one of Washington’s most stunning and popular drives, the small town of less than five hundred people, never seems too busy, even at the height of summer’s peak travel period.
Winthrop is a year-round retreat where you can escape the urban hustle. It’s also a great place to escape Washington’s gloomy weather because this side of the side receives a lot more sunshine and a lot less rain. This means more time to play outside!
The Okanogan National Forest sits at Winthrop’s doorstep which means there are a plethora of outdoor activities whether it’s summer or winter. There are miles of hiking and horse riding trails, excellent fishing, mountain biking, rafting, and more. Come snowfall, the place turns into a winter wonderland, and a place where visitors can utilize the state’s largest network of groomed cross-country ski trails.
Enjoy Lake Life At Lake Chelan
Lake Chelan is one of the largest and most beautiful lakes in Washington. This clear glacial lake is an astounding fifty miles long! What makes this lake especially beautiful is that it is surrounded by mountains and rolling, golden hills covered in vineyards. It’s really not a landscape you expect to see in Washington State.
Most out of state visitors, and even Washingtonians who reside in the western half of the state, are surprised by Chelan’s topography and climate. Chelan sits on the boundary of Central and Eastern Washington where the jagged mountain peaks of the Cascade Mountains turn into gentle rolling hills. This transitional zone sees a lot less rain and a lot more sun. Over three hundred days of sunshine to be clear.
What this means for visitors is that lake life can be enjoyed for a longer period of time in Chelan. Whether you’re looking to go boating, jet skiing, paddle boarding, windsurfing, swimming, or fishing, Lake Chelan is a paradise for on-water activities!
If you don’t have your own boat or jet ski, don’t fear. There are several boat rental businesses in the area that provide all manner of watercraft rentals like Shoreline Watercraft & Boat Rentals.
Here are a few interesting facts that you should know about Lake Chelan and why this particular lake is so special. Besides being one of the largest lakes in Washington, Lake Chelan is also the deepest lake in the state. Not only this but, Lake Chelan is the third deepest freshwater lake in the United States, and the 26th deepest lake in the entire world! This lake’s deepest point is 118 meters below sea level!!
The other impressive thing about Lake Chelan is how blue its waters are. The lake is what’s known as ultra-oligotrophic, which simply means that it’s extremely low in nutrients. Low levels of phosphorous and other nutrients help to keep algae production at bay which contributes to the clarity of the water here.
Okay, enough science! All you really need to know is that Chelan equals summer time fun!! Just like Winthrop mentioned above, Chelan is big on small town charm. Once you’re done having fun in the sun, head into downtown to explore the restaurant scene in Chelan. Be sure to allow enough time on your itinerary to visit a few of the wineries in the area.
Make The Pilgrimage To Stonehenge
Who hasn’t heard of the ancient Stonehenge, the Neolithic rock structure which sits high on Salisbury Plain in England? These massive and mysterious stones have stirred the imagination of many for centuries. There is nothing quite like this famous prehistoric monument anywhere else in the world. Or is there?
Well, in the state of Washington, there is another Stonehenge. However, it’s not very ancient at all. The world’s second Stonehenge is situated near the town site of Maryhill, three miles east of Maryhill Museum of Art. This full-scale replica was constructed by museum founder Sam Hill.
The Washington ‘Stonehenge’ is very similar to the original size and design of the ancient ruin in England, but was built using reinforced concrete. Also, unlike the ancient Stonehenge, it is aligned to the astronomical horizon rather than the actual midsummer sunrise, which results in a three degree difference from the original structure. We could get a lot more technical about this replica Stonehenge’s design but we’ll leave it here.
If you’ve ever been fascinated by the real Stonehenge but don’t think you’ll ever have the opportunity to see it in real life, this replica may be able to satisfy some of your curiosity. You can find it off Highway 14 on Stonehenge Drive.
Best Things To Do In Southeast Washington
Visit Palouse Falls
Unbenownst to most, Palouse Falls is actually Washington’s official state waterfall. This waterfall might actually be the most beautiful waterfall in the state, or at least the most impressive.
The magnificent waterfall was carved out more than 13,000 years ago and is the last active waterfall on the Ice Age floods path. In case you’re wondering what this Ice Age flood path is (or was), it was flooding that occurred at the end of the last Ice Age when an ice dam in Northern Idaho burst, releasing flood waters across parts of Eastern Washington, and into Oregon before reaching the Pacific Ocean. These floods are what created the strange, rocky landscape (known as ‘Scablands’) that can be seen throughout Eastern Washington.
What’s left behind is lands that look eerily similar to Iceland, and the massive Palouse Falls which plunges two hundred feet into a churning bowl below, before making its way out to the Snake River though a winding gorge of impressive columnar basalt walls.
The roaring waterfall is located inside Palouse Falls State Park. Once you get to Palouse Falls State Park, you can view the waterfall from a viewing area near the parking lot, or take a short hike to the top of the waterfall for a closer look.
Spend A Weekend At Steamboat State Park
Steamboat Rock State Park is one of the most impressive destinations in Eastern Washington. This state park encompasses over five thousand acres and is home to one of the most beautiful lakes in Washington.
Banks Lake is a massive, twenty-seven mile long lake stretching between Coulee City and Electric City. The lake’s sheer size is what lures most boaters and fishermen because there is just so much to explore and places to try your luck fishing once you’re on the water. You can fish for smallmouth bass, walleye, lake whitefish, black crappies, bluegill, perch, rainbow trout, Kokanee, and catfish here.
Kayakers and canoeists will also fall in love with Banks Lake. The calm and protected bays here make for an excellent paddling destination. However, you will have to bring your own equipment as there aren’t any rentals available in the area.
Not to worry if you don’t own your own watercraft though, because the lake is perfect for swimming too! It’s iridescent and clear waters will beckon on a hot summer’s day and you won’t be able to resist getting in and cooling off.
Steamboat Rock State Park is one of the best RV and camping destinations in Washington. There is no shortage of outdoor recreation here plus it’s such a beautiful place that you’ll no doubt want to spend a few days in the area. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Washington or bucket list worthy destinations to visit in the state, this place needs to be near the top of your list!
Hike To The Top Of Steamboat Rock
The hike to the top of Steamboat Rock is one of the most rewarding hiking opportunities in Eastern Washington. The trail to the top is slightly difficult but not too strenuous, and before you know it you will be looking at one of the most incredible views this side of Washington state!
Steamboat Rock is a massive rock that stands in the middle of Steamboat Rock State Park, one of the most beautiful state parks in Eastern Washington. Although it is called a rock, it is more like a butte or mesa.
This butte made from basalt, rises steeply out of Banks Lake, a massive lake that spans the entire state park. The rock itself is a whopping 600 acres and takes about an hour to walk around its circumference. From the top of Steamboat Rock are incredible views of Steamboat Rock State Park, Banks Lake, the Grand Coulee, and even the Cascade Mountains to the west.
Discover The Lake Lenore Caves
The Lake Lenore Caves are a set of seven ancient caves hiding in the desert plains of Southeast Washington. These caves were formed during the Missoula Floods at the end of the last Ice Age over 13,000 years ago. During the floods, water crashed through the canyon pulling chunks of basalt from the walls of the coulee creating ridges, cliffs, caves, and a series of lakes.
After the water retreated and caves had been revealed, early native people used these caves as shelters as far back as 5,000 years ago. It is said that at one time, the walls of the caves contained petroglyphs, however due to vandalism their doesn’t appear to be any evidence of inhabitance any longer, if it were ever there.
The caves are fun to explore and can be reached on an easy trail that is just over a mile long. The landscape around here is unlike anywhere else you would normally associate with the state of Washington.
One of the best things about hiking up to the Lenore Caves is seeing the amazing views of the Grand Coulee from the top of the hiking trail. From the top of the trail you’ll be able to see a bird’s eye view of Lenore Lake and Alkali Lake including spectacular views of the gorge.
Lake Lenore Caves are located forty minutes from Moses Lake, two hours from Tri-Cities, and three hours from Seattle.
Travel Tip: Visit Lake Lenore Caves on this road trip that travels through the Coulee Corridor.
>>Read: How To Hike To Lake Lenore Caves
Explore Walla Walla’s Wineries & Culinary Scene
Walla Walla is a small country town in Southeast Washington that is surrounded by rolling, sun-soaked hills blanketed in vineyards. This destination has the highest concentration of wineries in the state of Washington so it’s no wonder that this place has become a hot spot for oenophiles.
There are more than one hundred wineries within the Walla Walla Valley and you don’t have to wander too far from the downtown area to visit many of the tasting rooms, which is why this is such a great place for weekend getaways.
Seattleites regularly pop over to this corner of Washington for a weekend of vineyard and wine bar hopping because it’s so easy to get direct flights from SeaTac Airport.
But it’s not just the seductive wine scene that has many flocking to Walla Walla, there is a burgeoning culinary scene also. Some of the country’s best chefs from Seattle, San Francisco, and other capitals of cuisine have transplanted themselves here to open their own restaurants. From fine dining establishments, to casual eateries, and food trucks, there is a wide variety of delectable options to accompany the renowned wine produced in Walla Walla.
Many of the dishes prepared by culinary artists here are prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients because the fertile fields that surround Walla Walla produce a variety of crops such as wheat, asparagus, potatoes, strawberries, and Walla Walla’s famous sweet onion.
If all of this wasn’t enough to make you think twice about visiting, Walla Walla also has a charming, tree-lined downtown core that dating back to the 1800s that has been beautifully preserved. Besides the wine bars, restaurants, and cafes, you’ll also find an eclectic mix of boutique shops, antique furniture stores, and art galleries.
Take Epic Photos At The Wild Horse Monument
The Wild Horse Monument is a public art sculpture located atop a butte adjacent to the Columbia River near Vantage. Created in 1989, the sculpture consists of fifteen life-size steel horses which appear to be galloping across a ridge.
Although the sculpture is most often referred to as the Wild Horse Monument, the real name of the sculpture given by the artist is ‘Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies’. It was presented as a gift for the centenary of Washington’s statehood, and is a memorial to both to the native peoples of the state and the wild horses that once roamed this region.
The sculpture did not turn out exactly as the artist’s preconceived idea because funding ran out. The original statue was supposed to include a 36-foot high tipped basket with two horses still inside while the others galloped away, representing a gift from Grandfather Spirit. Grandfather Spirit’s gift of wild horses was supposed to inspire a spirit of free will, as well as a companion for work and play on earth.
A ridge above the Columbia River near Vantage Bridge was proposed as the site because the last great roundup of Washington’s wild horses took place in the area in 1906.
The monument can be seen along Interstate-90 by road trippers driving between Seattle and Spokane. Access. While the monument is best viewed from a distance, visitors are also welcome to hike up to the monument.
Access to the sculpture is via a footpath which leads from the east-bound side of Interstate-90 near Vantage to the top of the ridge. From the monument’s ‘vantage point’ (pun intended), are some of the best views of the Columbia River and Gorge. When you’re up there, you definitely can feel the wildness that the artist was meaning to inspire, yet there is a certain sadness to the sculpture.
Best Things To Do In Northeast Washington
Spend A Weekend In Spokane
Spokane is the second largest city in Washington and is situated less than twenty miles from the Idaho border. Most out of state visitors will use Spokane as a starting point on a road trip of the northern states because the city is relatively close to popular vacation destinations like Coeur D’Alene, Sandpoint, and Glacier National Park.
But the city of Spokane itself is worthy of spending a few days in. This vibrant city has recently seen major growth since many residents of big cities like Seattle are leaving in droves to live in more friendly and affordable places. This has transformed Spokane into a lively destination full of fabulous restaurants and loads of breweries!
The downtown area is surprisingly attractive and filled with beautiful buildings that date back to the 1800s. Running through the middle of the city is the Spokane River which visitors can enjoy downtown at Riverfront Park. Spokane Falls is the biggest attraction at Riverfront Park and is a can’t miss.
One of the best places to stay in Spokane is the stunning Historic Davenport Hotel, the city’s grandest and most iconic destination. This hotel boasts elegant rooms that harken back to travel’s most glamorous era.
Ski Or Snowboard At 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort
49 Degrees North is a ski resort in Northeast Washington with 2,325 skiable acres on Chewelah Peak. The resort is located inside Colville National Forest which is forty miles north of Spokane. This resort is a favorite among locals living in Northeast Washington because it is the biggest ski resort in this part of the state.
If you love outdoor winter activities and looking for fun things to do in Northeast Washington, you’ll definitely want to check this place out! For skiiers and snowboarders, this mountain provides fifty-four runs which are serviced by six chair lifts. It’s a perfect resort for beginner and intermediate levels because the runs are more geared towards these levels.
From the top of the mountain are incredible views of the Colville Forest, surrounding peaks, and even Schweitzer Mountain in Northern Idaho can be seen.
There is also a Nordic Center adjacent to the 49 Degrees North Alpine Area that offers fifteen miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing. Additional ungroomed trails weave between groomed trails for snowshoeing. The Nordic Center’s cozy yurt provides rentals, lessons, and trail maps.
Find Codger Pole
Codger Pole is a 65-foot tall chainsaw sculpture that commemorates a 1988 high school football rematch played fifty years after the original game, by the exact same participants. The game was between Colfax and St. John. Colfax lost to St. John in 1938, but won the rematch. Nearly 4,000 people turned out to see this re-match in Colfax, which became the biggest event in the town’s history.
The pole was constructed out of four separate cedar logs and feature the carved faces of the fifty-one players plus two team mascots who competed in the re-match. The city of Colfax claim that the pole is both the world’s largest chainsaw sculpture of human likenesses and the world’s largest football monument ever made.
If you enjoy seeking out quirky and amusing roadside attractions, be sure to find the Codger Pole in Colfax the next time you happen to be in that part of the state.
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