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Top 20 Things to Do & Places to Visit in Washington State

There is no shortage of beautiful places to visit in Washington state. In fact, the entire Pacific Northwest is a stunning part of the US. The Evergreen State is home to a plethora of natural and artificial attractions. It seems as if there is some gorgeous spectacle around every corner, just waiting to impress anybody that walks past.

Places to Visit in Washington State

Landscape photographers will gush over the views offered by the snow-clad mountains, cascading waterfalls, the lush Hoh rain forest, and the outlandish San Juan Islands. At the same time, others will find solace in the charming cities or wandering along foggy beaches. Nature lovers can stroll through endless trails and experience first-hand the plethora of beautiful places in Washington state.

Read Also: Top 7 Trails and Parks for Backpacking Northern California

We understand how daunting planning a vacation can be. Especially when visiting an area boasting so many amazing places. That’s why we’ve compiled the ultimate list of the best attractions that we consider to be the most beautiful places in Washington.

The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Washington State

The scenic diversity you’ll find in this state offers a veritable treasure trove of places to visit. In addition, Washington state is unrivaled for its breathtaking outdoor activities and scenic hikes through its many national parks.

For further reading on the best places to visit in the Pacific Northwest, check out our post on the most beautiful places in Oregon.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the best places to visit in Washington state.

1. Olympic National Park

Best Places To Visit In Washington State - Olympic National Park

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, the Olympic National Park impresses with its picturesque coastlines, towering alpine mountains, rolling hills, numerous hiking trails, and temperate Hoh rain forest.

This beautiful state park is a natural spectacle covering a vast wilderness of close to a million acres, provides the perfect environment for wildlife to thrive.

The Olympic National Park has been recorded to hold the quietest place in the continental US. With its scenic moss-covered lush trees, the Hoh River is the perfect location for outdoor enthusiasts seeking serenity.

That’s not all. Experience the blue-hued Lake Crescent nestled at the base of Washington’s Olympic peninsula or venture a little further afield and explore Hurricane Ridge. Hurricane Ridge is a haven for skiing and snowboarding for those winter sports fans.

2. North Cascades National Park

Places To Go In Washington State - North Cascades National Park
via Fun Life Crisis

If you’re a fan of waterfalls, glaciers, challenging hiking trails, and rainforests, then the North Cascades National Park is the place for you.

The park’s diverse ecological setup combined with a sweeping collection of forests and rugged valleys makes it a place of great natural beauty.

Thunder Creek Trail and Ross Lake are favorite destinations in this state park that you shouldn’t miss. Rent a boat from Lake Ross Resort and enjoy the lake’s turquoise waters against a backdrop of majestic mountains.

Tucked in the heart of the North Cascade Mountains is the man-made Diablo Lake. Its alluring turquoise waters are a result of nearby glaciers releasing fine powder into the reservoir. Kayaking and canoeing offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures.

For those looking for a relaxing getaway, the charming town of Stehekin, nestled deep in this state park, offers everything you could ask for. It doesn’t even have cell phone reception.

3. Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument

Washington Places To Visit - Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument
via KessiWorld

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument offers 110,000 acres for everything from recreation, research, and education. This US National Monument was established in 1982 following the volcano’s eruption in 1980.

You may climb up to the volcano’s summit and enjoy breathtaking views of the crater and the surrounding landscape. Many visitors also drive to Windy Ridge that’s just four miles to the crater, and trek from thereon. But if you’re looking for a convenient way to view or access Mount St Helens, then head straight to the Johnson Ridge Observatory within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Alternatively, you can take a helicopter ride from Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center for a panoramic view of one of beautiful Washington State. If helicopters aren’t your thing, there are hiking routes that will bring you to the summit with its viewpoints and visitor centers.

4. Mount Rainier National Park

Best Places In Washington State - Mount Rainier National Park
via Visit The USA

If you’d like to watch glacial waterfalls crash into craggy canyons against a backdrop of alpine meadows, then this state park is where you need to be. Mount Rainier is the tallest point in Washington state, towering above the skyline at 14,410 ft.

The Skyline Trail is wreathed in wildflowers and is a popular route to hike or bike to the foot of Mount Rainier. Absorb fantastic alpine views from the Paradise area in the Mount Rainier National Park. In winter, the park remains open for snowboarding and skiing.

Spray Falls in the Mowich Lake area of Mount Rainier National Park is a scenic landmark worth visiting. The climb up the 350-foot falls via the Spray Park trail is a challenging but rewarding adventure. You’ll enjoy every moment, albeit enveloped in a mist of spray from the enormous waterfall.

5. The San Juan Islands

Beautiful Places in Washington - San Juan Islands

San Juan Island offers some of the best places to visit in Washington state for lovers of island vacations. The archipelago consists of a trinity of main islands, namely San Juan island, Orcas, and Lopez island.

San Juan Island and its neighbors are some of the best islands to visit in the contiguous United States. In addition, the magnificent views of Puget Sound from Orcas Island are some of the finest along the Olympic wilderness coast.

While on Orcas Island, you can’t afford to miss the Moran State Park. This national park is home to numerous campgrounds with amazing views of Mount Constitution, the pacific ocean, and more. This is the playground for boating, swimming, and fishing enthusiasts.

Whale watching is one of the must-do outdoor activities on offer on San Juan Island. The Lime Kiln State Park also called “Whale Watch Park” has amazing natural views and is one of the best whale watching places in Washing state. In addition, San Juan Island National Historic Park is a bird-watchers paradise with countless walking trails.

6. Puget Sound

Beautiful Places in Washington - Puget Sound

Surrounded by the major cities of Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Everett, Puget Sound deserves its own spot on this list of the most beautiful places in Washington state.

The estuary has numerous islands, including Vachon and the San Juan Islands. Puget Sound is naturally beautiful and a destination of choice for whale watching. With national parks on all sides and breathtaking views of the pacific ocean and Mount Rainier, Puget Sound is a vacationer’s paradise.

In addition, seafood lovers will relish a visit to Puget Sound.

7. Whidbey Island

Beautiful Places in Washington - Whidbey Island

Situated north of Seattle, Whidbey Island is home to hiking paths and boating tours. Presenting numerous great opportunities for an incredible outdoor vacation.

Be sure to include the Deception Pass State Park in your itinerary for sweeping bluff-top views. The iconic Deception Pass Bridge links Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands and is a well-known tourist attraction.

Furthermore, you can go down memory lane by camping at the historic Captain Whidbey Inn. Nestled amidst fir trees, it’s an excellent spot to gather with friends and take in the best nature has to offer.

8. Lake Chelan

Beautiful Places in Washington - Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is sprawled along the North Cascades National Park. It’s a 50-mile stretch of pure beachside bliss, numerous wineries, multiple vineyards, and a water sports haven that makes it one of the most beautiful places in Washington.

The recreational zone was created in 1968 and continues to be a tourist hotspot all year round. The third deepest natural lake in the United States, Lake Chelan, is surrounded by glacier-sculpted valleys and over 250 acres of vineyards.

Fans of the outdoors will not be disappointed with a trip to the North Cascades National Park. Whether you like swimming or motorboating, the deep waters of the lake offer it to you on a plate. Unwind along the lake’s sandy beaches, cuddled in a private cabin with enviable lakefront views.

For a bird’s eye view of Lake Chelan and the North Cascades, take a helicopter flight over the lake to absorb all its amazing beauty from the skies.

9. Leavenworth

Beautiful Places in Washington - Leavenworth

Nestled in the Cascade mountains, not too far from the Canadian border, surrounded by ancient forests, lives a Bavarian-inspired city that exudes European charm.

The decline of the logging industry in the 1960s saw Leavenworth repurposed into a scenic tourist attraction complete with authentic Bavarian architecture. This picturesque town is among the most beautiful places to visit in Washington, set deep in the gorgeous surroundings of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area.

Its alpine architecture and a Nutcracker Museum give the town character and distinct culture. In addition, the town features multiple German-themed restaurants and hosts an annual Oktoberfest celebration.

10. Snoqualmie Falls

Beautiful Places in Washington - Snoqualmie Falls

With a 268-foot drop, Snoqualmie Falls is recognized as the tallest waterfall in Washington state. It is 1oofeet British Columbia day-trippers.

Numerous hiking trails offer you wonderful views of Snoqualmie Falls.

As is often the case with waterfalls, they have drawn the attention of adrenaline junkies the world over. A few fortune hunters have found fame here, while others have plunged to their death trying to conquer the falls.

11. Seattle

Beautiful Places in Washington - Seattle

The largest city in the Pacific Northwest is close to the state’s three national parks.

Seattle is a dream location for those who love spending time in the outdoors. A multi-cultural city bordered by Puget Sound and Lake Washington, it offers sweeping ocean views as breathtaking panoramas of the Olympic Peninsula. With Mount Rainier to the south, Mount Baker, and the North Cascades nearby, there is no limit to the number of outdoor adventures that can be had.

Aside from the natural attractions, do you know that Seattle is home to world-renowned business giants like Amazon, Boeing, UPS, Starbucks, Nordstrom, and Alaska Airlines?

Explore popular green spaces such as Gas Work Parks, Kubota Gardens, Discovery Park, Green Lake Park, Olympic Sculpture Park, and Pike Place market. Ideal for a serene outdoor experience with well-manicured lawns for ultimate reflection and meditation.

Related Reading: Most Amazing Cities in the World

In the heart of Seattle is the towering Space Needle that has defined the city skylines since 1962, when it was built for the World’s Fair. From its observatory, you can marvel at the sights of nearby Mount Rainier, the North Cascades, and Elliott Bay.

12. Mount Baker

Beautiful Places in Washington - Mount Baker

Located in northern Washington, Mount Baker is a visual feast that welcomes visitors through all the seasons. In winter, it’s a popular skiing destination with a famous ski resort nearby. However, backpackers can explore its alpine magnificence in summer and during the shoulder seasons.

One of the most photographed mountains in the Cascade range, it is also the second most active volcano in the state.

Despite its high levels of thermal activity, the glacier-capped peaks and its old-growth alpine forests have made this attraction one of the most beautiful places in Washington. Nearby Diablo Lake is also a tourist hotspot not to be missed. The Diablo Lake overlook offers breathtaking views of the lake and the stunning Cascade mountains that surround it.

13. Skagit Valley

Beautiful Places in Washington - Skagit Valley

When you look at Washington’s Skagit Valley, you might mistakenly think that you’re looking at pictures from Holland. That’s because of the carpet of beautiful tulips that covers the magnificent valley. April is the best time to visit as not only is this peak flower season, but you can enjoy a guided tour during the annual Skagit valley tulip festival.

Take your best camera for a photo contest to capture the best of the moment. In any case, you can’t miss out on a Kodak moment with all the charming flowers around.

14. Riverfront Park (Spokane)

Beautiful Places in Washington - Riverfront Park

In a place far, far away from the spectacle of Olympic National Park and the San Juan Islands lies the city of Spokane. Up near the Canadian border. In this city is the Riverfront Park. A beautiful space that offers a host of activities.

Riverfront park covers around 100 acres and offers everything from relaxing open spaces to the Numerica Skyride. While it might not be quite as panoramic as the Space Needle over in Seattle, there are still many beautiful views.

The Spokane river features heavily in the area, and Spokane falls are not far away. While they may not have the majesty of Niagra, they are an impressive sight.

15. Whatcom Falls Park

Beautiful Places in Washington - Whatcom Falls Park

Tick one thing off your bucket list by visiting the Whatcom Falls Park situated near the city of Bellingham. The park’s namesake waterfall is the principal attraction here.

The Stone Bridge overlooks Whatcom Falls and is the most natural viewpoint for the falls. So if you are ever there in the winter months, you are as good as guaranteed some incredibly scenic views.

Whatcom Falls Park has over 200-acres of parkland in which there’s a delightful children’s fishing pond. Hidden in the woods is Whirlpool Falls that plunges into a swimming hole in perfect beauty. Isn’t it marvelous that Whatcom Falls Park has claimed a place as one of the most beautiful places in Washington?

16. Waterfall Garden Park

Beautiful Places in Washington - Waterfall Garden Park

An artificial waterfall that’s an island of peace within Seattle’s bustling city life. Located in Pioneer Square, the 22-foot waterfall sits on a privately owned green area with an ambiance suited for reflection and heartfelt conversations. It was the original home of UPS when it began operations in Seattle.

Flawlessly manicured Japanese gardens with various exotic plant life complete this park, making it one of the most valuable parks in the US. It’s a popular spot for office workers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the business world and enjoy a nice relaxing lunch.

Sip at your coffee in the heart of the city in a setting that perfectly mimics the deep wild.

17. Columbia River Gorge

Beautiful Places in Washington - Columbia River Gorge

The jaw-dropping Columbia River Gorge divides Washington state and Oregon, allowing the Columbia River to run its course through the Cascades.

Columbia River Gorge is a 4,000 ft deep canyon that covers 80 miles. The Columbia river travels through two states and two countries, cutting through different national park locations up across the border into Canada.

Just remember to carry your best camera and nail the perfect pictures during your visit.

18. Coulee Corridor

Beautiful Places in Washington - Coulee Corridor

The Coulee Corridor is a desert that stands in stark contrast to the rest of the evergreen state. Reason enough for it to be an important place to visit in Washington state. An ideal location for desert hikes, the Coulee Corridor National Scenic Byway has fishing lakes, lakefront campsites, and even dust-clad museums.

The Columbian National Wildlife Refuge is famed for fishing and bird watching. This monumental landscape sets the background for hunting, canoeing, and fishing.

There’s also a fascinating Dry Falls Visitor Center, a geological marvel. A former waterfall carved into the cliff during the Ice Age floods towers an impressive 400ft high over the rock cliff.

The Grand Coulee Dam is found in the Coulee Corridor and is an engineering masterpiece. It’s one of the greatest concrete structures ever built and is the largest hydroelectricity generating plant in the United States.

19. Enchantment Basin

Beautiful Places in Washington - Enchantment Basin

The name is fitting for what you get when you visit this area near the town of Leavenworth. The Enchanted Valley trail is a favorite location for hikers and horse riders within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Getting to the Enchantment Basins is no mean feat. There’s a strenuous 7-mile hike while you gain altitude by over 4,400 feet. But, while the trek may be hard work, the aches and pains you feel will be worth it for the astounding views you get from the summit. Enjoy sweeping panoramas of the Alpine Lake Wilderness, the Quinault River, and pristine glacier-fed lakes as far as the eyes can see.

This spectacular site in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness deserves its place on our list of the most beautiful places in Washington.

20. Deception Pass State Park

Beautiful Places in Washington - Deception Pass State Park

When planning a visit to Washington, you must add Deception Pass State Park to the list. It is the most visited state park in Washington and home to Deception Pass bridge.

In fact, Deception Pass State Park is so popular it attracts over 2 million visitors a year, which is not surprising since it boasts everything from a rain forest to ten different islands, each teeming with wildlife and stunning views of the Olympic peninsula.

The famous Deception Pass Bridge is one of the most photographed spots in Puget Sound.

Planning to Visit Washington State?

Most Beautiful Places in Washington State

If you are planning a trip to Washington, think carefully about when you will go and what you would like to do. For example, suppose you are interested in taking or exploring outdoor venues such as the Pacific Crest trail or Olympic National Park. In that case, you are best to plan a trip between July and September.

The temperate climate during this time of the year offers you the best of all worlds.

Make sure you plan to hire a car and include this in your budget. Washington is a large state, and even if you stay focused around the Puget Sound area, you will need wheels, especially if you want to travel and see the core sights. Moving from Olympic National Park to Mount Rainier and over to the North Cascades is not easy if you don’t have your own transportation.

Related Reading: Best Places to Visit in Alaska

For those less inclined to explore the outdoors and more interested in urban exploration, focus on the cities. There’s a lot of culture to explore and many beautiful landmarks, from Seattle’s Space Needle to the Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia.

Best Things to Do in Washington State: Conclusion

Washington state is home to numerous diverse attractions. Whether you’re looking to get lost in the nature of the Cascades, indulge in the decadence of Friday Harbor food stores, or explore architectural hotspots such as the Washington State Capitol building, there is no end to the experiences this state has to offer.

Are you a Washington native? Is it your favorite holiday destination? The comments are open, and we would love to hear your experiences of time spent in this beautiful part of the world.