There’s nothing quite like a road trip through Washington State. From the lush Pacific Northwest landscapes to towering mountains and breathtaking sea fronts, hitting the highways and byways of this region just feels good for the soul. Maybe that’s why so many people find themselves hitting the road to enjoy the most scenic drives in Washington State.
There’s so much to discover that you might not even know where to begin. Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to find something for everyone — Washington is pretty magical. Need some inspiration? Here’s a shortlist of some of the most picturesque routes in the Evergreen State.
NOTE: We urge everyone to comply with Governor Inslee’s phase-in plan and mandates for wearing a mask and social distancing. We are heartbroken at the loss experienced by our Washington State communities. We want to continue to support the businesses and destinations that make Washington State a wonderful place to live, work, and visit and will continue to publish information and recommendations about this state we’re proud to call home. Please enjoy our information and recommendations online today, saving what is of interest, and then visit when it is safe to do so.
Pacific Coast Scenic Byway
It’s hard to get more iconic than the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. Stretching 350 miles and outlining the entire Olympic Peninsula, you’ll have impressive views of the ocean and beaches on this route that also takes you through rainforests and a national park before heading south towards the Oregon border.
Keep an eye out for sights such as Dungeness Spit (the world’s longest naturally occurring sandspit), Marymere Falls, Hoh Rain Forest, Ruby Beach and more on this delightful journey from Astoria south to Brookings.
Where to find it: Start in Olympia, then hop on the U.S. Route 101, also known as the Olympic Highway. Loop all the way around the Olympic National Park and then head south to the Washington-Oregon border.
North Cascades Scenic Highway
Often referred to as “the American Alps,” the North Cascades are steep, rugged mountains featuring massive peaks and jaw-dropping views. When people talk about the most scenic drives in Washington state, this route is commonly at the top of the list.
You’ll want to brush up on your driving skills, though, because an ability to navigate hairpin turns on narrow, winding roads is an asset on this mountainous route. Nevertheless, the breathtaking views of turquoise lakes and rocky overlooks are well worth it!
Be sure to check out the route ahead of time, as this scenic highway is generally closed during the winter months due to snow and avalanche risk.
Where to find it: From Sedro-Woolley in the west, you’ll follow State Route 20 all the way to east to the town of Twisp.
Don’t let the name fool you — Hood Canal is not actually a canal or man-made waterway at all. It is, however, a naturally occurring fjord forming the western lobe of Puget Sound, and the views are nothing short of spectacular.
If you’re looking for a tranquil drive, head up to the area in the early morning or late afternoon and let your worries melt away. The highway keeps you right along the water for most of the journey.
Where to find it: Follow the Hood Canal loop which will take you from Edmonds to Kingston by ferry, on to Port Gamble, over the Hood Canal Bridge, and then to Port Townsend before heading south and back to Bremerton.
How many times have you practiced saying this name in your head? You won’t soon forget it if you wind your way down the 21 miles from Bellingham, through the Chuckanut Mountains. With fantastic hiking trails and state parks, this is a wonderful destination for nature lovers.
The drive will take you along the Chuckanut and Samish Bays, and just across the water, you’ll find the San Juan Islands. Couple your drive with a trip on the Washington State Ferry that takes you to the islands for an extra-special adventure.
Where to find it: On the map, Chuckanut Drive has the decidedly less exciting name of WA State Highway 11. This scenic route starts at I-5 exit 231 in Burlington and continues 20 miles north to Bellingham.
Lewis & Clark Trail
Retrace the steps of one of the most successful expeditions in American history by following the path of Meriweather Lewis and William Clark, all from the comfort of your own vehicle! Commissioned by Thomas Jefferson following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the explorers set off from Pittsburgh and eventually found their way to the Pacific Ocean.
The Lewis & Clark Trail drive follows the magnificent Columbia River and includes sites such as Hells Canyon, Sacajawea State Park, Beacon Rock State Park, and the North Head Lighthouse. This scenic drive in Washington State harkens back to the time before it was a state.
Where to find it: From Vancouver, you’ll take WA-14 all the way to Plymouth (or the other way around!).
Yakima River Canyon
Connecting Yakima with Ellensburg is State Route 821, and for 25 miles, it runs through the Yakima Canyon. You won’t catch any views of the Pacific Ocean, but this is still one of the most scenic drives in Washington state.
Take your time as you travel along the Yakima River through a deep canyon rich with culture as the byway takes you through the Yakama Reservation, surrounded by sagebrush hills. This is also a well-known spot for year-round sport fishing!
Where to find it: Wind along the Yakima River between Ellensburg and Yakima on WA-821.
Southeastern Washington is a wheat farming region characterized by narrow valleys and steep, rolling hills. The lush, green landscape of springtime transforms into glorious fields of gold through summer and fall in this highly productive agricultural district.
Along the way, be sure to check out Palouse Falls State Park, Steptoe Battlefield, the historic Barron Flour Mill, Boyer Park and Lower Granite Dam. For the most majestic views, head up to Steptoe Butte for a great vantage point.
Where to find it: There are seven different highways that, when combined, make up the Palouse Scenic Byway.
- From the Adams county line to Colfax, take SR 26
- From Pullman to Tekoa, take SR 27
- From Almota to Pullman, take SR 194
- From the Idaho state line to Spokane county line, US 195
- From Oakesdale to Rosalia, take SR 271
- From Colfax to Palouse, take SR 272
- From Rockford to Idaho state line, take SR 278
Mount Baker Scenic Byway
Also known as Koma Kulshan, Mount Baker is an active volcano in northern Washington. In fact, after Mount Saint Helens, it’s the most thermally active crater in the Cascade Range. Along the Nooksack River, this 58-mile byway will lead you past waterfalls, groves, and logging towns.
Your trip will begin in Bellingham and the bustling urban landscape quickly fades into farmland, culminating at the base of the towering 10,781-foot Mount Baker. It’s gorgeous!
Where to find it: From Bellingham, head east on State Route 542 all the way to the base of snow-capped Mount Baker.
Washington State’s Best Road Trips
Road trips are a classic part of Americana, and you’ll find many incredible and historic routes across the United States. From dry deserts and endless plains to snowy mountains and soggy swamps, this country really does have an amazingly diverse landscape. While you can find great routes everywhere, the Evergreen State definitely stands out among the best.
There are seven distinct physiographic regions in Washington that include everything from soaring volcanic mountains to wheat fields, waterfalls, and basins; there’s just no way to describe the beauty of this magnificent state — you need to experience it yourself! Pick your route, pack a lunch, and hit the open road. There’s no better therapy than the great outdoors.