Take a scenic drive around Washington State

Mary Jo Manzanares

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Road trips are a classic part of Americana, and you’ll find many incredible and historic routes across the United States. And this summer, given travel restrictions, we'll probably be seeing more road trips than in previous years. While you can find great routes everywhere, the Evergreen State definitely stands out among the best. From the lush Pacific Northwest landscapes to towering mountains and breathtaking water views, a Washington State road trip feels good for the soul.

Need some inspiration? Here’s a shortlist of some of the most scenic routes in Washington State.

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!

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.

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.

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!

Hood Canal

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.

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!

The Palouse

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.

Photo credit: Image by Bryan Hanson from Pixabay.

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We bring you information and recommendation you'll need to enjoy your time in the Evergreen State. Whether you’re a long-time resident or a visitor planning a vacation, this is where you’ll find practical information about making the most of your time here. From the cities of Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane to the small towns that are often overlooked, we bring you the best of the Washington State.

Federal Way, WA
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