15 Washington Destinations That Are A Must Visit

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If there were ever a state that more perfectly captured the views, mood, and vibe of a region, it would be Washington to the Pacific Northwest. With towering mountains, stunning coastlines, jaw-dropping waterfalls, fish markets, unique art installations, and everything else that makes the Pacific Northwest the Pacific Northwest, Washington has it.

Whether you’re an avid adventurer looking to strap on a backpack and hike to remote vistas or you want to experience a stretch of coastline that looks like it has never been seen by another human, then head out to the Olympic Peninsula.

Maybe instead, you’re an urban traveler who wants to see some fish flying across a public market and see the birthplace of the modern coffee shop, then Seattle has you covered.

All in all, these sights are all must-visits for anyone who lives in or wants to travel to the beautiful state of Washington, so let’s gas up the car and take a tour around the region.

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park, Washington, USA at Ruby Beach with piles of deadwood.
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Olympic National Park has one of the most diverse set of features of any national park in the country. With glaciated peaks in the center of the peak, lush forests on the edges, and a rugged coastline lining the western side, this park has a little something for everyone.

If you’re visiting the Puget Sound area and are short on time, then take a hike from the Staircase Trailhead on the eastern side of the park. This trail gives you some of the park’s greatest hits with ancient moss-covered trees, a jaw-dropping river, and a picturesque bridge crossing.

If time is of no consequence, then head over to the western side of the park and walk along any of the incredible beaches that line the coast. Here, you can see stunning sea stacks, go tide-pooling, and even walk through some natural arches.

Mount Rainier National Park

Two women enjoying the views on the Summit Lake trail. Taking smartphone photos of snow-capped Mount Rainier. Mt Rainier National Park. Washington State.
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Mt. Rainier National Park is the crown jewel of Washington, as its namesake peak can be seen from all over the western half of the state. Within the park, you can camp in rustic campgrounds, hike the trails that encompass the mountain, forage for delicious huckleberries, and watch for the wildlife that calls this park home.

If you only have one day in the park, make sure to head up to Paradise and hike the Skyline Loop Trail. Here, you’ll be treated to some of the best views of the mountain and can finish up the day at the historical Paradise Lodge.

Seattle’s Pike Place Market

beautiful Pike place market with reflection on the ground  at night.
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Pike Place Market is much more than just the flying fish that attract crowds under the Public Market sign. Although you shouldn’t miss that attraction either!

This historic market is an anchor in downtown Seattle and features artisan crafts, delicious seafood, local produce and flowers, and just the right amount of crowded to make everything feel alive.

Don’t miss the original Starbucks and a bowl of mac and Cheese from Beecher’s Cheese. Both of which sit across the street from the market.

As a bonus, you can also walk through Post Alley, home to the world-famous bubblegum wall.

Space Needle

Seattle Cityscape with Mt. Rainier in the Background at Sunset, Washington, USA
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The Space Needle was originally erected for the 1962 World’s Fair. During the fair, it drew over 2 million visitors and has since become an anchor of the ever-changing Seattle skyline.

A trip up to the top of the 600-foot tower is a must-do, as from the observation deck, you’ll have 360-degree views of the city, Puget Sound, and mountain ranges that surround the region.

If you’re looking to take an iconic shot of the Space Needle and Seattle skyline, then head over to nearby Kerry Park. Here, you’ll get a perfectly framed shot ready to post to Instagram.

San Juan Islands

Panoramic sunset aerial view of Orcas Island seen from Lummi Island, Washington. Looking across Rosario Strait towards the San Juan Islands with a dramatic sunset sky over Orcas Island.
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The San Juan Islands are a collection of over 100 islands (although this number can swell to over 700 at low tide) in the northwestern corner of the state. The islands range from bustling tourist hubs to uninhabited nature preserves perfect for spending a day exploring by kayak.

To get to the islands, you’ll have to hop on a ferry from nearby Anacortes. Depending on which island you’re visiting, it may be a direct sail, or you may have a few stops along the way. That is all part of the fun, though, as life on these idyllic islands moves a little slower. Once you’re there, it’s easy to embrace it!

If outdoor adventures are your thing, make sure to include a stop at Orca Island. Here, you can hike to the top of Mt. Constitution, kayak to Sucia Island, or paddleboard in West Sound, then follow it all up with a world-class meal at Matia Kitchen.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

A panoramic image of Mt St Helens more than 39 years after a major eruption.
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It is hard to fathom what went through local’s minds when Mt. St. Helens, a volcano that once stood over 9,600 feet tall, suddenly and violently erupted, forever changing the mountain and surrounding landscape. Though the most iconic views of the park at the Johnson Ridge Observatory will remain out of reach until 2026 due to a landslide taking out the only road leading into the park, there are still plenty of places to take in the destruction that took place during that fateful day in 1980.

On the west side of the mountain, you can take in views year-round from the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center, while during the summer months, some of the best views of the mountain and log-filled Spirit Lake can be found from Windy Ridge.

North Cascades National Park

A Woman Hiker among Rocky Mountains on the Cascade Pass Sahale Arm Trail
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North Cascades National Park flies way under the radar when it comes to Washington attractions. This park features some of the most rugged and stunning scenery on the entire West Coast yet only receives a fraction of the visitors as the state’s other parks.

This is a plus for visitors, though, as it often means uncrowded trails, plentiful camping sights, and a chance to connect with nature.

One of the best hikes in the entire park is the strenuous Heather – Maple Pass Loop, where you’ll hike through alpine meadows with stunning views of the lakes below. Do this hike in summer for incredible wildflower displays or in fall to take in the stunning golden larches.


Autumn afternoon at the Bavarian themed village of Leavenworth, Washington, with themed sidewalk cafes and shops on the pedestrian main street.
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Nestled high in the Cascade Mountain Range is the charming town of Leavenworth, Washington. This isn’t just any Pacific Northwest town, though as they have fully embraced a Bavarian village vibe with authentic beer halls and a downtown that wouldn’t feel out of place in Germany.

If you really want to see the city at its finest then make a trip up around Christmas when the entire town is decked out in Christmas lights.

Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls near Bellevue, Washington, United States shot during the middle of the day.
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Snoqualmie Falls is one of the most popular natural attractions in the state, with more than 1.5 million visitors annually. The crowds are here to see the 268-foot-tall falls that cascade over the rocks to the Snoqualmie River below.

A visit after an especially heavy rain or snowmelt event is recommended, as the normally impressive falls turn into a curtain of water that blankets the entire width of the shelf.

This is a great stop if you’re headed up to destinations further in the mountains, as the park where you can view the waterfall is actually surprisingly small.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

View of Chihuly Garden and Glass where is next to Space Needle in Seattle
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Dale Chihuly, the namesake behind Chihuly Glass, is probably one of the state’s best-known artists. Born and raised in Tacoma, Washington, Chihuly’s mind-blowing glass displays can be found all over western Washington, but if you want to see the best examples of his work, head to the Chihuly Garden and Glass at the base of the Space Needle in Seattle.

Here, you can walk through the Glasshouse and view his 100-foot-long work suspended overhead. From there, take a walk through the gardens where glass and nature have been artfully blended to create an enchanting display.

Columbia River Gorge

Dog Mountain, Washington
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The Columbia River Gorge separated Washington from Oregon and is a must-visit for its wineries, waterfalls, wildflower displays, and stunning vistas. While the Oregon side of the gorge may take the cake in the waterfall department, don’t look past the Washington side, as it holds its fair share of attractions.

In late spring, Dog Mountain becomes a must-visit spot for its world-class wildflower displays as the hillside explodes in yellow from the blossoming balsamroot.

From there, stop in at one of the region’s many wineries or stop by the charming town of White Salmon and enjoy a snack on the deck of Everybody’s Brewing, which offers up one of the best views of Mt. Hood that you’ll find anywhere.

Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rain Forest, located near the Olympic Peninsula in western Washington State, North America. Hall of Mosses trail, American National Park. Protected Rain Forest with Giant Trees
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We already mentioned Olympic National Park but feel that the Hoh Rainforest deserves its own spot on the list. Have you ever wondered what would happen if you combined an old-growth forest full of massive big-leaf maple, Sitka spruce, western red cedar, and western hemlock trees with an environment that receives up to 170 inches of rain per year?

The answer is a dream-like, moss-covered fairytale of a forest that is home to an aptly named trail: the Hall of Mosses. Within the forest, you’ll also find elk, deer, bear, and all manner of other Pacific Northwest forest-dwelling creatures who can live in peace in this lush setting.

Don’t count on a good weather here. A good set of raingear will go a long way between making or breaking the visit.

Spokane Falls

Sky Ride gondolas on cables above the Spokane Falls and River in downtown Riverfront Park, Spokane, Washington during summer.
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The Spokane River cuts through a deep basalt gorge right in the heart of downtown Spokane. The city has capitalized on this natural feature. You can take in the views from either side of the river, the pedestrian suspension bridge that puts your right in the mist zone of the upper falls, or on the gondola cars that glide above the falls and offer one of the best views and experiences in the entire city.

Mount Baker

Sharp telephoto close-up of snow-capped mountains, Mt. Baker, Cascade Range, Washington, USA
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Standing tall above the skyline of Bellingham, Washington, Mt. Baker is world-famous for being one of the snowiest places anywhere in the world. With its location at the end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, storms that barrel in off of the Pacific Ocean can flow uninterrupted until they slam into this nearly 11,000-foot-tall peak.

If a visit during the winter isn’t your thing, then you’re in luck as the mountain waits until summer to truly put its best foot forward. With stunning alpine lakes, breathtaking wildflower displays, and hikes that will leave you postcard-worthy photos, no visit to northwestern Washington is complete without a drive out to the local mountain.

Cape Disappointment State Park

Dead Man's Cove, Cape Disappointment
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Located on the north side of the mouth of the Columbia River, Cape Disappointment is home to beautiful sandy beaches, numerous hiking trails, campgrounds, and two stunning lighthouses that stand watch over the treacherous waters known as the Graveyard of the Pacific.

Make sure to hike the 2.4-mile round trip to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, where you can look out over the Columbia River Jetty on the Oregon side of the river and try to imagine what it would be like for ships to navigate these waters hundreds of years ago. On the way back to the car make sure to stop at Dead Man’s Cove for a rest among the aqua blue waters.

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest