The Getaway
Find Exciting Things to Do in Washington State

Washington State is one of those places where you just have to be outdoors. It's diverse too, and a place where you can be in an arid desert zone one minute and a temperate rainforest climate the next. Or you could hike trails on a National Volcanic Monument. This spectacular state on the West Coast is full of exciting activities, from water sports to mountaineering. Washington is popular for spotting wildlife and is the perfect place to relax with a glass of local wine. Whether you like your vacations to be action-packed or a blend of fast and slow, Washington has something for everyone.


01 Spot whales off the San Juan Islands

Surfacing resident orca whales (Orcinus orca) at Boundary Pass, border between British Columbia Gulf Islands Canada and San Juan Islands, WA. Stuart Westmorland / Getty Images

Located off the coast of Seattle, the San Juan Islands are an archipelago full of wildlife and bird species. You can get a boat trip to watch seals and even whales in season. Although only two of the islands are open to the public, the opportunities to spot marine species in their natural habitats are too good to miss. The area is popular with birdlife, too, including rhinoceros auklets and black oystercatchers.


02 Go backpacking in a national park

A woman passes a lake as she hikes along a dirt trail surrounded by wildflowers while backpacking through Olympic National Park. Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

Washington State is famous for its hiking trails among some of the best scenery in the USA. You'll find some superb backcountry trails in Olympic National Park. Most of this fantastic wilderness is undeveloped, making it perfect for a weekend trip to experience the great outdoors. You'll most likely see wildlife, including elk, in this area. With a wide range of treks for all levels, this is a must-do in Washington State.


03 Get a head for heights in the Space Needle

Seattle, WA. skyline with Mt. Rainier. SunChan / Getty Images

One of the iconic sights in Seattle is the Space Needle. Standing over 600 feet high, the Space needle offers a 360-degree panorama of Seattle and the surrounding area. You'll need a head for heights in the elevator, but once you are at the top, the observation deck with a rotating glass floor is a fantastic place to enjoy a drink and take in the beauty of Washington State. On a clear day, you'll get a view of Mount Ranier, the Pacific Ocean, and some of Seattle's most iconic buildings.


04 Go bicycling at Mount Ranier

Spring Meadow Below Mount Rainer, Washington Ron and Patty Thomas / Getty Images

Mount Ranier National Park has miles of park roads suited to mountain biking that are scenic, challenging, and a blend of both. One of the best biking routes is the Carbon River Trail, which has an elevation of 860 feet and is 5 miles long. Another popular route is Westside Road, but you'll find a lot of choices here for biking. When you cycle here, you'll experience the forest, wildflower meadows in spring, and a lot of the historic parts of the park.


05 See a waterfall at sunset

Washington's official waterfall is in Palouse State Park. It is a beautiful place reachable from several hiking trails within the park. One of the best times to see the Palouse Falls is at sunset. The falls drop 200 feet and the changing light across the water and canyon make it a beautiful location as the sun goes down. With a camping ground nearby you can stay overnight and enjoy nature's light show.


06 Go skiing

 A Snowboarder grabs his board during a big air in the natural halfpipe competition at Stevens Pass during the Retro Fools Day Contest Festival Cascade Creatives /

Washington State has a wide range of winter sports, but skiing is very popular. One of the best is at Wenatchee Mission Ridge, where you'll discover over 60 miles of trails for ski and snowboarding. The resort has several advanced slopes and lots of powder snow. Snoqualmie is within a short drive of Seattle, making it ideal for an exciting day trip from the city. Stevens Pass is another ski area good for advanced skiers and is also close to Seattle.


07 Walk in a volcanic zone

Penstemon Flowers, Johnston Ridge, Mt St Helens, Washington Steve Satushek / Getty Images

Mount St. Helens hit the headlines when it erupted in 1980. Today, visitors can take guided tours with an expert to see this famous smoking volcano in Washington State. You'll be able to see some of the geological features and learn about the area without getting too close to the edge.


08 Go wine tasting

Beautiful, vibrant image of Mount Hood. juanestey / Getty Images

Washington State has no less than 16 wine regions. It is one of the best places in the USA for vineyards, so there are many opportunities to learn about the industry and taste the wine where it was produced. Some of the best places to go include Puget Sound, Candy Mountain, and the Yakima Valley. Each has its distinctive taste, and you'll soon become a connoisseur.


09 Get close to a wolf

Two gray wolves hanging out in the woods.

Wolf Haven International at Tenino, Washington is an amazing place to learn about these intriguing animals. You'll get a guided tour of the sanctuary, learn about how they live and their biology, and see where they fit within the ecosystem. The sanctuary is home to 300 wolves, so you'll have an opportunity to be closer than usual and learn about these often misunderstood creatures.


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