Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula in 5 Days
This itinerary gives you a quick taster of the beauty of Washington State. You won't have time to see everything, but you will still get to view some some amazing landscapes and explore the city. This trip is best done in the summer to give you the best chance of avoiding rain. However, it can be done in spring or fall too if you want to avoid the biggest crowds. We completed this itinerary in August 2019.
If you want to extend this into a longer west coast road-trip, check out the San Francisco to Seattle itinerary by DQ Family Travel.
- 635 mi
- 14.0 h
Day 1: Arrival into SeaTac
This first day will mainly be a travel day. Fly into Seattle-Tacoma airport and pick up your rental car. Any type of car will work for this trip as you will only be driving on paved roads.
Get straight on the road and head for Port Angeles on the north side of the Olympic Peninsula. You have two options: you can either drive the whole way by going south through Tacoma, or you can take the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island.
Spend the rest of the day exploring Port Angeles. This is a great place to get some fresh, locally-sourced seafood. Close to town is the Olympic National Park Visitor Center where you can get maps and advice on hiking and other activities in the park.
Day 2: North Side of the Olympic Peninsula
Take the winding Hurricane Ridge Road into the national park. About 5 miles down the road from the visitor center you will hit the ranger station. If you visit national parks often or plan to in the next year, it would be a good idea to get the America the Beautiful annual pass that covers all federally managed parks.
There are many different hiking options. The most popular is the Hurricane Hill trail. This is a relatively short trail (3.2 miles) that will give you amazing views of Hurricane Ridge. Unfortunately, when we went this trail was closed for improvements, so instead we decided to hike to Klahhane Ridge.
There are two routes up to Klahhane Ridge: the Cirque Rim trailhead at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center or the Switchback trailhead. The first option is longer (7.2 miles) but the elevation gain is gentler. This second option is shorter (about 3.4 miles) but is much steeper, taking you up the mountain 700 feet in just the first 0.6 miles on a series of switchbacks. The Switchback trailhead is located before the visitor center in a small parking lot about 9.5 miles from the ranger station.
We hiked to Klahhane Ridge via the Switchback trail and it was definitely a challenge. I had to stop at basically every corner to catch my breath. As we got to the ridge, clouds were beginning to roll in below us which made for a dramatic view.
Stay the night somewhere along route 101.
Day 3: West Side of the Olympic Peninsula
At the north-western most point of the Peninsula is Cape Flattery, a popular tourist destination. I think that the drive is just too far out of the way of everything else to visit on such a short trip. So continue on to the west side of the Peninsula for Day 3. Top spots to hit today include: Rialto Beach, Hoh Rainforest, and Ruby Beach.
We started the day by getting breakfast on the water in La Push at River's Edge restaurant. From there we spontaneously decided to go to Second Beach. Getting to the beach requires a 0.7 mile hike through the forest. People camp on the beach so we passed several people hiking out with all their gear on our way in. You can do the same as we did or head straight to our first planned stop, Rialto Beach. The parking lot is right next to the beach, so no hiking is required.
Next, get back in the car and drive a little over an hour to the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center. At the time that we arrived it was very busy and the parking lot was almost full. Similarly, the trails were packed with people so if you want a slightly quieter experience, pick a longer trail. It was very beautiful and unique but there were so many people that we did not stay long.
Finally, head to Ruby Beach for sunset. This one also requires a little bit of walking to get to the beach.
We decided to keep driving in the dark to stay the night outside of Mount Rainier National Park. We wanted to be able to get out onto the trails early the next day to avoid the crowds and lines getting into the parking lot.
Day 4: Mount Rainier National Park
Get to the park as early as you can. The earlier you get there, the less chance you will have to wait in line or that the parking lot will be full. The two main visitors centers are Sunrise Visitor Center on the north side and Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center in Paradise on the south side. There are so many trails to choose so think about what length and difficulty you want and start from there. We did the Skyline loop trail (5.5 miles) which starts from the visitor center in Paradise.
Drive back to Seattle and spend the night downtown.
Day 5: Seattle
Explore downtown Seattle during the day then catch a late flight home. Some of the most common tourists spots you might want to visit downtown are the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the first Starbucks, and the gum wall (gross!). A good spot to get great views of the city besides the Space Needle is the Sky View Observatory at the Columbia Center.
If you are not interested in seeing the city, another option would be to get a tour at the Boeing factory about 30 mins north in Everett.