Although this itinerary doesn't take in the San Juan Islands, Mount Rainier, or Olympic National Park, it visits some of the most beautiful places in western Washington. The route stretches from Puget Sound to the Cascade Range and takes in a little bit of everything: quaint old fishing villages, waterfront walks, rugged mountains, a Wild West theme town, a Bavarian theme town, the third deepest lake in the United States, and, of course, the Seattle urban experience.
Day 1: Seattle
Spend your first day getting a quick feel for this city on the shores of Puget Sound. Walk the waterfront, visit the Olympic Sculpture Park, and take a short boat tour. Poke around the stalls at Pike Place Market, take the Underground Tour, and survey the city from atop the Space Needle. If this seems like a lot to do in a day, there are plenty of espresso bars to keep you on your feet.
Day 2: Whidbey Island
From Seattle, it's fewer than 30 miles to the town of Mukilteo and the ferry to Whidbey Island. While this island is bigger than any of the San Juans, it offers similar island vistas, beaches, and quaint small towns. Plus, it is easier to get on and off, which makes it a convenient island experience for anyone short on time. Spend time strolling around the old fishing village of Langley and then head north to Whidbey Island Greenbank Farm, Ebey's Landing National Historic Reserve near Coupeville, and Deception Pass State Park.
Days 3 & 4: Bellingham
Leaving Whidbey Island by bridge at the north end of the island, visit La Conner, the cutest little restored fishing village in the state. Be sure to visit the town's Museum of Northwest Art. In spring, tulips and daffodils blanket the farm fields around La Conner. From there, drive north to Bellingham by way of scenic Chuckanut Drive and stop at Larrabee State Park. Bellingham is one of my favorite cities in Washington. It's small but has lots to offer. Stroll around the historic Fairhaven Historic District, walk along the waterfront, and visit the downtown museums. Take a day trip to Mount Baker and do some hiking in alpine meadows.
Day 5: The North Cascades Scenic Highway
From Bellingham, drive east over the North Cascades Scenic Highway, which passes through the state's most grandly rugged landscape. Jagged, snow-capped peaks rise all around, and tucked amid the mountain slopes are lakes of stunning colors. Much of the region is preserved in the various units of the North Cascades National Park Complex. En route, stop at the Diablo Lake Overlook, Rainy Pass, and Washington Pass. Spend the night in the Methow Valley, home to two of the state's finest mountain lodges.
Days 6 & 7: Chelan & Stehekin
From the Methow Valley, get an early start, drive to Chelan, and head up 55-mile-long glacier-carved Lake Chelan on one of the tour boats operated by the Lake Chelan Boat Company. This is the third deepest lake in the country and is basically a landlocked fjord with rugged mountains rising straight up from the lake's waters. For an unforgettable experience, spend 2 nights in Stehekin, a community so isolated that no roads lead to it. You can hike, bicycle, and swim or fish. Alternatively, spend a night or two in Chelan and do some wine tasting at area wineries.
Days 8 & 9: Leavenworth
From Lake Chelan, continue to the self-consciously quaint, Bavarian theme town of Leavenworth. Sure, this town can be tacky, but the natural setting is breathtaking, and residents have done an impressive job of reproducing an alpine village in the mountains of Washington. In summer, there is good hiking in the area, and in winter, there is downhill and cross-country skiing. In town, you'll find tasting rooms for numerous Washington state wineries.
Day 10: Seattle
On your last day, head back to Seattle for one more night. En route, you can do some hiking at Stevens Pass or in the Lake Wenatchee area. If you're interested in wine, detour to the Woodinville area north of Seattle and stop in at some wineries.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.