Snoqualmie Pass: 50 miles E of Seattle, 53 miles W of Ellensburg

While Seattle has become a sprawling city of congested highways and high housing prices, there is a reason so many put up with such drawbacks. Less than an hour east of the city lie mountains so vast and rugged that you could hike for a week without ever crossing a road. The Summit at Snoqualmie ski area is so close to the city that people head up after work during winter for a bit of night skiing.

Between the city and this wilderness lies the Snoqualmie Valley, the Seattle region's last bit of bucolic countryside. Here you'll find small towns, pastures full of spotted cows, U-pick farms, and even a few unexpected attractions, including an impressive waterfall and, in summer, a medieval fair. While driving the back roads of the Snoqualmie Valley, keep an eye out for historic markers with old photos and details about the valley's past.