Ultimate 11-Day Washington National Park Roadtrip

Landscape photo of road with trees and mount rainier in the background.

Washington State National Park Roadtrip

Being from the east coast, I have ALWAYS wanted to visit the PNW!! So up first on that list was Washington State. And since I am on a mission to check all of the National Parks off of my list, I thought what better way to see Washington than by making it into a National Park roadtrip.

I did some research and decided that August would be the best time to do our roadtrip. We decided on that because it wouldn’t be as busy but before it got super cold. This was also the middle of wildflower season in Washington and I cannot resist wildflowers! However, we were a bit thrown off by all of the wildflowers as this isn’t something we experience much on the east coast.

We decided to start our roadtrip in the Olympic Peninsula and make a big loop around to the North Cascades. Keep reading to see what that looked like for us, what obstacles we ran into and what tips I have for you!

Woman standing on log in front of ocean holding up peace signs.

Day 1-3: Olympic Peninsula

Me, my husband, 12 year old & 1 year old, all flew into Seattle to start off this trip. On the first day, we got in pretty early so we grabbed our rental car and decided to check off the space needle. I honestly wasn’t super impressed with it but it’s one of those things that you just HAVE to do, right?!

After that, we drove over to our Airbnb in Port Angeles, I’ll link it for you guys >> HERE <<. It was a great stay and would highly recommend. They provided a travel crib for our 1 year old so that was so helpful. Port Angeles is going to be the closest town with a good central location to all entrances of the Olympic National Park.

On day 2, we decided to head over to the Hoh Rain Forest entrance to the park. We stopped at Lake Crescent on the way for a super quick photo and then kept trekking. From Port Angeles, it takes about 1 1/2 hours to get to the Hoh Rainforest. When we got there, we did a short 1.1 miles Hall of Mosses trail and went to the visitor center. Then headed back to Port Angeles and had dinner before calling it a night.

On day 3, we hit the Washington coast. We started at Ruby Beach and then drove all the way up to Cape Flattery. It took us about 1 1/2 hours to get to Ruby Beach so we spent some time there exploring and having a picnic lunch. Cape Flattery is about 2 hours from Ruby Beach so we didn’t hang out too long.

Something I didn’t realize beforehand was that the Cape Flattery trail is managed by the Makah Tribe so you will have to purchase a permit from them before you can do the hike. I believe it was $20 per vehicle and they gave us a day pass. They only took cash so be prepared for that. However, this was a must for us since Cape Flattery is the furthest Northwest tip of the contiguous United States so we didn’t mind.

Day 4-7: Mount Rainier

landscape photo of mount rainier with purple flowers in foreground.

On day 4, we woke up early and headed to Mount Rainier. We knew we wanted to stop by Mount St. Helens, and this would take some time so we planned to leave as early as possible. We ended up staying in Easton, WA, which was about a 4 hour drive. We stayed in the CUTEST A-frame Airbnb, this was my favorite stay of the whole trip! I’ll link it for you guys >> HERE <<. They even provided a travel crib and had a play area which was so nice for our 1 year old.

woman standing in front of mt st helens.

The next day, we decided to head over to the Sunrise entrance to Mount Rainier. This was about 3 hours from Easton so we got an early start. We went up to the visitor centre but we didn’t have the best views because of smoke from wildfires that were burning around Spokane. We were a bit disappointed but made the best of the situation and hiked around a bit.

landscape photo of trees with mountains in washington.

On day 6, we went to the Paradise entrance of the park and this day, and we had MUCH better views! I was so excited because we were able to finally see the mountain. It took us about 3 hours to get to this side of the mountain so when we got there, we jumped out and started hiking. There were so many wildflowers and we saw so many animals like fox and deer. My favorite hike from this spot was the Myrtle Falls hike, this was truly a unique and beautiful views of Mt. Rainier. We stopped by Reflection Lake and a few other roadside spots before heading back.

Mt rainier through a window at paradise visitor center.

On day 7, we headed out of the park and decided to do a bucketlist hike in the Enchantments, Colchuck Lake. I have been dying to do this hike for SO long! We made sure to wake up super early to get to the trailhead since we knew it would be busy. Be prepared for a long, bumpy gravel road to get to the trailhead. However, this hike was so worth it. We saw a mountain goat and had lunch at the lake, it was truly incredible.

Boy standing on large rock looking out over Colchuck Lake in washington.
Woman running with arms out in front of alpine lake and snowcapped mountains.

Day 8-11: North Cascades

Baby sitting in front of north cascades national park entrance sign.

On day 8, we woke up and took our time heading out to the North Cascades region. We chose to stay in Glacier, WA, which was about 3 hours from Easton. Our Airbnb had incredible views of Mt. Baker and was within walking distance of the Nooksack River so we really enjoyed this stay. I’ll link it for you >> HERE <<.

Unfortunately, the next day we had planned to go to the North Cascades National Park but it was closed down the night before due to wildfires. We were so disappointed but decided to pivot and check out the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest area. Honestly, it was absolutely gorgeous and I was so impressed because I didn’t expect it. We really hadn’t even planned to do this during our trip but I am so glad that we did.

On day 10, the North Cascades National Park was still not open so we decided to at least drive into the visitor center. We weren’t able to see much but we were able to take some photos with the beautiful park entrance sign and grab some souvenirs. There was a small loop hike from the visitor center so we did that and then called it an early night since we would be waking up early to fly out.

So day 11 was sadly our last day in Washington… we woke up early and drove to Seattle to catch our flight home. We stopped at the Pike Place Market, got a Starbucks from the very first Starbucks store and then headed to the airport.

Tips for Your Washington National Park Roadtrip

mount rainier landscape photo with orange flowers in the foreground.
  1. Purchase a National Park Annual Pass prior to your visit, you’ll save money this way.
  2. If you are going during wildfire season, be prepared to pivot!
  3. Be prepared for a lot of driving because everything is pretty far apart. If we hadn’t of had our 1 year old with us, we probably would have done more 1 night or camping stays instead of driving so much.

I hope you found this 11-Day Washington National Park Roadtrip helpful!! Be sure to check out more of the blog, if you did!



I'm a micro-wedding and elopement photographer in Upstate, South Carolina. My style is documentary—I love capturing the in-between, unposed moments between you and your love. I strive to know you and capture you at your most authentic.