If you’re looking for a three-day getaway in the United States, you cannot go wrong with the Emerald City in the Evergreen State: Seattle, Washington. Stereotypes of never-ending rain aside, Seattle offers a diverse mix of activities and scenery to satisfy any modern day traveler.
On top of numerous tourist attractions and amazing food and drink options, Seattle boasts one of the country’s best outdoor scenes. From Seattle, you can enjoy the beautiful waters of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains to the west, while having the Cascade Range to the east, and the one and only Mount Rainier, the most prominent mountain in the lower 48, to the south.
Although I originally hail from the Midwest, I have lived in Seattle for almost three years and I can honestly say that I have taken full advantage of western Washington State’s awesome outdoor scene. Here’s my suggested guide for 72 hours’ worth of sights, experiences, and adventures in the Seattle area.
With a very active outdoor community in the greater Seattle area, tackling a day hike on your first day – a weekday – is a great idea to avoid crowds and get the most out of your time in the mountains.
There are too many hikes in western Washington to count, but one great option for someone new to Seattle is Rattlesnake Ledge, a popular hike near the town of North Bend, approximately 45 minutes east of Seattle. This easy to moderate hike covers four miles with about 1200 feet of elevation gain. From the trailhead, hike through lush forest and greenery, gradually ascending to the main ledge located on the eastern end of Rattlesnake Ridge. This ledge is a perfect spot to enjoy panoramic views of Rattlesnake Lake, the Cascades, Mount Si, and Snoqualmie Pass.
If you are visiting Seattle in the summer or fall seasons and prefer more advanced hiking options or greater solitude, you can drive further east along Interstate 90 to the Snoqualmie Pass area (approximately 55 minutes east of Seattle). There, you can choose from a multitude of great hikes, including a hike along the legendary Pacific Crest Trail to the Kendall Katwalk, a high ledge of rock carved out of a mountain side many years ago using dynamite. In short, the I-90 corridor has a huge range of hiking options, something for everyone.
After your hike, the town of North Bend offers some great options for post-adventure food and drink. Check out North Bend Bar & Grill, a popular restaurant with great selection of local craft beers and good eats.
As a bonus, take the five minute drive from North Bend to the town of Snoqualmie to check out popular Snoqualmie Falls.
After your day hike east of Seattle, head back into town and regroup. If you’re looking for a great way to top off your first day, consider catching a sunset at Discovery Park Beach or a sunset and bonfire at Golden Gardens Park.
After your first day of hiking, tackle your second day with one of Seattle’s many other options for outdoor activities.
For mountain biking, check out Duthie Hill in Sammamish, 30 minutes east of Seattle. Duthie Hill, Seattle’s premier and beautifully designed mountain bike park set in lush Douglas-firs and western hemlock forest, provides 6 miles of well-maintained singletrack for all levels of riders.
For a more ambitious day of road biking, you can bike the roughly 19 miles (one way) along the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River trails from Seattle to the town of Woodinville, home to Red Hook Brewery, hundreds of wineries, and a handful of distilleries. On your ride, you’ll cruise along the shores of Lake Washington and the Sammamish River. At Red Hook Brewery, try to catch a brewery tour for some good laughs and free samples of beer. Once done in Woodinville, you can arrange a ride back to Seattle from Woodinville, or you can bike back the way you came (assuming you’re sufficiently sober).
Another option is to kayak or paddleboard Lake Union. From March through October, you can rent kayaks and paddleboards at Agua Verde Café and Paddle Club, where you can also enjoy a post-paddle cerveza with some chips and salsa.
After a Friday and Saturday full of outdoor activity, you can tackle your third and final day in the Emerald City with a more relaxed approach.
Head out the door and grab brunch at one of Seattle’s countless cafes and restaurants. One option that is hard to beat is Portage Bay Café, which has three locations near the heart of Seattle. I highly recommend getting the “Breakfast Bar” – one thing Portage Bay is known for – an awesome assortment of all-you-can-eat seasonal fruit, nuts, organic maple syrup, and whipped cream.
If you just want a nice place to chill outside, you can head to Gasworks Park. If you’re into photography, this would be a great place to end the day and get some great skyline shots of the city.
If you don’t mind playing tourist, drive into downtown Seattle and stroll through the one and only Pike Place Market. At the market, you can grab a snack, play catch with a fish, or simply people watch. After strolling through the market, check out the downtown waterfront area or downtown Seattle’s infamous “Gum Wall”. If time allows, consider taking a water taxi or ferry from downtown to West Seattle or Bainbridge Island along the Olympic Peninsula for one last dinner on the water.
For the rock climbers out there, check out Seattle Bouldering Project, just outside of downtown Seattle. SBP, one of Seattle’s premier indoor climbing and bouldering gyms offers a wide range of routes and walls in a fun, energetic environment.
Photo: Scott Kranz
I hope you found this guide to a 72-hour trip to the Seattle area helpful. Although this guide focuses on a mixture of activities, both in the city and in the mountains, many other options exist for your trip. You can find hundreds of other adventures and ideas at The Outbound Collective.
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.