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Top 10 Scenic Drives in Washington

Washington State is a region blessed with a wide variety of terrain, including deep canyons, lush forests, and sandy beaches by the sea. As such, it is full of scenic routes to not only delight the eye but inspire a real connection with nature. Whether travelers want to explore Native American cave dwellings from times gone by or explore the high elevations of the Cascade Mountain Range, Washington can comply and likely reveal features along the way that are pleasantly unexpected. Try one of these beauty-filled drives to become better acquainted with this remarkable state:

No. 10 – Columbia River Mouth and Long Beach Peninsula

Columbia River Mouth and Long Beach Peninsula Washington
Flickr user: Dale Musselman

Starting Location: Kelso, WA
Ending Location: Leadbetter Point, WA
Length: 88 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This scenic drive begins on country roads through fields with grazing cattle and ends on the Pacific coast, providing a nice variety of sights and terrain. In Grays River, travelers can veer off the path a ways by turning onto Loop Road and following signs to cross the only covered bridge in use in the state. Once seaside, the Long Beach Boardwalk is a nice place to stretch legs and watch the waves roll in.

No. 9 – Chuckanut, the Original Pacific Highway

Chuckanut the Original Pacific Highway Washington
Flickr user: chicgeekuk

Starting Location: Sedro-Woolley, WA
Ending Location: Bellingham, WA
Length: 27 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Sometimes referred to as Washington’s Big Sur, this route has plenty of ocean views and winds along the cliffs of Chuckanut and Samish Bay. The San Juan Islands are visible in the distance through much of the drive, which provides spectacular photo opportunities. With the addition of hiking a trail or two at Larrabee State Park, this otherwise short trip can make a good day outing.

No. 8 – Roosevelt Lake Loop

Roosevelt Lake Loop Washington
Flickr user: Mark Pouley

Starting Location: Wilbur, WA
Ending Location: Wilbur, WA
Length: 206 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Also known as Sherman Pass Loop, this scenic drive crosses over Roosevelt Lake and includes a short, free ferry ride. The first part of the trip is characterized by rolling hills while the second half vacillates between forests and farmland. Some of the these farms are not fenced, however, so keep an eye out for free-range cattle. The hiking trails near Sherman Pass are also known for magnificent views.

No. 7 – Yakima Valley

Yakima Valley Washington
Flickr user: Frank Fujimoto

Starting Location: Ellensburg, WA
Ending Location: Peshastin, WA
Length: 54 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This drive through Yakima Valley, Washington’s wine country, snakes alongside the Yakima River and is characterized by rolling hills. In Umtanum Creek Recreation Area, visitors can go rafting, fishing, or hiking through the canyon. The route also passes through the Yakama Indian Reservation near Toppenish, where travelers can rent one of fourteen full-size teepees for the night.

No. 6 – Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway

Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway Washington
Flickr user: Mark Pouley

Starting Location: Omak, WA
Ending Location: Othello, WA
Length: 154 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Glacier runoff causes the deep coulees that characterize the terrain along this route, and a stop at the 550-feet high Grand Coulee Dam – the largest concrete structure in the United States – is a must. Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is another good stop, featuring a large prehistoric waterfall. To see a series of caves used by the Native Americans for shelter, check out the hiking trails at Lake Lenore Caves State Park.

No. 5 – Mount Ranier

Mount Ranier Washington
Flickr user: Joanna Poe

Starting Location: Randle, WA
Ending Location: Greenwater, WA
Length: 104 miles
Best Season to Drive: Summer and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Views of 14,411-foot Mt. Ranier abound on this spectacular route, which explores the Ohanapecosh, Paradise and Sunrise areas of Mount Ranier State Park. See the 1,000-year-old Western hemlock trees off of Stevens Canyon Road by car or by foot on the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail. If fishing or boating is more your group’s speed, stop at Lake Louise or Lake Reflection.

No. 4 – Palouse Country

Palouse Country Washington
Flickr user: Steve Garrity

Starting Location: Spokane, WA
Ending Location: Lewiston, ID
Length: 126 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Passing through the Palouse region, known for its lush, rolling hills and fertile farmland, this scenic drive is a particularly serene one. Stop in Oakesdale to see the historic buildings and homes, and don’t miss the photo opportunities at Barron Flour Mill there. In late summer and early fall, pick your own peaches and apples in Garfield for a special treat.

No. 3 – Olympic Peninsula

Olympic Peninsula Washington
Flickr user: Grant

Starting Location: Olympia, WA
Ending Location: Olympia, WA
Length: 334 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Beginning and ending in Washington’s capital city of Olympia, this trip passes through a region so rich in things to see and do, it easily translates into a weekend – or longer – adventure. The drive passes through lowland forests, glacier-capped mountain peaks, rainforests, sandy Pacific-side beaches, and by several rivers and lakes. Also, check out lavender farms in Sequim and watch elephant seals at Kalaloch Beach.

No. 2 – Ice Caves Route

Ice Caves Route Washington
Flickr user: Michael Matti

Starting Location: Cook, WA
Ending Location: Goldendale, WA
Length: 67 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This winding route, which is only partially paved, is known for passing by ice caves, including the Guler Cave and Cheese Cave. The caves, however, aren’t the only reason to drive this way because so many other natural wonders are in the area. Check out the 9,000-year-old Big Lava Bed, a lava formation near many hiking trails, or watch local wildlife like bighorn ram and black-tailed deer at Klickitat Wildlife Area.

No. 1 – Horseshoe Highway

Horseshoe Highway Washington
Flickr user: jimflix!

Starting Location: Orcas, WA
Ending Location: Mount Constitution, WA
Length: 19 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

In order to get to where this scenic drive lies on Orcas Island, an hour-and-a-half ferry ride from Anacortes is required, but the extra time is fully worth what waits on the other side. As the largest of the San Juan Islands, Orcas Island has plenty of beautiful areas to explore along the Horseshoe Highway. Stop at Eastside Waterfront Park, where – when the tide is low – you can walk to Indian Island, and definitely make time for photographs at the 75-foot Cascade Falls.

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