Best Day Trips from Seattle

I recently shared an article detailing my favorite day trips from Atlanta (read it here), and was feeling inspired to do a Seattle version! Washington is one of my favorite states to explore and there are so many awesome day trips from Seattle, so let’s jump right in with some of my top recommendations.

Bainbridge Island – 35 minutes via ferry

Bainbridge Island is a beautiful area just a short ferry ride from downtown Seattle. I only spent part of a day on the island, but I absolutely fell in love with how quaint it is, and I can’t wait for my next visit. Whether you’re a fan of the outdoors, an arts lover, or a shopaholic, Bainbridge has something that everyone will love. For some of my favorite stops on the island, read my guide to Bainbridge Island right here.

North Bend + Snoqualmie – 40 minutes

The towns of North Bend and Snoqualmie are only about 30-40 minutes from Seattle, and they’re some of my favorite areas to spend a day exploring. Make sure to bring an appetite and grab a bite at Twede’s Cafe in North Bend, a well-known diner that was featured in the show Twin Peaks. Catch a movie at the North Bend Theatre, or take a hike up to the summit of Mount Si for views of the whole Snoqualmie Valley. Just down the road is the town of Snoqualmie (make sure to watch for elk on the drive over!), an area rich in history and natural beauty. Downtown Snoqualmie is home to lots of shops and restaurants, and Snoqualmie Falls is a must-visit spot for jaw-dropping views of a massive waterfall. I also have a full guide to North Bend and Snoqualmie, which you can read here!

Leavenworth – 2.5 hours

Leavenworth is a stunning Bavarian village tucked among the Cascade Mountains. During the summer, Leavenworth is the perfect place for hiking, rock-climbing, or tubing down the Wenatchee River. Over the winter, Leavenworth transforms into a winter wonderland, with massive displays of Christmas lights. With plenty of shopping and a good variety of restaurants, Leavenworth is a day trip that everyone in the family is sure to love.

Mount Rainier National Park – 2 hours

Of course, a visit to Washington truly wouldn’t be complete without spending some time in Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier is a stunning sight, and seeing it up close and personal is seriously awe-inspiring. Mount Rainier National Park is a massive park with tons of hiking areas for any level of difficulty/length you’re looking for. Naches Peak Loop Trail is a short hike offers some serious bang for your buck with stunning views of Mount Rainier almost the entire way. Skyline Trail, meanwhile, will make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world, offering views of alpine meadows, waterfalls, and glaciers.

Olympic Peninsula + Olympic National Park – 2 to 3.5 hours (depending on where you go)

The Olympic Peninsula is a beautiful area of Washington, featuring glaciers, rainforests, and rocky beaches. There’s so much to see and do in the area that a day really doesn’t do it justice, but a day trip is still 100% doable! For a shorter trip, I recommend visiting the Port Angeles area. Port Angeles is a cute little town right on the water with lots of shopping, restaurants, and some museums about the area’s history. You can also drive over to Hurricane Ridge for hiking, or just to take in some stunning views of the area. If you’d like to explore the Olympic Peninsula further, I highly recommend visiting the Hoh Rain Forest – you’ll feel as though you stepped into Jurassic Park with all the massive, mossy trees! A bit past Hoh Rain Forest is the town of Forks and Rialto Beach, classic PNW areas you may recognize from the Twilight series. I have a whole guide to the Olympic Peninsula here where I give you even more ideas on must-visit spots!

Have you visited any of these spots yourself? What’s your favorite day trip from Seattle? Let me know down below in the comments!

Conquering 600+ Stairs at Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls State Park is a gorgeous area for hiking, camping, and fishing in the heart of North Georgia. Amicalola Falls is the tallest waterfall in Georgia, reaching about 730′ in height. The falls are beautiful and one of Georgia’s most popular state parks, for good reason!

There are a lot of trails and hiking areas throughout the park depending on how long and strenuous of a hike you’re looking for. One of the most well-known hikes in the park leads you about eight miles from Amicalola Falls to the summit of Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. This is one of my favorite hikes in Georgia for an overnight backpacking trip.

If you’re just looking to experience the falls themselves for the day, one of the most popular routes is taking the 600+ stairs that lead you from the base of the falls to the top. This option is only 2 miles out-and-back, but the stairs make it a decent challenge. There are plenty of opportunities to rest along the way, and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the falls throughout. From the top, there are also gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains.

Amicalola Falls is a must-visit spot in Georgia, whether you’re a local looking to explore more of your state, or an out-of-towner with limited time to see all the natural wonders Georgia has to offer. I promise you won’t leave disappointed!

Best Day Trips from Atlanta

Although I live in Colorado at the moment, I’ll always consider the Southeast my home. I grew up just outside of Atlanta and have spent countless days and weekends exploring the city and surrounding areas. Atlanta is a great city in and of itself, and it’s located near lots of other awesome towns, so here are some of the best day trips I recommend taking from Atlanta.

Chattanooga, TN – 2 hours

Chattanooga is one of my favorite cities in the Southeast for many reasons: it’s super walkable, has a large variety of activities, and is great for visitors of all ages. Whether you like hiking, photography, live music, food, or history, Chattanooga truly has it all. Although you can easily spend just a day exploring the city, I recommend taking a full weekend to stay in Chattanooga and see all the city has to offer. Click here for my full guide to Chattanooga, where I feature some of my favorite accommodations, restaurants, and activities.

Dahlonega, GA – 1 hour 15 minutes

Preacher’s Rock near Dahlonega

I lived in Dahlonega for several years during college and absolutely love revisiting this small mountain town. Dahlonega, a former mining town, is a quick drive from Atlanta, but you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to another state. The mountains surrounding Dahlonega are beautiful and offer plenty of hiking options, and the town itself is full of cute shops and lots of history. Dahlonega is also not too far from sights like Amicalola Falls and Mount Yonah, and there are a lot of wineries in the area which make for a fun day activity.

Clayton/Lake Rabun, GA – 2 hours

The Clayton and Lake Rabun area of Georgia is simply stunning, featuring beautiful mountains and lakes. This area truly shines during the summer where you can enjoy the outdoors by hiking, boating, fishing, and even horseback-riding. Clayton is a small but quaint town with lots of little shops and plenty of restaurant options (you must visit the Wander North Georgia store while you’re there!) If you’d like to spend the weekend exploring this area, I’d recommend staying at the historic Lake Rabun hotel, a beautiful spot located right on the lake.

Blue Ridge, GA – 1 hour 30 minutes

Blue Ridge is another small town that is perfect for a day trip. During the summer, I highly recommend visiting Lake Blue Ridge for boating, swimming, and kayaking. Afterwards, grab a bite to eat and do some shopping in downtown Blue Ridge or nearby Ellijay. In the fall, Ellijay is also a great spot for apple-picking, which is one of my favorite childhood memories. Another fun and quirky stop in Blue Ridge is Expedition Bigfoot, a whole museum dedicated to the elusive creature. It may seem a little silly, but the museum is truly a one-of-a-kind spot that’s worth a visit. If you don’t mind saying overnight or for the evening, Blue Ridge also has an old school drive-in theater which is a super fun and nostalgic spot.

Helen, GA – 1 hour 45 minutes

Helen is a quirky little town worth a visit because it’s modeled after a Bavarian village. I spent many days and weekends as a kid exploring the town of Helen, and even though it is definitely a popular spot for tourists, the town really does offer a unique experience. If you visit during the winter, Helen will be decked out with Christmas decorations which is truly beautiful. A summer visit, meanwhile, will give you the opportunity to try tubing, where you float down the Chattahoochee River in big inflatable tubes. There are lots of shops and restaurants in Helen making it a great spot for families to visit with kids of all ages.

I hope this guide helps you plan your next Georgia adventure! What are some of your favorite day tips from Atlanta?

Kubota Garden

Kubota Garden is a gorgeous outdoor escape just outside of Seattle, Washington. The garden is unique in that it combines traditional Japanese landscaping with native Pacific Northwest plants. Kubota Garden has 20 acres of moderate walking trails making it a great spot for visitors of all ages. As a bonus, the garden is free to visit and dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash!

Bellevue Botanical Garden

The Bellevue Botanical Garden is a peaceful escape in the heart of Bellevue, perfect for an after-work stroll or a family outing. The garden is free to visit and features several trails and walking paths through 53 acres of gorgeous forests and meadows. There are 11 unique areas within the garden that offer plentiful opportunities to wander around and explore.

The majority of paths within the garden are gravel, and there is minimal elevation change, making it a great option for families and hikers of all experience levels. The garden is open year-round, and is gorgeous in every season, though I find spring and fall to be exceptionally beautiful.

My favorite areas within the garden are the Ravine Experience and the Yao Garden. The Ravine Experience features a massive 150′ suspension bridge that leads you over a deep ravine. This is a great spot for photos, and to observe the surrounding forests. The Yao Garden, a traditional Japanese garden, is also a beautiful area. During the fall, the maples throughout Yao Garden turn an incredible shade of bright red.

The garden also hosts several seasonal events, such as a Mother’s Day event and a holiday light display in the winter.

Bellevue Botanical Garden has become one of my favorite spots to explore because I always discover a new area, path, or photo op every time I visit. If you seek a relaxing nature escape but don’t want to drive far out of the city, Bellevue Botanical Garden is the perfect spot.

Franklin Falls

Franklin Falls is a 2 mile out-and-back hike in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that’s perfect for hikers of all experience levels.

The trailhead for Franklin Falls is located about 25 minutes outside of North Bend on Denny Creek Road, just past the campground. While you can enjoy Franklin Falls year-round, Denny Creek Road does tend to close in the winter which will add 4 miles roundtrip to your hike.
Franklin Falls is also a very popular destination for hikers, photographers, and families, so try to visit during off-times (such as weekdays or early mornings) when possible.

Pro tip: parking is $5/day or free with a Northwest Forest Pass – more info at fs.usda.gov.

The trail runs parallel to the Snoqualmie River most of the way and, with only 400′ of elevation gain in total, is very family-friendly. The river does flood on occasion which may make the trail exceptionally washed out or muddy, so be prepared to get a bit soaked along the way. It’s also fun to spot the gorgeous A-frame cabins along the river as you hike.

After a mile, you’ll begin to hear the roaring of Franklin Falls and soon, you’ll spot the stunning 130′ waterfall. Be careful as you hike downward over slippery rocks to the base of the waterfall and take in the full beauty of the falls.

A short hike back will return you to your car to carry on with more adventures! Franklin Falls is one of my favorite hikes in the area because you get a stunning view for minimal effort, so let me know if you’ve visited or plan to soon!

Diamond Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness

Diamond Lake Trail, located in Indian Peaks Wilderness, is a moderately challenging out-and-back hike with beautiful views of Diamond Lake and the surrounding peaks. Altogether, the hike is about 5.4 miles in length and gains roughly 1,220 feet in elevation.

Pro tip: make sure to check the weather frequently, as it can change very quickly in the mountains. The forecast the night before we hiked was clear but we ended up getting rained on about a mile into the hike and again during the last quarter mile! Which reminds me…

Pro tip: ALWAYS pack rain gear (if space/weight in your pack allows) – even if the forecast is clear.

The hike begins on Arapaho Pass Trail which departs from the end of Fourth of July Road, just past the town of Eldora. The trail will lead you gradually uphill through dense forests, until you reach a junction at about 1.2 miles, where you’ll bear left to begin on Diamond Lake Trail.

From here, the trail gradually descends, leading you over a creek crossing. After the creek, you’ll begin ascending once more until you reach Diamond Lake after about a mile. Diamond Lake offers lots of options for walking around and exploring the surrounding meadows!

Barclay Lake Revisited

Check out the original photo diary from my last visit right here!

Barclay Lake is a fantastic day hike located in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. If you’re looking for a relatively short and family-friendly hike, this trail is a great option!

Pro tip: don’t forget your Northwest Forest Pass! For more information, visit fs.usda.gov.

The trailhead for Barclay Lake is located near the town of Baring at the end of a fairly rugged forest service road. This trail is super popular so make sure you arrive early to claim your spot at the trailhead parking lot. This 4.4 mile out-and-back trail departs directly from the trailhead, leading you gradually downhill through a thick forest. Eventually, you’ll begin to follow Barclay Creek, meandering your way through dense foliage.

Pro tip: If you visit on a clear day make sure to keep an eye out for some views of Mt. Baring along the way.

You’ll gain about 200 feet of elevation as you head to the lake, and after about a mile you’ll cross a bridge over Barclay Creek which is a great photo op! It won’t be long before you reach Barclay Lake itself, a picturesque Pacific Northwest lake framed by evergreens and jagged peaks.

Pro tip: be prepared for the lake’s water level to vary significantly depending on the time of year you visit. When I first visited in July 2020, the lake was fairly high, but this time around in August, it was significantly lower.

There are a number of campsites and opportunities to take a lakeside snack break as you meander around Barclay Lake. No matter where you stop for a rest or set up camp, you’ll be treated to some gorgeous views in a peaceful and serene setting.

Barclay Lake is one of my favorite hikes in Washington, and I’m sure it’ll become one of yours too! Let me know in the comments if you’ve visited Barclay Lake before and what your thoughts were.

Directions: from the town of Monroe, head east on US-2 toward Baring. After roughly 25 miles you will see The Baring Store on your right; at this junction, turn left onto 635th Place NE. You will cross over railroad tracks and soon the road will become unpaved. Follow this road for about 4 miles until you reach the Barclay Lake Trailhead. More detailed information available at WTA.org.

Lake Isabelle

After a few days of haze, the smoke has finally begun to clear and reveal the beautiful views Colorado has to offer. In celebration, I decided to venture over to Indian Peaks Wilderness for the first time and hike to Lake Isabelle.

Pro tip: the Brainard Lake Recreation Area that this hike is located in requires a timed entry reservation which you can acquire here.

Indian Peaks Wilderness is located along the Continental Divide and offers some of the most beautiful hiking in Colorado. Located about an hour west of Boulder, Indian Peaks Wilderness offers some fantastic day hikes and backpacking areas.

Indian Peaks is located about 2.5 hours from where I live in Colorado Springs, so I left town around 5:45am and made it to the parking lot just after 8am. The ranger at the entrance instructed me to park at the Brainard Lake Trailhead, though I later learned I could have continued on and parked at the Long Lake Trailhead. I didn’t mind parking at Brainard Lake because the walk from Brainard Lake to the Long Lake Trailhead was a good warmup, but it did add 2 miles roundtrip.

Long Lake was another beautiful sight as well, and I was hoping to see some moose or even a bear as the park ranger said there had been recent sightings, but I suppose they were all taking the day off because I didn’t see any wildlife.

The proper hike to Lake Isabelle, which begins at the Long Lake Trailhead, is fairly moderate, meandering along the edges of Long Lake before veering right and uphill to reach Lake Isabelle. The last half mile or so of the hike is fairly steep, though the views that soon emerge make it well worthwhile. Lake Isabelle itself was absolutely stunning, and you have plenty of options for exploring the shore of the lake and the surrounding meadows. The lake is framed by stunning peaks and the area was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in the state.

The lake wasn’t too crowded by the time I arrived, but after stopping to rest and take some pictures, the hike back was fairly busy. All Trails reports the hike to be about 5.5 miles roundtrip with about 550 feet of elevation gain. I would say this hike is appropriate for new and experienced hikers, and there were lots of families when I went! Because of how popular this area can be, I would recommend visiting during the week or earlier in the morning on the weekend.

Pro tip: dogs are welcome but must stay on leash – there were lots of dogs when I went, and I even brought my own, Willie, but if you’re doing the same, please abide by the leash rules! There were several times unleashed dogs approached Willie and I, and though Willie is friendly, not every dog is. Plus, there’s always the chance you’ll see some wildlife, and even well-behaved dogs have been known to take off after other animals.

Overall, this was a gorgeous hike and I hope to return again soon. Let me know if you’ve hiked to Lake Isabelle yourself, and drop your recommendations for hikes in Indian Peaks Wilderness!

Five Ways to Spend Your Summer in Georgia

Hello friends! Can you believe it’s already mid-July? Summer will be over before you know it and while fall is my favorite season, I don’t want to let the summer slip away too fast! Without further ado, here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy the Georgia summer and escape some of the heat and humidity.

Tubing in Helen

If you didn’t grow up tubing through a small Bavarian-themed town in the middle of the mountains, did you really have a childhood? Sure, it may be kitschy and touristy, but tubing in Helen is one of my favorite memories from summers in Georgia. There’s nothing quite like floating on the river, getting nice and sunburnt, and then enjoying some overpriced German food in town. Better yet, grab some boiled peanuts for the drive home. Now, you’re a true Georgian.

Hiking Blood Mountain + Taking a Dip in Hemlock Falls

Blood Mountain is one of my favorite mountains of all time, and one I recommend to everyone who finds themselves in Georgia. The hike itself is pretty tough, but the views are a fantastic reward. Make sure to check out the trail log located in the shelter at the summit and read through notes left behind by all the hikers and backpackers who have passed through! After working up a sweat on your hike, drive the 10 minutes or so down the road to Hemlock Falls. The falls are stunning and the hike down is very short, but be warned, the water is freezing cold!

Kayaking/Swimming in Lake Blue Ridge

Lake Blue Ridge is a beautiful summer destination for swimming, kayaking, paddle-boarding, or boating. I personally prefer this lake to others that are closer to Atlanta because it seems cleaner and better maintained in general. Plus, there’s nothing like cooling off in a lake surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. After your adventures make sure to check out downtown Blue Ridge or downtown Ellijay for some delicious food and local brews.

Wading in Sweetwater Creek

If you’d like to explore somewhere closer to Atlanta, be sure to check out Sweetwater Creek. This state park offers lots of walking trails and hikes, and plenty of opportunities for swimming and wading. The area is beautiful and was actually used as a filming location in Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1! The ruins of the mill are an awesome sight as well, so make sure to take a moment and learn about the history behind them.

Grabbing Peaches from a Local Farmer’s Market

Sure, farmer’s markets aren’t exclusive to Georgia, but they were always a staple summer activity when I lived there! There are a lot of fantastic farmer’s markets throughout the state ranging from small to pretty large, but my favorite was always the Marietta Farmer’s Market. The market is big enough that you have plenty of options to choose from, but not so big that you’re overwhelmed with crowds. Marietta is a cute town to explore as well, with lots of bistros and cafes for a quick breakfast or lunch. It’s also close to Kennesaw Mountain, another of my favorite hiking spots in Georgia.

I hope you’re enjoying your summer wherever you may be, and that you get to try out some of my favorite activities for yourself!