Though Washington earns the title "Evergreen State," plenty of trees boast foliage that changes in fall, painting the state in shades of rich yellow and gold, deep orange, and fiery red. So, what are the best ways to enjoy the breathtaking fall colors and autumnal activities of Washington State? Scenic drives, walking through small town parks, visiting state and national parks, and forest backpacking trips are just a few ways to enjoy the season and the state. Delve into the charm of fall with a visit to some of Washington's best destinations, whether a romantic getaway, family trip, or vacation with your best pals. Regardless of where you end up, Washington will surely wow this autumn.
Leavenworth is a charming small town and year-round tourist destination, but its fall festivities make it an especially exciting spot. The Bavarian-style village sits on the southeastern side of the North Cascades Mountains, making it a haven for outdoor adventurers. Travelers delve into the trails, such as the 12.5-mile long trail at Spider Meadows, where the trees burst with colors, biking or hiking as they so choose. Other fun outdoor activities include rock climbing and ziplining, offering the perfect view of the breathtaking autumnal scenery. A small German village, Leavenworth also offers an excellent Oktoberfest event featuring plenty of refreshing beer, live music, and juicy bratwursts. Other popular fall events include the Wine Walk and Autumn Leaf Festival.
Lake Wenatchee State Park
Just 25 minutes from downtown Leavenworth, Lake Wenatchee State Park encompasses nearly 500 acres of beautiful forest, beaches, and waterfront views. It is a fantastic summer vacation spot, but its fall foliage is definitely unmatched. There are eight miles of hiking trails, five miles of horse riding trails, and seven miles of biking trails, with plenty of lookout points for visitors to revel in the shades of yellow, red, and orange that dazzle as reflections on the lake. The crisp mountain air, clear blue lake, and vast highland forest make for the perfect mountain getaway as travelers set up camp and revel in remote, autumnal beauty. If pitching a tent in the autumn season doesn't appeal to you, consider packing up your RV instead!
Seattle is the largest city in the state of Washington, most famous as the home of the Space Needle, but also revered for being the headquarters of much of the tech industry (such as Amazon and Microsoft), though it also boasts a breathtaking outdoor environment. Finding fall foliage is a breeze, with access to destinations such as the Washington Park Arboretum, Lincoln Park, and Kubota Garden. For those in search of a spooky October, a visit to a haunted house is a must. Top spots include the Georgetown Morgue, the Nightfall Orphanage in West Seattle, and the Seattle Chocolate Haunted Factory tour. The town of Fremont sits just 12 minutes outside of the city and hosts Oktoberfest celebrations, perfect for getting into the fall spirit.
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park sits just under three hours from Seattle, though it is a must-see destination. It is home to jagged peaks, which are ideal for autumn hikes and fresh mountain air, forested valleys that turn gold in the fall, and more than 300 awe-inducing glaciers. Popular destinations within the park include Ross Lake, a scenic reservoir surrounded by colorful forested wilderness, the Stehekin Valley, and Lake Chelan. Travelers hike, camp, and canoe around the area, and it is especially pertinent to keep an eye out for wildlife such as elk, moose, marmots, pika, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bear, coyote, and more. Sterling Munro Trail is essential on the itinerary, a 300-foot boardwalk leading to a breathtaking viewpoint of the jagged mountain range and fall foliage.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park is home to a 4392-meter-high mountain and active volcano. Meadows surround the mountain itself, while ancient forests line the foothills, bringing color and life to the iconic glaciated peak. Several trails lead to hidden waterfalls and subalpine lakes, such as Myrtle Falls and Reflection Lake. Patriarchs Trail is the best way to find the oldest and tallest trees of the park, such as Douglas firs, western red cedars, and western hemlocks, and where many travelers revel in their historic and storied fall foliage. A sunrise hike to the appropriately named Sunrise Point is especially breathtaking as the vibrant orange hues merge with the color-changing trees, creating an entirely golden landscape.
Hoh Rainforest is one of the most beautiful rainforests in the United States, situated within the Olympic Peninsula. The rainforest, created by glaciers, encompasses 24 miles of land around the Hoh River. The area is characterized by towering trees, lush and all-encompassing moss, chirping birds, and the rushing river, creating a scene directly from a fairytale. Bigleaf and vine maples dappled amongst hemlock and spruce trees merge into the perfect marriage of evergreen and colorful fall foliage, ideal for a photo op. It is also salmon spawning season in fall, meaning visitors may have the chance to watch the fish hopping and splashing around in the nearby Sol Duc River from the Quillayute River. Though fall is the rainy season of Washington, the rainforest receives rain all year, creating an especially romantic and refreshing atmosphere – packing your rainboots and a waterproof jacket is a must!
Bellingham is one of the most charming cities in Washington, boasting scenic views of the Pacific Ocean from Bellingham Bay. Travelers can indulge in classic fall activities in the area, such as apple picking at Bellewood Farms, pumpkin picking at Stoney Ridge Farm, and scary stories at the Gore & Lore Tour. Fall foliage is perfectly visible at many destinations as well, ideal for an autumnal walk, including Sehome Hill Arboretum, Lake Whatcom Hertz Trail, and Chanterelle Trail.
For those in search of a scenic fall drive, Chuckanut Drive runs along the shoreline just south of the city and passes Larrabee State Park, while Mount Baker Highway runs through the urban town through pastoral farmland and alpine vistas.
Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, a canyon of the Columbia River, stretches for 90 miles through the Cascade Range, forming the boundary between Washington and Oregon. The best time to view fall foliage is late September to mid-October, though the colors generally last a few weeks. Hiking through the trails of the forest is the best way to view the stunning sights, as the sun's rays peak through the foliage, or an overlook offers views far into the distance. Private cabins, such as the Carson Ridge Luxury Cabins, offer a secluded escape into the fall beauty. Several towns dance along the edges of the gorge, including Maryhill, Stevenson, and Goldendale, each of which offers its own fall delights.
Spokane is one of the most beautiful cities in the Pacific Northwest, home to the beautiful Riverfront Park, the site of the 1974 World's Fair. The park encompasses 100 acres of beauty, including the largest urban waterfall in the country and plenty of gorgeous fall foliage. Drive through Manito Park & Boulevard and marvel at historic homes surrounded by changing leaves, or visit Finch Arboretum, a gorgeous collection of trees that is perfect for a photo op. Hop on Spokane's Ale Trail to taste seasonal brews, or visit Green Bluff Growers and check out the local farms and fall festivities. Halloween lovers must explore spooky spots such as the Martin Woldson Fox Theater and Tunnel or the Carnegie Library, while the Garland Theater hosts annual showings of the best spooky films. The town also hosts the annual Zombie Crawl, where people dress up in all kinds of terrifying costumes on October 1st to kick off the season.
Tacoma is one of Washington's biggest cities and is home to some of the best fall sights in the state. Wright Park draws in visitors from all over in autumn, home to plenty of beautiful trees, the WW Seymour Conservatory, and carefully crafted sculptures that make it a sight to behold. Point Defiance Park is another popular destination, where travelers can walk along the scenic Five-Mile Drive before 9:00 AM each morning or drive along it thereafter, marveling at the vibrant red Japanese maples of the Japanese Garden. There are also plenty of historic homes and buildings, artfully decorated with old trees and color-changing foliage, perfect for architecture lovers and fall enthusiasts.
Enjoy Fall In Washington State!
Whether the allure of the beautiful Mount Rainier State Park draws you in or the small-town charm of Tacoma piques your fancy, fall adventure awaits in Washington State. Autumn foliage paints the mountains and state parks, while the small towns are kissed by fall on every corner, whether it is an enticing event or a charmed local park. Fall harvest events promise crunchy apples, bright orange pumpkins, and welcoming wineries, while ghost tours are available in the more historic destinations. No matter where you end up, Washington is the place to be this autumn.