Maybe I’m waxing nostalgic because our time at JBLM is coming quickly to a close, or maybe it’s just the fact that we’ve discovered so much beauty around this place. Whatever it is though, we’ve found ourselves reflecting a lot on our favorite adventures in Washington state lately, and I wanted to share some of the best day trips from JBLM with the world – if only to give others something to look forward to. A lot of these are just around the corner from where we live, which is amazing. Some are a bit of a drive. All of them are completely feasible within one day (and with kids), so they’re perfect for planning around the chaos that is military life.
Pike’s Place Market
I’ve been to this gem in downtown Seattle before, but Ryan had his first taste of Pike’s Place Market this year right before the lockdown started. Not only is it the perfect place to pick out some fresh seafood, but there are some amazing eateries, plenty of places for a fun stroll, and you can even pop on over to the ferris wheel, or visit the space needle if you have the time. But Pike’s Place is also home to the first Starbucks, and the waterfront views are worth it in their own right.
This is hailed as one of Washington’s most beautiful scenic attractions – and for good reason. We visited Snoqualmie Falls in March, when it was still pretty cold and chilly (again, right before lockdown), and we were just blown away. Visitors can hike Snoqualmie Falls, but the hike is often closed in early spring due to flooding. It’s a very popular summer and early fall destination, and crowds flock to see the 268-foot waterfall, as well as visit the Salish Lodge & Spa.
I know. The name is less than…stellar…shall we say? Cape Disappointment is a popular escape all year long due to its windswept cliffs, incomparable sea views, and rich history. During the summer months, it’s a popular camping destination, but it’s perfect for a longer day trip, as well. See where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, and explore the miles of uninterrupted coastline.
Named for the indigenous people who once lived in these lands, Skagit Valley is a farming wonderland, complete with vast open spaces, and a springtime treasure that brings visitors from all around. Each spring, people visit Skagit Valley for the thousands upon thousands of tulips and the aptly-named tulip festival where people can wine, dine, and enjoy the beauty of the region. This one gets busy, but it’s a must-see while near JBLM.
Mt. Rainier National Park
There are so many different facets to the park, but a day trip to Mt. Rainier National Park is absolutely a must. Visitors who don’t want to hike will love the ease and beauty of the Myrtle Falls viewpoint, which is less than a mile and showcases spectacular views all year long. If you starting to hike and want to try a family-friendly hike at Mt. Rainier National Park, you won’t want to miss Emmons Moraine Trail, which is an absolute showstopper.
Deception Pass & Whidbey Island
If you’re heading out this way, go ahead and combine these two into one of the best day trips from JBLM. Deception Pass plays host to jaw-dropping cliffs, rugged coastline, and plenty of hiking trails. Deception Pass is also the strait that separates Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island. You won’t want to miss the spectacular views of the Deception Pass Bridge and, if you’re looking for a little adventure, be sure to check out the easy hikes around Deception Pass State Park. And, if you’re at Whidbey Island, be sure to check out the Fort Casey Historical State Park, home to a lighthouse and gun battery.
I’ll be honest; I wasn’t sure I should include this on my list because it’s a bit of a drive from JBLM, but we did spend one day in Leavenworth last fall, so it’s totally doable. We went back to Leavenworth this past summer, and it was amazing, but if you’re just looking for a quick jaunt, a tasty bite, and a visit to the quaint Bavarian village, you can totally do it in a day. Don’t miss the authentic Bavarian Bakery, and be sure to sample a brew or two while you’re in town. Or, better yet, stay longer, go camping in Leavenworth, and float the river on a hot day!
If you’re looking for an iconic PNW beach, Ruby Beach is it in a nutshell. When we went to Forks earlier this year, we had a goal of going to Ruby Beach, but it was closed due to COVID, along with almost all of the beaches in the Olympic region. Instead, we explored the outskirts of the Hoh Rainforest area (which was also closed, sadly), but we managed to see just how spectacular the region can be. Ruby beach is a bit further – just under 3 hours from JBLM – but well worth the drive.
Honestly, there are probably about 50 more recommendations I could provide regarding the best day trips from JBLM, but a lot of it depends on how much time you want to spend in the car. Local treasures are a post in their own right, and as we get closer to PCSing next year, I’ll be sharing more about those must-see gems, but these ones are your must-see adventures worth the drive (and the day, at least) while stationed at JBLM.