Skip to content

Timing Your Trip: Climate & Seasons 

Navigating Washington’s Peak Travel Times

The state’s diverse landscape and varied weather make Washington an exciting destination year-round. While summer brings sunny skies and warmer days throughout much of the state, it is also peak travel season. Travelers can continue to have a positive impact in the summer by considering lesser-known destinations and packing their patience for more well-known spots.

Many destinations east of the Cascade Mountains or south of the Puget Sound region have the capacity to welcome visitors during peak months. Here’s a brief overview of what to expect based on Washington’s climate and seasons.

Washington’s Climate

Washington is divided by the Cascade Mountains and bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and Salish Sea. The state’s diverse topography also leads to many microclimates. Because of this, the weather can vary greatly across the state. 

Western Washington

In general, the west side of the Cascade Mountains tends to be cooler and wetter than the east side. Here, you’ll find mountains, ocean beaches, islands, and temperate rainforests. Many cities sit at sea level yet experience drastic variations in precipitation. Cities on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula see more rain, while the northeast side of the Olympics and the San Juan Islands fall in the rain shadow and get more dry, sunny days. 

Eastern Washington

The state’s east side is broadly characterized by arid high desert, rolling hills, sagebrush, and pine forests. It tends to see drier weather with hot summers and cold winters. This landscape creates perfect growing conditions for much of the state’s hop and wine production. The foothills and mountains also offer excellent outdoor recreation come winter.

Seasons & Peak Travel Times

In summer, particularly on weekends, destinations such as Seattle, Olympic National Park, Washington’s islands, and Mount Rainier National Park receive an influx of visitors. Beyond the busier summer months, the shoulder seasons offer a chance to explore the state’s well-known spots with fewer crowds and the bonus of experiencing seasonal activities such as snowshoeing or viewing fall foliage.  

Being flexible with travel plans and taking advantage of quieter visitation times can help maximize your travel plans while experiencing fewer crowds. 

Spring

Colorful blossoms and mild temperatures characterize spring in Washington. This season brings less rain than winter, although showers are still common into early June in Western Washington. In the mountains and higher elevations, light snow is possible into early spring, and the snowpack formed over the winter can take until the summer to thaw out.  

This period before peak travel season is a great time to view spring blooms and take advantage of fewer crowds, especially at popular hikes and parks. From scenic trails to charming towns, springtime allows for a more relaxed experience. Just remember to pack layers and gear for rain. Find helpful resources for spring travel: 

Spring Trip Inspiration

10+ Gorgeous Waterfalls in Washington State

The Evergreen State has no shortage of waterfalls to explore.
Read More

Farm-to-Table Dining in Washington

Passionate chefs and a dedication to ingredients harvested by Washington’s farmers, fishermen, and artisans characterize these farm-to-fork restaurants.
Read More

Where to Soak: Hot Springs and Thermal Pools

Unwind and soak responsibly with a visit to one of these exceptional developed hot springs and thermal pools.
Read More

Colorful Trails: Explore These Scenic Wildflower Hikes

Discover stunning wildflower hikes with fewer crowds.
Read More

Open Spaces: Driving the Palouse Scenic Byway

The Palouse offers bountiful scenic vistas and charming small towns.
Read More

How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Olympia

Enjoy two full days exploring Washington’s capital city.
Read More

Summer

By mid-June, temperatures have started to climb across the state, and visitors can expect blue skies with limited showers during these months. In Western Washington, the Pacific Ocean offers a cooling influence, resulting in comfortably warm temperatures for much of summer. Moving inland and east of the Cascades, temperatures trend on the higher end. During July and August, cities throughout the state can see days reaching 100 degrees. 

Travel to Washington is busiest from Memorial Day through Labor Day, peaking in July and August. Summer draws millions of visitors, particularly to destinations like Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, and Washington’s islands. While it’s a gorgeous time to soak in the wonders of the state, keep in mind the heightened visitation when trip planning and book accommodations and other reservations in advance.

Visiting in the summer? Here’s what you need to know: 

  • Know before you go. Check travel alerts and weather conditions before heading out so you’re aware of any delays or closures. 
  • Book accommodations, tours, and other activities in advance. 
  • Make vehicle reservations for popular ferry routes, such as Anacortes to the San Juan Islands, in advance. Plan to arrive at the terminal 45-60 minutes before departure. View our Guide to Washington Ferry Routes
  • For popular destinations, opt to visit on weekdays and/or before 7 a.m. or after 5 p.m. 
  • Have a backup plan, especially if visiting Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks. If waits are long, consider exploring less congested areas of the park or similar nearby attractions. 
    • Important Note: For 2024, Mount Rainier has implemented a new timed entry reservation system during the summer months. Learn more and book a time slot here. Find more summer travel tips and ideas for alternative destinations.
    • In Olympic National Park, the most popular destinations are the Hoh Rain Forest and Hurricane Ridge. Find summer travel tips for these areas and ideas for alternative destinations. If visiting Hurricane Ridge, consider taking the Clallam Transit bus from Port Angeles. 
    • On holiday weekends (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day), prepare for longer wait times. Pack plenty of water and snacks and be sure to fill up your gas tank. 

Summer Trip Insiration

A Scenic Eastern Washington Road Trip Itinerary

Immerse yourself in diverse natural beauty and find recommendations for what to see and where to stay.
Read More

Best Places for Kayaking in Washington State

From saltwater bays to mountain lakes, Washington’s kayaking opportunities are boundless.
Read More

3-Day Yakima Valley Summer Itinerary

Head to the Yakima Valley for beer, wine, and outdoor adventure.
Read More

Less-Visited Olympic National Park Hikes: Explore Underrated Gems

Explore quieter trails in Olympic National Park and discover diverse ecosystems, from rainforests to beaches.
Read More

3 Days in the Tri-Cities

Find history, outdoor adventure, wine, and more as you explore Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco.
Read More

Pullman Travel Guide: Where to Eat, Stay, and Explore

Explore this charming college town in scenic Eastern Washington.
Read More

Discover Washington’s Water Trails

From estuaries teeming with wildlife to cliff-bound rivers, explore the state’s official water trails.
Read More

Things to Do in Ellensburg: 3-Day Itinerary

Experience rodeo history and more in this charming college town.
Read More

Fall

Fantastic weather continues into fall, with warm September days giving way to cooler temperatures and fall colors in October that are perfect for outdoor recreation. Early fall is mostly sunny and dry. Come November, rain starts to increase, and temperatures continue to fall. 

As the summer crowds disperse, fall is a prime time for exploration. Enjoy peaceful hiking trails in the state and national parks and easier ferry travel to the islands. Trips to Wine Country and the southern portion of the state are also a wonderful way to embrace this season’s beauty.  

Find safety tips for late fall hikes. 

Fall Trip Inspiration

Columbia River Gorge to Coast Road Trip

Discover distinctive landscapes and charming cities on a Columbia River Gorge to the Pacific Coast road trip.
Read More

Orchard to Glass: Taste Washington Cider

Autumn in Washington State means falling leaves, brisk temperatures, and ripe apples ready for the picking.
Read More

Experience Fall in Washington Wine Country

Fall in Washington Wine Country means special events, new sips, and more.
Read More

Farm-to-Table Dining in Washington

Passionate chefs and a dedication to ingredients harvested by Washington’s farmers, fishermen, and artisans characterize these farm-to-fork restaurants.
Read More

Where to Find Fall Color in Washington

From hikes and bike rides to scenic drives, these are the best places to spot fall color in Washington.
Read More

Discover Washington Ghost Towns

Explore the history behind some of Washington’s abandoned communities.
Read More

Best Destinations for Beer Lovers in Washington

Sip your way through Washington’s outstanding beer destinations 
Read More

3 Scenic Day Trips from Seattle by Ferry

Escape to one of Washington’s charming islands with one of these Seattle ferry trips.
Read More

Winter

While rain increases and temperatures drop, winter is an excellent time for winter sports and exploring all the state’s cozy restaurants and cultural offerings. Expect moody fog, great storm watching along the coast, and peak winter wonderland experiences in the Cascade Mountains and other higher elevations. Ski season kicks off in late November and usually runs through April.  

With options for outdoor thrills and tranquil moments of discovery, there’s an array of seasonal offerings to enjoy. Find resources for winter exploration: 

Winter Trip Inspiration

The Best of Winter Birding in Skagit Valley & Beyond

Spot eagles, snow geese, and more during a winter birding trip to the Skagit Valley and Whatcom County.
Read More

10+ Indoor Activities in Seattle for Families

Explore hands-on museums, an aquarium, and more with these indoor activities that are perfect for families.
Read More

Scenic Snowshoe Trails in Washington

Explore scenic snowshoe trails from the Olympic Peninsula to the eastern Selkirk Mountains
Read More

Perfect Winter Getaway in the Cascade Mountains

The perfect cozy escape paired with outdoor adventure.
Read More

Winter in Washington: Your Guide to Adventure

From the mountains to the coast, winter is an open invitation in Washington.
Read More

Best Spots for Year-Round and Winter Camping

When the snow falls and the rain comes, head to one of these campgrounds.
Read More

Where to Ski and Snowboard in Washington

Hit the slopes at one of these winter ski areas.
Read More

Where to Stay for a Cozy Winter Getaway

Embrace the colder months and snuggle up at one of these cozy winter destinations in Washington.
Read More

6+ Family Friendly Winter Hikes in Washington

Get outdoors and explore with the whole family this winter.
Read More

Sponsored Content