Get to know some of the small cities and towns in each region, from hamlets of 100 to those with up to around 10,000 residents. These destinations offer visitors a more laid-back alternative to bustling cities. Read on to find out why these small towns are worth exploring.
Situated between the Tolt and Snoqualmie rivers, Carnation is located at the heart of u-pick berry paradise. Tolt-MacDonald Park on the edge of town is another treat. A suspension bridge sways above the Snoqualmie River, transporting brave crossers to a little bit of paradise. Those looking for music, events, and classes can turn to Miller’s, a community gathering space.
This rural mountain community boasts plentiful outdoor recreation opportunities year-round, from fishing, rock climbing, and hiking in summer to snowmobiling and bird watching in winter. The Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe has deep roots in the area, and each year the tribe honors its rich culture with a Pow Wow in late August.
Once a mill town out in farm country, Fall City is now a scenic 2,500-person burg with a mind to preserve its heritage. The historical society has already saved a 130-year-old hop shed, and the lodge-like Last Frontier Saloon proudly pours beers at the spot where Fall City’s trading post was built in 1869. History buffs can enjoy learning more about the town on a self-guided walking tour.
Nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, tiny Gold Bar bills itself as the gateway to the Cascade Mountains. Just outside of town, Wallace Falls is a highlight for hikers, while fishermen and rafters flock to the Skykomish River. Every July, the town celebrates its mining heritage with the Gold Dust Days festival, which includes a parade, live music, and vendors selling glittery treasures.
This town provides easy access to the scenic Mountain Loop Highway, where visitors can find the mining ghost town of Mote Cristo and numerous spots for fishing, hiking, and camping. In town, the Granite Falls Museum contains artifacts of the town’s early gold mining days. The Pilchuck River and the South fork of the Stillaguamish River are also nearby.
Made famous by the TV show “Twin Peaks,” North Bend is a sweet little town at the foot of Mount Si, a popular hiking destination. After conquering the 4,167-foot peak, drop by Twede’s Cafe for a slice of cherry pie and a coffee. Two blocks away, the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum showcases the history of the area.
Take a step back in time in Stanwood, just an hour north of Seattle. The town has roots in Scandinavian and farming history and sits at a crossroads between the Islands Region and the Skagit Valley of the Salish Sea Region. Stanwood is also home to the renowned Pilchuck Glass School, an international center for glass art education founded in 1971 by Dale Chihuly, Anne Gould Hauberg, and John H. Hauberg. Public tours are offered each spring for those looking to get a closer look at the world of glass.
About 30 minutes southwest of Tacoma sits the quaint town of Steilacoom, which bills itself as the oldest incorporated Washington city or town. Explore the historic district, where you can find homes dating back to the mid-1850s, visit the Steilacoom Historical Museum, or take in the views of Puget Sound from the town’s parks.