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.


A former logging town, tiny Ashford is the jumping-off point for many Mount Rainier adventures. Just 6 miles west of the Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, Ashford serves as a base camp for mountain guide organizations and offers plenty of cozy accommodations and dining options for visitors.


Founded as a logging and railroad town in 1883, Chehalis boasts three historic districts that are recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Well-preserved and rich with pioneer history, its downtown is full of quaint old buildings, antique malls, and coffee shops. Also worth a visit are the Vintage Motorcycle Museum and the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum, which offers seasonal rail excursions through the countryside.


Come for the small-town atmosphere, but don’t miss the nearby Ape Caves. The more than 2-mile underground lava tube is the nation’s third largest and is easy to explore with headlamps. The area is also home to camping options for those looking to sleep under the stars. Cougar also serves as the southern gateway for visitors to Mount St. Helens.


Located on the Columbia River on the border with Oregon, Kalama’s thriving Port boasts miles of walking paths, water activities, and a marina, and standout fishing. In town, visitors can wander antique shops or dine at one of the many restaurants. In August, the town hosts the annual Untouchables Car Show featuring 300-plus classic cars.


Dramatically sandwiched between Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier, Packwood plays host to one of the largest flea markets in the western United States. Taking place over four days every Labor Day and Memorial Day weekend since the 1970s, the market extends for more than a mile and draws thousands of bargain hunters to this cozy outpost on the Cowlitz River.


This town off Interstate 5 is a great base for visiting the scenic Cedar Creek Grist Mill. Established in 1876 and now on the National Register of Historic Places, the mill is a photo-worthy working museum. Also on the National Register of Historic Places is the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens, which honors the work of famed lilac developer Hulda Klager and includes an 1880s Victorian Farmhouse.