Spring in Washington state may usually be associated with gloomy, rainy skies, but fear not! There’s plenty of sunny days, hinting at the glorious summer in a few short months, and lots of springtime activities to keep you busy in the meantime. Here’s 13 awesome things to do during spring in Washington state.
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What’s Washington State in Spring Like?
Yes, spring brings rainy days, but the kind of weather you’ll experience will vary drastically, depending on what part of the state you’re in.
Washington state offers an incredibly diverse landscape in its 71,000 square mile footprint- from the wild coastline and rainforests to the tallest mountain in the Cascades and sand dunes to the east. Along the coastline, you’re likely to get moody weather and low-hanging clouds, making its coastal rainforests look that much more mysterious, whereas you’ll likely find sunny skies and warming temperatures in the eastern portion of the state.
There’s also still heavy snowfall in the mountains, blooming wildflowers, cascading waterfalls, really anything and everything you could possibly want— which is what makes spring such an excellent time to explore Washington!
Things to do During Spring in Washington State
1. Go on a waterfall hike.
Most folks associate Washington state with gray and rainy skies and well, in the springtime, they’re kind of right. That being said, that also means that the waterfalls in the state are flowing at their maximum volume, not just from all the rain, but also from the springtime snowmelt.
There’s over 3,000 named waterfalls in Washington, so no matter where you’re located, you’re bound to be not far from one. If you want to see these cascades at their most epic, here’s a few waterfall hikes I’d suggest checking out:
- Palouse Falls: Found near Perry, Washington in the eastern side of the state, you can either view Washington’s state waterfall from an overlook or get a closer look on a (sketchy) hiking trail.
- Wallace Falls: This family-friendly hike in the Stevens Pass area will take you through a beautiful rainforest and past three stunning waterfalls. You can pay for a day pass here or, if you’re going to be in Washington for any meaningful period of time, it’s worth getting a Discover Pass, which covers your annual access to all Washington State Parks.
- Sol duc Falls: This trail is one of the best hikes in Olympic National Park and the only one in the park where you can actually stand above the brink of the falls. You can either hike this as an easy 1.6 mile out-and-back trail or extend your trek through the beautiful surrounding rainforest along the 5.8 mile Lovers Lane loop.
2. Hit up a winery.
Washington state is the second largest producer of wine in the country, with both Yakima Valley and Walla Walla being stand out regions. You’ll find over 100 wineries in Walla Walla, which primarily specialize in syrah, and over 90 wineries in Yakima, which leans into chardonnay and merlot.
Spring is a lovely time to visit the wineries here- the vines will be flourishing, the flowers blooming, and you’ll avoid the swelling crowds of summer. And if you time your visit in May, you may just be able to have a crack at the season’s first vintage!
Some of the best wineries in Walla Walla include:
- Foundry Vineyards: This feels like the fabulous love child of a winery and an art museum, with wines made from locally-sourced fruits and a sculpture garden.
- Tranche Estate: If you’re looking for someplace with a view, this is the place to go, with panoramic vistas of the rolling vineyards and the Blue Mountains surrounding the tasting room.
- Valdemar Estates: Not only does the family that runs this vineyard have a formidable 130-year history of making wine, you’ll get stunning views of the neighboring mountains and an opportunity to nom down on excellent Spanish tapas. I also like what this winery stands for as Washington’s (self-proclaimed) first “100% inclusive and accessible” tasting room, with Braille menus and tasting cards for low-vision wine lovers.
Some of the best wineries in Yakima include:
- Treveri Cellars: If you’re into sparkling wines, this winery is a must-stop, crafting sparklers out of traditional varieties, like chardonnay, to not-so-common ones, like syrah.
- Fortuity Cellars: This winery focuses on being hyper-local, utilizing fruits that are actually grown in the Yakima Valley. The lawn here, providing sweeping views of Mount Adams and the surrounding orchards is just begging for a picnic (while the winery sells small snacks, you’re also welcome to BYO!).
- Freehand Cellars: The wine here is perfectly tasty, but the best thing about Freehand is the sprawling views of the Yakima Valley surrounding the property, which is perched atop a hill. If you’re looking for a unique weekend getaway, there’s even an Airstream (complete with an outdoor hot tub!) that’s just steps away from the tasting room that you can rent out on Airbnb.
3. Check out the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.
Any “Washington in spring” list would be incomplete without the Pacific Northwest’s most famed springtime event, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, located about an hour and 15 minutes north of Seattle. At this festival, which typically runs from the beginning of April through the beginning of May, you’ll have the opportunity to walk through rows upon rows of millions of vibrant tulips, with over 200 varieties of blooms on display.
There’s three tulip gardens that you can visit at this festival. While the flowers are the main event at these farms, they each have their own unique flair to celebrate the occasion, like photo stations, trolleys, and nurseries where you can pick up tulip bulbs of your own. For more information on this event, be sure to check out our post all about the best tulips in Washington.
4. Visit a hot spring.
Fun fact- Washington has five active volcanoes, all within the Cascade Range. So it should be no surprise that, given its geothermal activity, the state also has several hot springs to relax in. And what could be better, with the remaining nip in the air, to soak in some steamy water?
Some of the best hot springs in Washington to check out include:
- Sol Duc Hot Springs: By far the most accessible springs on the list, these developed hot springs are actually found at a resort in Olympic National Park. Book a cabin for a weekend and enjoy a mix of relaxing in the resort’s hot springs, exploring nearby hiking trails, and hitting up some of the incredible beaches in Olympic National Park.
- Scenic Hot Springs: You’ve almost certainly seen these three rustic tubs, overlooking a pine tree forest, on Instagram. But good things (like pretty hot springs) only come to those who work for it- you’ll need to make a reservation for Scenic Hot Springs well in advance and hike up a pretty gnarly trail to get here. #worthit
- Goldmyer Hot Springs: Yet another hot spring that requires a bit of luck and planning- you’ll need to apply for a permit, via a lottery system, two months ahead of time to enjoy the spring. Oh, and you’ll also need to hike along a nine-mile round trip trail to get here. You’ll be rewarded, though, with a secluded hot spring, tucked away in a lush rainforest.
5. Take on the rapids.
As mentioned above, all of that springtime rain and snowmelt cause waterfalls—and the rivers that feed them—to swell, making it the perfect time to try your hand at white water rafting in Washington.
For example, check out this full day rafting trip on the White Salmon River. This route through southern Washington actually takes you through collapsed lava tubes from Mount Adams and along Class III rapids (and, if conditions permit, a Class IV waterfall!). There’s also a half-day option, if you’re looking to ease into the adventures a bit more.
In addition to the White Salmon River, you can find outfitters that will take you white water rafting in Washington, scattered throughout the state, such as in the Methow Valley, Skykomish, and the Tieton River.
6. Stop to smell the lilacs.
Did you know that Spokane is actually known as the Lilac City? It’s believed that Spokane was called this, starting in the 1930s, when a local gardening club started to plant lilac bushes around the city.
Now, the Lilac Garden in Spokane’s Manito Park boasts over 100 varieties from 23 distinct lilac species, making it one of the largest lilac gardens west of the Mississippi. And the city even had its own hybrid lilac created in 1999, called the Syringa Spokane lilac.
These sweet and fragrant flowers typically bloom starting in May. The city celebrates their arrival with lilac-themed events, like the annual 12-km Bloomsday race the first weekend of May.
7. Take out a hot tub boat in Seattle.
One of the most unique things to do in Seattle, regardless of the time of year, is rent a hot tub boat and cruise around Lake Union, whilst taking in Seattle’s iconic skyline.
There’s a couple of different companies that you can choose from- either the appropriately named Hot Tub Boats or Lake Union Hot Tub Boats, which actually adds even a more unique twist, given their hot tubs are wood-fired. During your boat ride, you can bring up to five other fellow hot tubbers, your favorite drink of choice (although note that the Hot Tub Boats company does not allow alcohol!), and your favorite playlist!
8. Go on a wildflower hike.
What could be more iconic of springtime than fields of colorful flowers, swaying in the wind. Here in Washington, we’re simply filthy with ‘em and have some incredible hiking trails to make the most of these colorful blooms.
Two spring wildflower hikes in Washington state that you don’t want to miss include:
- Dog Mountain: This challenging hike in southern Washington passes countless meadows, full of colorful blooms of yellow balsamroot, Indian paintbrush, and lupine, and eventually ends at the mountain’s summit, offering panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge below.
This is arguably one of the most beloved wildflower hikes in Washington and accordingly, is quite popular. So popular, in fact, that you’ll need a permit to hike it during weekends from late April to mid-June, which you can pick up at Recreation.gov.
- Sage Hills: Located near Wenatchee, this moderately challenging trail follows along rolling hills, with fields of sunny balsamroot and vibrant lupine and views of the North Cascades and the Columbia River to boot.
Note that Sage Hills is closed until April 1 to provide a quiet habitat for mule deer and other wildlife during the winter season, which you may just be lucky enough to spot when you visit in the spring!
9. Spot a gray whale or two.
Every year, from March through June, almost 20,000 gray whales migrate past the coast of Washington as they make their way from their winter feeding grounds in the Baja Peninsula and California, back up to the chilly Arctic waters.
During their 10,000 mile migration (one of the longest migrations of any animal!), the gray whales often stop in the Puget Sound to rest for their last leg of the journey, eating up to 2,400 lbs. of ghost shrimp and plankton every day.
The best place to see gray whales in the spring is on Whidbey and Camano Islands, such as at the Seawall Park/Thomas Hladky Memorial Park on the east side of Whidbey. The town of Langley even has a festival every year in late April to celebrate the whales’ return (aptly called the “Welcome the Whales Festival”)!
You can also see gray whales along the coastline itself, especially from a high vantage point. Some good spots to try out are the scenic lookouts along the Cape Flattery trail (the northwestern-most point in the contiguous United States!), the lookout tower in Pacific Beach State Park along the southern coastline, and Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park. While you’re at Kalaloch, you may as well check out the famed Tree of Life, a sitka spruce tree that’s seemingly levitating between two parted coastal cliffs.
10. Hit the slopes.
Washington is home to the snowiest place in the United States, Mount Rainier, so it should be no surprise that the state also enjoys a long ski season, from around Thanksgiving to mid-April, stretching sometimes even into May. And beyond its long ski season, it has more than a dozen ski resorts—some which are no bigger than a few runs while others have almost 60 trails and over 2,300 acres of terrain!
Accordingly, regardless of what you’re looking for, from a family-friendly magic carpet lift to skiing down some sick couloirs, skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels can find something to suit their needs here. So hit the slopes for the last ski or ride of the spring, while enjoying the milder temperatures and the spectacular views of the snowy surrounding mountains.
11. See the cherry blossoms.
Every year, towards the end of March, Seattle’s cherry blossoms bloom to life, acting as a harbinger of brighter and sunnier days ahead. It’s actually one of the best places in the United States to see cherry blossoms in the springtime, thanks to the number of cherry trees that were gifted to the city from Japan, as early as 1929, as a symbol of friendship and goodwill.
Some of the best places to enjoy the cherry blossoms in Seattle are:
- Seward Park, where you’ll also have views of Lake Union and, on a clear day, Mount Rainier looming in the distance,
- Washington Park Arboretum, which has its very own Japanese Garden, and
- University of Washington quad, which boasts 130 cherry blossom trees, including several that are almost 90 years old!
Fair warning- this is the most POPULAR place to see the cherry blossoms in Seattle, so be prepared to duke it out with hundreds of other TikTokers enjoying these beautiful blushing blooms.
12. Watch for orcas.
The San Juan Islands are one of the best places for whale watching in Washington (and arguably, even the world), especially spotting our black-and-white toothy friends, the orcas. Orca watching season typically starts as early as March when the salmon runs come back to the Salish Sea, with sightings increasing significantly in April and into May.
Consider taking a ferry over to San Juan Island and booking a whale watching cruise, like this half-day tour from Friday Harbor, to see these incredible animals in action. Afterwards, have a drink on the patio of the Friday Harbor House, while looking out onto the San Juan Channel (maybe you’ll get to spot even more whales!).
13. Camp on a beach.
One of the best things about spring in Washington is that its decidedly shoulder season- lots of folks are still hibernating or baking banana bread or whatever the hell we do in the Pacific Northwest in the winter, whilst waiting for the brighter days of summer. So why not take advantage of the fewer crowds and enjoy Mother Nature, all to yourself?
Many of the hiking trails and campgrounds found at higher elevations will be buried in snow until summer, while the coastline, on the other hand, stays moderate throughout the year. In fact, by April, you’ll usually find daily highs in the upper 50s, with it rarely dropping below the upper 30s, even at night on most of Washington’s beaches.
So keep your eyes on the weather forecast and on a clear day, head out to one of the incredible beaches that you can pitch a tent on and call your backyard for a night or two. Many of the beaches in Olympic National Park, like Shi Shi Beach, allow camping (with a permit) and there’s plenty of other parks along the coastline, like Ocean City State Park, that offer campsites right by the waves.
See, didn’t I tell you that spring in Washington state is pretty great? There’s tons of things to do! Did I miss any must-do activities in the spring here? Let me know in the comments below!