- September 20, 2016

Seattle + North Cascades Travel Guide

Seattle and North Cascades (PNW) Tavel Guide for a 4 day long weekend trip

Hey y’all! Excited to share my Seattle and Cascades guide! Like I’ve mentioned on Snapchat, this took me a while because we actually only stayed in the city one day/night, but I still wanted to provide a quality city guide.

We spent most of our time in Washington driving (and stopping to take a million photos…) and staying in the North Cascades – seriously one of the most stunning places I’ve seen in real life. I already have another Seattle trip planned for next year because I am obsessed with the place and didn’t get nearly enough time there. Part of this guide is to set me up for my trip next time, ha!, and to help you guys, obviously!

Where To Stay in Seattle

fairmont hotel in Seattle

Fairmont Olympic – This is where we stayed and we LOVED it. You can walk to so many places – the location just cannot be beat. It’s a beautiful, traditonal-style hotel and I’d definitely recommend it.

Inn at the Market – This spot is literally in the heart of Pike’s Place Market. They remodeled it recently and it’s very artsy/modern/cool. It’s a boutique hotel so it’s not huge and just a very neat place!

Hotel Max – Such a trendy, unique place to stay! It’s another smaller, boutique hotel in a great location, and has like the coolest things ever: an art collection, free local coffee, free craft beer hour from local breweries, and a whole level of rooms with turntables in them! I need to stay here for at least a night or two next time at least just to feel cool.

Four Seasons – If you’re looking to #treatyoself, it’s hard to beat this hotel. It’s right across from the water so the views are amazing, and it’s very central. About as nice as it gets!

What To Do in Seattle

This section covers what I did followed by what I WANT to do next time. Like I mentioned before, we were only here for a short time, but we made sure to cover a ton of ground. The thing with Seattle is that there is SO much to do – such a variety between the city, water, surrounding forests, etc. – that it’s hard to cross it all off! We loved staying downtown because it was easy access to the water and you were getting the city experience.

brighton the day everyday fall outfit with sunflowers

Outfit Details: BP. Ribbed Mock Sweater // AG Black Distressed Jeans // BP. Trolley Bootie // Baublebar XL Monogram Necklace

Public Market a.k.a Pike’s Place – The home to the first Starbucks and a famous place, this is an obvious thing to do! We actually made this our first stop because we were so excited to see it. We grabbed coffee, flowers, and just basically fed our eyes with the cute Farmer’s Market and everything else going on. Even on a gray day (which we were actually SO excited for) this is definitely worth going to.

Storyville Coffee // Seattle, WA

Coffee at Storyville Coffee – Talk about the cutest little place ever! We took a break from being tourists to grab a (healthy) bite and more coffee here. I caught up on some work/took a ton of Instas/people watched and loved it all. I wanted to stay here forever.

brighton the day sailing outfit with white jeans and chambray shirt

Outfit Details: Cupcakes & Cashmere Chambray Shirt // Articles of Society White Jeans // JSlides Tassel Slip Ons // Gucci Soho Crossbody

Sailing – I mentioned that we did this here, and it was a MUST do. The views of the Emerald City, the fresh cool air…ahhh! it was just amazing. Definitely bring layers and don’t be a Brighton, though! And don’t forget your camera.

Visit flagship Nordstrom – If you like shopping and have a few spare hours while in the city, you should visit the flagship Nordstrom store! It’s AH-MAZINGGG – so huge and so cooler than any Nordies I’ve ever been to! Also, it’s in a really great area with so many other cool shops and it’s just an awesome atmosphere downtown.

That’s all we did, but don’t worry, my Seattle Bucket List doesn’t stop there! I still wanted to include what I’ve heard is great and what’s on my list for next time:

  • Take a ferry to Bainbridge Island and experience all the cuteness
  • Ferris Wheel over water
  • Chihuly Museum
  • Glass Museum

Where To Eat in Seattle

We were only in the city area for 2 nights during our trip and the first night was a travel day so we didn’t end up getting to the hotel until about 9 PM, and ended up just eating room service. For our true night in the city, we ended up going to Purple Cafe & Wine Bar per all y’alls recommendations (thank you!) and it was fantastic.

brighton the day black on black outfit with graphic tee

Wore this little all-black number to dinner at Purple Cafe & Wine Bar near the Fairmont Olympic in downtown Seattle. Outfit Details: Sincerely Jules Graphic Tee // AG Black Distressed Jeans // BlankNYC Denim Jacket // Dee Keller Portia Pump

Even though I only went to that spot,  I still thought it might be helpful to include the other highly-suggested spots I received from readers.

Here’s the list and what I heard about them: Pink Door (in Pike’s Place, great atmosphere and views); Edgewater (fancy); Demetris – fire pits at table, sunset view; Walrus & Carpenter; Terra Plata – try to eat on the roof; Rachel’s Ginger beer – get the slushies or the dark and stormy; Local 360 – great brunch; Ivar’s; Heartwood Provisions; Tulio – local, authentic, italian; Westward; Little Bird Bistro; Le Pigeon; Cupcake Royale – ice cream and cupcakes.

Leaving the City + Figuring Out Which Mountains to Visit

As you can see from the map (below), there are LOTS of mountains in the state of Washington (And side note – they’re all ridiculously gorgeous!). With so much goodness in the state and only 4 days of trip time to make a plan, it’s certainly was NOT possible to do it all (#duh).

Needless to say, we had a very difficult time narrowing it down and getting a game plan. I’m so glad I had my friend Hope to help me plan, because without her, I would have just gotten overwhelmed in the planning stage; but really, you could legit spend 2 months (easy!) out there.

Map of Washington State's National Parks and Hikes we were considering

Area 1 – Olympic National Park // Area 2 – North Cascades National Park // Area 3 – Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest // Area 4 – Mt. Rainer National Park

In all honestly, you really can’t go wrong because every single spot in this area (like, the entire state basically) is beautiful. We chose to visit the North Cascades National Park because we had our heart’s set on experiencing the iconic North Cascades Highway; it’s one of the most beautiful highways in the country (I mean, UNREAL y’all!).

Traveling From Seattle To North Cascade National Park Area (Area 2 on Map)

After our day in the city, we packed our bags and headed onto our next adventure into the Cascade mountains. We had our hearts set on visiting the North Cascade National Park and getting to cruise along the oh-so-beautiful North Cascades Highway (highway 20).

brighton keller wearing chambray shirt and black distressed jeans

Topshop Double Strap Tank // AG Black Distressed Jeans //  Vince Camuto ‘Feina’ Bootie // Cupcakes & Cashmere Chambray Shirt // Baublebar XL Monogram Necklace // Nixon Leather Strap Watch

Stopping along Highway 20 (north cascades highway) on way to Winthrop, WA from Seattle, WA

We loved our drive down the North Cascades Highway. It was only 200 miles from Seattle to Winthrop but it took us 3x as long because we kept stopping to take ALL THE pictures because everything was so JAW-DROPPINGLY gorgeous! I mean, LOOK at that water, y’all!

Diablo Lake (part of Ross Lake)

brighton keller, diablo lake in washington

Right near the trailhead for the Thunder Knob Trail Hike (which I talk about below).

brighton the day sneakers in front of lake

 Nike Air Zoom Pegasus // ALO High Waisted Moto Leggings

Overlooking Lake Diablo at the official “lookout” off of  Highway 20…on the way to Winthrop, WA.

Diablo Lake
highway 20 north cascades scenic highway
brighton keller, diablo lake in washington
brighton keller, diablo lake in washington

brighton the day overlooking forest wearing brown booties an grey sweater

BP. Ribbed Mock Neck Pullover // AG Black Distressed Jeans // BP. Trolley Bootie

Overlooking Lake Diablo from the Diablo Lake Lookout off of Highway 20.

Where To Stay in the North Cascades

There are a few little towns surrounding this area but we ended up posting up in Winthrop, WA – you can also choose to camp too if that’s your kind of thing.

For the record, finding a good place to stay out there (near Ross lake and Diablo lake) is no easy feat – and all the good places are typically booked out months in advance. So we were thrilled when we found that Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop had some availability during the dates we were looking for!

brighton the day overlooking sunset in patagonia vest and jacket

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket // Patagonia ‘Better Sweater’ Vest // BP. Solid Black Hat // Zella ‘live in’ leggings // Nike Free Run Sneakers 

We took this photo at sunrise RIGHT outside our hotel (well we walked like 400 feet). So this just goes to show you how pretty the surrounding area is of the hotel!

1. Sun Mountain Lodge (Winthrop, WA // where we stayed) – it’s about 200 miles from Seattle and the drive alone is worth it! We really loved this spot – such a cute town, too.

breakfast at Sun Mountain Lodge

Breakfast at Sun Mountain Lodge restaurant – how about those views, right?!

view from back of sun mountain lodge resort in winthrop, WA

Views from the back of Sun Mountain Lodge – GORGEOUS.

2. Ross Lake Resort (North Cascades National Park) – This is where we REALLY wanted to stay but we came to learn that this spot tends to book out over a year in advance. You actually can only get to the cabins via ferry or hiking so it’s extremely remote and private. You’re close to a lake (hence the name) and have insane views of the mountains. It seems like the most relaxing, calming place to stay ever, and I need to get in here one day!

3. Check out Glamping Hub – maybe you could find a luxury campsite near where you’re wanting to go explore. We ALMOST did this and I think we will next time for sure!

4. AirBnb might be your best bet since there really aren’t that many options once you get out of the city area and into the mountains.

brighton the day plaid shirt and utility vest

Topshop Plaid Shirt // AG ‘The Legging’ Jeans // Vince Camuto ‘Feina’ Bootie // Cupcakes & Cashmere Utility Vest // Chloe Medium ‘Faye’ Bag

Map of Washington State's National Parks and Hikes we were considering

Things to Do + Places To See + Popular Hikes in Washington

I hope this little map I’ve made will help you visualize where everything is and get a good general idea of the lay of the land, so to say. After we decided on the North Cascades, we had to rule out several other spots that we really wanted to see (e.g., G, D, E & F were too far out of the way to make it work) – but that’s okay, we’ll get to them next trip! This list of spots is BY NO MEANS inclusive of all the AMAZING things the state has to offer – I just wanted to let y’all in on the places we were deciding between since so many have been asking via Instagram and Snapchat!

maple pass loop - view of lake anne

Image via

A. Maple Pass Loop – This hike takes a while and isn’t super easy, but it’s soooo pretty. There’s usually snow, but wildflowers and huge trees peak out too – at least when we were there – and the views are incredible. Check out how beautiful it is from people’s recent posts on Instagram hashtagged with #MaplePassLoop or check out this blogger, Healthy Mama (I found her via Pinterest) who hiked it and shares photos from her experience.

Details: wearing Hunter Boots + Penfield Jacket

B. Thunder Knob Trail – This is the hike we did and the photo above is from the lookout at the top! It’s a GREAT (and not too difficult hike) for an excellent view of Lake Diablo. The Lake Diablo area was about 1.5 hours from where we staying (see below/pink heart) and it wasn’t too bad of a drive.

We hiked Thunder Knob Trail for our first full day in the area and loved it! Since we knew we’d be away from shops + food, we decided to head into the mountains prepared with food and snacks. We stopped at the CUTEST little country store (in the cutest little town called Mazama) on the way to get snacks and sandwiches (and some wine) to enjoy on our adventure. It was the perfect day and the hike was just the right amount of outdoors time I could handle (ha! baby steps…)

Thunder Knob Trail Hike details: 3.6 miles round trip, located within colonial creek compound, elevation gain of 425 feet, fairly easy hike

C. Baker Lake – This is just north of the town Concrete and is like the rest of the area…gorgeous. It’s actually part of a National Park and the whole area is reserved beautifully. There are camp grounds at this lake, so that would be fun if the weather was nice!

D. Jade Lake – This place reminds me of Banff – colored water surrounded by huge, beautiful mountains. It was like a dream.

E. Snoqualmie Falls & Rattlesnake Ledge – Easy and near the city.

F. Lake Crescent – There’s a spot called Devil’s Punchbowl that you can swim in – it’s a natural swimming hole which looked so cool! Again, turquoise water that was magical and the lake gets its name from the shape!

G. Heather lake – The area around here is supposedly a good, moderate place for a hike. It’s a smaller lake and just very serene.

brighton the day styling plaid shirt and vest with denim shorts

Madewell Plaid Shirt // J.Crew Quilted Vest // H&M Denim Shorts // Hunter Boots