WASHINGTON STATE IS KNOWN for its incredible outdoor recreation options, and Seattle is the perfect spot to start your adventure as a vibrant city surrounded by unmatched natural beauty. But before you start planning a multi-day road trip route (and brace yourself for an unsightly gas bill), consider instead a short day trip from Seattle in the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area (Greenway NHA).

A National Scenic Byway and now the nation’s newest National Heritage Area, the Greenway NHA is an ecologically diverse corridor, stretching 100 miles along Interstate 90 from Seattle, across the Cascade Mountains to Ellensburg in central Washington. It’s a beautiful stretch of land where cultural heritage is stitched closely to a dramatic landscape of water, mountains, and forests. Along river valleys and through a low mountain pass, the small towns, working farms and forests, and windswept wilderness of the Greenway form a network of thriving communities, connected along a trade corridor where the earliest exchanges were made thousands of years ago. This will be the backdrop for some of your favorite memories.

Experience World-Class Recreation, Without the Long Drive

If you want to see as much as possible and choose your adventure along the way, check out this scenic driving tour to get you started. If the mountains are calling, make your way east out of the city and head for the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley. With the windows down and a cool mountain breeze hitting your face, you’ll soon feel an incredible sense of awe as the scenery shifts from an urban setting to a peaceful wilderness in less than an hour.

The pavement under your tires turns to gravel as you find your way to one of many trails in the area, where you’ll be greeted by evergreen trees towering overhead like giants, draped in vibrant green moss, and exuding a fresh pine scent. Feel the soft earth under your feet, take in the endless sea of ferns swaying in the wind, and hear the powerful river flowing in the distance.

If you’re looking for a short, family, and beginner-friendly stroll through the woods, consider the Oxbow Loop Trail or the ADA-accessible Camp Brown Day Use Area, which features numerous picnic areas complete with charcoal grills and access to the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. Ready to break a sweat? Hike up to Garfield Ledges or wander for miles on the beautiful Middle Fork River Trail which wows within the first few moments as you cross the iconic Gateway Bridge over incredible turquoise water below.

Stay Safe and Recreate Responsibly in the Greenway NHA

Before you even start to lace up your boots, it’s essential that you take some time to learn what it means to recreate responsibly – for your own safety, and for the health of this beautiful landscape you are visiting. This not only means being prepared with the proper knowledge and items knowing you may leave cell reception behind and enter the wilderness but also understanding how to make as little impact as possible by taking simple but essential actions like staying on the trail and packing out all of your trash.

It's also important to recognize and respect that the Greenway NHA encompasses the historic lands of many Indigenous groups who are the original and long-term stewards of these lands and waters. You can learn more about these topics at mtsgreenway.org/visit

More Than Just Epic Views: Learn Something New Along the Way

Round out your experience in the Greenway NHA by visiting any of the region’s many museums and educational centers, such as the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical ParkBallard (Hiram M. Chittenden) LocksCedar River Watershed Education CenterNorthwest Railway Museum, or the Washington State Ski & Snowboard Museum at Snoqualmie Pass. Short on time? Check out our National Heritage Area themes online, which describe the distinctive and defining characteristics of the Greenway NHA and serve to guide deeper exploration and understanding of the landscape and its history and heritage.

Equipped with the knowledge to visit responsibly and an appreciation for what makes this landscape nationally significant, you’re sure to have an incredible day in the Greenway NHA with endless things to learn and discover.

Head to mtsgreenway.org/visit to start planning your adventure!