Progressive Seattle and crunchy Bellingham are the two tallest pillars of the Washington cannabis scene, so it makes sense that they should bookend the ultimate cannabis roadtrip through the Evergreen State. Then again, no itinerary would be complete without a ride through the awe-inspiring beauty of the Cascade Mountains to Eastern Washington, where cannabis prices fall far lower than in the cities and unlikely characters, curiosities, and cafés abound.
Swimming through a glittering and otherworldly bioluminescent bay, hunting for the elusive Pizza Taco in the strange and tiny town of Soap Lake, being wowed beneath the largest domed laser theater in the world—our Washington cannabis road trip will take you from dispensary to dispensary, art installation to mountain peak, scenic drive to delicious meal as you crisscross the Evergreen State in search of true Evergreen cannabis culture.
When: Late July or early August.
How many miles: 415
How many driving hours: 7 hours 30 minutes
How many days: 4
Your trip kicks off in Bellingham, a vibed-out town of 80,000 rife with college kids, concerts (Snoop Dogg loves to play here), and top-tier cannabis. Take your time arriving; whether you’re driving north through Seattle or coming in west from across the mountains, the route is lovely in every direction. Grab a hotel room (you’ll find plenty of no-frills options at reasonable rates) when you arrive, drop your bags, chill for a bit if you like, then head into town.
You’ve got three things to do this afternoon. First things first: indispensable supplies. Hit up Trove Cannabis for the following, all of which you’re going to want:
Next, track down a wetsuit (check out Washington Divers). Finally, head to Casa Que Pasa for a burrito the size of a baby. (Don’t worry, the wetsuit will stretch.) We recommend puffing on your Avitas cartridge beforehand (don’t forget a vape pen battery)—this is the type of place where it’s virtually impossible to eat all your food without the help of herb-induced hunger. Eat as much as you can, because you’ll be staying up late—and that burrito will tide you over until 2:00 a.m., when the real magic happens.
What magic? Head down to Teddy Bear Cove to see for yourself. You’ll want to stake out a spot at the top of the cove’s rocky outcropping to watch the sunset, so be sure to bring a blanket to sit on (plus an extra to wrap up in once the sun goes down), and your new dolphin pipe packed with plenty of that XJ-13. Sit, smoke, and pass the time as you wait for bioluminescence to begin lighting up the bay below.
For the uninitiated, bioluminescence is a natural marvel caused by energy given off from chemical reactions in thousands of tiny sea-dwelling organisms. This emission of energy lights up the cove late at night and glows brightest when the water is agitated. As such, you’ll see the bay begin to shimmer with a ghostly blue-green light as paddleboarders and kayakers skim across the surface while you watch from above. Ready? Put on your wetsuit, traipse down to the water’s edge, and launch yourself into the most magical swim of your life.
A word of warning: You won’t be the only one here. College students, local hikers, and hippie types congregate for bonfires and makeshift midnight parties during these few weeks’ worth that offer the possibility of viewing such a magical natural phenomenon, so you’ll find yourself a part of a secret midnight society of adventure-seekers, generally elevated, who’ll be swimming with and without wetsuits until the bioluminescence fades.
Ever wanted to travel to Bavaria? After today, you’ll feel like you have. Leavenworth is the Northwest’s premier Bavarian village, where everything from the street names to the fast food signs have been Bavaria-fied. And unlike the real place in Germany, where authorities take an unusually strict stance on cannabis, the herb is totally legal here.
To get here from Bellingham, detour along Chuckanut Drive just to the south of Bellingham—this 21-mile highway (also known as state route 11) is the most scenic drive in all of Washington, akin to wheeling through a soaring hallway of green and gold-tinted foliage, with dappled sunlight dripping through the canopy above. Stop for lunch or brunch at The Rhody café, a Northwest-AF eatery where Montana Huckleberry Waffles mingle on the menu alongside po’boys made with pan-fried Salish Sea oysters. Carry on to I-5 South and turn off at US-2, which heads east across the mountains (a drive almost as scenic as Chuckanut) and will lead you all the way to Leavenworth, where you’ll again find plenty of reasonably-priced lodging options.
What are you doing this afternoon? Floating the Wenatchee River. Here’s how:
- Pop an infused Saigon Cinnamon Snickerdoodle (or two, we won’t tell).
- Head over to Osprey River Co., which offers a $30 tube rental and float package.
- Take the company’s hourly shuttle to the top of the run.
- Kick off from the shore, kick back in the sun, and float the lazy 2.5-mile course as many times as you like—the shuttle at the bottom will take you back to the top.
- Your package includes a barbecue at the end of your float. Goodbye, munchies; hello, best day ever.
- For summer months, we recommend calling in advance to book: (509) 548-6800.
Once you’ve changed out of your swimsuit, hit up “downtown” Leavenworth for whatever combination you prefer of bratwurst, German bier, and heatwave-quashing two-scoop ice cream cones from Das Sweet Shoppe. Still going strong on the edibles? Keep walking up the road to reach Icicle Junction, where you’ll find one of the best mini golf courses in the state. It’s Bavarian-themed (obviously), and you’ll get to cross bridges, wander betwixt mini-buildings that stand guard over the course, and coax your golf ball through things like a real working water wheel. While kids love this course, it’s even more fun for adults in an elevated state of mind. Feel free to play two rounds, then spend the rest of your night exploring the town, speaking in German accents, and purchasing outlandish hats after a very solid smoke sesh.
If you’re one for steep morning hikes after a wake-and-bake, Bootjack Mountain just outside of Leavenworth is guaranteed to perk you up, offering unparalleled alpine views after a scramble to the top. If you’re not so, shall we say, inclined, enjoy a lazier morning before setting off toward your next destination: Soap Lake.
Soap Lake is home to what’s been called a “freaky magic.” You never know what’s going to happen here, or who you’re going to meet. As such, it’s best to set off with a fully-stocked stash box. Hit up American Harvest in Peshastin on the way out of town for two things in particular:
- Ray’s Infused Lemonade (choose from three flavors: classic, blood orange, and huckleberry). It’ll be toasty where you’re headed, so grabbing more than one and popping them in a cooler wouldn’t be a bad idea.
- UW by Cannaman. This strain of flower is legendary in Washington—stolen (by a rogue grad student, they say) from the research lab at its titular university in the early 90s, the entire state (except for maybe the rival WSU Cougars) has since come to love this heady indica with its purple coloration and spiced fruit flavor.
Head east for 79 miles through ever smaller towns (Wenatchee, Quincy, Lakeview) to reach the banks of Soap Lake. There you’ll find Notaras Lodge, whose themed log cabins make the perfect place to chill (we recommend booking one of the rooms with a Jacuzzi tub). Once you’ve checked in, you’re ready to be rejuvenated by the healing waters of Soap Lake, which lies mere steps away thanks to the lodge’s convenient location.
The lake has long been known (very aptly for a cannabis road trip) as the “Smokiam,” or healing waters, by local Native American tribes. A supposedly miraculous body of water, it has been alleged capable of curing all manner of ailments over the years, and the Colville tribe used to regularly send their sick and injured to soak in it. Thanks to an unusually high mineral content, the lake water bubbles up like soap on the shore, and imparts an oily feel to swimmers. You can choose to swim or simply soak up the sun, but don’t stay out too long or you’ll burn (unless you cover yourself in the mud from the lake, which many do). As you sip and savor your infused lemonade, you’re also likely to enjoy some fantastic people-watching.
Head back inside before you overheat, and explore Soap Lake Natural Spa and Resort, which houses Notaras Lodge. Key features for mentally-relaxed travelers include a spa and frequent yoga classes. For dinner, you’re walking a whole 98 feet to Del Red Pub, home of the fabled Pizza Taco. It’s as if this place was created to satiate your wildest munchies. After dinner, stroll all of 144 more feet to Masquers Theater to see if anything’s playing—all productions are volunteer-performed, meaning potentially cringe-worthy and definitely hilarious live shows that are even better after a bowl or two of that UW.
You can’t know Washington’s cannabis culture without knowing Seattle. The Emerald City features cutting-edge dispensaries and plenty to do while heightened. But first, you’ve got to get there—via a 176-mile drive with plenty to see along the way. An hour into your drive, you’ll reach the majestic Columbia River, sparkling up from its deeply-etched gorge, and just across it make a pit stop at Vantage—home to the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park. View a huge array of petrified wood (which just so happens to be Washington’s state gemstone) at the Interpretive Center (free admission, open daily 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.), walk along the park’s trails, and marvel at one of the most unusual fossil forests on the globe. Be sure to designate a driver: Everyone else should vape a bit and take a short break at the picnic-and-swimming area along the river’s banks.
Another half-hour along, conquer your munchies at a café beloved by road-tripping Washingtonians for over 20 years. The food at the Yellow Church Café is, yes, heavenly, and you know a place is good when it has its own song.
Finally, make the journey back across the Cascades and on to Seattle. The can’t-miss dispensary here is Vela, where you can pick up a pre-roll of sweet, citrusy Dutch Haze by local fave Raven Grass, and a concentrate from Suncliff (whose flower you can see through the dispensary’s window, growing next door). With your haul in hand, head to your 420-friendly lodging option of choice (book in advance on this one—we’re partial to The Winston House, where you’ll find good company, plenty of cannabis accoutrements, and a gorgeous dwelling, but The Bacon Mansion also accommodates consumption).
If you time your arrival for the right weekend (August 18–20, 2017), you can catch Hempfest, billed as the largest cannabis convocation and “Protestival” in the world (and the largest free speech event in the nation). Hippies, entrepreneurs, celebs, and ordinary cannabis enthusiasts mix and mingle amid clouds of skunky smoke, hemp clothing booths, blown glass pipes, and copious food vendors. If you’re there another weekend, don’t worry: Between jaw-dropping art installations (such as A Sound Garden, from whence the name of the illustrious band, or those at the waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park), plenty of live music throughout the city, and the ultimate Seattle stoner meal (most would argue it’s a burger, fries, and a shake from unconditionally beloved local tradition Dick’s Drive-In, but some, myself included, would say there’s nothing better than a cream cheese-slathered Seattle Dog), there’s more than enough to see, do, and eat.
After the sun goes down, load up on whatever cannabis you have left and head to the Pacific Science Center, which houses the largest domed laser theater in the world. You’re seeing a midnight showing of Laser Floyd: The Wall (12–1 a.m. Saturday nights), and trust us—if that wasn’t made expressly for cannabis lovers, nothing was.
Not ready to end your roadtrip? Follow I-5 South from Seattle to Portland, where the Oregon leg of our Ultimate Cannabis Roadtrip will begin. Keep an eye out for the itinerary on Leafly soon!
Additional image credits:
Bellingham: Courtesy of Bellingham Experience
Soap Lake: Steven Pavlov/Wikimedia Commons
Note: This road trip itinerary is not intended to encourage unlawful cannabis consumption of any kind. Never drive under the influence of cannabis or consume in violation of any state or local law, and always keep your cannabis sealed and locked away in the trunk while on the road.