Area Codes 101 – Life before 253 and 425

Life was simple before 1997 when Washington had only two area codes

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

Not that many years ago, every phone number in the state of Washington fell under one of two area codes – 206 for the west side of the Cascade Range and 509 for the East Side.

As of the end of 2021 the state of Washington has five area codes.


Area code 509 still covers Eastern Washington – which includes 21 counties (from Adams and Asotin to Walla Walla and Yakima – and 142 cities (from Almira to Zillah).

The major cities in 509 are Spokane, Yakima, Kennewick, Wenatchee, and Pasco.

The entire population of 509 is about 1.5 million.

And then there is Western Washington

Western Washington currently has five area codes. Some, like 425, are relatively specific.

Others, like 360, cover the area the size of, or even larger than a few of our smaller states, could be anywhere from Lynden to Longview, Port Townsend to Mossyrock.


Area code 425 covers roughly 5,718,000 unique phone numbers and 1,599,303 individuals in and around the cities of Everett, Seattle, and Bellevue.

Other cities in the 425 area code include: Renton, Mountlake Terrace, Sammamish, Issaquah, Redmond, Maple Valley, Lynnwood, North Bend, Lake Stevens, Carnation, Fall City, Kent, and Duvall.

In other words, 425 includes most of King County and much of Snohomish County.


Area code 206, and the nation’s entire area code system, was first established in 1947, and as mentioned above, 206 used to include the entire western side of the state.

It currently covers roughly 7,085,000 unique phone numbers and 882,858 individuals in King County and Kitsap County which includes the cities of Seattle, Kirkland, and Bainbridge Island. And Vashon Island.


Area code 253 split off from 206 in 1997 and includes most of Pierce County and small parts of King and Kitsap counties.

It covers roughly 4,581,000 unique phone numbers and 1,284,186 individuals in and around the cities of Tacoma, Auburn, and Kent.

Tacoma is the largest city in 253. Other cities in 253 include Sumner, Puyallup, University Place, Steilacoom, Gig Harbor and Olalla (in Kitsap County).

253 also includes Fox Island and Anderson Island.


Area code 360 basically covers every phone number in Western Washington except those covered by 206, 253 and 425.

It covers roughly 7,629,999 unique phone numbers and 1,676,614 individuals in, around and between the cities of Vancouver, Olympia, and Lynden.

Other cities in the 360 area code include: Mount Vernon, Bellingham, Bremerton, Aberdeen, Marysville, Port Angeles, Chehalis, Port Townsend, Shelton, Centralia, Lacey, Sedro Woolley, Camas, Arlington, Ferndale, Battle Ground, Anacortes, Friday Harbor, Long Beach, Ridgefield, Hoodsport, Port Ludlow, Black Diamond, Burlington, Sequim, Elma, Rochester, Tenino, Monroe, Morton, Granite Falls, Raymond, Gold Bar, Woodland, Westport, Kingston, Forks, Packwood, Sultan, Castle Rock, Winlock, Copalis Beach, Stanwood, Montesano, McCleary, Brinnon, Quilcene, Sekiu, Cathlamet, Salkum, Yelm, La Center, Rainier, Ashford, Blaine, Chimacum, Kalama, Everson, Coupeville, Amboy, Yacolt, Sumas, Point Roberts, Seabeck, La Conner, Vader, Toledo, Grayland, Custer, Union, Deming, Amanda Park, Maple Falls, Curtis, Eastsound, Lopez Island, South Bend, Pe Ell, Randle, Grays River, Blakely Island, Tahuya, Onalaska, Clallam Bay, Ariel, Cougar, and Mossyrock.

Area code 360 covers all or some of nineteen counties including Clallam, Cowlitz and Jefferson to Whatcom and many more.

From ocean beaches to mountain communities along the Canadian border, 360 is the area code to remember.

Area Codes USA

As mentioned earlier, the nation-wide area code system was set up in 1947.

It was based on population (or, to be technical, the sum of all the phone numbers in use) in any particular area.

Some low-population states, like Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming and Maine had (and still have) one area code.

Most states have somewhere between three and ten.

California has, by far the most, with 26.

New York state has 11.

You can see a national map of area codes and more details and history here:

Editor’s note

If you want to get a sense of how unique our state is, try running a list of names of Washington’s towns, cities and counties through your spell checker.

With names like Sekiu, Sequim, Kalama or Anacortes, knowing how to spell and pronounce them is the truest sign of an authentic local.

And not knowing how to pronounce them has been the bane of every fresh newscaster or weather reporter.