We developed this study to describe the patterns of distant metastasis (DM) and explore the predictive and prognostic factors of DM in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) patients. We collected the eligible patients from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Result (SEER) database from 2010 to 2015. Then, comparisons of baseline characteristics between patients in different metastatic patterns were made. In addition, proportional mortality ratios (PMRs) and proportion trends of different patterns were calculated. Afterward, survival outcomes were explored by Kaplan-Meier (KM) analyses. Finally, predictive and prognostic factors of DM were investigated. A total of 33,449 ccRCC patients were eventually identified, including 2931 patients with DM and 30,518 patients without DM. 8.76% of patients suffered DM at their initial diagnosis, 35.01% of them had multiple metastases. Generally, lung (6.19%) was the most common metastatic site in patients with DM, and brain (1.20%) was the least frequent metastatic organ. The proportion trends of different metastatic patterns tended to be stable between 2010 and 2015. Moreover, higher tumor grade, T stage, and N stage were identified as risk factors of DM. Finally, age at diagnosis, grade, T stage, N stage, the administration of surgery, the number of metastatic sties, marital status, and household income were found to be significantly associated with prognosis. Lung was the most common metastatic site in ccRCC patients. Different survival outcomes and prognostic factors were identified for different metastatic patterns. Hence, our study would have great value for clinical practice in the future.© 2020 The Authors. Cancer Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.