Washington can sometimes be forgotten, being tucked away in its far Western corner, far away from the historic cities of the East. But The Evergreen State is the 13th most populated state in the union, the 18th largest, and Seattle has quickly become one of the trendiest and scenic cities in the country.
The beauty doesn’t stop, or even begin, in Seattle though. Thanks to its famous consistent rainfall, Washington is one of the lushest places in the U.S. This natural majesty is on full display in the three of its National Parks: Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades. Below, we outline the highlights of each of the national parks in Washington state.
Olympic National Park
One of the most diverse areas of public land in the country, Olympic National Park extends from the foggy, forested shores of the Pacific Ocean to alpine meadows far into the backcountry of the Olympic Mountain Range. It is an absolute paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The range of activities includes climbing the tallest mountain in Washington, Mount Olympus, to kayaking along the 57 miles of protected and mostly untouched shoreline. While much of the American Pacific Northwest is stunning, most outdoorsmen will point to Olympic as the poster child for the serenity that radiates out of the region.
Mount Rainier National Park
Next to the Space Needle, Mount Rainier is the most iconic feature of the Seattle skyline. Visible from the city because of its massive size, the active volcano is also the focal point for the second national park in Washington. The volcano is the most appealing feature of the park and standing at over 14,000 feet tall, it attracts numerous mountaineers. Of some 10,000 summit attempts that happen each year, about only 50% of climbers are successful in their ascent. For trekkers who desire to see as much of the park and the mountain as possible, consider a hike on the Wonderland Trial, which circumnavigates Mount Rainier and usually takes about 10 to 14 days, although day hikes from Seattle are possible as well.
North Cascades National Park
Perhaps the least celebrated, but still attractive, National Park in Washington is North Cascades National Park. In the north of Washington, farther from the cool Pacific Shores, North Cascades has a façade of a more traditional alpine destination, rather than the image of dense rainforests that cover parts of Olympic. Here, the jagged peaks, rising above ski mountains and lakes, are marked with more than 300 glaciers. The park’s remoteness helps harbor small communities such as Stehekin on Lake Chelan, a spot frequently seen as one of the last stops for hikers completing the Pacific Crest Trail.
Outside of the official National Parks, Washington has many other outdoor destinations that inspire awe in even the hardiest adventurer. Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Alta Lake State Park, and the San Juan National Wildlife Refuge to the north of Puget Sound are all excellent alternatives to Washington National Parks that still offer unique natural experiences. The Columbia River, closer to the Oregon border and originally made famous by the Lewis and Clark expedition, is also another idyllic spot for activities.