Things To Do In Washington State – National Parks

The US state of Washington is a breathtaking place filled with spectacular natural beauty. The state, located in the Pacific Northwest area of the country, is home to diverse landscapes ranging from lush temperate rainforests on the Olympic Peninsula to snow-capped mountains and volcanoes in the Cascades Range to the high deserts in eastern Washington state.

Given all the scenic backdrops, one of the great things to do in Washington state is to visit the national parks. The state is home to three national parks in total. They are Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and North Cascades National Park.

Olympic National Park

(Photo courtesy of Ralph Arvesen via Flickr)

Olympic National Park is located on the Olympic Peninsula in western Washington state. This lush national park has a few distinct environments I would like to note. First, there is the rugged Pacific Ocean shoreline. The shoreline is noted for its tall seastacks, rocky and sandy beaches, and old growth forests. Around seventy miles of the ocean shoreline is covered as a part of Olympic National Park.

Kalaloch and Ruby Beach is a great place to go for a walk along the ocean shoreline. A variety of birds can be found wandering around on this sandy beach including western gulls and bald eagles. Another notable environment found in the national park is the snow-capped Olympic Mountains from which this national park got its name.

The mountains reach as high as 7,962 feet in elevation, making them easily visible from certain spots within the national park. Hurricane Ridge is the easiest area within the mountains to reach. You can reach it by heading on Mount Angeles Road and Hurricane Ridge Road about 17 miles south of Port Angeles. Once you reach up there. You will be treated to some breathtaking views of the national park.

Between the Olympic Mountains and the Pacific Ocean shoreline, you will find the temperate rainforests. This area is known for being the wettest area in the continental United States, averaging a whopping 150 inches of rain per year. This allow mosses and ferns to thrive on the surfaces of the temperate rainforests under lush green canopies of deciduous and coniferous trees.

The Hoh Rainforest is the most famous of the temperate rainforests in the national park and there are multiple hiking trails available throughout this rainforest. The area east of the Olympic Mountains is much drier than the temperate rainforests, averaging around a third of the annual rainfall or so. This area of the national park contain old growth forests of towering Douglas fir trees.

Lakes and rivers are also found within the national park. The entrance fee for Olympic National Park are $30 for vehicles, $25 for motorcycles, and $15 for those arriving on foot or bicycles.

Hotel Suggestion: Olympic Lodge

This hotel is located on Del Guzzi Drive in Port Angeles north of Olympic National Park. This hotel is renowned for its rustic lobby that features a wood-burning fireplace, a chandelier, and artwork. There is also beautiful landscaping on the hotel’s grounds inspired by nearby Olympic National Park. Whistling Frog Restaurant is the hotel’s onsite restaurant.

There is an outdoor heated swimming pool and hot tub at the hotel. A fitness center is also available for your workouts. The hotel’s rooms and suites are beautifully designed with warm wood tones and rustic furnishings. They all come with WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $148 to $253. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or view some photos.

Mount Rainier National Park

(Photo courtesy of Samuel Kerr via Wikimedia)

Mount Rainier National Park is located about 60 miles southeast of Seattle in the central section of the Cascades Range. The national park is world famous for being the location of snow-capped Mount Rainier – an active volcano. At 14,410 feet high, it is the highest point in Washington state. Mount Rainier is an iconic symbol of the state’s natural beauty.

In fact, when somebody thinks of Washington state, they will probably think of Mount Rainier. The active volcano is ringed by subalpine wildflower meadows. The lower slopes of the active volcano is covered by ancient forests. The national park contains five major rivers and twenty-five major glaciers.

Some of the most notable animals to be found in the national park include Columbian black-tailed deer, Douglas squirrels, Stellar’s jays, and ravens. The national park contains many hiking trails with varying lengths and challenge levels for you to choose from. They are split into five areas of the national park – Longmire, Paradise, Sunrise, Ohanapecosh, and Carbon/Mowich.

The longest hiking trail within the national park is the Wonderland Trail. It lasts for an eye-popping 93 miles and heads in a massive, continuous circle. This is also the most challenging trail to embark on.

You will be gaining and losing a lot of elevation along the way, ranging from 2,815 feet at Maple Creek to 6,245 feet at Sunrise Camp. The entrance fees for Mount Rainier National Park are $30 for vehicles, $25 for motorcycles, and $15 for those arriving by foot or bicycle.

Hotel Suggestion: La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Auburn

This hotel is located on 6th Street SE in Auburn some 50 miles northwest of Mount Rainier National Park. There is complimentary breakfast available at the hotel. If you get hungry, a few options for nearby restaurants include Sun Break Cafe, Athens Pizza & Pasta, and Oddfellas Pub & Eatery Auburn. There is an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub available 24 hours per day.

A 24-hour fitness center is also available for you to use at the hotel. All of the hotel’s rooms and suites come with WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $99 to $179. You can head here to browse your booking options and/or check out some photos.

North Cascades National Park

(Photo courtesy of National Park Service/Deby Dixon via Wikimedia)

North Cascades National Park is located near the US and Canada international border within the Cascades Range of Washington state. Out of the three national parks in the state, this is the largest national park at 500,000 acres. The national park is known for its huge number of glaciers on jagged peaks. There are more than three hundred glaciers within the national park.

This results in the national park having the most expansive glacial system in the contiguous United States. The highest point in the national park is Goode Mountain which stand at 9,220 feet high. Many of the glacier-capped jagged peaks within the national park exceed 8,000 and 9,000 feet in elevation. There are over three hundred lakes contained within North Cascades National Park.

The Skagit River travels through the national park on its way to Puget Sound. This is the largest river to empty into Puget Sound. Hundreds of streams and creeks also flow through the forested valleys of the national park. There are nearly four hundred miles of hiking trails throughout the national park. Unlike the other two national parks in Washington state, there are no entrance fees for North Cascades National Park.

Hotel Suggestion: Best Western Plus Skagit Valley Inn and Convention Center

This hotel is located on Market Street in Mount Vernon around 57 miles west of North Cascades National Park. There is complimentary breakfast available at the hotel. Should you get hungry, a few nearby dining options include Olive Garden, Sakura Japanese SteakHouse & Sushi Bar, and Max Dale’s Steak & Chop House. The hotel is home to an outdoor heated swimming pool as well as a fitness center for you to use.

All of the hotel’s rooms come with WiFi, coffee makers, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $99 to $141. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or check out some photos.

National parks are one great option for things to do in Washington state. They help to showcase the incredible natural beauty that the state is known for. What are your thoughts? Have you been to Washington state before? Feel free to leave a comment here.

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