Over the years we've found some pretty epic
1. San Juan Islands
The Islands provide Washington with one of the entire country's most unique landscapes. Protected from the Pacific Ocean and serviced by the state's ferry system, these islands provide access to some of the states most breathtaking views. While each island offers its own individual experience you'll find a variety of activities including whale watching, sea plane rides, cultural museums, a variety of island artists and their studio shops, camping, hiking, some of the best windy roads for fun drives, local food, plenty of rocky shores and sandy bay beaches. We're planning on covering these activities in detail and by island in future posts this year but for now check out the links below for more info on each island.
2. Olympic National Forest
You probably already know how diverse Washington state really is, but did you know we had a rain forest? The Olympic National Forest covers much of the Olympic Peninsula and has plenty of year round activities including hiking, camping, ski/snowboarding, cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails, peaks worth hiking, campsites in the rain forest, ocean views, wheelchair accessible trails, fairly common goat appearances, and more views to collect than you can possibly collect in one year. There's a great series of videos on their website to learn more about exploring this massive National Park.
3. North Cascade National Park
This is the state's northern most park bordering Canada and is a truly majestic portion of the Cascade Mountain Range. If you like to fill your life full of nature there's plenty of it in this neck of the woods. A few of the most impressive destinations are certainly the Mt Baker ski area, Ross Lake, Diablo Lake (pictured), Mt Shuksan, and Artist Point. Get to know this park and you'll very easily be able to find week long backpacking loops, 50 mile canoe trips into Canada and back on Ross Lake, beautiful turquoise water of Diablo Lake, and chances are some of your favorite #PNW photos on Instagram will start to look familiar. You're bound to find photographers on all your trips up here.
4. Mt Loop Highway
Located just east of Everett this road loops through Granite Falls through the Cascades and into Darrington, Oso, and Arlington. You don't even have to get out of your car to enjoy the views on this scenic road. Most do however and you'll find a whole world of nature filled excursions like the hike (a very easy short one) up to Big 4 Ice Caves. Or maybe you're after the hidden mountain lake like Heather Lake, Lake 22, and Ashland Lakes. After an amazing summit view, climb the steep granite tail up to the old lookout at the tip of Mt. Pilchuck. Stroll through the old gold mining town of Monte Cristo and see a little part of the local history. Waterfalls galore, stream crossings everywhere, this Mt Loop is really quite an adventure if you up for it.
*part of the loop is closed during the winter months, check the website for trail conditions and road closure updates
5. Mt Rainier National Park
Located just south of Seattle... well, do I really need to tell you where this is? It's the giant mountain you can see from almost anywhere in the western half of the state. On and around it's hills you can find an almost endless list of camping and hiking options including world famous Enchantments Trail. There's skiing and snowboarding the slopes of Crystal Mountain in the winter. Naches Peak Loop is another popular hiking trail. The Sunrise Visitors Center is another fun destination for all ages with Ranger led programs, trails, exhibits, and scenic views. The Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout from 1932 is still there and ready for visitors for those looking to adventure the peaks. For some you can even take more expedition style adventures and ice pick your way to the top. In the valley below lies the teal colored Alder Lake. No matter how you choose to enjoy it Rainier National Park has plenty of pretty views to go around.
6. Mt St Helens National Park
We all remember the famous eruption in the 1980's but before that, and since after Mt St Helens has been an adventurous destinations for decades. After the eruption we had a couple new ways to explore the area. First of all there is the Ape Cave that allows you to walk through the longest lava tube in the continental US. Similarly you can also now hike down the Lava Canyon Trailhead for some views like nowhere else in our country. Loowit Viewpoint gives you an amazing drive-up view of the mountain. Want a once in a life time experience, there are even local helicopter tours that will show you the whole area with out even walking. No matter how you choose to see them Mt St Helens has some truly amazing volcanic views that are one of a kind.
7. Sun Lakes State Park & Resort
Located in the middle of our state, Sun Lakes State Park is a great way to enjoy some warmer temps and plenty of sun. The state park is centrally located to multiple clean lakes within a few minute drive. The lakes have provided summer memories of fun for thousands of families over the last few generations. Activities include swimming, boating, fishing, paddle boarding, cliff jumping, golf, hiking, and more. If you're planning a trip here, you'll find the State Park has camp sites, showers, and bathrooms for hundreds. Just up the road, practically connected, there is Sun Lakes Resort which has additional tent camping, RV accommodations, and even small cabins for those of you who prefer a few creature comforts. (AC, electricity, lights, small kitchenettes, beds, and tables for late night card games) With additional gorgeous views you have Banks Lake, Grand Coulee Damn, and Dry Falls all within driving distance.
8. Washington Coast State Parks
There's no shortage coastal State Parks here in Washington, and guess what... they all have amazing sunset views of the Pacific Ocean. Among breathtaking rock formations of Cape Disappointment, the endless sandy beaches of Long Beach, kite flying at Grayland Beach State Park, surfing at Westport, cruise the 109 through Griffiths-Priday State Park, or check out the world renowned beaches of La Push. It's a very different type of waterfront if you're used to only seeing the interior of the Puget Sound. Be sure to bring your camera!
9. Potholes Reservoir State Park
This outer-worldly landscape looks like a scene from Star Wars on some far off planet. At the one end of Moses Lake is a massive reservoir that dissolves into a sandy labyrinth of sand dune islands. It goes on for miles and is mainly navigable from power boats, canoes, or even paddle boards. If you have access to one of those then you're in for a one of a kind experience. The islands create shelter for some of the best lake fishing in the entire state, and camping is as easy as boating out and claiming your island for the weekend. If you can't make it out to the thousands of islands there's plenty of state park to play around at, swim, bbq, and have a good time.
10. Wenatchee National Forest
Highway 2 takes you right through the heart of this National Park which give you access to almost every activity you can think of. The charming Bavarian themed town of Leavenworth impresses with small shops, family strolls by the river, and excellent local food. Stevens Pass Ski Area is now has activities for ever season, skiing in the winter obviously, but also they've opened up their Nordic Center, and now have summer mountain biking trails to enjoy. For a family friendly camping experience you'll enjoy Wenatchee State Park and it's massive glacier-melt fed lake. If you live a little closer to I-90 and Snoqualmie Pass then be sure to check out Easton State Park's 500+ miles of hiking and snowmobiling trails. Mission Ridge Ski area is just up the road and resides just inside the south-eastern corner of the park. If backpacking is your thing you'll love the Alpine Lakes and all the trails that connect them from either Stevens Pass or Snoqualmie Pass.