Adventure awaits across Washington state! As you’re planning your holiday for an Alaskan cruise, with Seattle as your home base, be sure to book enough time either before or after your cruise to explore the magnificent wild places in Washington. The bustling city of Seattle gives way to mossy old-growth forests, rocky coastlines, majestic mountains, wildflower-laden meadows, roaring rivers, jewels of islands, and more. No wonder it’s called the Evergreen State! With three national parks boasting wonderful wilderness, an archipelago of 172 islands surrounded by Puget Sound, internationally known as the Salish Sea, and long stretches of Pacific Coast beaches, Washington is the place to truly embrace the great outdoors in all its natural splendour.
Mt. Rainier National Park
Fire meets ice at America’s most notable volcano. Visible from many places in the state, including Seattle, Mt. Rainier is a 4,392-metre-tall volcano blanketed in glaciers. The iconic peak is a symbol of the state’s unspoiled beauty. Within Mt. Rainier National Park, you’ll find some of the finest old-growth forests, including the Grove of the Patriarchs, which has trees more than a millennium old.
Reach alpine fields by hiking from Paradise through wildflower meadows in the summer. Even a relatively modest walk from the Paradise Visitor Centre offers expansive views of the Puget Sound region. For a more relaxed experience, drive to the Sunrise area, the park’s highest point accessible by vehicle, to glimpse the breathtaking panorama spread out below. Crane your neck upward to inspect the glacier-clad summit and take time to fully experience this majestic place. www.visitrainier.com
Tips when you’re in the area
Gondola at Crystal Mountain (www.crystalmountainresort.com) – Take a scenic ride on the Mt. Rainier Gondola across meadows of wildflowers and climb over 610 vertical metres to the summit of Crystal Mountain at 2,095 metres. At the top, you’ll find unparalleled vistas of Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Mountains as well as the Summit House—the highest elevation restaurant in Washington—where you can grab a bite to eat with a jaw-dropping view.
Paradise Inn (www.mtrainierguestservices.com) – Designated as one of the ‘Great Lodges of the West’ since it opened in 1917, this historic inn offers 121 guest rooms and dining onsite. Step outside to the spectacular landscape of meadows in full bloom. Magnificent trails beckon in all directions, inviting you to take in the intoxicating colours and scents of the local flora and fauna.
National Park Inn (www.mtrainierguestservices.com) – Located in the Longmire Historic District of the park, this inn offers 25 cosy rooms, a casual restaurant and a general store located in a vintage 1911 log cabin.
Tacoma (www.traveltacoma.com) – An hour’s drive northwest will bring you to the closest urban city to the park. Home to famous glass artist Dale Chihuly, be sure to walk across the 152-metre pedestrian Chihuly Bridge of Glass, the stunning link to the Thea Foss Waterway and the Museum of Glass. Purchase a Museum Pass and tour these impressive museums: Tacoma Art Museum, Washington State History Museum, America’s Car Museum, Children’s Museum of Tacoma, Foss Waterway Seaport and, of course, the Museum of Glass and the Chihuly Bridge of Glass.
Olympia (www.experienceolympia.com) – Further south is Olympia, the capital of Washington state, at the southern end of Puget Sound. Be sure to take a tour of the stately Legislative Building and walk the grounds of the sprawling Capitol Campus. Don’t miss the Governor’s Mansion built in 1909. On the downtown waterfront, Percival Landing Park has a boardwalk and public art.
North Cascades National Park
Often called the American Alps, regal snowcapped peaks rise almost vertically from deeply forested valleys with a confluence of brilliantly coloured alpine lakes, evergreen expanses and cascading waterfalls, making this a favourite place for hiking, sight-seeing and immersing yourself in nature’s majesty. At more than 500,000 acres, this mountainous landscape of jagged peaks crowned by more than 300 glaciers is simply breathtaking. Old-growth trees shoot skyward and a profusion of wildflowers paints the alpine meadows in sublime colour in late summer.
One of the most popular ways to explore is the Cascade Pass hike. Traverse the seven-mile trail’s 30+ switchbacks until saw-toothed Johannesburg Mountain is in view. At the pass itself, fields of flowers beckon, and marmots and chipmunks perform a cheery symphony of wilderness melodies. Wildlife is aplenty in the park which also shelters grey wolves and grizzly bears along with more than 200 bird species. Must-sees are Ross Lake and Diablo Lake, known for its mesmerizing intense turquoise hue.
Tips when you’re in the area
Bellingham(www.bellingham.org) – A little over an hour’s drive from North Cascades National Park, you’ll find abundant nature, outdoor adventure and sweeping scenery span from the park to Bellingham on the shores of the Salish Sea. Savor farm-to-table menus, craft brews, a vibrant arts scene and charming historic treasures.
Cascade Loop Scenic Byway (www.cascadeloop.com) – Explore nine different regions while traveling around the loop. This will help you plan your road trip, give you ideas for activities, places to explore, lodging and restaurants. The map on the website suggests you drive the loop counter-clockwise to take advantage of the best views. Some of Washington’s most loved cities are en route and not to be missed. Leavenworth (www.leavenworth.org) is known as Washington’s Bavaria, tucked in the Cascade Mountains boasting an abundance of outdoor activities. Chelan (www.lakechelan.com) hugs the southeast shore of stunning Lake Chelan, an idyllic locale for boating and swimming. The valley is renowned as a prolific apple growing region. Winthrop (www.winthropwashington.com) celebrates the American West with a cowboy vibe and is home to the oldest legal saloon in the state. You can even go horseback riding at Sun Mountain Lodge. Head west and stop in the charming waterfront town of La Conner (www.lovelaconner.com) for a little retail therapy and a bite to eat then head across the Deception Pass Bridgeand explore Whidbey Island (www.whidbeycamanoislands.com), with its uncrowded beaches, beautiful scenery, cultural heritage, and a food and wine scene to please everyone. Backtrack to Anacortes (www.anacortes.org), on Fidalgo Island, a thriving seaside town and the jumping-off-point for the ferry to the San Juan Islands.
San Juan Islands
Journey to a region world-renowned for wildlife, where you will be on the lookout for orca, humpback and minke whales, as well as bald eagles and seals.
The San Juan Islands are an archipelago in the Pacific Northwest, rich with natural wonders and known for stunning rural landscapes and wildlife. Here you’ll find world-class whale watching, kayaking, hiking, cycling, pebbled beaches, rich evergreen forests and the sparkling waters of the Salish Sea.
Historic Friday Harbor is the gateway to the islands, and a walkable town filled with galleries, bookstores and delectable eateries. Enjoy the casual lifestyle on the isles of Orcas, Lopez and San Juan, or embark on a sunset cruise aboard a chartered boat. www.visitsanjuans.com
Tips when you’re in the area
San Juan Island Scenic Byway North– Drive or cycle this stunning route past historic farms and English Camp National Historical Park.
Orcas Island Scenic Byway– This self-guided tour features highlights of the Emerald Isle including a drive through Moran State Park to the 734-metre summit of Mt. Constitution.
Lopez Island Farms and Food Tour– Look for historic farms on rolling hills, a vineyard and a shellfish farm on this self-guided bicycling or driving route.
One of America’s largest and best-known parks is vast and diverse. At almost one million acres, including 117.5 kilometers of Pacific coastline, Olympic National Park is the epicenter of the Olympic Peninsula and home to impressive temperate rain forests, towering Douglas fir, enormous cedar, jagged cliffs, and soaring sea stacks on rugged Pacific Coast beaches.
Declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1976 and a World Heritage Site in 1981, almost 95 percent of the park is designated wilderness.
The park is also home to 26 endemic species and visited by over two million people a year from around the world, placing it among the top 10 most visited national parks in the US.
At an elevation of 1,598 metres, Hurricane Ridge is a mountain citadel that puts you at the edge of the park’s jagged peaks. On a clear day from the summit, a superb 360-degree view embraces the surrounding mountains, the San Juan Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island, British Columbia in the distance.
The Hoh Rain Forest is one the largest temperate rainforests in America. The lush mossy canopy of this mystical, ancient forest is kept moist and green by over 3.7 metres of rain per year and home to several majestic local Roosevelt Elk herds.
Ruby Beach is one of the most photographed beaches on the West Coast with its sea stacks, huge surf-tossed logs and bald eagles keeping watch. A short .4-kilometer hike will provide access to the beach and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. www.olympicpeninsula.org
Tips when you’re in the area
Olympic National Park Lodges and Resort (www.olympicnationalparks.com) – In the heart of Olympic National Park, stay in one of the historic lodges or resorts. Lake Quinault Lodge is a grand and rustic lodge built in 1926 on the edge of the lake with easily accessible hiking trails. Lake Crescent Lodge, built in 1915, offers the charm of a turn-of-the-century resort with spectacular vistas of the lake and an easy walk to Marymere Falls. Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort offers serenity and supreme relaxation in the natural hot springs. Stay in cabins surrounded by towering evergreens along the Sol Duc River. Log Cabin Resort is a rustic retreat with exceptional views of Lake Crescent.
Dungeness Spit (www.clallam.net/parks/dungeness.html) – This is the longest natural sand spit in North America, boasting fantastic views, rich maritime history and an abundance of wildlife. It stretches seven miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and continues to grow almost four metres every year.
Towns and Cities on the Olympic Peninsula– Forksis a historic timber town, best-known for the setting of the Twilightbooks and movies. Port Angelesis the largest city on the peninsula, a place where snow-capped mountains meet the sea. Marvel at the bounty of lush lavender farms in Sequim(pronounced Skwim) and keep a lookout for Roosevelt Elk crossing the highway. Named one of the “coolest small towns in America” by Budget Travel, Port Townsendis one of only three Victorian seaports in the US.
The dramatic shoreline of Washington’s Pacific Coast is home to a host of marine wildlife and historic structures with spine-tingling viewpoints like Cape Flatteryat the northwesternmost point of the contiguous US. Follow the coastline south through Olympic National Park into the Grays Harbor area, known for its multi-million-dollar cranberry industry, and on to the Long Beach Peninsula. The 45-kilometer long expanse of white sand beach rounds out the types of coastlines found in Washington and is the longest on the nation’s west coast. It’s home to the Discovery Trail, a 13.6-kilometer long, paved trail running from the bustling Port of Ilwaco at the mouth of the Columbia River through a forest of ancient Sitka spruce and along the sand dunes of the Pacific Ocean. The trail is dotted with interesting, artful historic and educational signs and offers excellent birding and wildlife viewing.
The area boasts several state parks, the most popular being Cape Disappointment State Park, a National Historic Park and a National Wildlife Refuge. The park is positioned at the confluence of the mighty Columbia River, the source of power, shipping and recreation for most of the western United States and the Pacific Ocean. Unparalleled viewpoints are dotted along this watery area. It was known for centuries as the “Graveyard of the Pacific,” due to the many shipwrecks that occurred, and includes two working lighthouses in the park and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center perched high upon the rocky cliffs above the bird rookeries. www.visitlongbeachpeninsula.com
Tips when you’re in the area
Oysterville Church (www.oysterville.org/church) – In 1892, the church was given as a gift to the community at the northern end of the peninsula. Over a hundred years later, this picturesque little church continues to welcome visitors from near and far. Vespers are on Sundays from Father’s Day through Labor Day with music and stories from Oysterville residents as they recount a special ‘Oysterville moment.’ Visitors are always welcome.
International Kite Festival and World Kite Museum (www.kitefestival.com) – For a full week in August, hundreds of vibrant, colourful kites fly overhead, above the long strip of sandy beach. The event is celebrated with kite making classes, amateur and professional competitions and lighted kite flying at night. Stop in at the World Kite Museum to purchase your own and learn more about the area’s history of kites and kite flyers.
Marsh’s Free Museum (www.marshsfreemuseum.com) – Since 1935, this quirky museum has displayed an unusual assortment of curiosities, with the most famous resident being Jake the Alligator Man, a mummified half-man/half-alligator. A shrunken head, petrified dinosaur dung and a self-playing violin are all there for your viewing pleasure.
Waikiki Beach Concerts Series (www.visitlongbeachpeninsula.com) – Featuring musicians from across the Pacific Northwest and beyond, the concerts are in an outdoor amphitheater throughout the summer boasting spectacular scenery.
Long Beach Rodeo (www.peninsulasaddleclub.com/long-beach-rodeo/)– This National Professional Rodeo Association (NPRA)-sanctioned rodeo is a peninsula classic, now in its 74thyear, featuring all the fun and excitement of an American rodeo in late July.
Before You Go
With Seattle as the top cruise port on the United State’s west coast and a great gateway from the Pacific Northwest to Alaska, consider making your holiday a ‘Two Nation Vacation’by traveling from a US port to British Columbia. It’s easy to take a short cruise with Clipper Vacations (www.clippervacations.com) to Victoria, BC from Seattle. If you’re driving, consider boarding Black Ball Transport’s MV Coho(www.coho.com) car ferry from Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula to Victoria, BC. From there, you can explore the island and loop back to the US from Sidney, BC to Anacortes, Washington (www.bcferries.com). You can also drive north from Bellingham, Washington to Vancouver, BC.
Whatever adventures you choose to do, we invite you to go wild in Washington and look forward to welcoming you to our Evergreen State!
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