When talking about Washington, D.C. many people first think of apples. This is because compared to the other states in the America, Washington grows more apples. It also boasts of nutrient-rich soil, advanced growing practices, as well as arid climate that helps the state make more delicious apples.
The state is also big in museums. In fact, its third biggest state alone offers countless museums for everyone.
And, of course, Washington is where you can also find the White House. Hence, it’s also one of the first places that will come to your mind when Washington is mentioned.
But the state is not just about that. Apparently, Washington is also a place to be when you just want to connect with nature or if you crave some outdoor activity. For starters, this is because the state also houses numerous state and national parks, which are perfect for you to get closer with nature since we’ve all been stuck at home for a long time.
However, as of writing, the United States hasn’t fully opened its borders yet. But that doesn’t mean you’ll just sit there if you’re from the other country. Actually, this is a good time to plan your trip ahead. In case you need some suggestions, we listed some of the best state and national parks in Washington that we’re sure you will love.
Washington D.C.’s Best State and National Parks
Aside from the delicious apples, museums, the white House, and being the capital of the country, Washington also boasts of its diverse range of national parks. Lucky for you if you’re a local adventurer as some of the attractions around the U.S. has re-opened its doors to those who crave for adventure. Unfortunately, if you’re from another country, you’d have to wait a bit for the country’s borders to reopen, though. But, don’t worry, there’s actually no specific time as to when you should visit these national and state parks in Washington as many of them offers various activities all year round. All you need to do is to plan your trip well so you can enjoy very second of your visit. In case you need some ideas where to next, here are some of that nature parks around Washington that we highly suggest.
1North Cascades National Park
Boasting of more than 504,000 acres, North Cascades National Park is actually one of the biggest national parks in the U.S. It is actually adjoined by National Recreation Areas, Ross Lake and Lake Chelan and it features a handful of peaks that are above 9,000 feet and several glaciers. More than 90 percent of the complex is also designed as the Stephen Mather Wilderness which, by the way, protects a huge amount of the forest from the surrounding logging and mining industry. Hence, you can expect more trees giving you fresh air and picturesque views of nature.
However, you’ll need to prepare your body for a trip here as you’d have to endure a hard work of multi-day hiking of boat riding into the North Cascades National Park. Even so, every effort will be worth it as you will be treated with a dramatic mountain scenery.
It also has many trails to offer. Take a look at what awaits you in North cascades National Park’s top-rated trails.
- Cascade Pass Trail – This is actually one of the most popular hiking trails in the national park because of the stunning views that it offers its hikers. Here, you can ask in the views of the dramatic panoramas of the Johannesburg ridgeline, Mixup Peak, and Magic Mountain. There’s also Cache Col Glacier sandwiched between that you can get to see.
- Maple Pass Loop – This trail offers seven miles of hike where you will be treated to the stunning views of the old-growth forests, open ridgelines, and the rugged peaks defining the North cascades National Park. However, be prepared for a steep hike.
- Fourth of July Pass – This trail is yet another challenging hike. But it’s going to be worth it as you will also be treated with good views of Colonia Peak, Snowfield Peak, and Neve Glacier. The trail is also one of the best spots for camping.
- Diablo Lake – For this trail, you will be served with the best views of the Diablo Lake, hence the name. It is also one of the popular early season hikes as the snow blocking the way is limited.
- Copper Ridge Trail – This trail is also one of the most popular that permits can be competitive, particularly during the late summer season. Everything’s worth it, though, as this spot features a ridgeline atmosphere, miles of subalpine meadows, as well as countless ways to explore the rugged mountain trail.
- Washington Pass Overlook Trail – If you’re looking for a more family-friendly hiking trail, this one is a must. It’s much easier to explore plus you can get amazing views of the Liberty Bell Mountain. Golden larch trees and blossoming wildflowers are also not to be missed, especially in summer.
2Mount Rainier National Park
Like the North Cascades National Park, Mount Rainier is also one of the largest National Parks in the country with more than 236,300 acres. As a matter of fact, this site is one of the only national parks in the U.S. that’s visible from hundreds of miles away on a clear day. And even when you’re on a plane, you can even spot it from the sky. Standing 14,410 feet above sea level, this mountain is known for the most iconic peak in the state.
And with this huge size, you will surely get to enjoy a lot of great activities for the whole family. One of which is bicycling, which is very popular among visitors. If you wish to try it, plan your visit during September or October as these are the months when the roads are less busy. However, do note that mountain biking is allowed on the park roads.
Aside from the good deal of activities that it has to offer throughout the year, Mount Rainier also offers 260 miles of hiking trails with different levels for every hiker. Here are our favorite trails that you might love too:
- Skyline Loop Trail – This trails is popular for the impressive views that it offers.
- Naches Peak Loop – Aside from the good view that you can get to see from here, you can also get to see beautiful wildflowers blooming in every direction of this trail, making it more picturesque.
- Wonderland Trail – This trail offers a good backpacking area, encircling the entire base of Mount Rainier, which makes it even more popular among hikers.
If you’re not into primitive overnight experience, there’s also no need to worry. Within the park, you can find a wide range of lodging options that will make your stay in Mount Rainier more comfortable, giving you more energy to explore the park the nest day. Outside the park, there are also a number of accommodations to choose from that are just a stone throw away from the park’s entrance gates.
3Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park also joins Mount Rainier and North Cascades National Park on the list of largest national parks in the country. Like the first two parks, Olympic also boasts of hundreds of thousands of acres. But what makes this place stand out from the rest is that it has more different types of ecosystems than most of the national parks in the country. It has sub-alpine, coastal, lowland forest, and temperate rainforest. From its campgrounds to its glaciers, it is one of the most geographically diverse parks in the country. For a closer look, here are some of our favorite spots in Olympic:
- Hurricane Ridge – This area is one of the most accessible ones within the park, which makes it popular among locals and tourists. It also has an extensive trail system, throughout the area which makes it easier for anyone to find their one private spot o explore.
- Rialto and Ruby Beach – If you’re not much of a land lover, Olympic National park also has a great coastline waiting for you, such as the Rialto and Ruby Beach. These places brims with exotic sea creatures and tide pools that will make your visit more enjoyable.
- Mount Olympus – If you’re more on the adventurous side, Mount Olympus is not to be missed. Primed for experienced mountaineers, this place has a variety of routes to explore that will satisfy your cravings for outdoor adventure.
If you plan to camp, Olympic National Park also has numerous campgrounds to offer. Our favorite, though, is the Kalaloch Campground located on the coast. We also think you’d love Heart O’ the Hills Campground near the Hurricane Ridge.
And it’s okay if you’re not into primitive setting. Like Mount Rainier, Olympic also offers lodges within the park boundaries. If you want a scenic lodge, we highly suggest Sol Duc Hot Springs Resorts.
4Deception Pass State Park
Contrary to its name, you will not be deceived when you visit the Deception Pass State Park. Instead, you will be treated with picturesque views and spaces perfect for recreational activities. As a matter of fact, this park receives more than two million visitors a year before the pandemic hit. Here, you can get to have a good view of the state park’s iconic bridge over the Deception Pass waterway. On top of that, you can enjoy numerous outlets to explore the surrounding Pudget Sound area. And like the Olympic national Park, it also boasts of a range of ecosystems.
If you’re not much of a land lover, you will enjoy Deception Pass’ rugged shoreline. In its Cranberry Lake, you can even get to enjoy fishing with your family. There are also boat ramps available at Cornet Bay where you can enjoy boating. Deception Pass also has Rosario Beach where you can get to spend hours exploring its tide pools.
If you’re the opposite, Deception pass also has some spots for you. One of which are the stunning landscapes that it has to offer. The park also has numerous spectacular hiking trails, including the popular Sand Dunes Interpretative Trail and portions of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, where you can get to explore old-growth forests and get closer with Mother Nature more.
In addition to that, the park houses abundant wildlife. You can even get to spot orcas, as well as seabirds. So be sure to keep an eye out for them as you explore the park.
If you plan to stay longer, the state park has three different campsites available. Each of them offers tent sites, as well as electrical hookups. Cranberry Lake Campgrounds has the most availability among the three. If you want to spend your nights indoors, we suggest Cornet Bay Retreat Center which offers 16 cabins for rent plus a recreation hall and main lodge. If you want a more adventurous outing, you can spend the night at Ben Ur Island. But do not that this is only accessible by non-motorized water transportation.
5Lake Wenatchee State Park
Lake Wenatchee State Park isn’t one of the largest state parks in the country. In spite of that, it still has a lot to talk big about. One of which is the picturesque views of Lake Wenatchee. Here, you can also get to fill your eyes with the scenic views of the impressive Dirtyface Peak overlooking the waters. But aside from that, the state park is also frequented by locals and tourists alike because of the recreational activities that it has to offer year-round.
In colder months, everyone in your family can get to enjoy skiing as the state park offers well-groomed cross-country trails for skiing. Meanwhile, in warmer months, especially during summer, the state park lures the visitors with its swimming and boating activities that you can enjoy on its lake. What makes visitors frequent the place is that there are rentals available at the park, which makes every visit less hassle as you don’t have to bring a lot with you anymore.
In addition to that, bicycling and horseback riding activities are also popular. The park offers many inland activities, though, but these two are the most sought-after activities.
And like the other state and national parks, people also frequent Lake Wenatchee for its hiking trails. Aside from the hiking experience, you will also be treated with beautiful views from the site.
And if you plan to stay longer in the park, the site has more than 150 tent sites to offer within two different campgrounds. Aside from that, the state park features over 40 spots to park and plug in a motor home or RV. And the best part of it is that winter camping is available if you want to brave the cold.
6Palouse Falls State Park
Palouse Falls State Park may neither be as big as North Cascades National Park nor Mount Rainier but this site is still worth the visit. It may be smaller than the first parks we’ve mentioned but it has a huge waterfall. In fact, it’s so huge that it drops 198 feet. Because of that, it has become the park’s iconic main attraction and it is where it got its name. But apart from such a scenic waterfall (which, by the way, is often described as the state’s best waterfall), locals and tourists alike visit this place to get a chance to surround themselves with nature and experience the recreational activities that it has to offer.
Here, you can get to enjoy the dramatic views of the surrounding scenery. Especially during spring season, you can even get to see abundant colorful wildflowers which makes the view all the more picture-perfect.
And don’t forget to bring your swimsuit as you visit this site in summer. During warmer months, you can take a dip in the cool refreshing water that surrounds the waterfall. After swimming, you can also get to have a picnic as there is a picnic area nearby too; such an activity perfect for family and friends, right? Plus, you can embark on a kayak adventure. If you’re feeling a little daredevil, you can start kayaking at the base of the falls then paddle along the Palouse River for a heart racing ride.
And if you plan to stay longer, you can pitch a tent in the park’s tent-only camping sites.
7Lime Kiln Point State Park
Lime Kiln Point State Park is also a nice place for a good hike as it also offers miles of hiking trails. But what makes it different among the rest is its location. Apparently, this park is located on the west side of San Juan Island. Hence, you can get to enjoy more water-related activities, which makes it one of the perfect state parks in the state for those who are not much of a land lover.
Here, you can explore the beach, do bird watching, and be thrilled with diving activities. On top of that, you can also get to enjoy wildlife viewing. You can even get to spot whales. As a matter of fact, this place is regarded as one of the best places in the world to spot such huge incredible creatures. That said you don’t want to miss out on that. Of course, you will also be treated with picturesque views, especially the ocean.
The best part of it is that the state park houses a vintage historic lighthouse that you should not miss seeing. You can also find an array of related exhibits in the area and learn about whale pods at the Lime Kiln interpretative Center. It may not be big as it is merely 41 acres but you will surely enjoy your visit here as well so don’t miss out on this one too.
8Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park
Since the discovery of rare species of Ginkgo Tree in 1932, Ginkgo Petrified State Park has made the people buzzing about the place. It is also regarded as one of the most diverse fossil forests in North America. But aside from its title, this park also made it big because of the activities and sights that it offers that keep locals, as well as tourists coming for more.
Here, you can take in the views of the beautiful big skies and the Columbia River. Many people say that you can also find evidence of Ice Age floods carved into the walls of the Columbia River Gorge. Hence, many people visit the place.
Aside from that, the site also lets you experience various activities. One of which is exploring its museum that houses over 30 varieties of petrified wood, including a rare ginko petrified wood. You can also get to spot birds and other wildlife, including elk and bighorn sheep.
And if you’re craving for some water adventure, the park offers various water activities. This includes freshwater fishing, boating, swimming, and waterskiing.
And if you plan to stay longer, there are campsites that will accommodate you too. The park offers 50 hookup sites at the Wanapum recreation Area. But note that during summer, they easily fill up so you might want to plan your visit well.
There’s still a lot of national and state parks in Washington that you need to see offering different activities and views. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though. Once the U.S. fully opens its borders, make sure to visit these attractions in Washington that will make you love nature more.