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3 Best National Parks in Washington for a Thrilling Escape!

The National Parks in Washington are home to some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the United States. Every year, tourists rush to these bucket list-worthy destinations.

The Evergreen State has many stunning and three national parks that often come among America’s top 63 national parks.

Olympic National Park lies on the Olympic Peninsula northwest of Washington. Mount Rainier National Park is located just south of Seattle, and North Cascades National Park covers the North Cascades Mountain range in the north-central part of the state.

1. Important Things to Know Before Visiting the National Parks in Washington

The first thing you should do when planning your trip to National Parks in Washington is to decide which area you want to explore. The three Washington national parks are Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades. Each region offers unique experiences and activities, so it’s important to research each before deciding.

Don’t worry! We gathered all the crucial details you need to know about National Park Washington. These important tips will save you time and effort.

1.1 America the Beautiful:

Grab an annual Park Pass named America the Beautiful. It includes a year’s worth of entrance fees to all Washington national parks and monuments, protected by the national park service in the U.S.

If you don’t use the pass, you will have to pay the admission cost at each park (it may cost more).

1.2 Bring the Right Gear:

Depending on the season, you may need extra layers, rain gear, and sturdy shoes. These Washington national parks are unpredictable.

1.3 Know the Regulations:

Make sure you are familiar with the rules and regulations of National Park Washington, such as any restrictions on camping or fishing.

1.4 Leave No Trace:

Help to protect the beautiful National Parks in Washington. Follow the principles by packing out all trash and staying on the trail.

1.5 Most Hiking Trails Restrict Dogs:

Although each National Park in Washington has specific regulations, dogs are welcome everywhere and accessible to vehicles and bicycles. These include paved walking pathways, picnic spaces, campsites, and parking lots. Trails for hiking are off-limits to dogs.

2. Best National Parks in Washington

2.1. Mount Rainier National Park 

Mount Rainier National Park
Photo by Joshua Peacock on Unsplash

Mount Rainier National Park is home to the highest peak in the Cascade Range, which stands at an impressive 14,411 feet. The park is one of the best national parks in Washington.

This National Park in Washington is known for its stunning views of the mountain, stunning meadows, and high alpine lakes. 

2.1.1. A Quick Geographic Overview

  • Closest City: Tacoma, Washington state
  • Area: This National Park Washington is located in the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, approximately 90 miles south of Seattle and 50 miles east of the state capital of Olympia.
  • Size: 236,381 acres
  • Trails: Over 260 miles

2.1.2 Best Time to Visit Mount Rainier National Park 

mount rainer
By neelsky from DepositPhotos
  • If you are looking for the best weather, then the summer is the best time to visit Mount Rainie, National Park. This National Park is open year-round, but the summer offers the most pleasant temperatures and the least snow. This is the time of year when the park is most accessible, with the most trails and roads open.
  • The winter months are the best time to witness the most dramatic scenery of this National Park Washington. The snow-covered mountain and frozen lakes create a stunning winter wonderland.
  • If you are a wildlife lover, the spring and early fall months are the best time to visit Mount Rainie National Park. The spring and fall months offer the most opportunities to see wildlife in their natural habitat.

2.1.3 Amazing Things to do in Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park
By esloyka frrom DepositPhotos
A) Experience the Historic Mount Fremont Lookout Trail

Don’t miss this chance if you’ve never been to one of the historic fire lookouts of National Parks in Washington before.

The trailhead is located at the Sunrise Visitor Center and ends at the Mount Fremont Lookout. You will pass through old-growth forests, meadows, and several beautiful small lakes along the way.

The first part of the hike shares a trail with the Burroughs Mountain Trail, which also offers breathtaking views of Mount Rainier.

B) Hike the Skyline Trail for A Scenic View

Imagine standing at Panorama Point with a 360-degree view of Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and the Tatoosh Range. Isn’t that just spectacular?

The Skyline Trail begins at the Sunrise Visitor Center and quickly takes you up to the alpine meadows of Panorama Point. The Skyline Trail is perfect if you’re looking for a breathtaking hike in Mount Rainier National Par.

C) Capture Reflection Lakes in Your Heart and Camera

This is a popular photo spot, especially around sunrise or sunset when the wind is quiet, and Mount Rainier is perfectly reflected in the lake.

D) Hike the Wonderland Trail

The Wonderland Trail is a 93-mile loop trail that circles Mount Rainier. It passes through beautiful forests, alpine meadows, and along ridges with stunning mountain views.

E) Enjoy the Sourdough Ridge Trail

At the top of the ridge, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of Mount Rainier. You can also take a short side trail to the Sourdough Gap, which offers even more spectacular views. This is a great spot to take a break and enjoy a picnic lunch.

F) The Myrtle Falls

The Myrtle falls about 100 feet tall and cascades down a steep rock face into a large pool of water below. The water is crystal clear and provides a peaceful atmosphere and stunning views.

An Amazing Day at Mount Rainier National Park | Three Classic Stops

2.1.4 Best Places to Stay in And Around Mount Rainier

You should aim to stay in the National Park Washington if you want to be close to the best attractions.

There are two best lodges inside the park.

  • The 3-star Paradise Inn is located near the park’s many attractions, making it easy to explore the area. It also has a beautiful restaurant in Paradis.e
  • National Park Innis a historic lodge that has welcomed visitors since the early 1900s. Additionally, the inn is just a short drive from the park’s many campgrounds, allowing visitors to explore the park without having to stay in a tent.

Consider lodging in Ashford outside the park if the lodges inside the park are full or if you’re seeking more affordable choices. Below are the best choices to stay outside the park:

  • The Nisqually Lodge is a cozy mountain lodge that is an economical choice.
  • Paradise Village Hotel is a fashionable hotel with 12 guest rooms.
  • Mountain Meadows Inn is a pleasant B&B with first-rate lodging.g

2.1.5 Best Way to Get to Mount Rainier National Park 

Mount Rainier National Park
By iriana88w from DepositPhotos
  • The best way to get there is by car. It’s the most convenient and cost-effective way to travel. The park is about two hours south of Seattle, and the drive is relatively easy.
  • If you don’t have a car, you can take a bus or train from Seattle to the nearby town of Ashford, the closest stop to this National Par,k Washington. From there, you can take a shuttle to the park entrance.
  • You can also fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and rent a car to the park. It is a great option if you’re coming from out of state or don’t have a car.

2.1.6 Insider Tips

  • The sunrise region is closed from November to April, so you can’t get to the park from the north. You’ll need at least three days to view all the top attractions in Mount Rainier National Pars. In a single day, you can only visit one region of this National Park, Washington—Paradise or Sunrise.
  • Be prepared for the mosquitoes.
  • The highest point in the park that you can drive to is sunrise.
  • Plan everything early. You must reserve accommodation around a year in advance or campsites six months in advance if you want to stay inside the park.

2.2. The North Cascades National Park

North Cascades is the least visited National Park among other Washington national parks. This National Park Washington is popularly known as America’s Alps; North Cascades National Park offers spectacular scenery of the amazing alpine climbs. It is the true beauty and pride of eastern Washington.

North Cascades National Park
By wirestock_creators from DepositPhotos

2.2.1 A Brief Geographic Summary

  • Closest City: Sedro-Woolley, Washington State
  • Area: This National Park Washington is situated between the Cascade Range to the east and the Coast Range to the west and is bordered by the Skagit River to the north and the Methow River to the south. 
  • Size: 505,000 acres
  • Trails: Over 500 miles.

2.2.2 Best Time to Visit North Cascades National Park

  • The best time to visit North Cascades National Park is during the summer months of June through August. This National Park Washington is at its most beautiful during this time, with green meadows, wildflowers in bloom, and snow-capped peaks.
  • By mid-October, it usually starts to snow, and by early November, the park roads are completely closed.
  • However, some park sections are accessible all year round for cross-country skiing and snowboarding.
North Cascades National Park
Photo by Andrew S on Unsplash

2.2.3 Epic Things to do in North Cascades National Park

A) Visit the Diablo Lake Overlook

This is one of the most popular spots in this National Park and offers stunning views of Diablo Lake and the surrounding mountains.

B) Get an Epic Hiking Experience in Maple Pass Loop

Maple Pass Loop is one of the most scenic hikes in the entire park. The trail begins at the Rainy Pass trailhead and follows a series of switchbacks up to the top of Maple Pass.

Maple Pass Loop is rated moderate and best suited for experienced hikers. However, the views make it worth the effort.

C) Scenic Drive to Washington Pass Overlook

The Washington Pass Overlook is 5,477 feet (1,669 m) above sea level and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and rivers. The overlook is a popular spot for hikers and photographers visiting Washington national parks.

D) North Cascades Scenic Byway

The North Cascades Scenic Byway is one of the most beautiful drives in the National Park Washington. The North Cascades Scenic Byway is a two-lane highway that winds its way through the North Cascades National Park. The byway is open year-round, though some sections may be closed due to weather or road conditions.

E) Hike the Blue Lake Trail

This hiking trail is a moderate 4.2 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of 1,700 feet. As you ascend, the surrounding mountains’ views become more impressive. Along the way, you will pass several small streams, waterfalls, and a few meadows.

Best Things To Do In North Cascades National Park

2.2.4 Best Places to Stay in And Near North Cascades National Park

Besides campsites and hotels inside the park, North Cascades offers minimal accommodation choices. There are two top lodges if you wish to stay inside the park:

  • Ross Lake Resort is a full-service resort offering accommodations, dining, and recreational activities such as fishing, boating, and hiking. The resort is open seasonally from May to October and offers a variety of lodging options,s including cabins, yurts, and campsites. The resort is accessible by boat or ferry.
  • North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin is situated on the banks of Lake Chelan, offering stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. But it requires taking a boat from Chelan.

The best accommodations outside the park are in Winthrop or Mazama on the east side, approximately 45 minutes from many of the park’s greatest views.

The best hotels outside North Cascades National Park are:

  • River Run Inn is Just outside of Winthrop, which has cozy cabins and an indoor pool.
  • Methow River Lodge is a ski hotel in Winthrop offering top-class guest rooms. 
  • Sun Mountain Lodge is a ski lodge west of Winthrop with a restaurant open in the summer.

2.2.5 Best Way to Get to North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park
By zrfphoto from DepositPhotos

A) For An Easy Drive

The easiest way to get to North Cascades National Park is by car. The park is located about two hours east of Seattle and four hours north of Portland.

B) For The Most Scenic Views,

You can take the Cascade Loop Scenic Byway for a more scenic route. This 400-mile loop takes you through the Cascade Mountains and North Cascades National Park. The nature trail starts in Seattle and takes you through the towns of Leavenworth, Winthrop, and Twisp before reaching the park.

C) For An Adventurous Experience

You can take the North Cascades Highway for a more adventurous way. This highway is a winding, mountainous road that takes you through the heart of the North Cascades. The highway is open from late May to early October.

2.2.6 Insider Tips

  • If you are coming from Canada, it takes around 3 hours to go to North Cascades, but you need a passport to cross the Canadian border into the United States.
  • Camping is the greatest option for staying close to the busiest trailheads in North Cascades. Both first-come, first-served, and reservable camping is available at many of the park’s campsites within park boundaries.
  • The Cascade Mountains have slower snowmelt than other mountain ranges in the region. You want to ensure the roads are open,n and the trails are free of snow to have the greatest experience.
  • Five major rivers flow from Mount Rainier, the highest glaciated summit in the contiguous United States.

2.3. Olympic National Park

Olympic National park
Photo by Zedongg Li on Unsplash

Olympic National Park is the most popular national park among other National Parks in Washington, with about 3 million visitors yearly. The Olympic Mountains encompass alpine meadows and glaciers, temperate rainforests, and rugged Pacific coastlines.

Nearly encompassing a million acres, Olympic National Park has earned the Olympic titles of International Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit Olympic National Park to discover the Western Washington region’s natural splendor.

2.3.1 A Short Geographic Overview

  • Nearest City: Port Angeles, Washington State
  • Area: This National Park Washington is located on the Olympic Peninsula, bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean, to the north by the Juan de Fuca Strait, and to the east by the Hood Canal.
  • Size: 922,700 acres
  • Trails: Over 600 miles.

2.3.2 Best Time to Visit Olympic National Park

  • The summer months are the best time to visit This National Park Washington. The park’s facilities are fully open, and the summertime temperatures are moderate.
  • The spring is wet and rainy but alive with new life as the animals come out of hibernation and begin to explore their environment by mid-summer.
  • Winter is the best time to visit if you want the best camping experience. During the winter, the park is much quieter, and the temperatures are cooler.

4 Essential Stops at Olympic National Park in Washington

2.3.3 Top Things to do in Olympic National park

A) Visit Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach is the most easily accessible beach in the southernmost stretch of the Olympic’s wild coastline. Don’t miss taking a short hike along the seaside to Hole-in-the-Wall!

B) Explore the Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent is a deep, pristine lake along the park’s northern part. Measuring 624 feet in depth, it is the second-deepest lake in the state (190 m). It offers a variety of activities, including going to Lake Crescent Lodge and hiking to Marymere Falls or Mount Storm King.

C) Relax at The Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach is known for its dramatic red-tinted rocks and its stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. The beach is accessible by a short hike from the parking lot and is a popular spot for beachcombing, tide-pooling, and photography.

D) Visit Hurricane Ridge to Discover Spectacular Views

Hurricane Ridge is a popular attraction in this National Park in Washington. It is 17 miles south of Port Angeles and provides breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains and Juan de Fuca Strait.

Hurricane Ridge
By julof77 from DepositPhotos

2.3.4 Prime Lodging Options in and Around Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park has three of the greatest lodges. These are:

  • Lake Quinault Lodge is an old Victorian lodge on Lake Quinault in the southern part of the Olympic National Park, surrounded by lush rainforest.
  • Lake Crescent Lodge is a historic lodge. It has a charming hotel and restaurant.
  • Kalaloch Lodge is a beachside lodge in the southern coastal region. You can explore the nearby beaches and rainforests.

The top hotels near this National Park Washington are listed below. If the lodges inside the park are full or you want a more affordable choice.

  • Port Angeles Inn is just minutes away from the Olympic National Forest and the Olympic National Monument. The inn offers a variety of accommodations, including cozy rooms, suites, and cabins.
  • Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles is a waterfront, pet-friendly hotel. This hotel offers comfortable accommodations, a heated outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a restaurant and lounge.
  • Miller Tree Inn is an adults-only bed and breakfast located in the heart of Olympic National Park. The inn is conveniently located near the Hoh Rainforest, making it a great base for exploring temperate rainforests.
Olympic National Park
By appalachianview from DepositPhotos

2.3.5 Best Way to Get to Olympic National Park

The most popular way to get to this National Park in Washington is by car. The park is just off US Highway 101, which runs along the Washington state coast. If you’re coming from the east, you can take I-5 to Olympia and then take US Highway 101 north. From Seattle, the drive takes about three hours. 

B) Other Brilliant Option

There are a few other options for getting to the Olympic National Park. You can take the Amtrak Cascades train from Seattle to Port Angeles,s the closest town to the park.

C) By Air

For those who prefer to fly, the closest airport is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. You can rent a car or shuttle to the Olympic National Park. You can also fly into the Port Angeles Airport, about an hour from the park.

2.3.6 Insider tips 

  • You need at least three to five days to visit three diverse areas of Olympic National Park: the temperate Hoh Rainforest, the North Pacific coast, and the alpine Hurricane Ridge. Focus on exploring the coastal area near La Push and Hurricane Ridge if you have less than three days.
  • Alpine regions like Hurricane Ridge are buried in snow during the winter, and all highways are blocked; plan accordingly.

How to See Olympic National Park in One Day | Hoh Rainforest

Frequently Asked Questions (F&Q)

Q1. Do Washington national parks offer camping?

Several Washington national parks offer camping, including Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and North Cascades National Park.

Q2. What are the other best attractions near Washington national parks?

Oregon National Historic Trail, Clark National Historic Trail, Perce National Historical Park, and San Juan Island are some best attractions near Washington landscape.

Q3. Which is the closest national park near Seattle?

The closest national park to Seattle is Olympic National Park.

Q4. Which is the best national park on the U.S. Pacific coast?

Olympic National Park in Washington is the best national park on the Pacific Coast of the United Staten.

Q5. What Has Mostly Seen Wildfire in Washington National Parks?

Common wildlife in the National Park Washington includes black bears, elk, deer, coyotes, cougars, bobcats, bald eagles, ospreys, and mountain goats.

Q6. Where is the Columbia river?

The Columbia River is located in the Pacific Northwest region of North America.

Q7. Which year and where did the  Lewis and Clark Expedition start?

The Lewis and Clark Expedition began in 1804 in St. Louis, Missouri.

End Note

In conclusion, National Parks in Washington have no natural beauty shortage. From the snow-capped mountains to the pristine coastline, there is something everyone can enjoy.

So what are you waiting for? Pack your hiking boots and explore all that Washington has to offer.

Last Updated on February 26, 2023 by Ananya Sreen