National Parks in Washington State: 3 Spectacular Locations!

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national parks in washington state
by LoonChild/UnlimPhotos

There are many National Parks worldwide, but in this article, we will be talking about the National Parks in Washington state. Please keep reading to know more about them!

What are National Parks?

A National Park is a piece of land set aside by the government to protect the natural environment. It is an incredible way to conserve nature’s remarkable beauty, distinctiveness, and wilderness.

National Parks may be established for recreational, scientific, or historical purposes. They have recently become prevalent among locals and tourists, garnering hundreds of thousands of people each year.

National Parks are also frequently referred to as “National Gems” or “National Treasures,” and it’s easy to see why.

They provide an excellent means of getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and reconnecting with nature. National Parks also have a lot to offer in terms of outdoor activities such as camping and hiking.

About the Washington State

washington state
by GPA Photo Archive/Flickr

Washington is a US state on the west coast, in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, formally known as the State of Washington. With 71,362 square miles (184,830 km2) and more than 7.7 million people, Washington is the 18th largest state and the 13th most populous.

The state’s residential and industrial hotspot is the Seattle metropolitan region, located on Puget Sound, a Pacific Ocean inlet comprised several islands and bays carved out by glaciers.

The remaining portion of the western Washington state comprises deep temperate forests and mountain ranges. These mountain ranges extend to southeastern Washington, while the eastern Washington part consists of a semi-arid basin.

Nicknamed as ‘The Evergreen State,’ the Washington state is rich in greenery and biodiversity, and there are three national parks in Washington state which we shall now look into detail.

All 3 National Parks in Washington State

National Parks in Washington State, all 3 of them, are spectacular locations that you should consider visiting!

Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, and North Cascades National Park are the three Washington National Parks managed and administered by the US National Park Service.

Each of these National Parks in Washington state has its charm and adventure.

1. Mount Rainier National Park

national parks in washington state
by ChrisBoswell/UnlimPhotos

Without a doubt, one of the most popular National Parks in Washington State, Mount Rainier National Park, is also one of the oldest National Parks in the United States. It was established in 1899 as the United States’ fifth national park.

The Mount Rainier National Park, situated southeast of Seattle, spans 236,381.49 acres and attracts over two million people each year due to its diverse plant and animal life and a wide range of outdoor recreation activities.

Mount Rainier, the highest mountain in Washington and the Cascade range at 14,410 feet, is without a doubt the park’s most prominent feature. This peak point is also known as Columbia Crest and was once believed to be the highest point in the United States.

Fun fact: Mount Rainer is an active volcano, and it last erupted around 150 years ago!

Here we share with you some more details about Mount Rainier National Park!

Basic Information

The basic information that you need to look into before you visit the Mount Rainier National Park includes-

  • Fees
  • Hours of operation – open all year round.
  • Park maps and brochures
  • Entrances – There are four entrances to the National Park: the Nisqually entrance in the southwest, the Steven Canyon entrance in the southeast, the Carbon River entrance in the northwest, and the White River entrance in the northeast.

Wildlife

Mount Rainier has a range of ecosystems and life zones protected due to its height difference of almost 13,000 feet. At each elevation gain, you’ll most likely witness different animals. This diversity allows a wide range of invertebrates, mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles to thrive. Slime molds come in various shapes and sizes, resembling both animals and fungus!

The entire park is home to 65 animal species, 14 amphibian species, five reptile species, 182 bird species, and 14 native fish species.

The most memorable animals found at Mount Rainier National Park would be the Columbian black-tailed deer, Douglas squirrels, boisterous Stellar’s jays, and common ravens.

Invertebrates, such as insects, worms, crustaceans, and spiders, to mention a few – are the most diverse and plentiful species in the park and presumably account for 85 percent of the park’s animal biomass.

Weather

The weather at Mount Rainier National Park is generally cold and rainy, even during late July and August, which are often the driest and warmest months of the year.

Wet and cold weather can strike at any time of year, so those planning to visit should pack extra clothing and rain gear year-round, even if the weather is pleasant at times.

For those of you who plan to go hiking on Mount Rainier mountain, the weather is erratic and ever-changing up until the peak. All hikers should come equipped and make an informed decision about whether or not to ascend.

You must pay attention to one-day and long-range weather predictions, avalanche warnings, and special weather alerts. It is also advisable to speak with park rangers beforehand, with the most up-to-date information on peak conditions.

Things to Do

While there are many amazing things you can do at Mount Rainier National Park, here is a shortlist to get you started!

1. Visit Paradise-

Paradise might be the most beautiful area of Mount Rainier National Park! If you are visiting during the summer, you will get to see fields covered in wildflowers and magnificent waterfalls forming from the melting of the snow.

You must visit Myrtle Falls, located in Paradise itself! It would be very convenient for you to reach Myrtle Falls as it just requires a short half a mile walk!

Another worthwhile experience would be to hike the Skyline Trail, which has its starting point in Paradise.

2. Go hiking-
mount rainier
by ChrisBoswell/UnlimPhotos

Hiking is one of the main attractions of Mount Rainier national park, and there are many hiking trails for you to choose from. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, you might as well hike all these trails!

Apart from the Skyline Trail, there are many other short trails, like the Naches Peak Loop, the Silver Falls Trail, the Sourdough Ridge Trail, and many more.

The Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile long hiking trail, circumnavigates around the mountain, and you are assured of getting amazing views and sights throughout!

3. Visit Sunrise-

Sunrise is another great place in the National Park to spend time at. The location provides you with an unmatched view of the Cascade Range!

There are several hiking trails in Sunrise, along with a lodge and even a Sunrise Visitor Center! Another one of the

Lodging

For lodging purposes, you have a few options from which you can choose the best one for yourself!

Firstly, within the Mount Rainier National Park, there are two inns managed by Rainier Guest Services. These are-

  • National Park Inn: The National Park Inn is open all year and is located in the Longmire Historic District at an elevation of 2,700 feet. There are 25 guest rooms in the inn, a full-service dining room, and a general store.
  • Paradise Inn: The Paradise Inn, built-in 1916 and has kept its rustic character, is open from mid-May to early October. The Paradise Inn includes 121 guest rooms, a gift store, a post office, a café, and a full-service dining room at an elevation of 5,420 feet.

Secondly, aside from the two inns, the park features three automobile campgrounds and other wilderness camping sites scattered around the park.

Nearby Attractions

Some of the nearby attractions of this park include other NPS sites, Gateway communities, etc.

Some notable locations are –

  • Mount St Helens
  • Johnston Ridge Observatory
  • Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
  • Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve

2. Olympic National Park

Another one of the three National Parks in Washington State, the Olympic National Park, was originally a national monument established in 1909. Still, President Franklin D. Roosevelt renamed it Olympic National Park in 1938. The National Park was later declared as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1976 and a World Heritage Site in 1981.

Spanning over nearly a million acres, it is located in the Pacific Northwest on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

From the spectacular heights of the Olympic Mountains to old-growth forests, the park spans a variety of ecosystems. Climbers flock to the summit of glacier-capped Mt. Olympus, and hiking and trekking trails wind through the park’s rainforests and along the Pacific coast.

Here we share with you some more details about Olympic National Park!

Basic Information

The basic information that you need to look into before you visit Olympic National Park includes-

  • Fees
  • Hours of operation – open 24 hours, all year round.
  • Park maps and brochures
  • The park is divided into four parts- The Pacific Coastline, The Alpine Region, The Temperate rain forests, and the Mountains.

Wildlife

olympic
by Sheila Sund/Flickr

Olympic National Park’s vast size of a million acres and diverse terrain ensures the existence of abundant wildlife within the park boundaries.

Olympic National Park protects and is home to over 300 species of birds for at least part of the year. You will be amused by the sounds of owls or peregrine falcons in the forest and witnessing tiny penguin-like rhinoceros auklets along the coast to golden eagles soaring above the hills.

You might be lucky enough to sight whales, dolphins, seals, and even sea lions and otters on the Pacific Coast. On the other hand, the tide pools are home to invertebrates of all shapes, sizes, colors, and textures.

You can also find land animals, such as raccoons, beavers, and minks in the lower regions of the park, and other animals, such as deer, bears, elks, and cougars, everywhere, including the mountain meadows and the valleys.

Outside of Alaska, some of the healthiest populations of Pacific salmon may very well be found in the dark waters.

The park also has endemic species such as the Olympic marmot and Olympic torrent salamander, which are found nowhere else on the planet.

Weather

Due to the immense size of Olympic National Park, you will witness different weather conditions within a radius of a few miles. Like most National Parks located in mountain regions, the weather at the Olympic National Park is also variable and unpredictable throughout the year.

There also exists a rain shadow effect in the Olympic National Park. Storms moving over the peninsula from the Pacific Ocean run into a formidable barrier: the Olympic Mountains. Moisture must be discharged to reach the other side of these colossal heights. As a result, the western half of the park receives far more rainfall than the eastern half, generating a rain shadow effect.

The weather at the National Park is also determined by seasonal changes and can range from bitterly cold to gloriously sunny. Hence, it is better to come prepared for all conditions, check the forecast, and talk with park rangers before visiting Olympic National Park.

Things to Do

The Olympic National Park offers a variety of locations and activities to make your visit worthwhile! Here are a few of them!

1. Visit Hurricane Ridge-
hurricane ridge
by LoonChild/UnlimPhotos

Hurricane Ridge provides for one of the best views in Olympic National Park! This beautiful location can all be seen by glaciated mountain peaks, lush green forests, and Mount Olympus.

The Hurrican Ridge is located about 18 miles from Port Angeles.

2. Visit Beaches-

There are plenty of beaches along the wild coastline that you can visit and enjoy!

However, the best experience would be to visit Rialto Beach and hike to the Hole in the Wall!

3. Visit Valleys and Lakes-

There are several lakes in Olympics, especially in the Western region.

Lake Quinault and the Enchanted Valley are among them.

Lodging

At the Olympic National Park, there are lodging options both inside and outside the premises of the National Park.

There are a few resorts and lodges inside the National Park where you can reside. These include-

  • Kalaloch Lodge – The Kalaloch Lodge is open all year round and includes cabins, campsite, and lodge rooms. It also has a gift store, a restaurant, and a mercantile.
  • Lake Crescent Lodge – The Lake Crescent Lodge is open from May to January and includes cabins, cottages, and lodge rooms. It also has a gift store, a restaurant, and kayak rentals.
  • Log Cabin Resort – The Log cabin Resort is open from May to September and includes cabins, chalets, lodge rooms, RVs, and campgrounds. It also houses a cafe, deli, gift shop, convenience store, laundry, and boat rentals.
  • Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort – The Log cabin Resort is open from April to October and includes cabins, suits, RVs, and campgrounds. It also has hot spring pools, restaurants, a deli, a convenience store, and a gift shop.

Outside Olympic National Park, the gateway communities provide a variety of lodging alternatives. Hotels and motels, bed & breakfasts, and vacation rentals are available in these places, with prices ranging from luxurious to economical.

Nearby Attractions

The best place to visit near Olympic National Park would be the San Juan islands!

The San Juan Islands are located 45 miles from the National park!

3. North Cascades National Park

national parks in washington state
by Jeff Hollett/Flickr

The North Cascades region was initially designated as a Forest Reserve in 1897. Later on, activists affirmed that the stunning region required more protection, and hence, it was redesignated as a National Park in 1968.

North Cascades National Park is located in northern Washington, and it presently covers 504,780.94 acres. It’s a vast landscape of coniferous forests, glaciers, and lakes. The North Cascades Highway passes vistas and leads to trails like the Thunder Creek Trail, which is rather steep.

The North Cascades National Park Service Complex comprises three units, with the North Cascades National Park being regarded as one and by far the largest of the three. The Ross Lake National Recreation Area and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area are two other parts of this complex.

This National Park offers a diverse range of recreational opportunities, with the North Cascades’ glaciated mountain peaks being one of the most popular destinations for hikers, climbers, and skiers.

Here we share with you some more details about North Cascades National Park!

Basic Information

The basic information that you need to look into before you visit the North Cascades National Park includes-

  • Fees – you would be delighted to know that there is no entrance fee to enter the North Cascades National Park! For more information about other passes and charges, click here!
  • Hours of Operation – the National Park is open from late May to late September, with limited services available outside of that time.
  • Park maps and brochures

Wildlife

North Cascades National Park has a multitude of landscapes with over 9,000 feet of vertical elevation, ranging from the temperate rainforest in the wet west to the dry ponderosa pine habitat in the east.

The North Cascades is home to one of the world’s most magnificent ecosystems, and a diverse range of vegetation and wildlife can be found throughout the park, changing with every elevation gain. Over 1,600 species have been recognized within the park’s boundaries so far.

Gray wolves, fishers, and wolverines are elusive mammals found in small quantities in the wilderness. In contrast, more adaptable animals such as the Columbia black-tailed deer, Douglas squirrels, and pikas amuse park visitors in large numbers.

Within the park’s confines, a diverse range of birds breeds, including uncommon species like the bald eagle, osprey, Harlequin duck, and even many neotropical migrants.

The clean mountain lakes and streams are home to various fish and amphibians. Invertebrates such as butterflies, dragonflies, stoneflies, and mayflies thrive in the lush forests, steep slopes, and pure waterways.

Weather

The best time to visit North Cascades National Park is between mid-June and late September, as the weather is ideal for a day hike in the North Cascades. Autumn and spring are popular times to visit the Skagit, Okanogan, and Stehekin Valleys if you want to explore the park by car.

The North Cascades are prone to storms. Heavy snow and rain are forecast at high elevations during the winter seasons, with avalanches also happening during that time. So it is advisable to carry warm, waterproof clothes as well as a tent if you plan on camping. It is best to layer up for your journey and remember that the higher you go, the more likely you are to see snow.

You can also expect warmer weather and a somewhat dry climate if visiting the east side of the Cascade Mountains.

Things To Do

1. Lake Overlook
north cascades
by Ken Lund/Flickr

For some gorgeous and breathtaking views, visit Diablo Lake Vista Point. Diablo Lake has an unusual blue color because of the melting of glaciers.

Other beautiful lakes include Ross Lake, Gorge Lake, and Alpine Lakes.

2. Go hiking

The true beauty of North Cascades National Park lies in its hiking trails, which exist in abundance!

Popular trails are the Cedars Nature Walk, the Maple Pass Loop, and the Blue Lake hike.

You can also hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail in this National Parks.

Lodging

There are a few lodging options while visiting the many regions within the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. The most popular one being –

  • North Cascade Lodge – Located at Stehekin, this lodge is open all year round and is only accessible by ferry or a mountain trail.

You can look into several lodging options outside the National Park!

Nearby Attractions

Given that there are two whole complexes just around the National Park, there is a lot that you can do there, in addition to visiting other NPS sites close by. Here are some suggestions.

  • Visit Stephen Mather Wilderness which is located in Chelan National Recreation Area.
  • Visit Washington Pass Overlook
  • Visit the Canadian border
  • Columbia river

That was all we had to say about the three National Parks in Washington State.

We hope that this article was helpful to you and gave you valuable insight into the National Parks in Washington State. Let us know in the comments section which one of Washington’s National Parks did you find the best!

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