Highlights from the three national parks in Washington state
As Midwesterners with busy jobs and a quest to explore all of 59 US national parks, my husband and I often try to hit multiple destinations in one trip. Such was the case last August, when we went to the Pacific northwest and hit the three national parks in Washington—Mount Rainier, North Cascades and Olympic. We packed a lot in to eight days, hiking more than 50 miles of trails and sleeping in six different campsites. Here are just a few of the places we explored!
Pinnacle Peak Trail: With an elevation gain of 1,050 feet, this 2.5-mile hike provided a rewarding challenge. The hike ends at a saddle, with a dramatic view of Mount Rainier to the north. We had clear skies during our trip, so we could also see Mount Adams, Mt. Hood and Mount St. Helens to the south.
Summerland Trail: This 8.4-mile trail is a 2,100-foot ascent to a beautiful meadow, where we enjoyed a kaleidoscope of flowers and a different perspective of the mountain. There’s a great view of Little Tahoma Peak, a remnant of a once larger Mount Rainier.
Silver Falls: We saw Mount Rainier from every direction and I never grew tired of staring at it, but there’s another sight that’s always hard for me to take my eyes off of: waterfalls. We visited Silver Falls in the morning and were the only ones on the trail—nice for the meditative experience of watching the water move. This area of the park is also near the Grove of Patriarchs trail, which features ancient Douglas firs, hemlocks, and red cedars.
A trip to Stehekin: This beautiful North Cascades community is only accessible by boat, foot, or seaplane. The picturesque boat ride made me feel like we were traveling to a magical destination. And we were! In addition to hiking part of Purple Pass and camping, we rented bikes to explore the valley—Rainbow Falls, Harlequin Bridge, Buckner Orchard, the Stehekin Pastry Company (SO many amazing treats!) and the Garden. It was a unique and special change of pace.
Hidden Lake Trail: A quiet forest. Multiple streams. A hidden sapphire lake. Occasional snowfields underfoot and dramatic, snowy peaks in the distance. Boulders to scramble on. A flower-filled meadow buzzing with more bees than I’d seen in my entire life… combined. With its multiple facets of beauty and fun, this 9-mile trail with 2,900 feet of elevation gain was my favorite hike in the Northern Cascades—maybe even the whole trip!
Ozette Loop to Cape Alava: During our backcountry trek to Cape Alava, Mother Nature was really showing off. A flat, wooded hike led to a coastal campground with a great view of Ozette Island and a sea lion soundtrack in the distance. As we sat on a driftwood log on the beach watching the sun begin to set and a fawn lingering nearby, I heard a screech and saw two bald eagles hunting fish as—to top it all off—a triple rainbow decorated the sky! Later that night, after the roaring of high tide woke me up, I got out of the tent and the Milky Way was in full display. The next morning a coyote casually skulked along the shore. The sandy hike back to the car provided interesting beach creatures and the drama of crashing waves at Sunset Point… as if there hadn’t been enough drama already!
Ruby Beach: Olympic National Park offers a lot of diversity—mountains, rainforests and coastline. Our last day of vacation, we left our Hoh Rainforest campsite and drove to Ruby Beach to check out the tidepools. It was fun to look for the purple and orange sea stars and check out the green and pink anemones—a great conclusion to punctuate a diverse and wonderful trip.
Have you been hiking in the Pacific Northwest? It's an amazing place and we are happy to answer any questions about an upcoming trip. Comment below!
Mike R also did a post HERE on hiking in the region if you didn't get your fill from Holly!
Thanks for being a part of the crew and spreading the energy of the outdoors.
Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Holly B and the Hashtag 59 Team