The perfect Washington national parks itinerary, with a complete, insider guide to Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, and North Cascades National Park, with the best things to do in each area, and tips on accommodation! #Washington

Welcome to Washington state, the sort of place the place we’re so spoiled for selection that any go to will lead to a number of heartbreaking selections.

OK sure, I’m being dramatic, however there are such a lot of mountain trails to select from, it will take months simply to scratch the floor.

But most of us don’t have months, we solely have days!

I visited Washington on the finish of August with one purpose in thoughts: See as lots of the nationwide parks – Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades – as I may with solely eight days.

Under an analogous time crunch? Just need to see the most effective within the state has to supply? I bought you! This is one epic Washington nationwide parks street journey itinerary:

Mount Rainier National Park

Before we start, it’s price noting that there isn’t a actual proper or fallacious order to do that nationwide parks itinerary in. I performed with shifting across the order of every park and it doesn’t matter what, it takes about the identical quantity of driving time (assuming you’re flying into and out of Seattle). If you’re squeezing this all into eight days like I did, it’s loads of time within the automotive, however the drives are attractive and we didn’t thoughts them an excessive amount of!

So with that mentioned, be at liberty to maneuver this round in any method that fits you.

mount rainier national park
The Skyline path

Proceeding within the order that I did it, this itinerary begins with Mount Rainier nationwide Park’s most well-known hike, the Skyline path.

Mount rainier could be seen from a lot of the state. It’s a behemoth energetic volcano rising up at over 14,400 toes above sea stage and dominating the skyline. I used to be enchanted by it.

mount rainier national park pinnacle peak

Skyline path, or any path from the Paradise lot

Prepare for this to be fairly full of individuals, as there are various completely different trails all embarking from the Paradise parking zone the place the Skyline Trail is. My favourite factor to do in nationwide parks is to go when different individuals don’t go – proper round dawn and sundown. I did this hike at sundown and by then most individuals had already left, plus, that’s when the lighting and the colours are at their most spectacular!

mount rainier national park
Partway up the path – wonderful views!

If you’re not snug with mountain climbing again down at nighttime with a headlamp, simply go a bit earlier than sundown, it’s nonetheless sure to be higher than going noon.

Waterfalls + Lakes

mount rainier national park
What a deal with as soon as the mist cleared (although it was cool whereas misty too)

For some selection, make sure to take a look at Christine and Comet falls in addition to image lake for a tremendous reflection of mount rainier.

For my second night within the park, I selected pinnacle Peak, the 1.3 mile hike proper throughout from image lake. It’s not as fashionable, and that’s in all probability what made it so fantastic! The sundown was magical and there was just one different particular person up there to share it with. That was fairly the distinction to the skyline Trail, and a welcome one at that!

mount rainier national park
My favourite

This is only one aspect of the park, with many choices on the dawn aspect as effectively. I am going into element on every of those hikes in my 48 hours in Mount Rainier nationwide Park publish. You can test it out right here!

Stay: I stayed on the Alexander Lodge (affiliate hyperlink) simply outdoors of the southwestern park entrance. It’s a 1910 historic house and whereas not the greatest place I’ve ever stayed, it was completely positioned for our adventures and suited us simply fantastic. Plus the worth was proper!

Olympic National Park

washington national parks rialto beach in Olympic national park
washington nationwide parks rialto seaside in Olympic nationwide park

Making your option to the coast, the Olympic nationwide Park and nationwide forest area covers various floor. In order to see a lot of the issues on this checklist, it’s greatest to make your option to Port Angeles or Sequim.


From there, it’s nonetheless a few 2-hour drive to what I’d advocate for at the least one sundown whereas in Olympic – Rialto, Ruby, or Second seaside. You’ll go by the attractive Crescent Lake in your method!

At the time that I went, second seaside was closed in order that made it a straightforward selection for Rialto seaside and the opening within the wall!

Tides matter right here, and when you go at excessive tide like we did, that’ll imply enjoying jungle health club on the downed timber on the shoreline to keep away from the waves. I really had a good time with that and advocate nonetheless going even when it’s excessive tide.

Welcome to Washington state, the sort of place the place we’re so spoiled for selection that any go to will lead to a number of heartbreaking selections.

That did imply that we couldn’t actually see or stroll by way of the opening within the wall for sundown, however you may’t be all over the place on the excellent time! You can verify the tides right here.

It’s additionally doable to camp on the seaside. You can reserve a allow right here.

Hoh Rainforest

hoh rainforest national parks trip
The Hoh rainforest by Nathan Dumalo (the one photograph on this publish not by me)

The Hoh Rainforest is one other well-known spot in Olympic National Park, and one which I didn’t have time for sadly. However many locals really useful it to me, so I’m sticking it right here in an effort to test it out if it strikes your fancy. There’s additionally a campsite which you could reserve!

Hurricane Ridge

Welcome to Washington state, the sort of place the place we’re so spoiled for selection that any go to will lead to a number of heartbreaking selections.

I made a decision to take a look at the dawn ridge up within the mountains of the nationwide park for dawn. It’s a reasonably straightforward, fast stroll to a beautiful dawn view. I like to recommend following it up with the three mile Hurricane Ridge – additionally paved and a reasonably straightforward path to some stunning mountain views.

If you have got a bit extra time and need to tackle a problem, the Lake Angeles Trail brings you to a beautiful blue lake that on a transparent day, appears completely gorgeous. I had each intention of checking it out however with all the dawn and sundown wake ups and lengthy days, determined to present it a skip in favor of some harder hikes in a while within the journey.

These are just some out of many, many mountain climbing choices within the space, and similar to the Rainier recommendations, may solely offer you a style of the most effective the park has to supply. But since most of us are on restricted time, these are the alternatives that I made and I used to be proud of.

From there it’s a few 4-hour drive over to the North Cascades area, both taking a ferry (guide forward of time!) or driving again round Tacoma and up by way of Seattle.

Stay: Like in Olympic, I stayed in a reasonably fundamental motel, the Olympic View Inn, close to the park entrance in Sequim. It wasn’t wonderful however what did I care since I used to be spending my time outdoors?

North Cascades National Park

washington national parks itinerary north cascades national park maple pass hike
Maple Pass

Unlike Mount Rainier and Olympic National parks, North Cascades doesn’t have as a lot improvement or main cities close by. I realized that this one takes a bit extra planning and when you can handle it, getting a spot at Newhalem campground within the nationwide park will put you a bit extra centrally-located.

If you may’t swing that, you are able to do what we did and backcountry camp outdoors of the nationwide park on the nationwide forest lands, in fact offered that you simply depart no hint. You can learn extra about my backpacking packing checklist and get my free open air 101 course right here.

That mentioned, I’d do issues slightly in a different way now that I’ve extra information, and advocate the next:

The West aspect: Picture Lake and Shuksan Glacier

Start by stopping at image lake for dawn and/or doing the in a single day hike to Lake Ann for Shuksan glacier views. This is to not be confused with Lake Ann down by Rainy go, which you’ll’t camp on. (Which I did confuse for fairly some time whereas doing my analysis, why oh why identify to lakes the identical factor?)

Diablo Lake + Pass Trails

From there, attempt to guide an evening within the Newhalem campground and do the cascade go path. This might be the preferred path within the nationwide Park, so preserve that in thoughts together with your timing.

The Sahale arm can be a shocking a part of the hike, and if you’ll be able to get permits, backpacking and overnighting there’s completely stunning.

north cascades national park diablo lake
At the overlook

For a faster, simpler win you too can head to Diablo lake for that minty inexperienced lake hue. There’s a hike and likewise an overlook which you could simply drive as much as. Ross lake is one other fashionable space, although you’ll have to boat in.

Instead of most of these choices, I selected to hike the Maple Pass, which I can wholeheartedly advocate! It has its similarities to the cascade go, however encompasses a pretty lake view of Lake Ann — you already know, the different Lake Ann — in addition to unbelievable views of glacier capped mountains within the distance. The prime of maple go is very spectacular, with cascading, sweeping mountain views. It’s no surprise how the park bought its identify!!

maple pass trail north cascades national park

Instead, I selected to hike the maple go, which I can wholeheartedly advocate! It has its similarities to the cascade go, however encompasses a pretty lake view of the lake and, completely different to the lake and talked about earlier than, in addition to unbelievable views of glacier capped mountains within the distance. The prime of Maple go is very spectacular, with cascading, sweeping mountain views. It’s no surprise how the park bought its identify!

As with the opposite suggestions, there are various hikes you may select from in North Cascades National Park. Many would require that you simply actually work for it, gaining hundreds of toes in elevation as you go. These are dramatic, fast rising mountains. If you’re used to nationwide parks in different spots like California and Utah, chances are you’ll be shocked at how a lot steeper the Washington hikes could be.

But they’re all the time well worth the effort!

Visiting Washington? Here is the perfect Washington national park itinerary to help you plan an awesome outdoor adventure! See the best things to do in Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park, plus tips on accommodation to make planning easy! #Washington

While these are among the greatest spots to take a look at within the nationwide parks, don’t overlook the nationwide forests and abundance of mountains all around the western a part of the state. Visiting solely made me need to see extra!

Washington is a very stunning state, and when you’re something like me, these nationwide parks will solely whet your PNW urge for food.

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