The Perfect Washington National Parks Itinerary


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

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

However 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 most of the nationwide parks – Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades – as I might with solely eight days.

Underneath the same time crunch? Simply wish to see one of the best within the state has to supply? I obtained you! That is one epic Washington nationwide parks street journey itinerary:

Mount Rainier Nationwide Park

Earlier than we start, it’s value noting that there isn’t any actual proper or flawed order to do that nationwide parks itinerary in. I performed with transferring 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). When you’re squeezing this all into eight days like I did, it’s a whole lot of time within the automobile, however the drives are attractive and we didn’t thoughts them an excessive amount of!

So with that stated, be happy to maneuver this round in any manner that fits you.

mount rainier national park
The Skyline path

Continuing 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 may be seen from a lot of the state. It’s a behemoth lively volcano rising up at over 14,400 toes above sea degree 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

Put together for this to be fairly full of individuals, as there are various completely different trails all embarking from the Paradise car parking zone the place the Skyline Path 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!

When you’re not snug with mountain climbing again down at the hours of darkness with a headlamp, simply go a bit earlier than sundown, it’s nonetheless certain 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 try Christine and Comet falls in addition to image lake for an incredible reflection of mount rainier.

For my second night within the park, I selected pinnacle Peak, the 1.Three mile hike proper throughout from image lake. It’s not as standard, and that’s in all probability what made it so great! The sundown was magical and there was just one different individual up there to share it with. That was fairly the distinction to the skyline Path, 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’m going into element on every of those hikes in my 48 hours in Mount Rainier nationwide Park put up. You possibly can test it out right here!

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

Olympic Nationwide Park

washington nationwide parks rialto seashore in Olympic nationwide park

Making your technique to the coast, the Olympic nationwide Park and nationwide forest area covers numerous floor. With the intention to see a lot of the issues on this listing, it’s greatest to make your technique to Port Angeles or Sequim.


From there, it’s nonetheless a couple of 2-hour drive to what I might advocate for no less than one sundown whereas in Olympic – Rialto, Ruby, or Second seashore. You’ll move by the attractive Crescent Lake in your manner!

On the time that I went, second seashore was closed in order that made it a simple selection for Rialto seashore and the opening within the wall!

Tides matter right here, and for those who go at excessive tide like we did, that’ll imply taking part in jungle fitness center on the downed bushes 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.

That did imply that we couldn’t actually see or stroll via the opening within the wall for sundown, however you may’t be in every single place on the good time! You possibly can verify the tides right here.

It’s additionally attainable to camp on the seashore. You possibly can reserve a allow right here.

Hoh Rainforest

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

The Hoh Rainforest is one other well-known spot in Olympic Nationwide Park, and one which I didn’t have time for sadly. Nonetheless many locals beneficial it to me, so I’m sticking it right here so that you could test it out if it strikes your fancy. There’s additionally a campsite that you would be able to reserve!

Hurricane Ridge

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 lovely mountain views.

You probably have a bit extra time and wish to tackle a problem, the Lake Angeles Path brings you to a beautiful blue lake that on a transparent day, appears completely beautiful. I had each intention of checking it out however with all the dawn and sundown wake ups and lengthy days, determined to offer it a skip in favor of some more durable hikes in a while within the journey.

These are only a few out of many, many mountain climbing choices within the space, and similar to the Rainier ideas, might solely offer you a style of one of the best the park has to supply. However since most of us are on restricted time, these are the alternatives that I made and I used to be pleased with.

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

Keep: Like in Olympic, I stayed in a reasonably primary 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 exterior?

North Cascades Nationwide Park

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

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

When you can’t swing that, you are able to do what we did and backcountry camp exterior of the nationwide park on the nationwide forest lands, in fact supplied that you just go away no hint. You possibly can learn extra about my backpacking packing listing and get my free outside 101 course right here.

That stated, I might do issues slightly otherwise now that I’ve extra information, and advocate the next:

The West aspect: Image Lake and Shuksan Glacier

Begin by stopping at image lake for dawn and/or doing the in a single day hike to Lake Ann for Shuksan glacier views. This isn’t to be confused with Lake Ann down by Wet move, 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 + Go Trails

From there, attempt to guide an evening within the Newhalem campground and do the cascade move path. That is in all probability the most well-liked path within the nationwide Park, so hold that in thoughts along with your timing.

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

north cascades national park diablo lake
On the overlook

For a faster, simpler win you may also head to Diablo lake for that minty inexperienced lake hue. There’s a hike and likewise an overlook that you would be able to simply drive as much as. Ross lake is one other standard space, although you’ll must boat in.

As an alternative of most of these choices, I selected to hike the Maple Go, which I can wholeheartedly advocate! It has its similarities to the cascade move, however encompasses a pretty lake view of Lake Ann — you understand, the different Lake Ann — in addition to unimaginable views of glacier capped mountains within the distance. The highest of maple move is particularly spectacular, with cascading, sweeping mountain views. It’s no surprise how the park obtained its identify!!

maple pass trail north cascades national park

As an alternative, I selected to hike the maple move, which I can wholeheartedly advocate! It has its similarities to the cascade move, however encompasses a pretty lake view of the lake and, completely different to the lake and talked about earlier than, in addition to unimaginable views of glacier capped mountains within the distance. The highest of Maple move is particularly spectacular, with cascading, sweeping mountain views. It’s no surprise how the park obtained its identify!

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

However they’re at all times definitely 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

Whereas these are a number of 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 wish to see extra!

Washington is a really lovely state, and for those who’re something like me, these nationwide parks will solely whet your PNW urge for food.

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