It goes without saying that the PNW has no shortage of beautiful places and spaces – both far and near. Last week, I shared some of our favorite day trips from JBLM, but did you know that beyond Tacoma, Olympia, and Seattle, Washington also plays host to some of the most beautiful natural environments in the country? With landscapes ranging from rain forests to wild open plains, seemingly endless mountains, and beyond, the landscape diversity here is second to none. I’m sharing some of the best state and national parks to visit in Washington, but know this isn’t a exhaustive list, and each one deserves a visit in its own right.
7 of the Best State & National Parks in Washington
Mt. Rainier National Park
It goes without saying that Rainier needs to be on your list. From day one in Washington, Mt. Rainier loomed over everything – and seemingly from every angle. This was the first year we actually made it into the park, and it was well worth the visit with its epic hikes, camping, and experiences for every season. With family-friendly hikes, as well as challenging ones, there’s something for everyone. And, for the record, Emmons Moraine Trail still tops our list.
North Cascades National Park
Combined with adjoining national recreation areas, the North Cascades National Park Complex covers more than two million acres of impressive mountainous lands near the northern border of Western Washington. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to the area to view the rugged mountain ranges, and stunning Cascade peaks. One of the most eye-catching scenic stops nearby? Diablo Lake.
Palouse Falls State Park
Nestled in the southeast corner of Washington, Palouse Falls State Park is named for its iconic 198-foot Palouse Falls waterfall. Guests of the area love the tent-only camping sites, as well as the opportunity to immersive themselves in a more natural park experience. It tends to be less crowded than some of its counterparts, as well.
Lake Wenatchee State Park
Heading to the Leavenworth Bavarian Village? While it’s possible to spend just one day in Leavenworth, we recommend making a proper trip out of it. We camped in Leavenworth this past summer and made a point of heading to Lake Wenatchee State Park. Just 12 miles from Leavenworth, this stop has it all. Camp here in the summer, or take advantage of the groomed cross-country trails in the winter. Boat rentals and swimming are also extremely popular in the summer months.
Deception Pass State Park
This is actually hailed as Washington’s most popular state park. Visitors flock each year to view the iconic Deception Pass bridge and take advantage of the area’s many amenities. Tourists love to explore the tide pools at Rosario Beach or hike the Sand dunes Interpretive Trail. Fishing is also extremely popular here at spots like Cranberry Lake.
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
We frequent this area a lot for both hiking and water fun, and the Snoqualmie Pass is hailed for its spectacular outdoor adventures all year long. In the summer, places like Lake Kachess offer nearly endless water fun. And, in the winter, you can escape the dreary weather in the valley for winter fun in Snoqualmie. With hikes for all age levels and endless natural play, it’s a no-brainer.
Olympic National Park
Drive a few hours northwest of JBLM, and you’ll find yourself in the Olympic National Park, which houses nearly a million acres of wilderness and plays host to the wildly popular Hoh Rainforest. Guests love to visit nearby beaches like Ruby and Rialto, as well as hike and explore the extensive trail systems, among which is Hurricane Ridge. The Hoh Rainforest makes you feel incredibly small in the midst of something so vast – an experience you need to see!
There is so much more in Washington state than can be listed, but if you find yourself in the state for a while (read: stationed here), these are 7 of the ones you absolutely need to visit. The diversity of the landscape and the beauty of the region are incomparable, and we’ll treasure our experiences here forever.
Tell me – have you visited any on this list? What national or state parks are your favorite in your region?