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National Parks In Washington State


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Maddy Barcenas



Washington state, located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, is renowned for its stunning natural beauty and diverse landscapes. From snow-capped mountains to pristine coastline, Washington offers a multitude of outdoor experiences. One of the best ways to explore the state’s natural wonders is by visiting its national parks.


With a total of nine national parks and historic sites, Washington is a treasure trove for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Each park offers a unique glimpse into Washington’s rich natural and cultural heritage. Whether you’re looking to hike through ancient forests, witness breathtaking waterfalls, or delve into the history of early settlers, there’s something for everyone in Washington’s national parks.


From the iconic Mount Rainier National Park to the lesser-known gems like Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, these parks provide an opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature.


In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the remarkable national parks in Washington state, highlighting their key features, activities, and highlights to help you plan your next outdoor adventure in the Evergreen State.


Mount Rainier National Park

Located southeast of Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park is a true gem of Washington state. This iconic park is centered around the majestic Mount Rainier, an active stratovolcano and the highest peak in the state. With its awe-inspiring beauty and diverse ecosystems, Mount Rainier National Park offers a range of outdoor activities and breathtaking vistas.


The park’s prominent feature, Mount Rainier, stands at an impressive 14,410 feet and is often shrouded in snow throughout the year. Adventurous hikers can challenge themselves to summit this magnificent peak, while those seeking a more leisurely experience can explore the numerous trails that wind through alpine meadows, ancient forests, and meandering rivers.


One of the park’s most popular areas is Paradise, a region known for its stunning wildflower displays in the summer. The Paradise Visitor Center serves as a starting point for many of the park’s trails and offers exhibits and educational programs to further explore the park’s natural history and geology.


For those interested in the park’s wildlife, Mount Rainier is home to a variety of animal species, including black bears, mountain goats, elk, and marmots. Birdwatchers will also delight in the opportunity to spot rare and migratory birds that call the park home.


Visitors can also enjoy scenic drives through the park, such as the Sunrise and Ohanapecosh areas. These drives offer stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and the glacially-carved Wonderland Trail that encircles the peak.


During the winter months, Mount Rainier National Park transforms into a winter wonderland, with opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding. The park’s vast snow-covered landscapes offer a serene and peaceful escape for outdoor enthusiasts.


Whether you’re hiking to the summit, exploring the trails, or simply soaking in the breathtaking views, Mount Rainier National Park is a must-visit destination for those seeking to experience the beauty of Washington’s natural landscapes.


Olympic National Park

Nestled in the northwest corner of Washington state, Olympic National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and an incredibly diverse natural wonder. Spanning nearly one million acres, the park encompasses rugged mountains, lush rainforests, and stunning coastline, offering visitors a truly unique and immersive experience.


One of the standout features of Olympic National Park is the Hoh Rain Forest, known for its lush greenery and towering old-growth trees. The Hoh River, meandering through the forest, adds to the enchanting atmosphere. The Hall of Mosses Trail is a popular choice for visitors wishing to explore this mystical rainforest and witness the diverse plant and animal life that calls it home.


Another highlight of Olympic National Park is Hurricane Ridge, a mountainous area that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. Here, visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, including hiking, skiing, snowboarding, and wildlife spotting. Keep an eye out for black-tailed deer and marmots as you traverse the trails.


The coastal region of Olympic National Park is equally captivating. Rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and picturesque tide pools await exploration. The coastal trails offer a chance to spot sea stacks, marine wildlife, and even catch a glimpse of migrating gray whales during the spring season.


For those seeking adventure, Olympic National Park boasts over 600 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging multi-day treks. The iconic 17.2-mile Hoh River Trail is an excellent option for experienced hikers, leading through old-growth rainforests and offering stunning views of the glacier-fed Hoh River.


Wildlife enthusiasts will be thrilled by the diverse array of animals that inhabit Olympic National Park. From Roosevelt elk and black bears to bald eagles and Pacific salmon, there are countless opportunities to observe the park’s incredible biodiversity.


Whether you’re exploring the rainforests, gazing at panoramic mountain views, or immersing yourself in the coastal beauty, Olympic National Park promises an unforgettable experience that showcases the rich natural heritage of Washington state.


North Cascades National Park

Tucked away in the rugged North Cascades mountain range, North Cascades National Park is a wilderness haven that showcases the raw beauty of Washington state. Known as the “American Alps,” this park is filled with jagged peaks, deep valleys, pristine lakes, and cascading waterfalls.


North Cascades National Park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers, with over 300 glaciers and more than 400 miles of trails to explore. The popular Cascade Pass Trail offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers, as well as the chance to spot wildlife such as mountain goats and mule deer.


The park is also home to Ross Lake, a stunning reservoir that stretches across 23 miles. Visitors can enjoy a range of water activities, including kayaking, fishing, and boating, while taking in the picturesque scenery of towering peaks and dense forests.


A must-see feature of the park is Diablo Lake, known for its vibrant turquoise color. The lake is fed by glacial meltwater and reflects the surrounding snow-capped peaks, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. Visitors can take in the awe-inspiring views from the Diablo Lake Overlook or embark on a boat tour to explore its hidden coves and waterfalls.


For those seeking a more immersive experience, backcountry camping in North Cascades National Park is a fantastic option. With numerous designated campsites and primitive trails, you can venture deep into the wilderness and spend the night under a star-studded sky.


Bird enthusiasts will also be delighted by the park’s diverse avian population, which includes golden eagles, ospreys, and a variety of songbirds. The park’s dense forests provide habitat for many species, making it an excellent destination for birdwatching.


With its untouched wilderness and stunning alpine landscapes, North Cascades National Park offers a true escape from city life. Immerse yourself in the pristine beauty of this hidden gem as you hike, camp, and explore the awe-inspiring wonders of Washington state.


Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

In the southwestern region of Washington state lies the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, a living testament to the power and resilience of nature. This iconic landmark showcases the aftermath of the 1980 eruption, one of the most catastrophic volcanic events in the history of the United States.


The eruption dramatically transformed the landscape, leaving behind a barren terrain. Today, the monument serves as a reminder of the destructive forces at play within the Earth’s crust, as well as a testament to the regenerative power of nature. It offers visitors a unique opportunity to witness the fascinating process of ecological recovery.


One of the primary attractions within the monument is the Johnston Ridge Observatory, named after David A. Johnston, a volcanologist who lost his life during the eruption. The observatory provides stunning panoramic views of Mount St. Helens and the surrounding landscape. Visitors can learn about the eruption, volcanic activity, and the ongoing scientific monitoring efforts through interactive exhibits and educational programs.


The Loowit Trail, a challenging 35-mile loop around the volcano, offers experienced hikers the chance to fully immerse themselves in the remarkable landscape. As you trek through the rugged terrain, you’ll witness firsthand the remarkable regrowth of plant and animal life in the area.


For a more leisurely experience, visitors can explore shorter trails, such as the Harry’s Ridge Trail, which offers breathtaking views of the blast zone and Spirit Lake. The Ape Cave, a lava tube formed during previous eruptions, provides a unique underground adventure for those interested in spelunking.


Wildlife has slowly returned to the volcano’s surroundings, offering visitors the opportunity to spot a variety of species such as elk, black bears, and birds of prey. Keep your eyes peeled as you explore the area for these incredible creatures.


Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is a vivid reminder of the immense power of nature and the resilience of ecosystems. It serves as a tribute to the past and a window into the future, where visitors can learn about the ongoing volcanic activity and witness the remarkable recovery of the surrounding landscape.


San Juan Islands National Historic Park

Located in the picturesque San Juan Islands, San Juan Islands National Historic Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty and cultural history. Comprised of stunning landscapes and historically significant sites, this park offers visitors a unique blend of outdoor adventure and historical exploration.


The San Juan Islands, situated in the Salish Sea, are known for their breathtaking vistas, diverse wildlife, and tranquil island life. The park consists of several islands, including San Juan Island, Orcas Island, and Lopez Island, each with its own distinct charm.


San Juan Island, the most popular within the park, offers visitors a chance to delve into its fascinating history. One of the key attractions on the island is the English Camp, where British soldiers established a military outpost during the joint occupation of the islands in the mid-1800s. Visitors can explore the original buildings, view exhibits, and participate in ranger-led programs to gain insight into the historical significance of the site.


The American Camp, another notable area on San Juan Island, serves as a reminder of the border dispute between the United States and Britain. Today, visitors can explore the preserved landscapes, take in the scenic views of the coastline, and learn about the events that transpired during the Pig War standoff.


Aside from its historical sites, San Juan Islands National Historic Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can enjoy activities such as hiking, kayaking, wildlife watching, and beachcombing. The park boasts several miles of scenic coastline, offering opportunities to spot marine wildlife, including orcas, seals, and seabirds.


The park’s forests and trails provide a tranquil setting for hiking and exploring. The 2.2-mile trail to the summit of Mount Finlayson on San Juan Island rewards hikers with panoramic views of the surrounding islands and waterways. Lopez Island offers a network of cycling routes and scenic roads, allowing visitors to explore the island’s natural beauty at their own pace.


Whether you’re interested in the fascinating history of the San Juan Islands or simply want to immerse yourself in their natural wonders, San Juan Islands National Historic Park promises an unforgettable experience. Discover the rich cultural heritage and stunning landscapes that make this park a true gem in Washington state.


Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve

Tucked away on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound, Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve is a unique and captivating destination that seamlessly blends natural beauty with rich cultural heritage. This reserve offers visitors a glimpse into the rich history of the Pacific Northwest, with its preserved farmsteads, picturesque landscapes, and captivating coastal views.


The reserve is named after Isaac Ebey, an early settler who played a significant role in the development of the region. Today, visitors can explore the preserved Ebey’s Landing, where the first European American settlers established homesteads in the mid-19th century. The historic buildings, including the Ferry House and the Jacob and Sarah Ebey House, provide insight into the challenges and triumphs of early pioneers.


The iconic Ebey’s Landing bluff trail is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Hikers can traverse this scenic trail, which offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The trail leads down to the beach, where visitors can witness the convergence of farmland, forests, and the rugged coastline.


The reserve’s diverse ecosystems provide a habitat for a variety of plant and animal species. As you explore the wetlands, forests, and grasslands, keep an eye out for unique bird species, including bald eagles and great blue herons. Seals and sea lions are often spotted along the shoreline, while the nearby waters are home to salmon and orcas.


Visitors can also partake in a variety of outdoor activities within the reserve. From kayaking and fishing in the sound to cycling along the scenic roads, there are plenty of opportunities to embrace the beauty of the surrounding landscape.


For a deeper understanding of the reserve’s history and culture, visitors can attend ranger-led programs and participate in guided tours. Learn about the intricate connection between the land, the people, and the indigenous cultures that have shaped the region over centuries.


Visiting Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve is like stepping back in time. Immerse yourself in the rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant ecosystems of this hidden gem in Washington state.


Lake Chelan National Recreation Area

Situated in the heart of the North Cascades, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is a pristine and awe-inspiring destination that showcases the natural beauty of Washington state. Stretching along the eastern shores of Lake Chelan, this recreation area offers a wealth of outdoor activities, stunning landscapes, and unparalleled tranquility.


The main attraction of Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is undoubtedly Lake Chelan itself. With its crystal-clear blue waters and surrounding mountain peaks, the lake provides a picturesque playground for water enthusiasts. Visitors can enjoy a variety of water activities, including swimming, boating, kayaking, and fishing. Exploring the lake by boat or kayak reveals hidden coves and pristine beaches, allowing for a deeper immersion in the area’s natural splendor.


The recreation area is also an excellent destination for hikers and backpackers, with numerous trails that cater to different fitness levels and interests. The Lakeshore Trail offers a stunning lakeside hike, providing breathtaking views throughout its length. For more adventurous hikers, the Stehekin Valley Trail guides you through the heart of the park, immersed in lush forests and surrounded by towering peaks.


Wilderness camping is a popular activity in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Visitors can experience the true tranquility of the area by spending a night under the starry sky in one of the designated backcountry campsites. Fall asleep to the sounds of nature and wake up to the serenity of the lake and surrounding mountains.


The Stehekin Valley, accessible only by boat, is a hidden gem within the recreation area. This remote community offers a unique glimpse into a simpler way of life, showcasing a small number of year-round residents living amidst stunning natural beauty. Visitors can explore the area by hiking, biking, or taking a scenic bus tour to fully appreciate its charm.


The Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is also rich in history and provides opportunities for visitors to learn about the indigenous cultures and early settlers who called this region home. The Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin provides information on the area’s natural and cultural history, as well as exhibits on the region’s geology and wildlife.


Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline-pumping adventure, a peaceful and secluded retreat, or a journey into the past, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area has something for everyone. Discover the stunning landscapes, pristine waters, and captivating history of this remarkable destination in Washington state.


Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Tucked away in the southeastern part of Washington state, Whitman Mission National Historic Site offers visitors a glimpse into the fascinating history of the American West. This site commemorates the tragic events that unfolded in the mid-1800s and provides insights into the cultural and historical significance of the area.


The site represents the remnants of the Whitman Mission, which was once a vibrant settlement established by missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. The mission served as a stopping point for emigrants traveling along the Oregon Trail, providing shelter, supplies, and medical care.


Today, visitors can explore the historic grounds and visit the Whitman Mission Visitor Center, where exhibits detail the significant role that the mission played in the westward expansion of the United States. Learn about the lives of the Whitmans and the challenges they faced in their efforts to establish the mission and bring new settlers to the region.


Tragedy struck the mission in 1847 when tensions between the Native American tribes and the settlers reached a boiling point. A conflict erupted, resulting in an attack on the mission and the death of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, as well as several others. The Whitman Massacre, as it came to be known, had far-reaching consequences and significantly impacted the relationships between the settlers and Native American tribes in the area.


Visitors can walk the grounds of the mission and explore the restored buildings, gaining insight into the daily life of the missionaries and the challenges they faced in their interactions with the indigenous cultures. The nearby cemetery is the final resting place of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, and serves as a solemn reminder of the sacrifices made during the westward expansion.


Aside from its historical significance, Whitman Mission National Historic Site is also a place of natural beauty. The gently rolling landscapes, the picturesque Walla Walla River, and the surrounding fields make for a serene and peaceful setting. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the River Trail or have a picnic in the shaded areas, immersing themselves in the tranquility of the site.


Whitman Mission National Historic Site offers an opportunity to reflect on the complex history of the American West. It serves as a reminder of the interactions between different cultures, the challenges faced by early settlers, and the enduring spirit of exploration and resilience that shaped the region.


Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Situated on the banks of the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site offers a captivating journey into the region’s rich past. This site showcases the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fur trading outpost, which played a vital role in the development of the Pacific Northwest in the 19th century.


Originally established in 1825, Fort Vancouver was the headquarters of Hudson’s Bay Company’s Columbia Department. It served as a hub for fur trading activities, bringing together traders, indigenous peoples, and settlers in a bustling and multicultural community.


Today, visitors can explore the grounds of the reconstructed fort, which offers a sense of what life was like in the 1800s. The fort’s grand stockade, historic buildings, and gardens provide a glimpse into the daily activities and social dynamics of the time.


The Visitor Center at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is a great starting point for learning about the history and significance of the fort. Interactive exhibits, artifacts, and educational programs provide a deeper understanding of the fur trade era and the diverse communities that coexisted within the fort’s walls.


Guided tours offer an in-depth exploration of the fort’s historical buildings, including the Chief Factor’s House—one of the oldest original structures still standing in the Pacific Northwest—and the Trade Shop, where furs were sorted and prepared for shipping.


The site also encompasses Pearson Field, one of the oldest continuously operating airfields in the United States. Aviation enthusiasts can visit the Pearson Air Museum, which showcases the history of aviation in the region and features a collection of vintage aircraft.


Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is not only a place of historical significance but also a hub for cultural events and gatherings. The annual Brigade Encampment, held in the summer, brings reenactors from all over the country to recreate the vibrant atmosphere of the fur trade era.


Explore the captivating history of the Pacific Northwest and gain insight into the intricacies of the fur trade at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. With its immersive exhibits, picturesque setting, and educational programs, the site offers a fascinating journey back in time.



Washington state is a treasure trove of natural wonders and rich historical sites, making it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and those seeking a deeper connection with the region’s cultural heritage. The national parks and historic sites in Washington offer a diverse range of experiences, each showcasing unique landscapes, captivating history, and opportunities for adventure.


From the awe-inspiring presence of Mount Rainier to the pristine Olympic Peninsula, the beauty of Washington’s national parks is unparalleled. Hiking through ancient rainforests, witnessing the power of volcanoes, and exploring the rugged wilderness of the North Cascades are just some of the incredible experiences awaiting visitors.


Washington’s historic sites also provide a window into the past, highlighting the stories of early settlers, Indigenous cultures, and pioneering figures who shaped the region. From the tragic events at Whitman Mission to the multicultural hub of Fort Vancouver, each site offers a unique perspective on the rich and complex history of the Pacific Northwest.


Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, historical exploration, or simply a moment of tranquility in the midst of stunning natural landscapes, Washington’s national parks and historic sites offer something for everyone. Immerse yourself in the beauty, history, and culture of the Evergreen State as you embark on your next adventure.


Plan your itinerary, pack your bags, and get ready to discover the wonders of Washington state. With its diverse landscapes, rich history, and opportunities for exploration, this region is sure to leave a lasting impression and create memories for a lifetime.