Washington National Parks

This was another one of our trips planned by a cheap flight deal from Salt Lake.  There are three national parks in Washington: Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades National Parks. All three parks are a reasonable drive from Seattle.


Olympic

Our first stop on our fall road trip was Olympic National Park.  This is a huge park on the Olympic Peninsula containing coastal, forest, and mountain ecosystems.  Unfortunately, we only had one day at the park.  However, even with our limited time, we deiced make it a marathon day and drive completely around the park, hitting all the main highlights.  It was a lot of driving, and I don’t recommend it, but we wanted to see as much of the park as we could in our short time.  We knew we would eventually be back for another visit to give this park the time it deserves, so we were okay with our plan.

Highlights

  • Hurricane Ridge.  We stopped at the Visitor’s Center at the top and got hot chocolate with some incredible mountain views.  Hurricane Ridge is named for its intense winds and unpredictable weather.  I don’t remember a lot of the trails being accessible, but it was still fun to explore the area around the Visitor’s Center. 
  • Marymere Falls/Lake Crescent.  This hike is located near the shores of Lake Crescent.  It is roughly 2 miles long and walks you along the creek, across a bridge, and up some stairs to two different view-points of the 90-foot waterfall.  The lush fern, forest atmosphere, fall colors, and waterfall made it a fun hike to get out and stretch our legs.
  • Ruby Beach.  We hiked the path leading down to the beach and found many rocks and driftwood along the coastline.  Despite the overcast and chilly weather, the beach was still a popular attraction, and there was no denying its beauty.
  • Hoh Rain Forest.  This part of the park was unfortunately closed due to a restoration project, but it will be at the top of my list when I return.

Mount Rainier

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but of the three Washington parks, this was the one I was least excited about visiting. I’m not entirely sure why, but a few things contributing to my poor attitude could’ve been that I didn’t think we would even get to see the mountain (it’s often completely cloud covered), and I also didn’t think there would be that much to do… in my head I was basically just there to check it off. Whatever my previous assumptions were, all I can say is I’m so happy I was incredibly wrong!! This park quickly became one of my FAVORITE parks, which still holds true today. Maybe it was because I had had such low expectations and then got completely blow away, but I was literally in awe the entire day. It was an actual dream.

We arrived through the Nisqually entrance and were lucky enough to have some great views of Mount Rainier on our drive to the park, and also briefly after we arrived.  Now, I’ve seen big mountains before, but this was just on another level.  I felt lucky to be able to see it, even if only for a short amount of time.

Our first hike was Narada Falls. I’m a sucker for any waterfall hike, and Narada Falls was an easy hike offering a great reward.

Next, we drove along the scenic route up to the Paradise Visitor’s Center, and were welcomed by an actual fall paradise.  We debated back and forth about going on a hike up there, and ultimately decided to.  We hiked to Myrtle Falls, but could only make it a few steps at a time before stopping to take pictures of the fall foliage!  We seemed to catch the fall colors at their peak, and it was like nothing I had ever seen before.  Then, to top it all off, on our way back down from Myrtle Falls, we saw a black bear!!  This was the first black bear I’d seen in the wild, and just felt like the cherry on top of a perfect day. 

We then drove up to Sunrise Point, but when we got up there we were greeted with flurries, and almost everything was completely cloud covered. Even with the change in weather, this day still felt like complete magic. I often look back on our time at this park and can’t help but smile- thank you, Mount Rainier, for proving me completely wrong.


North Cascades

The North Cascades are often referred to as the American Alps.  The jagged peaks in this vast wilderness hold more than 300 glaciers.  We were a little past peak season when we arrived at this park, and struggled to find anything that was open, including the Visitor’s Center. 

While we had been very fortunate with the weather up to this point on our trip, our time at this park mostly consisted of overcast and rain.  We started along the scenic route, stopping at a few overlooks.  We explored the Gorge and Diablo Vista Point overlooks.  Unfortunately, I don’t think we truly got to appreciate the vast beauty the North Cascades offer.  This just means I’ll have to make a trip back! 😉


Seattle

With our flight not leaving until the next evening, we had a full day to explore Seattle before flying back home. 

Of course, we had to hit up the first Starbucks before walking around Pike Place Market.  We grabbed our coffee, along with some delicious pastries from a bakery, and had breakfast on the waterfront.  

We then did a self-guided walking tour through Pike Place Market, and bought a few souvenirs.  After walking around more of downtown, we made our way to Kerry Park, and then had lunch at The Queen Bee Café.  We both ordered a crumwich, which is a “crumpet sandwich.”  Equally interesting and delicious.

We then walked around the shops at Queen Anne for a while before heading to the airport.  While we felt a little out of our element exploring a city instead of a National Park, it was still a fun way to end of our time in Washington before heading back to Utah.

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