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Road Trip | Washington National Parks

Hit the Road and See Washington State's National Parks

Washington is filled with beautiful scenery and fascinating places to visit. One way to experience some of the diversity that can be found in the region is to explore some of Washington's National Parks. Travel between Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula, to Mount Rainier National Park, then head north on the western side of the state to the North Cascades National Park Complex, where you can cross the Cascades on the North Cascades Highway. The most adventurous travelers can extend the trip by traveling to Chelan, where you can catch a passenger ferry or plane to Stehekin in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.

Olympic National Park

The park provides visitors to Washington with an amazing park to explore the wild beauty of the Washington peninsula and coast. Travelers will find beautiful beaches, rain forest, mountains and more. The Olympic National Park protects some unique Washington ecosystems and is also a good destination for wildlife viewing. Visitors to the park will love the many hiking trials, and the wild beauty of the beaches and the entire park. One fantastic destination within the park is Shi Shi Beach. Shi Shi is one of the longest stretches of undeveloped shoreline in the lower 48 states. This two-mile, crescent shaped beach features sandstone bluffs, fringed by forests, and the beach is a wild mix of sand and stones. The trail to reach Shi Shi is often rough, muddy and very rugged, but the scenes of the spectacular beach are worth the wait. Shi Shi Beach is just one of many beautiful, undeveloped and rugged landscapes in the Olympic National Park.

Mount Rainier National Park

After leaving the Olympic Peninsula, travelers can head back north to Mount Rainier National Park. This park protects one of the most stunning and iconic images of Washington State. Mount Rainier is an amazing destination, especially during the summer. Campers will find many beautiful places to enjoy within and around Mount Rainier National Park. Although the park is covered in snow for much of the year, the summer months are particularly beautiful with wildflowers blooming, fascinating wildlife, backcountry recreation and more. Mount Rainier also offers a great view into the past through the lodges and other historic buildings around the park. Another way to experience the beauty of Mount Rainier National Park is to take a trip on the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad. This railroad is the longs continuously operating steam train in the Pacific Northwest, and offers its riders stunning views of beautiful forests and scenery of the Pacific Northwest.

North Cascades National Park Complex

After enjoying the  beauty of Mount Rainier, travelers can continue north to State Route 20, also called the North Cascades Highway, which takes visitors into the North Cascades National Park Complex. The National Park Complex is composed of three areas, North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Each area offers unique opportunities to enjoy the beauty of the North Cascades. Within these three parks, visitors will discover the amazing scenery of the North Cascades, including peaks, waterfalls, and more than 300 glaciers. The North Cascades National Park is filled with hiking trails, some that are fairly easy and others that are rigorous, steep, mountain climbs. Visitors can also enjoy climbing, boating, fishing, and more throughout the year in the National Park Complex.  Ross Lake is a great spot to enjoy activities like boating, fishing and more. For those visitors looking to enjoy some solitude and remote recreation, the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is a great destination. To reach this area of the park, visitors should continue along the North Cascades Highway to Chelan. There is no car access to the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, so all visitors must travel by boat, passenger ferry or plane to the village of Stehekin at the northern end of Lake Chelan from Chelan at the southern end of the lake.

Throughout the state of Washington there are many fascinating destinations for road travelers to enjoy. The Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and the North Cascades National Park offer visitors a chance to see and explore some of the most pristine, fantastic and fascinating natural landscapes within the state.

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