What to See and Do in the Pacific Northwest - Washington
After an incredible trip to Oregon last Summer, I headed North in July to check out the breathtaking sites of Washington with its’ unique topography and micro climates . Think rainforests, rugged coastlines, rocky beaches, islands, marine life, alpine mountains and fog. You can see it all in an action packed 6 day tour. See how below.
The Pacific Northwest (PNW) encompasses Idaho, Oregon and Washington according to The World Atlas. Summer is the perfect time to enjoy this part of the World. Let’s see Washington and its’ gorgeous National Parks!
Stops along the Way
Table of Contents
Day 1 - Exploring Seattle
Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest with a population of 724,305 and incorporated in 1869. The city is very manageable to visit as a tourist.
We stayed in the Belltown area where we could walk between the Space Needle, Pike Place Market and our hotel. If you stay in the Belltown area, make sure to have dinner or lunch at Der Biergarten. The restaurant is in the traditional German Beer Garden style with a modern twist. They also have a nice porch on the back deck.
The Space Needle is a must-do in Seattle. Definitely touristy, but an incredible overview of the City and a fun kitschy stop.
The Pike Place Market and surrounding area is also touristy, but quintessential Seattle. Don’t forget to stop at the original Starbucks coffee shop and buy tickets for the underground tour which is a guided subterranean walk amid ruins buried after an 1889 fire, including storefronts & sidewalks.
Day 2 - North Cascades National Park
We started early on Day 2 headed northeast from Seattle to North Cascades National Park. This park’s rugged beauty is characterized by jagged peaks, deep forested valleys, cascading waterfalls, and over 300 glaciers.
First stop was Diablo Lake Overlook. We learned that glacier lakes vibrant colors are a result of the powdered rock created from the glacier movement into the lake. The sun reflects the rock substance in the lake creating the bright teal green color.
We also did a quick stop at the The Trail of the Cedars on the way. Our first experience of many more incredibly unique and beautiful forests in Washington.
The day was topped off with a 4.6 mile hike to the Blue Lake with 921 elavation gain. The snow and ice was still remaining on the trail despite the incredibly hot temperatures. A dip in the lake at 45 degree water temperature cooled us right down!
Day 3 - San Juan Islands
Whale watching in the Salish Sea around the San Juan Islands is a must-do when visiting this region. We drove to Anacortes – a city in Skagit County to board a whale watching boat tour.
Magnificent orca (or killer) whales live in the San Juan Islands year-round, and this is the best place in the world to see them in the wild. We were also able to view harbor seals and porpoises. The outing was for 4 hours, and then later in the afternoon we took a ferry to Port Angeles.
Day 4 - Olympic National Park
Our home base for exploring Olympic National Park was in the town of Forks. You might have seen this town featured in the Twilight series films. Make sure to do some shopping at Forks Outfitters Thriftway and Ace Hardware. They have everything you need for your next adventure.
This National Park sprawls across several different ecosystems, from the dramatic peaks of the Olympic Mountains to old-growth forests. We started out early to venture out before the crowds…there is A LOT to see!
We started the day at 5,515 feet on The Hurricane Hill Trail via Hurricane Ridge. The drive up offered incredible views, and then the hike to the top was the icing on the cake. The combo of wildflowers, snow capped mountains and the greenery made for a quintessential Pacific Northwest hike.
The latter part of the day included exploration of Lake Crescent followed by the Sol Duc River area. We did 2 short hikes at Marymere Falls & Sol Duc Falls.
Day 5 - Olympic National Park
Grab your rain gear today as we head out for the rain forest. Yes you heard that right, Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest, one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S. The Hoh Rain Forest is one of four rain forests on the Olympic Peninsula. However, it is the only one that has been awarded the distinction of being a World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
After we explored the rain forest, we headed to the coast to see Ruby Beach a rocky dramatic coastline in Washington and The Quinalt Lake Lodge (built in 1926) one of the National Park system’s many charming historic lodges.
Day 6 - Mt. Rainier National Park
Seattle’s cityscape is dramatic with Mt. Rainier in its’ background. A trip to this region would not be complete without visiting this Stratovolcano standing at 14,411 feet. The Cascade Mountains are home to an active volcano Mt. St. Helen’s which can be seen from Rainier.
After stopping by the visitor’s center we embarked on a 6 mile hike with an elevation gain of 1,774 feet on the Skyline Trail. This is a very popular hike, and I recommend doing the hike on a non-holiday weekend or during the week. The views are incredible and during July there was plenty of snow remaining on the mountain despite the 100 degree heat wave.
My Favorite Day Hiking Accessories
My pink poles are durable and don’t break the bank. They’ve lasted me many miles! A great price point.
This cooling bucket hat is a great sun protector and helps me to cool down on a hot day on the trail! Just add water and wring it out!
Osprey is on of the top makers of backpacks. This rucksack is so light and packable plus durable. Plus such great colors..buy 1 for every outfit:)
Say goodbye to blisters wearing these amazing merino socks. So worth the investment. And they keep your feet cool.
I am always amazed by our National Parks in the United States. Each one has special qualities and highlights. What amazed me the most, was the diversity in the Washington National Parks. The West Coast has the mountains meeting the ocean, and in this case, the rainforests, old growth forests, lakes and rivers! Plan a week to see this magical part of our country..you will not be disappointed!