15 National Parks In Washington State

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Home to three national parks and numerous historical sites, the National Parks in Washington State are a paradise where you can experience untouched nature and dramatic landscapes. Spend your days hiking to remote glacial lakes, winding your way down meandering rivers and losing track of time crossing alpine meadows.

Mount Rainier National Park is the most famous National Park in Washington State, offering empowering views of rising mountains and magical moss-covered temperate rainforests. If you prefer relaxing days overlooking the ocean and gentle coastal walks, San Juan Island National Historical Park is sure to please. Or, if you want to disconnect from the modern world, be sure to visit the remote Stehekin Valley of North Cascades National Park, reachable only by foot, boat or plane.

Whether you live close by, are travelling from afar, and are looking for an afternoon adventure or have set aside a week or more to explore, Washington National Parks have more than enough untouched nature for everyone to enjoy. Come with us and discover a few of the must-do’s and hidden gems of Washington State, but we promise, no matter which trail you find yourself on, you’ll no doubt fall in love with this enchanting part of the United States.

15 National Parks In Washington State

1- Mount Rainier National Park

mount rainier national park washington state
The most beautiful national park in Washington State is Mount Rainier National Park.

Standing proud and beautiful in the middle of Washington State, Mount Rainer is a sight to behold.

The park encompasses more than 236,000 acres (95,505 hectares), with an abundance of meadows, waterfalls, winding rivers, sprawling valleys, ancient forests, and of course, the icy volcanic slopes of Mount Rainier.

Mount Rainer National Park has four main regions, with limited roads between them.

If you’re visiting, planning ahead is essential to avoid driving into the wrong entrance.

Longmire is the park’s historic district and is great for those who want to spend more time indoors learning about the park’s past.

Paradise is the most popular region of the park and has plenty of easy and stunning hikes through valleys and meadows.

Ohanapecosh sits in the southeastern corner of the park and is home to dense forests and quiet trails.

And last but not least, Sunrise is a favourite amongst hikers looking for challenging alpine trails and amazing Mount Rainier views.

Things To Do In Mount Rainier National Park

washington state national parks itinerary mount rainier rises above the landscape
Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State is one of the most stunning national parks in the USA.
Hiking In Mount Rainier National Park

Offering more than 260 miles (418 kilometres) of trails, it’s no wonder the most popular activity in Mount Rainier National Park is hiking.

If you’re up for a challenge, the 6.2-mile (10-kilometre) Skyline Trail rewards hikers with incredible views of Mount Rainer as you walk through wildflower-filled meadows.

Or, for something a bit easier, the 2.2-mile (3.5 kilometre) Dead Horse Creek Trail brings you along a paved path with beautiful mountain views along the way.

There are way more hikes than we could possibly name in Mount Rainier National Park, so pop into the visitor centre, and they’ll point you in the direction of a perfect hike to tackle.

Biking In Mount Rainier National Park

While no biking-specific trails exist in Mount Rainier National Park, bikes are allowed on almost all park roads and offer incredibly scenic rides.

The Carbon River Trail is particularly a favourite amongst cyclists, as it follows a former road through a temperate rain forest that’s closed to all motor vehicles.

Another great option that stays away from the park’s main roads is the 5-mile (8-kilometre) Mowich Lake Road, which brings you to a stunning subalpine lake.

Ride The Mount Rainier Gondola

Opt for a ride up the Mount Rainier Gondola for impressive views without effort.

In a matter of minutes, you’ll glide 2,400 feet (730 metres) up to the summit of Crystal Mountain and be greeted with magnificent views of Mount Rainier and the surrounding Cascade Range. And the best part?

A restaurant serving everything from hearty soups to ice cream is open all year round.

How To Get To Mount Rainier National Park

washington state national parks campgrounds snow-covered mountain and pine trees
Another view of Mount Rainier, showcasing why this is one of the best national parks in Washington state.

The most popular entrance is the Nisqually Entrance. To get here, fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and then drive south on WA-167 S for roughly two hours.

It’s also possible to fly into the Portland Airport, and from here, it’s a 2.5-hour drive north along I-5 N.

Nisqually Entrance is at 39000 State Route 706 E, Ashford, Washington 98304.

2- San Juan Islands National Historical Park

national parks in washington state Islands in the foreground merge with more islands in the background at dusk.
If you’re looking for national parks in Washington State that has both natural beauty and a rich history, you’ll love the San Juan Islands National Historical Park.

The San Juan Islands are well-loved for their fascinating wildlife, beautiful bays, expansive sea views and laid-back culture.

However, these peaceful islands were once held in an atmosphere of utmost tension when both the English and the US claimed possession throughout the 19th century.

Finally, in 1872, the islands were officially declared US territory. Today, the San Juan Islands National Historic Park sits on 2,131 acres (862 hectares) and is home to the American Camp, English Camp, and miles of pristine hiking trails and shoreline.

Things To Do In San Juan Islands National Historical Park

washington state national parks san juan english camp
The English Camp at San Juan National Park in Washington State.

To learn about the San Juan Islands’ complex history, take a guided tour of the American Camp, English camp, or both.

Rangers will share stories of bygone times and, on Saturdays throughout the summer, will even recreate scenes from military and civilian life during the 19th century.

For one full weekend in July, you may even be lucky enough to stumble upon a complete reenactment of camp life, demonstrations and many fun activities for the entire family.

Besides the guided tours, there is a range of hikes to tackle.

Young Hill, one of the more challenging hikes, takes you up 650 feet (200 metres) of steep trail, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of San Juan Island.

Another favourite is Garrison Bay, which brings you along the beautiful coastline to Bell Point.

While the Garrison Bay trail is just over 1 mile (1.6 kilometres) long, give yourself plenty of time as the phenomenal views are sure to slow you down.

How To Get To San Juan Islands National Historical Park

national parks in washington state map boats moored at the marina
The marina at Friday Harbor in Washington state’s San Juan Island.

As there are no major airports on San Juan Island, you’ll need to first fly into Seattle, and a 1.5-hour drive north will bring you to Anacortes, Washington.

From here, hop aboard a Washington State Ferry and enjoy a one-hour ride to Friday Harbor. Once you’ve arrived on San Juan Island, you can rent a car or catch a bus to the San Juan Islands National Historical Park.

San Juan Islands National Historical Park is at 4668 Cattle Point Rd., Friday Harbor, Washington, 98250

3- Olympic National Park

national parks washington state camping
Another stunning landscape in Olympic national park in Washington state.

Whether you want to hike among glacier-capped mountains, wander spectacular temperature rain forests, or try out tidepooling, Olympic National Park’s one million acres (400,00 hectares) of protected wilderness will have the perfect adventure for you.

Olympic National Park has the best of both worlds and is one of the USA’s most diverse national parks: it’s an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.

If you’re planning a visit, it’s essential to plan ahead and get familiar with the park map.

With very few roads connecting different regions of the park, even if landmarks look close on the map, it may take hours to drive between them.

But with more beauty than is possible to imagine, your homework will no doubt pay off with a memorable visit.

Things To Do In Olympic National Park

national parks washington state map mist over the pine trees on the mountains
Olympic National Park is one of the stunning national parks in Washington State to visit.

If you’ve never gone tidepooling before, you’re probably not alone but you’ll certainly have to give it a go in Olympic National Park.

Head to Mora’s Hole in the Wall, Kalaloch’s Beach 4 or any coastal wilderness location at low tide, and you can also check out the amazing plants and animals hidden outside of low tide.

Another must-do at Olympic National Park is exploring the magical Hoh Rain Forest, one of the last remaining flourishing temperate rainforests in the US.

Here, moss-covered trees and fern-clad forest floors giveaway only to thundering waterfalls and calm tide pools.

Choose between short loop trails or the longer 17 miles (11 kilometres) Hoh River Trail. Olympic National Park is also an excellent place for those who want to get out on the water.

Class II to Class V rapids flow throughout the park, numerous glacier lakes provide an incredible backdrop for kayaking, and endless coastlines make for all-day exploring.

How To Get To Olympic National Park

Getting to Olympic National Park is an adventure in itself. If you’re flying in, you’ll arrive at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, take a 30-minute ferry ride to Bainbridge, and from here, it’s a 90-minute drive to the park’s entrance.

Olympic National Park Visitor Center is at 3002 Mount Angeles Road, Port Angeles, Washington 98362

4- North Cascades National Park

washington state national parks north cascades man and woman winter snowshoe
Snowshoeing in winter in North Cascades National Park in Washington State.

Located in northern Washington, near the border of British Columbia, is yet another of Washington’s remarkable National Parks.

North Cascades encompasses 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares) of untouched alpine landscapes and forested valleys and beckons those who want to escape the modern world.

Deemed the American Alps and home to 300 glaciers, more than any US park outside of Alaska, it’s no wonder visitors come from near and far to hike amongst its vast landscapes and step back to a simpler time.

Things To Do In North Cascades National Park

national parks in washington state north cascades man navigating a rocky trail
Hiking in North Cascades National Park (Washington State) offers stunning views.

You cannot talk about North Cascades National Park without first bringing up the Stehekin Valley.

Located deep within the park, you can only reach the charming Stehekin community by foot, boat or plane.

Once you’ve arrived, you’ll be met with basic accommodations, rustic dining options, and more hiking trails than you ever thought imaginable.

If you’re planning a visit, just be sure to book early, as lodging is known to fill up far in advance.

Even if you don’t make it out to Stehekin, there are plenty of hiking options closer to the North Cascades Highway, which runs 57 miles (92 kilometres) into the park.

Trails like Happy Creek Forest and Pyramid Lake showcase the rugged landscapes and can be completed in an hour or two.

Or, pack some lunch and challenge yourself on a 5-hour hike up Sourdough Mountain or walk past endless peaks and cascading glaciers along the 3.7 miles (6 kilometres) Cascade Pass Trail.

How To Get To North Cascades National Park

washington state national parks map The sun is ready to set casting long shadows at Mt Baker
Mt Baker is in North Cascades national park in Washington state.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the closest airport to North Cascades National Park, and from here, it’s a two-hour drive north along I-5 N and WA-530E to reach the visitor centre.

Once you’ve arrived at the visitor centre, you can continue to drive into the park along North Cascade Highway for an additional 57 miles (92 kilometres).

North Cascades National Park Visitor Center is at 810 State Route 20, Sedro-Woolley, Washington 98284

5- Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Unlike Washington’s other National Parks, which feature the state’s remarkable beauty, Whitman Mission Nation’s main focus is on its important role along the Oregon Trail and its tragic past.

Marcus and Narcissa Whitman established the Whitman Mission to create a place for worship and a stop for food, medicine and rest for those travelling along the Oregon Trail.

However, on November 29, 1847, tensions between the Native Americans and the Whitman came to a head, and Marcus, Narcissa and 11 others were tragically slain.

Things To Do In Whitman Mission National Historic Site

While the Whitman Mission may have a dark past, visiting this intriguing historic site is absolutely worth your time.

First, head into the visitor centre to learn more about life at the Whitman Mission and check out the many artefacts left behind.

Then, grab a trail map and walk the Mission Grounds Loop, where you can see the historic buildings, restored apple orchards, and burial site for yourself.

Be sure to make your way up to the Whitman Monument at the top of the hill for sweeping views of the surroundings.

How To Get To Whitman Mission National Historic Site

As Whitman Mission National Historic Site is in the southeastern corner of Washington, getting there from out of state will take some time.

The closest major airport is the Seattle Tacoma International Airport, and from here, you can either hop on a small plane to Walla Walla Regional Airport or settle in for a four-hour drive along I-90E.

Whitman Mission National Historic Site is at 328 Whitman Mission Road, Walla Walla, Washington 99362

6- Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve

Just south of Canada’s border in Puget Sound, Ebey’s Landing preserves the roots of early exploration and settlement of the West.

Here you can enjoy quiet beaches, coastal hikes and gentle kayaking, and history buffs will love exploring Whidbey Island’s rich military past.

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve is at 162 Cemetery Road, Coupeville, Washington 98239

7- Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

national parks washington state fort vancouver
For Vancouver is a Washington state national park site worth visiting.

Step back in time to the 19th century as you explore a full-scale replica of Hudson’s Bay Company’s fur trading operation at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Learn more about the site’s past at the Visitor Center, explore retired US army barracks or watch blacksmiths work in the same fashion they would have in the 1800s.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is at the southern border of Washington State at 1501 E Evergreen Blvd, Vancouver, Washington 98661

8- Klondike Gold Rush – Seattle Unit National Historical Park

washington state national parks gold sieve with a chunk of gold
Panning for gold during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Portraying life in the late 1800s, the Klondike Gold Rush takes you on an exciting journey through Seattle’s gold rush.

Start in the Visitor Center where two floors are yours to explore on your own, then join a free one-hour guided walk where rangers take you through Pioneer Square.

It’s amazing to watch Seattle’s transformation right before your eyes.

Klondike Gold Rush – Seattle Unit National Historical Park is at 319 Second Ave S. Seattle, Washington 98104.

9- Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area

national parks in washington state Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area
Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area is a Washington State national park site to tick off your to-visit list.

Lake Roosevelt is an astonishing 130 miles (210 kilometres) long, created by the Grand Coulee Dam.

The Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area protects the entire lake, offering plenty of opportunities to canoe, kayak, camp, fish, and swim in pristine waters.

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area is in north-central Washington at 1008 Crest Drive, Coulee Dam, Washington 99116.

10- Lewis And Clark National Historical Park

washington state national parks
A 1954 stamp shows landing of Lewis and Clark expedition.

Stretching between Long Beach, Washington and Cannon Beach, Oregon, the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park pays tribute to the incredible Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Walk in the footsteps of the expedition on one of the many trails, watch rangers give live demonstrations on hide tanning and candle making, and learn more about the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the Visitor Center.

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is at 92343 Fort Clatsop Road, Astoria, Oregon 97103.

11- Manhattan Project National Historical Park

During World War II, the Manhattan Project was in charge of researching and developing the first nuclear weapons.

Today, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park consists of three different sites, with the B Reactor landmark located in Hanford, Washington.

If you’re keen to check out this intriguing park, book a bus tour in advance.

12- Minidoka National Historic Site

While the main Minidoka National Historic Site is in Jerome, Idaho, the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial in Washington was added to the site in 2008.

Here you’ll find a memorial wall honouring the names of 276 Japanese and Japanese Americans who were exiled from the island by President Roosevelt.

Minidoka National Historic Site is at 4192 Eagle Harbor Drive, Bainbridge Island, Washington 98110

13- Wing Luke Museum

Learn the ins and outs of Asian Pacific American culture, art and history at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle.

Temporary and permanent exhibitions showcase the unique Chinatown-International District, and guided tours allow you to experience what life was and is like as an Asian Pacific American.

Wing Luke Museum is at 719 South King Street, Seattle, Washington 98104

14- Nez Perce National Historical Park

The Nez Perce National Historical Park is not one continuous protected area but 38 different places that played an important role for the Nez Perce people.

You can explore the Burial Site of Chief Joseph the Younger, Nez Perce campsites and unique petroglyphs at Buffalo Eddy in Washington State.

15- Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail

Stretching through Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, the Ice Age Floods Trail is a network of trails that provide a glimpse into the landscape change caused by the Glacial Lake Missoula floods from 18,000 to 15,000 years ago.

In Washington State, you can hike through erosion features, temporary glacial lakes and the charming Waterville Plateau.

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Danielle grew up in central Minnesota, spending her summers enjoying the many lakes and her winters playing ice hockey. After graduating from college, she booked a one-way ticket to New Zealand and never looked back. Now, 10 years later, Danielle spends her time hiking amongst the Southern Alps, Airbnb hopping around Europe and travelling the U.S. Rarely a day goes by you won't find her searching for her next grand adventure.