The Staircase region of Olympic National Park is full of surprises, be it the stunning mountain views at Flapjack Lakes and Gladys Divide, the serene sounds and sights along the Skokomish River, or the solitude and splendor of Wagonwheel Lake and Cub Peak. Up high in the Staircase region, mountain goats roam the rocky peaks, while the rare marmot tans itself on the exposed rocks in the sun. Down below in the Skokomish River Valley, elk and deer graze, while a few black bear and cougar hide from view. The Skokomish is magical, wild, and just one of the hundreds of fantastic places to experience Olympic. Yet, it holds even more secrets for those willing to hike a bit further, and climb a bit higher. One such place is Black and White Lakes.
The state of Oregon has many amazing and beautiful places, and yet, has just one National Park. Down in the south central Cascades, an ancient volcanic lake sits, waiting for your discovery. Widely recognized, yet rarely visited, Crater Lake National Park is a crown jewel in the National Park Service, offering visitors a wide variety of experiences, views and destinations within the park boundaries. Surrounded by beauty in every direction, visiting Crater Lake is an experience everyone should have, which is why I am encouraging a road trip this year.
Port Angeles is an amazing small town on the northern end of the Olympic Peninsula. Home to just under 20,000 residents, this port city offers stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Vancouver Island, and gives those willing to drive a few miles the chance to have the best scenery in America. Just 17 miles and 5,000 feet in elevation from this sleepy town, visitors from all over the world flock to see the stunning panoramic views from Hurricane Ridge. With the rainforest, wild coastlands, awesome views while skiing and snowboarding and some of the most remote wilderness a short trip away, Port Angeles is one of the best small towns in America.
We all know and love Mount Rainier, but few people outside of the hiking community take the time to explore the trails surrounding Washington State’s second-most visited National Park. In 2014, 1.3 million people visited Mount Rainier National Park, with 225,887 entering through the eastern side at the Nisqually Entrance. While the majority of those people had an amazing time at Mount Rainier, nearly all of them missed out on a chance to see a gorgeous lake just miles from the base of this iconic volcano.
Mount Rainier Park tends to get overlooked by everyone, which is a funny thing to say about a volcano rising over 14,409 feet above sea level. Mount Rainier is one of the most visible and iconic mountains in North America, and is located 54 miles from the city of Seattle, which sits just above sea level. Each year, Mount Rainier has tens of millions of eyes gaze upon the glaciated summit during the sunny days, when locals say “the Mountain is out.” Everyone who lives near the mountain knows its shape by memory, and yet, few travel to this National Park and mountain.
Olympic National Park is constantly one of America’s most-visited National Parks, yet few take the time to explore more than a mile or so off trail. With 611 miles of trails in the park, and nearly one million acres of wilderness to explore, backpacking in Olympic National Park gets you up close and personal to one of the worlds last remaining wild areas. From rugged, glaciated peaks, to isolated set-stacks on rugged coastlines, the only American rainforests, high alpine lakes and amazing waterfalls, the trails in the backcountry of Olympic lead to some of the best destinations in the world.
The National Parks of the West, specifically the parks of that are in Montana and Washington State, offer some of the most wild and diverse landscapes in the world. Full of wonder and awe, the five National Parks in these states give visitors experiences they can’t find anywhere else in the world. Whether in Yellowstone or the North Cascades, Glacier, Rainier or Olympic, your trip to these National Parks will give you a five senses all the adventure they can handle.
I have lived here in the Pacific Northwest for fifteen years, and a lot has changed. When I arrived in Seattle in late 2000, the outdoor culture already existed. Of course mountains were climbed, trails hiked, islands kayaked, and gear was purchased, something that had occurred in the city since its inception during the Alaskan Gold Rush.
Located in the shadow of Mount Rainier, two trails give those looking to challenge their fear of heights the ultimate experience. One, located in Mount Rainier National Park, gives hikes a chance to test their merit against a towering, swaying suspension bridge along one of the 11 rivers and major creeks flowing from the iconic and glaciated volcano. The other, to the south of the park, gives those who dare a chance to explore an old lookout tower on a rocky, exposed cliff with breathtaking panoramic views. Both are perfect for visitors who are heading into Mount Rainier National Park‘s east entrance, which leads to Longmire and Paradise.
Olympic National Park is said to be three parks in one, offering visitors a chance to see rainforests, glaciated mountains and the longest stretch of undisturbed coastal wilderness in the lower 48. Full of wonder and amazement around every corner, Olympic National Park’s natural beauty stuns all who explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site. While I personally think the entire park is underrated and an amazing place to explore and hike each week, one area that gets less popularity than it should is the 73 miles of coastal wilderness of Olympic.
Who can name three facts about Joshua Tree National Park? Now who can name three facts without mentioning the U2 album? Mathias, that last comment is directed at you.I may be wrong on this, but I think it is fair to say that few outside of California and Arizona know much, if anything about Joshua Tree National Park.
In a list complied by the Matador Network highlighting their 20 coolest towns in America, the small city of Port Angeles came in at number 16. For many, the city of Port Angeles serves as a gateway to Vancouver Island and the remote Olympic National Park, accessible along a gorgeous drive along Highway 101 or across the Strait of Juan de Fuca by ferry. Known by locals as P.A., this small town on the northern Olympic Peninsula blends its logging and port history perfectly with tourism and nature.