National Parks in Washington State offer a myriad of landscapes, showcasing the state’s unique and breathtaking natural wonders. Washington State encompasses three distinctive areas: rocky coastline, lush rainforests, and majestic mountainscapes. The richness of its geographical diversity is genuinely awe-inspiring.
Washington State is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with everything from mesmerizing mountain peaks to crystal-clear lakes, wildflower meadows, volcanic summits, glacially-carved canyons, and foggy shores. 3 designated national parks lie within its borders: Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Park. These parks, known for their vastness and tranquility, offer a serene escape from the crowds found in other famous counterparts. Fully exploring each park would take a lifetime.
In addition to the national parks, Washington State boasts 16 protected areas managed by the National Park Service. These include National Historical Reserves, National Historic Sites, National Geologic Trails, National Recreation Areas, and National Historic Trails.
Below, we delve into the wonders of Washington State’s best national parks, providing an overview of each park’s top attractions and activities.
National Parks in Washington
Mount Rainier National Park
- Year Established: 1899
- Annual Visitors: 1,670,063
- Area: 236,380 acres
- Best Time to Visit: June – September
Mount Rainier National Park is part of the Cascade Range in Washington, it’s actually the highest peak in the entire range. Great for adventure seekers and hikers, this park is one of the oldest in the United States. As the park reaches heights of over 14,000 elevation it’s important to remember that elevation does affect hiking.
There are 260 miles of maintained trails within Mount Rainier National Park, they feature beautiful alpine meadows and stunning summits. For those who love wildflowers, Mount Rainier is a riot of colors during the spring and summer months.
North Cascade National Park
- Year Established: 1968
- Annual Visitors: 17,855
- Area: 505,000 acres
- Best Time to Visit: June – October
North Cascade National Park encompasses nearly 300 glaciers and is also located on the Cascade Range. The vast wilderness in the park offers visitors the chance to see mountain peaks, alpine lakes, waterfalls, and even lush forests.
One of the best ways to experience North Cascades is hiking on its 400 miles of trails. Or taking a scenic drive on North Cascade Scenic Byway, a 140 mile byway that provides stunning views of the entire park. Hike the 7 mile Glacier Basin Trail and keep your eye out for mountain goats along the way.
Olympic National Park
- Year Established: 1938
- Annual Visitors: 2,718,925
- Area: 922,700 acres
- Best Time to Visit: June – September
- Map: Download the official Olympic National Park Map (PDF)
This unique coastal National Park gets its name from its highest peak, Mount Olympus. The dramatic and diverse landscape of the park includes the lush Hoh Rainforest that is impossibly green and moss covered. The park also features rugged mountain peaks and a rocky coastline that is awe inspiring. One of the best ways to see the park is by hiking and camping.
Popular hiking trails include Rialto Beach, Madison Falls, and the Spruce Railroad Trail. Tidepooling is another great activity that allows visitors to experience Olympic’s rugged coastline. Find the most popular tide pools at Kalaloch’s Beach and Mora’s Hole in the Wall.
Other Areas of Washington Maintained by National Park Services
- Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve
- Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
- Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail
- Klondike Gold Rush – Seattle Unit National Historical Park
- Lake Chelan National Recreation Area
- Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area
- Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
- Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
- Manhattan Project National Historical Park
- Minidoka National Historic Site
- Nez Perce National Historical Park
- Oregon National Historic Trail
- Ross Lake National Recreation Area
- San Juan Island National Historical Park
- Whitman Mission National Historic Site
- Wing Luke Museum Affiliated Area