Whether you're looking for a little adventure, or maybe a multi-day excursion, even just a view to remember for years to come, check out our list of the best state and national parks in Washington. Standing 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is the most iconic peak in the state of Washington.
In spring, summer, fall, and winter, you can find visitors exploring the subalpine meadows, alpine lakes, and rugged peak in Mount Rainier National Park. Wildflowers bloom in every direction on the Niches Peak Loop near the White River Entrance on the east side of the park.
For a less primitive overnight experience, visitors have a wide range of lodging options such as the historic Paradise Inn within the park. The park's many rivers, lakes, and wild coast lend to fishing and boating opportunities throughout the year.
For land lovers, Olympic National Park offers enough backpacking and hiking trails to keep your feet moving forward for a lifetime. But with an extensive trail system stemming throughout the area, it's not difficult to find your own private spot to explore.
While places like Rialto and Ruby Beach are popular, chances are the most life you'll see is in the tide pools brimming with exotic sea creatures. This glaciated peak is accessible on the 17.4-mile How River Trail, which can be done on an overnight backpacking trip.
Backpacking in Olympic National Park, in general, embodies a kid-in-a-candy-shop mentality with the variety of routes to explore. The best time to visit Olympic National Park is typically July through August when things warm up after a wet spring.
These public spaces cover more than two million acres of rugged mountain scenery on the northern border of Western Washington. Over 90 percent of the North Cascades National Park Complex is designated as the Stephen Mather Wilderness, which protects a vast amount of the forest from the surrounding logging and mining industry.
The rugged nature of North Cascades National Park makes many of the scenic vistas and attractions a little harder to access. The hard work of multi-day hiking or ferry-boat riding into North Cascades National Park is worth the effort, however, and within its boundaries lies some of the most dramatic mountain scenery many will ever see in their lifetime.
Both modes of travel astound with Cascade peaks and vibrant Northwest hues of green and blue. Other scenic stops on Highway 20 include Lake Shannon and the western town of Winthrop in the Method Valley.
For a family-friendly hike, the paved quarter-mile Washington Pass Overlook Trail provides amazing views of Liberty Bell Mountain not far from the highway, and the popular, 7.2-mile Maple Pass Loop provides different challenges and views throughout the year, including golden larch trees in the fall and blossoming wildflowers in the summer. This nature facility offers hands-on and overnight facilitation for cultural and ecological learning opportunities in the North Cascades National Park.
Stretched between the northern tip of Whitney Island and Hidalgo Island and connected by an iconic high bridge over the Deception Pass waterway, Deception Pass State Park offers numerous outlets to explore the surrounding Puget Sound area. Today, visitors learn about the history of the CCC at the Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center in the Bowman Area of the park.
While the history of the park and the CCC is interesting, it's the wide range of recreational activities that really draw a crowd throughout the year. Fishing is popular at Cranberry Lake, and boat ramps are available at Cornet Bay.
Be sure to keep your eyes out for the abundant wildlife that shares the area, including orcas in the water and seabirds in the air. Three different campsites are available at Deception Pass State Park, and each offers tent sites and electrical hookups.
If you prefer to spend your nights indoors, the Cornet Bay Retreat Center offers 16 cabins available to rent, plus a main lodge and recreation hall. For more adventurous outings, a primitive cabin is available on the nearby Ben Your Island within Deception Pass State Park.
Only 12 miles away from the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth, Lake Wenatchee State Park is a popular destination for Washington residents and tourists alike. It's not just the scenic views of Lake Wenatchee and the impressive Dirty face Peak overlooking the waters that draws a crowd, but also the wide access to recreational activities.
To make your visit an overnight one, Lake Wenatchee State Park offers more than 150 tent sites within two different campgrounds. While this scenic waterfall, often described as the best in the state, is the main attraction in the park, many visitors travel here for the chance to surround themselves with nature.
A hiking trail makes its way through the area and is lined with interpretive markers explaining the rich geological and cultural history of the falls. Located on the west side of San Juan Island, Lime Kiln Point is regarded as one of the best places to spot whales in the world.
While exploring this 36-acre, day-use state park, admiring the craggy coastline it encompasses, it's hard to miss the historic lighthouse overlooking the shore. On the shores of the Wampum Reservoir along the Columbia River, this unique Eastern Washington State Park contains one of the most diverse collections of petrified wood found anywhere in the nation.
The Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail provides a 1.25-mile hike lined with undisturbed petrified logs in their natural setting. All 50 full hookup sites at the adjoining Wampum Recreation Area have been known to fill up during the nearby Gorge Amphitheater concert season throughout the summer and shoulder months of the year.
Cape Disappointment is a great place to explore the Washington coast and the significant cultural history of the area. The State Park is named after an unsuccessful voyage of Captain James Aires to find the Columbia River.
Visitors will find an abundance of hiking trails at Cape Disappointment, all leading to plenty of whale-watching opportunities. The park also offers plenty of seashore to explore along Birch Bay and expansive views of the Cascade Mountains and the Canadian Gulf Islands.
Visitors enjoy the abundant benches found in the park for a scenic picnic by the seashore. Camping is also available at Birch Bay State Park, with more than 140 sites that facilitate tents and RVs.
Standard camping amenities, including restrooms, showers, and a trailer dump station are also available. This scenic state park was originally constructed as a fort to protect Puget Sound and the nearby Bremerton Naval Shipyard in the early 1900s.
Evidence of this defensive history can still be found in Manchester State Park (once known as Fort Middle Point), particularly in the abandoned torpedo warehouse that now serves as a covered picnic shelter. A popular thing to do here includes walking along the shoreline that comprises the eastern border of the park.
This part of the park has excellent views of Rich Passage and the surrounding Puget Sound, including nearby Bainbridge Island. Whether it's a weekend destination or stopover on your Puget Sound adventure itinerary, Manchester State Park offers a glimpse into the natural world of Washington and the history that surrounds it.
Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, in the high-desert landscapes of Eastern Washington, is a geological wonder waiting to be explored. Today, Sun Lakes-Dry Falls stands as a skeleton of one of the biggest waterfalls in geological history.
It is also a testament to the impressive acts of nature that formed much of the scenery in Eastern Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The Visitor Center at the park features informative exhibits about the history and creation of Sun Lakes-Dry Falls.
Likewise, the top campgrounds in Washington deliver with a wide range of landscapes including waterfalls and volcanic craters. The top white water rafting and kayaking adventures in Washington also highlight the wild side of the state.
For winter adventures, our guide to Washington ski resorts have you making turns in no time. To mark this year's 100th anniversary of Washington's state parks system, we asked readers to name best and worst state parks and share their photos.
WASHINGTON HAS IT ALL: shrub-steppe landscape in the east, forested mountains, rugged coastline with big archipelagos and bays, sinuous river valleys. The canyon has tall steps of white and brownish rock exposing millennia of geological formations.
South of the Colville Reservation, the Park’s dramatic complex is a prime example of shrub-steppe habitat, irregular lakes and ever-changing levels of terrain. The Park is commonly known for the Deception Pass Bridge (listed in the National Register of Historic Places) one of the most photographed scenic spots of the Pacific Northwest area.
Located on both sides of a strait in the north of Puget Sound, the Pass offers a wide variety of scenery: two lakes, beaches, green cliffs falling into the ocean and trees everywhere. It’s family friendly park that is worth visiting any time of day because you can hike, sit, play or just enjoy the light.
Although it is not a secluded area, the fog, the coastline dotted with big driftwood, and the ever-changing Pacific Northwest weather create an eerie landscape offering anything from beautiful sunset views to wet, wind-swept days. You’ll see wide sand beaches on the right, supposedly the longest in the USA with a 28-mile stretch, and green and brown salt marshes on the left.
This State Park is ideal for a short break in your day/road trip if you are North-east of Yakima Indian Reservation and on the shores of the Columbia River when it becomes the Wampum Lake. In the Ginkgo Petrified Forest you’ll see how minerals in lava replaced organic matter in trees eras ago, thus creating a landscape with sculptures that are recognizable and yet are out of our usual visual imagery.
The 3-mile loop, the Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail, is short, but you’ll work hard on some steep sections. Located within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest along the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range, the Wenatchee State Park is a Pacific Northwest example of pristine natural beauty.
It isn’t difficult to find a secluded spot, but teeming wildlife also means presence of bears, wolves and cougars. The 1919 lighthouse guards the Hard Strait and is directly in front of Victoria, BC, which you might see on the horizon on a clear day.