It’s hard to find a more diverse area than Washington State. This place has everything: dry deserts inland, rough, un-maintained mountain peaks, rain forests, dense and lush evergreen woodlands, and sandy beaches perfect for surfing or whale watching along the coast.
So, it’s no surprise to anyone that Washington must have some amazing viewpoints. But some of the most breath-taking views aren’t going to be advertised on google, or with a simple “Seattle tourism” search, despite being so very near to the metropolis. With a little sweat and a lot of determination, hidden views like this can be found:
Best Kept Secrets in Washington:
If you are a newbie to hiking, or prefer higher-traffic areas, don’t be afraid to climb Mt. Si or Rattlesnake Ridge. They offer gorgeous views, a good workout, and won’t disappoint. And by the time you are finished, you will have a little taste of Washington, and a better understanding why most “Pacific Northwesterners” say that they love the “Upper Left USA”. For more information, simply search these hashtags: #upperleftUSA, or #pnwonderland: you will understand why.
1. Mountain Loop Highway
Get a taste for the wilder wilderness in Snoqualmie-Baker National Park. There are numerous hikes (and easier strolls) that offer a little off-beat taste of Washington. And the Mountain Loop Highway is just out-of-the-way enough that it offers the pristine views without anyone else in your photos.
Here are a few of my recommendations:
- Big 4 Ice Caves:
- A 3-4 hour expedition to see a glacier ice-melt that form caves throughout the late spring and summer. Gorgeous views of the scraggly mountain behind the caves
- Hidden waterfalls all along the base of the big-four mountain
- Gothic Basin/ Foggy Lake:
- A 7-8 hour intense hike offering the opportunity to dive into icy alpine lakes at the summit of the Northern Cascade Mountains
- 2500ft elevation gain, with an additional 800ft change to get to the deepest lake in the basin
- Full of blueberry bushes as you ascend
- Wallace Falls:
- A 3-4 hour sweat-worthy hike with incredible views that rival Snoqualimie Falls, without the people, of course
- The upper-falls view point is the most intense, with the lower and mid viewpoints providing secluded but beautiful views at novice-level hiking abilities.
2. Olympic Penninsula Area:
I can’t rave enough about Olympic National Park and all of the beauty I encountered there. If you want to experience Washington in its glory, that is the national park to visit first. It’s got everything- from a 17-mile scenic drive (Hurricane Ridge) to crystal-clear lakes as blue and expansive as the sky itself (Crescent Lake). Here are some of my recommendations:
- Mount Townsend:
- An intense climb full of super-steep switch backs, with unrivaled views at the top. Spend the night camping and experience thick fog that envelopes you as if sitting in a cloud.
- Marymere Falls:
- 1-2 hour stroll back through the forest to view 120-foot waterfalls cascading gently over moss-covered rocks.
- Hurricane Ridge:
- A long scenic drive full of wild deer, snow capped mountains, and views of neighboring Canada.
3. Central and Southern Washington
Travel a few hours inland for incredible views surrounding “the gorge area” and experience the tranquility near one of the many rivers in the state.
- Salmon La Sac:
- Nearby Cle Elem, park your vehicle along the river and find the good jump-off points. Extra credit if you discover the rope-swing someone installed dropping into one of the many basins along the Cle Elem River
- ***Beat the heat and bring a floatie and a beer
- Head farther east along I-90 and reach Ginko Petrified Forest or the awesomeness that is Vantage. Perfect for rock climbers and those that prefer desert climates
- Onetonta Gorge:
- Recently more popular, this gorge requires wading through shin-to-chest deep water in between cliffs to eventually reach a waterfall at the end of the hike
The bulk of these excursions can be found in Western Washington, although the eastern portion of the state is a wonderland of itself, with topography completely differrent than Western WA. Dxperience it for yourself! Do you have any favorite off-the-beaten-path hikes and viewpoints that I haven’t mentioned?