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As the 18th largest state in the U.S., it’s nearly impossible to experience all of Washington, especially when considering that Eastern Washington, Western Washington, and the Olympic Peninsula all boast completely different territories in regards to climate, culture, and landscape. Promising several historic mountains like Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Baker, Washington is a hotbed of essential outdoor recreation.
At its core though, tourists travel to the Evergreen State to experience its awe-inspiring scenery, its city and small-town charm, and some of the best hikes in the country. Here’s how to make the most of your next visit, find the best destinations, and hike your way through the state.
Underneath the rain shadow on the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula sits Port Townsend, a small town with no more than 10,000 residents. Come summertime though, its many festivals and trademark seaside vacation vibe result in a sharp spike in traffic. Tourists seep in from all over to attend its historic Wooden Boat Festival, meander through the local shops and restaurants downtown, or explore the Fort Worden State Park, one of three military forts that makes up the Admiralty Inlets “Triangle of Fire.” As for accommodations, Port Townsend is full of Victorian-styled bed and breakfasts to prep you for your local hiking hubs.
Hike through the Larry Scott Trail or Hurricane Ridge
The Larry Scott Trail is perfect for visitors seeking a less strenuous outdoor excursion that includes views of the Cascades and the Puget Sound. The trail, which starts at the Port Townsend Boat Haven and runs south for a little over seven miles (11.2 kilometers), is both flat, accessible, and well taken care of.
As for those hoping to experience more of a climb, check out Mount Angeles, a six-mile-long (9.6 kilometers) trek accessed via the Hurricane Ridge visitors center where hikers need to stop and pick up a $10 national park Discover Pass. Prepare to climb, as this hike involves a 1,254-foot (383.3-meter) elevation gain, with its highest point reaching 6,454 feet (1,967 meters).
Seattle is a destination hot spot despite its temperamental wet weather. Its iconic Space Needle and Pike Place Market, along with its music history and scenic parks, draw tourists from all over the globe. It’s a coffee lover’s haven and home to many restaurants, such as Portage Bay Cafe, that boast locally sourced dishes. Grab a coffee before walking through one of the city’s many parks. Then tour the market before grabbing a bite to eat on Capitol Hill at Oddfellows Café + Bar. This will fuel you before your next hiking discovery.
Hike through Discovery Park or Mount Si
Atop the Magnolia neighborhood in Seattle is Discovery Park, the largest park sitting in the Emerald City. The park, which occupies over 500 acres, is home to over 11 miles (17.7 kilometers) of easily accessible, fairly flat trails that offer views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.
A little way outside of the city, situated in North Bend—home of the Twin Peaks Double R Diner—is Mount Si, an eight-mile (12.8-kilometer) roundtrip hike that includes switchbacks and 3,000 feet (914.4 meters) of elevation gain. Like Mount Angeles, visitors must purchase a $10 Discover Pass in order to access the trail. Water and snacks are essential, as Mount Si is an all-day hike. At its peak, hikers witness sprawling views of the Pacific Northwest and Mount Rainier.
Spokane is the second-largest city in Washington State. Bordering Idaho, the eastern city looks wildly different from its western counterpart, a result of the jutting Cascade Mountains that separate the state. For those who prefer flatter land, hotter summers, or snowier winters, Spokane is a perfect Washington destination for both adventure and leisure. Take a tour of downtown Spokane’s historic buildings featuring a number of Revival-style and Art Deco-inspired structures like the Davenport Hotel and the Fox Theater. Or walk alongside the Spokane River and hop on the cable car that will take visitors to Spokane Falls. For art enthusiasts looking to skip this particular hike, spend an afternoon at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.
Hike through Palisades Park or Palouse Falls
Palisades Park, just outside of Spokane, is a 464-acre green space chock-full of native plants. The park features a number of trails with views of Mount Spokane and the Selkirk Range. Along the way, visitors can explore the Indian Canyon Falls.
As for hikers looking to get away from the city, check out the iconic 200-foot (60.9-meter) Palouse Falls, Washington’s official state waterfall. Basalt cliffs surround the waterfall that drops into the winding Snake River. The trek itself is only a mile long with a meager 800 feet (243.8 meters) of elevation gain. But the views are worth the two-hour drive outside of Spokane.