We recently moved to Washington State, after spending all our lives on the east coast. Upon our arrival, we were immediately greeted by an abundance of adventures waiting to be had. From hiking snow capped peaks to exploring ocean caves, we try and make the most of every free second we have in the Pacific North West. Unfortunately, after close to a year in Washington, we realized the majority of our trips had been based around the great state of Oregon, somehow skipping the incredible beauty our new home state had. So with that in mind, we packed up Alice (our new overland expedition Jeep) and hit the road for two weeks, in hopes of exploring as much as possible across the entirety of Washington State.
Itinerary: 12 Days/ 11 Nights 1677 Miles
Start/ Finish: Portland, OR
- Columbia River Gorge
- Maryhill Stonehenge
- Palouse Falls State Park
- Spokane, WA
- Leavenworth, WA
- Cascade Loop
- Wallace Falls State Park
- Mt Rainier National Park
- Olympic National Park
Columbia River Gorge
Being based just North of Portland, we hit the road heading East on highway 14 down the Columbia River Gorge. Home to beautiful waterfalls and hikes, the Columbia River Gorge and Gifford Pinchot National Forest have become our backyard. (If looking for more information on either area please check out these posts NOW!) Passing by the beauty of the Washington side of the gorge, we crossed the Bridge of the Gods ($2 toll) and hopped on the Historic Columbia River Highway. This scenic highway offers great views of the Columbia river while taking you through the great town of Hood River. Boasting over 300 days of sunshine a year, Hood River is home to some of the region’s best Kite Boarding as well as numerous breweries and restaurants. Be sure to make a quick stop and grab a view and a beer at the Big Horse Brew Pub and Restaurant.
Continuing East, the Historic Columbia River Highway will take you to an amazing photo spot at the Rowena Crest Viewpoint located in the Tom McCall Preserve. An amazing place for night/ time-lapse photography, Rowena Crest is a must see for any amateur or professional photographer. Only a half hour further down the scenic riverside Historic Columbia River Highway and you will arrive at Washington’s Maryhill Stonehenge. Built in 1929 as a replica of England’s Stonehenge, Marryhill Stonehenge was constructed to be aligned with the summer solstice sunrise. We lucked out and were able to set up camp just in time to enjoy the last super moon of 2019, (the Worm Moon) rise over the Stonehenge. Of course, we were not alone, as a group of shamans had a spiritual ceremony in the middle of the Stonehenge during the spectacular moon rise.
Tips: Be prepared for anything!
Palouse Falls State Park
After cooking a quick breakfast off the tailgate of our Jeep, we hit the road again, towards Washington State’s official state waterfall, Palouse Falls. The 3 hour drive through the rolling farm lands of Washington State will give you an all new perspective on the state best know for its rigid Cascade beauty. Raging at 198 feet, Palouse Falls empties into a large cross section of the Columbia River Basalt Group. Similar to parts of the Snake River in Idaho, Palouse falls’ geology is barren and more closely resembles canyons from the Southwest than anything in the Pacific North West.
Tips: Stay on the beaten path, as multiple deaths have occurred from novice hikers falling while searching for a great photo.
Heading to Spokane, to visit old friends, we continued through the rolling hills of Eastern Washington. Spokane , the second largest city in Washington State, is home to Spokane Falls, a series of rolling waterfalls in the center of the city. Established as a trading post in 1810, Spokane is now home to over 200,000 people. We were able to catch up with some old friends who live in the area before heading to MT Spokane for a day of skiing and riding. Although incomparable to the larger mountains of Western Washington, MT Spokane still offers a wide variety of terrain, making it a great ski hill for all abilities. With 45 runs and a yearly average of 162 inches of snow, MT Spokane is a great place to spend the day from November to April! Check out their pricing guide and trail map at https://www.mtspokane.com/.
Challenge: Spend a maximum of $20 at the good will on your friend’s outfit, then hit the bars! (Bonus points if you act like you’re wearing a normal outfit. )
Seeking more snow, our friends Jordan and Rosie, loaded up their car and followed us to Leavenworth, Washington. A beautiful Bavarian themed town, Leavenworth sits at the base of Washington’s incredible Cascades. Leavenworth boasts record breaking crowds for its award winning Oktoberfest, as well as its Christmas time parades and activities. Regardless of the season, Leavenworth is sure to put a smile on your face as it transports you to the European Alps. Enjoy the large brewery scene, nutcracker shop, and countless boutiques, while admiring the beauty of the mountains and Bavarian Architecture.
Tips: Despite what they say, you are still in the US, so leave your Euros at home. 🙂
Despite a lack of backcountry permits, and an abundance of early spring snow, we put the Jeep in 4-wheel drive and set off on an adventure through the Cascades. I Highly recommend driving Route 2, Stevens Pass Highway. The lower edge of the infamous Cascade Loop, Route 2 will take you through Stevens Pass offering breathtaking alpine views. Although we were unable to complete the full loop (Route 20 remains closed through the winter season) we were still able to experience the beauty of this windy alpine road, engulfed by 12,000 foot snow capped peaks. As you near Seattle, be sure to stop in the small town of Gold Bar, Washington for some fun hiking at Wallace Falls State Park.
Tips: Investigate some of the side roads for more spectacular views!
Wallace Falls State Park
Your $40.00 Washington Discover Annual Pass will grant you entry to Wallace Falls State Park, a small alpine forest located at the western base of the Cascades. We threw on our Osprey packs and hit this easy 6 mile loop trail, stopping at the base of the falls for a quick lunch sponsored by Mountain House. With a 30 year shelf life, these light weight freeze dried meals our any adventurer’s go to for substance while on the trail. Using a Jet Boil, we were able to make a delicious lunch of turkey casserole in a matter of minutes, leaving our tummies full and bodies nourished. Check out their full line of delicious entrees, snacks, and desserts at https://www.mountainhouse.com/, or pick them up for only $7.00 (2 serving pouch) at your local Walmart.
After finding a secluded alpine lake beach in the heart of the Cascades, we decided to set up camp and enjoy another beautiful Washington Sunset. Depending on the season, be sure to bring the proper gear, as even in April temperatures can easily drop down to the teens . Alice the Jeep proved her worth once again, making it easy to navigate through the snowy terrain and onto the beach.
Tips: Bring Layers and be sure to have 4 wheel drive!
Mt Rainier National Park
After an amazing night’s sleep, thanks to the fresh mountain air, we packed back up and headed out of the Cascades to Mt Rainier National Park. Home to Mt Rainier, the park offers access to 25 glaciers and countless trails. Over 10,000 people attempt a Mt Rainier summit every year, with over 50% of them being successful. Unfortunately, mother nature had different plans for us. As soon as we entered the park a spring time blizzard made its way in, leaving us rushing back down the mountain and out of the park. We will be sure to attempt Mt Rainier again in the summer, so that we can experience all of what it has to offer. You don’t have to be a mountaineer to appreciate its beauty though, the park is very accessible via multiple roads that will take you as high as the snow line. Be sure to stop and admire Christine Falls just off the main access road while exploring the park!
Tips: You must have 4 Wheel Drive with traction tires and/or chains to enter the park during winter months.
From Mt Rainier we took the short drive to Seattle for a fun weekend of museums, baseball, and sight seeing. We hit the streets and were able to experience amazing views at the Seattle Space Needle, mind blowing glass sculptures at the Chihuly Glass Garden, and great food at the Pike Place Public Market. If time permits, go for a romantic nighttime ride on the Seattle Great Wheel, a 175 foot Ferris Wheel located on the edge of the harbor, at Pier 57. For a more detailed review of Seattle ,and all that it has to offer, please check out our Seattle Adventure blog post (coming soon).
After a fun weekend in the city, we packed Alice the Jeep back up and took the Bainbridge Ferry across the Puget Sound. After enjoying the 45 minute ferry commute, we pressed on to the highlight of our trip, Olympic National Park.
Tips: Public transportation is cheap and easy, so utilize Seattle’s amazing bus system while exploring the city.
Olympic National Park
After exploring many of the National Parks, Monuments, and Forests that grace the beautiful United States, we have never been as captivated as we were by the diverse beauty of Olympic National Park. The towering mountains cascade down into the majestic Pacific ocean, leaving you with an overwhelming sense of tranquility. No other National Park exists that can offer snow capped mountains tops, lush rain forests, gorgeous alpine lakes, and sea stack coast lines, all within its boundaries. Even after spending 5 days exploring Olympic National Park, we were left with the feeling that we had just begun to scratch the surface of this amazing park and the secret gems that lay inside.
The Northern side of the park allows access to Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent from the small ocean side town of Port Angles. Hurricane Ridge is the highest vehicle friendly point in the park, and gives breathtaking views of Mt Olympus and her sister peaks. Hurricane Ridge is home to some amazing back country skiing opportunities , and is open to skiers and riders every weekend throughout the winter season.
West of Hurricane Ridge is lake Crescent, an amazing alpine lake encased by the snowy peaks of Mt Olympus. We made camp here for the night, after exploring the nearby Marymere Falls. The waterfalls are accessed from a short 2 mile loop, which take you through an amazing grove of tall redwoods.
Continuing to the most Western point in the lower 48, we arrived at Cape Flattery to enjoy some amazing sunrise sea stack views. Following a quick freeze dried breakfast and coffee, we headed south through the Makah Indian Reservation to Shi Shi Beach. A very muddy 4 mile hike will take you to a back country beach, which with proper permits is friendly to wilderness camping. Be sure to pick your permit up ahead of time at https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/shi-shi-beach-olympic-wilderness.htm
After enjoying the incredible beach views, we headed South to Sol Duc falls, and the Hoh rainforests. With multiple short (<2 mile) hikes, these areas of the park bring you through the lush green rain forest that the Pacific North West is famous for. Set a day aside to explore these fun areas and treat yourself for a refreshing swim at the Sol Duc Hot Springs.
While slowly working our way down the coast line of Olympic National Park, we stopped at Ruby beach for a night of s’mores and beach side campfires. Be sure to stop at the Kalaloch Campground, for incredible beach side camping as well as a view of an incredible spot called the Tree Root Cave. Tree Root Cave is an in-explainable natural phenomenon showcasing a large tree whose root system has been left with no stability due to erosion. Despite harsh coastal winds and storms, this Tree of Life survives and maintains itself as a truly wonderful site. Book your campsite reservation for Kalaloch campground now at https://www.thekalalochlodge.com/explore/olympic-national-park/tree-of-life.
To learn more about Olympic National Park, or for further details on must explore areas, please visit our all inclusive Olympic National Park blog post here.
After a few weeks on the road, we finally felt as though we were no longer strangers to our new home in Washington. Even if you can only visit one ore two of the places we were able to explore, be sure to add Washington State and its beauty to your next bucket list adventure.