There are few places on the globe that offer the scenery and outdoor adventures to match the Pacific Northwest. That’s why this unique area is richly populated with National Parks that protect its natural beauty and give visitors the chance to explore its wilderness.
If you’re new to park-going, the sheer number of National Parks in this area can seem overwhelming. Where do you start? What do you see? Where do you stay? Luckily, we’ve made this helpful guide to make planning (and living) your national park adventure as easy as possible. Read on for the top six can’t-miss national parks in the Northwest!
Even novice parkgoers have heard of the wonders that await at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. This complex and diverse landscape became the world’s first National Park in 1872, inviting nature enthusiasts the world over to explore its unique geothermal landscape. From active geysers to bubbling hot springs to the world’s largest petrified forest, park-goers will find plenty of unique outdoor experiences to create memories and adventures as you explore the wonders of this historic national park.
What to Do: Hiking, photography, sightseeing and camping are the most-popular activities in Yellowstone. During the summer, you can also enjoy fishing, swimming and boating at Yellowstone Lake.
Don’t Miss: Old Faithful. The park’s most-famous attraction is a natural geyser that erupts every 90 minutes, offering visitors an awe-inspiring view at nearly 130 feet in the air. Find a seat near the geyser boardwalk or hike to the overlook point for an aerial view.
Where to Stay: After a long day, Little Fox cabin keeps you in rustic comfort just minutes from Yellowstone National Park.
Located just 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton may be less known than its famous neighbor – but it’s no less mesmerizing. The park boasts 310,000 acres of stunning mountain landscape, ranging from the major peaks of the Teton Mountain Range to the mountain valley known as Jackson Hole. Its changing elevations give visitors plenty of diverse ecosystems to explore, from glittering alpine lakes that mirror soaring mountain peaks to lush valley floors teeming with flora and wildlife.
The park is known as a historic hotspot, its first explorers canvassing the area almost 11,000 years ago. Some of its rock formations are the earliest you can find in any American National Park, dating back some 2.7 billion years!
What to Do: Hiking, sightseeing, swimming and boating are the most popular recreational activities in Grand Teton National Park.
Don’t Miss: Mormon Row. This iconic historical site gives visitors a glimpse into life on a Mormon homestead in the 19th century. The road is dotted with original homestead barns framed against spectacular mountain backdrops and is popular among professional photographers and travel enthusiasts alike.
Where to Stay: Teton Harmony is a luxurious mountain hideaway just minutes from Grand Teton National Park. Get in the hiking mood with an invigorating session in your private weight room, and retire to your personal hot tub for some relaxing TLC when the day is done!
If you’re new to national park journeys, Crater Lake National Park is the perfect place to get your feet wet. Its namesake lake is the deepest and clearest in the United States. At nearly 2,000 feet, its volcanic depths are fed almost entirely by snowfall, giving it a reflective sapphire hue you have to see to believe. Surrounding the lake are more than 180,000 acres of mountainous peaks and evergreen forests that reflect off the water in postcard perfection. You’ll be Instagram-famous with these pics!
What to Do: Obviously, boating and sightseeing are the most popular activities in the park during the busy summer months. During the winter, visitors can enjoy cross-country snowshoeing and skiing to explore the landscape.
Don’t Miss: The Rim Drive. This scenic driving trail surrounds the lake and offers 30 distinct viewpoints where you can stretch your legs and overlook the park from a birds-eye view.
Mount Ranier, the park’s namesake peak, is an active volcano that soars more than 14,000 feet to the most glaciated peak in the continental United States. Wildflower meadows and ancient forests line the outer rings of the mountain, offering park-goers a dramatic climb full of stunning scenery and thrilling pursuits.
What to Do: Mountain climbing, hiking, winter sports, and scenic drives are the most popular recreational activities in the park.
Don’t Miss: A trip to Paradise. No matter what time you go, the Paradise area of the park is one of the most popular spots for visitors. During the summer you can soak in views of its lush meadows full of blooming wildflowers; during the colder months, it’s a prime area for winter sports and snow-lovers.
Hardcore adventurers will love the snowy glaciers and isolated wilderness that stretch across North Cascades National Park. A picture of rugged terrain, the 700,000-acre park is known for its stunning combination of cascading waterfalls, jagged peaks, alpine lakes and deep valleys. The majority of the park lacks basic infrastructure and is only accessible by foot, making it one of the most strenuous (but rewarding!) national park adventures in the state.
What to Do: Hiking, mountain climbing and boating are the most popular recreational activities in the park.
Don’t Miss: Stehekin Valley. This secluded community nestled at the foot of the North Cascade Mountain Range is only accessible by foot or ferry. Its unspoiled culture, history, and dramatic landscapes make it the perfect base from which to explore North Cascades National Park.
With more than a million acres of diverse landscapes and wildlife, Olympic National Park is the place to go if you’re seeking ecological diversity. The park encompasses miles of wild coastline, lush rainforests, and glacial peaks that provide stunning views and recreational fun for visitors of all ages.
What to Do: Hiking, tidepooling, camping and fishing are the most popular recreational activities at Olympic National Park.
Don’t Miss: Taking a trip into the Hoh Rain Forest. One step into this lush, dense canopy of trees, moss and wildlife, and you’ll feel like you’re hiking through an enchanted fairy tale. Stop by the visitor center first to grab a map and get some advice from the knowledgeable park rangers.
Got your park itinerary ready? Then let’s #PackYourBags and get started planning that adventure!