Washington State is home to three National Parks, three National Historic Parks, one National Historic Reserve, two National Historic Sites, three National Recreation Areas, one National Historic Trail, and one National Volcanic Monument. All but two of these are within 4 hours drive time from Seattle. These well known and not so well known National Parks and Sites are listed below.
Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve - Coupeville
The reserve was set aside by Congress in 1978 to preserve and protect a rural community, a cultural landscape that is a laboratory of Pacific Northwest history. Today, historic land uses continue, with the rich prairie soils still being farmed, the forests being harvested, and century-old buildings being used as homes or places of business.
Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve is located on central Whidbey Island in Washington’s Puget Sound region. The island is easily accessible from the main- land via State Route 20 from Anacortes. The Washington State Ferry system provides year-round automobile service from Port Townsend and Mukilteo. In the summer season, ferry lines for automobiles can be quite long, and travel delays should be expected. For more information, go to: www.nps.gov/ebla/index.htm.
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site - Vancouver
Nestled snugly today in the Vancouver/Portland metropolitan area and enveloped by its highway, rail, air, and maritime commercial networks, Fort Vancouver is a gem of a park whose story as an economic and cultural center told, through engaging programs and a world-class archaeology collection and fascinatingly portends that of the modern-day Pacific Northwest.
As the administrative center and principal supply depot of the British Hudson Bay Company's vast “Columbia Department,” Fort Vancouver served as the hub of an extensive fur trading network utilizing two dozen posts, six ships, and about 600 employees during peak seasons, with an extensive geographic range of 700,000 square miles stretching from Russian Alaska to Mexican California, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Hawaiian Islands.
Fort Vancouver is located on the north side of the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington. The McLoughlin House unit is located in Oregon City, Oregon. Fort Vancouver and the McLoughlin House are approximately 25 miles apart. For more information go to: www.nps.gov/fova/index.htm.
Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park - Seattle
“GOLD! GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!” read the headline of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on July 17, 1897. The article that followed told of “Sixty-Eight Rich Men on the Steamer Portland” and of “STACKS OF YELLOW METAL!” While telegraphs spread the news all over the country, by noon of the same day, eager stampeders had already booked the last place on the Portland returning to St. Michael. But after the precious cargo was weighed, it turned out that more than two tons were on board. This sensational event would catapult Se- attle into a prosperous future.
In 1996 the international significance of the Klondike Gold Rush was officially recognized by Canada and the United States with the creation of the Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park. The Seattle unit, located in the Pioneer Square Historic District, commemorates the origin for many of the stampeders who headed off to the Klondike region. Other units making up the international park include the Klondike Gold Rush Historical Park in Skagway, Alaska and the Canadian parks, Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site and Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Sites.
The visitor center in Seattle is located on the northwest corner of Jackson Street and Second Avenue South. It is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. For more information go to: www.nps. gov/klse/index.htm
Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area - From the Canadian border going to Coulee Dam along the Columbia River, WA
The mighty Columbia River has drawn people to its waters for over 9,000 years. Historically the rich fishery of the river was used for survival and prosperity. Today Lake Roosevelt’s visitors continue to enjoy the river’s recreational offerings of fishing, camping, hunting and boating. Visit Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and experience life on the river past and present. Located in the northeast corner of Washington State, the area offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities in a diverse natural setting. Contained within three distinct geological zones that were sculpted by the Ice Age floods, the park contains the record of more than 9000 years of continuous human occupation.
Historic Fort Spokane
Fort Spokane is one of the cultural jewels of Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. For thousands of years, the area was a gath- ering place for native tribes fishing the rapids of the Spokane River. In 1880, the U.S. Army established a fort above the confluence of the Spokane and Columbia Rivers. In 1898, the military fort was closed. The buildings were then used as an Indian boarding school and tuberculosis hospital. In many ways, the Indian experience at Fort Spokane is a microcosm of the Indian experience across the United States. The grounds are open year round. The Visitor Center and Museum are open in the summer and by request during the fall, winter and spring. Located 21 miles north of Davenport on State Highway 25. For more information go to: www.nps.gov/laro/index.htm
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail - Eleven States: ID,IL,IA,KS,MO,MT,NE,ND, OR,SD,WA
The Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled from Illinois to the Pacific Ocean and back between 1804 and 1806. Over two hundred years later, visitors can retrace the Expedition’s path by following the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Among the more than 100 sites along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, only five are National Park Service sites. Today’s Trail is the product of many diverse groups: federal, tribal, state and local agencies, and public and private organizations. These groups work together across more than 3700 miles of the Trail to provide opportunities for visitors to experience and learn about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and its many stories.
Tracing the courses of the Missouri and Columbia rivers, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail stretches through 11 states. The Trail winds over mountains, along rivers, through plains and high deserts, and extends to the wave-lapped Pacific coast. In this diversity of landscapes, visitors to the Trail create their own journeys of discovery. For more information go to: www.nps.gov/lecl/index.htm
Lewis and Clark Visitor Centers:
Alpowai Interpretive Center
13766 U.S. Highway 12 Clarkston, WA 99403
Phone: (509) 758-9580
Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center
990 SW Rock Creek Dr. PO Box 396 Stevenson, WA 98648
Phone: (509) 427-8211
Fort Walla Walla Museum
755 Myra Road Walla Walla, WA 99362
Phone: (509) 525-7703
Ice Harbor Dam & Visitor Center
1215 E. Ainsworth Pasco, WA 99301
Phone: (509) 547-2048
Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center
PO Box 488 Ilwaco, WA 98624
Phone: (360) 642-3078
Sacajawea Interpretive Center
2503 Sacajawea Park Road Pasco, WA. 99301
Phone: (509) 545-2361
Yakama Nation Cultural Heritage Center
P.O. Box 151 100 Spilyay Loop, Toppenish, WA 98948
Phone: (509) 865-2800
Mount Rainier National Park - Ashford, Enumclaw, Packwood & Wilkeson
Mount Rainier National Park is located in west-central Washington. It is an active Cascade volcano encased in over 35 square miles of snow and glacial ice. The 14,410’ mountain is surrounded by lush old growth forests, spectacular subalpine meadows and a National Historic Landmark District that showcases the “NPS Rustic” style architecture of the 1920s and 1930s. Mount Rainier is the highest peak in the Cascade Range. From various locations around the park you can see four other Cascade volcanoes: Mount St. Helens, Mt Adams, Mt Baker, and Glacier Peak. On a clear day, you can see the tip of Mt Hood, in northern Oregon, from Paradise Meadows.
Mount Rainier has five developed areas: Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise, and Carbon/Mowich. Although the level of development in these areas ranges from basic to little more than a campground and picnic area, to extensive hotel, restaurant, visitor center, campgrounds and picnic areas, each can serve as a base for exploring the rest of the park.
The 93 mile Wonderland Trail encircles the mountain offering hikers commanding views of Mount Rainier blanketed by 25 icy glaciers. The trail leads through extensive subalpine meadows of wildflowers and lowland old growth forest. The Tahoma Creek suspension bridge is part of the Wonderland Trail. For more information go to: www.nps.gov/mora/index.htm
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens is most famous for its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980, which was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; and 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways and 185 miles (300 km) of highway were destroyed. The eruption caused a massive debris avalanche, reducing the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 ft (2,950 m) to 8,365 ft (2,550 m), and replacing it with a mile-wide (1.5 km-wide) horseshoe-shaped crater. The debris avalanche was up to 0.7 cubic miles (2.3 km≥) in volume. It is located 96 miles (154 km) south of the city of Seattle and 53 miles (85 km) northeast of Portland, Oregon. For more information go to: www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/04mshnvm/general/index.shtml
At the same time a mushroom-shaped column of ash rose thousands of feet skyward and drifted downwind, turning day into night as dark, gray ash fell over eastern Washington and beyond. Wet, cement-like slurries of rock and mud scoured all sides of the volcano. Searing flows of pumice poured from the crater. The eruption lasted 9 hours, but Mount St. Helens and the surrounding landscape were dramatically changed within moments.
A vast, gray landscape lay where once the forested slopes of Mount St. Helens grew. In 1982 the President and Congress created the 110,000-acre National Volcanic Monument for research, recreation, and education. Inside the Monument, the environment is left to respond naturally to the disturbance. You can now travel on the east, south and west sides of the mountain. On the west side of the mountain, State Road 504 allows access to five Visitor Centers.
The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Visitor Center at Silver Lake is located at mile post 5 on highway 504. This visitor center shows the eruption on May 18, 1980, and talks about volcanoes in general. Hours are: Winter 9 am til 4 pm 7 days a week. Fee: $3 for adults, 15 and under are free.
The County owned Visitor Center at Hoffstadt Bluffs is located at milepost 27. This visitor center has a unique gift shop offering merchandise hand crafted from Mount St. Helens ash and a variety of other unique items from around the area.
The Castle Rock Exhibit Hall, in the city of Castle Rock, is off I-5, Exit 49, west into town. This visitor center is a great first-stop on your Mount St. Helens adventure, as it features exhibits put together by survivors and residents of the area. Their friendly, first hand experience with the entire region is readily shared. There is no fee, however, donations are accepted.
The Forest Learning Center, located at milepost 33.5, is operated by Weyerhaeuser in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. This Visitor Center leads you through the steps that were taken to salvage the downed lumber and reforest the area. It is possible to take a look through telescopes mounted at the top of their interpretive trail and have the chance to see any elk that may be in the vicinity. Children will joyfully play in the playground, as well as climb into the helicopter and pretend to be flying around the mountain. The eruption chamber is an awesome experience. Exhibit is Free.
The Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center is located at milepost 43. This Visitor Center is operated by the Forest Service and is used as an educational guide showing how change come about after an eruption. There is a short trail, “Winds of Change” that is self-guided and shows what happened on May 18, 1980. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for $5 a day or $30 per year and is good in both Oregon and Washington National Forests. This is a "vehicle pass."
Johnston Ridge Visitor Center opened in May, 1997. This is the closest Visitor Center to Mount St. Helens and you can look into the Crater and see the dome. It is open May through October, depending upon snow. Hours are 10 am to 6 pm, seven days a week. It is a US Forest Service fee site and costs $8/adult.
North Cascades National Park - Including Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas - Marblemount
North Cascades National Park Service Complex
Jagged peaks, deep valleys, cascading waterfalls and over 300 glaciers adorn the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. Three park units in this mountainous region are managed as one and include North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas. These complementary protected lands are united by a contiguous overlay of Stephen Mather Wilderness.
Lake Chelan A Gateway to the Wilderness
JOURNEY DEEP INTO THE NORTH CASCADES to the headwaters of Lake Chelan. Fronted by one of America’s largest lakes, edged by wilderness and surrounded by tall mountain peaks, Stehekin is a remote community connected to the rest of the world only by boat, plane, or trail. The voyage to Stehekin is part of the experience. You travel from the hustle of the modern world to a place where there are no shopping malls, movie theaters or internet cafes. Here, a connection to the land can still be felt. Whether you enjoy boating, fishing, camping, backpacking, hiking, bicycling, horseback-riding, rafting, kayaking, or simply lounging at the edge of the lake, there are plenty of ways to seek adventure or relax.
Stehekin serves as a hub to explore the 62,000 acre (25,100 hectare) Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and a gateway to the rest of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex as well as the adjacent National Forest Wilderness Areas.
Ross Lake National Recreation Area
Thirty miLes of the North Cascades Highway meanders through the upper Skagit watershed among forests and soaring peaks. A variety of activities can be accessed from the corridor including chal- lenging hikes and paddling. A number of scenic vistas, picnic areas, campgrounds and short trails are available for those seeking a more relaxing trip.
Below Newhalem, the free-flowing portion of the Skagit River offers excellent wildlife viewing and rafting opportunities. A launch is located next to Goodell Creek Campground, but careful planning is required to float the swift Skagit as there can be seasonal hazards and closures. Diablo Lake offers the only easy access for launching watercraft off of State Route 20.
The lake, surrounded by glaciated peaks, is a brillant turquoise blue in summer. This unique color is caused by fine rock sediment called glacial flour, carried into the lake by glacier-fed streams. There are three boat-in campsites where a back-country permit is required.
Ross Lake, the largest of the three reservoirs, winds nearly 25 miles from Ross Dam to Hozomeen on the Canadian border. The only vehicle access is via Hope, British Columbia but small motor boats (14’ and under) and canoes kayaks can be portaged around Ross Dam from Diablo Lake. Nineteen boat-in camps (backcountry permit required) and the Ross Lake Resort are available for those looking to spend multiple days in this remote landscape.
Primary access to the North Cascades and Ross Lake National Recreation Area is off of State Route (SR) 20, which connects to I-5 at Burlington. Branch routes lead to Baker Lake (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest) and the Cascade River. In winter SR 20 is closed at Washington Pass beyond Ross Lake. There is no car access to the Stehekin Valley and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Take Highway 2 to the town of Chelan where passenger ferry and plane access is available. There is also trail access off of SR 20. The only road access to the shore of Ross Lake is via the Silver-Skagit Road (gravel) from near Hope, British Columbia. For more information go to: www.nps. gov/noca/index.htm.
Olympic National Park - Port Angeles
Here you will find Pacific Ocean beaches, rainforest valleys, glacier-capped peaks and a stunning variety of plants and animals. Roads provide access to the outer edges of the park, but the heart of Olympic is wilderness; a primeval sanctuary for humans and wild creatures alike. Olympic National Park is west of the Seattle area on the Olympic Peninsula. All park destinations can be reached by U.S. Highway 101, which circumnavigates the Olympic Peninsula. For more information go to: www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm
Seventeen miles south of Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge is the park’s most easily reached mountain destination. The paved Hurricane Ridge Road is open 24 hours a day from mid-May through mid-autumn. During the “snow months”, the road is open, weather permitting, on weekends. Hurricane Ridge offers a visitor center, self-guided nature trails, a snack bar and gift shop, ranger-led programs in summer and a nearby picnic area. Camping is available at Heart O’ the Hills.
Reached by an 18-mile winding gravel road, Deer Park offers spectacular alpine scenery, a small tents-only campground and hiking trails. A ranger station is staffed intermittently during summer and fall. The last nine miles of this steep mountain road are gravel-surfaced, winding and narrow. Please use caution and note that the Deer Park Road is not suitable for RVs or trailers. From late fall until melt-out in late spring, the road is closed at the park boundary.
Temperate Rain Forests
Drenched in over 12 feet of rain a year, Olympic’s west side valleys flourish with North America’s best remaining examples of temperate rain forest. Giant western hemlocks, Douglas-firs and Sitka spruce trees dominate the landscape while ferns and moss cloak the trees and forest floor. In these valleys, even the air seems green.
Hoh Rain Forest
About 90 miles west of Port Angeles, the Hoh Rain Forest has a visitor center, campground and picnic area. There are self-guided nature trails and in summer, ranger-led programs.
Lake Quinault Area - Quinault Rain Forest
Lake Quinault’s north shore lies within the park, while the south shore is managed by Olympic National Forest. Ranger stations, campgrounds, lodging, and trails are available on both sides of the lake.
Exploring the Coast
No two miles of Olympic’s Pacific coastline are alike. From beaches (that might be sandy, rocky, or boulder-strewn!) to cliffs plunging into the sea, you’ll find it somewhere along Olympic’s 73 miles of coastline. Wherever you go along the coast, always carry a tide table and know how to use it!
Mora and Rialto Beach
About an hour’s drive west of Port Angeles, Mora has a campground, self-guided nature trails and a ranger station that’s open intermittently in summer. Another two miles beyond Mora is rocky Rialto Beach on the Pacific Ocean. Picnic tables, restrooms and a trailhead are provided at Rialto Beach.
Kalaloch is known for its wide sandy beach. The Kalaloch area has two campgrounds, a concession-operated lodge, a ranger station with exhibits and informa- tion desk (open daily in summer), a picnic area, self-guided nature trails.
Lake Ozette Area
Although three miles from the Pacific, the Ozette area is a popular coastal access point. A small campground and ranger station (open daily in summer) are located at Lake Ozette. Two three-mile boardwalk trails lead to Sand Point and Cape Alava, both located on the Pacific Coast.
San Juan Island National Historical Park - Friday Harbor
San Juan Island is well known for splendid vistas, saltwater shore, quiet woodlands and orca whales. But it was also here in 1859 that the United States and Great Britain nearly went to war over a dead pig. It is the second largest island in the archipelago of the same name, which is located in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island in British Columbia and the U.S. mainland. For more information go to: www.nps.gov/sajh/index.htm
American Camp - San Juan Island
Camp San Juan Island, today known as American Camp, was occupied by the U.S. Army from July 1859 through November 1874. The only structure that remains today is the officers’ quarters. It is believed George E. Pickett of American Civil War fame lived in this house.
Camp San Juan Island, today known as American Camp, was occupied by the U.S. Army from July 1859 through November 1874. When Great Britain and the United States in 1859 agreed to a joint occupation of San Juan Island until the water boundary between the two nations could be settled, it was decided that camps would be located on opposite ends of the island. American Camp really began on a grassy slope about 200 yards from the shoreline of Griffin Bay. It was a near run thing in July 1859, when Capt. George E. Pickett landed on San Juan Island with his 60 soldiers intent on protecting the rights of American citizens from British authorities. Fortunately the only being injured in this “Pig War” was the pig.
English Camp - San Juan Island
Shortly after the British and American governments affirmed Lieutenant General Winfield Scott’s proposal to jointly occupy San Juan Island, the Royal Navy started looking for a home for its British Royal Marine Light Infantry contingent.
Capt. James Prevost, commander of H.M.S. Satellite, selected the site on Garrison Bay - 15 miles northwest of American Camp - from among seven finalists. He’d remembered the bay shore from explorations two years earlier as a part of the water boundary commission survey of the island. At that time, one of his officers, Lieutenant Richard Roche, had commented on seeing abandoned Indian plank houses nestled among a vast shell midden.
Roche described the ground as “well-sheltered, has a good supply of water and grass, and is capable of affording maneuvering ground for any number of men that are likely to be required in that locality...” He added that a trail, 11 miles long, led from this area to the Hudson’s Bay farm at Bellevue. The marines landed on March 23, 1860. They brought along the necessary materials to erect the first building, a commissary about 40 by 20 feet (which still stands).
While the boundary dispute is perhaps the best-known period in island history - and is colorfully interpreted throughout the year - the park today preserves and protects a rich environment of prairie, forest, shoreline and sea that cannot be separated from the area’s 3,000-year human history. The San Juan Boundary Dispute was the end result of more than three centuries of contention by western European powers over the land and resources of the Pacific Northwest.
As the largest tract of public land on San Juan Island, the park has more than six miles of public shoreline and is also a primary destination of hikers with a network of trails exploring woodlands, prairie and uplands. As a stop along the Pacific flyway, the park also provides temporary homes for more than 200 species of migratory birds.
Whitman Mission National Historic Site - Walla Walla
In 1836, before the era of emigrant wagon trains, five Protestant missionaries decided to cross the continent to establish a mission in what was known then as the “Oregon Country.” In 1847 the Whitman’s were “Massacred” by the Cayuse Indians with whom they lived. This horrified Americans and impacted the lives of the peoples of the Columbia Plateau for decades afterwards. Was killing the Whitmans justified legal retribution, an act of revenge, or some combination of both? The circumstances that surround this tragic event resonate with modern issues of cultural interaction and differing perspectives.
Whitman Mission National Historic Site includes the original mission site, the mass grave where Marcus and Narcissa Whitman are buried, Whitman memorial shaft, and a Visitor Center with a small museum. The park is open all year, 7 days a week, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The grounds are open until dark; Visitor Center hours vary by season.
The park is located in south eastern Washington, 7 miles west of Walla Walla off of Highway 12. Other sites of interest are located in Walla Walla and the surrounding area. For more information go to: www.nps.gov/whmi/index.htm