As fall approaches, it's only natural to try and squeeze the most out of the last days of summer by exploring the great outdoors. Hiking, swimming, and camping are excellent ways to relax, and what better place to do it than in one of the national parks in Washington state?
You can't go wrong with any national parks Washington state has to offer—but we went ahead and listed a few of our favorites.
Mount Rainier National Park
At 14,400 feet high, Mount Rainier isn't just the highest peak in Washington—it's also the mountain with a pretty great beer named after it. If that's not reason enough for you to visit, then the surrounding national park should be.
Mount Rainier National Park has it all: old-growth forests, magnificent wildflower meadows, and breathtaking vistas. And did we mention the mountain itself is an active volcano? Better visit it before the next eruption!
Just two hours from Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park offers incredible hiking trails, iconic fire lookout towers, and accommodation in the historic Paradise Inn.
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is a vast wilderness area, home to emerald green lakes you won't believe aren't Photoshopped. At over 500,000 acres in size, accessing much of the park isn't, well, a walk in the park. But for the adventurer willing to take a ferry ride or a multi-day hike, some true hidden gems can be found.
The lack of crowds around most of the park means you'll likely have the trail and shore to yourself, so feel free to skinny-dip. Just a tip, though: glacial runoff water is cold.
Olympic National Park
When one thinks of rainforest, Washington state isn't what usually comes to mind. However, Olympic National Park in Western Washington is home to nearly a million acres of wilderness, including temperate rainforests like the Hoh Rainforest.
Whether you're into fishing, hiking, boating, or laying out on the beach, it can all be done at Olympic National Park. Don't forget to take a look at the weather forecast, though—they don't call them rainforests for nothing.
Honorable Mention: Lake Wenatchee State Park
Remember when we said this was a list of the best national parks Washington state has to offer? Well, we changed our minds. Lake Wenatchee State Park deserves a spot on our list despite its pedestrian state park status.
Boating, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, cycling, and hiking are some of the many activities that make this park a perennial tourist destination. Just a dozen miles from the Bavarian-style town of Leavenworth, Lake Wenatchee has plenty of amenities for those seeking a relaxing outdoor vacation.
There's no need to visit just in the summer, either. With year-round camping and RV parking, Lake Wenatchee makes for a fine winter destination as well.
So there you have it: our podium ranking of the best national parks in Washington state. Whether you're an experienced wilderness trekker or a complete newbie, Washington has a park for you. Now get out there and start exploring!