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Nothing encapsulates the land of the free quite like the wide-open spaces of the United States national parks. From the highest peaks to the lowest crevasses, an electrifying sense of adventure is embedded within these parks.

With three terrific and diverse national parks, Washington State provides some of the best natural spots in the USA.

These parks offer an abundance of stunning views and adventurous activities for all kinds of travelers, so be sure to get a camera backpack for some awesome shots.

Unsure how to navigate these bountiful natural terrains of the best national parks in Washington? We’ll walk you through an in-depth guide of the must-see structures and unmissable adventures to add to your itinerary.

State and National Parks in Washington State – What’s the Difference?

While national and Washington state parks are both protected areas and open for exploration, they are not the same thing. The National Park Service has ways to classify parks in the USA.

There are some key differences between state and national parks to tell them apart.

Firstly, state parks are managed and governed by a particular state and specialize in conserving these natural settings. National parks are also protected by the government, but they are managed by the federal US government.

National parks are usually larger in size than state parks in Washington. So, the national parks are a great choice to add to your vacation plans if you want to spend a few days immersed in nature.

The larger size of national parks, however, often equates to more inaccessible terrains. Luckily, this makes for great outdoor adventure sports, such as kayaking and free climbing.

Best National Parks in Washington – 3 Top Parks to Visit & Explore

If you’re planning to do some national park camping, Washington provides some phenomenal settings. From majestic mountain ranges to rainforests, these parks are a nature lover’s playground.

North Cascades National Park

Diablo Lake North Cascades National Park in Washington

Lovingly dubbed as “The American Alps”, the North Cascades National Parks is a wonderful park to experience.

Entrance Fee:

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, this national park is our top pick. Park entry requires no entrance fee. However, be sure to visit the information center to obtain a free permit if you plan on camping within the park grounds.

Top Things to Do:

As the least visited park among the bunch, the North Cascades National Park has a quiet remoteness embedded in its essence. So, if you’re looking for a proper escape from the daily grind of life then we highly recommend taking a trip to this gem.

What makes this national park so unique is how it encompasses a variety of terrains to explore. With an expansive forest setting and a vast selection of lakes to discover, you’ll feel spoilt with choice.

The North Cascades National Park is divided into three sections including Ross Lake, Chelan Lake National Recreational Areas, and the North Cascades National Park itself.

With an abundance of rough and rugged terrains, North Cascades National Park is an adventurer’s and dreamscape come to life.

There is a wide range of hiking trails available, ranging from relatively easy to challenging, all with amazing scenery and viewpoints to enjoy.

The only main road in the park is Highway 20, which provides the perfect scenic drive to incorporate into a road trip. This is where the magnificent Diablo Lake can be viewed in all of its glory.

With seemingly otherworldly turquoise waters nestled in lush greenery, Diablo Lake is an experience like no other.

The effervescence of the lake is due to melted glaciers transporting rock flour into the lake. The rock flour in the lake reacts to sunlight and gives a milky blue hue to the water.

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier Wildflowers in Washington

Mount Rainier National Park is known as one of the best national parks in Washington State and it’s easy to see why. The area offers countless activities and amazing sceneries to experience.

Get ready to trot along the winding trails near an active volcano. This park is the ultimate place to experience the beauty of nature with an edge. Known as the tallest mountain in Washington State, Mount Rainier is the ultimate place to embark on some epic hikes.

Entrance Fee:

Park fees are allocated depending on what type of vehicle you are entering the park with. If you’re planning on visiting the park on foot the entrance fee is $15 per adult and valid for seven days.

Top Things to Do:

The Skyline Trail is one of the most popular hike trails of Mount Rainier National Park with some of the most awe-inspiring views in North America.

This trail, aptly residing in the area known as Paradise in the park, will have you revel in its wonders.

With the impressive views of the snow-powdered glaciers acting as an oasis in a field of rolling green hills, you’ll be sure to feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard.

While you’re in the Paradise side of Mount Rainier National Park, be sure to add Narada Falls to your itinerary. The cascading waters offer a serene spot to exhale your troubles and inhale the healing properties nature provides.

If you find yourself at this wonderful park in summer, you’ll be able to see how the full bloom of the wildflowers bespeckle these terrains.

 With a variety of hiking regions within the park to choose from, be sure to get a good pair of hiking boots for your trekking adventures. 

Olympic National Park

Hoh Forest Olympic National Park in Washington

Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this national park in Washington is revered for its natural beauty and complex expansive ecosystems within the park. Olympic National Park truly encompasses an endless variety of natural spectacles.

Entrance Fee:

The Olympic National Park entrance fees are also determined by what vehicle you are driving into the park grounds. Individuals that enter the park on foot or with a bicycle are charged 15$ per adult.

Children aged fifteen and younger are allowed to enter the park for free.

Top Things to Do:

Coastlines, lakes, canyons, rainforests, and mountains – you’ll be able to explore a rich tapestry of natural phenomenons.

Make your way through the enchanting Hoh Rainforest overflowing with untouched natural beauty. Its lush surroundings are embraced by moss and a feeling of eerie calmness.

Located on the west side of the park, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in this peaceful paradise with various hiking trails to explore.

Be sure to stroll through the Hall of Mosses Trail to marvel at the moss-covered ancient trees of this national park.

If you’re after a quintessential American lake vacation experience, you can head to the charming Lake Crescent in the northern parts of the park. This is where a variety of activities, such as fishing and kayaking, can be enjoyed.

Rather looking for a lazy day at the lake? Enjoy the serene waters and restful atmosphere on a portable hammock, and slowly rock your time away in peace.

Visiting the Washington State National Parks – Top Tips

North Cascades National Park in Washington

Be Mindful

The main concern of any state or national park is preserving and protecting its natural inhabitants. So, if you’re planning on spending a few nights, be sure to leave no trace of your short stay behind.

Plan Your Trip Ahead

While a day trip to the national parks of Washington State is extraordinary, you’ll soon find it’s simply not enough. The endless scenic views and activities can only be fully appreciated by an extended stay. 

Pack Smart

If you’re planning on taking a few days to explore these wonderful parks, it’s important to pack light and efficiently. These national parks offer some wonderful yet challenging hikes, so some extra unnecessary weight will only slow you down.

Whether you’re planning to visit one national park or a few, chances are there will be a variety of diverse terrains to prepare for. From a durable tent to first-aid kits, be sure to prepare according to what type of adventure you’re planning on.

Check Weather Conditions

Absorbing the quaint and serene tranquility of nature, we often forget its elements can be unpredictable.

In the summer months, from mid-July to September, the roads in the national parks are open and ready to be explored. This is often seen as the best time to visit the national parks as the main sights are easily accessible.

Whereas from the end of September to June, a few park roads tend to be closed due to weather restrictions which might limit your experience of the national parks.

Final Thoughts on Washington National Parks

Mount Olympic National Park Coast Line Washington

The fresh air, the low hum of animal activity, and the ingrained sense of serenity of a national park – Washington State provides the best of the best.

Embellished with sublime natural settings and adventures, the national parks of Washington are a fundamental experience to fully appreciate the beauty of this great state.

Walking through these picturesque plains will not only be a highlight of your trip to Washington but a staple, unforgettable excursion. These national parks are filled with countless nooks and crannies waiting to be discovered.

Essential Info: Logistical Tips and Tricks to Book your Trip

Regarding cheap airfare, I highly recommend using Skyscanner and Expedia. These are two of the sites I use the most due to their exhaustive search on several websites and airlines around the world. They usually bring the cheapest fares.

Additionally, I recommend getting the WayAway Plus membership to save money on cheaper fares and earn cashback (sent straight to your PayPal) on your bookings.

For hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and other types of accommodation, I highly recommend They are my go-to booking site because they usually have the cheapest fares.

If you’re a registered user (“Genius”), you can take advantage of their “Genius discount” to save even more money. I almost always book my accommodation with Booking, and I’ve saved thousands of dollars with their Genius discount.

And of course, as one of the largest travel booking sites in the world, Expedia is another excellent accommodation booking site with a free reward program and discounted member prices.

If you’re looking to save money by staying at a hostel, HostelWorld has the largest inventory of hostels with shared dorms and private rooms. On the other hand, Vrbo offers a wide variety of rooms and apartments at affordable prices.

Travel insurance with comprehensive coverage will protect you against unexpected events like theft, cancellations, injury, and illness.

I use HeyMondo to insure my trips and recommend them. Their affordable plans offer a 24/7 assistance platform for claims, medical coverage for every traveler, adventure sports and covid-19 coverage, and more. And better yet, GloboTreks readers get 5% off their plan! Get a quote.

Alternatively, if you’re a nomad and travel often or long-term, then SafetyWing could help you save a lot of money on long-term travel insurance.

If you’re looking for the best day tours and cheapest ticket entrances to local attractions, I recommend checking Viator, as they have the largest selection of attractions, passes, and activities all around the world.

 offers the easiest and most accessible way to book overland transportation with local operators, be it by bus, train, ferry, plane, mini-van, or even private transfers.

If renting a car, then I highly recommend DiscoverCars to get the largest car selection at the best price.

Lastly, check out my resources page for some of the best products and companies to use for your trip. If you like saving money (like I do!), then this page will help.

Adventure Awaits


Plus, receive a short e-book with 15 Beginner Tips and Tricks to Save Money on Flights!​

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One Comment

  1. My parents visited Olympic National Park and cannot say enough wonderful things about it. I can’t wait for the opportunity to go myself. Thanks for a great article.