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National and State Parks

While Seattle is a bustling, cosmopolitan city, it also seamlessly blends in with Washington’s natural beauty. Experience the state’s three national parks and 142 state parks—with pristine beaches, forests, mountains, meadows, and lakes—on a day trip or weekend getaway.

Mount Rainier National Park stretches out over 95,660 hectares and has five visitor areas, with some open year-round. Travel here to see the iconic mountain up close and to hike kilometers of wildflower-filled meadows in summer or snowshoe in winter.

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If you’re wondering where can you find mossy rain forests, wild beaches, calm lakes, and jagged mountains, the Olympic Peninsula’s Olympic National Park is only a three-hour drive away and offers some of the most diverse landscapes in the state. In one trip you can go from gazing at towering sea stacks along the more than 112 kilometers of coastline to paddling on clear-blue Lake Crescent. Boaters set off in search of fish, while nearby campgrounds, hiking trails, and Lake Crescent Lodge cater to nature-lovers. And don’t forget a side trip to Forks, a tiny logging town now famous as the setting for the Twilight books and movies.

North Cascades National Park rounds out Washington state’s trio of national parks. A three-hour drive from Seattle, it encompasses the northern region of the dramatic Cascade Mountain range. Drive along scenic North Cascades Highway (WA-20) for a road trip that curves around forested mountains and reveals breathtaking viewpoints of lakes, glaciers, and more. If you’re staying for a weekend, Ross Lake and Diablo Lake are jumping-off points for adventure, from hikes and boating excursions to wildlife spotting.

While the national parks are understandably popular, so too are the many Washington State Parks. (You’ll need to purchase a one-day or annual Discover Pass in order to park; the fees help support the preservation and maintenance of the beautiful wildland.) Several of these state parks are close to Seattle, making them ideal if you want to return to your accommodations in the city for the night.

Saint Edward State Park, located on the north end of Lake Washington about a 30-minute drive from downtown Seattle, once housed a Catholic seminary and now is home to sprawling lawns, over 900 meters of shoreline, an enormous castle-like playground, and a fine-dining restaurant. The seminary was also recently renovated into a charming hotel known as The Lodge at St. Edward Park. Lake Sammamish State Park, about a 20-minute drive east of downtown Seattle, lies on the southern shore of Lake Sammamish and features hiking trails and plenty of bird-spotting opportunities. And for water-lovers, Dash Point State Park near Tacoma, about a 45-minute drive south of Seattle, features deep beaches right along Puget Sound. Seek out starfish and crabs, build sandcastles, and watch locals glide across the water on skim boards.

Travel Info: Mount Rainier is a drive (172 kilometers) from Seattle and requires an entrance fee. Olympic National Park is a three-hour drive (178 kilometers) from Seattle and requires an entrance fee. North Cascades National Park is a three-hour drive (172 kilometers) from Seattle and does not require an entrance fee. Saint Edward State Park is a 30-minute drive (24 kilometers) from Seattle. Lake Sammamish State Park is a 20-miute drive (24 kilometers) from Seattle. Dash Point State Park is a 45-minute drive (43 kilometers) from Seattle.

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