Looking for the best national parks in Washington state? From national parks to national monuments to preserves, here are the best Washington national parks!
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Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve
Enjoy a walk on the beach while taking in the stunning views of the landscape at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. This reserve was created in 1978 and it’s the first historic reserve in the United States. Today, Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve protects the historical record of Puget Sound while offering amazing opportunities for outdoor activities.
Visitors will enjoy a lot of recreational activities, get to learn about the rich history of this area and how it continues to blossom after so many years. Ebey’s National Reserve is also home to 3 Washington state parks: Fort Casey, Fort Ebey, and Ebey’s Landing where you can enjoy hiking, camping, and picnicking. Other things to do here include visiting the Ebey’s farmland, enjoying the stunning views, and hiking on the nearby trails.
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Located across the water from Portland, this site marks the terminus of the Oregon trail for immigrants. In American history, the forts played a big role in the development of the Oregon territory. In fact, the first school, hospital, trading center, and sawmill were established here in the fort.
While you are here, explore the trading fort to see the blacksmith area, palisades wall, jail, kitchen, and other areas. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site offers Lantern Tours from October to March every year so if your trip here falls during that time, you get to explore the fort with a Park Ranger by lantern! Also, Park Rangers present history lessons and offer saber classes in summer.
Ice Age Floods National Geographic Trail
Sitting a mile south of Washington, Ice Age Trail is a network of routes that connects the sites created by the Missoula Flood 14,000 years ago. This biggest documented flood left behind lakes, ridges, canyons, valleys that have now formed the Ice Age Geographic Trail.
Aside from Washington, this geographic trail has sites in other states including Montanna, Oregon, and Idaho. It also features several interpretative centers which visitors can explore across the regions. One of the favorite stops on this trail is the Palouse Falls State Park which boasts 250 ft waterfalls, camping opportunities, and a 1.4-mile trail that’s popular for hiking.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Seattle Unit)
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park commemorates the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s. According to history, Skookum Jim and his family found gold near the Klondike River in 1896 sparking a frantic gold rush in the region. Many gold seekers boarded ships to reach this area and many people and animals died in the process.
This site is a getaway to learn about the history of Goldrush through artifacts, photographs, journals, and informative displays. Some of the ways to explore this park include taking a 3-hour sightseeing tour of the beautiful city of Seattle, exploring the interactive exhibits, or hopping on a scale to calculate your actual worth in gold.
Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area
Located in central-eastern Washington, take a trip to Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area to learn the stories of American Indians, traders, settlers, and dam builders who once called this place home.
The park boasts 5 mountains, 130-mile-long Lake, and 18 campgrounds which are usually open for overnight stay. Lake Roosevelt also offers opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming, camping, and hunting. You can also explore the trails and engage in watersports activities like water skiing, snorkeling, kayaking, motorized boating, and fishing.
Other points of interest in Lake Roosevelt are the Visitor Center, Fort Spokane Museum, and St. Paul’s Mission where you can soak in the rich history of the area.
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
This trail is part of the national trail system that covers about 4,600 miles and connects 11 US states including Washington, Maryland, and Oregon. Visitors here always enjoy hiking, driving, and biking along the rugged path of the historic trail. People also engage in sports activities like soccer and basketball.
Some popular sites you can explore on the Washington portion of the trail here include the Cape Disappointment Historic District and Chinook Point. Cape Disappointment offers an opportunity to explore the cultural history of the area and features 2 scenic lighthouses and hiking trails that lead to the spot where you can watch the whales.
Lewis & Clark National Historical Park
Lewis & Clark Park commemorates the story of America’s most famous explorers, Lewis and Clark. Things you can do here include exploring the visitors center filled with displays and park movies, hiking down the 14 miles of trails, enjoying the cell phone outdoor tour, and enrolling in the Junior Ranger Program.
Rangers also sometimes offer demonstrations like gun shooting and candle-making during specific periods of the year. While you are here, check out the historic canoe landing, enjoy a guided canoe/kayak tour and experience the Fort Clatstop. You can also attend some of the special events the camp hosts, which include the summer camps for kids in July, the run series for walkers, and the lecture series that run from October to May.
Manhattan Project National Historical Park
This park commemorates the Manhattan project and is currently being run by the National Park Service and Department of Energy. During World War II, the US carried out a secret program known as the ‘Manhattan Project’ which led to the development of the atomic bomb.
Manhattan Project National Historical Park has three sites, one in Washington, another in New Mexico, and in Tennessee. Although most of the area in this park isn’t accessible to the public, visitors can tour some of the open areas by bus.
Minidoka National Historic Site
Learn from history at the Minidoka National Historic site; a site that commemorates the over 120,000 Japanese-Americans that were imprisoned in 1942. When you get here, get on the 1-6 mile interpretive trail along the historic houses and 23 interpretive signs to learn more about this painful history.
Some viewpoints at this site include the Bainbridge Island Memorial that honors the lives of those who were unjustly moved into the concentration parks and the 27 outdoor exhibit labels which provide information and insight into camp life. An exhibit about the park is also available at the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument.
Mount Rainer National Park
With the rugged peaks, the gushing waterfalls, and endless scenic views, Mount Rainer is undoubtedly one of the most iconic national parks in Washington. One of the most popular activities here is hiking as the park boasts 350 square miles with about 350 miles of hiking trails. There are about 6 hiking regions and visitors especially love to try the Skyline Trail at the Paradise Area as it’s known for its amazing landscape views. Other trail regions include the Naches Peak Loop and Wonderland Trail.
To know more about Mount Rainer, make a stop at the Visitors Center which showcases beautiful wildflowers across hundreds of acres. Also, you can enjoy your night by pitching a set in any of the four designated camp spots in the park.
Nez Perce National Historical Park
History lovers will enjoy learning about the story of the people of Niimiipuu here at Nez Perce National Historical Park. This historic park is spread across four states (Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Montanna) and has about 38 sites, many of which could be explored on a day’s trip.
The park has a visitor center in Lapwai, Idaho where tourists can get more information and see the amazing park film. There’s a small museum at the Visitor’s Center that showcases some Nez Perce tribal items, historical sites to explore, hands-on displays and the area the people of Nez Perce lived in for many years. If you are coming here, we recommend bringing along your lunches and snacks.
North Cascades National Park
If it’s only one park you can visit while in Washington, North Cascades will be worth your visit. This park is less than 3 hours from Seattle and is home to beautiful wilderness and wildlife like grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines.
Some popular activities here include taking a road trip through the park, admiring the towering peaks and soaking in the blue waters of Diablo Lake. You can also visit the Ross Lake National Recreation Area at the north unit for boating, fishing, and kayaking activities. If you are up for challenging hikes, explore the mountain county at the hiker’s paradise, and don’t forget to take in the views of the lakes, panoramas, and lush forests while you’re at it. There are also different camping options if you are looking for a fun and adventurous overnight experience.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park boasts glacier-capped mountain peaks, wind-battered beaches, and dense rainforests amongst luscious vegetation. This park is located in the westernmost part of Washington and is now an International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site.
Exploring Olympic National Park can be time-consuming so if you have little time here, we recommend following the Bogachiel River from its Pacific outlet to the HoH rainforest, exploring the Hurricane Ridge, and taking a stroll to Marymere Falls. If you have more time on your hands, visit the Sol Duc hot springs, stop by at Staircase to hike or camp, and take a view of the tall Douglas Firs.
Oregon National Historic Trail
Oregon trail is one of the 19 historic US trails and it marks the over 2,000 miles route early American settlers passed through when heading West.. This trail features numerous locations across different states like Washington, Oregon, and Wyoming and history has it that over 300,000 travelers used to pass through this route around 1840-1860.
From hiking to biking and horseback riding, there are numerous ways to explore these historic trails on your trip here. Visitors also enjoy stopping by the museums along the trail and exploring the trails state by state.
San Juan Island National Historical Park
San Juan Island boasts up to 450 islands scattered across the Salish Sea and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Washington. Some of the islands are covered with lush rainforest, some with seas, some feature spires of rock, and about 4 are inhabited.
San Juan is home to a wide diversity of fauna like deer, different species of birds, minks, killer whales, and more. Its waters also harbor killer whales, porpoises, and seals which interest a lot of tourists. Popular activities in San Juan include fishing, kayaking, crabbing, and paddling.
And if you love history, you can explore and learn about the spot that almost launched a war between Britain and the US in 1859.
Whitman Mission National Historic Site
Whitman offers opportunities to tour the museum, the historic grounds and learn more about Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. The park was named after this duo who were among some missionaries that came to preach Christianity amongst the Native American tribes in Oregon. Whitman Mission National Historic Site provides information and interpretation of the events that led to the death of the Whitmans. There is a monument honoring the Whitmans and a Grave where victims of the horrific events were buried.
While you are here, explore the museum at the Visitor Center featuring some personal belongings of the Whitmans and some Native American artifacts. Also, watch the 25-minute park film, tour the walkable grounds, and relax in the small area at the visitor center.
Wing Luke Museum Affiliated Area
Wing Luke Museum is more than a museum, it’s an adventurous area to be in. Book a guided tour to explore the historic hotel and follow in the footsteps of Asian Americans that called this place home. Also, tour the Chinatown District neighborhood to learn about the Asian culture, and smell the fragrance of Chinese herbs.
This site also features contemporary galleries that showcase informative exhibitions and stories including that of Bruce Lee.