WASHINGTON ROAD TRIP
Washington is home to some of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes, from a rugged coastline to snowy mountains, and the best way to see it all is from the road.
We arrived in Seattle on May 6th in the morning and went straight to pick up our camper van. I have always loved a road trip, I am one of those hopeless romantics who enjoys the road more than the destination.
After we packed up with groceries and some beers we started the trip, direction to Olympic National Park.
This National park is located in the state's northwestern corner, just across the Salish Sea from Victoria, Canada.
We didn't plan the time we would be spending at every place, but instead, we decided to enjoy every place and go to the next when feeling so.
This said, we spent 2 days in Olympic. Such a beautiful place!
Do not forget to pack a raincoat for Olympic NP!
This National park includes the Pacific coastline, alpine areas and a temperate rainforest. There is a $30 fee per car to access all the areas of the park, but you only have to pay to visit some of them.
Ironically,I enjoyed more the places that nobody talks about, and less the more popular ones.
We stayed the first night at this cute State Park outside Sequim.
State Parks are great options to spend the night. They offer a spot with a fire pit, table, space for your tent -in case you have one- public bathrooms and showers, and a beautiful natural environment.
funny story, the first night we messed up and misunderstood the price to pay- you leave the money in a envelope. We did pay $10 but it was $30! We'll learn this later on the trip.
Anyway, after a beautiful sunset - rainbow included- we rested and woke up prepared for a hike to the Hurricane hill.
To our surprise the whole night was raining and the early morning as well and the road was closed. I learned later that they open daily after mid May and only some days before that, so if you are going check it out!
We didn't lose our enthusiasm and went to out next stop, Lake Crescent and Marymere Falls. WOW!!!
The road to get there is so beautiful, we stopped a few times before getting to there.
The lake Crescent is a glacier lake and very close to it you will find the Marymere falls. To get to the falls you walk into a beautiful and mystical old forest.
After walking in the forest the whole morning we headed to Forks. If you are a fan of twilight you'll probably know this is the town where the movies are based in.
I know this is a must visit for so many people but not for us. We just stopped to get some gas and kept going. I always try to find the good things about a place, but I did not like this town. I do not know if it was because we visited off peak and it was empty or because the feeling of an abandoned town. Anyhow, how I said at the beginning I only spend time in places I find interesting so since we didn't want to explore anything there we went to Hoh Rainforest.
This is another place to spend some time at! This is a unique temperate rainforest with a fascinating ecosystem, that features moss, old-growth Sitka spruce, ferns, and wildlife of all kinds. Its unique ecosystem has remained unchanged for thousands of years and it is now the most carefully preserved rain forest in the northern hemisphere
We did The Hall of Mosses Trail coming in at 0.8 miles and the Spruce Nature Trail at 1.2 miles.
We ended the day the best way possible, on the beach.
Ruby beach is a gem!!! It got its unique name from reddish granules that often gather together on the shore.
This is not the typical beach, sandy and with palm trees but I would say even more beautiful than that.
Olympic NP has over 70 miles of rugged coastline that features rocky stacks emerging from the sea and driftwood lining the shore. Simply beautiful and dramatic.
We were so lucky to be there during this time of the year, the beach was there only for us for a while. Only a few more people
visited it that afternoon.
We spent the whole evening there, running, dancing, exploring.
There are a few campings in the area and lodging options.
On this day we were planning on going to Mount St Helens but we had a problem with our van -it was leaking gas- and had to go to Portland, Oregon, to get a new one. (The van company was very nice and they compensated us for the lost day, the miles and the gas).
Since we were already there, we took advantage of the trip and enjoyed a walk and our lunch at Washington park.
This is the crown jewel of Portland, a 410 acres park home of gardens, memorials, a zoo and more.
The Rose garden is the oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. The space features more than 10,000 roses!! They start blooming in June so we couldn’t see them but we found other beautiful flowers in full bloom.
We have a lot of driving to do, so we head towards Mt Rainer.
We arrived late in the afternoon to find the area all snowed! We did not expect so much snow and cold so we looked for a small Inn right outside the Park to spend the night and warm up.
The day after we entered the park -$30 fee- to see even more snow up to the mountains! It was a bit disappointing not to be able to do the hikes as expected but the view was priceless.
Mt Rainer with a summit elevation of 14,411 ft is the highest mountain in the state of Washington.
There are three main areas of Mt. Rainier National Park: Paradise, Sunrise, and Mowich Lake
Sunrise is best for first time visitors with tons of trails and beautiful views of the mountain.
Since we couldn’t do any of the trails we left Mt Rainer before expected and headed to Snoqualmie falls.
Snoqualmie Falls is a 268 ft waterfall on the Snoqualmie River. It is one of Washington’s most popular scenic attractions located 45 minutes from Seattle and known internationally for its appearance in the television series Twin Peaks.
The waterfall is not only beautiful but a source of power. In 1889 Charles Baker constructed an underground power plant at the falls in the 1890s which still functions today. The power plant resulted in electricity and jobs for locals, and soon a small town company was established at the falls.
Don’t rush parking at the first parking lot you see. There are two parking lots. The first one is located in front of Snoqualmie Falls Park and costs $7. The second parking lot, which is free, is located across the street.
You can view the falls from a convenient park area with a platform giving 180 degree views of the waterfall and the Salish lodge..
Something that caught my attention along our trip was these little drive-thru coffee shops along the roads.
I have never seen anything like this before, they are all over the place and they are the cutest!
In general they are close to a main road or gas station and they are so small and offer such good coffee!
I took this photo right outside Snoqualmie city.
Let's keep moving towards Leavenworth.
To get there you'll we be passing Washington Pass, which marks the high point of the most scenic road trip in Washington State, before descending down into the foothills of the Cascades.
Leavenworth, a fake Bavarian town to attract tourists.
In the early 1960’s the town was death and in a last-chance effort to turn their precarious situation around, the leaders of the community decided to change Leavenworth’s appearance, hoping to bring tourism into the area. Using the beautiful backdrop of the surrounding Alpine hills to their advantage, the town agreed to remodel their town into a Bavarian village.
Having been to Bavaria, I can say that they did an admirable job imitating the small Bavarian towns but the town screams 'I am made for tourists!'
Still, we enjoyed Leavenworth so much. We were so lucky to find an almost empty town and enjoyed different outdoor activities around the town.
Campers! there is a free parking lot for campers to stay overnight right in the city.
The first day we started with an awesome breakfast at Louie's cafe and walk around the town and the river.
In the afternoon we had such a nice visit to Silvara Cellars.
We arrived right after they opened at 12pm and the manager spent a while taking to us, explaining everything about their place and their wines. Very nice.
Located just outside of Leavenworth, with views of the Cascade foothills, and surrounded by pear trees, tons of them! We learned there that the whole area has tons of pear trees among apples, cherries and vines - this cellar collect its grapes from other areas in Washington.
We ordered 2 different tasting flights and OH MY! I only can say that most of time when I do a tasting I find what I like and what I don't from the winery but in this case, every single wine was very good. I understand now why they have a few awards .
My absolute favorites were the Chardonnay and Petit Verdot.
After so much wine -we were a bit tipsy- we went for a hike! Yeah I know we are crazy.
Sauer's Mountain Trail is mostly known for locals and not that much for tourists, and such a beautiful trail!
The trail is on private property, and is made accessible thanks to the property owner who built it. There is only room for about 10 cars.
We enjoyed a variety of funky art on the first section of trail, including many of the Sauer's carved totems and faces on trees. Then, views of the surrounding peaks and wildflowers everywhere.
An afternoon walk: PEAR TREES EVERYWHERE! before coming here I had no idea about it but, commercial pear production in the U.S. is centered in Washington and California.
I later googled why they were planted together and why they were so small. I came to know that they are planted together to force them to compete for nutrients, water and sunlight, holding back vigor and prompting more fruit. And keeping trees to no more than 12 feet tall allows the use of shorter ladders and less time on ladders for workers, cutting pruning time in half and increasing picking efficiency.
This trend was introduced by Rudy Prey, a Leavenworth farmer, and follows now for others around.
After about a two hour drive from Leavenworth, you’ll land in the wild, wild west!
Winthrop is a very small town, western-style buildings, housing shops, galleries and restaurants line a wooden boardwalk.
Native Americans were the first inhabitants of this land. In 1883, the first permanent white settlers arrived in search of gold.
One of those settlers, Guy Waring, decided to make a home there. This would be the beginning of Winthrop.
In 1972, State Highway 20 was nearing completion over the North Cascades and local business owners began planning for travelers passing through the town. They agreed to the idea of a western-themed restoration which still exists.
Despite of this being a town made for tourists , when we visited it were so many locals here and it felt really authentic.
After this beautiful stop we are headed to The North Cascades National Park, characterized by jagged peaks, deep forested valleys, cascading waterfalls, and over 300 glaciers.
Like Mt Rainer, the higher areas of this National Park were full of snow and therefore we couldn’t do the hikes we wanted to. But despite of this fact, the area is simply majestic and beautiful!!
We entered the park from the east to find this splendid snowed mountains.
If like us, you travel to this park before summer time and you aren’t able to do the hikes, take a drive, stop at the lookouts, at the river and Diablo lake.
It is still totally worth the visit.
Diablo lake is a dam with distinctive turquoise color in summer, due to the glaciers melting -the result of suspended fine rock particles refracting sunlight- and an intense blue before summer time.
The best thing about visiting before peak season is that the place is gonna be almost for yourself. We spent a few hours by the lake enjoying the view, the good weather and a Leavenworth local beer.
Icicle -How Leavenworth was known before the Bavarian aesthetic - Its a local brewery that we did not have to visit but Tom was obsessed to try because of their slogan 'From the top of the mountain to the bottom of your glass'
He drove me crazy for two days saying the slogan!!!! Until we found the beer at a supermarket and bought a pack of 6.
I am so glad we did! Tom was happy, the beer was pretty good and the design of the can was so cute -made by a local artist- I brough one back home.
By the late afternoon we ended up at another State Park, Rasar State Park. This time we did not pay the $30 neither!
But this time was because we could talk to one of the workers and told us you can pay 12 if you don’t use one of the whole spaces but only a spot at the parking. So we did since we just wanted to sleep.
We had an unexpected extra day , since we couldn’t do all those hikes, before we were planning on going to Seattle.
We took advantage of this and went to the Skagit Valley to see the tulips and then Seattle!