Cruising the American Northwest: Washington National Parks

The American Northwest is home to some of the country’s most iconic national parks. We embarked on an RV journey from Denver to Seattle, exploring six stunning national parks in between. Part 3: Washington State.

Mount Rainier National Park

We arrived in a pitch-black Mount Rainier national park after a long driving day. Cougar Rock Campground is nested deep in the Washington forest. It wasn’t until driving uphill the next day that we caught a first glimpse of sunlight and majestic Mount Rainier.

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We picked the Skyline Trail to bring us up-close with Mount Rainer. This popular six-mile hike starts in the Paradise area of the park. It’s not hard to see where the area got its name from; the glorious alpine meadows are a world apart from the misty forest below.

The views got better with each step we took. On one side looms majestic Mount Rainier, on the other mountain tops rise from the clouds.

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The highest point of the Skyline trail is also the start of a route to Camp Muir, the base camp for summit expeditions. If it was up to my brother, we would have made our way up instead of down.

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After our hike, we returned to darkness. Our grill master turned the misty forest into a snug and savory stay for the night.

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Seattle

After four national parks and ten days of hiking, Babs and I could use a little break of nature. A majority vote and two hours later, we were looking for parking in Seattle.

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Since our visit was short, we kept it to the essentials. Seattle stands for seafood, so that’s where we started. We had a great seafood lunch with views of Elliot Bay in Elliot’s Oyster House. This was enough Seattle for my brother, who picked a nap over a stroll in the city. Babs and I continued to Pike Place Market, Seattle’s hip farmers’ market.

We couldn’t leave Seattle without a picture of its famous skyline. A steep walk uphill brought us to Kerry Park, the perfect spot to watch the sun set over the Space Needle and Elliot Bay. That is, if you are lucky enough to visit Seattle on one of the 71 sunny days a year.

We stayed at the Seattle Tacoma KOA for its closeness to the airport, as our fourth musketeer was rejoining the trip. The campground was clean but a little grey, a feature shared with its host city.

Olympic National Park

On Saturday morning, the four of us fueled up with a classic American breakfast on the way from Seattle to Olympic.

Olympic National Park was everything you would expect: rainy, foggy and fifty shades of green. Most activities require a long drive into park, so we kept it to a short hike along the Heart O’the Forest trail. As mysterious this park may be, the drizzle chased us back into the RV.

Since the Heart O’ the Hills Campground was first come, first served, we opted for a guaranteed spot at Port Angeles KOA. Located right outside the park and surrounded by beautiful views, this was our favorite KOA so far.

North Cascades National Park

We made our way up to the Canadian border for the last stretch of our trip. With just one full day in stunning North Cascades National Park, we chose to put our legs to the test one last time. The Sourdough Mountain trail promised a non-stop climb through forest and meadows, to a 360-degree view of the Cascade peaks and the lakes below.

The first part of the hike was hard and not the most rewarding, climbing out of the forest with nothing but pine trees in sight. But our sore legs quickly revived once the forest made way for the Cascade meadows.

The last stretch of the hike is accompanied by stunning views of turquoise Diablo lake. Once at the top, Ross Lake gets added to the impressive 360-degree view. We took in the scenery with a snack before starting our painful descent.

This hike was a worthy ending to two spectacular weeks in the American northwest. We spent our last night of the trip on the Colonial Creek campground, before turning in our house on wheels in Seattle.

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