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A land where glaciated peaks rise abruptly from densely forested slopes, gigantic, active volcanoes dominate the horizon and regions of vast wilderness promise adventures of the finest vintage, walks in Washington are extraordinarily diverse. Trails explore temperate rainforests, high mountain passes, a stunning coastline and beguiling woodland.
There’s everything from short, scenic ambles to gruelling backcountry hikes that get the heart pumping and the soul soaring. Discover the Pacific Coast, where sheer islands tower above the rolling waves. You’ll fall hopelessly in love with the state’s three national parks, all of which promise unforgettable days amongst magnificent mountain scenery.Hikes in Washington take you into powerfully dynamic landscapes. Ephemeral waterfalls cascade from rock walls in spring, the land glows in autumn and winter ushers in a white wonderland. The Pacific Ring of Fire runs straight through the state; its great volcanic bastions, still geologically active, are an inspirational sight.
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The highest peaks in Washington are the iconic volcanoes of the High Cascades. Emblematic of the region, glacier capped Mount Rainier, at 14,411 feet (4,392 m), is a truly sensational sight. Its huge topographic prominence means that it absolutely dominates the surrounding national park. Walks in Washington don’t get much better than those found here. Its lower reaches are cloaked by ancient woodland and encircled by gorgeous wildflower meadows. It’s worth noting that you will need to apply for a permit if you plan to camp within the national park.
Further south, Mount St Helens is most famous for the devastating eruption that ripped the volcano apart in 1980. Its north facing aspect is a haunting sight to behold on a ramble; it’s as if some giant has gouged out half the mountain.
The Cascade Mountains cleave the state in two, with the land to the west exposed to weather fronts rolling in off the Pacific, whilst the drier lands to the east remain sheltered. The North Cascades National Park boasts the most rugged mountains on mainland USA. Many of the best hiking trails in Washington explore these spectacular peaks, whilst their 300 glaciers feed the majestic waterfalls, rushing rivers and turquoise lakes the region is known for.
To the west of Seattle and the complex, fjord-like stretch of Puget Sound is the magnificently diverse Olympic National Park. The mossy trails that explore the temperate Hoh Rainforest are uniquely charming. As well as this, there’s almost a million acres of wilderness, glacier-capped peaks and dense coniferous forest, meaning you’ll never run out of opportunities for adventure. And let’s not forget the 70 miles of wild Pacific coastline, featuring beautiful beaches and rocky island sentinels that rise dramatically just off the shoreline.
Hikes in Washington are most popular during the drier months of July and August. If you don’t mind occasionally braving the elements, spring is the time when glacial melt sets the waterfalls in motion, whilst autumn’s colours are magical well into October.
Parks remain open during the winter, but snowfall does often limit road access and makes higher trails impassable to all but skilled and equipped mountaineers. As for year-round accommodation, Washington’s inns and lodges offer a comfy bed, great food and that famously friendly American hospitality.
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