Washington - Mount Rainier, North Cascades, & Olympic National Parks

Washington - Mount Rainier, North Cascades, & Olympic National Parks
Maple Pass - June 2023

Jordan had always mentioned how beautiful the Pacific Northwest was, so we rented a camper van, some KOA campsites and set off to trek the most iconic hikes throughout the state's National Parks. We hiked 40+ miles on this trip, sipped coffee, and smelled the sweet evergreen fragrance that the PNW has to offer. The camper van ended up being a cozy experience that we plan to have again in the future, and our favorite hike of the trip was Maple Pass Lake in North Cascades!

We rented a camper van through the Outdoorsy app. The van had a queen-sized memory foam mattress, a mini-fridge, a Jet Boil, and we bought a propane-powered camp stove to heighten the experience. We booked KOA campsites for some access to shower and laundry facilities and camped on National Forest Roads and dispersed camping.

We relied heavily on AllTrails as well as the NPS websites to understand the trail conditions and equipment needed in order to explore safely. As our trip was in mid-June, we were expecting to be hiking in areas with snow still covering the trail. Downloading the trail map ahead of time was essential as large sections of the trails had not recently been hiked and some areas/hikes were closed.

Summary of Hikes:

Day 1: Ohanapecosh Hot Springs & Silver Falls Loop - Mount Rainier National
Day 2: Skyline Trail Loop - Mount Rainier National Park (Our favorite in Mount Rainier)
Day 3: Blue Lake Trail - North Cascades National Park
Day 4: Maple Pass Trail - North Cascades National Park (Our favorite of the trip! And NC)
Day 5: Point Wilson Trail- Fort Worden State Park
Peabody Creek Trail - Olympic National Park
Day 6: Lake Angeles Trail - Olympic National Park
Day 7: Marymere Falls Trail & Mount Storm King - Olympic National Park (Our favorite in Olympic)
Day 8: Twin Falls Trail- Olallie State Park

Day 1: We picked up the van and drove to Mount Rainier

At Whittaker Mountaineering in Ashford, for $12, we were able to rent microspikes for the following day when we planned to hike the Skyline Trail which we knew would still be largely covered in snow. Our first real stop was for food at Rainier BaseCamp Bar & Grill! We enjoyed taking the time to sit by one of their many firepits, eat pizza, drink beer, enjoy live music, and savor the distant mountain views. A perfect way to unwind and relax after conquering a travel day!


Ohanapecosh Hot Springs & Silver Falls Loop- Mount Rainier National Park

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate. Distance: 2.9 miles. Elevation gain: 521 ft. Time: 1.5 hours. Trailhead: Ohanapecosh campground.

We hiked this trail our first night after a long day of travel and found it to be the perfect start to our adventure. Minimal effort with high rewards. This trail was 2.9 miles and took us about 1.5 hours with time to marvel at the rushing turquoise-blue waters of the Ohanapecosh River and majestic Silver Falls.

After completing our hike, we found ourselves a secluded spot along Skate Creek Road (National Forest Road 52). We enjoyed the last of our leftover pizza heated up over the propane-powered camp stove, opened up the windows, and fell asleep listening to the gentle babbling of Skate Creek. The cherry on top of a perfect first day was waking up in the middle of the night to a sky full of stars.

Day 2: Hike in Mount Rainier. Drive to North Cascades

We woke up early on our second day, ready to get a head start on our main hike in Mount Rainier National Park.

But first- coffee! We grabbed a latte from Rise and Grind in Ashford and enjoyed it during our short drive up to the Jackson Visitors Center. We had no trouble finding parking and then spent the next 30 minutes walking back and forth from the van to the trailhead while we decided how many layers of clothes we really needed to wear. (It’s less than you’d expect for a snow-covered mountain!) Within minutes of starting the steep climb up the trail, both Parker & I were down to our t-shirts, with jackets, hats, and gloves thrown into our backpack and forgotten.

Skyline Trail Loop - Mount Rainier National Park

Difficulty: Moderate. Distance: 5.6 miles. Elevation gain: 1,771 ft. Time: 3-4.5 hours. Trailhead: Jackson Visitors Center in Paradise.

This trail was absolutely stunning considering it was only June and the colorful wildflowers were right on the cusp of blooming. We were treated to breathtaking views of Paradise Valley, Mount St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood in the distance. It was a perfect hike for showcasing the beauty of Mount Rainier. Since we only had one full day to spend in the park, we were glad to have chosen this trail. We completed the 5.6 mile trail in 3 hours 15 minutes, getting lost at a few points and glissading our way around. We hope to return one day for a larger mountaineering expedition up to the summit.

After completing our hike, we began our driving adventure to the North Cascades and arrived at our campsite: Concrete / Grandy Creek KOA Holiday.

Day 3: Hike in North Cascades.

We started our morning bright and earlier with lattes at North Cascades Perks Espresso & Deli in Concrete. Yes, we do prefer sugary, flavor-packed beverages vs. straight-up coffee. It’s also fun to check the local recommendations for their specialty flavors.

The drive across North Cascades National Park was a long one. If we’d planned better, we probably would’ve done both our planned hikes on day 3 so that we could pick a 3rd hike that required less driving. That being said, we did enjoy making extra stops along the day at the North Cascades National Park Visitors Center and Diablo Lake.

Diablo Lake

Blue Lake Trail - North Cascades National Park

Difficulty: Moderate. Distance: 4.6 miles. Elevation gain: 915 ft. Time: 2 hours. Trailhead: South side of the road between mileposts 161 and 162.

This was a short and easy hike, showcasing jagged granite peaks, dense forest, and an iridescent blue subalpine lake. As mountaintop enthusiasts with a craving for high elevation and panoramic views, both Parker & I felt that this left a lot to be desired. However, we enjoyed our lunch lounging on the banks of Blue Lake, gazing through the crystal-clear water at the wild native Cutthroat trout, and wandering each side of the shoreline to see the lake from multiple viewpoints. This was a 4.6 mile trail which took us just over 2 hours to complete. If we’d planned a little better, we likely would’ve grouped this hike in the same day with the Maple Pass Loop since they are both located in the same vicinity.

After a long day of driving and site-seeing, we had dinner at Lyman Tavern in Lyman. Casual bar vibes with a fun outdoor patio and a brisket dip sandwich which had Parker begging to return the next day (and the day after that).

Day 4: Hike in North Cascades.

Got up, made coffee, and hit the road!

We started our day early in anticipation of what we expected to be our favorite hike of the trip - and we weren’t disappointed!

Maple Pass Trail - North Cascades National Park

Difficulty: Challenging. Distance: 6.5 miles. Elevation gain: 2,162 ft. Time: 3-4. hours. Trailhead: Rainy Pass picnic area.

We saw the most incredible panoramic views at the top of Heather-Maple Pass- snow capped mountain peaks, jewel-colored alpine lakes, and wildflower buds as far as the eye can see. We were even treated to a marmot sighting! We did not have microspikes or hiking poles. We both felt that although they may have been helpful, they were not necessary. We hiked this loop counterclockwise and took the additional detour to Lake Ann. Later in the summer, this is undoubtedly a worthy side-quest. However, with large sections of the trail flooded out from recent snow melt, we felt that the views of Lake Ann were more beautiful from above. We hiked this 6.5 mile (plus an additional 1.2 miles to see Lake Ann) in 4 hours and 20 minutes.

After making the long drive back to camp, we enjoyed delicious burgers, crispy fries, and salted caramel milkshakes at Birdsview Diner in Concrete. Cute patio seating with bonfire pits, lawn games, and twinkly lights make this a post-hike paradise.

Birdsview Diner

Day 5: Drive to the Olympic Peninsula. Explore Port Townsend. Hike in Olympic.

We made early reservations to take the ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend on our way out to Port Angeles and Olympic National Park. We did not anticipate just how cute Port Townsend would be and spent a few enjoyable hours wandering through the historic downtown, eating ice cream from Elevated Ice Cream Co, and stopping to have lunch at Sea J’s Cafe on the Dock. Amazing crab cakes and fried halibut!

Sea J's

We met friendly locals who recommended a stop to Fort Worden State Park to explore an old World War II bunker.

Point Wilson Trail- Fort Worden State Park

Difficulty: Easy. Distance: 2.7 miles. Elevation gain: 209 ft. Time: 45 minutes. Trailhead: Fort Worden State Park parking lot.

We strolled down the white sandy beaches of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Point Wilson Lighthouse, taking time to marvel over the incredible views across Puget Sound. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Baker, Vancouver Island, the San Juan Islands, and the Cascades in the distance.

Fort Worden Historical State Park was once part of the US Army's Coast Artillery Corps. With its hidden gun emplacements, expansive parade lawns and restored Victorian-era Officers' homes, it was an enjoyable way to appreciate the area’s history while also taking a leisurely walk along the beach.

With plenty of time left in the day, we decided to make our way over to the Olympic National Park Visitors Center. Here we found the trailhead for the unexpectedly beautiful Peabody Creek Trail.

Peabody Creek Trail - Olympic National Park

Difficulty: Moderate. Distance: 5.2 miles. Elevation gain: 950 ft. Time: 2.5 hours. Trailhead: Peabody Creek Trail parking lot.

While the first section of the trail is a paved loop, the true beauty of this trail becomes evident once you cross the first log bridge over the Creek and onto the lush, moss-covered trail. Continuing several miles along a babbling creek, we were rewarded with canopied forests of moss-covered trees, blankets of ferns, and a black bear sighting! We spent 2 and a half hours hiking this 5.2 mile trail.

After finishing up our hikes for the day, we settled in at our campsite at Olympic Peninsula / Port Angeles KOA Journey. The views of Hurricane Ridge from our campsite were stunning!

Day 6: Hike in Olympic

We got up right away and started our day with lattes from NW Coffee Company in Port Angeles.

At this point in the trip, we were starting to get a little tired of doing so much driving. So rather than driving out to the northwestern side of the park to see Forks and La Push, we opted to pick a longer hike in the Port Angeles area.

Lake Angeles Trail - Olympic National Park

Difficulty: Challenging. Distance: 6.9 miles. Elevation gain: 2500 ft. Time: 4.5 hours. Trailhead: Third Peak Trailhead.

In our opinion, the true reward of this hike is at the end, soaking in the views of a crystal clear subalpine lake carved by glaciers. We ate our lunch on large boulders surrounded by emerald waters on the lake shore. Like most of the hikes we did at Olympic National Park, this was an uphill-in and downhill-out kind of trail. We hiked this 6.9 mile trail in 3 hours and 45 minutes.

After our hike, we spent the afternoon exploring historic downtown Port Angeles. We went back to Northwest Fudge and Confections multiple times to stock up on their huckleberry cheesecake fudge (and, of course, huckleberry cheesecake ice cream!)

We finished up the day with Next Door Gastropub - their wild mushroom burger is an absolute flavor bomb!

Day 7: Hike in Olympic

Got up and grabbed lattes from Rise N Grind in Port Angeles.

Marymere Falls Trail & Mount Storm King - Olympic National Park

Difficulty: Challenging. Distance: 4.5 miles. Elevation gain: 2200 ft. Time: 3 hours. Trailhead: Mt. Storm King parking lot.

We started with the short, easy jaunt over to Marymere Falls, a beautiful loop through old-growth forest to a 90-foot waterfall before backtracking a bit to the Mount Storm King Trailhead - a steep uphill-out and downhill-back trail ending with beautiful views over Crescent Lake. The ropes section at the top is very do-able... if there's no rain and it's not slippery. We got lucky and were able to make it to the amazing views at the top!

We had lunch after the ropes section at the top. Parker fed his to a handful of hungry Canada Jays.

These two trails made for a combined distance of 5.8 miles and took us 2 hours and 45 minutes.

We finished off our day with pizza from Gordy’s in Port Angeles before making our way over to Salt Creek Recreation Area to enjoy the beach. We would’ve loved to have stayed longer to do some more exploring in this area of the unique marine wildlife visible at low tide!

Day 8: Explore Edmonds. Hike at Olallie State Park

We woke up to a rainy and foggy day, opting to get started back towards Seattle. Parker had read that whales can often be seen during the Edmonds - Kingston Ferry crossing. Although we didn't see any, the ferry was still a fun way to get out and enjoy being on the water. In Edmonds, we enjoyed the annual Edmonds Arts Festival that was in town for the weekend.

While we were in the area, we stopped for lunch at Restaurant Christine in Seattle. Unquestionably the best seafood we had the entire trip - the Summer Risotto with crab is something I’ve been dreaming of since we left.

With time left to spare, we decided to backtrack a bit and venture out to Olallie State Park in North Bend.

Twin Falls Trail- Olallie State Park

Difficulty: Moderate. Distance: 2.5 miles. Elevation gain: 615 ft. Time: 1 hour. Trailhead: Twin Falls Trailhead.

We were not expecting this hike to be as beautiful as it was! The trail splits off at the end for viewing of the upper and lower falls. We accidentally continued on the trail too far before realizing it does not, in fact, loop back around.

For our final night in Washington, we found ourselves a quiet National Forest Road and settled in, ready to wake early for a full travel day back home.

Day 9: Fly Home

Of course, it happened on our very last morning- we found the best coffee and scones on the trip at Vintage Baristas in North Bend! They give you the option to have your scone with or without frosting. (Pro tip: always get the frosting!) 10/10.

The rest of our 5-hour journey home consisted of a lengthy discussion on our desire to return one day for mountaineering and more great adventures!