National parks in Oregon and Washington_ explore the Pacific Northwest

National parks in Oregon and Washington: explore the Pacific Northwest

The National Parks in Oregon and Washington are gorgeous and offer a wide range of activities for outdoor lovers. These are the best places to visit.

About Oregon and Washington

The states of Oregon and Washington are located in the northwest of the United States with the Pacific Ocean as a natural border. The states are also known as the Pacific Northwest. The states are home to some of the most incredible nature in all of the USA, and it is a paradise for outdoor lovers.

Oregon and Washington are home to four national parks that are run by the national park service. And there are also several national monuments and beautiful state parks. From the rugged coastline and ancient forests of Oregon to the majestic mountains and sprawling lakes of Washington, these parks offer something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in hiking through ancient forests, exploring coastal beaches, or enjoying the beauty of the mountains, it will be an unforgettable outdoor experience.

National Parks in Oregon

The state of Oregon is home to one US National Park which is also one of the most beautiful National Parks in all of North America.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park is absolutely gorgeous. Located in the southwestern part of the state, this park is known for its deep, crystal-clear lake, which was formed by the collapse of an ancient volcano. With a depth of 1,943 feet (592 meters), Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America.

There are many fun things to do in the park, like hiking, watching wildlife (I even saw a bear during my last visit!), and fishing. The best way to see the lake is to go on a boat tour. Go to the Rim Village Visitor Center for information and amazing views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

  • Visit the official website for more information.
  • Entrance Fee: $30 in summer, $20 in winter (private vehicle with a 15-passenger capacity or less). Valid for 7 days.
  • The best thing to do: hiking & a boat trip on the lake.
  • Best place to stay: Crater Lake Lodge – Sleep right next to Crater Lake!
Crater Lake National Park

National Parks in Washington

Washington is home to no less than three US National Parks.

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is located on the Olympic Peninsula in the northwest part of Washington state, near the town of Port Angeles. It is a diverse and stunning park that offers a wide range of recreational activities and breathtaking scenery. The park is known for its three distinct ecosystems: the rugged Pacific coastline, the lush rainforests, and the snow-capped mountains. It’s said to be one of the wettest and wildest national parks in the USA.

The Olympic Mountains offer many amazing viewpoints, with Mount Olympus (7965 feet, 2428 meters) being the highest mountain in the park. Olympic National Park is home to an ancient temperate rainforest, which is one of the only remaining examples of this type of ecosystem in the contiguous United States. When you walk here, it feels like you’re in a magical world with moss hanging on the trees and ferns everywhere you look.

Olympic National Park also offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and kayaking. In the winter months, it’s also a fantastic experience to go snowshoeing in the park.

  • Visit the official website for up-to-date information.
  • Entrance Fee: $30 for a private vehicle with a 15-passenger capacity or less. Valid for 7 days.
  • Best thing to do: Enjoy the best views in the park during this guided tour where you’ll walk on Hurricane Ridge and explore the beautiful forest at Sol Duc and Lake Crescent. The tour departs from Port Angeles.
  • Best place to stay: Lake Crescent Lodge (seasonal) with beautiful lake views or Olympic Lodge by Ayres (4⭐) if you prefer staying in Port Angeles near several restaurants.

Mount Rainier National Park

The majestic Mount Rainier, an active volcano, can be seen on the Washington license plate and it is the highest peak in the Pacific Northwest. The famous naturalist John Muir climbed this mountain in 1888 which made the peak well-known. Only 10 years later, Mount Rainier National Park was the fifth National Park in the United States.

It’s a great park for hiking, there are many beautiful trails in the park like the famous Wonderland Trail. This trail has a length of 93 miles (150 kilometers) and circles around Mount Rainier, offering some amazing views. In addition, you can also hike up the majestic peak, there are at least 20 different routes to get to the top. To do this, you need to pay the annual climbing fee before visiting the park and you need to get a permit at a ranger station.

  • Visit the official website for more information.
  • Entrance Fee: $30 for a private vehicle with a 15-passenger capacity or less. Valid for 7 days.
  • Best thing to do: Hike up Mount Rainier.
  • Best place to stay: Paradise Inn, a historic building in the park, usually open from mid-May through early October. Another great option is Mountain Meadows Inn (4⭐) which is open all year round and located just outside the park in Ashford.
Mount Rainier National Park

North Cascades National Park

You cannot get more into the wilderness than in North Cascades National Park. It’s located all the way in the north of Washington State, on the border with Canada. It is home to the Cascade Range, high mountain peaks, and more than 300 glaciers. With long lakes, waterfalls, forests, and alpine meadows, it’s breathtakingly beautiful and unspoiled.

There’s something to do in the park all year round. During the summer months, the meadows are covered in wildflowers and provide breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. In winter, you can enjoy skiing and snowshoeing on the park’s many trails. Rock climbing is a popular activity in the park, and there are many routes that are suitable for both experienced climbers and beginners.

It’s also a great place for hiking and backpacking, the famous Pacific Crest Trail goes through the south section of the park.

  • Visit the official website for more information.
  • Entrance Fee: the park is free to visit.
  • Best thing to do: go on a backcountry camping trip to explore the unspoiled wilderness.
  • Best place to stay: Ross Lake Resort – Unique accommodation with cabins floating on the lake.
Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park - via Depositphotos

Other beautiful sights in Oregon

In addition to the incredible National Parks in Oregon and Washington, there are many other great places to visit, like State Parks and National Monuments. This is a list of the most beautiful places in Oregon besides Crater Lake National Park.

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

In the northwest corner of Oregon, you’ll find some of the best historic sites in the region. Lewis and Clark National Historical Park teaches you about the Lewis and Clark expedition at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In the park, you can see a replica of Fort Clatsop, where they camped. In addition, you can visit the museum where you learn more about the native Americans that lived on the Pacific coast. The park is also home to some amazing hiking trails.

  • Official website
  • Entrance fee: $10 per adult, valid for 7 days.
  • Best place to stay: Surfsand Resort – located in Cannon Beach, only a 30-minute drive from Lewis and Clark and one of the most iconic towns in Oregon. The rooms are beautifully decorated and a lot of them have a beautiful view of the beach and the Pacific coast.

Cape Lookout State Park

The Oregon coast is filled with beautiful state parks and Cape Lookout State Park is definitely one of the most beautiful. It has high cliffs, beautiful long beaches, and a lush forest. The park’s most popular feature is the Cape Lookout Trail, which is a 2.5-mile hike that takes visitors to the top of the cape for breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. If you’re lucky, you might even see some whales swim in the ocean from the lookout.

Cape Lookout State Park

Oregon Caves National Monument

Oregon Caves National Monument is a limestone cave system located in the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon. The caves are known for their marble formations and underground streams. You can take a guided tour through the caves and walk through the so-called “marble halls of Oregon”. Cave tours are not available during winter months.

  • Official website
  • Entrance fee: Entrance to the park is free, but a cave tour is $10 per person (16 years and older).
  • Best place to stay: Weasku Inn (3⭐) – Cozy inn with a large garden. You can choose to stay in a cabin or in a beautifully decorated room.

Mount Hood National Forest

Mount Hood is the highest peak in the state and is visible from many places in northern Oregon. Mount Hood is located in Mount Hood National Forest, close to the Columbia River Gorge. This area offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, mountain biking, and skiing. The park is also home to a number of beautiful waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls, which is the highest waterfall in Oregon.

Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Cottonwood Canyon State Park is one of the newest Oregon state parks and is not that well-known (yet). It is a remote and scenic park located in the John Day River Valley of North Central Oregon. The park is named for the Cottonwood Creek that runs through it. It’s a great place for fishing since the creek is home to several fish species such as rainbow trout, brook trout, and bass. In addition, there are some fun hiking trails that go through the canyon.

Cottonwood Canyon State Park

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

One of the most incredible places in central Oregon is John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. It is known for its rich fossil record and unique geologic formations. The park is divided into three units: the Sheep Rock Unit, the Painted Hills Unit, and the Clarno Unit.

Each unit offers a different type of landscape and a different set of fossils. There are several beautiful hiking trails in the units. I personally recommend the Blue Basin Overlook Trail, this is one of the best hikes in the park. The views are incredible!

Read more: John Day Fossil Beds National Monument: A hidden gem in Oregon!

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Other beautiful sights in Washington

The state of Washington is also home to more amazing landmarks, State Parks, historical sites, and National Monuments. These are some of the best places to visit in Washington State.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is located in Vancouver, Washington, that preserves the history and cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest. The park is centered around the reconstructed Fort Vancouver, which was an important 19th-century fur-trading post and military installation.

You can visit a number of historic buildings, including the reconstructed barracks, blacksmith shop, and powder magazine, which offer a glimpse into the daily life of the fort’s inhabitants. A very interesting place that can easily be combined with a Portland city trip.

Battle Ground Lake State Park

Battle Ground Lake State Park is a beautiful and scenic park located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in southwest Washington. The park is named for Battle Ground Lake, this is a volcanic crater lake, and also the main feature of the park. The lake is popular for swimming, fishing, and boating. It’s a great place to visit as a day trip from Portland.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Located between Portland and Seattle, you’ll find one of the most spectacular mountains in the USA. Mount St. Helens (8363 feet, 2549 meters) is an active stratovolcano. It had a major eruption in 1980, which left a huge crater. It’s now a very popular place for climbing, for both beginners and more experienced mountaineers.

Mount St Helens from a plane
I saw Mount St Helens from a plane once, a spectacular sight! If you look closely, you can also spot Mount Rainier in the back.

Rockport State Park

Rockport State Park is a beautiful and scenic park located in the North Cascades of Washington. The park is known for its rugged wilderness and stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Explore the park’s hiking trails to see the park’s wildlife and plants. Fishing is also a popular activity in Rockport State Park because the Skagit River is home to several fish species such as rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and steelhead. As you can see, it is a great place for a weekend getaway.

  • Official website.
  • Best place to stay: Unfortunately, the campground in the park is closed indefinitely. But you can stay in the Mt Baker Hotel in the nearby town of Concrete.

Cama Beach Historical State Park

Cama Beach Historical State Park is located on Camano Island, north of Seattle. The park offers visitors a chance to step back in time and experience the nostalgia of the 1930s and 1940s since it was once a popular vacation destination for Seattle residents. The best things to do include beachcombing, hiking, and picnicking. You can also go on a ranger-led tour, to learn more about the history of this beautiful place.

Map of National parks in Oregon and Washington

This is a map of the best State Parks, National Monuments, and National Parks in Oregon and Washington. The National Parks are marked with a star and the other sights with a camera icon.

Map National Parks in Oregona and Washington

This is an image. Click here to access the map so you can zoom in and move around.

Book a trip to Oregon & Washington

Would you like to go on a National Park road trip in Oregon and Washington? Book your trip now!

✈️ Plane tickets

Both Portland and Seattle have large international airports. Check WayAway to find the best deals on plane tickets.

🚘 Rental car

The best way to explore the national parks and the other beautiful places in Oregon and Washington is by road trip. There are so many scenic drives! Check Rental Cars to find the best deals on a rental car. Oregon and Washington are also great states to explore with an RV. Check RVShare to find the best deals for RVs.

🛏️ Accommodation

There are endless options when it comes to accommodation. The national parks and most of the state parks have a dedicated campground. In addition, there are several lodges, hotels, and cabins to stay in. Check the official websites of the national parks for the best camping options and and VRBO for hotels, lodges, and cabins.

💊 Travel insurance

Traveling with travel insurance will give you peace of mind. Check Insubuy to find travel insurance that will fit your needs.

🎡 Tours and activities

In and around the parks, there are many amazing guided tours. Check Get Your Guide and Viator for all options and prices.

Read more about the US National Parks

Are you interested in visiting the National Parks in Oregon and Washington and more? These books are filled with inspiration and tips.

Lonely Planet Pacific Northwest’s Best Trips

Fodor’s Pacific Northwest: Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, & the Best of Oregon and Washington

In addition, you can read more about traveling in the USA and the amazing US National Parks on this website. You might also like to read:

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National Parks in Oregon and Washington - Explore the Pacific Northwest

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As a girl from a small town in the Netherlands, I always dreamed of traveling. I thought it would always be a dream, but nowadays, I travel 6 to 8 months a year and I hike thousands of miles on the most beautiful hiking trails. On this website you can read all about my favorite destinations.

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