Best of The Best: The Pacific Northwest – Washington State

Best of The Best: The Pacific Northwest

If you are looking for one of the most pristinely beautiful destinations for hiking and camping, we recommend the Pacific Northwest.  

The Pacific Northwest contains some of the most iconic natural beauty the United States has to offer.  We spent 12 days hiking and camping in Washington State.  It was one of the best travel experiences we have ever had.

What we loved most about it is that we were immersed in the beauty of nature in a landscape that was truly vibrant, pristine wilderness, and contained an abundant variety of picturesque natural beauty.

One of the questions we always have before we visit a place is, “Does it really look like the pictures we see online?  Or did someone photoshop it to make it look better or more beautiful or more colorful than it really is?”

We have traveled many places.  We have found that sometimes travel sites will market a beautiful beach but you get there and the water is not clear and turquoise blue or the forest is not vibrant green.  In the Pacific Northwest, it’s different.  These colors are true!  And we pride ourselves on taking authentic, actual pictures.  So what you see really is how it looks!  

One of the places I was most surprised in my travels is Antelope Canyon.  People have always photoshopped it!  The canyon looks very drab and is not vibrant in real life the way it is in pictures.  But as I said, regarding the Pacific Northwest, it really is vibrant and colorful!

We visited Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park, and Seattle, Washington and surrounding areas.

Olympic National Park is an ethereal piece of paradise which draws Instagrammers and travelers, alike, for iconic photographable places.  

Olympic National Park is home to Rialto Beach, Hoh Rainforest, Lake Crescent, Shi Shi Beach, and Cape Flattery.  

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach is reachable by visiting the Mora Campground.  We enjoyed camping at the Mora Campground.  When you hike to Rialto Beach, the coastline is rocky so you will need good water/hiking sandals.  We trudged through medium-sized rocks and occasional water for 1 1/4 miles to reach Rialto Beach from the parking lot.  It is important to know where you started from because if you go to see the sunset, on the way back, all the terrain tends to look similar at dusk and dark.  

Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest is a temperate rainforest in the Pacific Northwest.  The moss-covered trees and unique tree formations make it surreal and other-worldly.  Hoh Rainforest is highly promoted through marketing and travel and for this reason contained more crowds than any other place we visited.  

Lake Crescent

We especially enjoyed camping at Lake Crescent. Lake Crescent is a gorgeous, clear-water glacier lake with turquoise waters.  We enjoyed a delicious meal and dessert at the lodge there.  We camped at the Fairholme campground.  We originally thought camping in one of the forests would be our favorite camping, but it turns out Fairholme Campground was our favorite.  It offers an exquisite combination of forest camping and glacier lake views.  Our experience there was so peaceful and it offered great respite and renewal for anyone seeking to find a place to be still and take in the wonder of the Pacific Northwest in a beautiful setting.

Shi Shi Beach

Shi She Beach is located in a remote area near Cape Flattery in the Pacific Northwest.  To get there, it is a 12-mile round-trip hike from the parking lot.  We hiked through both dry and then muddy trails for several miles.  When you get to the descent, you will follow a long, steep trail down (and back up).  Once you reach the shore, you will need to hike almost 2 more miles to arrive at Shi Shi Beach.  

We are explaining this because it was not clearly described in most of the travel books and research as well as websites online.  Rather, it makes it seem as if going to Shi Shi is much closer and easier than one would plan or think.  This is important to know because it is a very isolated area and will be very dark on the way back if you get delayed.  All of this is part of the adventure, of course!  But it just requires knowledge and planning for you to have a wonderful adventure without those kinds of unexpected surprises.

We enjoyed experiencing the wonder of Shi Shi, its regal rock formations, immaculate tidepools, and solitude.  We brought a travel picnic along and one of our favorite moments on the hike was sitting on a rock eating our delicious travel picnic and immersing ourselves in the beauty of this pristine and tranquil wilderness.

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery is located on the Northwest tip of the United States.  It is a place of iconic beauty and requires a fairly short hike to get to the well-developed trails and overlooks.  En route to Cape Flattery, we ate a delicious and hearty breakfast at a restaaurant in the Indian Reservation territory.  We also visited the grocery store – which contains a large totem pole on the outside.  When we camped in Mora campground a few days before, we heard a man a few campsites over conducting a Pow Wow.  It lent to an authentic travel experience in the area for sure!

Sol Duc Falls

We spent the night in Sol Duc Falls and hiked to the various waterfalls.  Sol Duc Falls is a beautiful park and contains a wide variety of flora and fauna.  Deer unabashedly grazed right next to our campsite.  Sol Duc Falls hosts a rustic lodge from the FDR era.  They have thermal waters (which are not in their natural form but rather have been converted to swimming pools).  The facility has showers to rinse off after your dip in the sulphuric thermal waters.  In addition to enjoying the beautiful waterfalls and bright green nature trails, we enjoyed a delicious skillet cookie at the Sol Duc Lodge restaurant!  Desserts are always a delight!  Especially when you get to sit and enjoy them for a refreshing pause after being on the go to fulfill your travel mission!

North Cascades National Park is the Northernmost remote park in the continental United States.  Mountain vistas, glacier lakes, and serene forests adorn this lesser-known wilderness.  We highly recommend it.  The park has a helpful General Store.  We enjoyed breakfast and dessert at a wonderful mountain bakery called 5bs bakery.  Everything is made from scratch.  The chocolate cake was especially decadent and rewarding after our hike through the North Cascades.  

Regarding North Cascades National Park, when you research online, there are articles about how North Cascades National Park is a dangerous park because of the sheer cliffs and remote location.  In our experience, we found it can be just as safe or dangerous as any other park; that often depends on the wisdom of the traveler or hiker.  

On travel safety, if a person takes great care to stay on the marked paths, they will have a greater chance of staying safe when hiking or climbing.  Regarding its remoteness, if you take bear spray, you will be able to defend yourself against bears or other dangers as needed.  In our experience, it was a remote and wonderful park.  We are so glad we visited.  When you read about park accidents or travel accidents anywhere, they are oftentimes the exception, not the norm.  Be smart, safe, and situationally aware and you will more than likely be able to enjoy a very wonderful time at this or any park.

All in all, our trip to the Pacific Northwest Washington State area was one of the best travel experiences we have ever enjoyed.  The region and its parks are truly the “best of the best!”

Rating: 5 stars!  Best!

Information you will need:

Olympic National Park

North Cascades National Park