The Best of Washington
Washington is filled with mountain vistas, remote beaches, country roads, and urban hideaways. Enjoy the very best the state has to offer on this whirlwind tour.
From Seattle, take a meandering drive up to Mount Rainier, soaking up the views from the lovely flower-filled meadows at aptly named Paradise and then from the stunning alpine ridges high up at Sunrise. On the way back from Sunrise, stop in for a short hike to the towering ancient trees at Grove of the Patriarchs. Settle in for a soak in the hot tub and maybe even a massage at Wellspring in Ashford.
Today is an early day. Head to Castle Rock, gateway to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. You’ll wind your way up the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, past areas once ravaged by the mountain’s explosive force. At the end of the road lies the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center, the closest viewpoint reachable by car, with vistas of the mountain and of log-strewn Spirit Lake. Stay the night at Eco Park at Mount St. Helens, the only lodging within the mountain’s blast zone.
Motor south on I-5 to Vancouver, sister city to Portland, Oregon, just across the mighty Columbia. Spend the day exploring the orderly barracks, officers’ rows, and marching grounds at Fort Vancouver National Historic Reserve before catching a late lunch at Grant’s Grill (1101 Officer’s Row, 360/694-5252, www.restauranthr.com). Then check out the rebuilt wooden stockades and grounds at old Fort Vancouver and the prop-driven relics at Pearson Air Museum, both also on the reserve.
Put on the driving gloves again for a leisurely drive along the dramatic banks of the Columbia. Take the time to climb up to the top of Beacon Rock, and imagine the thrill Lewis and Clark felt navigating the river below. Continue on to Maryhill Winery for a glass of wine, and enjoy the sunset as you look over the Gorge and Mount Hood. Then continue up to Goldendale Observatory for a nighttime star show through the looking glass.
Drive up and over the Cascade foothills to reach the heart of wine country, the Yakima Valley. Start with a quick stop in Toppenish, a genuine western town known for its amazing murals. Then take a drive around the wineries in the Rattlesnake Hills. Finally, cruise by the apple and fruit orchards around Wapato Point, near Chelan. Settle down for the evening in Yakima.
Take the scenic route up to I-90 along the Yakima River on Highway 821. Then blast over the asphalt eastward toward Spokane. Take a long break along the way, stopping to check out the trees made of stone at Ginko Petrified Forest State Park. Finish the day with a relaxing spa treatment at the luxurious Davenport Hotel, your home for the evening.
Start the day off with a gondola ride over Spokane Falls at Riverfront Park, enjoying a leisurely lunch at nearby Clinkerdagger’s Restaurant. Then hop in the car up to Grand Coulee Dam for a late-afternoon tour of the grounds. Stay the night here so you can enjoy the laser light show at the dam later in the evening.
Travel to the marvelously sunny Methow Valley and explore the faux-Western town of Winthrop, being sure to stop off at Sheri’s Sweet Shop for treats. Rent a mountain bike and explore the valley’s trails, hike Hart’s Pass, or just stick around town and visit Shafer Museum.
Experience one of the most breathtaking ribbons of asphalt in the state, rambling right by the glaciated spires and turquoise lakes of North Cascades National Park. Stop for vistas at the Washington Pass Viewpoint, Ross Lake Overlook and Diablo Lake Overlook. In Diablo, catch the speedboat to unique floating cabins at Ross Lake Resort for a couple of nights of R&R.
Time to take it easy. Relax dockside with a book or rent a boat and fish Ross Lake for rainbow trout. If you’re really feeling ambitious, hike the nearly seven-mile trail to the top of Desolation Peak, where writer Jack Kerouac once stood watch at the fire lookout that still stands there today.
Catch the ferry and hit the North Cascades Highway eastward again. Stop in Marblemount, grab a paddle and life vest, and climb aboard a guided rafting trip down the Skagit River. Once you’ve had your fun, continue on the highway until the landscape opens up into the wide open fields of the Skagit Valley and head north to Bow, where you’ll stay in a restored 1914 farmhouse at Benson’s Farmstead.
Today you have a choice. You’ll be making the short drive south to Deception Pass, over the arching green-trussed Deception Pass Bridge and onto Whidbey Island. You can spend the day exploring the numerous trails and lakes in Deception Pass State Park and even catch a boat under the bridge. Or you can continue south and enjoy the rolling pastoral land in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, examine museum artifacts and a blockhouse in Coupeville, and enjoy a slice of loganberry pie and pet the llamas at Greenbank Farm. Either way, end the day with a ferry ride to Mukilteo and stay the night in Seattle.
Enjoy a quintessential day in Seattle. Pick through the wares at Pike Place Market and watch the fish fly. Then travel up to Ballard to see the fishies in their own environment, making their way up the fish ladder at Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. Cap off the touring with an elevator ride to the top of the Space Needle for a 360-degree view of the city. Finally, finish your last evening in Seattle off with a dinner downtown or in Belltown. If you haven’t had Northwest salmon yet, now’s your chance.
Grab your camera and explore the state’s capitol in Olympia. Visit the grand dome of Washington, the Legislative Building, then watch the kids run through the dancing waters of Heritage Fountain at Heritage Park. Enjoy lunch by Tumwater Falls at Falls Terrace Restaurant on the south end of Capitol Lake. Then drive north to Tacoma and check into the swanky Hotel Murano, home to a kaleidoscope of one-of-a-kind glass art.
From your downtown digs, walk to Tacoma’s museum row and start by touring the interactive exhibits at one of the state’s finest, the Washington State History Museum. Cross native son Dale Chihuly’s Bridge of Glass to the International Museum of Glass and watch glassmaking demonstrations in its theater hot shop.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition