Washington has places to die for, although we can forget that during the dreary, short days of the winter.
But this is the season for planning adventures. Scroll down for 25 places in the Evergreen State that you must see, visit, experience and sometimes exert yourself before you die.
1. Mount Constitution on Orcas Island
You can drive or hike up to the 2,409-foot summit in Moran State Park, which has a panorama to die for. Spread out below are the San Juan Islands as well as Canada's Gulf Islands. The 10,778-foot Mount Baker looms to the east, living up to rough translation of its native name: The Great White Watcher. Olympics are dream hazy to the south.
The San Juan Islands get crowded in mid- to late summer. The "shoulder seasons" of spring and fall are the ideal time to visit. Dine well down below, and then see the Salish Sea spread out below you.
2. Palouse Falls
It's Washington's official state waterfall, out in semi-wilds of Eastern Washington, a little more than an hour's drive north from Walla Walla. The waterfall is 198 feet high, its canyon sculpted by enormous floods created by the Pleistocene-era bursting of Lake Missoula. The almost unimaginable volumes of water created Eastern Washington's coulees.
Palouse Falls State Park is popular for its remoteness. There is camping. Expect a ranger to be on hand to check your Discover Pass.
3. The Sunrise side of Mount Rainier
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The north side of Tahoma is a bit less crowded than Paradise, and features epic meadow and tundra walks. Burroughs Mountain features views of the great Emmons Glacier and Little Tahoma. The 7,800-foot summit of Third Burroughs looks down a vertical half-mile at the Winthrop Glacier. You have the Willis Wall and Liberty Ridge in your face.
The easy stroll up to Mt. Fremont Lookout is a relatively easy 5.4-mile round trip, with mountain goat watching.
4. Salmon fishing at Ilwaco and a visit to Long Beach and Cape Disappointment State Park
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Give Astoria its due, but our side of the mouth of the Columbia River is worth a stay. The lighthouse at Cape Disappointment is a premier storm watching spot. Rarely have I ever seen kids so pumped, so into it, as on a salmon fishing charter out of Ilwaco.
If you have sense enough to take a long weekend, head up to Leadbetter Point State Park at the north end of the Long Beach Peninsula. Miles of ocean beaches. A great place for the family dog to go loping into the water, and then come back and shake water all over you.
5. Take a Walla Walla wine tour
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A lovely town in its own right, with parks and the Whitman College campus, Walla Walla has become a wine lover's destination of North American renown. The author can remember days when the highlights were Woodward Canyon and L'Ecole 41 — in an old school — in Lowden just west of the city.
No more. In order to imbibe, taking a wine tour is strongly recommended. So is having a checkbook at the ready. In 2006, then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama came out for a forum at Garfield High. Host Tom Douglas gave him a bottle of Woodward Canyon Cab to take home. The Obamas would later serve Walla Walla wine at White House state dinners.
6. Raft a Northwest river
American Whitewater Expeditions
The Wenatchee River during runoff season is an exciting, bumpy ride with Class 2 and 3 rapids. A renowned rapid, Drunkard's Drop, is a little less exciting since a giant boulder plunked into the river eight years ago. The put-in is at Leavenworth.
A second recommendation would be the Skagit River above Marblemount, especially Dolly Parton Rapids where the river rushes between two giant boulder.
The granddaddy of spring raft jaunts is the Grande Ronde River, a multi-day trip that begins in the Wallowa Mountains of eastern Oregon and ends in Washington where the Grande Ronde joins the Snake River.
7. Beacon Rock State Park
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The 848-foot high basalt volcanic plug was a stopover point for Lewis & Clark in 1805. The park features rock climbing, a trail to the top with many switchbacks, plus boating. The Columbia River has become a renowned wind surfing center, especially Hood River upstream on the Oregon side.
Most of all, however, here is the place to appreciate where a mighty river has carved a path through a mighty mountain range, now protected as the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
8. Take a sunset ride to Bainbridge on a Washington State Ferry
The author is offspring of a Brooklyn-born father who spurned the Statue of Liberty as a "tourist attraction." We do turn our noses to attractions right under our nose. Still, old college chums, taking a trip West after kids leave the nest, rave about this experience.
Bone up on the Olympic summits that give Seattle its western skyline; Mount Washington whose visage resembles that of America's first president.
9. National Nordic Museum
Less that two years old, already given its name by an act of Congress, the National Nordic Museum in Ballard is striking for its architecture — "structured around a linear fjord" in words of its architect — and exhibits from the heritage of five countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
Check their website for upcoming exhibits and programs. The building is marvelously full of light even on the darkest of days.
10. Cape Flattery and Neah Bay
Buy a Makah Recreation Pass and take the 3/4 mile trail down to Cape Flattery, the furthest northwest tip of the contiguous United States. An environment of pounding surf, wind-sculpted trees, constantly changing climate, plus bald eagles flying by with fish in their talons.
The Museum of the Makah Cultural and Research Center, in Neah Bay, is one of the country's finest small museums. Its exhibits center on artifacts recovered from an Ozette Indian village archeological site near Cape Alava.
11. Women's restroom, Columbia Tower Club
This is a destination accessible only to half of our readers, but it boasts Seattle's finest view straight out to Mount Rainier. Alpine glow at sunset adds beauty to the Liberty Ridge-Willis Wall face of the mountain.
Two male public figures have seen the view. Both President Bill Clinton and then-Sen. Al Gore had security folk make sure the restroom was empty, and then sneaked down to see "The Mountain." Note: The club also has an observatory.
12) Kettle River trail north of Republic
Courtesy Jesse Harding
With the Cascades increasingly crowded, one further east destination in Northeast Washington beckons — especially during fall colors. The partially complete Kettle River Trail, along Curlew Lake and further north, is gorgeous. It's located on an old railroad grade, along a river that meanders south from Canada, swings back north into Canada, and again crosses the border to merge with the Columbia River.
13. Grand Coulee
An ideal shoulder season jaunt in three steps. Visit the Dry Falls overlook and (weirdly constructed) visitor center north of Ephrata. The ice dam holding Lake Missoula burst about 13,000 years ago, unleashing an enormous volume of water over a 3.5-mile wide, 400-foot tall precipice.
Stop two is Steamboat Rock State Park in the middle of Banks Lake, a wonderful coulee-watching spot. The third stop, of course, is Grand Coulee Dam, a hallmark of the New Deal that made the desert bloom and whose power, in Woody Guthrie's words, turned darkness to dawn. The massive third powerhouse generates electricity during cold, dark winter days when use soars.
14. North Cascades, Highway Maple Pass
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The 8-mile Maple Pass loop hike takes off from a picnic area on the south side of Rainy Pass. It is vastly popular in the fall when heather turns red and needles on larch trees become gold. Go on a weekday. Glacier Peak and nearby Black Piece are centerpiece of views.
Or turn north off the highway and take four miles of easily graded Pacific Crest Trail up to Cutthroat Pass. Goats frequent the pass. Great rocks of the Northwest — Liberty Bell, Early Winters Spire and Silver Star — are close at hand. Two cautions: Bring water. If any thunderstorm is forming, be advised that it will strike Silver Star and then head your way.
15. Stehekin, North Cascades National Park complex
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Take the Lady of the Lake up to remote, isolated Stehekin. Plan to stay over and explore. The National Park Service runs a shuttle bus up as far as High Bridge. The 4.4-mile Agnes Gorde trail is scenic, largely level, and ends at a noisy cataract. Or the punishing option, climbing 8,000-foot McGregor Mountain, with rattlesnakes at the bottom and a vigorous glacier at the top.
If you're staying at McGregor, get a permit to camp high on the mountain. If overnighting near Stehekin, the village is charming once the boat has departed.
16. Yakima River Canyon
The Canyon Road, between Ellensburg and Selah, is vastly popular during the summer with folks who like it hot. The road is uncrowded and drop-dead gorgeous with shades of gold during the fall. A very pleasant place to fish.
Or, in spring or fall, hike the Yakima Skyline Trail out of Selah, for lots of wildflowers (in season) and views down to the Yakima River canyon. Use the Washington Trains Association description to find a tricky trailhead. Prepare for the unforgettable experience of setting up tents in a wind storm. A party member put hands on her hips and exclaimed, "Well, at least it's not raining. The sky opened up."
17. Northwest African American Museum
Want to know how the city and region have evolved? Here is a place to visit, not only for featured exhibits — Iconic Black Women — but a sense of the constructive agitation that changed the Puget Sound region. Occupations produced such institutions as Daybreak Star, El Centro de La Raza and the museum itself.
A key feature: The "agitators" you see pictured in the museum are veterans of many arrests and became revered civic and area leaders.
18. Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
A great lateral blast, on May 18, 1980, turned a graceful, symmetrical 9,600-foot high volcano — "the American Fujiyama" — into an 8,300-foot peak that kind of resembles an open ended football stadium. The blast zone covered 230 square miles, and is today a study in the return of life.
Do a bit of study so you know what you are going to see. Still, nearly 40 years later, parts of the story remain moving. For instance, the David A. Johnston Cascade Volcano Observatory is named for a young USGS volcanologist working on a nearby ridge. He had time to deliver a last message — "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it." — before being swept away.
19. The Boeing Plant, Everett
It draws presidents — Clinton of U.S., Xi of China — House speakers — Paul Ryan — and industrial tourists from around the globe, and ought to be on locals' must-see list. Dimensions of the place are overwhelming. The 777 is a fascinating aircraft to hear about. The workforce has done itself proud even if the company hasn't.
The author is also fascinated at World War II weaponry at Paul Allen's nearby Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum. The Soviet T-34 tank helped win World War II. The Spitfire helped Britain survive the blitz. The German Me 262 was the first jet aircraft, its development hampered by a knuckleheaded dictator.
20. Fort Casey, Ebey's Landing
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Nearby sites on central Whidbey Island. The fort is a popular camping area, next door to the Coupeville-Port Townsend ferry terminal — a great walk-on trip when the mountains are out — and site of gun emplacements once designed to protect us. Kids love this place.
Ebey's Landing National Historical Preserve safeguards bluffs and farmlands, giving walkers views of three volcanoes: Mt. Rainier is far to the south, Glacier Peak looms to the east, and Mt. Baker to the north. The Olympics seem to rise straight out of Admiralty Inlet. Blufftops popular for marriage proposals.
21. Spokane River
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Spokane is for walking. The Lilac City used a 1974 World's Fair to spruce up its riverfront into an urban park environment, while outside of town, 11,000-plus acre Riverside State Park offers a centennial trail, a museum, a natural area plus a wonderful arboretum.
In a wider sense, athletic events are Spokane's major draw. Six thousand teams, playing in 422 courts, participate in the Spokane Hoopfest. The 44-year-0ld Bloomsday run, held in June, draws 40,000 to 50,000 participants.
22. Enchantment Lakes
You may be lucky to live long enough to win the lottery and get a permit for this supreme hiking destination in the Washington Cascades. The U.S. Forest Service strictly limits campers going into the 7,000-foot and 7,500-foot basins far above Leavenworth in the Wenatchee Range.
Get a permit, and it's a 10-plus mile slog via the Snow Lakes trail, or a grind from the 5,500-foot Colchuck Lake up to 7,780-foot Aasgard Pass. In years before rule making, the author once spent 11 "golden weeks" — early October when larch trees turn — in the Enchantments. It was worth the exertion, although we were a dirty, loud dinner party when we got back down to Leavenworth.
23. Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park
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The temperate rain forests of North America have disappeared beneath loggers' chainsaws, and the Trump Administration wants more cutting in Alaska's Tongass National Forest. Thankfully, a president in a wheelchair — Franklin D. Roosevelt — created a national park that saved cathedral forests in our state.
The Hoh is a place to savor the forest primeval, either through nature walks or on the lengthy trail that takes climbers to Mount Olympus. Watch Roosevelt Elk appear out of and disappear into the mist. Experience the silence of the place and appreciate the fact that you own this land.
24. Hanford Reach
It's a national monument, designated by President Clinton, the 47-mile stretch of un-dammed Columbia River that runs through the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The monument protects the white bluffs of Hanford, major archeological sites, and spawning grounds for the fall chinook — last big wild salmon run to inhabit the Northwest's master stream.
It's hot, and not exactly wilderness with remains of Manhattan Project nuclear reactors along the river. Still ... memories of a moment in jet boat when longtime Reach defender/advocate Rich Steele felt the current pick up at the end of the pool behind McNary Dam. Said he: "Now, THIS is a river!"
25. Lime Kiln Point State Park
Renee C. Byer/Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The state park, on San Juan Island looking out at Haro Strait, was created for orca whale watching. The great marine mammals, those in our southern resident population, are endangered. Here is a place to appreciate them, and become advocates.
Accessible by small boat is another great whale watching spot, Turn Point on Stuart Island. It is part of the San Juan Islands National Monument, designed in 2013 by President Obama. It, too, looks out on Haro Strait, set to be traveled by 400 oil tankers a year if Canada competes the TransMountain Pipeline expansion and builds an oil port just east of Vancouver.