Travel Guide

Cascade Mountain Range

North Cascades National Park © Daniel Hershman

The Cascade Mountain Range (known locally as the Cascades) is a breath-taking range of peaks that extend from the northern tip of California into southern British Columbia. The mountains are a veritable paradise for outdoor sports like hiking, rock climbing, skiing, camping, boating, and canoeing, and many others.

The tallest peak in the Cascades is Mount Rainier, which stretches up 14,411 feet (4,392m) above sea level. While climbing Mount Rainier is considered very difficult, the peak offers other activities and is one of the most-photographed mountains in the US. Mount Adams is another peak that is intimidating to novice climbers.

The most famous peak in the Cascades, however, is Mount St Helens, an active volcano that famously erupted in 1980, killing 57 people. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument explores the event.

Only a few hours' drive from Seattle, the Cascades are a wonderful place to relax and enjoy nature on any Washington holiday. The pristine wilderness and abundant animal life will rejuvenate anyone who needs to escape the city.





Attractions

Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park © Samuel Kerr

Mount Rainier National Park

One of the oldest national parks in the United States, Mount Rainier National Park was founded in 1899 to preserve the lofty volcano, Mount Rainier, known to the Native Americans as Tahoma. The snow-capped peak is visible from Seattle, 90 miles (145km) away and dominates the region, drawing thousands of climbers every year to dare the dangerous ascent to its summit. The rest of the park is home to a beautiful wilderness and some wonderful natural wonders. Spring wildflowers are plentiful and impressive, and it's worth going to the park in springtime just for them There are five areas in the park that visitors can choose from as a base for a visit to the park - Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise, and Carbon and Mowich. Each of the areas has a different level of development, some just a basic campsites, while others have extensive visitor's centres and restaurants, so it's important to decide what kind of trip you'd like before choosing a base. There are also several ranger-led activities throughout the year, such as guided snowshoe walks in the winter. Information for these kinds of activities as well as park events can be obtained at visitor's centres.

Website: www.nps.gov/mora; Telephone: (360) 569 2211; Opening time: Open daily all year round, but access is limited in winter. Visitors Centres hours vary, but are generally 10am-5pm.; Admission: $15 per vehicle; $5 per individual hiker, cyclist or motorcyclist. Valid for seven days.


Mount St Helens
Mount St Helens © Lyn Topinka

Mount St. Helens

One Sunday morning in May 1980, Mount St Helens, one of the snow-covered peaks of the Cascades Mountains, erupted, causing a massive landslide, devastating a vast area of forest and killing 57 people. The volcano continued erupting intermittently for six years, but has not erupted again since.

Today the area, lying about 168 miles (271km) south of Seattle, is being preserved as the Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument, being left to revive naturally, while scientists continue to monitor the volcano and the environment of the surrounding landscape, providing them with much valuable information regarding volcanoes and ecosystems. The Monument has become a fascinating tourist attraction equipped with numerous viewpoints and miles of trails enabling it to be explored by car or on foot.

Forest Interpreters host visitors during the summer months, organising activities like walks and amphitheatre presentations, while in winter the mountain slopes provide cross-country ski and snowmobile trails. Climbers take on the journey to the crater rim and five visitor centres operate on State Road 504 on the west side of the mountain providing information about the volcano and the environment. A gift shop at the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center offers hand-crafted items made from Mount St. Helens ash.

Website: www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/mshnvm; Telephone: Mount St. Helens Visitor Center: (360) 274-0962; Admission: Depending on what sites one plans to visit, there is a Regional Northwest Forest Pass ($5 per vehicle).


Snoqualmie Falls
Snoqualmie Falls © Meher Anand Kasam

Snoqualmie Falls

About an hour's drive into the Cascades Mountains east of Seattle is the resort of Snoqualmie Falls, where the Salish Lodge and Spa is famous for having been the setting for many scenes from the hugely popular television series, Twin Peaks. The dramatic falls plunge 270 feet (82m) down a precipice into a pool of deep blue water, close to the town of North Bend, drawing more than 1.5 million visitors every year. The world's first underground electric generator still operates behind the falls. There are several hiking trails in the area and picnic sites with a view of the waterfall. Snoqualmie also contains four ski slopes: Alpental, Snoqualmie Summit, Ski Acres, and Hyak. In the town of Snoqualmie is the Northwest Railway Museum and the historic Snoqualmie Valley Railroad, which runs steam train trips to North Bend between May and October. The Snoqualmie Falls Candy Factory is well worth a visit when in the area, boasting a 1950's diner-style cafe where visitors can have a burger, fries, and shake followed by dipping into the old-fashioned candy jars, filled with old-timey treats as well as some beautiful and delicious handmade chocolates. Snoqualmie Falls is also famous for its beautifully-packaged oatmeal, pancake and waffle mixes, brownie mixes, cornbread mixes, and more, all available at the Snoqualmie Falls Store.

Address: 6501 Railroad Avenue Southeast; Website: www.snoqualmiefalls.com


The Gorge Amphitheater
The Gorge Amphitheater © Daniel

The Gorge Amphitheater

High on the cliffs above the Colombia River, The Gorge is one of the best music venues in the country. A natural ravine coalesces at a cliff edge where a large stage hosts the biggest acts on tour in the Northwest. The 25,000-seat venue is privy to both the stunning view and sound quality resulting from the natural theatre-like setting. Visitors usually spend the night at Gorge campground in front of the venue. Here, all manners of cars, campers, RVs, or simple tents are scattered across for an often rowdy night of celebration. The Gorge is in George, Washington, an easy three hour drive east from Seattle on the I-90 highway. There is very limited motel accommodation nearby and the isolated nature of the area means it's better to pack your own food and gear. The venue is the host of the annual Sasquatch Festival each May, and some other festivals that have been hosted there include Area:One, Area2, Litlith Festival, Ozzfest, Creation Festival, and the Vans Warped Festival. Some big names that have performed in the amphitheatre over the years include The Who, David Bowie, Coldplay, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, Dave Matthews Band and many more.

Address: 54 Silica Road North West, George; Website: www.livenation.com/venues/14067/gorge-amphitheatre.com; Telephone: (509) 785 6262