North Cascades National Park © Daniel Hershman
Known locally as the Cascades, the Cascade
Mountain Range is a breathtaking range of peaks that extends 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.
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.
But perhaps the most famous peak in the
Cascades 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
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 to preserve the lofty volcano. Known to Native Americans as Tahoma, its snow-capped peak draws thousands of climbers every year and can be seen from Seattle, some 90 miles (145km) away. The rest of the park is home to beautiful wilderness and gorgeous natural wonders, with plentiful spring wildflowers. There are five areas in the park for visitors to stay, each with a different level of development, some with basic campsites and others with extensive living centres. There are also several ranger-led activities throughout the year, such as guided snowshoe walks in the winter.
Mount St Helens © Lyn Topinka
Mount St Helens
One Sunday morning in May 1980, Mount St Helens 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. The area lies about 168 miles (271km) south of Seattle, preserved as the Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument. Visitors are plentiful during the summer months, enjoying 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.
Snoqualmie Falls © Meher Anand Kasam
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. 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 Gorge Amphitheater © Daniel
The Gorge Amphitheater
High on the cliffs above the Columbia River, the Gorge is one of the best music venues in the country. A 25,000 seater stage sits along a natural ravine and crowds are privy to both stunning views and the biggest acts. Visitors usually spend the night at Gorge campground in front of the venue so it's best to pack your own food and gear. Here, all manners of cars, campers and simple tents are scattered across for an often rowdy night of celebration. It also hosts the annual Sasquatch Festival each May.