National Parks of the Pacific North West
This stunning tour of the north-western corner of mainland North America tour takes you through the Olympic Peninsula’s lush rain forests and along its endless sandy beaches. Visit glacier clad mountain summits and quaint and colourful farming towns. Explore the lunar terrain of Mount St Helens and enjoy the urban delights of Seattle. Spend some time in the increasingly popular wine region of Central Washington.
- Olympic National Park
- Mt Rainer National Park
- North Cascades National Park
You have one night here on arrival and we have put you into a hotel at the airport to let you collect your car and relax for the evening. You will be returning at the end of your tour for 2 more nights in this fascinating city.
North Cascades National Park
Leave the city and head North towards the North Cascades National Park, where waterfalls cascade into deep valleys and a beautiful alpine landscape beckons. Discover communities of life adapted to persistent moisture in the west and recurrent fire in the east — all sensitive to climate change. Explore jagged peaks crowned by more than 300 glaciers.
After breakfast head north on Highway 5 to join the Stevens Pass Greenway which starts in the port of Everett – home of the Boeing Assembly Plant. Stevens Pass Greenway will take you on a leisurely drive through a high mountain pass where you can enjoy historical towns and quaint villages. One of the first is Snohomish which has over 400 antique dealers, restaurants and shops concentrated in a four-block section of the old town. You can view several of the grand old Victorian homes from the city’s lumber and steamboat era with a free self-guiding map. Wallace Falls State Park just outside Gold Bar is home to a beautiful old growth forest and plunging water and is worth a visit. From Skykomish the road climbs around 2000 feet in 14 miles. Take some stops along here to admire the views and also take in Deception Falls, before reaching Stevens Pass. From here you will be entering the spectacular Tumwater Canyon, where the rolling Wenatchee River is full of people enjoying rafting and kayaking.
Continue on to one of the most distinctive towns in the Pacific Northwest – Leavenworth. The attraction here is the Bavarian village; complete with authentic architecture, flower filled streets and a stunning backdrop courtesy of the Cascades. Originally the town evolved around the Great Northern Railroad serving the bustling logging community. The railroad moved its roundhouse to Wenatchee in 1922, the town's last sawmill closed in 1926 and then the Great Depression hit with a vengeance. Changing the town to a Bavarian-theme town came about in the 1960’s when the locals put together their own money to transform the town. Sights around today’s Leavenworth include the towns Glockenspiel, The Cuckoo Clock and Front St Park.
Take the Highway 97 heading south out of Leavenworth. The road climbs 21 miles to Blewett Pass where an interpretive trail offers a three-mile loop through the high country forests. From Ellensburg join the Canyon Road – a beautiful scenic drive all the way to Yakima. Yakima is the gateway to Washingtons wine country and Yakima Valley is the state’s oldest wine growing district. With over 300 days of sunshine a year, this region is not only home to world class wineries but also offers a wide range of year round recreational opportunities as well. These include, hiking, fishing, skiing, wildlife viewing, whaite water rafting and other water recreation. In the city of Yakima, the Historic District remians today much as it was a long time ago, except with modern businesses located inside!
Time to leave the Valley and head east towards Mt Rainier National Park. This is the Chinook Scenic Byway, home to the highest of the Cascade Mountain passes – Chinook Pass. Just west of the pass, the highway enters Mount Rainier National Park, passing Tipsoo Lake. This is a great spot to stop for a picnic lunch with the stunning Mt Rainier behind you. Mount Rainier is Washington’s tallest and best-known peak and the National Park surrounding it is a recreational paradise. Enjoy stunning drives, like the one from Longmire to Paradise – a 13-mile drive that climbs through evergreen forests.
At Paradise you can enjoy 360-degree views of the park from the Visitor Centre. The Sunrise area is a high plateau reached by a series of switchbacks along 11 miles of road. The visitor center here has telescopes to allow you to view the park sights close up.
Travel further southwest away from Mt Rainier and towards Highway 5. From here you will join Highway 504 – the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway which will take you to Mount St Helens. On May 18th 1980 a huge blast sent billions of pounds of Washington into the stratosphere and leveled hundreds of square miles of forest, spreading volcanic ash across the Pacific Northwest. Today the land still bears witness to the incredible force of the eruption. The Highway 504 once carried travelers to Spirit Lake, one of the most beautiful spots in the Cascade Range. After Mount Saint Helens violently erupted, forests were flattened and the lake was filled with ash and logs. In the aftermath, a huge wall of mud, ash, and debris buried over 30 miles of the original road. This highway was dedicated to the 57 people who died as a result of the explosion and renamed the “Spirit Lake Memorial Highway”.
At the beginning of the highway is the Mount Saint Helens Visitor Centre where you can easily just spend an hour looking at the impressive exhibits. Once into the park the Johnston Ridge and the Coldwater Ridge Observatory both overlook the blast area from the northwest side of the mountain. Another great viewpoint is the Windy Ridge – where you can look at the lava dome in the mouth of the crater. The reality of the volcano’s capability and destruction is apparent everywhere – the roads bypass forests that were blown away by the force of the blast and ash and huge boulders have been left behind.
Travel west following the Columbia River to the coast and to your first sight of the Pacific Ocean at the Long Beach Peninsula – home to a 28-mile long beach. The Willapa Bay side of the Peninsula offers lovely old towns, oyster beds and wildlife viewing and will be a good place to stop for some lunch.
Then travel north on Hwy 101 past the town of Raymond. Scattered along the highway and throughout the town are around 200 steel-plated sculptures which are part of the Raymond Wildlife-Heritage Sculpture corridor. All the sculptures represent some of the history and culture of the region. The town of Ocean Shores has six miles of wide-open sandy beaches to be enjoyed. You will be spending one night here.
Head north into the Olympic National Forest and to beautiful Lake Quinault - a deep, clear lake located on the southwestern side of the Olympic National Park. The lake is over eight miles long and plunges more than 1000 feet at its deepest point. The valleys that cradle Lake Quinault, the Quinault Rain Forest and the Hoh Rain Forest are truly the "Valleys of the Rain Forest Giants" where the trees are some of the country’s largest.
Continue on Highway 101 which takes you back along the Pacific Coast and then follows the Olympic National Forest to the Northeastern Olympic Peninsula and the city of Port Angeles. Logging ships and fishing boats visit this city’s busy harbour daily. There are many places to explore form here including Hurricane Ridge where you can take the 18-mile road to over 5000 ft and pick up hiking trails for stunning views.
From here you can also easily access the stunning Olympic National Park. Here the roads do not penetrate very far into the park so the majority of the park is for hikers and climbers, although there are river trips and fishing to be enjoyed here too. Neah Bay on the very northwestern point of the peninsula is the centre of the Makah Indian Reservation. Here you can visit the Makah Cultural & Research Centre where the permanent exhibits include artifacts from the Ozette collection, uncovered from a Makah village partially buried by a mudslide nearly 500 years ago. Inside the museum you will find a full-size replica long house, and four cedar dug-put canoes. Whaling, sealing, and fishing gear, basketry and other tools are also on display, preserved by the unique conditions created by the mudslide.
Spend your morning exploring Port Townsend with its brightly painted Victorian mansions. This charming town has many wonderful cafes and restaurants where you can pick a spot for lunch. Continue on via the Bainbridge Island ferry to Seattle. The ferry takes 35 minutes and is not a reservable service.
Arrive into Seattle and head for your hotel before you explore the city at your leisure. This is a city who’s charm comes from its stunning location, friendly people and the way the city has grown up on the shores of Puget Sound and Lake Washington.
- Return flights from London (Please ask about other departure airports)
- 16 nights' accommodation and tax
- Fully insured compact car hire (larger cars are available)
- A travel pack containing a full itinerary, driving instructions, maps, brochures and suggested excursions
Daily departures from June to September.