Unique Places in Washington State

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Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Washington State

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    Natural Waterslide

    by Jonathan_C Updated Aug 13, 2004

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    The Denny Creek waterslide is an absolute gem that those of us who live here treasure. The one mile, 550' elevation gain trail takes you into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and is just long enough to work up a sweat after which the cold water is a treat. If you have kids -- good luck getting them to leave before the sun goes down! Bring a book and bask on the rocks while they play until they're numb. If you don't have kids, or can leave them with one parent, take a hike up the creek to see one incredibly beautiful waterfall after the next. This is why we live here!

    Notes:
    Northwest Forest Pass required for parking. Sign in at the trailhead. (Be safe -- water play is not advised until July after the spring runoff has calmed down. Check the website below for nearby streamflow. I'd recommend visiting at or below 100 cfs.)

    Directions:
    From Seattle take I90 to Exit 47 (Asahel Curtis/Denny Creek) then turn left and cross the overpass. Turn right on road #58, pass the Denny Creek campground and then turn left on Road #5830 and follow it to the end. Allow one hour.

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    Family Rest Stop: Ellensburg

    by Jonathan_C Updated Nov 12, 2003

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    If you're driving I 90 from Seattle across the Cascades to explore eastern Washington then you might as well stop in Ellensburg. It's a lovely little town with a university and pleasant downtown. The Valley Cafe is a cosmopolitan and delicious place for lunch that feels straight out of North Seattle.

    We've developed a habit of stopping at Olmstead Place Farm just outside of town. It's an old farmstead and you can tour the log cabin, the 'new' house and the machine shed. Despite the proximity of the highway, you can still get a sense of what the Kittitas Valley was like a century ago.

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    The Lakes of Indian Heaven

    by mtncorg Written Sep 3, 2003

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    There are many lakes in Indian Heaven. Lakes, tarns, marshes. They are very pretty in late August, September, October. They are pretty earlier in the year, too, but you won't see them very long for the insect life which will beset you.

    Insects and lakes also mean lots of fish. The lakes are popular; it is only a little over 2 miles hiking in from the gravel road at Cultus Creek campground. You can walk past several lakes in one day or you can pick one of the many campsites scattered about. This is a wilderness area, so you need to get a permit from one of the little boxes when hiking in.

    There are lots of huckleberries in the area - it is just south of the large Sawtooth berry fields where Indian rights are still preserved. Picking huckleberries is not like picking commercial blueberries. The berries, while having a much nicer taste, are a lot smaller; they grow singly spread far out on a bush, as opposed to the grape-like clusters on blueberry bushes. It takes a long time to fill a one liter water bottle. You can buy the berries from huckleberry dealers along the roads near Trout Lake - north from Hood River and a main entry point to both Indian Heaven and Mt Adams. They will cost about $27 for a gallon of berries which is about 5 pounds. Blueberries cost a LOT less but it will only take you 15-20 minutes to pick 5 pounds of blueberries from a good field. That many huckleberries will take you all day. They taste great and will last about a week in the refrigerator. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and freeze them - without washing them - and they will last you all year. If $27 per gallon sound like a lot of money, just think of that New York chef paying $75-100 per gallon. Better yet, think of the people eating the chef's meals.

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    Family Rest Stop: Port Angeles

    by Jonathan_C Updated Sep 5, 2003

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    If you're driving from Seattle or Everett to the Olympic peninsula to visit the Ho rainforest, wilderness beaches or Makah reservation then you'll want to take a break in Port Angeles. It's exactly half way and has a lovely little park right downtown at the waterfront where you can stretch your legs. Just follow the signs to the ferry terminal. There's a small beach, a marine science center, a pier and the parking is free. Inside the ferry terminal building The Landing is a great place for burgers and fish and chips.

    For families there's also a new Leathers playground a couple of blocks up Race St. just east of downtown.

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    Mt Mitchell gives you a great Mt St Helens View

    by mtncorg Written Jun 10, 2003

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    Most people drive the roads to experience Mt St Helens - the Johnston Ridge viewpoint on the north side, where you can peer into the blown out crater; or over the NE side to the viewpoint at Windy Ridge. These are fine points for the casual visitor to take in. But for the 'virtual' traveller, they are only starting points.

    Mt Mitchell is a small peak, topping out at about 4000 feet (1212 meters for those of you thusly inclined). It rises straight above the Lewis River - one of the great rivers of southern Washington, which flows into the Columbia near Woodland WA (see hesselon's pages) after arising high in the Cascades from Adams Glacier on the slopes of volcanic Mt Adams. In its course, the river never is a true wilderness river; forest roads follow nearby, but the river and the roads are deep in the heart of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and you have the feeling that you are far away in a land more primeval (see the page on Lewis River waterfalls).

    The hike is only 6.4 miles (9.6 Km) and gains 2100 feet (636 m). To get to the trail, pick up the latest copy of William Sullivan's '100 Hikes in NW Oregon' (obviously, some of his hikes include Washington) and turn to his Mt Mitchell pages. The roads are not always obvious, so heed his instructions carefully. The trail is pretty straightforward - there was once a forest lookout atop the peak. Meadows of beargrass await the hiker and views across much of SW Washington back towards Portland. And there, looming as big clipper ships of old are the big south Washington volcanoes, draped in glacial glory - Adams, Rainier and almost close enough to touch, Mt St Helens. This is the south side, relatively unscathed by the immense eruption of 1980, yet you can see the lahars where superheated pumice and snows tore swaths through the forests around its base. The first of the large reservoirs of the Lewis River - Swift Creek Reservoir - is far below your feet.

    We were up here on a day when the temperature was 35C (90+F). The little mountain corgi is a little winded.

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    Tatoosh Range

    by mtncorg Written May 17, 2003

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    One could say the Tatoosh is somewhat forgotten with all of the activity going on just across on Mt Rainier, but that isn't quite correct. While there is certainly not as many people hiking and climbing in the Tatoosh, this is a National Park ensuring a general lack of solitude.

    The range is much more alpine in setting than Rainier in that the range is made of many peaks that are similar in height. You can spend days hiking and climbing among the crags, never tiring of the grand view of the southern side of Rainier. From the top, you have a glorious view of Washington's southern Cascades, from the nearby Goat Rocks to Mt St Helens.

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    The Snowking

    by mtncorg Written May 17, 2003

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    Washington is a wonderland for the hiker and climber. You can spend years climbing the different peaks, hiking the different trails or simply waiting for the weather to clear :-o

    This is a little peak that lies just south of the North Cascades National Park. There is no 'maintained' trail, only what is described as a 'fisherman's' trail - straight up with vegetation belays, not always recognizable as a 'trail' unless you are Slovenian. There are nice lakes at the moutains base and the climb of the mountain is not hard -just a scramble. The views are amazing. My member photo is taken from atop, with Hidden Lake and Eldorado Peaks in the distance.

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    Waterfalls on the Lewis River

    by mtncorg Written May 17, 2003

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    Far up the Lewis River lie three large waterfalls. There is a hiking trail that connects the three, though you can also drive up close to them as well. Next to the lower falls is a large Forest Service campground. To get here, you drive west off I5 from Woodland, past the reservoirs on the Lewis, past Mt St Helens continuing on the Lewis River road. A warm sunny afternoon spent atop the lower falls seated on warm rocks is definitely not a day misspent.

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    Husum Falls on the White Salmon River

    by mtncorg Updated May 17, 2003

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    Just north of the windsurfing paradise that is the Columbia River gorge - shared by both Oregon and Washington - is the White Salmon river. The river is a glacially fed stream off of the slopes of Mt Adams. The river has forged a dramatic canyon through the forested lava landscape. Driving north from the Columbia River at White Salmon, about 10 miles will not only afford you nice views of Mt Adams to the north, but bring you to Husum. Here there are several companies that will take you whitewater rafting on the river, taking you over several class 3 and 4 rapids. Later in the season, they might even take you over Husum Falls which is class 5. The normal put-in point for the companies is above at BZ Corner, where the rafts or kayaks are pullied down into the steep canyon floor. Push off into the water and 10 feet down is class 4 Maytag Rapids!!

    Most people finish their runs above or below Husum Falls - a waterfall on the river next to the highway bridge in Husum. If you don't want to get wet, then just sit on the river's edge and watch others who are.

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    Indian Heaven

    by mtncorg Written May 17, 2003

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    This is a plateau area north of the Columbia River and just SW of Mt Adams. Atop the plateau, there is a myriad of small lakes offering many glorious campsites. Not unlike Minnesota, though, mosquitos like camping out at the lakes too ;-/ In the late summer, the area is rich with mountain huckleberries.

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    The Goat Rocks

    by mtncorg Written May 20, 2003

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    South of Mt Rainier and north of Mt Adams, lie an area that is the remnants of earlier volcanic cones - the Goat Rocks. They were thought to be as many as four overlying cones here. Erosion and violent volcanic action has left an amazing geological playground for the hiker and the climber. The peaks top out at just over 8000 feet. Flower gardens, hidden lakes and glacial valleys surround the area. It is a grand area to spend some time backpacking in. Most commonly accessed south from Packwood - a small town on US 12 south of Mt Rainier - off the road that goes to Chambers Lakes.

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    Mount Margaret Backcountry

    by mtncorg Updated May 20, 2003

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    The mountains just north of Mt St Helens harbor a sprinkling of sparkling lakes, but this area was in the heart of the blast zone from the 1980 eruption. Life is slowing returning to the area. Trees that were still covered by snow in May 1980, thus spared the blast, are growing. Huckleberries and flowers are all over - as can be bears. The trail from Norway Pass extends up to Mt Margaret and is a unforgettable trail through the devastation and rejuvenation of nature.

    To get to Mount Margaret just continue past Norway Pass on the Mt Margaret trail. You can also access from the west at the Johnson Ridge observatory.

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    Swimming Hole: Shoofly

    by Jonathan_C Updated Aug 13, 2004

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    On those rare days when it gets too hot in Seattle you can always go to beaches on Lake Washington or the Sound to cool off. But there's always something special about moving water. And it's especially special when you find a spot in a river with a real "swimmin hole". My ideal swimming hole would have a beach, smooth rocks, pools, rapids, cliffs and a rope swing but perhaps that's asking for too much.

    'Shoofly' on the S. Fork Stillaguamish is a bend in the river that has rocks, pools, rapids and a gravel beach along with an Osprey nest up above. You can lounge in the deep, still pool or play in the rapids, finding just the right spot to settle into a cool water jacuzzi. (Be safe -- this river is quite dangerous except at low water. Check the river stage at the website below. We went when the gage height was 3.5.)

    Notes:
    This isn't a spot for small children. I'd recommend 100lbs or excellent swimming skills before bringing a kid here.

    Directions:
    From Seattle, take I-5 N to Everett and then take 2, 204, 9 and 92, zigzagging your way up to Granite Falls. Follow the Mt. Loop Highway just past Wiley Creek campground to a section of road with a 20 mph speed limit. You'll see the spot as you round a bend in the road. Park just upstream of the bend. Allow 90 minutes.

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    Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

    by richiecdisc Written Nov 20, 2009

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    Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is an apt name for what for us was very much a let down after visiting many stellar lighthouses on the Oregon Coast. Oddly enough, we visited these as part of our Oregon trip as they are geographically closer and surely easier to visit from there. It was hard to believe how different the two experiences were. First off, we had amazingly nice weather at the lighthouses on the Oregon Coast and that very day in Astoria, OR. But after driving across the Astoria Bridge and following Highway 101 for less than 20 miles, we were engulfed in dense fog. Talk about disappointment. But that was only part of the problem. The lighthouse was not as well kept a those on the Oregon coast. It looked quite shabby and even if the sun had been shining, it would not have compared favorably.

    Cape Disappoint Lighthouse took some time to be built but has been lit since 1856 and stands 53 feet though projects from 220 feet due to its lofty perch about the sea.

    It is located at the very southwestern tip of Washington State off Highway 101. It is 20 miles or 40 minutes from Astoria, OR. It would be a very long 174 mile or 4 hour drive from Seattle. Now, you're really talking disappointment!

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    North Head Lighthouse

    by richiecdisc Updated Nov 20, 2009

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    North Head Lighthouse was a bit less disappointing than its Cape Disappointment neighbor though still very much in the fog. You might wonder why the two lighthouses were built so close together on a clearer day but in this dense fog, it does not seem as unreasonable. Construction finished in 1898 and it stands at 65 feet though it also benefits from its setting and projects from nearly 200 feet. It was built a mere 2 miles from Cape Disappointment due to the precarious river setting, lack of visibility in general, and it being one of the windiest places in the United States. Cape Disappointment was given a thick black stripe to differentiate if from North Head since they were so close together.

    North Head is located 2 miles from Cape Disappointment so four hours from Seattle and not really worth the drive unless you are a lighthouse fanatic. If you are on the Oregon Coast, give it a shot in fine weather.

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Washington State Off The Beaten Path

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