Recently, the National Park’s Conservation Association put together a piece on their 10 Scenic National Park Drives, and like nearly every list national groups put together, it skipped over some of the prettiest regions in the country. The list they put together is nice, and the destinations are great, especially the Tetons and Glacier. It just seems odd that they added Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island and skipped breathtaking car trips that are more gorgeous and spectacular that are in National Parks around Washington State. From the North Cascades to Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park, Washington State has some of the most scenic drives in America. Because I am biased, I put together my own list of 5 Scenic Drives in the National Parks of Washington State. Enjoy!
THE BEST SCENIC DRIVES IN WASHINGTON’S NATIONAL PARKS
North Cascades Highway
Few places in the country are as ridiculously good looking as the North Cascades Highway in the North Cascades National Park. At 128 miles one way, the scenery from Sedro-Woolley to the rustic western town of Winthrop gets more impressive each mile that passes. Whether you stop to take in the sights at Diablo Lake, decide to take a quick walk to see the epic views at Washington Pass, the drive is never dull. With rivers, waterfalls and tons of snow in the early fall and late spring, this drive is for anyone who wants to take a journey like Frodo, but doesn’t want to walk. An added bonus is the rustic layout and style of Winthrop, Washington, which looks like a true Old West town. The road is closed in the winter, but if you are lucky enough to be in line for opening day in the spring, you might be greeted with freshly made cinnamon rolls!
Read More: http://www.myscenicdrives.com/drives/washington/north-cascades-highway
Quinault Rainforest Loop
While the Hoh Rainforest is one of the most recognizable rainforests in America, the Quinault Loop Drive around the Quinault Rainforest in Olympic National Park offers views that are second to none. Roadside waterfalls, trucks overgrown with moss and ferns, huge trees and access to the shortest, best rainforest hikes in the state all await you on the drive. With eagles, salmon, elk and the occasional black bear visible from your window, driving the short 30 mile loop is ridiculously awesome. In just over an hour, take in seasonal waterfalls, incredible views and multiple picnic areas and historical sights like the Lake Quinault Lodge. The Quinault Rainforest Loop a great experience for travelers of all ages. Passing the worlds largest spruce, a giant cedar and kid-friendly, dog-friendly walk around a rainforest loop trail, this drive needs to be experienced often. Plus, it is just an hour away from Kalaloch Lodge and Ruby Beach.
While driving around Mount Rainier can be broken down into numerous legs, the overall drive around this still active volcano is amazing. Starting at Ashford, Southeast of Mount Rainier National Park, work your way through Longmire, across the wide and rough Nisqually River and up to Paradise, where views of this incredible volcano are right in your face. The drive passes reflective lakes, gives impressive views of the mountain and even gets you in some of the prettiest forests in the state. While the majority of this loop is closed in the winter, summer drivers can see Paradise, Sunrise and numerous other spectacular lodges and viewpoints. If you are looking for a truly Washington Experience, the drive around Mount Rainier is the perfect trip. At around 100 miles, take your time and stop off at every viewpoint! You won’t be disappointed.
Read More: http://www.whitepassbyway.com/roadtrips/mtrainierloop.html
Olympic Peninsula Scenic Byway (101)
The State of Oregon may try and trick you into thinking they have the most scenic section of the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, but they are mistaken. The section of the byway that is hands down the best in around the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. Starting out along the Hood Canal, the route travels around the Olympic Mountains, giving incredible views of the rainforest, the mountains, the water ways and the coast of the Olympic Peninsula. With numerous side stops along the way, including Ruby Beach, Lake Crescent, Mount Walker and more. See elk in Forks, and if you like, take a detour to LaPush and see one of the best beaches rugged in the country, right from your car. Yes, the drive takes over five hours and is 276 miles, but where else can you drive around a rainforest filled with elk, over salmon stocked river and next to a wild and rigged section of the Washington Coast?
Few drives of less than 20 miles offer the amazing views and unique experiences that the Heart O’the Hills Road to Hurricane Ridge does. Starting at forests full of deer and the occasional black bear, the road rises from the sea-level town of Port Angeles for 17 miles, reaching Hurricane Ridge at over 5,000 feet. With views of the Elwha River Valley, Mount Olympus, the Olympic Interior to the south and Canada, the Salish Sea and the San Juans to the North, the breathtaking panorama that this road gives is one of the best in the road. Open year round (aside from a few days each week during the winter) the Heart O’The Hills road is great for both day and nighttime visits. In the day, watch marmots, deer and mountain goats. In the evening, watch the best sunset in the region before stargazing with limited light pollution. If you love mountains and views, driving to Hurricane Ridge needs to be done often!
Honorable Mention: Strait of Juan De Fuca Scenic Byway
If you have always wanted to see whales, watch the beauty of the Pacific Ocean and take a gander at Vancouver Island, the road to Neah Bay from Port Angeles is one of the best drives around.
Explore the Best Family-Friendly Trails and Stops in Olympic National Park