Majesty of the 3 National Parks in the State of Washington
One of Washington's Majestic National Parks
Each of the three National Parks in the State of Washington have mountain peaks and glaciers. There are other similarities to be found in them and yet just like every other National Park in the United States there are also things unique to each park.
Come along on a journey of exploration to Mount Rainier, North Cascades and Olympic National Parks and find out a little bit about what makes each location special.
If you are planning a vacation trip to the northwest part of our country you might wish to spend some time reading about these national parks in order to better plan your trip.
Mount Rainier National ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Mount Rainier National Park
This majestic snow covered mountain top dominating the landscape in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington and seen from further places away as well is an active volcano. Its towering height of over 14,000 feet sets Mount Rainier apart from its neighboring peaks and is a spectacle of beauty when it is in slumbering mode.
In actuality even when slumbering it is like a person who tosses and turns and snores making for people around this site awake and watchful. Volcanologists and seismologists continually monitor Mount Rainier in order to warn nearby residents of an impending disaster if it were to be predicted so as to avoid unnecessary loss of life.
Having its origins from the earth's fiery interior, molten lava would have extruded through cracks onto the earth's surface some million years ago or so and layer upon layer of melted rock and debris left it standing about 1,000 feet even higher than viewed as it is today. A major eruption blew off the top of the volcano leaving the current shape of the concave summit about 2,500 years ago geologists speculate.
Even today minor earthquakes are recorded. The rivers of water under the icy and rock strewn glaciers are a constant reminder that this restless mountain is one of which to be respectful. Steam vents spew forth sulfuric gases. Most of the glaciers continually advance and/or recede depending upon weather conditions creating deep crevasses and other hazards. One thing is certain. Mount Rainier is not a static place but ever changing.
People have been drawn to this lofty site of Mount Rainier to challenge their wit and skills in mountain climbing. Unfortunately a few lose their lives each year but it never stops others from trying.
For those intrepid people who dare hiking among the glaciers there are some spectacular ice caves that have been formed from warm air currents. Paradise Ice Caves is one such site that has regaled people with its beauty and color near the edge of the receding Paradise Glacier and is just one of numerous glaciers flowing down the sides of Mount Rainier.
Spring, summer and fall brings about a burst of life from seasonal flowers, trees and shrubs. Many animals that hibernate during the winter are out and about feasting and storing up food for the long slumber ahead as winter once again arrives.
Of course one does not have to be a mountain climber to enjoy this National Park in the State of Washington. There are many other activities.
North Cascades National Park
Diversity is surely a good word to describe this immense National Park within the northern reaches of the State of Washington. The North Cascades National Park borders Canada to the north.
Found in the biodiverse eight life zones are countless forms of plant and animal life. Naturalists would naturally be drawn to this primitive landscape that includes glacier sculpted mountains, valleys and lakes. There are hundreds of mountain peaks and hundreds of glaciers. In fact in the lower 48 States of the U.S. more numbers of glaciers can be found in this one park system than anywhere else.
Ross Lake in the Ross Lake Recreation Area to the northeast and Lake Chelan in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area in the southeast portions of the National Park are two of the largest lakes which provide aquatic recreational activities.
Scenic Highway 20 bisects the North Cascades National Park from east to west going through the Ross Lake Recreation Area.
North Cascades National ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
At one time mining took place here. Prospectors once labored for the hopes of finding gold, silver, and copper. Horseshoe Basin leaves evidence behind of those efforts from years long ago and hikers often start their journey from one point which was once a service road to the mines.
From deep and dark forests with trees like the Douglas Fir which can soar to heights of 300 feet to the tiniest of alpine flowers at upper elevations, photographers of plant life will have much to study and capture with their cameras.
Also from the tiniest of insects to a variety of birds and mammals that range from cute little chipmunks to the mountain goats, bears and secretive mountain lions there are hundreds of species of which to admire.
The immensity of this park could keep visitors entertained for years in the various seasons and it would be difficult to see it all.
Olympic National Park
One year towards the end of our vacation which started in Seattle and which took us to Vancouver and Vancouver Island we crossed by ferry back to Port Angeles to visit a friend for a day and night before returning to Seattle to catch our plane ride back to Houston, Texas.
She had lived in Port Angeles for many years and had a deep love for the natural beauty which surrounded her. She told my mother and me many things about the Olympic National Park and advised us to drive up to Hurricane Ridge to see spectacular views from the top.
Unfortunately after driving for just a short time the fog and clouds made visibility a major problem. With some careful effort I was able to turn around and head back down the mountain. We did enjoy a wonderful meal at Lake Crescent so enjoyed that part of the park for a brief time.
Thus our exploration of this Pacific coast national park which has scenery along the shore such as the sea stacks rising up out of the water like so many alert sentry lookouts standing at attention seaward of the tide pools and sandy beaches will have to wait for another time.
Olympic National ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
In addition to the coastline views there is actually a rainforest within the park that often gets 140 inches of rainfall a year. I would love to see the forested areas, mosses and ferns, wildflowers on the forest floor plus mushrooms and fungi among other things commonly found within such a unique biosphere.
Mount Olympus is the highest mountain peak in the park. It is tall enough at just shy of 8,000 feet to have several glaciers gracing its slopes. There are rivers and waterfalls within the boundaries of this park and a variety of plant and animal life.
Location of the 3 National Parks in the State of Washington
Which of these National Parks have you visited?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Peggy Woods