"America the Beautiful" Top 5 Page for this destination Washington State by Jonathan_C
Washington State Travel Guide: 7,627 reviews and 20,803 photos
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
Except for our having only one ocean, Washington is a microcosm of what America the Beautiful is all about: rolling wheat fields, big sky country, bad lands, deserts, mountains, lakes, forests and beaches.
Yes, we're the "Evergreen State" -- but only west of the Pacific Crest. It is the variety of terrain that makes Washington so special. We don't just have mountains; we have glacier covered active volcanoes that rise over 10,000 ft from the lowlands. We don't have any old beaches; we have the longest strech of wilderness beaches in the lower 48. Our forests have some of the biggest trees in the world. Our Grand Coulee was formed during one of the most violent spasms of geologic change in North America. The wheat fields of the Palouse are not only the most productive in the nation, they are also the most picturesque.
In Washington you will be able to visit scenery as wild and pristine as you'll find anywhere. That's what brought me here and has kept me here ever since. Here is a brief review of my own must see Washington landscapes:
We really have four separate mountain ranges in the state: the Olympics, Cascades, Blues and Rockies. The Cascades are rightfully the most famous and contain most of our National Park and wilderness areas. The mountains here aren't just snow capped, the big ones carry a crushing weight of glaciers -- more than any other state in the lower 48. There are more glaciers on Mt. Rainier than in all of Glacier National Park. The Washington Cascades contain five of the 50 Classic Climbs in North America: Mt. Rainier, Mt. Stuart, Liberty Bell, Forbidden Peak and Mt. Shuksan with a sixth, Slesse Mtn., just across the border in British Columbia.
From the protected shores of Puget Sound to the storm swept coast of Olympic National Park, Washingtonians in the western part of the state are intimately tied to the sea. We are blessed with 200 km of Pacific coastline and countless hundreds more within Puget Sound. Some of our city and county parks have beaches and tidepools that can compete with national parks for aesthetics and marine life. Here you will see everything from sea slugs and starfish to sea lions and orcas. The San Juan Islands in northern Puget Sound are an incredible destination for anyone with access to a sailboat or kayak.
When Paul Bunyan arrived in Washington State he thought he'd died and gone to heaven. However big the trees of the North Woods may have been, they were dwarfed by the giants found on the western slopes of the Cascades and Olympics. Thanks to the efforts of conservationists you can still see them not only in isolation but as in tact forest ecosystems. A few scattered individuals even exist in some city parks. In Olympic National Park the temperate rainforest receives over 12 feet of rain a year and contains trees over 200 feet tall.
Many people forget that Washington continues to exist east of the Columbia River. Don't be a mountain and beach snob. Go east to experience the 'Western' terrain in Grant and Douglas counties. Get a car and a gazetteer and plan a couple of days touring around Grand Coulee, Moses Coulee, Pallisades Canyon, Badger Mountain and the like. It wasn't a mistake when the Nature Conservancy recently bought up thousands of acres of development rights out here in central Washington. The sun will warm you and the wide open emptyness of this grand landscape will feel worlds apart from the forested, peopled landscape west of the Crest.
Much of eastern Washington is covered with loess -- an incredibly deep, rich topsoil blown in from elsewhere eons ago. This soil and the rolling landscape it covers made this country ideally suited for grass and horses, much to the advantage of Lewis and Clark. Today wheat has replaced the native grasses but the fields are huge, the barriers few and the views at harvest time are breathtaking. If you are arriving by car from the East (i.e. Idaho) you should take some of the blue highways in eastern Washington and envelop yourself in these amber waves of grain.
Cities and Towns
Oh yes, almost forgot. There are also people in Washington State. Most of them are quite nice in fact. Seattle is consistently ranked near the top of an annual list of American cities for honesty, politeness and helpfulness. You'll find quite a range of communities from high tech Seattle to smaller, quieter towns like Bellingham, Ellensburg and Walla Walla to scenic outposts like Winthrop and Neah Bay. Here at the western edge of America you will still find a youthful optimism and forward looking spirit that harkens back only 150 years to our early pioneers.
A Life's Work
As you can see, those of us who live here live in a state of conflict. Meaningful work is always competing for time with equally meaningful play. When you come to Washington, plan to stay long enough to see more than just the highlights. I've been here almost twenty years and feel I've barely scratched the surface.
Each year when we return home from our annual Escape from Seattle in eastern Washington we try to take a different route... more travel advice
After visiting Southwest Washington (e.g. Long Beach, Willapa Bay, Ocean Shores etc.) you may choose to avoid the... more travel advice
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