Author: Kathryn GerkenFamily Travel National Destination

National Parks Week

This week, April 18th-24th is National Parks week. The National Park system is 100 years old this year. To honor this week, I will be posting about various National Parks of the west that I have visited. If you would like a copy of my itinerary please contact me. Today, I will begin with a few National Parks in my state of Washington. Three of the most popular are Mount Rainier, the Olympic National Parks and Mount Saint Helen’s National Monument.

If you plan to visit several parks within a year a annual park pass is the most economical way to go. If you are a senior or military, there is life-time and discounted options available for you.

Mount Rainier, is located about 2 hours southeast of Seattle. The park is closed during the winter months, but re-opens in the spring depending on the snow levels. We have been there in June, when the snow was still on the ground at the main lodge at Paradise.

Mount Rainier in June

Mount Rainier in June

There are limited lodging options on Mount Rainier. There is ample camping, if you reserve early, or there are hotels in nearby towns such as Packwood.

Just driving around Mount Rainier offers many photo opportunities.

The Olympic National park is huge and has a variety of sights from hot springs to old growth rain forests and beach trails. Navigating to the top of Hurricane Ridge affords you spectacular view, while hiking in the rain forest, may allow you sights of elk herds. After hiking, you can check into the lodge at the Sol Duc Hot Springs for a nice soak.

Another very popular site is the Mount St. Helen’s National Monument.WP_000239 Located in National Forest lands, this monument was established by President Regan in 1982 after the eruption on May 18th, 1980. The Johnston Ridge Forest Observatory is the best place to learn about the history of the eruption. Mt. St. Helen’s is closer to Portland, Oregon than Seattle and hotel and camping space is limited. The best place to stay is the town of Kelso, WA. Another great site here for the more adventurous is the Ape Caves. These are old, pre-1980, lava tunnels that have formed underground caves that can be explored. Make sure to pack warmer layers, flashlights and water for the hike.

These are only a few of the many National Park offerings in Washington State. If you live here I hope that you will visit or return to one of these parks this year in celebration of the 100th anniversary. If you don’t live in Washington, our parks are just one good reason to visit. For a listing of centennial events click here.

There are many companies who offer tours to various National Parks both in Washington and elsewhere. Please contact me for special tours during this centennial celebration year.