Mount Rainier &
North Cascades
National Parks

The mountain peak you’ll see in Seattle is Mount Rainier. You’ll hear the locals ask “is the mountain out”?

Even though Mount Rainier is only 80 miles southeast of the city, it is quite often hidden from view by the clouds. Photo: pscleanair.org/webcam.

But never fear, you will see the mountain up close when you go to Mount Rainier National Park for great views of this 14,411 foot volcanic peak. Drive on Interstate 5 to Tacoma and pick up SR 7 to Ashford and Paradise Lodge.  Many visitors prefer taking an escorted bus tour and enjoy the views.  I suggest you take along a sweater or jacket. It can get cold at these elevations.

Get a new view of Mount Rainier when you drive to Crystal Mountain Resort on the Sunrise side of the National Park. Red gondola cars take 10 minutes to lift you to the summit of Crystal Mountain for amazing views of Mount Rainier just 12 miles away. Enjoy dining at Summit House, Washington's highest restaurant!  Hiking trails in the summer and skiing in winter make this a wonderful place to enjoy views of the Cascade Mountains. Photo: Crystal Mountain

Other Washington State mountains to visit in the Cascade Range include: Mount St. Helens to the south and Mount Baker north near the Canadian border. You can make a day trip from Seattle to either one of these volcanic mountains.

Learn more about these National Parks in my travel video: Washington State A Scenic Tour.

North Cascades National Park

Get more mountains for the mile when you drive Interstate 5 north to Burlington and pick up the North Cascades Highway 20 to discover the North Cascades National Park. It’s a vast wilderness country of towering peaks with hundreds of glaciers, mountain lakes, and scenic river valleys.

You’re here, now how do you see the most of the park? I think the Visitors Center near Newhalem is the best place to start. The centers relief map, exhibits, and videos give an introduction to the area. Park Rangers can advise you on hiking trails to suite your skills. Mountain roads get you to trail heads to explore forested trails. This is Bald Eagle country, so keep a watchful eye out for these magnificent birds.

Pick up a Skagit Tour here to see how the Skagit River has been harnessed to provide hydro-electric power to the city of Seattle. For a summer cruise on Diablo Lake board the ‘Alice Ross’ to see amazing views of this alpine wilderness area. Advance reservations are required. Seattle City Light Tours

Driving east on Highway 20 the Ross and Diablo Lake Overlooks are worth a stop to see stunning view of the lakes reaching north into Canada.

One of my favorite views of the Cascades is waiting a few miles east at Washington Pass; the highest road in Washington. From the ‘Outlook’ trail get a billion dollar view of Liberty Bell Mountain and other craggy Cascade peaks. From this point drive east into the Methow Valley town of Winthrop and pick up the scenic Cascade Loop.

But if your plan takes you back to Seattle consider stopping for a meal in one of the small towns west along Highway 20. Look for overnight accommodations in Mt. Vernon and Burlington where Highway 20 meets the Interstate 5 freeway.