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Five Must-Do Magical National Natural Wonders in Washington

1. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Located in southwestern Washington, along the border with Oregon, this spectacular canyon -- up to 4,000 feet deep in certain areas -- stretches for more than 80 miles where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade mountains. It is the largest national scenic area in the U.S., and covers all sorts of natural landscapes, from alpine meadows to desert to seaside. It is a popular destination for hiking, biking, sightseeing, fishing, and watersports. The Washington side is known for cliffs and mountains while the Oregon side has waterfalls. Visitors will find fine dining, theaters, wineries, small towns, and museums. The scenic area is managed by the Colombia River Gorge Commission and the U.S. Forest Service. Start your exploration at the Columbia Hills Historical State Park (3,338 acres, camping, climbing, boating) in Dallesport. Visit Maryhill, B ingen, and White Salmon, among other small towns along the way. Learn more: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

2. Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. Located in eastern Washington, and following the path of the Columbia River north of the Grand Coulee Dam for 130 miles to Northport, about 90 miles northwest of Spokane, and named for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Grand Coulee Dam was built on the Columbia River in 1941 as part of the Columbia River Basin project that created Lake Roosevelt, and which affected 11 shoreline towns, including nine that were completely relocated to higher ground. Recreational activities abound along this amazingly scenic corridor, including hiking, camping, hunting, swimming, fishing, and boating. Historic opportunities include St. Paul's Mission (former Jesuit mission) and scenic overlook in Kettle Falls and Fort Spokane (former U.S. army fort, Indian boarding school, and tuberculous hospital), north of Davenport; in early spring (during water drawdown), visitors can walk among the streets of old Marcus. Crescent Bay, just southwest of Lake Roosevelt also falls under the jurisdiction of the National Recreation Area, which is managed by the National Park Service. Learn more: Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

3. Mount Rainier National Park. Located in southwest Washington, about 65 miles southeast of Seattle, this 263,000-acre park surround's the state's highest peak, the 14,410-foot Mount Rainier, an active volcano -- and the most glaciated peak (with 25 active glaciers) in the U.S. mainland. Start with an overview on top of Sunrise (open July through September), the highest point in the park reachable by car (at 6,400-feet), which offers breathtaking views of Mount Rainier, as well as other nearby volcanoes, including Mount Adams, and is best to visit in the morning (with the sunrise). Next up, Paradise and the Jackson Visitors Center. So much to do in and around this park, from (Cascade) mountain-admiration and forest-bathing to waterfalls, alpine lakes, and wildflowers, along with hiking (including a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail), gondola-riding (up to the top of Crystal Mountain), and historic train-riding (Mt. Rainier Railroad in Elbe). Some of the 150+ waterfalls that you should see include Fairy Falls, Kautz Creek Falls, Snoquera Falls, Skookum Falls, and Spray Falls. Four fire tower lookouts remain with the park, open to the public, all accessible only by hiking. While in the area, take time to visit nearby Federation Forest State Park (619 acres day-use park on White River; interpretive trails; old-growth Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Sitka Spruce, Western Red Cedar) as well as Olympic National Park and several national forests (including Gifford Pinchot, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie, Olympic, and Wenatchee). Learn more: Mount Rainier National Park.

4. North Cascades National Park. Located in northern Washington, starting at Lake Chelan (and the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area), the third deepest lake in the U.S., continuing north to Diablo Lake (a brilliant turquoise in summer months), and finally to Ross Lake (and the Ross Lake National Recreation Area) and the border with British Columbia, Canada, this park -- and the surrounding national forests -- contain some of the most beautiful conifer-clad forests and mountains, as well as (600+) glaciers and alpine lakes. So much to do in this natural paradise, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, boating, camping, and more. To the east is the Pasayten Wilderness, which some tout as one of the most spectacular experiences of their lives, a 531,000-acre protected area within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, with more than 600 miles of trails (including the PCT and PNT), encompassing the crest of the Cascades. To the west is Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Park (including the Noisy-Diobsud and Mount Baker Wilderness areas). Learn more: North Cascades National Park.

5. Olympic National Park. Located on the very edge of western Washington on the Olympic Peninsula, just west of Seattle (though about 100 miles by car), this must-see 923,000-acre park offers visitors to experience several different ecosystems (including sub-alpine forest and meadows, temperate forest, and ocean shoreline), in four regions: dramatic Pacific coastline, dramatic glaciated mountain peaks alpine areas (including Mt. Olympus), temperate rainforest, and dry, old-growth forests. More than 1,100 species of plants grow within the diverse areas of the park, as well as 300 species of birds (including bald eagles), and lots of other animals (including raccoons, beavers, mink, elk, deer, cougar, and bear); just offshore, whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals, and sea otters live in the Pacific Ocean. You'll find lots to do, from boating, fishing, or tidepooling to camping (in one of 16 campgrounds), climbing, and hiking (including Heart O' the Forest Trail, Staircase Rapids Loop Trail, Geyser Valley Loop Trail, Rialto Beach Trail, Sam's River Loop Trail, Mount Storm King Trail, Obstruction Point - Deer Park Trail). Interwoven within the park's diverse landscape is an array of cultural and historic sites that tell the human history. The park is designated as both a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. Start your visit at the park's visitor center in Port Angeles, and make sure you visit Hurricane Ridge, Hoh Rain Forest, Lake Crescent, and Rialto Beach. If you have the time, do the entire 329-mile Olympic Peninsula Scenic Loop Drive (on US Highways 101 and 12, and Washington Highway 8). Learn more: Olympic National Park.

To see a list of all the national natural parks, monuments, and forests in Washington, go to our sister site, EmpoweringParks.com: Washington Natural Park Wonders.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.



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