Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wine Country

Ever hold a glass of Chardonnay up to the light and look at the color? There’s a sparkle to it, the color of sunshine. And that’s what the land looks like from Yakima to Walla Walla. It has a golden glow. Add in the pinks and reds and rich purples of the sunrises and sunsets and you have the colors of wine country. Here in this dry, rocky terrain where days are bright, irrigation canals bring water to the desert soil and, in less than three decades, this has become some of the prime wine grape growing land of the world.
You can see the vineyards, visit the wineries, and taste and buy the products just following the roads that loop around Yakima, Benton, Walla Walla and Franklin counties. In the tasting rooms friendly faces, folks who love their work and are eager to teach you about the production and uses of wine, will greet you. Many have gift shops. But the bottled delights of the region are only a part of the fun to be had in the state’s wine county. Yakima has several museums and an architecturally rich downtown. The city maintains a close connection with the Yakama Indian Nation. And here, also, you’ll get some of the best Mexican food north of the Rio Grande. The area boasts a large and thriving Hispanic population. And if you are hankering to roller blade, bike, jog, or just walk your dog, the Yakima Greenway is a 10 mile paved trail that leads from Selah to Union Gap through Yakima’s eastern edge along the Yakima and Naches Rivers.
Further east the Tri-Cities (Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick) are another great spot to river walk. You’ll be along the mighty Columbia and its confluence with the Snake. Like many spots in the state, Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery passed through here on their way to the Pacific. Riverfront lodging, most with large full-service restaurants, offer great places to headquarter and explore this trio of boomtowns.
And even more to the east in Walla Walla (a place so wonderful they named it twice) you can settle into one of the most charming old towns in America. Walk the downtown with its newly renovated Marcus Whitman Hotel, visit Whitman College campus, or go to one of the towns many art galleries. Walla Walla has an enormous arts community. It is one of those places that people just pick-up and move to, staying happily ever after. And to supplement the area’s excellent wines, there are also a number of good restaurants in Walla Walla.
Pop the cork on your spirit of adventure and head out to Washington’s wine country. Like a great meal, the area includes a delightful encounter with Washington wine, but there’s much more to it than that. You’ll leave feeling quite full and thoroughly nurtured.

Yakima Valley

There’s a reason why Yakima Valley is so popular with visitors – there’s lots of sunshine here, making this agricultural Mecca as nurturing to humans as it is to the fruits and vegetables that thrive throughout the area. A short two-hour drive from Seattle, or three from Portland, the Yakima Valley seems to put in a special order each day for mesmerizing cloud formations and a brand of clean, clear air that’s a bit addictive.
The valley, with its placid rolling hills and acres of orchards filled with orderly rows of the varied crops of the area, provides a delightful blend of sunbeam-blessed options. This is proud Washington Wine Country, home to more than 30 regional wineries. Whether you’re a white-water rafter, fly fisherman, hunter or a passionate wine or fruit aficionado, the Yakima Valley can deliver a fun-filled vacation or short get-away.
The largest community and county seat is Yakima. It’s easily negotiated streets and picturesque historic section of downtown make exploring the city effortless and fun. Downtown’s Yakima Valley Museum and Children’s Underground Museum is a great spot to experience the natural and cultural history of the area. The museum touts the largest collection of wooden wagons west of the Mississippi, horse-drawn vehicles and Indian art and artifacts. Treat the family at the Museum’s Soda Fountain, an authentic replica of a 1930s diner serving ice cream sundaes, sodas, and hot dogs.
Just east of the freeway, visit the Washington’s Fruit Place Visitor Center to sample complimentary apple juice while gathering information about the growing process. Bring your bikes, roller blades or walking shoes and join local families and exercisers on the adjacent Yakima Greenway, a ten mile paved path along the Yakima River.
As you enter the Lower Valley through Union Gap, you’ll enter the Yakama Nation. Take note of the native burial ground and battlefield monument just after you pass through the gap on Highway 97. A 45-minute drive southwest of Union Gap (near White Swan) will lead to historic Fort Simcoe, a 1850s era military installation established to keep peace between the Yakamas and early white settlers.
For the ultimate photo opportunity, travel to the historic Teapot gas station built in 1922 to mock the Teapot Dome Scandal of the Warren G. Harding administration. You can find the Teapot near Zillah between Yakima and Sunnyside on Interstate 82, which is also the starting point for the “Fruit Loop” tour, a beautiful agri-tour of the neighboring wineries and orchards.
Visit Toppenish “Where the West Still Lives”. Discover the city of murals and museums. This Yakama Reservation community features a picturesque collection of 62 murals with a variety of events to complement them. Catch a real glimpse of the old-west. Attend Mural-In-A-Day in June. You’ll experience Indian traditions, pow wows, rodeos, music festivals, wildlife, and camping, golfing, casino gaming, and shopping. Make plans today to relive the old-west.
Ten miles southeast of Toppenish, Granger is home to nearly a dozen dinosaurs. From the smallest replication to the largest, this collection of playground equipment includes baby brontosaurus and a T-rex.
Sunnyside hosts the Darigold Dairy Fair featuring a self-guided tour of a cheese plant as well as a variety of Washington foods, dairy trinkets, and good, fresh ice cream. The nearby town of Prosser also provides a grand palate of offering to travelers. From their many world-class wineries to the ultimate cherry, Prosser provides divine sustenance, never more evident than during the annual August Prosser Wine and Food Fair.
Year-round, the Yakima Valley can always promise adventure; whether it’s serious antiquing, challenging outdoor recreation or partaking in the valley’s renowned crops. There’s something for everyone in this mystical valley.


Some regard the Tri-Cities area as the most desirable and unique destination in Washington. What makes the area highly unusual is the marriage between three cities that collectively establishes what could be regarded as its own mini-kingdom; your potential vacation experiences are automatically multiplied because of this strong partnership.
Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland create the triumvirate “Tri-Cities”, a significant geographical configuration. The region’s confluence of the Snake, Yakima and Columbia Rivers – combined with an average 300 days of sunshine each year – brings considerable choices for water sports. Sailing, boating, water or jet skiing, fishing, and swimming are all prime activities here.
Cloudless days are a standing invitation to enjoy the great outdoors. Golfers from throughout the region gather to enjoy the four driving ranges and ten beautiful golf courses. Bicyclist hum happily along the over 22 miles of well-maintained riverfront paths, and off-road vehicle enthusiast have a hey day with the varied and challenging terrain.
The Tri-Cities is a vital resting and feeding area for migratory waterfowl on the Pacific flyway, with eight National Wildlife Refuges and Reserves in the area. Bring your camera and binoculars and keep silent company with the many species of songbirds. Be alert also for the occasional sightings of beaver, river otter, mule deer and other riparian wildlife.
The Hanford Reach National Monument is regarded as the pre-eminent wildlife viewing area, with the only free-flowing, non-tidal stretch of the Columbia River in the U.S. This 51 mile stretch of river flows through cloud white bluffs taupe colored dunes and dramatic desert plateaus. The combination of geological riches, encompassing the river, shoreline, Hanford Dunes and Arid and Ecology Reserve, is the site of scientific and historic treasures. The best viewing of The Reach is on a commercial boat tour, which provides a perfect, non-intrusive view of this federally protected, non-vehicle area.
A nice, relaxing way to experience the area’s natural beauty is to walk or ride your bike along the Sacagawea Heritage Trail, 22 miles of lovely riverfront paths, those threads between Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland.
The combination of long summer days and cool, crisp evenings is ideal for the Columbia Valley’s premium wine grapes, and within a 50 mile radius there are 53 excellent wineries. Situated at the same latitude as the great Burgundy and Bordeaux regions of France – graced with rich volcanic soil and that ever-present sunshine – the Columbia Valley has had extraordinary success with their wineries. Washington state’s oldest winery is here, as it its largest. Plan to make a Winery Tour and sample what is becoming an internationally acclaimed, Washington grown product.

Walla Walla

The communities of Walla Walla County are rich in history, natural resources, and inherent beauty. There are four distinct seasons here, plenty of sunshine, and a lively checklist of things to do. If outdoor recreation is your thing, whether you prefer hunting, hiking, fishing, golfing, or biking – virtually any imaginable activity is available near here.
If you were a location scout for a movie that needed the perfect Main Street, you’d be well advised to visit Walla Walla. The city’s renovated entry is a point of pride for residents and a pure delight for visitors, and it’s just the spot to capture hometown charm. With the architecturally significant and historic structures returned to their original glory, the downtown creates a perfect marriage of old and new.
Walla Walla’s history is preserved and celebrated at two local museums. Fort Walla Walla Museum reminds visitors of the town’s beginnings as a mid-19th century military reservation with 16 original and replica buildings creating a pioneer village. Lewis and Clark took an overland shortcut through Walla Walla County on their return trip from the Pacific coast, and the museum has a life-sized diorama depicting those events of 1806.
The Whitman Mission National Historic Site, just seven miles west of Walla Walla on Highway 12, references the mission built in 1836 by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and details the relationship with the Cayuse tribe that led to their unfortunate demise. Each weekend there are cultural demonstrations replicating pioneer and Cayuse life in the 1840s.
A Downtown Walla Walla Walking Tour highlight the area’s notable historic buildings including the beautifully restored Marcus Whitman Hotel (1928), Liberty Theatre (1917), and the Dacres Hotel (1899) with its intriguing façade, arched windows and brickwork. One of the Northwest’s outstanding Victorian structures, the 1880s Kirkman House is open to view from April 1 through November 30.
The mixture of climate and rich volcanic soil has created an ideal environment for growing wine grapes – a fact that has not escaped the attention of some of the state’s premier winemakers. As a result, Walla Walla Valley wines consistently achieve national and international acclaim. Many of the area’s outstanding wineries are open for tasting and tours and frequently host special wine-tasting events and festivities to toast the Valley’s proud heritage.
The arts are treasured here, from the foundry that casts sculptor’s artistry into products, to a wide selection of music provided at the Summer Sounds on the Plaza downtown. There’s a well-regarded symphony and dance and theatre productions through the Walla Walla Little Theatre. Campus productions can be enjoyed at any of the three local colleges, where you can also take advantage of the public art viewing opportunities featuring outdoor sculptures and several galleries.
Because of the almost year-round sunshine, festivals have a perfect environment in which to thrive. The Woodstock Music Festival, last weekend in June, spotlight local musicians and July’s Walla Walla Sweet Onion Blues festival, promotes local blues bands, food and crafts. And, of course the most colorful festival, the annual Balloon Stampede is held every May.
The adjacent towns of Milton-Freewater and Waitsburg provide the perfect afternoon venture. Waitsburg, home to the Bruce Memorial Museum, is the site of the Pioneer Fall Festival with arts and crafts of the 1800s, and the end of October celebrates the almost mystical fall colors here with the four-day Fall Festival of Foliage and Feathers. There are over 310 bird species in the area and the festival includes a variety of wildlife related activities, with emphasis on identification of Walla Walla Valley birds.
Ten miles south of Walla Walla, Milton-Freewater is site of the Frazier Farmstead Museum, with a turn-of-the-century home complete with many original furnishings.
Regardless of the variety of interests in your family, Walla Walla will deliver a rewarding vacation experience. Rich in history, art, culture and a tremendous variety of outdoor recreation opportunities, it is a place you’ll want to put on your list of “must dos” for the upcoming year. From morning till evening, under sunny skies and gentle nights, the communities of Walla Walla County await and welcome you. Prepare to be fully entertained.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Columbia River Plateau

High drama nearly always involves the unexpected. And there is something spellbindingly dramatic about coming over a hill in dry, rocky terrain and seeing water. Not just a stream or a puddle, but great expanses of cool, blue, sparkling water. And therein lays the secret of the high plateau to the north of the Columbia River. It is strangely theatrical country.
Driving Interstate 90, Moses Lake in Grant County and Sprague Lake in Adams and Lincoln Counties are the most easily seen evidence of this natural dualism. But once off the beaten track, these handsome lakes seem like mere drops in the bucket. Potholes Reservoir south of Interstate 90 in Grant County is the largest in a collection of lakes where birds by the thousands collect to feed and rest on migration routes. Up north in the county, Soap Lake and the Sun Lakes are prime splashing grounds for Washingtonians in search of the old-fashioned kind of summer fun that includes blistering days and chilly water. And for perspective into what this area might look like without the blessing of H2O, visit the Dry Falls of the Columbia.
Dry Falls formed when a torrent of ice and water caused by a massive ice dam break, forced the Columbia to change course in one cataclysmic event. When the river receded to its original course, it dried up the falls and left behind some of the most spectacular rock formations and landscapes on the continent. The dry falls are an excellent lesson in ancient geology.
Banks Lake at the south end of Grand Coulee Dam straddles Douglas and Grant Counties. Often photographed, it is a scenic wonder with dark water framed by soaring cliffs. It’s worth several hours around Steamboat Rock just to watch the play of light and shadows on the cliffs. The broad ribbon of Columbia River water above the dam forms the northern border of Lincoln County. The little towns of Grand Coulee, Electric City, and Coulee Dam are fun to poke around. You’ll find several good restaurants and collectible shops where treasures like wagon wheels, rusted barbed-wire wreaths, and old saddle blankets are in good supply.
The Columbia River Plateau is a land of sunny days and starry nights. It’s easy to speed through traveling Interstate 90, but don’t cheat yourself. Slow down, make a turn or two. Have a meal. Take a dip. Soak up some sun. The air is clean. The folks are friendly. And you can well expect to idle away many a happy day without a hassle because the only high drama here is in the rocks and the water.

Grant County

Eons ago, prehistoric lava flows and mammoth ice age floods profoundly impacted Grant County’s Columbia Plateau. These giant geographic hands sculpted a landscape teeming with drama. This region has its own brand of beauty; the light here somehow glistens brighter as the stark beauty of the surrounding hills display intriguing shades of shadows.
With over 150 volcanic eruptions covering this eastern Washington area, the area has a vast lava field that is something three miles thick. The Grand Coulee, Dry Falls and Drumheller Channels all contribute to a geologic smorgasbord rich with rugged cliffs, canyons, lakes, and arid sagebrush grasslands. A virtual wonderland for visitors, Grant County’s splendor promises a surprise around every corner.
At the northern tip of the county is the astounding Grand Coulee Dam. The Visitor Arrival Center offers guided tours of the dam and each evening, from late May through the end of September, the laser light show features animated graphics against the dramatic white wall of water that cascades down the giant spillway.
Just south of the dam is Dry Falls, created when glacial Lake Missoula, now covering much of the area we know as Montana, burst through its ice dam in a cataclysmic event of massive proportions. Today as you view the 3.5 mile wide, 400 foot high ancient riverbed, it is easy to imagine the power of the falls that once thundered on this site. In its heyday, the waterfall was ten times the size of Niagara Falls.
Spelunkers will want to travel south on Highway 17 where time stands still in the Lake Lenore Caves. There are seven accessible caves, formed during the Montana floods 12.000 years ago. If you get a bit dusty from your explorations, venture into nearby Soap Lake, known for its “healing waters” by early Indian residents.
The lake population is hearty in Grant County, with Blue Lake perfect for family fishing, Sun Lake State Park & Resort offering a full menu of amenities for enjoyment. Banks Lake, filled with water from Lake Roosevelt, is famous for great walleye and bass fishing. And, for an out of this world experience, venture to the Potholes Wildlife Recreation area with 35,100 acres of dunes and marshes and a landscape that looks like a perfect setting for a moon walk.
There are several appealing towns and cities within Grant County. Ephrata, on Highway 28, is site of the Grant County Historical Museum and Village, containing a 29 building village of authentic and reconstructed units including a saloon, dress shop, school, printing office, barbershop, blacksmith shop, and livery stable.
The town of Quincy, just west of Ephrata, is in the heart of the farming and agricultural processing industries in the county. There’s a spectacular Columbia Basin view from the top of Monument Hill overlooking downtown.
Moses Lake, set at the shores of one of the state’s largest natural fresh water lakes, offers visitors a wide range of outdoor recreation options, with parks, campgrounds, and a city filled with amenities. Visit the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and the Centennial Theatre, an outdoor amphitheatre located on the waterfront where free concerts entertain visitors and residents most summer Saturdays.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Volcano Country

For over a century tourists have enjoyed the natural wonders of Washington State. Even back then, hardly a travel publication or book on geology was without a mention of the fact that Washington is volcano country. We’ve always known that volcanic eruption was a possibility in Washington, but few of us really felt it. The 18th of May 1980 changed all that. After weeks of ominous rumbling, Mount St. Helens fulfilled her promise and sent a cubic mile of rock into the air, which circled the world in a cloud of volcanic ash.
The land to the east was blanketed in ash. Giant timbers where flung like toothpicks. The great, gaping crater looked like the surface of the moon. But as devastating as it was, the blast left behind a renewed awareness of the power of nature, geologic time, and an educational legacy that has given school children a first hand understanding of volcanology.
The best and most comprehensive look at volcano country is to be found, of course, at the visitor areas and interpretive centers of Mount St. Helens Volcanic National Monument a day gives you a solid, glimpse; several days or a week will solidify the education like cooled lava.
Skamania, Cowlitz and Lewis Counties share the reigning star of Washington’s volcano heritage, but the experience is hardly complete with a visit to Mount St. Helens alone. Mount Rainier has lessons to teach, as does the Columbia Gorge from Clark County east. The palisades and basalt outcroppings along the gorge are ancient proof of the regions fiery past. Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center and Big Lava Bed in Skamania County offer potent insight into the lives of volcanoes, as do the scenic wonders of Klickitat County from White Salmon east to Maryhill Museum. And once on that stretch of the gorge, the replica of Stonehenge, as out of place as it may seem, is a quirky reminder of man’s long standing worship of nature.
Any of these areas can be reached in a day-long, but fascinating roundtrip from Tacoma or Olympia. Both are excellent places to headquarter. Both are great discoveries on their own, from Tacoma’s booming waterfront and historic districts, to Point Defiance Park with its excellent zoo; from Olympia’s regal capitol to the cheek-by-jowl shops that line its old downtown, right on to the Farmer’s Market.
Set aside a chunk of time for Washington’s south Puget Sound and Volcano Country. You’ll come home positively erupting with knowledge and a new appreciation of Washington State.

Tacoma and Pierce County

Centrally situated in western Washington, Pierce County stretches from south Puget Sound to the lofty summit of Mount Rainier. The area features a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities, extensive cultural attractions, fascinating history and stunning natural beauty. Tacoma is its major city – and Washington State’s third largest municipality.
Tacoma is easily accessible from Interstate 5 by car and just 18 miles south of the Seattle – Tacoma International Airport. The city provides an ideal base from which to explore Pierce County and south Puget Sound.
North of Tacoma, Fife is known for its easy Interstate 5 access and moderately priced accommodations and restaurants. Visiting families can enjoy the city’s Swim Center with a saltwater pool and the Grand Prix Raceway Indoor Carting Center.
South of Tacoma, Lakewood boasts 10 acre Lakewood Gardens, a formerly private property now regarded as one of the nation’s finest estate gardens. Lakewood is also home to Fort Steilacoom, where the first official U.S. presence in Washington Territory was established in 1849. Nearby American Lake have two parks with many recreational opportunities; American Lake North Park & Marina and Harry Todd Park both offer boat launches and picnicking sites.
Military history buffs will want to visit the Fort Lewis Military Museum, which highlights U.S. Army history in the Northwest from Lewis & Clark to the present. Nearby, McChord Air Museum has a fine exhibit of vintage aircraft and memorabilia and a chance to sit inside an F-106 cockpit simulator. Perched on Puget Sound, historic Steilacoom is the oldest incorporated town in Washington. Steilacoom also gave Washington its first Protestant church, first library, and first jail and is the site of the oldest standing church in the state. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Don’t miss the nearby Steilacoom Tribal Cultural Museum, showcasing the local tribe’s heritage.
Most people know Puyallup for its popular Western Washington Fair, but the town also boasts the Ezra Meeker Mansion, built in 1890 by pioneer Ezra Meeker. The 17 room Victorian manor has been restored to its original grandeur with hand-stenciled ceiling artwork, elegant woodwork and stained glass.
In spring you’ll see fields of blooming daffodils and other bulbs for which Puyallup is famous. Puyallup celebrates its heritage every April with the daffodil Festival and Grand Floral Parade, one of the nation’s top floral festivals.
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge connects Tacoma to the Kitsap Peninsula and Gig Harbor – a dramatic span built in 1950 to replace the ill-fated “Galloping Gertie” bridge. As you cross one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, take advantage of the grand and stunning views of south Puget Sound.
Perched on the Kitsap Peninsula and a convenient gateway to the Olympic Peninsula, Gig Harbor retains the flavor of a Scandinavian and Croatian fishing village. Now filled with waterfront shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants as well as fishing boats, Gig Harbor is a charming village and gateway destination. You can stay in a wide range of B & B’s and hotels, dine in excellent restaurants, browse the shops and truly relax.
The peninsula’s varied shoreline is ideal for many outdoor activities including boating, sailing, kayaking, swimming, and beach combing. Scuba divers might meet some of the world’s largest octopi exploring the remains of “Galloping Gertie” that lie at the bottom of the Tacoma Narrows.
There are three state parks near Gig Harbor, Kopachuck, Penrose and Joemma Beach, which provide campers with beach access, hiking and bicycling venues. Also, the Gig Harbor City Park features a children’s playground, cooking facility and creek access.
Towering over Pierce County’s smaller communities in the Nisqually River Valley is “The Mountain” – majestic, 14.411 foot Mount Rainier. It is the focal point of Mount Rainier National Park, which is nearly all within Pierce County’s borders. The park is Pierce County’s major attraction and an absolute paradise to those who love the outdoors, whether you come for active sp orts or simply to enjoy the spectacular alpine scenery.
En route to Mount Rainier, you pass through the little towns of Eatonville, Elbe and Ashford. Don’t miss Northwest Trek Wildlife Park near Eatonville, a 635 acre sanctuary where native animals roam free and a fascinating tram ride features close-up viewing. Also near Eatonville is the Pioneer Farm Museum & Ohop Indian Village, where you can take a “hands on” living history guided tour of an 1880’s homestead, trading post and native dwellings.

Olympia and Thurston County

Thurston County, home to Olympia, Washington’s state capital, celebrates culture, history and recreation every day, all year long. Whether walking through one of the county’s 52 parks, spending an evening at the theatre after an exquisite meal or investigating the rich history of the state capital, this community provides residents and visitors with a wealth of entertaining options. It also provides the opportunity for some delightful afternoon or day trips – offering easy access to the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula, Pacific Ocean beaches and Mount Rainier.
Olympia, named for its spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains, has been Washington’s state capital since 1853. The city is prized for its quality of life, elegant old homes and three lined streets. Be sure to visit the Legislative Building, standing 28 stories high and the last great domed capital to be built in the United States. Other self-guided tours at the capital include the Justice Building, the Vietnam Memorial, and the World War II Memorial.
Olympia hosts the annual week-long Olympia Film Festival each October providing a variety of theater experiences. Tour the Yashiro Japanese Garden and Watershed Park, both stunning in-city respites. There’s a 1.5 mile boardwalk with artwork and interpretive displays at Percival Landing on the Olympia waterfront that’s delight to tour, and bring your appetite to the Olympia Farmers Market on the city’s waterfront and historic Budd Inlet. Family fun is always available at the Hands on Children’s Museum with interactive experiences for children of all ages.
Tumwater – Chinook word meaning “falling water” – has a very nice historic district featuring the Schmidt House, the falls of the Deschutes River and Tumwater Falls Park. Tumwater Historical Park is perfect for picnicking or walking along trails beside the Deschutes River.
Incorporate Lacey’s 400 acres of wooded parkland with three freshwater lakes into your vacation plans. Also, be sure to visit the 3.700 acre Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, established for the protection of migrating birds.
Wolf Haven International in Tenino provides sanctuary for captive-born wolves. There, you’ll enjoy a comprehensive, education about wolves in the wild and the ongoing efforts to restore their increasingly dwindling numbers. Priest Point Park offers a three mile nature trail, picnic areas, play areas and breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains.
Like any capital city in the nation, this community has a wealth of cultural and historic sights. Combined with the abundance of natural resources and direct access to mountains or seashores, Thurston County is ideally located to get a full taste of the best Washington has to offer.

Lewis County – Naturally spectacular

In a state renowned for its parks and wilderness areas, southwest Washington’s Lewis County boasts some of the best and most varied outdoor opportunities for camping, fishing, hiking, and family fun. Terrain ranging from gently rolling prairies and river valleys in the west, to the rugged Cascade Mountains in the east, provides the perfect setting for every imaginable outdoor sport or activity.
The cities of Centralia and Chehalis, nestled along Interstate 5 midway between Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon, combine the best of the region’s history with small-town charm. Downtown Centralia boasts sixteen murals portraying the history of the area and nearly 125 historic buildings in the process of restoration.
While in Centralia, visit Fort Borst Park, the Joseph Borst Home and Blockhouse, and the newly restored 1912 Railroad Depot, now offering daily Amtrak service. If shopping is your favorite pastime, be sure to head to the regional factory outlet center or unique antique shopping districts.
Downtown Chehalis and two of its residential districts are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Lewis County Historical Museum, housed in the original turn-of-the-century train depot, features displays of an old-time parlor, kitchen, schoolhouse, and early 20th century logging equipment.
A fabulous way to experience the beauty of the area is aboard a vintage steam train that runs on weekends during summer months. This relaxing, nostalgic 12 mile round-trip chugs through the peaceful Chehalis River Valley.
There are a variety of accommodation selections from historic bed and breakfasts to clean and welcoming hotels. Camping and RV facilities are conveniently located throughout the area.
The word “majesty” has varying interpretations and the collection of mountains within sight of Lewis County is certainly worthy of the title. The Tri-Mountain area, including the snow-capped peaks of Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams, presents spectacular scenery and is renowned for recreational adventure. You can golf, fish, hike, bird watch, or accelerate the adrenaline with white-water rafting, hang gliding or mountain climbing. Downhill skiers flock to White Pass, a 6.000 foot summit, and brag about the short lines and economical prices.
A road trip along the White Pass Scenic Byway on Highway 12 will lead to beautiful mountain country with plenty of fun stops along the way.
Morton, the hub of East Lewis County, is the crossroads for those traveling from the south to the Paradise entrance of Mount Rainier or those from the north to Mount St. Helens. This community boasts the East Lewis County Historical Museum, filled with antique logging and mining equipment. In addition to the museum, Gust Backstrom Park, located on the banks of the Tilton River offers fishing nearly year-round and 13 acres of RV camping and a new community center. In winter, kayakers travel the Tilton to Lake Mayfield through the Bear Canyon Gorge. Morton is at the end of a historic railroad line with a newly restored Railroad Depot. With friendly accommodations and home cooked food, Morton is well worth the visit.
Nearby Randle is a gateway to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. This drive brings you within four miles of the gaping crater and provides great views of Spirit Lake at the Windy Ridge Viewpoint. You’ll be awestruck by the sight of thousands of blasted trees and inspired by the wonder of nature’s restoration process.
Further east on Highway 12, at the foot of the Cascade and Tatoosh Ranges, is the town of Packwood. Just twenty miles west of the White Pass Ski Area, Packwood is dramatically accented with the Cowlitz River and wonderful steelhead salmon fishing. Other casting opportunities can be found in Skate Creek, a small tributary that merges with the Cowlitz through a scenic gorge. The gentle pace of life can be experienced on horseback, mountain bike, and kayak or on foot.
Mushrooms abound in the forest, and pickers come from all over the world for the many exotic varieties to be found here. The luscious tang of huckleberries and wild mountain blackberries lure berry pickers into the wilderness. If you want to stay, Packwood has a friendly selection of motels, restaurants and shops for a peaceful, remote getaway.
The southeast entrance to Mount Rainier National Park is just outside Packwood in Ohanapecosh, where you can stand amidst the Grove of the Patriarchs with its 1.000 year old red cedar and Douglas-fir trees.
Two popular visitor centers off Highway 123, Paradise and Sunrise provide great bases for Mount Rainier exploration. Sunrise is less populated if you want to avoid the crowds and typically opens a little earlier due to its location on the drier side of the mountain. Come summer, hike the trails, and when the air begins to chill, take advantage of the snow parks and cross-country skiing, snow shoeing and snowmobiling trails.
If you value the peace that a fishing pole and a few hours of solitude bring, go to Riffe Lake, a 12.000 acre reservoir on the Cowlitz River with cutthroat, Coho and kokanee salmon and the ever popular largemouth bass. A few minutes away, Mayfield Lake is open year round and full of fighting tiger muskiest and rainbow trout.
Campers will want to take advantage of the numerous parks within Lewis County. The Lewis and Clark State Park, home to the nation’s last remaining old-growth lowland forest, is located on the historic Jackson Highway near Interstate 5.
When your travels lead you back to Interstate 5, be sure to swing through hometown America at its best in the communities of Toledo, Winlock and Vader. From ghost towns to the World’s Largest Egg, these quaint towns in South Lewis County offer many hidden treasures. On the way to neighboring Mount St. Helens, explore historic St. Francis Mission where founding fathers first celebrated services in 1838. Gravesites of these early settlers are located in the pioneer cemetery on these grounds.
You can head in any direction in Lewis County, with any agenda, whether it’s shopping, sporting, or simply sightseeing, and return home content and enriched.

Cowlitz County

Cowlitz County probably qualifies more as “Volcano Country” than anywhere else in the continental United States. On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens changed this landscape irrevocably with a major eruption and the largest recorded landslide in our country’s history. The opportunity to witness the devastation and the ensuing natural restoration is just too tantalizing to miss. But the mountain is certainly not the only draw here. Cowlitz County has an extraordinary collection of welcoming cities and towns, plenty of recreational venues, and an abundance of places to explore and enjoy.
Castle Rock, located at the Interstate 5 / Highway 504 interchange, is known as the “Gateway to Mount St. Helens”. Just five miles east of the town, you’ll find the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center, with outstanding interpretive exhibits of the mountain’s history and monumental eruption. Be sure to take a walk on the one-mile Silver Lake Wetlands Trail to discover how the lake was formed by a previous eruption, and then go boating or bass fishing.
There are several other visitor centers in the Toutle River Valley that provide a broad reach of educational and interactive experiences. The Johnston Ridge Observatory, built like a military bunker, is just six miles from the mountain and has a wide-screen theater and interpretive exhibits. The Hoffstad Bluffs Visitor Center is a lodge-style building with great views of the mountain, Memorial Grove, and full-service dining.
The waterways in the Toutle River Valley offer great fishing; pack your gear and meander the Cowlitz, Toutle and Green Rivers for steelhead and salmon fishing, or cast for trout and enjoy non-motorized boating at Coldwater Lake.
Kelso, located at the confluence of the Cowlitz, Coweeman and Columbia Rivers, is the Cowlitz county seat and hosts a Volcano Information Center. The Cowlitz County Museum showcases the cultural heritage of the people of the Lower Columbia region and includes an 1884 log cabin and Indian artifacts. Each September, the city celebrates its Scottish heritage with the annual Highlander Festival, and the Sunday Bridge Market, open from July through October, is the perfect spot to purchase fresh produce and local crafts.
Kelso’s next door neighbor is Longview, the only planned city of its magnitude in the state, built entirely with private funds with designated areas for business, industrial, and residential areas. You can learn more about this distinctive city at The Merk – The Planned City Historical Display. In downtown Longview, enjoy the shopping and be sure to include a stroll beside lovely Lake Sacajewea.
Founded in 1840, Kalama has a distinctive 140 foot single-tree totem pole in the town’s Marine Park. Kalama is also a popular destination spot for antique browsers; there are eight antique malls here awaiting your perusal. Fishing is another popular pastime. Catch trophy bass at Kress Lake or try your luck at hooking the trout and salmon that flourish beneath the surface of the Kalama and Columbia Rivers.
The Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in nearby Woodland is a “must visit”. A national historic site, these gardens are representative of the Victorian era with rare and unusual trees and shrubs and over three acres of lilacs. Each spring during the popular Lilac Festival, the original 1889 Klager home is open for tours and features displays of quilts, artworks, antiques and collectibles. Gets fresh ground wheat at the fully restored Cedar Creek Grist Mill, one of the oldest surviving waterwheel wheat grinding mills in the United States. On the way to the mill, you’ll want to pass through and photograph the unique covered bridge.
If you’re traveling north on Interstate 5 into Cowlitz County, the Lewis River Highway provides another good approach to the southern flanks of Mount St. Helens. Winding along the Lewis River Valley through tiny communities like Ariel, Yale and Cougar, this area is a hotbed of year-round recreation. There are trails that explore ancient lava remains at the Trail of two Forests, Ape Cave and Lava Canyon, with hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding. Cougar is the nearest community to Mount St. Helens and a good home base if you plan a hike to the summit. Come winter, fill crisp days with cross-country skiing, snowshoe, or hop aboard a snowmobile on the valley’s winter recreation trails. Every Thanksgiving weekend, Ariel holds a unique event that commemorates the exploits of the world’s first skyjacker, D. B. Cooper.
Cowlitz County’s signature attraction of Mount St. Helens is reason alone to visit here, so spend a day or two touring this spectacular site, then take advantage of the outdoor charms of the entire region.

Vancouver and Clark County

When Lewis and Clark arrived in what is now Clark County, they were amazed at the abundance of food, wildlife and friendliness of the native people. That welcoming tradition and hearty bounty continues to this day and William Clark would be proud to know that the area now bears his name.
Nestled against the Cascade Mountains on the shores of the Columbia River just a bridge crossing away from downtown Portland, Clark County offers a unique blend of interactive nature and urban comforts.
The metropolitan center of Clark County is Vancouver, the state’s oldest and fourth largest city. Bustling and vibrant today, historically Vancouver and Clark County have played a major role in the development and settlement of the Pacific Northwest. Indians have lived here for thousand of years and established early trade routes to share goods obtained from the rich yield of the land, river and sea. They were the first, but certainly not the last, to appreciate and benefit from the bountiful harvest the natural resources here provide.
This region was initially established as the final destination for the Oregon Trail and United States history is evident throughout the local communities, most prominently, the National Historic Reserve in Vancouver. The Reserve encompasses many attractions, including Fort Vancouver, Officer’s Row and Pearson Air Museum. The museum is located on historic Pearson Field, the oldest continuously active airfield in the United States. This is the first step in a three phase project to recreate a pre-WWII Army Air Corps Field that existed at Pearson Field in the 1920s and 1930s. Explore the aviation milestones that have taken place on site with interactive exhibits and displays focused on the pioneering days of aviation in the Northwest.
Fort Vancouver is a highlight of any visit to this city. In the early 1800s this fort was established as a trading outpost for the Hudson’s Bay Company. The site, selected for its central location no major tributaries and natural resources, became the center of political and commercial activities in the Northwest. The site now features nine major buildings that have been reconstructed and furnished to replicate the original fort, with tours and reenactments offered daily. Officers Row, which has been converted to residential and office space, served as housing for officers and their families stationed at the Vancouver Barracks for more than 100 years.
If the family needs an in-city recreation break, venture to the Chelsea Anderson Memorial Play Station where kids can run across bridges, climb or slide down poles, pretend to drive a fire truck and much more. Or, if splashing around in an Olympic-sized swimming pool sounds appealing, try the Marshal Community Center.
A fun side-trip from the Vancouver area is The Pomeroy House and Living History Farm located in Yacolt, just north of Battle Ground. Here, 1920s agrarian life in southwest Washington State is featured on weekends from June through September. Volunteers dress in period costume and provide hands-on experiences for visitors. There’s family log home, working blacksmith shop, barn, herb and vegetable gardens. The Farm also hosts two annual festivals.
The Herb Festival, which draws 2.000 to 3.000 visitors from all the western states and Canada, is held the third weekend in May. It features over 12.000 herb plants for sale, vendors, a Farm Café, and entertainment. The first weekend of October the Farm hosts the Pumpkin Festival, with hayrides, scarecrow making, pumpkin painting, animal petting and a children’s maze.
Situated at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, Clark County is a natural playground for water sports with year-round boating, swimming and windsurfing. If you’re seeking some more intense thrills, try rafting on the local rivers. Some say it’s the perfect way to see the surrounding countryside. Other popular methods of exploration include driving or riding a bike along the back roads, paths, and trails that reveal the community’s unique charm and history.
Whether you claim the title of golfer, hiker, bird watcher, fisher or nature enthusiast, Clark County has a venue to accommodate your favored activity. With Vancouver guaranteeing entertainment and plenty of lodging options from quaint bed and breakfast inns and magnificent rustic lodges to recognized brand hotels, Clark County’s welcome remains as steadfast and friendly today as it was when Lewis and Clark first ventured here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Seattle / King County

To understand Seattle and its greater metropolitan area, you must first consider two things: the city’s position on the globe and its position in the 21st century. Seattle is the biggest city west of Chicago, north of San Francisco, east of Tokyo and south of the North Pole. And commanding that position on a shrinking planet, it has become an international center for commerce, industry, and trade in the new millennium.

The Seattle Experience

As a tourist destination people from all over the country and around the world flock to soak up the city’s antiquated charms, regional differences, and commercial bravado. A century and a half ago, Seattle was a hopeful little settlement clinging to the shores of Elliott Bay. A benevolent but wet climate, ample natural resources, and the kindness of the Duwamish and Suquamish people and their inspired leader, Chief Sealth, allowed the village to flourish. Seattle was named for Chief Sealth and his image can be found all over the city. Today the metropolitan area is 3.5 million strong, and includes the robust communities of Bellevue and Kirkland, Bothell, Redmond, Mercer Island, Renton, Kent, Auburn, Federal Way and the dozens of residential enclaves in between.
There is more to do here than anyone has time for: museums, live theaters, a world-class ballet, symphony, zoo, restaurants, shopping, nightlife, glamorous places to stay, and fascinating streets to walk. Then there are the neighborhoods, one after another, each with its own distinctive character from funky Fremont with its delightful hodgepodge of shops and eateries, to chic Madison Park and Queen Anne, on to “wish-it” Capitol Hill and bustling Little Saigon.
But to discover Seattle you must begin with the clichés. A good place to begin your exploration is atop the watchful eye of the Space Needle at the Seattle center. This Seattle icon is hard to miss, and you must take the 41-second elevator ride to the top for the 360-degree view of the lakes, mountains, salt water and sparkling city below. Expand your viewing time with a leisurely meal at the world’s first revolving restaurant.
Below the Space Needle is the magical and stimulating Pacific Science Center. There are five buildings that comprise the complex, creating a masterpiece of childhood delight with their hands-on exhibits.
Nearby, the unusual building with the funny colors and mismatched exterior walls is the Experience Music Project. Designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, this interactive music museum was created by Paul Allen to provide an ongoing exploration of musical diversity from the past, present and future.
the easiest and most unique way to travel between the sighs and sounds of the Seattle Center and downtown Seattle is to hop aboard the Monorail, a remnant of the 1962 Seattle World’s fair. Ride to the Pike Place Market, where you may have to dodge a 40-pound mackerel being tossed through the air by one of the infamous fishmongers. Enjoy a latte’ at the first Starbucks.
Head west to the waterfront and the Seattle Aquarium at Pier 59. This collection of underwater exhibits is a perfect family outing. Next to the aquarium, the IMAX Dome Theater surrounds viewers in scenes like the eruption of Mount St. Helens or dolphins at play. Stroll along the waterfront of fresh fish and chips.
A unique way to enjoy Seattle is from the waters of Puget Sound. Local cruises can take you through Lake Union and Lake Washington, the interesting Ballard Locks or to some of the area’s marinas and harbors. A boat tour to Tillicum Village is an opportunity to witness traditional dances and legends in a northwest coast Indian longhouse. Located on Blake Island, just eight miles from the waterfront, this is a memorable four-hour excursion competes with a fabulous alder-baked salmon feast.
If Victoria, B.C. is on your itinerary, the Victoria Clipper’s popular day or overnight trip can provide a perfect mode of transportation. The Clipper only takes two hours to get to Victoria, leaving plenty of time for immersing yourself in that city’s charms.

Explore historic Pioneer Square

If you head south from the waterfront, be sure to walk up First Avenue to Pioneer Square. This former home of legendary pioneers like Doc Maynard now features a variety of bookstores, art galleries, restaurants, live jazz and blues. On a clear summer night, listen for the roar of the crowd at Safeco Field as Ichiro gets yet another record setting clutch base hit.
Be sure to budget time to take the Underground Tour, a humorous overview of the ancient plumbing conundrums and old-time politics that affected the city’s future, the tour begins in a restored 1890s public house.
In Seattle, the cultural offerings are as interesting and varied as the landscape. The Seattle Art Museum, better known as SAM, is perfectly placed downtown and has a collection of more than 21.000 objects from all over the world. For a slightly more technical fare, you can easily spend half a day at either The Museum of History and Industry or the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field.
Seattle’s 92-acre Woodland Park Zoo is noted for its cutting edge exhibits, expansive horticultural collection and summer performing arts series. Don’t miss the baby elephant at this award-winning zoo.
Stroll the Washington Park Arboretum and the Japanese Garden. Walk down to the waterfront and take the trolley to the International District and hike back up to Freeway Park. Then drive over to West Seattle for a walk around Alki Point where the first settlers landed and a fabulous photo opportunity of the downtown skyline and waterfront.
Just 30-minutes south of downtown in the beautiful Kent Valley, Emerald Downs, the premier thoroughbred live racing venue in the northwest, runs mid-April through September. After your day at the races, head to Renton for the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train to experience the nostalgia of a by-gone era as you travel in luxurious, vintage rail cars along the shores of Lake Washington to the Columbia Winery.

East King County

Don’t miss Bellevue. A drive across Lake Washington to this city of bold glass towers and impeccably landscaped residences is a telescopic view into the vigor and wealth of this region – a theme that is often repeated from Tukwila to Redmond and on to Woodinville. Head east on Interstate 90 and you’ll come to the picturesque village of Issaquah, a little further and you can visit Snoqualmie Falls. And still to the east is the mountain town of North Bend. Here is the gateway to Mount Si and you can hike up near its 4.167 foot summit for a panoramic view of both civilization and wilderness. And it’s all within King County.
The Puget Sound metropolitan area is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan place these days. But from the industrial pockets and noisy diners of Sodo and the cluttered moorages of Fisherman’s Terminal, to the pastoral byways of Carnation and Duvall, this is a region that has never forgotten where it all began.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The North Cascades

Washington’s Cascade Country is often compared to Switzerland. True enough if you are looking at spectacular, glacier-clad peaks. But the comparison also does the area a disservice. Because although the North Cascades can hold their own, if not out-dazzle, any mountain range in the world, what lies on each side of the range can’t be found anywhere but in the American Northwest.
The lowlands flanking the east side of Puget Sound from Everett to Bellingham are filled with immaculate farms and enchanting towns: Marysville, Mount Vernon, La Conner and Sedro-Woolley among them. Any of them are worth exploring for a day; strung together you could spend a week or more. Driving east, to and through any of the mountain passes you’ll see some of the most verdant forests in the world. Waterfalls spill down from sheer basalt walls that line the highways. Ferns and mosses cling to the rocks. Fine maples flaunt their sculptural forms and beautiful foliage, conifers tower, and up in the highest reaches, snow and ancient ice gleam in the sun. If you drop down in the town of Winthrop, you’ll blink your eyes and think you’ve awakened in a cowboy movie. If your descent from the Cascades takes you through the Bavarian town of Leavenworth, you really will think you’re in the Alps. Don’t be surprised if you hear someone in the distance yodeling.
Once over the summit, you’re in another country. Up north, the Okanogan stretches to the east. When the West was created, God must have used the Okanogan as the template. Colonies of pines fill pocket in the slopes where rain is caught. Great sweeps of grasses hug the dry sides. There are big rocks and deep canyons, brilliant blue skies, and air so clean and dry you’ll want to bottle it and take it home.
Further south in Chelan County, Lake Chelan glistens like a silver of lapis lazuli tucked in the folds of velvety green mountains. This long and deep lake is a treasure trove of recreational activities all year around.
And down in Kittitas County, Ellensburg touts the spunk and promise of the late 19th and early 20th century’s n brick and granite, all within the spirit of the old west. This is a ranch country, and if you doubt that, just goes into any roadside restaurant and order breakfast. Once you’ve polished off eggs, sausage, hash browns, and toast, you’ll either swear off food for a week or jump on a horse and ride for a hundred miles.
What this northwest corner of the state offers is, simply, “the real thing”. So round-up your family and head out. It’s one of those places where you could happily spend a week or a lifetime.


Bellingham’s spectacular location, coupled with its rich history and handsome architecture, makes it easy to see why the city is considered one of the jewels of the Pacific Northwest. The city looks out over the Sun Juan Islands, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and on to the Olympic Mountains. Behind it rise the jagged snowcapped Cascade Range and Mount Baker. For millennia, the Lummi Indians have called the area home. By the early 1850s the towns of Whatcom, Sehome, Bellingham and Fairhaven were settled, to be consolidated into the city of Bellingham in 1904.
With an abundance of natural resources and a spunky, can-do population, the town thrived. Here the first brick building north of San Francisco was built in 1958. It still stands. The majestic City Hall, built in 1892, still towers over downtown, now in its new life as the Whatcom Museum of History and Art. Meander down Holly Street to the waterfront or the historic Eldridge residential district. You’ll immediately sense the easy-going pace with its respect for tradition that has resulted in Bellingham’s well-earned reputation for being one of those idyllic places where people come to have a look and never leave.
Bellingham is just off Interstate 5, about 90 miles north of Seattle, 55 miles south of Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s an easy detour going between these two metropolises. But don’t cheat yourself. Bellingham is one of those wonderful stops where a traveler can land for a weekend or a week and never exhaust the options for enjoyable and edifying experience or high adventure. The area boasts over a dozen public golf courses, city, county and state parks, campgrounds, comfortable hotels and charming bed and breakfasts that sparkle with bright paint, rustle with starched linens, and smell of cinnamon and fresh baked bread. In short, Bellingham is a destination and, at least for now, it’s somewhat undiscovered by the outside world… and delightfully so.
Start your adventure by heading south from downtown to the historic Fairhaven District. Here at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, the Alaska State Ferry docks, making regular runs up and down the Inside Passage. Fairhaven could easily be called Arthaven. It has an abundance of old masonry buildings filled with shops where skilled artists and craftspeople sell their works. Good restaurants, cozy coffee shops and bookstores all attest to the quality of life in this artsy, intellectual, and heart-warningly down-home enclave.
Up the hill from downtown Bellingham, visit the campus of Western Washington University. Stately buildings, grand landscaping and panoramic views down to the city and out to the water make for a pleasant half day, but what really sets it apart is the collection of monumental outdoor sculptures that embellish the campus.
Short road trips radiate out from Bellingham like spokes from the hub of a wheel. To the south, Chuckanut Drive is a 21 mile loop off I-5 that follows the bluff high above the Strait of Juan de Fuca through lush Northwest forest. Scenic turnouts, hiking and biking trails, restaurants and even oyster farms, where you can buy fresh oyster’s in-season, add-up to make this an all-day outing.
The enchanting town of Lynden, northeast of Bellingham, is home to over 9.000 residents many of whom are descendants of Dutch settlers. Downtown Lynden has a healthy handful of high-quality antique stores and it’s one of the few places this side of Amsterdam where you can enjoy Dutch pancakes for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. With old-world architecture anchored by a windmill at one end of town, and impeccable maintained homes and manicured grounds, Lynden lives up to its promise as a way to discover Holland without a passport.
Further east, the scenic Mount Baker Highway leads to the town of Glacier, past Nooksack Falls, and on to Mount Baker. Even if you don’t want to take advantage of the November through April ski and snowboarding season, the scenic wonders of this magnificent ice cap, nearby Mount Shuksan, and the surrounding Cascades will equal the thrill of speeding down a powdery slope.
Wrap up any day on Bellingham’s new waterfront. Savor the haunting call of seagulls, the smell of salt air, and the sight of boats clustered in the marina, their masts bobbing against an oyster shell sky. From here you can line-up whale watching tours, trips over to Victoria, British Columbia, and out to the San Juan Islands. Kayaking, small boat rentals and charters, scuba diving outings, and fishing expeditions can all be arranged. With a spacious park, elegant new hotels, restaurants, and interesting glimpses of the industrial harbor, this is the spot to watch a northwest afternoon ignite into a fiery sunset and disappear behind the Olympics. It’s all part of the magic of Bellingham.

Snohomish County

Snohomish County’s varied landscape, modern cities, historic settlements, and high-tech tours contribute to a broad-based selection of activities or day trips. Just a few minutes north of Seattle, it’s treasure chest of entertaining places to visit. Choose the technology corridor with its bustling malls, Boeing tour, shopping District, and quaint waterfront communities. Or, you may prefer scenic byways leading to pristine lakes, waterfalls, raging rivers and rugged Cascade Mountains. Whatever your preference, you’ll revel in the scenic beauty and hospitality of this county’s special communities.

North county communities

Maryville is a thriving community situated near the banks of the Snohomish River. Visit Jennings Park, the site of an 1884 hand-hewn cedar home, furnished in typical 1880s farmhouse style. The Tulalip tribe operates a very successful gaming casino here. Just north on I-5, the Smokey Point / Lakewood area, offers parks with a variety of recreational options for water sport enthusiast including fishing, boating and swimming.
A visit to nearby Stanwood is not complete unless you’ve allowed yourself to be enticed by the sights and smells of their popular Scandinavian bakery and lefse factory. This town, originally settled as a trading post, still draws travelers with its specialty shops and restaurants. Be sure to include a stop at tiny Silvana for antiquing and the bustling spring and summer Farmer’s Market.

Back road adventure on Mountain Loop

Arlington is the gateway to the Mountain Loop Highway and site of the widely attended Garlic Festival every August. A walking tour of the town’s vintage buildings and architecture provides a glimpse of the days when Arlington’s streets consisted of dirt and “modern” transportation was limited to river ferries and the railroad.
On Highway 530 is Darrington, once a night camp for the wagon route linking the Monte Cristo mines to the shores of Puget Sound. In Darrington today, you can enjoy the excitement of river rafting and rock climbing or the annual Bluegrass or Wildflower Festivals.
Ghost towns anyone? Visit the remnants of Monte Cristo and be sure to stop at the Ice Caves of Big Four Mountain. These ice formations are stunning to view and photograph from afar. But be careful! The Ice Caves are unstable and extremely unsafe to enter or explore! Return to I-5 through Granite Falls and Lake Stevens.


Snohomish County’s blend of rural and urban lifestyle is most evident in Lynnwood, the largest retail center in the county. Known far and near as a shopper’s haven, the city’s golf course, an ice skating arena, 250 acres of parks and open spaces strike the perfect balance between the joys of city life and the pleasures of the outdoors. The Interurban Trail, which extends from Lynnwood to Everett, offers 13 miles of paved trail perfect for biking, jogging, rollerblading or taking a casual stroll.
Situated at the I-405 interchange just 15 miles north of downtown Seattle, location is one of the city’s strong selling points. Many visitors with Seattle on their itinerary value the easy access to the city while taking advantage of Lynnwood’s competitive accommodation rates. The area’s free parking is also appreciated, allowing for leisurely and unfettered retail exploration.
After shopping, picnic at one of Lynnwood’s lovely city parks, hit the local 18-hole golf course or enjoy a great meal at one of their numerous area restaurants.

Explore waterfront communities

Snohomish County’s three primary waterfront communities are Everett, Edmonds, and Mukilteo. The latter are sites of Washington state ferry landings and known for their charm and hospitality.
Edmonds has been voted “The Friendliest Town in Puget Sound” nine years running. This charming community is reminiscent of small-town America, providing visitors with a sense of “coming home to a place they’ve never been”.
Edmonds is celebrated for its public art, award-winning flowers and quaint streets that speak, European-style, from a center fountain. This community has a lively arts tradition with a symphony, ballet, theatre, art center and museum. Diners find a menu for every taste and shoppers enjoy Old Milltown, a turn-of-the-century multi-shop complex in a downtown seasoned with edgy designer or romantic and classic travel-wear boutiques. After strolling through town, stop by the Edmonds Underwater ark and watch scuba divers as they emerge from Puget Sound’s underwater vistas.
Mukilteo’s 1906 lighthouse has been restored and is operative today – a picturesque memento of the town’s maritime past. At the Mukilteo Museum-Rosehill Community center you’ll find the 1855 Peace Treaty signed between Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens and Indian leaders representing 22 tribes. Both cities are worthy of an extended day trip, then hop on a ferry and venture into Puget Sound waters.

Downtown Everett

Everett is filled with perfect “day trip” activities, from a visit to a collection of Pilchuck Glass at the Everett Center for the Arts to a stroll along the waterfront. Everett is home to the world’s largest building, the Boeing 747assembly plant at Paine Field, with tours available. Kids of all ages are fascinated by the enormity of this process. Children’s Museum for a hands-on adventure in art, culture, history and science.
Everett has several venues for exploring its varied and expansive shoreline. The Spencer Island Wetlands, 1.900 acres of urban wetlands with native wildlife, is accessible via boat, kayak, canoe, or along the ride from the Everett waterfront to Jetty Island that runs from July 4 through Labor Day. Once there, enjoy beaches, a nature trail and glimpses of native wildlife. There are also charters available for viewing whales, seals, sea lions and aquatic birds.

The Cascade Loop

There may be more spectacular scenic drives elsewhere in the world, but in Washington, the 440-mile Cascade Loop is mile-for-mile, the hands-down winner. For scenery, for recreation, for diversion and adventure, this extraordinary drive captures all that is great about Washington and all that is grand in the natural world.
Whether you fish, hike, ski, stroll, or are merely an interested observer, the Loop provides. It encompasses the shores of Puget Sound, the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, the majestic peaks of the North Cascades National Park and the abundant Columbia River Valley.
You can drive the entire loop comfortably in two days, but to do it right, we recommend planning a 3-or 4-day getaway. Or, you may choose to break it up into bite size chunks – a couple days dedicated to each leg of the journey. Take a week, take a month, but be sure to take the Loop.

Snohomish County

The Snohomish County community of Everett, featuring Boeing 747 assembly plant tour, a thriving performing arts community and wonderful waterfront access, is a perfect jumping off point for the famous North Cascade Loop where Interstate 5 connects with U.S. Highway 2. Departing Everett on Highway 2 on the way to Stevens Pass is sure to leave plenty of time for the town of Snohomish, regarded by those who know as the antique lover’s supreme destination. Listed on both the state and national registers of historic places, this delightful town has more than 450 antique dealers, restaurants and shops packed into an appealing, six block section of the town. There’s a self-guided walking tour available and the Blackman Historic Museum, located in an 1878 home, features vintage furniture and local memorabilia.

Mighty Cascades

On the ascent to Stevens Pass you’ll discover a lively collection of towns that offer Multi-class River rafting, hiking and fishing along with their own unique charms. Gold Bar features the Serpentarium, with all kinds of reptiles, snakes, spiders and turtles. Nearby, venture on the seven-mile loop hike to the 265-foot Wallace Falls for a worthwhile detour. Sultan is home to the Summer Shindig logging celebration and Osprey Park – a one mile interpretive river walk where visitors learn about wetlands, eco-systems and salmon spawning. The neighboring town of Index is the site of Mount Index, a favorite of rock climbers and home to an historic inn and country store.
From Stevens Pass there are views of the lush forests that cover the popular winter ski facility. Pause at By-Gone By-Ways, an old railroad trail and Lake Wenatchee, near Coles Corner at Highway 207, located in the Wenatchee forest area, with camping, boating, swimming and excellent trout fishing. When you’ve arrived in the eastern Cascade foothills, prepare yourself for a traveler’s delight, the town of Leavenworth.

A touch of Bavaria

Leavenworth is a testament to vision and commitment. A magical Bavarian community awaits you, with year-long festivals and activities, extraordinary recreational opportunities, and one of the most romantic, yet family oriented venues around.

The Columbia River Valley

Continuing along the Loop on Highway 2, your next stop is Cashmere, home to the nationally renowned Applets and Cotlets Candy kitchen. The city has an outstanding collection of Indian Artifacts at the Cashmere Museum, with a Pioneer Village ripe for exploring. Come summer, bring your raft and launch on the nearby Wenatchee River. Wenatchee, the “Apple Capital of the World”, lays on the confluence of the Columbia and Wenatchee Rivers. If you value the irresistible luxury of biting into a freshly picked apple or peach, you’ve hit the jackpot in Wenatchee. From fruit stands, tours of fruit packing warehouses, orchards planted in riveting rows under golden-hazed hills blessed with large measures of sunshine, this produce paradise is a pure delight. From Wenatchee, head north along the west bank of the Columbia River on Highway 97 Alt toward beautiful Lake Chelan. And, just south on Highway 97 is the charming waterside community of Entiat. The Entiat Valley is regarded as a “gateway” to recreation, with snowmobile and cross-country access and hiking trails.

Pristine Lake Chelan

A significant draw to the area is Lake Chelan, which is 55-miles long and ranked as the third deepest lake in the United States. It is a popular destination for year-round recreation and lodging where generations of families have packed up their flip-flops and tank tops and come to the lake. Located behind the “rain shadow” of the towering Cascades, Lake Chelan promises 300 days of sunshine, romantic sunsets and warm, friendly beaches. Waterslides, golf and a championship putting course, mile after mile of mountain bike trails, and watercraft rentals ensure that everyone in the family will have fun in the sun.
The town of Chelan is open and friendly, sporting every kind of recreation one would imagine in a prime mountain and lake area. Lake Chelan also boasts a year-round fishery including salmon, trout and bass. The clear, arid skies provide the perfect backdrop for an activity packed day or a lazy afternoon on a quiet deck gazing across at the surprisingly calming hillsides. The Chelan Valley boasts premier destination resorts, quality motels, campgrounds and B&B’s. Excellent restaurants abound. And Chelan is not only a summer destination – for an unforgettable day in the snow, escape to Echo Valley Ski Area. Just a few miles north of Chelan, it has three rope tows, a surface Poma Lift, and a popular new tubing hill. Adjacent Echo Ridge offers 22 miles of groomed trails for Nordic skiing, and the beginning of miles of snowmobile trails.
A visit to Stehekin at the far reaches of Lake Chelan’s crystal waters is not to be missed. Only accessible by boat or float plane, this village serves as the trailhead for the North Cascades National Park. There are no phones or televisions here, just calm and quiet. Whether you take a day trip or stay overnight, you won’t forget this exquisite passage to a northwest treasure.

The lush Methow Valley

From Lake Chelan, you will continue north on SR 97, then head west on Highway 153 near the community of Pateros. The Loop then directs you to the Methow Valley. Leading to the North Cascades National Park, this valley is like a divine time warp. There’s more than an “old west” feeling to the area – even the fields and farmlands of the Methow have a sense of precious timelessness. The Western theme reigns true in the delightful town of Twisp, with a large selection of Western art and regional northwest artist’s wares. Spend an evening at the theatre at the historic MERC building or visit the U.S. Forest Service Smokejumper Base and observe the crews from June through October.

North Cascades Highway

The North Cascades Highway was purposely surveyed to take full advantage of the area’s dynamic viewpoints. Washington Pass from the east has stunning outlooks and Liberty Bell Mountain, which come fall, is gilded with a palate of autumnal colors that would shame a Hallmark rendering. Rainy Day Pass is a great spot to take a quick one-mile hike to Rainy Lake for a picnic repast before heading toward Ross and Diablo lakes.
The extraordinary colors of these lakes (Ross is teal, Diablo is jade) is due to finely-ground rock dust captured in the water and simultaneously reflecting the green of the forest and the blue of the sky. Take a tour of Ross Dam or a boat cruise on the Diablo or a short summertime ride on an incline railway from Seattle City Light’s visitor center in Diablo.
Eagles are a common sight here from December through February. The largest population of the majestic bird in the lower U.S. comes to feed on spawning salmon. They join other fishermen and women in scouting the Skagit River, also a favorite for white-water rafting in June and July.

From the mountains to the Valley – Skagit County

As you travel west on Highway 20, you’re gracefully transported into the Skagit Valley. This is where legions of visitors come to view lush tulip fields and the fertile fields produce a wide variety of crops. The road will lead through several small communities like Marblemount and Rockport. Be sure to stop by the Cascadian Home Farm stand for some organically grown berries and handmade ice cream.
You may want to take a mini-detour through the main street of Concrete. Concrete reflects its cement production history. The “Sockeye Express”, a 45 minute open-air trolley, is a fun way to learn about the town’s interesting past. The Robert DeNiro movie, “This Boys Life” is based on events that took place in Concrete and much of the movie was filmed on location here.
Sedro-Woolley celebrates their logging heritage on the state’s oldest ongoing 4th of July celebration with “Loggerodeo”. From chainsaw carving to a bluegrass jubilee, Loggerodeo is a full-fledged northwest experience.
Mount Vernon has a picturesque historic downtown and pleasing riverfront, and Burlington gathers regional shoppers with one of the largest discount malls in the northwest. Both towns are great spots to visit during the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, a true celebration of the glory of spring that takes place each April. Folks travel across international borders and several state lines to view the extraordinary sight of field after field of brilliant color, viewing what looks like a velvet patchwork quilt covering hundreds of acres.
The town of La Conner, resting alongside the Swinomish Channel, is treasured for its charming outlook and boutique shopping. This waterside hamlet is a popular day trip. Perched along side the Swinomish Slough, with a hearty collection of boutiques, specialty stores and fine restaurants, La Conner is the perfect spot for browsing, stopping for a cup of tea, browsing again, and then ending the day watching the boats glide by as you enjoy a fine repast at sunset. La Conner is bursting with art, both private and public. The Museum of Northwest Art has a fine collection of regional art featuring the area’s predominant artist and nearby Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve houses an outstanding interpretive museum and lovely pedestrian trails for viewing wildlife and birds.


If you really want to immerse yourself in wild frontier times, don’t miss Winthrop. Once a trade center for miners and trappers, the town has had a retro-face lift with a comprehensive restoration of the town’s Wild West ambiance with rows of false-fronted buildings and wooden boardwalks. Indians lived here for 9.000 years, sustained by local roots, berries, fishing and hunting. In 1883, the lure of gold brought the first permanent white settlers. Today, remnants of that time are the cornerstones of the town. The town was rebuilt after a horrendous fire in 1893; the original Duck Brand Saloon survived and is now the Town Hall. Another enduring edifice is the Shafer Museum, once the home of Guy Waring, one of the original founding fathers. The museum now displays a primitive print shop, stagecoach, assay office, original settler’s cabins and a large display of mining equipment.
Waring’s Harvard College roommate wrote The Virginian after honeymooning in Winthrop, and the area’s new persona was created when a generous benefactor, Mrs. Kathryn Wagner, joined local merchants in significantly bank rolling the town’s reconstruction.
After you hitch your car to the nearest post, walk the main street, examine the wares of the local shops and galleries and take refreshment at one of the many local eateries. Children are happily entertained with free gold panning, miniature golf, and the chance to ride one of the local horses. Grab some of Winthrop’s famous treats and use the town as home base. Then, go outdoors. This is an area that can be fully enjoyed on land, on water, and from high above. Mountain biking tours are available along the foothills of the Methow, hearty rock and glacier climbing in the nearby Cascades and, with the national ranking of second best in the nation, cross-country skiing is a popular choice of those wishing to glide through this peaceful valley. A singular method of exploring the valley is on a horse-packing trip into the Pasayten Wilderness Area within the boundaries of Okanogan National Forest.

Okanogan Country

The trademark refrain of the Okanogan is “Open for Adventure” and this spectacular region takes tag line seriously. Extending from the North Cascade Mountain Range to Grand Coulee Dam and bordered by Canada and Lake Chelan, Okanogan Country offers thrills, spills, and an exceptional taste of Washington’s outdoors.
The area’s geography is as diverse as its recreational offerings. The rugged Cascades, populated by dense forests and crystal clear waterfalls and rivers, give way to old-west country; soft plains bordered by gentle evergreens. Here, the dazzling power of the Grand Coulee Dam contrasts with peaceful lakes and silent streams scattered throughout the region.
Okanogan Country includes the northeastern Highway 20 leg of the famed Cascade Loop. You’ll travel through the beautiful Methow Valley into tiny Mazama with its 4-star destination resort and on to the old-west settlement. Nine miles southwest of Winthrop you’ll find world-class mountain biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing high atop Sun Mountain, a very popular recreation and resort destination. There’s an active arts community in nearby Twisp, reflected in their popular theater and Methow Arts Festival held each year.
As SR20 connects with Highway 97 at the Columbia River, head north to the city of Okanogan. Located on the Okanogan River, this county seat provides historical perspective with the Okanogan County Historical Museum and Fire Hall Museum. Nearby, the town of Omak welcomes travelers with distinct personality attractions, including the world famous Omak Stampede and Suicide race, usually held the second weekend of August.
In 1900, the town of Riverside became a prominent trading center. Today this friendly community still houses a saloon along with a historic school bell reminding visitors of the significance of this site beside the Okanogan River. Following the river north, Tonasket echoes the region’s pioneer roots. Rustic log cabins and the serene presence of the river enhance the natural beauty that continues to attract same venturesome spirit.
Oroville, at the northern tip of Highway 97, experienced a gold strike near the mouth of the Similkameen River in 1861. Today’s riches are the town’s crisp apple crop.
Some very interesting and scenic loop tour options – with some international flair – occur in this part of the state. To travel the International Discovery Loop, take Highway 20 east from Tonasket toward Republic. You’ll encounter the Stonerose Fossil Center where you can actually go on a fossil dig. From Republic, you can choose to head north on SR21 through the Colville National Forest past beautiful Curlew Lake. When you pass through Curlew, be sure to visit the historic Ansorge Hotel, which has been restored to its 1903 elegance. To complete the loop, cross the Canadian border at Ferry, take Highway 3 west to Osoyoos then head south on Highway 97 toward Oroville.
A shorter journey, the Okanogan Highlands Historical Loop, is a nice way to discover the back roads that can add adventure to any road trip. This 150-mile loop links the tiny communities of Oroville, Molson, Chesaw, Curlew, Republic and connects back to Highway 97 at Tonasket. Chesaw got its start during the 1896 mining rush and is home to the Chesaw Fourth of July Rodeo. A short detour between Oroville and Chesaw will lead to the Ghost Town of Old Molson – the site of a museum operated by the Okanogan County Historical Society. This museum features a complex of early 20th century buildings, including a bank, an assay office, two homestead cabins and its open from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Okanogan Country is one of those places that feeds the imagination and nourishes body and soul. It’s a land that time has honored with abundant resources, beauty, and a sense of mystery. Once you begin to uncover its secrets, you’ll find yourself returning again and again to discover more.

Ellensburg / Cle Elum

Approaching eastern Washington along Interstate 90 over the Cascades at Snoqualmie Pass, you are almost immediately aware that something special is beginning to happen. The dense fir, cedar and pine forests that accompanied your journey over the pass become silhouetted echoes, gradually replaced by rolling hills covered with sage brush and dotted with grazing cattle and horses. Overcast skies give way to white fluffy clouds against azure blue skies. The air is now fresh and dry. And, for the next 50 miles or so, cowboys urging their herds forward are much more likely to be spotted than a coffee chain espresso stand. The transition is somewhat intoxicating.
Soon after you cross the summit heading east, the charming communities of Cle Elum and Roslyn are well worth a slight detour off Interstate 90. Located where the alpine forest is just beginning to wane, this area is rich in outdoor recreation possibilities. Lakes, raging rivers, camping, off-road vehicle and snowmobile trails, combined with great access to the Snoqualmie Pass ski slopes, make this a very popular year-round destination.
Cle Elum has an attractive downtown shopping district and two museums of note; the Carpenter House, a 1914 historic mansion, and the Cle Elum Historical Telephone Museum. Just north on Highway 903 is Roslyn, where the popular television series Northern Exposure was filmed. Die-hard fans will want to get a photo taken in front of the famous Brick Tavern. The local museum features items from the series, a collection, “Roslyn Cemeteries”, highlighting the unique local ethnic cemeteries, and an extensive collection of photos and mining memorabilia from the town’s colorful past.

Historic downtown Ellensburg beckons

Twenty-five miles to the east, Ellensburg epitomizes the physical bounty of central Washington. A backdrop of gorgeous snowcapped mountains gives way to desert terrain, fertile Valleys and two rambling rivers. This historic city, with plenty of old-west flair, greets visitors with a charming downtown and a bevy of sights and events to enjoy. Downtown Ellensburg’s historic brick buildings and early 20th century Victorian architecture create an appealing and inviting locality primed for exploration. After a meal at one of the many delicious eateries and a serious peek at the stores and antique shops, be sure you make time to tour Central Washington University. Call ahead to make an appointment to visit the fascinating Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, and then spend some quiet time at the Japanese garden on campus.
Museum hopping is great sport here. There’s a Children’s Activity Museum, the Clymer Museum of Art featuring native John Ford Clymer’s nationally acclaimed work, the Kittitas County Historical Museum housed in the 1889 built Cadwell Building, and the Olmstead Place State Heritage Area, open April – September featuring antique farm equipment.
Ellensburg’s country roots are wildly celebrated, so join an enthusiastic crowd and lasso the popular Ellensburg Rodeo on Labor Day weekend. But, don’t neglect the fine cultural offering here. There are many performing arts companies and organizations in the city with quality entertainment; Central Washington’s Music and Theatre Arts Department, the Children’s Musical Theatre, Choir, Youth Ballet and the regionally lauded Valley Musical Theatre.
The Ellensburg area also offers four distinct seasons, something of a rarity in Washington State. Consequently, recreational activities – from golf, hiking, river rafting, and horseback riding in spring, summer and fall, to ice skating and snowmobiling in winter – can all be enjoyed here. And if you wish, you must claim a spot along the Yakima River, one of the premier catch-and-release fly-fishing rivers in the United States. A road trip to Ellensburg is a great reason to op on Interstate 90 for a day or an extended stay, so pack up the car and prepare for a delightful getaway.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Washington coast

The sound of wild Pacific seas crashing to the shore; the sun setting slowly over a historic lighthouse; lovers and friends walking silently along the sandy shore; kids flying a kite or laughing as their beloved sand castle is reclaimed by the tide; an ill-shapen tree standing guard on the edge of a craggy cliff overlooking the cluster of small villages and town-these are the indelible images that become vivid and lasting memories of a visit to Washington’s Pacific coast.
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, near Ilwaco, sits on a high promontory overlooking the mouth of the Columbia. It’s a humbling experience to stand here looking down on the very sight that Lewis and Clark trudged across our untamed continent to see nearly two centuries ago. From here, the coast swoop down to near sea level, forming what lays claim to being one of the longest beaches in the world – the Long Beach Peninsula. Across a narrow strip of sand dunes, the shallow waters of Willapa Bay are home to thousands of birds and thriving oyster farms. This coastal area offers some of the best birding in America. On Grays Harbor’s north end you’ll find some of the finest oceanfront resorts in the state at Ocean Shores. And, once headed north on State Highway 109, you’ve entered a little known strip of Pacific shoreline where you’ll be hidden away in the far reaches of the maritime Northwest, yet only three hours drive from Seattle.
Birding, beachcombing, hiking, curling up next to a roaring fire in a seaside cabin, listening to the wind in the cedars and Sitka spruce – this area offers the essence of Pacific Northwest beach life. And although there is no shortage of good places to stay and elegant places to eat, the focus here is on the natural wonders of the sea and the shoreline.
But don’t limit your discoveries to the coast. Inland from both great bays as well as the mouth of the Columbia, small towns are peaceful respites where good food, some interesting architecture, the occasional antique shop, and glimpses of rural life take you back to a simpler time. Elma, Montesano, Aberdeen and Hoquiam lie to the east of Grays Harbor; Raymond and South Bend to the east of Willapa Bay. In Skamokawa, about 25 miles east up the Columbia River from the Pacific, settle in and watch the behemoth container ships head up river on their way to the docks of Portland.
Give yourself plenty of time to explore this region of Washington. Leave your watch in the drawer at home and pack some books. Don’t forget rain gear and extra dry clothes. The howl of the wind, the crash of the waves and the movements of the sun and the moon are all you’ll need to remind you of the passing of time.

Grays Harbor County

From the primeval Quinault Rain Forest to the Pacific shore, Grays Harbor County invites visitors to discover the wild side of the Pacific Northwest. There are miles of jagged, pristine coastline, some of which can only be reached through a beach access. Yet, that walk on the wild side is happily juxtaposed to the simple pleasures of a superbly presented fresh seafood dinner or family time at an old-fashioned country fair. In Grays Harbor County, whales and world-class bird watching share the venue with rodeos and history-rich owns, offering visitors a delightful and broad-based touring experience.
Most visitors will arrive in Grays Harbor from I-5 at Olympia, following Highway 101 to the SR 8 cutoff – passing through the scenic southeastern portion of Grays Harbor County. Here you’ll encounter a mix of small farming and logging communities like Elma, McCleary and Oakville. Montesano, which means “mountain of health” in Spanish, was founded in 1852 and is one of the oldest settlements in Grays Harbor County as well as its county seat. Many of the homes were built at the turn-of-the-century and are on the Washington State Historical Homes registry. The historic County Courthouse – a majestic backdrop rising high above the city – provides a noteworthy photo opportunity.
The cities of Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Cosmopolis were established in the 1880s and from the commercial center of Grays Harbor County. Both proudly reflect the heritage of their first settlers with classic clapboard storefronts, historical murals and log holding yards. Thousands upon thousands of shorebirds arrive at nearby Bowerman Basin each year, with bird watchers happily celebrating an annual Shorebird Festival.
The North Beach, also known as the Washington Coast, is one of the most scenic areas in the Pacific Northwest. Ocean side communities like Ocean City, Copalis Beach and Moclips – with 20 miles of sandy beaches – provide a safe haven for quiet reflection. North Beach is also known for the delicious Pacific razor clam. Shaped like old-fashioned razors, these large clams are not easy to catch… the tide has to be just right and so does your luck. But, those who hunt this elusive crop swear by the rewards. Spring clam season usually begins in March.
Nestled deep in the Quinault Rain Forest, near the north county line on Highway 101, line the communities of Amanda Park and Quinault. The Quinault Valley is famous for the immense ancient trees of the temperate rain forest including several world champion tree species. The world’s largest tree, a Sitka spruce with an estimate age of 900 years, and Washington State’s largest tree, a western red cedar, are located here. The Rain Forest, a glacier carved lake, and abundant wildlife all contribute to the area’s strong appeal, as do countless outdoor selections; camping, Forest Service guided nature walks, boating, swimming, numerous hiking trails, world renowned steelhead fishing and horseback riding.
Ocean Shores is a popular vacation and convention destination, largely because it satisfies a long list of ocean front activities. Want to bring a business or conference here? Ocean shores Convention center is located in the heart of downtown, two blocks from the beach, and able to accommodate small and large groups, trade shows and banquets. Requiring solitude? You’re set too.
The sea air is conductive to a healthy appetite, and the city has close to 30 eating establishment. From delicatessens, family and fine dining to the indelible pleasure of encountering some chewy salt water taffy, sampling the dining options is all part of the fun.
If restoration and reflection are on your “to do” list, the area has miles of uncrowned shoreline and accommodations to fit every budget, allowing for extended weekend or long visits. Once settled, you can choose to sequester yourself beside the fire, mesmerized by the surf, or plan days worth of activities like golf, go-carting, bicycling or horseback riding.
Beachcombing is a daily ritual for visitors here, but Ocean Shores can boast about more than its spectacular shoreline. It also has more than 23 miles of fresh water lakes and canals. Bring or hire a boat or canoe, then navigate through the canals as you view exquisite homes and native wildlife. Duck Lake is grand for fishing, water skiing, or lazy exploration.
Charters are available at the marina, with whale watching excursions during the spring and summer. Other marine excursions include deep-sea fishing, sport fishing, dinner cruises and scenic trips around Grays Harbor and along the spectacular coastline.
And, golfers take heart. You don’t have to give up your obsession here. After taking the kids on a wild go-carting ride, schedule yourself a tee-time at the PGA rated Ocean Shores municipal golf course. Just minutes from the Convention Center, there’s a pro shop, snack bar, and rental clubs and carts. There’s miniature golf too, with several courses including old-fashioned seaport village. Families, couples, and groups all find their niche in Ocean Shores. Whatever your mood or requirements for entertainment, this Oceanside town makes sure it’s available.
The South Beach, also referred to as the Cranberry Coast, is located on the south side of Grays Harbor. This area boasts 18 miles of pristine beach from Westport through Grayland to North Cove and Tokeland. Visitors will appreciate the charm and atmosphere of a timeless fishing village, colorful cranberry bogs, spectacular beach combing, charter fishing and whale watching opportunities. There are as many accommodation options as recreational choices.
Westport, on the southwest tip of Grays Harbor, also offers year-round surfing, whale watching and a scenic Maritime History Trail. Westport’s Maritime History Trail, a 6.5 mile bike and pedestrian path, links the Westport Maritime Museum and the Grays Harbor Lighthouse.
Pacific Ocean storm watching from the Westport breakwater is an invigorating fall and winter activity. There are complementary options like go-carts, aquarium, restaurants and shopping here.
Over 20.000 gray whales journey past the Washington coast from March to late May. Bring your binoculars or charter a boat to view one of nature’s most riveting shows. The 40-mile Scenic Coastal Loop off Coastal Highway 101 is the perfect introduction to “The Cranberry Coast”, with lots of chances for browsing and testing the area’s red-gold treats along the way.

Waterways to the Pacific

Pacific County, home to Willapa Bay and the Long Beach Peninsula, is a truly magical region where pristine waters, lush forests, and vibrant communities welcome visitors. This is the spot where you’ll want to unwind with quiet adventures in this peaceful, comfortable haven.
Part of the county’s charm is the meandering roads, highways and lanes that lead travelers to various destinations and points of interests. We’ve included the two traditional approaches to the coastline ere, but it really doesn’t matter where you begin your journey; Pacific County is a place that always beckons you back.
In north Pacific county, the physical environment is perfectly suited to a seamless transition from work to play, stress to peace, urban sprawl to northwest spectacular.
This region is overflowing with obvious cues that your restoration and renewal is close at hand. Here, small communities and towns celebrate their cherished heritage, whether it is logging, harvesting oysters or fishing.
The Willapa region is prime salmon, sturgeon and steelhead country. For binocular toting birdwatchers, there are excellent viewing sites. And delighted kayakers have discovered the peaceful waterways padding and Willapa Bay for saltwater touring.
Raymond is one of the traditional entry points to the coast region. This town guarantees visitors wildlife sightings – every day. Two hundred steel-plated figures line the Raymond-Wildlife-Heritage Sculpture Corridor, including a mix of historic and regional scenes along with representations of regional wildlife. It’s evident that Raymond residents love their wildlife. Part of a recent major renovation of downtown Third Street includes sidewalks stamped with animal footprints.
The Willapa Seaport Museum houses an extensive collection of maritime artifacts. The popular Public Market on the Willapa is held on the other side of the building from the museum from mid-March through December.
If you’re looking for a secluded sanctuary, try Tokeland or North Cove, on SR 105. These quiet seaside villages offer beach combing, kite flying, storm and whale watching as standard fare. When is season, popular activities include clamming, crabbing and fishing. There are several lodging options in Tokeland, including he historic landmark Tokeland Hotel and Restaurant, motels, and RV Parks. For an evening’s entertainment, stop by the Shoalwater Bay Casino on the Shoalwater Bay Reservation.
South Bend is the county seat of Pacific County and home to the elegant Pacific County Courthouse, decorated with a stunning art glass dome. This charming town, named for its location nestled on a bend of the Willapa River, has several historic buildings, Victorian style homes and antique dealers gracing its streets. South Bend claims the title “Oyster Capital of the World” with restaurants and vendors that specialize in the succulent Willapa Bay oyster. Make time for the Pacific County Historical Society Museum, a great spot for information on the significance of fishing and logging industries in Pacific County’s history.
Overlooking Willapa Bay is the picturesque fishing village of Bay Center. If you come in the spring, the road is lined with daffodils – a perfect complement to the memorable outlooks of the Bay and the northern tip of Long Beach Peninsula. Bay Center is home to numerous oyster canneries with fresh Willapa Bay seafood available for purchase. One out of every six oyster consumed in the United States is harvested on these tide flats.
The drive from South Bend to the Long Beach Peninsula reveals a stunning marriage between lush forests and this unspoiled, pristine bay. The tidelands are a rest stop for waterfowl and seabirds that follow the Pacific Flyway and the coastal ecosystem itself is regarded as one of the most productive in the continental United States.
The two “guardians” of the bay are Baby Island and Long Island, the latter a popular destination point for kayakers and canoes. Once you’ve landed on this island, only accessible via water, there are trails for hiking and primitive campsites to reserve for those that want to settle in for the night.
Another approach to the Peninsula is from the south along the mighty Columbia River through Wahkiakum County. Following along the river, you’ll be paralleling the route Lewis and Clark followed in November 1805 as they approached the Pacific Ocean. From Cathlamet in Wahkiakum County, SR 4 leads you away from the Columbia to Naselle, a Finnish farming community with roadside parks, fishing, hiking, lodging, and dining.
Experience the dynamic forces of nature where the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River collide head-on – each struggling to show-off its individual strength and personality. The views here are rather grand, so keep your eyes wide open and senses alert.
Heading south from Naselle on SR 401 toward the river, you’ll encounter the Megler Visitor Information Center, the Astoria-Megler Bridge, Lewis and Clark Station Camp, and the southern end of the Long Beach Peninsula.

The Long Beach Peninsula

If you’re seeking quiet adventure, seaside rejuvenation, and welcoming hospitality, you’ve found your answer on the Long Beach Peninsula. The Peninsula offers jagged ocean cliffs, a 20 mile uninterrupted shore, and access to pristine Willapa Bay. Two lighthouses, military forts, museums and interpretive centers underscore the area’s historic significance. A string of eight unique communities connect along the Peninsula to its northern tip and Leadbetter State Park.
Hundreds of species of birds nest and migrate through the Peninsula’s fragile ecosystem. Visitors from around the world are drawn to the wide-open spaces, raw and wild nature, award-winning dining, and a variety of lodging facilities. Beach combing, bicycling, hiking, and kayaking are popular year round activities.
When approaching the Peninsula, shortly after passing the Astoria-Megler Bridge, take an immediate left after going through the tunnel to discover Fort Columbia State Park complete with interpretive center, trails, bunkers, views, and picnic facilities. Nearby in the fishing village of Chinook, Craftsman and Victorian- era homes will catch your eye. The state’s first salmon hatchery is also located here.
Ilwaco offers an active marina for commercial and pleasure boats, homes dating to the 1880s, and several centennial murals depicting the area’s rich history. Charter a boat for salmon, sturgeon or halibut fishing or visit the many shops and restaurants lining the marina. There are several exhibits of local history at the Heritage Museum on Lake Street – a certified site on Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Trail.

A Lewis & Clark vantage point

From Ilwaco, head west on Loop 101 to find two lighthouses, scenic vistas, Fort Canby State Park, the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, the U.S. Coast Guard Lifeboat School, and cove beaches. Look for the Westwind Trail, a 4.5 mile invigorating hike ending at the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and Baker Bay. A mile in, you’ll be at the North Head Lighthouse, also accessible by automobile and open for tours.
Another afternoon or morning delight is visiting one of Washington’s most popular parks, Fort Canby. Covering more than 1.700 acres filled with campsites and picnic areas, the lush forests of Fort Canby State Park provide the perfect setting for modern day explorers. Beach combing is the commonly enjoyed pastime for all visitors to the coast, Benson Beach and Waikiki Beach-located near the entrance to the park are popular choices. While there, you’ll see huge swells and the white spray of breaking waves or glassy seas, all depending upon the season and tide.
This is serious Lewis and Clark country where the Corps realized Jefferson’s mission of reaching the Pacific Ocean. You won’t want to miss the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center where journal entries are matched to photographs, murals, artwork, medical instruments, foods, trade goods, and the many contributions made by Indian tribes to the Lewis and Clark party. Another intriguing exhibit is a history of shipwrecks, illustrating how the mouth of the Columbia earned the nickname “Graveyard of the Pacific”.
Access Seaview via Ilwaco and pause at Black Lake where you can follow a gentle path along the shoreline or, in the winter, glimpse majestic trumpeter swans. Seaview considered one of the best examples of early coastal communities in the Northwest was founded in 1881 and quickly became the playground for Portland’s elite. The many Victorian-style houses and cottages lining its lanes are the perfect venue for walking or bicycling as you view the glories of times past. Seaview also has antique shops, art studios, historic inns, and a handful of the area’s top restaurants.
Long Beach is a captivating seaside beach town with an ocean boardwalk, festive downtown, overnight accommodations, and crowd-pleasing events. Arcades, pocket parks and mosaic sculptures share space with restaurants, galleries, kite shops, upscale gift shops, bakeries, and bookstores, as well as the world Kite Museum with its rare collections of vintage kites.
Each August in Long Beach, one of the nation’s largest kite festivals fills the sky with brightly colored shapes while the beach buzzes with an international crowd of kite-flying enthusiasts. A jazz festival, fishing derby, Loyalty Day celebration, summer entertainment series, beach run, rodeo, Independence Day fireworks, and sand-sculpture competition are among the town’s other annual events.
On the way to Ocean Park, just nine miles north on Highway 103, consider a detour to the Cranberry Museum on Pioneer Road, which showcases the large local cranberry growing industry. A few miles further, stop at Loomis Lake to dangle your feet off the dock or launch a canoe. Nearby Loomis State Park, with parkland on both sides of the highway, offers visitors intimate picnicking opportunities and ocean view.

The north Peninsula

Ocean Park, founded 1883 as a summer resort and revival camp, is a quiet residential community long revered for its friendliness and razor clamming, that comes to life during the summer. Visit during the Northwest Garlic Festival, the Old-Fashioned 4th of July Celebration, the Labor Day Heritage Festival, or Road Run to the End of the World, a popular event featuring over 1.000 vintage cars.
Be sure to take a leisurely look at the 1890s style cottages, many built from salvaged ship-wreck cargoes. These cottages take on a special charm come summer, when they are accented by lots of flowers, especially the sentimental pink mallow. The Ocean Park-Surfside area is also superb for beachcombing, bicycling, storm watching, castle building, or a walk or drive on the wide sandy beach.
In nearby Nahcotta, a small village bordering Willapa Bay, enjoy the island views and explore the Nahcotta Tidelands Interpretive Site. A fine overview of the area’s history and additional information about shellfish, wildlife and plants of the Willapa Bay ecosystem can be found at the nearby Willapa Bay Interpretive Center.
If you’re hitched up your boat trailer for this journey, stop by the Port of Peninsula, a marina and boat ramp used by both commercial and private craft. You’ll marvel at the sparkling piles of white oyster shells, canneries selling fresh oyster, soaring bald eagles and herons wading in the tidelands. Come dinner time, you can contentedly observe the reflected hues of sunset on the bay at one of the area’s finest restaurants.
The entire village of Oysterville, a few miles north, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and visiting here is like taking a step back in time. A product of a 19th century oyster boom, homes dating to 1863 grace the tree-lined streets, and the 1892 church is open to the public. There’s also a recently restored 1908 schoolhouse.
Leadbetter State Park is located at the northern tip of the Peninsula. It is estimated that over 100.000 shorebirds stop here during migration or choose to call Leadbetter and Willapa Bay home year round. Early mornings in the woods are a concert of whistles, songs and honks in this refuge of marshes, mudflats and grass. Birdwatchers are wildly enthusiastic about this northernmost nesting area of the snowy plover, a threatened species, and are respectful of the park’s closure when the plover is nesting.
On your departure south, enjoy the restful views of fairy tale woods and lovely homes bordering Willapa Bay. And, after returning again to Highway 101 and heading towards home, you’ll be restored and ready to schedule your return.