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Washington outdoor summertime activities

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Washington state has 3,036 miles of saltwater shoreline.
  • The Sequim Irrigation Festival, dating from 1896, is Washington’s oldest continuous festival.
  • The Grand Coulee Dam is American’s largest dam and one of 1,000-plus in the state.
  • Hells Canyon is North America’s deepest gorge (7,913 feet).
  • The world’s largest wild herd of Roosevelt elk roams the Olympic National Park.

Of mountain bikes and sandcastles

Washington boasts just about every kind of natural feature and a healthy number of manmade features that attract summer vacationers — regardless of personality type — who love the outdoors.

The state has two major mountain ranges, the Olympics and Cascades; this mountainous territory encompasses three national parks and millions of acres of national forests, including temperate rain forests. The state also counts more than 140 state parks.

Such landscapes offer the predictable opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, wildlife viewing or the simple pleasures of a pleasant drive, camera in hand, and a picnic.

Outside these preserves, where the land is generally relatively flatter and the climate suitable, development has brought vineyards and associated wines good for tasting tours — and more than 30 golf courses. In some cases, agriculture and the terrain combine to create settings charming enough to warrant photo tours while Washington’s towns and cities draw visitors for their festivals and open-air markets. The state hosts 29 federally recognized Indian tribes, some of which offer on-reservation services such as guided fishing or wildlife viewing and/or sponsor powwows or other events tourists may attend.

Another whole slice of summertime vacation activity centers on water, which in Washington ranges from rivers, lakes and manmade reservoirs to Puget Sound and the canals that wrap the Olympic Peninsula, and to the horizon-stretching Pacific Ocean.

Among them, these waters provide the milieu for freshwater and saltwater fishing; a variety of water sports in the thrill-seeking category — like jetboating, surfing, waterskiing and windsurfing; canoeing, kayaking or other boating choices, plus whale watching and a selection of sightseeing cruises. Also, the northern half of Washington’s Pacific coast is lined with federal wildlife refuges that protect millions of seabirds and marine animals. Refuge islands and offshore rocks are off limits, but visitors can view the wildlife from several points on the mainland. The state also boasts wide ocean-facing beaches where sandcastles may be the order of the day, but they are farther south.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Feel your hair fly during a jetboat trip on the Snake River with the walls of Hells Canyon on each side. Clarkston is the gateway town. Or, at Richland, take that jetboat trip on the last free-flowing part of the Columbia River.
  • Try the Class IV rapids on the White Salmon River.
  • Look for Big Foot during the four-mile hike on Silver Star Mountain in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Hikers have reported Sasquatch sightings here. Besides, the Washington Trails Association has a list of (reportedly) haunted hikes in the state.
  • Indulge a passion for rock climbing in the Olympic or Cascade Mountains, or traverse some part of this turf on a mountain bike.
  • The state has a wide range of choices for camping from the mountains to beach areas. Riverside State Park in the state’s northeast is an example, where you can pitch a tent on the Spokane and Little Spokane rivers, then go boating, cycling, fishing, hiking — your pleasure.
  • At Seattle or Tacoma, rent the gear and try stand-up paddle boarding in Puget Sound.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Kayak in the waters of the San Juan Islands — where you could be sharing space with porpoises.
  • In June, attend the Lummi Nation Stommish Water Festival, which includes war canoe races and a traditional salmon barbecue on the Lummi Indian reservation. Or, in May, find the Sequim Irrigation Festival, then hang around for bird-watching, cycling or other activities in an area that gets little rain.
  • Tour the Hanford, Wash., unit of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. This is the site of the B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor.
  • Rent a houseboat and park it for a spell on Lake Roosevelt, the 150-mile-long lake created by the Grand Coulee Dam. Then, play in the water.
  • Go sportfishing off the Pacific coast, or test the fly-fishing creeks found in the Blue Mountains. Or, fish for trout in Williams Lake near Spokane or in any of a handful of alpine lakes.
  • Drive some or all of the 350-mile Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, which encircles the Olympic Peninsula. It showcases the coastline plus the plants, wildlife and terrain of Olympic National Park.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Join a whale watching cruise in the San Juan Islands. Or watch the cavorting animals and other sea mammals from other points, on land or by boat, along the Pacific coast.
  • Take a photo tour in the Palouse region of southeastern Washington. The area is known for its colorful fertile landscape, and guided photo tours are available.
  • Find a course with great views, and play golf.
  • If its late summer, consider the Ellensburg Rodeo, or Spokane’s Pig Out in the Park event featuring lots of food and lots of free concerts at Riverfront Park.
  • Plan a journey along one of the state’s wine trails. Also, pick your own blueberries or strawberries, then find a picnic site.
  • At Seattle, take a harbor cruise or other sightseeing cruise in Puget Sound. One choice takes visitors to Tillicum Village to witness Indian dances and storytelling.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Washington Tourism Alliance at