Experience abundant natural wonders and gorgeous Pacific Northwestern scenery with a getaway in Washington State. From hiking in a pitch-black tunnel to seeking a hidden waterfall to accessing a valley by seaplane, there are plenty of non-touristy activities and attractions to explore. Whether you book your Washington vacation rental in the mountains or along the rugged coastline, you’re never far away from adventure. Check out these 10 unique hidden gems in Washington.
1. Snoqualmie Train Tunnel, Iron Horse State Park, Easton
An abandoned train tunnel runs through Snoqualmie Pass, which is part of the 8.4-mile out-and-back John Wayne Pioneer Trail. The hike through the 2.75-mile tunnel takes about an hour, and it is pitch dark inside. The flat trail allows easy walking for all skill levels, and it is quite cold and damp midway through the tunnel. You need flashlights, light jackets, water, and snacks. Expect to share the tunnel with other hikers, bikes, baby strollers, and dogs on leashes. The tunnel is open May through September.
2. One Square Inch of Silence, Hoh River Trail, Forks
Even if you miss the tiny red pebble on a fallen log, the trek through the rain forest to find one square inch of silence that it signifies is magical. The pebble protects the quietest spot on earth, which lies three miles down the Hoh River Trail near Forks. The 2005 Earth Day project seeks to protect this spot from human noise to highlight the sounds of nature–the buzz of insects or pattering of rain. The purpose is to help people connect with nature and spread the silence by cutting back on noise pollution. Linger here and let the sounds of silence refresh your thoughts and soothe jangled nerves.
3. Soap Lake, Soap Lake
Soap Lake gives you a set of spa treatments–black mud, mineral bath, and relaxing soak–all in one. Apply the mud and let it dry in the sun to absorb oils and draw out impurities from your pores. Rinse with fresh water for sunbathing to avoid sunburns; otherwise, wade into the lake and wash it off. The water is very alkaline, and it’s quite relaxing and rejuvenating to just lie back and float in the cool water. On windy days, soapy foam appears on the shore, which is how the lake got its name.
4. Vashon Island
Park your car on the ferry at the Fauntleroy Terminal in West Seattle for a short ride to Vashon Island. Life progresses at a slower pace on the island, and there is nothing here to fuss and rush to do. As you drive around, look for the well-manicured gardens by the roadsides as farming is the main industry here. When the weather is clear, you get stellar views of Mt. Rainier from the southeast shore, especially with your binoculars. The Coast Guard owns the Point Robinson Lighthouse, and conducts Sunday tours mid-May through mid-September, and by appointment. Stop by Vashon Winery for a Saturday or Sunday tasting, from April 1 to October 1, and pick out a bottle to enjoy with the sunset at your Vashon Island vacation rental.
5. Stehekin Valley, Stehekin
Where you’re going, you don’t need roads; visitors must hike, fly, boat, ride a horse, or take a ferry to reach Stehekin Valley, the gateway to the rugged wilderness of the Cascades. At the northwest end of Lake Chelan, you find the pristine valley remains as far off the beaten path as one can get for vacation getaways. Whether you want to fill your days with outdoor adventures or just kick back and unwind, this is your Shangri La. Enjoy deli foods to fine dining in the wilderness at Stehekin Valley Ranch, the Lodge at Stehekin Landing, or the Stehekin Pastry Company.
6. Beckler Peak, Central Cascades
Put a Beckler Peak hike on your bucket list to experience breathtaking mountain vistas in all directions. As it is a somewhat new hiking trail, hikers typically enjoy an uncrowded outing for the 7.4-mile out-and-back hike, which gains 2263 feet in elevation. Beckler Peak sits next to the 106,577-acre Wild Sky Wilderness in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, just north of the towns of Index and Skykomish.
7. Palouse Falls, Palouse
Hikers rarely stumble upon the secluded Palouse Falls in Palouse Falls State Park by accident. The Palouse River dashes over a cliff, tumbling 200 feet into a mesmerizing pool below. The park features abundant hiking and photo opportunities, including a trail to the top of the falls for sweeping vistas of the surrounding area. Springtime adds abundant wildflowers in colorful array, adding to the breathtaking views. During the warm summer months, dive in for a refreshing swim in the waters that surround the waterfall or enjoy lunch at the picnic area nearby. For a kayaking adventure, put in at the base of the falls and paddle along the river to take in the gorgeous scenery. The park remains open year round.
8. Twin Sisters, Touchet
According to local legend, a jealous god created the pair of basalt columns, the Twin Sisters. It’s quite a tall tale to explain the two towering spires that formed as a result of erosion from flooding that occurred thousands of years ago. Either way, the massive black stones jutting up from a rock look out over the Columbia River, giving hikers a spectacular view. The trail to the columns features exquisite desert vegetation and abundant geological formations, making it a beautiful hike.
9. San Juan Island National Historical Park, Friday Harbor
San Juan Island features beautiful scenery, lush forests, orca whales, and one of the last native prairies in the region. The National Park Service manages the 1,260-acre San Juan Island National Historical Park, which includes hiking and biking trails. When visitors get off the ferry at Friday Harbor, they enjoy hanging out in the quaint town, which refuses to allow chain stores or restaurants to do business. Bicycles make up the main (and preferred) mode of transportation for locals and visitors alike, and Susie’s Mopeds rents electric bikes, mopeds, and Scoot Coupes. Rent bikes or feel free to bring your own on the ferry.
10. Dry Falls, Coulee City
Dry Falls looks somewhat like an alien landscape, with looming geological masterpieces shaped by Ice Age floods. About 13,000 years ago, water on this now-dry waterfall roared over the cliffs, sending down a cascade of water many times wider than Niagara Falls. As it sits dry and silent today, the 3.5-mile-wide cliff still towers 400 feet over the deep gorges and lakes below. History and geology buffs enjoy stopping by the Dry Falls Visitor Center to view the displays that tell how the Ice Age floods shaped Washington State.
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