Forests. Rain. Gorgeous hikes. Yeah, I'm talking about the Pacific North West, more specifically Washington. Its a state we have always wanted to visit and explore but kept putting it off. Until my brother David mentioned heading up there for his birthday. Of course we couldn't turn it down! We booked our flights and we were off to the PNW! Here are a few highlights from our epic trip:
We flew into Seattle and stayed there for the night. It gave us a day and a half to explore the city before moving on to the next town. After getting the rental car we checked into the Westin (Yay for starwood points!) and grabbed some celebratory drinks to start the trip off right. The boys wanted to check out Starbucks Reserve Roastery so we headed over there first. They were able to taste test a couple different french pressed coffees as well as a few pour overs. I am pretty sure they were in heaven. That night we had dinner at a delicious restaurant called Serious Pie. For reals though, this place is amazing! They gave us a ton of free wine and the pizzas were drool worthy. It was the perfect end to our first day in Washington. Before leaving Seattle the next day we wandered around Pike Place and had breakfast/coffee at a coffee shop called Storyville Coffee (did I say coffee enough???). This place had a very chill atmosphere and their breakfast sandwiches were super filling. We sat on a couch by a window that overlooked the Pike Place sign. We strongly recommend going there if you're looking for a light breakfast while people watching.
Seattle was fun and all but we wanted to get out of the city and head toward nature. Our next stop was Mount Rainier. It was gorgeous! We had a already hike picked out for us by one of my sister-in-law's friends who lived out there. Comet Falls was a pretty easy 3.2 mile hike. We saw several waterfalls, hiked along side a river, and got to climb some cool ladders that were trying to pass as stairs (seriously, stairs aren't that steep!). Sadly I wasn't feeling 100% that day so I was struggling but we made it to the falls and boy was it was worth it! After we hiked out we headed up to the visitor center for lunch and to check out the glacier. FYI, its just as busy as Yosemite... we literally had to make our own parking spot. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we braved the crowds and headed up the trail towards the glacier. Wow, that is steep! And boy was it crowded! It was worth it though to see the Glacier. It was a bit cloudy on the way up but the second we reached a spot to view the glacier the clouds parted and it was an extraordinary site! Sadly, it was hard to enjoy it due to the crowds of people and how little they knew about respecting nature... we were constantly picking up other peoples' trash and watching them stomp all over the flowers and plants. But aside from that, it was awesome!
Another hike that was suggested to us and that we had researched about was Gem Lake. Its a pretty popular hike so we got to the trail head early and there were already a ton of cars in the parking lot. We loaded up on sunscreen and bug spray then headed up the trail. Its a relatively rocky trail and could be a bit difficult for some people. But the views are worth the hard work! The first lake we reached was Snow Lake. We were surprised by how big it was! After climbing up onto a large rock we got a great view of the entire lake and scoped out where the trail was heading. I would say the best part of the hike was after we hit Snow Lake because not a lot of people continue on to Gem Lake so it was a bit more secluded. We passed by a few backpackers but that was it. Gem Lake turned out to be even better then Snow Lake! We found a great spot to soak our feet and eat a snack. Dave jumped into the ice cold water for a quick swim before we headed back toward the trail head. The hike down was a whole other story. Once we reached Snow Lake the crowds were terrible! We literally got stuck in a line of hikers heading down the trail.... it was pretty miserable. A bit of information about this hike: It's a 9.6 mile hike with an elevation gain of 2.657feet, moderate trafficked out and back trail.
Our main goal for this trip was to make it to Bellingham. Why you ask? It was on our list of potential places to live. So we decided to spend a couple of days there exploring what they had to offer. Its definitely more city then we would like so its no longer on our list but none-the-less it was nice! Some of our favorite places to eat and drink were The Black Cat, Boundary Bay & Bistro and Aslan Brewing Company. Woods Coffee is everywhere in Washington and for good reason; their coffee is pretty damn good. We hiked around Whatcom State Park where a lot of families where hiking and swimming in the river which was pretty cool to see. After the hike we headed over to Lake Whatcom and decided to dive in! Perfect timing too because right after we dove in a Bald Eagle flew right over us! Not going to lie, it was pretty awesome. We headed over to the Mt Baker highway where we got to explore Nooksack River and Falls. That drive was breathtaking. We felt the need to stop every chance we could to be able to take it all in. We were lucky with the timing of this trip because while we were in Bellingham the Total Solar Eclipse was happening! We weren't 100% prepared for it but there were so many nice people willing to share their "eclipse glasses" with us so we could see it and experience it fully.
Olympic National Park
When we think of Washington, we think of dense forests and insane amount of rain... basically we think of the Olympic Peninsula. Sadly we only got a little bit of drizzle for rain but everything else was exactly how we imagined it. We stayed in Sequim and explored as much as we could in what little time we had. To get there we had to take a ferry from Coupville to Port Townsend and then we drove all around the Peninsula checking out Port Angeles, Forks (any Twilight fans out there?), walked around Ruby Beach (its just like the pictures you see on Instagram!), and did a few hikes in the Hoh Rainforest. That was epic! We went from normal forests into an actual Rainforest. Inside the Hoh Rainforest we hiked the Hall of Moss trail and Sitka Nature Trail. We were surrounded by an insane amounts of greenery and huge trees! We also headed over to Olympic National Park where we checked out Hurricane Hill via Hurricane Ridge. From there we got a great view of Port Angeles and Vancouver Island off in the distance. That hike was pretty steep and there wasn't a lot of coverage so if you plan on hiking it we suggest going early (also, leaving early will help with avoiding the crowds). There were an insane amount of deer all over the place as well! In the town of Sequim there is the Dungeness National Park Wildlife Refuge. This place had a couple small hiking trails through the trees and you can hike along the beach which is covered in Driftwood. At the end of the beach is a light house that can only be accessed at certain times of the day due to the tide. We started the hike late and couldn't make it all the way out there (5 mile hike out there) but it was still fun playing around on all the driftwood. Another cool little area to hike or bike around is the Railroad Bridge Park. Its a trail that goes over an old railroad bridge with a river running underneath it. Very mellow walking trail with an adorable visitor center with tons of information about the animals in the area. Ending the trip there was absolutely perfect.
Looking back on the entire trip I would have to say our favorite part was definitely the Olympic Peninsula. Whenever we head back to Washington in the near future, we either want to go during winter time to explore Mount Bachelor and Rainier more or head over to the east side of the state and see what they have to offer. Washington truly is breath taking, filled with so much beauty and wildlife that its hard to imagine a more perfect place to be. Let us know in the comments below if you've ever visited Washington or have ever wanted to :) Thanks for reading!