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Washington State in Pictures: Beautiful Places to Photograph

Written by Brad Lane
Jul 3, 2019

Rain forests, active volcanoes, and waterfalls help define many of the most beautiful places to visit in Washington, as well as mountain meadows, archipelagos, and charming cities with access to it all. The three national parks of Washington: Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades all deliver on a lifetime of hiking trails and spectacular sights to see, as do the otherworldly environments of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, leaving visitors with the constant question of what to explore next. Wherever the camera focuses in this scenic state, there tends to be something beautiful in sight.

1. Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park

Hikers on the Skyline Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The aptly named Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park delivers some of the best views of this peak symbol of the state. Visitors get up close and personal with the 14,410-foot Mount Rainier via the Skyline Trail that departs from the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center. Alongside fantastic alpine views, marmots and wildflowers are often encountered along the trail.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Mount Rainier National Park

2. Hoh Rainforest

Hall of Mosses trail, Hoh Rainforest

The sights along the Hoh River Trail within the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park feature many shades of green. Much of that has to do with the 12 to 14 feet of rain the area receives each year, contributing to a dense environment of 100-foot-tall western hemlocks and Sitka Spruces, as well as a growing collection of moss, fern, and lichen for even more depth of color.

3. Ross Lake, North Cascades National Park

Ross Lake

With mountain backdrops and a turquoise tint in the water, Ross Lake easily takes your breath away. The common spots to snap photos and enjoy the sights of Ross Lake are along the pull-offs provided by the North Cascade Scenic Byway, one of the prettiest drives in the state. Other scenic options to enjoy the water include renting a boat from the Ross Lake Resort.

4. Deception Pass

Deception Pass Bridge

Connecting Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands within Puget Sound, the state park surrounding the Deception Pass Bridge is one of the most popular in the state. It's not just the hundreds of campsites and family-friendly amenities at Deception Pass that draw such a crowd, it's the iconic Pacific Northwest scenery of water, islands, and stunning viewpoints that make Deception Pass a popular place to camp.

5. Olympic Wilderness Coast

Rialto Beach at sunset

Lined with impressive sea-stacks, regenerating tidepools, and smoldering sunsets, the Wilderness Coast of Olympic National Park is reminiscent of traveling to another world. Backpackers and photography enthusiasts flock to scenic spots on the Olympic Wilderness Coast like Rialto Beach to capture the moving environment and impressive sea-features, particularly come sunset.

6. San Juan Island

Orca off San Juan Island

The largest of the San Juan Islands, San Juan Island is a great jumping-off point to explore the sights, sounds, and wildlife of this watery region. The island's largest city, Friday Harbor, is often a great place to catch a guided whale watching tour for dramatic photographs of orca whales. Of equal scenic appeal on the island, Lime Kiln State Park features a very photogenic lighthouse.

7. Spray Falls, Mount Rainier National Park

Spray Falls | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

In the Mowich Lake region of Mount Rainier National Park, Spray Falls shares a similar characteristic with many other features of the area—an enormous impression on the landscape. Climbing the Spray Park trail to the falls is a vertical endeavor, but the enormous cloud of mist spraying from this 350-foot display of moving water provides an easy way to cool off and enjoy the view.

8. Leavenworth

Leavenworth in the fall

Once a lumber and railroad community, Leavenworth transformed itself over the last four decades to become an authentic Bavarian village complete with bratwurst and big mountain backdrops. The Bavarian architecture of Leavenworth alone is worth a few pictures, and during annual festivals and traditions, the streets are lined with live polka music and lederhosen.

9. Mount Baker

Mount Baker

A massive stratovolcano in northern Washington, Mount Baker is a scenic destination throughout the year. Home to a popular ski resort throughout the winter, backpacking and nature lovers explore the slopes throughout the summer and shoulder seasons. For nearly equal alpine splendor, immediately to the east of Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan also vies for eye-catching attention.

10. Enchantment Basin, Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Alpine Lake in Enchantment Basin

Just outside the picturesque town of Leavenworth within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness provides million-dollar views every mile of the trail. Navigating big features like Aasgard Pass and an abundance of massive glacier-fed lakes, the 18-mile trail that passes through the aptly named Enchantment Basin within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness offers sore muscles and life-defining sights.

11. Pike Place Market

Fruit stand at Pike Place Market

A bustling, open-air market in Seattle near the waterfront, Pike Place Market is an iconic image of the city. With fresh produce, fish, coffee, and handmade goods, Pike Place Market truly appeals to all the senses. Whether for people watching, perusing the colorful stands, or snapping a picture of the iconic Public Market sign, there's no shortage of inspiration at this renowned tourist attraction.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Seattle: Best Areas & Hotels

12. Whatcom Falls Park

Whatcom Falls Park

In the university city of Bellingham north of Seattle, Whatcom Falls Park is a scenic natural space with tons of moving water. The moment they step onto the lichen-laid path at Whatcom, visitors are transported far from the adjacent city nearby. Among the many great water features to catch at this 200-acre natural space, the park also features a scenic children's fishing pond.

13. Bowl & Pitcher Area, Riverside State Park

Bowl & Pitcher

Just outside Spokane, Riverside State Park encompasses over 11,000 acres along the scenic Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers. The park has many areas to explore and just as many activities to offer, with the Bowl & Pitcher Area perhaps the most scenic spots to enjoy. Best viewed from a Civilian Conservation Corps-era wooden bridge, the Bowl & Pitcher are large boulder outcroppings on the banks of the Spokane River.

14. Johnston Ridge Observatory, Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens view from the Johnston Ridge Observatory

Within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the Johnston Ridge Observatory provides the easiest access and perhaps best views of Mount St. Helens, including the remaining crater left behind after the dramatic 1980 eruption. Alongside parking spots and interpretive information, the observatory provides instant access to many trails leading to the mountain, which are especially pretty alongside the blooming colors of spring.

15. Port Townsend

Port Townsend lighthouse

A charming city by the sea, Port Townsend is filled with eye-catching Victorian architecture, quaint shopping districts, and endless seascapes filled with boats, piers, and mountain backdrops. For even more photographic opportunity, Port Townsend is an easy base camp for both the Olympic Peninsula, including Olympic National Park, as well as Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands.

16. Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square totem

Dating back to the beginning of the city, the historic Pioneer Square of Seattle features eye-catching Renaissance Revival architecture and a constant flow of people walking the streets. Storefronts, public art, and a mash of fashions add to the photogenic qualities of Pioneer Square, and the family-friendly underground tours of the area add even more perspective to this birthplace of Seattle.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Seattle: Best Areas & Hotels

17. Sunrise Visitor Center

View of Mount Rainier from Sunrise Visitor Center

The drive up to the 6,400-foot Sunrise Visitor Center at Mount Rainier National Park delivers tourists to the highest point in the park reachable by car. A stunning place for its namesake time of morning, dawn at the Sunrise Visitor Center presents up-close views of Rainier with a pink and orange glow, and the mountain's many glaciers glisten in the sun throughout the rest of the day.

18. Methow Valley

Methow Valley

On the eastern leg of the North Cascades Scenic Byway, the Methow Valley is renowned for dramatic alpine landscapes and world-class cross-country skiing. Both the towns of Mazama and Winthrop are popular destinations within the Methow Valley, each providing a western charm alongside big mountain backgrounds. Immediately to the west, North Cascades National Park encourages further mountain excursions.

19. Sequim

Lavender rows in Sequim

Also known as the Lavender Capital of the World, Sequim is a friendly community on the Olympic Peninsula featuring bountiful color and scenic appeal. Walking the rows of lavender plants at places like Purple Haze Organic Lavender farm provides ample opportunity for pictures, as do scenic strolls down by the harbor and waterfront.

20. Cape Disappointment

Deadman's Cove at sunset, Cape Disappointment

Not living up to its unceremonious title, Cape Disappointment provides a stunning environment on the far southwestern point of the state where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. While the scenic and historic lighthouse within this state park is often photographed, other areas of the park, including the equally ominous Deadman's Cove, are worth the scenic hikes.

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