national parks–celebrating the fourth

This Fourth of July, we’ll celebrate by exploring one of Washington’s great parks. Not necessarily the kind with a slide and swings, but one with hiking trails, rushing rivers and mountains.

In 2009, Ken Burns called his documentary series about the US National Parks “America’s best idea.” A good idea, indeed. These parks represent our country’s rich and diverse ecosystems, historical sites, geology and geography. Setting these majestic areas aside preserve the land, animals and plant so my children’s children may be able to enjoy them too.

Three spectacular parks, all a descent day-trip from Olympia, are:

Olympic National Park — Consuming much of the Olympic Peninsula, this park boasts a three in one benefit. Traipse through the moss-laden rain forests, look out over the Hurricane Ridge vistas, or explore the Pacific Ocean tide pools. (Nearest park entrance is Staircase, about 1.25 hours from Olympia).

Mount Rainier National Park — Look up at Washington’s tallest mountain with a peak that’s more than 14,000 feet above sea level. The park offers loads of day hikes, beautiful waterfalls, and good visitor centers. (Park entrance is about 2.5 hours from Olympia).

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument — This actually isn’t a National Park, but it’s so cool and unique to the Pacific Northwest, it made my list. See how this land, scorched by the 1980 volcano, is transforming into a lush and fertile landscape. (Park entrance off I-5 is a little more than 2 hours; entrance off Highway 12 (Randle) is about 3.5 hours).

Where will you be celebrating our country’s birthday over the long weekend?

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