A Family Vacation Itinerary for Visiting National Parks in Washington State

By on August 29, 2016

It has now been over a month since my family returned from this summer’s National Park adventure. This summer, my family’s National Park adventure was split up into 2 parts: an Alaskan Cruise and then a tour around Washington State. A month may seem like a long time but it has taken me a while to comb through the over 2000 photographs and 7 hours of video footage I captured. Still, after a month at home and back into my daily routine, I still find myself thinking about the natural beauty we encountered. My wife and kids had never been to Seattle so I made sure to build in other regional sites in the spaces between our National Park visits!
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Before we get into the itinerary I want to share with you the video I produced of our Washington State National Park Adventure.

Learn more about this video, “Adventure Beckons”, in my post here.

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This is a fairly lengthy post so before we get started I wanted to say a few things to note.

1. You could spend full days into weeks at each of these National Parks. See why my family is crazy about National Parks here.

2. My family is not a camping family but if that’s your deal, you could save a lot of money by doing that instead.

3. I like to detail out itineraries. It makes me happy. The process of planning out every detail makes me happy. That being said, I build in lots of slush time in case things take longer than planned (and they always do).

Ok. Onward!
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Happy 3rd row of travelers #travel #vacation #family #mythree

A photo posted by Heather Ng (@heddur) on


Sunday July 10th
Cabs, trains, and minivans! Our cruise went in and out of Vancouver, BC so we kicked off this second half of our vacation by taking a scenic train ride to Seattle! The only problem is we still needed to get from the Seattle train station to the car rental place. Lots of logistics but we were still able to stick to our schedule!

6:30AM Depart from Vancouver Train Station http://www.amtrakcascades.com/
10:55AM Arrive in Seattle
11:15: Take Uber/Cab to Rental Car
12:00-1:30 Lunch
1:30: Drive 1/2 hours to Tacoma, WA

Selfie under the Seaform Pavillion at the Chihuly Bridge of Glass. #tacoma #glass #chihuly

A photo posted by Gregory Ng (@followgreg) on


2:00-5:00: Museum of Glass featuring Chihuly Bridge of Glass http://museumofglass.org/
Note: The Museum of Glass is a fascinating place with live demonstrations inside a space-age looking building. But if you are only there for the Chihuly glass, you do not need to pay for admission. The Chihuly Bridge of Glass is public (and spectacular)

5:00: Drive 1:40 to hotel
7:00: Dinner
8:00: Check in to hotel in Longview, WA

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Monday July 11th
7:30: Breakfast
8:30: Drive 75 minutes to Lewis & Clark NHP
10:00-12:00PM: Lewis & Clark National Historic Site
Note: This National Historical Park contains many locations. Start at the Fort Clatsop location for the Passport stamp, a very nice bookstore, and demonstrations!

12:00: Lunch in Astoria, OR

We got to throw gliders off the top!

A photo posted by Gregory Ng (@followgreg) on


1:00: Astoria Column http://astoriacolumn.org
Note: Make sure to start at the gift shop to purchase your Balsam wood Gliders. Throwing the gliders off the top of the column is a really cool thing to do!


2:00: Drive 30 minutes to Lewis and Clark Interpretation Center http://parks.state.wa.us/187/Lewis-Clark
Note: This museum is not part of the National Park System but we found it to be a perfect compliment to the Lewis & Clark National Historical Site visit we did earlier. Plus, they do have a stamp to put in your passport. One of the nice features is this embossing passport that they have throughout the museum.

#hikeNg #hike #nature #family #vacation #capedisappointment

A photo posted by Heather Ng (@heddur) on


2:30-4:00: Cape Disappointment Park
Note: This State Park has a nice trail that connects the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center with the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse where you can have stunning views!

4:00: Drive 1 hour back to hotel
5:00: Dinner

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Tuesday July 12th
7:00: Breakfast
7:30 Check out of hotel
7:30: Leave for Mount Saint Helens National Historic Site
9:30-5:00 Mount Saint Helens


Johnston Ridge Observatory (Milepost 52)
Note: The Johnson Ridge Observatory is worth the drive. It offers the most scenic view of the volcano (although the cloud cover when we were there made it barely visible. It also features a nice movie, a museum, and nice scenic hike along the ridge.

Hiking on the Hummocks Trail #hikeNg #hummockstrail #mountsthelens #vacation #family

A photo posted by Heather Ng (@heddur) on


Hummocks Trail 2.3Mi http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/hummocks
Note: This was an easy trail with some spots lined with tall grass and plants. We were lucky enough to squeeze this hike in between rain showers but the bugs were murder!

Dessert at Patty’s Place (Milepost 19)
When a restaurant claims to have “famous cobbler” you know I’m going to stop and try it. It was great cobbler!

#hikeNg #mountsthelens #travel #family #visitorscenter #boardwalk

A photo posted by Heather Ng (@heddur) on


Mt St Helens Visitor’s Center
Note: We decided not to pay the entrance fee into this museum but instead did the Boardwalk Trail around Silver Lake. It was a nice little 1 mile walk with views of various birds and lilypads.

5:00: Drive 2 hours to hotel
7:00: Dinner
8:00: Check-in to hotel in Lacey, WA

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Wednesday July 13th
Mt Rainier National park was not only my favorite visit of the trip, it may possibly be my favorite National park I have visited, EVER.

Read more detail about our trip to Mt Rainier National Park in my post here.

7:15: Breakfast
8:00: Drive 1.5 hours to Mt Rainier National Park
9:30-5:00 Mt Rainier National Park http://www.nps.gov/mora/index.htm
– Nisqually Entrance
– Henry M Jackson Visitor’s Center
– Skyline Trail Hike 5.4mi http://www.outdoorproject.com/adventures/washington/hikes/skyline-trail-hike
***Hike to Glacier Vista ONLY 1.2mi
***Hike Waterfall Trail on way back 0.27mi
– Lunch at Paradise Inn
– Hike Myrtle Falls Trail 0.5mi

3:00-5:00: Gift Shop, Ice Cream!
5:00: Drive 1.5 hours back to hotel
6:30: Dinner

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Thursday July 14th
It is a tough thing to follow up a full day at Mt St Helens with a full day at Mt Rainier National Park but we did with a full day at Olympic National Park! There is no possible way to see everything this diverse park has to offer in one day so we decided to enter through the Port Angeles entrance and visit Hurricane Ridge.

6:45: Breakfast
7:15: Drive 2.5 hours to Olympic National Park http://www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm

#olympicnationalpark #nationalpark #nps #hikeNg #findyourpark #family

A photo posted by Heather Ng (@heddur) on


10:00-12:00: Olympic National Park Visitor Center
Note: The Port Angeles Visitor Center has a short film, a nice bookstore, and a small nature hike with a trailhead at the back of the building.

12:00-1:00 Lunch at Toga’s Soup House http://www.togassouphouse.com


1:00: Drive 30 minutes to Hurricane Ridge https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/visiting-hurricane-ridge.htm
1:30: Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center
Note: Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center has one of the best bookstores we’ve been to as well as food, clean bathrooms, and a small museum.

4:00: Drive 3 hours back to hotel
7:00: Dinner

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Starbucks #1 #starbucks #OG #coffee #seattle #pikesplacemarket

A photo posted by Gregory Ng (@followgreg) on


Friday July 15th
We wanted to hit a few specific sites in Seattle so I prioritized the original Starbucks, Pike’s Place Market, the Gum Wall, and the Space Needle.

7:45: Breakfast
8:30: Check out of hotel
8:30: Drive 1.5 hours to Seattle. Park at Pike’s Place Market

Gum Wall

A photo posted by Gregory Ng (@followgreg) on


10:00-12:30: Pike’s Place and Market, Craft Market, Starbucks, Gum Wall
12:30-1:00: Walk to Lunch!
1:00-2:00: Lunch


2:00-4:00: Seattle Space Needle http://www.spaceneedle.com/home/
Note: I had the wrong impression that we could just walk right up and go up the Space Needle. Unfortunately, when we arrived, all tickets were sold out. The only tickets available was for early the next morning. The blue sky was gone but the views were still spectacular!

4:00-5:30: Shopping
5:30: Dinner
7:00: Check in to hotel in Seattle, WA

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Hanging with Bruce Lee at @winglukemuseum

A photo posted by Gregory Ng (@followgreg) on


Saturday July 16th
8:00: Breakfast at Hotel
8:30: Drive 30 minutes to Downtown Seattle
9:00: Wing Luke Museum http://www.nps.gov/wing/index.htm
The Wing Luke Museum is affiliated with the National Park Service and has a passport stamp. The admission includes a tour as well as entrance to the special exhibits. The exhibit when we visited was a Bruce Lee exhibit that was pretty cool.

12:00: Lunch


1:30: Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park – Seattle Unit https://www.nps.gov/klse/index.htm

5:00: Dinner

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Time to head back east– Take us home, Alaska Air!

A photo posted by Heather Ng (@heddur) on


Sunday July 17th
5:00AM Check out of hotel, head to airport

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These people. My everything!

A photo posted by Gregory Ng (@followgreg) on

72 National Park Units Visited…and counting!

This summer’s National Park adventure was filled with great memories of family, natural beauty, and history! Since we returned, we already took another trip to South Carolina and next weekend we are headed to Fort Monroe in Virginia!

If you have any questions or need more detail about any of the stops we visited on this itinerary, ask in the comments!

Gregory Ng

GOAL: Visit 100 National Parks as a family by 2020. Favorite Parks: Zion National Park, Mt Rainier National Park, Valley Forge National Historical Park

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