If You Like
The southwestern coast's long, surf-tossed sands are popular with hikers, kite flyers, bird-watchers, and surfers; however, the waves are very rough and the water is cold—making swimming almost impossible for most people. In season, folks come here by the thousands to dig for tasty razor clams. The Olympic Peninsula's beaches are rocky, though there are a few sandy coves tucked between the headlands. The muddy shores of the Salish Sea are popular with clam diggers probing for the hard-shelled mollusks. Sandy beaches are scarce, even in the San Juan Islands. More often than not, the glacier-cut rocks drop straight into the water. But tide pools teeming with sea slugs, crabs, anemones, and tiny fish hold a fascination all their own. Bird-watching is great along all of the shores. California gray whales migrate close to the beaches of the outer shore and frequently visit the sheltered waters of the Salish Sea. Sea kayaking is very popular, and most waterfront towns have kayak rentals.
Forests in western Washington are dense and overgrown with ferns, mosses, and other vegetation. This is true of the rain forests of the southwest coast and the Olympic Peninsula as well as the forests on the western slopes of the Cascades. Trees in the alpine areas are often gnarled and bent by snow and wind into fascinating shapes. Forests east of the Cascades are sunny and contain stands of ponderosa pine. In spring the forest floor is covered with wildflowers, as are the steppes of the Columbia Plateau. From the San Juan Islands south, and on the mainland from Tacoma south, prairies are dotted with stands of Oregon white oak and evergreens.
Lakes & Rivers
It's best to visit eastern Washington's lakes and coulees between April and mid-October, when the weather is at its best. Lake Chelan, Moses Lake, and the Columbia River Gorge are very popular during the height of the travel season. The scenic, central Okanogan highlands and the southeastern Blue Mountains are uncrowded year-round. The state's turbulent mountain streams and rivers are popular with rafters and white-water kayakers. The 160-mi Cascadia Marine Trail, which is completely navigable by kayak, traces part of a trading route used by early Native Americans to get from Olympia to Point Roberts on the Canadian border.
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