8 Outdoor Adventures in Washington State

From climbing mountain peaks to diving the depths of Puget Sound, outdoor adventures abound in Washington.

1. Mountaineering

Home to a multitude of mountains, Washington is a boon for those looking to ascend snow-capped peaks. Climbers can summit Mount Rainier and Mount Adams or try a winter climb at famous Mount St. Helens, an active volcano. Guided, multi-day technical expeditions are available for those who want to expand their skills and spend more time on the mountain. Be sure to plan your trip in advance and acquire a permit, especially for Mount Rainier. The most popular time to climb is from late spring to early fall.

2. Surfing

Pacific Ocean storms bring heart-throttling waves to the coastal communities of Westport, La Push, and Long Beach. Slip into a neoprene suit (water temps here hover at 45 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit) and catch a wave at Westport Light State Park, Half Moon Bay, or The Finger Jetties. Fall offers the best chance of finding ridable waves. In Westport, lessons are available for those looking to dip their toes into the sport.

3. Rock Climbing & Bouldering

Rock climbers of all skill levels will find plenty of routes in Washington. At the 400-foot-tall Frenchman Coulee, take in spectacular columns shaped like feathers, remnants from the last ice age. One of the most well-known spots is Index, where climbers will find everything from single-pitch routes to a 700-foot wall. Other top options include Icicle Creek Canyon outside Leavenworth in the eastern Cascade Mountains and Minnehaha along the Spokane River.

4. Mountain Biking

Epic mountain biking opportunities abound in Washington. In the northwest corner of the state, Galbraith Mountain offers world-class mountain biking just outside Bellingham, with 65 miles of singletrack winding through 3,000 acres. In Eastern Washington’s Colville National Forest, enjoy thrills along dozens of routes, including Old Stage Trail #1, the forest trail system’s only wagon trail. Other popular spots include Tiger Mountain, Duthie Hill, and the Yakima Valley.

5. Windsurfing & Kiteboarding

The Columbia River’s western winds and eastern currents create a world-renowned playground for windsurfers and kiteboarders alike. Enjoy views of the Columbia Gorge’s basalt faces from popular water spots, including Bob’s Beach and East Point near Stevenson. In the Metro Puget Sound Region, windsurfers and kiteboards can take to Seattle’s Lake Washington or Everett’s Jetty Island.

6. River Rafting

Family float trips (so calm you can picnic during them) and heart-pounding whitewater river rafting are both available to experience on the Wenatchee River. Ride the rapids with a guide beneath a clear blue sky as you enjoy the Wenatchee’s roller-coaster drops and pools. The Skykomish, Methow, Tieton, White Salmon and Skagit rivers offer plenty of excitement. For calmer rapids, look to the Hoh River on the Olympic Peninsula.

7. Diving

Off the coast of Washington, the deep blue-green waters of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea offer divers the chance to spot fascinating sea creatures such as giant Pacific octopus, wolf eels, and rock fish. Those looking to explore submerged vessels should visit Edmonds Underwater Park or Hood Canal, where divers can explore half of a bridge that sank back in 1979.

8. Ziplining

Zip through forest canopy an hour north of Seattle on Camano Island with Canopy Tours NW, which offers a breathtaking forest adventure on six ziplines. Meanwhile, down by Mount Rainier, Northwest Trek has five different courses, from kid-friendly lines to an extreme course for adults. You’ll also find zipline tours at Skamania Lodge near Stevenson in the Columbia River Gorge and at Mica Moon outside Spokane in Eastern Washington.

About the Author

Lora Shinn