Lisa Owen


As I approached the North Cascades National Park, the clear blue skies I’d had from the Canadian border became hidden by fog, and then the rain moved in. But it didn’t spoil the view of the first stop on my Washington State road trip - the smooth, brilliant waters of Diablo Lake. The lake viewpoint is located in the North Cascades National Park and can be easily reached from the Cascades Highway.

washington state

North Cascades National Park is overflowing with beautiful viewpoints and hikes. One of the best bangs for buck hikes is the Cascade Pass Trail. This trail is about an hour’s drive along a gravel road from the small town of Marblemount, the gateway town to the park. For me, it was another mist filled drive through moody old-growth forests and past waterfalls up to the trailhead, which starts on a mountainside. After hiking for about an hour through tall trees and past glimpses of towering Johannesburg Mountain, you’ll be greeted by a view down into a saddle of beautiful valleys, meadows, glaciers and mountains. During your hike, you’re likely to pass through snow on the trail, even in summer – and spot curious marmots.


From North Cascades National Park, head south to visit the volcanoes of Washington State. Yes, active volcanoes in the US are not just confined to Hawaii – there are two huge ones. Mt St Helens and the impressive Mt Rainier. Mount St Helens last erupted in a massive explosion on May 18, 1980. You can approach Mount St. Helens from the east, west or south.


One stunning drive is up to the west side to the Johnson Ridge Observatory. Along the journey, you’ll get many interrupted views of Mt St Helens and the destruction it caused in past eruptions. The viewpoint at the observatory is also worth a look. The mountain’s south side was not affected by the 1980 eruption, but lava flows from previous eruptions have shaped the area, and you’ll find lots of lava tubes and canyons to explore.

The upper and lower Ape Cave trails take you underground to explore the fascinating lava tubes. The caves are open between May and November. You’ll need to bring a torch and warm clothing. The Lava Canyon trail is an interesting hike into a gorge past waterfalls, across rocky outcrops and a bouncy suspension bridge.


Heading south from Mt St. Helens you’ll be sure to encounter the massive Mt Rainier volcano – the highest mountain in the Cascade Ranges and the State. You can see the volcano from many places in Washington State. There’s plenty of trails in the Mt Rainier National Park, or you’ll be rewarded with great views just by driving past.

mt rainier national park

From Mt Rainier, it’s only a few hours to Seattle, and not much further to Oregon.

Things You Should Know:

  • North Cascades National Park is free to enter – the same goes for Lava Canyon and the Ape Caves.
  • If you want to hike any of the trails starting at Mt St Helen’s Johnson Ridge Observatory, there is an entry fee.
  • Mt Rainier National Park costs a bit more to enter, but if you’re planning to visit more than three of America’s national parks during your road trip, it’s best to buy an annual parks pass.
  • The weather can change quickly in America’s north so make sure you pack some warm clothing and wet weather gear - even in the summer months.
  • There are no petrol stations once you start ascending the road up to Johnson Ridge Observatory so fill up at one of the gateway towns.
  • Check road conditions before you go if you’re planning to visit Washington State parks in the colder months as snow often closes roads.


Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 60 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.