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  • Writer's pictureWanderlust Mike

Exploring the Wonders of North Cascades National Park, Snohomish, and Seattle, Washington

On this trip to the state of Washington, we enjoyed a few days hiking in North Cascades National Park, stopped by the town of Snohomish, then spent some time exploring the city of Seattle.



NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK


We began our journey in North Cascades National Park. It's very green and scenic. Ferns on the ground, moss in the trees. We also discovered rivers full of salmon in late September. And the freshest air you'll ever find. See my Hiking trails section below for some easy day hikes.



hiking trail
River Loop Trail - Newhalem Area

North Cascades National Park also has some beautiful views, like the Diablo Lake Overlook.



view
Diablo Lake Overlook

SNOHOMISH


After spending a few tranquil days in North Cascades, we drove down scenic Highway 530 to the quaint town of Snohomish. Historic downtown, located along 1st Street, has that nostalgic Main Street America feel. It's lined with boutique shops and restaurants.


This town was made famous by twin sisters Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Davis from the @HGTV series Unsellable Houses. We even stopped by their retail store, Lamb & Co @lambandcompany, while in Snohomish.



Inside Lamb & Co - Snohomish, Washington
Peering down 1st Street in Snohomish


CAPITOL HILL


Once we arrived in Seattle, we walked to Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill and climbed the old water tower steps to the observation deck. We enjoyed a distant view of the Seattle skyline in the late afternoon.


The park is also home to a greenhouse, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and a beautiful dahlia garden as well.



Volunteer Park water tower


Walking around the streets of Seattle, Washington, you never know what you might find. The city can surprise you!



Near the Line 1 light rail station on Capitol Hill

We also stopped by the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. A roastery is where Starbucks sells its rarest, most expensive coffees. The Capitol Hill roastery in Seattle was Starbucks first, opening in 2014.


In addition to a vast coffee menu, the roastery also sells foods such as pastries, sandwiches, and other dishes at various stations located throughout the facility.



Starbucks Reserve Roastery - Capitol Hill


DOWNTOWN SEATTLE


On our first full day in Seattle we explored downtown. Along the waterfront, piers 54 to 60 have the most to see and do, including the Seattle Great Wheel and Seattle Aquarium. Piers 50 to 52 contain the ferry terminals which take you to other points around Puget Sound via King County Water Taxi or Washington State Department of Transportation. There are many shops and restaurants on the piers as well.



Pier 56 in downtown Seattle


Located on Seattle's Pier 57 (a.k.a. Miner’s Landing), the Seattle Great Wheel is a 200 feet tall ferris wheel. At night it comes alive with thousands of bright LED lights! Up to 8 passengers can fit in a single, climate controlled gondola. You'll enjoy beautiful water views as you slowly circle around multiple times on this iconic landmark.



Peering back at downtown from the Great Wheel

The Seattle Aquarium is full of local fish species, as well as tropical fish from the Pacific. They also have harbor seals, fur seals, sea otters, and seabirds. One of our favorite exhibits was the underwater dome. The touchable tidepools and walk through ring of jellyfish were also pretty cool.



Underwater Dome at the Seattle Aquarium


Pike Place Market @pikeplacepublicmarket, home of the iconic Public Market Center sign, is a covered, open air market place full of independent vendors in downtown Seattle. Here you'll find everything from fresh fish, to bouquets of flowers, to jewelry and t-shirts and everything in between.


One of our favorite vendors is Chukar Cherries @chukarcherries, which has some of the most delicious chocolate-covered fruits and nuts we've ever tasted! The original Starbucks Coffee @starbucks, which opened in 1971, is also located here.



Pike Place Market


Chihuly Garden and Glass, at the Seattle Center, was definitely one of our favorite places! The beautiful, colorful hand-blown glass is absolutely stunning. Artist Dale Chihuly was invited to present a comprehensive collection of his work in an exhibit adjacent to the Space Needle in the center of Seattle. It's worth visiting Seattle just to see his collection!



Chihuly Glass Museum


Seattle's Space Needle @spaceneedle officially opened in 1962 for the World's Fair. At 605 feet (184 meters) in height, it has three main viewing areas: An indoor observation deck, an outdoor observation deck, and lower revolving glass floor.


We recommend visiting the tower at dusk and at night for some spectacular sunset views and Seattle in lights! They offer light snacks and drinks on the observation decks. They also have a large gift shop at the base. Adjacent to the Space Needle is the Chihuly Glass Museum.



Space Needle view at dusk
Seattle Space Needle from below


Built in 1926, The 5th Avenue Theatre @the5thavenuetheatre in downtown Seattle was interiorly designed with a strong Chinese influence. Today it's home to live musical theater.


It is one of the most intricate and detailed Golden Age of Hollywood-themed theaters we've ever seen! We thoroughly enjoyed a performance of Disney's The Little Mermaid musical while we were there.



Lobby of The 5th Avenue Theatre
Portion of the wall inside the theater


SEATTLE JAPANESE GARDEN


Opened in 1960, the Seattle Japanese Garden @seajpnsgarden is a welcome respite from the sprawling city. Long and narrow, with winding pathways and ponds through 3.5 acres, the beauty and tranquility is very relaxing.


The Seattle Japanese Garden offers a wonderful Japanese tea ceremony experience. It takes place in a traditional tea house nestled deep within the garden itself. Practiced for centuries, Chado, or the way of tea, was designed to show respect and humility. We learned so much during the ceremony, including its Samurai origins. You can go to their website at seattlejapanesegarden.org to make a reservation.



Seattle Japanese Garden
Traditional Japanese tea ceremony
More of the Japanese Garden


One last place worth mentioning is the Kerry Park Viewpoint, where iconic photos of the Downtown Seattle skyline can be taken, like the thumbnail of this post.


We always enjoy our time in Washington state. The lush green forests, majestic mountains, fresh air, vibrant food scene, and beautiful works of art are just a few reasons. We also love the people, so friendly and hospitable. If you ever get the chance, we highly recommend a visit to this wonderful evergreen state.



HELPFUL TIPS



Public transportation


With the exception of the Japanese Garden which we drove to, we only used public transportation to explore Seattle. Their bus system got us from Capitol Hill to downtown. Their light rail line will also get you there. And while the Seattle monorail only runs from the center of downtown at Westlake Center to Seattle Center and the Space Needle, it is a fun ride through the city.


If you plan on being in Seattle for more than just a day or two, we recommend purchasing an Orca Card, which can be used for all public transportation options, from the monorail and buses to ferries and light rail. Simply load the card with money at one of their kiosks, then tap to use it.



Hiking trails (North Cascades National Park)


Thunder Creek Trail

Thunder Creek Trailhead

Rockport, WA 98283

MWP4+3V Diablo, Washington


Begins in ancient forests and takes the hiker on a sojourn into the heart of the park, following the cloudy-blue, glacier-fed creek from its lower forested reaches to its origins high on the heathered slopes of Park Creek Pass. Day hikers can take an easy stroll two miles (3.2 km) to the first bridge.



Happy Creek Forest Walk

Happy Creek Trailhead

Rockport, WA 98283

PWHV+CP Diablo, Washington


Mile Post 134

.03 mile (.05 km) loop with optional 2 mile (3.21) roundtrip spur to a waterfall.

Stroll through the forest along a cascading creek.



Thunder Knob Trail

Thunder Knob Trailhead

Rockport, WA 98283

MWR2+C4 Diablo, Washington


Mile Post 130

3.6 miles (5.8 km) roundtrip with 425 ft (130m) elevation gain.

A popular trail to a view of Diablo Lake.



Newhalem Area Trails

Near North Cascades Visitor Center

376 Newhalem St, Marblemount, WA 98267


  • Sterling Munro Viewpoint

This accessible 330 foot (100 m) boardwalk offers excellent views of the Picket Range up the Goodell Creek drainage. The trail begins from outside the northwest corner of the North Cascades Visitor Center.

  • Ladder Creek Falls

Located behind the Gorge Powerhouse in Upper Newhalem, this 0.4 mile (0.6 km) loop trail showcases the power of nature. It leads to Ladder Creek Falls and through manicured gardens that have been delighting visitors to the Skagit Hydroelectric Project for over 75 years. Cross the foot suspension bridge to the powerhouse and follow the signs.

  • "Trail of the Cedars" Nature Walk

Begins at suspension bridge in Newhalem or from the Newhalem Creek Powerhouse at the end of the service road beyond Loop C in Newhalem Creek Campground. This easy 0.3 mile (0.5 km) gravel loop meanders along the banks of the Skagit River through stands of old growth forest.

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