Discover Washington’s Volcano Country
Washington’s volcano country offers the best of both worlds — bustling city life and quaint country towns that sit modestly against the backdrop of the Cascade’s breathtaking mountain peaks. Spanning from Tacoma in the mid-Puget Sound to the state capital, Olympia, and reaching further south to Carson and Stevenson on the Columbia Gorge. There’s no shortage of arts, culture, eateries and limitless outdoor adventure to immerse yourself in. Explore Mount Rainier or Mount St. Helens for an especially memorable tour of Washington’s natural volcanic beauty.
Olympia, Washington’s state capitol, is an eclectic city with a small-town feel. Olympia is situated along the Puget Sound and is a short day trip to Mt. Rainier or Mt. St. Helens. Olympia offers parks, museums and plenty of dining options
Four attributes make Olympia Washington a great place to visit. It is beautiful, centrally located, historic and eclectic.
Olympia’s beauty is natural, derived from its connection with the waters of Puget Sound, fir forests and views of majestic Mount Rainier. Enjoy walking, hiking or biking in one of over forty public parks located in the Olympia area. Notable among these are Priest Point Park, Woodard Bay Conservation Area, Tolmie State Park and Tumwater Falls Park. Sailboats and yachts bob in the waters of Budd Bay near Percival Landing. Visit the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, one of the USA’s most pristine sanctuaries for migratory and resident waterfowl and marine mammals. The refuge is just a few miles northeast of Olympia WA.
Olympia Washington’s weather is mild. Olympia’s temperatures are moderate, with mild winters and warm summers.
Olympia is located along Interstate 5, 48 miles south of Seattle. Olympia can be reached by AMTRAK using the historic, 1930s-style station. From there, city buses or taxis will take you to your destination. The closest major airport to Olympia is SEATAC, just a short 1-hour drive. Visitors with private aircraft are welcome at the Olympia Airport a few miles south of town.
Be sure to read our blog post, Exploring Olympia for a suggested itinerary.
When it comes to being centrally located to take advantage of Washington’s National and State parks, Olympia is hard to beat. Day trips to Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument and the Olympic National Park can all be scenic and pleasant drives. In the summer you can drive the scenic loop around Mount Saint Helens as an all day trip, but you can easily visit the Johnston Ridge Observatory as a half day activity. If you only have time to briefly see the Olympic National Park, the Staircase Entrance and the Staircase Rapids Loop hike is spectacular. Mount Rainier is a great stop on your way to one of our Seattle, Wine Country, or Cascades based members.
Locally, Olympia has an abundance of parks, from waterfront, state, city and neighborhood. Olympia has a vibrant artist community. Rather than art museums, we have art galleries, festivals, and events that showcase the talented artists of the area. There is always something new to discover.
Our beautiful State Capitol and campus can be toured daily. It is especially gorgeous when the cherry blossoms are out in spring. For families with younger children, the Hands On Children’s Museum is a must. Our small Olympia Flight Museum puts on a yearly Airshow around Father’s Day.
Visitors enjoy the city’s diversity and eclectic combination of small shops, street art, local festivals, and literally hundreds of places to dine and drink. Our local community college features a craft beer and distilling program, with an incubator for local brewers and distillers. Brew pubs, taprooms, cider rooms, and wine bars are so popular that there is a yearly Olympia Pub Crawl event.
Downtown also features a number of performance spaces and live theaters. Both local productions and traveling national shows provide world class entertainment options.
Olympia Washington is a great spot for history buffs. The most obvious attraction is the beautiful state Capital Campus. However, there is so much more to see and explore.
The inlets of Puget Sound include the most southernmost part of the Inside Passage, at Brewery Park (Tumwater Falls). This urban waterfall is the legacy of the once-bustling Olympia Brewery.
Walk the same Percival Landing waterfront seen in 1841 by American explorer Midshipman Thomas Budd. Olympia’s Budd Bay is named after him. One of the first two American settlers, Edmund Sylvester, laid out the town with a New England-style tree-lined town square. The square still exists today as Sylvester Park. Historic buildings are plentiful in Olympia. They include current and former state capitol structures, old courthouse. Tour Bigelow House, the162-year-old home of one of Olympia’s first residents, Daniel Bigelow. Tours of the State Capitol, Governor’s Residence are also popular with visitors.
Featured Places to Stay in Olympia
Stevenson, Washington, is located along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge in Skamania County just five miles west of the charming, tiny village of Carson, Washington.
Stevenson is located along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. From here you can enjoy a variety of outdoor sports including hiking, windsurfing, fishing and more. This is a popular stop for visitors to the gorge and has plenty of options for a quick lunch or leisurely dinner. Five miles east is the woodsy community of Carson, Washington, the gateway to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mount St. Helens. Learn more about the Columbia River Gorge and view a five-day itinerary for a visit there by one of our INNSiders here.
Stevenson is a 3.5-hour drive from Seattle down I-5 south and across scenic WA-14 east. Summers in the area are dry and warm with highs close to 80 degrees and evening lows around 60. Winter brings colder temperatures with daytime highs in the 40s and lows in the 30s.
This area is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Gifford Pinchot National Forest offers a variety of experiences. Take the easy 1/4-mile hike to Panther Creek Falls or hike the 2-mile trail to Falls Creek Falls.
Looking for caves? Explore the lava tube caves in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Ape Caves were formed thousands of years ago by molten lava flows. Here you can explore two tubes, so give yourself plenty of time to investigate. The Cheese Caves are located in Gifford National Forest close to Trout Lake. These lava tubes were once used as natural refrigeration by the Guler Cheese Company. Today you can descend a ladder into the tube and see remnants of their cheese storage.
Explore the forest trails and view the landscape surrounding Mt. St Helens National Volcanic Monument. See how nature has reclaimed the volcanic destruction created less than fifty years ago. The “Winds of Change” trail is an easy paved path and gives you a close up look at how green the landscape has become after being buried in ash.
Visit Maryhill State Park. This 99-acre park sits on the Columbia River and is the perfect spot for water sports during the summer months. Paddle boarding, windsurfing and swimming are popular here. Hiking and biking are also popular here.
The local area has several wineries and microbreweries open to visitors. Walking Man Brewery is located in downtown Stevenson. This popular alehouse has an expansive outdoor patio…the perfect spot to relax after a long day outdoors. Backwoods Brewing is located just a few miles away in Carson, WA. This rustic alehouse features a great amber ale year around. They also offer a Stout, and IPA, a Wheat beer and a number of fruit beers. The offerings change based on season.
Washington and Oregon are known for producing fine wines. AniChe Cellars, Cor Cellars and Domaine Poullion all produce red and white wines. These are artisan wine producers, each unique and worth a visit.
There are several locally owned eateries in Stevenson worth a stop. Big River Grill is a typical American Road House. Stop by for American fare and craft brews in a casual atmosphere. In town you can find a variety of foods from tacos to pizza, burgers to grilled fresh salmon.
Featured Places to Stay in Stevenson
Tacoma, located just 25 miles south of Seattle is home to the world-class glass artist, Dale Chihuly and The Museum of Glass. Visit two of Tacoma’s popular neighborhoods. the Procter District with it’s shops and restaurants and the Theater District, home to three popular theaters.
Tacoma Washington, the third largest city in Washington State is 25 miles south of Seattle and 25 miles northeast of Olympia. As a mid-sized urban city, Tacoma offers a wide variety of activities for visitors.
Tacoma is a lively college town. The city includes four notable institutions of higher education. The University of Washington Tacoma, Pacific Lutheran University, Evergreen State College Tacoma Campus and The University of Puget Sound.
The Joint Base Lewis-McChord is only 9 miles south west of Tacoma.This base is a combination of the McChord Air Force Base and the US Army Base Fort Lewis. It has more than 45, 000 service members and civilian workers.
In keeping with the “green lifestyle” in the Evergreen state, take advantage of Tacoma’s public transit options. Travel the city via the Tacoma Link Light Rail or via the Pierce County bus service.
The weather in Tacoma is mild with summer daytime high temperatures in the mid 70s and nighttime lows in the mid 50s. Winter daily highs average in the mid 50’s and lows close to 40 degrees. Although Tacoma receives an average of 39 inches of rainfall a year, during the summer months the average rainfall is less than 1 inch per month.
Tacoma is only a short 30-minute drive from Seattle Tacoma International Airport. Downtown Seattle is easily accessible by rail from Tacoma.
Tacoma is home to world-class glass artist Dale Chihuly. The Museum of Glass, built in 2002, is dedicated to glass as art. Set on the Thea Foss Waterway, the museum is connected to downtown Tacoma by the Bridge of Glass. This 500 ft. long walkway contains three permanent installations by Dale Chihuly.
Other museums include a working waterfront Maritime Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum and the Washington State History Museum. Finally, America’s Car Museum located next to the Tacoma Dome houses an extensive car collection created by the Lemay family.
Tacoma’s rich history in the arts is reflected in its charming neighborhoods. Visit the shops and restaurants in the family friendly Proctor District. Next visit theTheater District, home to three theaters historic theaters, The Rialto, The Pantages and Theater Square.
Enjoy the great outdoors at Point Defiance Park. The park encompasses over 760 acres and includes Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and the Fort Nisqually History Museum. From the park view Commencement Bay and the twin span Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
On a clear day, look to the southeast and see Mt. Rainier. At over 14,000 ft. it is the highest peak in the Cascade Range and is a great day trip from Tacoma.
See Places to Stay
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