Craig Hill: 100 ways to celebrate NPS centennial in Washington

Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier dominate the view on the trails above Paradise.
Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier dominate the view on the trails above Paradise. chill@thenewstribune.com

As the National Park system started taking shape, it didn’t take long for the federal government to get around to Washington.

The state was less than a decade old when President William McKinley signed the legislation making Mount Rainier the nation’s fifth national park. It would be another 17 years before an agency was established to oversee and preserve these parks.

On Thursday, the National Park Service celebrates its centennial. Today, it oversees 59 national parks and hundreds of historic sites, recreation areas, historic parks and other units. Only four states have more national parks than Washington, whose hallmark sanctuaries are North Cascades, Olympic and Mount Rainier.

So as centennial celebrations ramp up, here are 100 ways to mark the occasion in Washington:

1. Hike to the fire lookout that inspired Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac. Kerouac spent the summer of 1956 manning the station atop 6,102-foot Desolation Peak in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.

2. Bike nearly a vertical mile from the Port Angeles Pier to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. In John Summerson’s 2007 book, “The Complete Guide to Climbing (By Bike),” he said this 20-mile climb is the toughest in Washington and 41st toughest in the United States.

3. Help the kids earn a Junior Ranger badge and maybe earn one for yourself, too.

4. Skip rocks at Ruby Beach, part of Olympic National Park’s 73 miles of Pacific coastline.

5. Complete the state’s ultimate bucket list hike: The 93-mile Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier. The historic trail is one year older than the park service. Most hikers take 10 days or more. Bonus points if you can beat Gary Robbin’s fastest known time. The Canadian ran the trail last summer in 18 hours, 52 minutes. The women’s fastest known time: Last summer Jenn Shelton of Colorado finished in 22:04:07.

6. Visit the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. The memorial, part of Idaho-based Minidoka National Historic Site, is on the site where many Japanese Americans were forced to board a ferry and taken to internment camps during World War II.

7. Take the Lady of Lake ferry from Chelan 50 miles up lake to Stehekin in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Stehekin can only be reached on foot, by boat or floatplane.

8. Answer nature’s call at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area’s floating outhouse.

9. Tour the Hanford B-Reactor National Historic Landmark, site of the first full-scale plutonium production reactor. It is part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

10. Experience the view from Mount Rainier’s Panorama Point. The name tells you what mode you’ll need to use on your phone to have a fighting shot of cramming the view into one image.

11. Feel tiny among the colossal trees of Mount Rainier’s Grove of the Patriarchs.

12. Climb the west ridge of Forbidden Peak, if you have the skills, in North Cascades National Park. The route was listed in the famed 1979 guidebook “50 Classic Climbs of North America” by Steve Roper and Allen Steck.

13. Hike to the top of Young Hill, stopping along the way to visit the historic cemetery at English Camp at San Juan Island National Historical Park.

14. Test your nerve on the Tahoma Creek suspension bridge at Mount Rainier.

15. Hike Shi Shi Beach on the Olympic Coast to the Point of Arches and stick around long enough to watch an epic sunset.

16. Check out the exhibits at the Seattle unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

17. Climb Mount Olympus, the highest point in the Olympics. The climb starts and finishes after a 17.4-mile hike along the Hoh River.

18. Haul your fishing pole to a mountain lake. Or fish someplace a little easier to get to, such as Ozette Lake or Lake Crescent.

19. Count the switchbacks as you make your way to Cascade Pass in North Cascades National Park.

20. Visit the dramatic upper reaches of the Puyallup River on the west side of Mount Rainier.

21. Spend a weekend backpacking Olympic’s Enchanted Valley.

22. Visit Fort Spokane at Lake Roosevelt to learn of the structure’s history as military outpost and government-run Indian boarding school.

23. Hire a guide and attempt to reach the 14,411-foot summit of Mount Rainier.

24. Hike the boardwalk to Cape Alava and spend a night trying to keep the raccoons out of your food.

25. Tour the breathtaking coulees and other Eastern Washington features made by ancient flows by driving the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail.

26. Experience the wildflowers that blanket the parks with color each summer.

27. Spend a few days off-trail exploring the mountaintops of Olympic on the famous Bailey Traverse.

28. Spend a night in a national park lodge.

29. Practice good trail etiquette: Don’t cut switchbacks, yield to uphill hikers, stay on the trail, don’t feed the animals, etc.

30. Swap stories with a backcountry ranger.

31. Tour Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, a thriving village founded by the Hudson’s Bay Co. before the incorporation of Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle.

32. Drive the scenic Quinault Rainforest loop.

33. Experience the wide array of greens in the Hoh Rainforest.

34. Help ease overcrowding and long lines at parks by visiting on weekdays or early or late on weekends.

35. Visit the four fire lookouts at Mount Rainier, located on Mount Fremont, Gobbler’s Knob and Shriner and Tolmie peaks.

36. Document your family’s park travels by collecting stamps in a National Park Passport.

37. Play the license plate game, on busy weekend afternoons when Delaware plates might be easier to find than a parking spot.

38. Drive (or bike) the Chinook Pass Scenic Byway through along the east side of Mount Rainier.

39. Visit Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort in Olympic National Park, where they’re letting visitors stay free for a night in honor of the centennial. The only catch: You have to be 100 years old.

40. Reserve a campsite at Kalaloch, one of the Olympic Peninsula’s most coveted campgrounds.

41. Arrive early at Rainier’s Ohanapecosh Campground to score one of the riverside campsites.

42. Hike to First, Second and Third beaches on the Olympic coast.

43. Bike and hike to the Carbon Glacier, the largest and lowest-reaching U.S. glacier outside of Alaska, at Mount Rainier.

44. Hike the trails in the Staircase area, the closest access point to Olympic National Park for South Sound residents.

45. Catch a cruise ship from Seattle for an indulgent tour of Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park. It’s one of the priciest ways to visit a national park, but how else are you supposed to enjoy the natural wonders while gorging on pineapple crepes.

46. Cap a Burroughs Mountain hike with a little ice cream at the Sunrise Day Lodge.

47. Take a dip in a frigid alpine lake.

48. Visit Station Camp and Dismal Nitch on the Columbia River. Both are part of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, with locations in Washington and Oregon.

49. Take the challenging 14-mile hike to Upper Lena Lake.

50. Put in the effort to visit Indian Bar on the east side of Rainier. It’s a perfect place to relax for a day or two, which is good because getting there requires a good bit of work.

51. Stay a night at the Log Cabin Resort on the north shore of Lake Crescent. A hotel was built on this site in 1895.

52. Visit classic waterfalls, such as Rainier’s Comet Falls or Olympic’s Sol Duc Falls, or something a little more secluded, such as the falls of Horseshoe Basin in the North Cascades.

53. Take a backpacking trip to Olympic’s Royal Basin.

54. Visit Joseph Canyon in Asotin County (it also crosses into Oregon). The 2,000-foot deep canyon, named for Chief Joseph, is part of the Nez Perce National Historical Park, which also has sites in Idaho and Montana.

55. After a long day on the trail, soak your tired feet in a glacier-fed creek.

56. Cruise U.S. Highway 101 (the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway) around the Olympic Peninsula to explore most of the entry points to Olympic National Park.

57. Spend the night at one of Lake Roosevelt’s 26 campgrounds.

58. Bike the grueling 150-mile route (with 10,000 feet of climbing) used for the annual Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day, the only organized bike ride allowed in the park.

59. Take in the sunset at Klapatche Park.

60. Enjoy the sunrise a mile (or more) above sea level.

61. Visit the 156-year-old Ferry House at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve on Whidbey Island.

62. Tour the Whitman Mission National Historic Site near Walla Walla. The site is part of the Oregon National Historic Trail.

63. Linger at Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground at Rainier, making sure to visit the 101-year-old patrol cabin, the oldest in the park.

64. Take in a laser light show on the walls the Grand Coulee Dam. The dam created Lake Roosevelt, which was designated a national recreation area in 1946.

65. Explore the lagoons, views, beaches and historical structures of American Camp at San Juan Island National Historical Park.

66. Paddle in to Ericson’s Bay Camp on Lake Ozette in Olympic National Park.

67. Paddle up Diablo Lake, portage Ross Dam, then paddle Ross Lake over the Canadian border. The trip covers more than 50 miles, so break up the trip with a night on Cat or Tenmile islands or another backcountry site. Or spend a night in a floating cabin at Ross Lake Resort.

68. Travel the Press Party Route 44 miles across Olympic National Park. The route is named after an 1889-1890 expedition that included six Seattle journalists.

69. Hike Rainier’s Northern Loop.

70. Sample the huckleberries, but make darn sure they’re really huckleberries.

71. Cover your ears and watch a display of trade-era cannons and other weaponry at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. (The next demonstration is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.)

72. Take a nap next to Rainier’s Mystic Lake.

73. Admire those who’ve completed the Infinity Loop, but don’t even think of attempting the endeavor that requires top-flight fitness and wilderness skills. Inspired by former Rainier climbing ranger Chad Kellogg, this route includes running the Wonderland Trail and summiting Rainier twice. Few have attempted it, but this summer Gavin Woody and Ras Vaughan finished the 120-mile route in 99 hours, 7 minutes.

74. Take the Bruce Lee Tour through Seattle’s Chinatown-International District at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, a National Park Service affiliate.

75. Climb from the John Muir steps at Paradise to Camp Muir at 10,188 feet above sea level.

76. See the world’s largest known Sitka spruce in the Quinault Rainforest.

77. Bag Mount Shuksan, Mount Baker’s nonvolcanic neighbor, in North Cascades National Park.

78. Catch a glimpse of the Northwest’s largest unmanaged herd of Roosevelt elk at Olympic National Park.

79. Take the short hike at Paradise to up-close views of the Nisqually Glacier.

80. Learn how to keep bears out of your picnic basket.

81. Dig for clams at Kalaloch when the area is open.

82. Cross Lake Roosevelt on the quaint (and free) Keller Ferry on state Route 21 or the midlake Inchelium-Gifford Ferry.

83. Duck the crowds by climbing to Olympic’s Lake Constance, a challenging climb for experienced hikers.

84. Earn a free medallion by completing The Mountaineers’ 15 hiking peaks of Mount Rainier, or for serious climbers, bag all of the summits listed in Mickey Eisenberg and Gene Yore’s 2013 book “Guide to 100 Peaks of Mount Rainier National Park.” According to peakbagger.com, only 25 people have completed the hiking list and only nine have finished all 100.

85. Hike the 50-mile Skyline Trail on the south side of Olympic National Park.

86. Visit Berkeley, Spray, Van Trump or another scenic park at Mount Rainier during wildflower season.

87. Linger at Rainier’s Golden Lakes.

88. Go geocaching. Standard geocaches aren’t allowed in most national parks, so many log virtual caches by following their GPS to coordinates then answering questions or taking pictures to prove they found the location.

89. Take on a classic cycling challenge by biking the state’s highest paved road. It ends at Sunrise, 6,400 feet above sea level, at Mount Rainier National Park.

90. Hike around Emerald Ridge, a stunning and usually quiet trip on the Rainier’s west side.

91. Spend a night in one of Olympic National Park’s 16 campgrounds.

92. Visit the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.

93. Backpack the High Divide in Olympic National Park.

94. Drive (or bike) state Route 20 (the North Cascades Scenic Byway) through North Cascades National Park.

95. Experience the beauty of the Elwha Valley in Olympic National Park.

96. Explore the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise.

97. Snap a picture of Piper’s bellflower, native to the Olympics.

98. Comb Rialto Beach while making your way to Hole-in-the-Wall.

99. Make plans for a winter trip to showshoe the national parks. Paradise is home to a tubing hill. Hurricane Ridge has one of just three lift-served ski areas in a national park.

100. Volunteer.

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