Regional Guide

Basecamps - Southern Cascades

A capital city with a small-town feel, Olympia boasts a thriving downtown, a major college campus, and the workings of the state government; most businesses are locally owned and most everything's within walking distance. Besides its urban appeal, Olympia occupies a prime location for outdoor activities. Enjoy kayaking, whale watching, and biking in and around Puget Sound. The city sits at the foot of the Olympic Peninsula's natural wonders, and Mount Rainier and the Cascades lie just two hours east.

Christened the Emerald City, Seattle is known as one of the most livable cities in the world. And contrary to popular belief, it actually receives less annual rainfall (36 inches) than New York and Atlanta. Surrounded by lakes, rivers, Puget Sound, and two major mountain ranges, Seattle is a recreation enthusiast's dream. In the summer, water sports are only ten minutes away and winter sports are only 45 minutes away. So grab your morning latte and get outside!

Vancouver sits on the Columbia River, just across the border from Portland, Oregon. As one of Washington's fastest-growing cities, Vancouver combines the excitement of a major metropolitan area with small-town charm and abundant recreational opportunities. Head north to check out the volcanic aftermath of Mount St. Helens, or take a hike in nearby Gifford Pinchot National Forest. To get your adrenaline flowing, take on the Columbia River Gorge's world-class windsurfing.

In sharp contrast to the western slopes of the Cascades and the rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula, the Yakima Valley enjoys more than 300 days of sun each year. Sample the fruits of Washington's Wine Country, pedal through vineyards and orchards, or beat the summer heat by rafting or tubing down a cool river. The Cascades and Mount Rainier lie one to two hours west of the Yakima Valley's dry, rippling hills.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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