It’s National Parks Week, and we count ourselves lucky to have some of the nation’s most spectacular national parks, forests and reserves nearby. These are the places Seattle families can find some of the best skiing, hiking, biking and vacationing around. So if you’re looking for a way to celebrate these treasured spots, or you just need another outdoor adventure, here’s what you need to know.

photo: Jill McQuade

Mt. Rainier National Park

Seattle families know that Mt. Rainier is the belle of the ball in Washington state. People from all over the world flock to the park to hike its trails, find spectacular waterfalls and make their way to Paradise. Lucky for us, it’s right in our backyard. Late summer is the best time to visit the park, as most trails are snow-free and dry. But it’s also the busiest. Plan a spring trip to beat the heat and the crowds this year.

Nearby Airbnb: Set up your family’s basecamp at this newly built cabin with Scan design in mind. Two bedrooms and a sleeping loft means families can spread out and settle in when they visit. And the outside hot tub and fire pit mean you can relax after a day exploring the mountain.

photo: Kylie Kirkland

Olympic National Park

Diversity is the name of the game in Olympic National Park and the national forest that borders it. These two treasures include everything from some of the highest peaks in Washington to the Pacific’s dramatic coastline. It’s where you’ll find fabulous ocean-side camping spots at Kalaloch, larger than life trees in the Valley of the Rainforest Giants and quiet scenic hikes that lead you to hidden mountain lakes, cascading waterfalls and rocky ridges with spectacular views. Find more family-friendly trip ideas here.

Nearby Airbnb: We doubt you’ll run into any vampires when you book this cabin in Forks...but you never know. It's the perfect launching pad for your Olympic Park adventures. Enjoy the gourmet kitchen and two bedrooms so everyone has their own space; you’ll even find a pack ‘n’ play to use if you’re bringing baby.

North Cascades National Park

Spring is the beginning of hiking season at this local national park, especially at the lower elevations. Head out in search of waterfalls or wildlife anytime between April and October with your little nature lovers. Plus with four lakes to explore, you’ll find primo boating whether you’re in a kayak, canoe or motorboat. 

Nearby Airbnb: Stay river-side at this 2-bedroom A-frame hideaway. It’s a great place to unplug and plan your North Cascade adventures.

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Mounument

Have a blast at this iconic south end mountain when you visit with kids. Whether you hike the scenic trails, make the drive up to Spirit Lake or visit any of the many visitors and science centers scattered throughout the park, you’ll find new adventures around every bend. Kids will love spotting evidence of the volcano’s eruption as they make their way through the park. Pack plenty of sunscreen and your good hiking poles on this outdoor adventure.

Nearby Airbnb With so many things to do nearby, this simple two bedroom cabin set on 2.5 acres has everything you need. It’s just a short walk from Cresep Bay Park and about 30 miles from the monument.

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

San Juan Islands National Monument

We’re pretty sure Seattle families don’t have dibs on the San Juan Islands, but we sure wish we did. Whether you’re exploring San Juan, weekending in a treehouse on Orcas or launching kayaks from the shores of Lopez, these islands are a favorite vacay destination for a reason. They’re also part of a national monument that encompasses 1,000 acres of land across the archipelago. From the heights of Mount Constitution to the criss-crossing straights that surround them, this is PNW magic at its finest.

Nearby Airbnb: If a rustic stay is what you’re after, try a family-friendly farm stay or book a few nights at this ocean-side San Juan home that’s a hop, skip and a jump from downtown Friday Harbor.

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Whether you ski and sled there in the winter or hike its trails in the summer, this nearby national forest is always worth the drive. The great outdoors doesn’t get any better than hiking Artists Point or the Chain Lakes Loop during the summer months. Your kids will love finding snow up there if you go!

Nearby Airbnb: You’ll find Scan design and all the amenities you and the kids need at this newly renovated Tree Fort cabin in the Snowline community. The nearby Nooksack River, hiking trails and easy access to the national forest make outdoor recreation possible all year round.

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

In the heart of this 3.8 million acre national forest that borders the East Cascades, you’ll find two family favorites—Leavenworth and Lake Chelan, plus all the hiking, camping, fishing, skiing and sledding you’ve ever wanted. Experience the full grandeur of this national forest when you ride the Lady of the Lake up the 50-mile river, past Field’s Point Landing to the remote town of Stehekin.

Nearby Airbnb: With so many places to stay, it’s hard to choose just one. Families can center themselves on brats, beer and exploring when they book this 3-bedroom cabin in Leavenworth that’s equally close to Wenatchee and Stevens Pass. Or make this 2-bedroom waterfront condo in Manson your starting point for a Stehekin weekend.

Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve

We heart this national spot that’s a short ferry ride away and is a great spot for history buffs of all ages. Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island includes three state parks and easy hiking trails that make it a perfect destination for families with Littles in tow. The Kettle Spur and Pratt Loop trails are just the right distance for enthusiastic tots, and once you’ve explored the prairie, get out at explore Coupeville and the fantastic Price Sculpture Forest when you’re there.

Nearby Airbnb: Stay in the heart of downtown Coupeville in this newly constructed cottage that sleeps four.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Within these national forest borders you’ll find three majestic peaks—Mt. Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mt. Adams. It’s also home to the famous Ape Caves, exciting lava tubes worth exploring (the Lower Cave is pretty kid-friendly) when they re-open. If you’re looking for lesser traveled paths, you’ll find them here, along with horseback riding, biking trails and fishing spots a-plenty.

Nearby Airbnb: This 3-bedroom cottage along the Cowlitz River should give everyone the space they need when you’re on vacay. You’ll find a fire pit, hot tub and wood burning stove that add to the cozy ambiance of this spot.

—Allison Sutcliffe

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