Washington State
(Photo/Washington State Tourism)

The State of Washington’s Best Outdoor Recreation Spots, by Sport

No matter your favorite activity, the State of Washington has a spectacular destination you’ll love.

Few places on the planet feature top-notch opportunities for virtually every outdoor pursuit imaginable. With volcanoes, glaciers, mountain ranges, rainforests, high desert, and more than 3,000 miles of coastline, the State of Washington is undeniably one of those rare do-it-all spots.

Surfing a barrel, skiing a burly untouched line, and crimping holds on a picturesque climbing route are all within striking distance. Even on the same day, if you time it right and wake up with the sun, you can rip land, sea, and air. Whatever your current obsession, there’s a destination in the State of Washington practically designed for pursuing it.

Here’s how to make the most of your adventures in the State of Washington.

Mountaineering and Climbing: The Volcanic Peaks of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams

State of Washington’s Best Outdoor Recreation Spots
(Photo/Washington State Tourism)

Full-on mountaineering experiences, complete with multiday excursions, are on offer in the State of Washington’s volcanoes region. Summiting Mount Rainier’s 14,111-foot peak takes anywhere from 2 to 4 days, with the start of the route just under 3 hours from Seattle. Come correct with the full high-alpine kit, including glacier essentials like crampons, ice axes, harnesses, ropes, and a capable pack. Dressing for the notoriously shifty weather conditions is a must, so always go with waterproof exteriors and breathable layers.

While hiring a guide isn’t required, climbing with a guide is always a good idea to get the most from your visit. Check with the parks service if reservations are required for the time you’re visiting and to obtain a Climbing Permit (required for glacier travel and climbing over 10,000 feet).

For a less technical single-day summit with the same mountaineering kit, head further south to Mount Adams.

Mountaineering Must-Haves

Mammut Nordwand Helmet with MIPS

Any climbing mission requires taking safety seriously. Go with the ultralight Mammut Nordwand Helmet with MIPS.

Gravel Touring: Riding Through Wine Country Around Naches and Zillah

Washington State Tourism Vineyards
(Photo/Washington State Tourism)

Situated on the east side of the Cascade Range, Washington’s wine country is home to a sunnier, drier climate than the west side of the state.

Rolling hills, picturesque canyons, and quiet, winding roads make this the perfect place to log miles on your gravel bike. Pack plenty of layers (you’ll want to be ready for a cool breeze).

Yakima makes the optimal home base for exploring the stunning wineries around Naches to the northwest and Zillah to the southeast.

Gravel-Touring Essential

Stay warm and dry when the temperatures drop with Rapha’s highly packable (and stylish) Brevet Insulated Jacket.

rapha's brevet insulated jacket

Cold-Water Surfing: Wave Hunting in Cape Disappointment & Westhaven State Park

When it comes to surfing in the State of Washington, braving the elements and hunting for waves is part of the fun — and makes the payoff even more amazing.

The craggy shores of Cape Disappointment (the views are quite the opposite of what the name suggests) in the southwest corner are a magnet for Pacific swell. For seemingly endless stretches of sand, head north to Westhaven State Park in Westport, Washington.

The beach breaks here offer a wide-open spot for beginners, with peaks further out for more experienced surfers. Pack a thick, hooded suit (something in the 5/4 neck of the woods) and throw in booties and gloves no matter the season.

Cold-Water Surfing Necessity

Norway’s beloved outdoor brand Norrøna crafted its wetsuits for the Arctic Ocean, so they’re sure to handle the chilly waters of the State of Washington. Go with the hooded 5/4 Unstad suit for year-round warmth.

norrona unstad 5.554 Hooded Wetsuit

Skiing and Snowboarding: Exploring the Ponderosa’s Highest Peak

Nestled in the northeast corner of the state, the Ponderosa region is home to millions of acres of protected forest land and one of its most beloved winter sports destinations: Mount Spokane.

With 52 runs and seven lifts, the mountain features terrain for all levels and is the region’s only nonprofit ski area. That means ticket sales directly help increase access, getting more people stoked on skiing and snowboarding through education and outreach programs. Pack skis, snowboards, and of course clothing fit for winters in the Northwest.

Skiing and Snowboarding Must-Haves

Pacific Northwest-based brand Season Epqt. makes its skis and snowboards to last. For performance in all conditions — from deep powder days to groomers — pack the Nexus model, available in both ski and snowboard form.

nexus ski and snowboard

Sea Kayak Touring: Paddling and Camping in the Islands Region

State of Washington’s Best Outdoor Recreation Spots - Sea Kayak Touring
(Photo/Washington State Tourism)

The San Juan Islands make up an archipelago of more than 172 islands and reefs off the mainland of the State of Washington. With views of far-off mountain peaks on the mainland one way, and the open horizon on the other, exploring the region by kayak is a bucket list adventure.

Fill your dry bags with camping gear and evenly distribute them in your sea kayak. Catch the ferry from Anacortes to Orcas Island (you can take your kayak and gear on the boat). Then enjoy touring around this lush, horseshoe-shaped island, where you might see everything from bald eagles to otters to, of course, whales.

Sea Kayaking Must-Buy

Keep all your essentials dry and safely stashed with three sizes of lightweight dry sacks from Sea to Summit.

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks

Backpacking: The Salish Sea Region’s Many Trails and the North Cascades

State of Washington’s Best Outdoor Recreation Spots - Backpacking
(Photo/Washington State Tourism)

Load up your pack, lace up your boots, and get ready to hit the trail. The Salish Sea region of Washington is the state’s prime destination for multiday backpacking trips.

The varied landscape spans from dense coastal forests to glaciers to high alpine terrain. The four Loop Trips in the North Cascades run anywhere from 3 to 6 days and present a user-friendly jumping-off point for creating custom routes.

Backpacking Fundamental

Designed for hikes with changes in climate and elevation, the lightweight but extremely durable 2400 Junction from Hyperlite is the go-to pack for trails throughout the State of Washington.

hyperlite 2400 Junction

Trail Running: Logging Miles on Otherworldly Terrain in the Peninsulas Region

Olympic National Park Hoh River Trail
(Photo/Washington State Tourism)

Whether it’s the minimalism of the equipment or the zenlike flow that comes from speeding over a challenging route, trail running evokes a unique feeling of freedom.

Washington’s Peninsulas Region gives runners the opportunity to experience thrillingly varied terrain on a single run, including temperate rainforest and rugged shores. Immerse yourself in the rainforest on the Olympic National Park’s Hoh River Trail. Opt for capable but comfortable trail shoes that can handle wet conditions.

Trailing Running Essential

For ambitious runs on new trails, a running vest is a good idea. Stash water, snacks, a layer, and shell along with your regular long-distance essentials. Salomon’s Advanced Skin 12 Set Hydration Vest offers enough space for everything you’ll need and features a precision fit system so you can focus on the trail — and the epic views.

Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Set Hydration Vest


This article is sponsored by the State of Washington