Washington state fall foliage features brilliant hues and spectacular scenery. The changing colors of leaves in autumn is one of nature’s most beloved rites of passage -- and makes for one of the most popular and inexpensive getaways for families. As part of LeafQuest -- a MapQuest series helping leaf peepers across North America find easy and rewarding destinations -- here are three recommended spots for viewing Washington state fall foliage. — Andres Jauregui
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is famous for its glaciers and jagged peaks, but come autumn, it is a must-see destination for spectacular, crisp fall foliage. The park is home to diverse ecosystems, ranging from subalpine meadows to old-growth river valleys. The most dominant trees in the region are evergreen firs (Washington's nickname is "The Evergreen State"), but the changing seasons bring bright bursts of color in the form of some native deciduous trees, such as maples, poplars and alders, as well as low-lying shrubs that carpet river valleys in gold and scarlet.
North Cascades National Park, 7280 Ranger Station Road, Marblemount, WA 98267 | Get Directions
Mount Rainier Loop
The Mount Rainier Loop is a 78-mile scenic byway that is notable for the many waterfalls that run along its course and for excellent views of Mount Rainier. The section of road along Skate Creek has earned a reputation as one of the Washington's best fall foliage spots. Reflection Lake (not to be confused with an eponymous lake in Olympia National Park) provides spectacular vistas of Mount Rainier -- reflected in the lake, as its name suggests. The icy blue and white of Mt. Rainier, the scarlet, gold and orange of the foliage and the deep green of the pine forests -- its an absolute gem. Hikers can take advantage of the various trailheads accessible on the route. Be advised that the route is seasonal and usually closes due to snow by the end of October. Start your quest in the mountain town of Packwood's visitor information center.
Packwood Visitor Information Center, 12990 U.S. Highway 12, Packwood, WA 98361 | Get Directions
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest encompasses more than four million acres, stretching from the eastern Cascade Range near the Canadian border southward to the Goat Rocks Wilderness. It is a popular recreational destination for hunting, fishing, cycling, hiking, camping and boating, particularly during summer months. But fall in the forest can be just as much of an adventure. According to Cornforth Images' photography site, some die-hard photogs "challenge themselves on the 22-mile round trip to photograph the golden larch trees in the fall beneath Prusik Peak." It might seem like a long way to walk for a couple of snapshots, but the photos do not lie. Peak foliage shows occur during the month of October. Start your quest in the Bavarian-inspired town of Leavenworth's Visitor's Center. The quaint town is located within the national forest, and holds an annual Oktoberfest celebration.
Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce Visitor's Center, 894 Highway 2, Leavenworth, WA 98826 | Get Directions
Subalpine meadows around Mount Rainier National Park burst with scarlet and gold colors in the fall.
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Want other great fall-foliage destinations? Check out more LeafQuest.
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