Washington, with its forested mountain ranges and wet coastal climate, is a beautiful state to visit. Being the northwestern-most of the 48 states, it has hundreds miles of coastline on the Pacific Ocean, which lie at the feet of mountains which receive as much as 140 inches of rain a year. Further inland, the volcanic Cascade Mountains reach to elevations above 14,000 feet, providing recreation opportunities including boating, hiking and camping, along with breathtaking scenery. The Columbia River Gorge, on the south side of the state, cut through the Cascades by one of the largest rivers in America, is one of the most striking landscapes in the state.
Washington became the 42nd state of the union on November 11, 1889. It covers 68,192 square miles and is home to 5,894,121 people. The state capitol is at Olympia.
What to See in Washington
Mount Rainier is Washington's premier tourist destination. This stunning mountain has its summit at 14,410 feet, 2.5 miles higher than the Nisquilly River Valley at its foot. It became a national park in 1899, one of the first in America and is visited by 1.5 million people each year. Its snow-capped summit is a landmark visible throughout much of Washington.
The Olympic Mountains are one of the wettest places in America with as much as 140 inches of rain a year. Temperate rain forests cover its slopes with thick undergrowth and moss covering everything.
The North Cascades are Washington's third national park, a more remote park lying on the Canada border. They are home to peaks such as Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Buckner.
The Puget Sound reaches into the northwestern corner of the state, being an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and most of the populated are of the state lies along its eastern shore, fully 100 miles inland. The Puget Sound wraps around the Olympic Peninsula on the north and the east side. The Cascade Mountains run north to south through the whole state just east of the Puget Sound. They extend further south all the way to California, and northward into Canada. East of the Cascades, the elevation drops, and a drier area is covered by hills and lower mountains. The Columbia River enters the state on the east side and flows southward to where it meets the Oregon border. It forms the southern boundary of Washington from there to the coast, passing through the Columbia River Gorge.
Interstate 5 passes along the eastern shore of the Puget Sound, through Seattle and the other major cities, and connects southward into Oregon. Interstate 90 crosses the middle of the state going east and west. It makes a dramatic climb through the Cascades and drops right into Seattle. U.S. Highway 101 follows the coastline up from Oregon to the Puget Sound, and then follows the its shore all the way back to Olympia. U.S. Highway 2 and 12 are the other major east-west routes, 12 lying in the southern part of the state, and highway 2 in the north. U.S. Highways 97 and 395 and the major north-south routes, with 97 passing through the center of the state, and 395 further east.