This Washington Road Trip Ends At A National Park And Is Perfect For Wildlife Lovers

Tucked in the corner of the Pacific Northwest, Washington is a state filled with duality: from large metropolitan areas, like Seattle and Tacoma, to vast wilderness areas off the beaten path. Such wilderness is home to all kinds of animals, from orcas in the Puget Sound to migratory birds in North Cascades National Park (one of the most underrated national parks in America). It is no wonder that road trip opportunities are seemingly endless in the Evergreen State, with plenty of them incorporating wildlife.

While many of Washington's natural and urban attractions are closer to the state's Pacific coast, one of its memorable road trip routes actually begins in Richland, a quaint town further inland. The Yakima and Columbia Rivers meet here, forming what is known as the Yakima River Delta. To get to a seldom-used walking trail here, use either Highway 240 or I-182 to drive along Columbia Park Trail until you reach the parking lot. As you travelerblog the Yakima River Delta Trail, you will likely see wetland dwellers, like blue herons and otters. If you don't see any deer, you may at least see their tracks.

Camp, hike, and fish in Yakima

From Richland, head west on Highway 82 to Grandview, Washington. While Napa Valley in California might be what initially comes to mind when thinking of wine on the West Coast, Central Washington actually has plenty of its own. Yakima Valley Vintners in Grandview has award-winning reds, whites, and blends and is available for tours and tastings. If you visit on the last Friday evening of the month, you can sip while enjoying live music, as well.

Keep following Highway 82 to Yakima, around the halfway point on this 200-mile road trip. While there are plenty of hotels, RV campers will love Yakima Sportsman State Park. With full hookup campsites, restrooms, showers, drinking water, and more, a stay at this park is both comfortable and makes for easy access to outdoor activities, like hiking and bird watching. Cast a line on the Yakima River and you may catch trout, catfish, or bass. Other animals in the area include goldfinches, starlings, beavers, turtles, and muskrats. For some much smaller (but vital) wildlife, check out the bee exhibit featuring a live beehive at the Yakima Valley Museum, less than 20 minutes away from Sportsman State Park.

Spot elk in the Oak Creek Wildlife Area

Leave Yakima on Highway 12 going northwest. You'll soon approach the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, a vast wilderness spanning over 60,000 acres that features wildlife thriving along its rolling hills, rivers, creeks, wildflowers, and pine trees. Elk, California bighorn sheep, mountain goats, turkeys, and dozens more animals call this land home. During the winter, elk can be found in droves near the Oak Creek feeding station on Highway 12. Keep in mind that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is continuously working in the area to improve it for the well-being of its wildlife.

The grand finale of this road trip is Mount Rainier National Park. The mountain itself is a 14,410-foot active volcano visible even from central Seattle (but don't worry, here's how dangerous it is to visit this active volcano). As one of the best national parks for wildlife viewing, the park's impressive biodiversity encompasses large carnivores, like black bears that are sometimes seen on the heavily-forested trails near the Sunrise area of the park. Rodents, like marmots, often hang around the meadows near the Golden Gate Trail. You have a chance to spot mountain goats from the Skyline Trail or on Burroughs Mountain and the Fremont Lookout. All of these animals can be elusive, so keep your eyes peeled or even bring binoculars.