Mar 262017
North Cascades Highway view of the big loop at Early Winters from the Washington Pass lookout

North Cascades Highway through Early Winters Valley, with winter snow; Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington.

Washington State Department of Transportation announced that the snow plowing on North Cascades Highway will not be able to begin until around April 10 this year. Furthermore, the snow is so deep this year that it might be June before State Highway 20 is fully cleared.

In a more normal weather year, the WSDOT crews start working to clear the road in mid-March. Besides the deep snow, they have to contend with the danger of avalanches at several locations in the high Cascades.

Check the WSDOT website for current road conditions and more information about traveling in Washington.

Apr 142013
Lupine and Balsamroot, Tom McCall Preserve

Lupine and Balsamroot, Tom McCall Preserve








Spring is finally here and wildflowers are popping up in many parts of the Pacific Northwest. Some of the best known displays of flowers, like those at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park and Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, won’t happen for several months yet, but in lower elevation meadows, prairies, and wetlands the blooming has started and will be at peak for the next month. Wonderful wildflower blossoms can also be seen in the sagebrush-steppe habitat of the Columbia Plateau and Great Basin east of the Cascade Mountains.


Interested in venturing out in search of wildflowers? Here are a dozen of the best places in the northwest USA to find the spring bloom:



What other top places for wildflowers have you found in the northwest?


Apr 042013
Tulip Town field of tulips

Color fields of blossoming tulips at Tulip Town


April is tulip time in Washington’s Skagit Valley, with events scheduled throughout the month for the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Two of the largest tulip growers open their farms for visitors, who throng to the fields every weekend. RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town both plant special displays each year which are a visual delight.

The tulips begin blooming in late March and some stay in flower into May, but the middle of April is generally the best time to see the colorful masses of blossoms. The RoozenGaarde website provides a map and bloom update.


Mar 312013
UW Quad with blooming cherry trees

Cherry trees in bloom on the University of Washington Quad

The big, old cherry trees covered with blossoms on the Quad at the University of Washington campus in Seattle is one of the eagerly anticipated signs that spring has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest.

The university arborist is reporting that peak bloom this year is from March 30 to about April 7, so make plans to visit very soon.

Washington Park Arboretum

Cherry tree and joggers on Azalea Way in Washington Park Arboretum

The UW campus isn’t the only good place to see flowering cherry trees. Azalea Way, one of the main paths in nearby Washington Park Arboretum has several great trees along the route. Many other trees and shrubs in the park start blooming soon, too.

Mar 262013
Watmough Bay on Lopez Island

Watmough Bay on Lopez Island

On March 25, 2013, President Obama signed a proclamation establishing five new U.S. National Monuments. Among them is San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington. Residents and friends of the islands have long sought protection for these lands, with a number of community groups and business leaders joining in efforts over the years to gain the National Monument status.

Somewhat unique is that this National Monument is not one contiguous area, but a combination of several locations scattered about the San Juan Islands. Each of the areas has been under Bureau of Land Management control for quite some time, and some were designated as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern by the BLM. National Monument status gives these special places even greater protection, and assurance that they will be preserved, both as ecological habitat and for future generations to enjoy as recreation sites.

Three of the sites are on Lopez Island. Watmough Bay is a lovely little cove, long a favorite of kayakers, boaters and beach goers. It is reached by a short and easy trail down at the southeastern corner of the island. Nearby, a bit longer hike at the southeast tip of the island leads to Point Colville, and great views over Rosario Strait. 

Iceberg Point view

Iceberg Point view across the Salish Sea to the Cascade Mountains.

At Iceberg Point on the southwest tip of Lopez, a network of trails leads along the coastal bluffs with outstanding views across Rosario Strait and the Salish Sea to Whidbey Island and beyond to the snow-capped peaks of the Cascade Mountains. Look south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to more snow-capped mountains, on the Olympic Peninsula. The open, rocky slopes are great for viewing spring wildflowers, too.

Cattle Point Lighthouse

Cattle Point Lighthouse, pre-dawn.

Over on San Juan Island, the Cattle Point area at the south tip of the island is another part of San Juan Islands National Monument. Trails across extensive meadows lead to Cattle Point Lighthouse and down to beaches. The area is adjacent to the American Camp part of San Juan Islands National Park.

For more information about the efforts to preserve these lands, check this website:, which links to a map of the San Juan Islands National Monument lands. For general information about visiting the San Juan Islands, see


Mar 232013

The Washington State Parks system turns 100 this year and as part of the celebration special events are happening throughout the year at many of the parks. Click this link for an official calendar of events.

To help kick things off, on Saturday, March 30 all state parks will be free to visit. Ordinarily, a daily or annual Discover Pass is required at state parks (and wildlife areas). The $10 per day fee might seem a bit steep to some, but it’s actually a good deal compared to the admission fee at just about any commercial recreation facility, and, all things considered the $30 annual pass is a bargain if you regularly get out and enjoy the outdoors.

Check out the official website for Washington State Parks for information about all the parks. And download the handy smartphone app, that includes maps and features of the parks. The app is free and available for both iOS and Android systems.

To learn the identity of the state parks in the slideshow photos, hover your mouse towards the top of the image or click on the photograph.

Washington resident or frequent visitor?  Which is your favorite state park in the Evergreen State?

Mar 212013

Welcome to Best of the Northwest!

Best Of The Northwest is about travel to and in the wonderful northwest states of the USA, including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Plus a bit of southwestern Canada (my Canadian friends get annoyed when I refer to British Columbia as part of the Pacific Northwest).

Best Of The Northwest features the best scenic locations, most enjoyable visitor experiences, top vineyards and wineries, where to find great food and unique lodging.

Whether you’re into luxury travel or budget travel, and whether you’re a long-time resident of the Northwest or visiting for the first time, this site has something for you. Enjoy!