Over the past two years, many of us have been burnishing our travel wish lists—dreaming of all the big trips we can’t wait to take. The good news is, sticking close to home (for now) doesn’t mean we can’t snag some pretty epic experiences. Want to see a glacier, hike along the spines of a star-shaped sand dune, or watch the aurora borealis light up the sky? You can check that item off your list right here in the West. Ready for the experience of a lifetime? Let’s go.
Glacier Gaze at Olympic National Park, Washington
Picture, for a moment, a glacier. A massive, moving river of ice sculpted over centuries, its surface dazzlingly white and, in places, the subtlest shade of blue. Imagine, now, where you must be. Antarctica, perhaps? Or Nepal, Chile, Greenland? Maybe. Or you could be in Olympic National Park. That’s right: While the Pacific Northwest preserve is renowned for rainforests, Olympic stretches over nearly one million acres and contains multitudes. As park scientist Bill Baccus puts it, “This is the place you get it all, in one place—the wild coast, the rainforest, and the glaciers.” While glaciers are receding here (as they are worldwide), according to the last tally in 2015, Olympic was home to 148 of them. Spilling from the top of Mount Olympus, the park’s largest ice sheet, Blue Glacier, is 5 square kilometers (or about 950 football fields) in size. To see it, drive up Hurricane Ridge Road, open from May to October. The 18-mile route begins near the seaside, in Port Angeles, then winds its way to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, at 5,292 feet. From here, you can admire the Blue Glacier, and looking south, peer right into the core of the Olympic Mountains, to Carrie Glacier and other glaciers in the Bailey Range.