Cloaked in places by dark forests of towering old-growth conifers and stripped bare by logging clear-cuts in others, the Washington Cascades are a patchwork quilt of narrow valleys, rolling foothills, snowcapped volcanic peaks, and rugged mountain ranges. Lakes of the deepest blue are cradled beneath emerald forests. Glaciers carve their way inexorably from peaks that experience some of the heaviest snowfalls in the nation. And, of course, the appropriately named Cascades send countless waterfalls cascading from the heights.

The I-5 corridor from the Canadian border south more than 150 miles to Olympia is the most densely populated region of Washington, yet for millions of people who live here, gazing at mountain wilderness merely requires a look eastward on a clear day. Dominating the eastern skyline of the northern Puget Sound region are volcanic Mount Baker and the North Cascades. In the southern Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, another dormant volcano, looms grandly on the horizon. The easy accessibility of these mountains is, in large part, what makes the cities of Puget Sound so livable. With two national parks, a national volcanic monument, a half-dozen major ski areas, one of the largest networks of cross-country ski trails in the country, hundreds of lakes (including the third-deepest lake in the United States), a Bavarian village, and a false-fronted Wild West frontier town, these mountains offer a diversity of recreational and sightseeing activities.

Whatever the season, in good weather and bad, active Washingtonians head for the hills whenever they get the chance. Summer and winter are, however, the most popular seasons here. In summer, people come for the wildflowers and to go hiking, and in winter, they come for the skiing and snowboarding.