Where and When to Photograph Nature in Washington

Learn where and when to capture the magic of nature in Washington state in this list from the late, great Sunny Walter.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
January 27, 2018
Where and When to Photograph Nature in Washington
Photo by Anita Elder.

Sunny Walter was a dedicated Mountaineers member and passionate photographer, with a keen interest in the natural world. When she was Chair of our Seattle Photography Committee, she compiled a list of the best places and times to capture nature in Washington.


All Winter

What: Driftwood, lighthouses, ocean scenery, sunsets, golden-crowned kinglet
Where: Cape Disappointment State Park; Ledbetter State Park


What: Mule deer, whitetail deer, mountain scenery, eagles
Where: Lake Chelan to Stehekin; The Methow Valley, specifically Winthrop and along the Methow River

Early january

What: Bald eagles
Where: Hwy 20 from Rockport to Marblemount; Upper Skagit River


What: Rocky Mountain elk, bighorn sheep
Where: West of Naches – Oak Creek Wildlife Area


What: Snow geese, trumpeter swans
Where: Fir Island; Mt Vernon and the Johnson DeBay Slough


Late March-Early April

What: Sandhill cranes, burrowing owls, swans (March), yellow-head blackbirds (April)
Where: Othello area


What: Avocets, stilts, herons, cormorants, egrets
Where: South of I-90 and west of Moses Lake – Frenchman Hills Road; North Potholes Wildlife Area


What: Balsamroot, cactus, geology, birds
Where: Northeast of Quincy – Beezley Hills

Late April-Early May

What: Shorebirds, terns, redknots
Where: West & south of Aberdeen – Bowman Basin, Bottle Beach

Early to Mid-May

What: Poppies, Orcas
Where: San Juan Islands


What: Basalt cliffs, lakes, yellow-head blackbirds, common yellow throat, balsamroot, bullocks orioles, lupine, lake scenery, swallows, deer, wildflowers, waterfalls, mule deer, ground squirrels, bluebirds, swallows, wildflowers (around lake)
Where: Southwest of Quincy – Quincy Wildlife Area; Coulee City – Hwy 2 – Ankeny, WA; West on Hwy 2 – Jameson Lake; South of Coulee City – waterfalls; South of Cheney – Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge

Mid-May to early June

What: Bluebirds, balsam & bitterroot, lizards, nuthatches
Where: South of Ellensburg – Umtanum Road, Observatory, Wenas camping area

Late May

What: Molson museum, redhead ducks, osprey, yellow-head blackbirds, killdeer, wildflowers, chipmunks, loons
Where: East of Oroville; Molson & Sidley Lakes; East of Molson – Oroville-Toroda Road; Chesaw Wildlife Area; Beaver Lake

LATE MAY-Early June

What: Rolling hills, wildflowers, canola, barns
Where: Steptoe Butte; Kamiak Butte; Palouse countryside


All Summer (at low tide)

What: Tide pools, seastars, seastacks
Where: West of Forks; Rialto, LaPush – 2nd Beach, 1st Beach


What: Cliffs, deer, loons, eagles, baby birds
Where: South of Republic – Sampoil Valley; Scatter Creek Road – Swan, Ferry, Long Lakes (access by Keller Ferry from south)


What: Lavender, gardens, osprey, cormorants
Where: East side of Pend Oreille River; Sequim Lavender Festival (July); Hwy 20 – Usk


What: Wildflowers, waterfalls, mountain scenery, marmots, Pika
Where: Mt. Rainier – Spray Park, Berkeley Park (Paradise and Sunrise trails)


What: Murres, other seabirds, brown pelicans, small forest animals (martin, badger), bison, sunrise, sunsets, baby western toads
Where: Ocean Shores – North Jetty and wildlife area on east side; North of Eatonville – Northwest Trek; South of Randle (Hwy 12) – Mount St. Helens (east side)

MID to Late August

What: Wildflowers, deer, marmots
Where: South of Port Angeles – Hurricane Ridge


Early September (low tide)

What: Arches, tide pools, seastars, deer, sunsets, glow
Where: South of Neah Bay – Shi Shi Beach, Point of Arches

Late August-early September

What: Shorebird migration – avocet, egrets, herons, cormorants, American white pelicans
Where: North and west of Moses Lake – Soap Lake; North Potholes Wildlife Area; Potholes Reservoir


What: Mosses, elk in rut, mergansers, mushrooms
Where: South of Forks – Hoh Rain Forest

Early October

What: Golden larches, raptors, squirrels, snow & mountain scenery
Where: Northwest of Mazama – Harts Pass

Early to mid-October

What: Fall color, rivers, mule deer, bighorn sheep, Moose, Gardner Cave
Where: West of Curlew – Kettle River Road (and north of Oroville on Hwy 97 to Vaseaux Lake; Northeast of Colville – Big Meadow Lake; Ione – North of Metaline; All along the Pend Oreille River; Hwy 20 near Tiger

Download a printable version of this list to take out with you on the trails. Sunny also shared a list of the top places in the Seattle area to photograph nature. You can download it from Anita Elder's website. 

Thanks Sunny!

Sunny passed away in February 2010 and is remembered as a committed, highly dedicated volunteer. She held committee meetings at her house, often covering issues of conservation and wildlife while sharing photographs at the monthly potlucks.

Sunny is a Basic Climbing Course graduate (1984) and she started the Basic Nature Photography course and the professional speakers lecture series. She introduced the slide shows potlucks and taught her fellow members about transitions and blending photographs together.  She is credited with guiding the photography committee to its current structure and organization. 


Photo by Sunny Walter.


Sunny inspired a generation of Mountaineers photographers to be better, and we are grateful to her for introducing so many people to the club. She was also a member of the Boeing Photography Club and the Eastside Audubon Society. Learn more about Sunny in her book, Washington Nature Weekends.

*Main blog image by current Seattle Branch Photography Committee chair Anita Elder

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