The Pacific Northwest is famous for its scenic landscapes, making it a great destination for adventurers. Here are the best Pacific Northwest road trips.
What are the best road trip routes through the Pacific Northwest?
Some of the best Pacific Northwest road trips include Olympic Peninsula, Salmon River Scenic Byway, Oregon Coast, Umpqua National Forest, and McKenzie River Valley, Cascades Loop, and Columbia River Gorge. Spring is the most ideal time for these road trips to avoid crowds.
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The Top Six Pacific Northwest Road Trips
The Pacific Northwest is, without a doubt, one of the most naturally beautiful regions of the U.S.
It features a diverse range of landscapes and views, including rugged coastlines, lush rainforests, mountain ranges, crystal-clear rivers and lakes, thrilling waterfalls, and vast stretches of wilderness.
And, one of the best ways of exploring this area and soaking in its beauty and diversity is through a road trip with your loved ones. In this guide, we’ve identified six of the best Pacific Northwest road trips to consider.
Olympic Peninsula Road Trips
The Olympic Peninsula is located in the northwestern corner of Washington State. It’s one of the best Pacific Northwest road trips since it offers a bit of almost everything.
Whether you are into nature, museums, art, or history, this trip has got you covered. Some of the most notable attractions on this road trip include:
Olympic State Park
The Olympic State Park should be part of your itinerary during your Olympic Peninsula road trip. If you love hiking, then you should check out Hurricane Ridge. Hurricane Ridge offers some of the best hikes in the area.
You will also enjoy stunning views all around.
Depending on the time of your visit, you may also be lucky to see wildlife like mountain goats and deer, among others.
Other standout places to check out during your Olympic State Park visit include Sol Duc Valley for its hot springs and sweeping views, La Push for the serene coastal beaches, Lake Crescent Lodge with its beautiful surroundings, and Lake Quinalt for rafting.
After visiting Olympic National Park, most people proceed to the town of Port Angeles. And, it’s understandable since it’s the closest one to the park.
However, if you want a better experience, it will be advisable to instead head to Port Townsend.
Port Townsend is a charming and delightful Victorian seaport, bordering the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Puget Sound region.
Uptown Port Townsend are several Victorian buildings and homes while the downtown area is packed with beautiful brick buildings, where you can purchase antiques, explore museums or grab a meal.
If you are traveling with kids who love science, then you should take them to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, located at Fort Worden State Park. Here, they can learn more about the ecosystem and marine sciences in general.
Salmon River Scenic Byway
As its name suggests, the Salmon River Scenic Byway offers spectacular views all along the way.
While on this road trip, you will catch a glimpse of some of the most majestic landscapes.
Apart from the picturesque views, this Pacific Northwest road trip also offers lots of biking and hiking opportunities and various water activities, since there are rivers almost everywhere you look.
You will also get an opportunity to explore historic towns if time allows. Some of the places that you should check out during your Salmon River Scenic Byway road trip include:
Stanley Hot Springs
This route has dozens of hot springs along the way. So, if you would like to relax and unwind after a long day on the road, then soaking in one of the hot springs will be a perfect way to end your day.
Some of the best hot springs include Sunbeam, Goldbug, Snake Pit, Frenchman’s Bend and Kirkham.
Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Once you’ve relaxed after your first day on the road, you can begin your second day at the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Here, there are over 700 miles and 300 mountain lakes to explore.
You can either explore these landscapes either through hiking or on horseback.
After you’ve finished exploring the mountains and the trails, you can then head over to Redfish Lake for some swimming, a boat cruise, paddleboarding or strolling along its shores.
Sun Valley and Ketchum
After you’ve had your fill of the wilderness areas, you should head over to the town of Sun Valley. Here, there are lots of opportunities for your family to have a decent meal, relax and have a good time.
However, don’t spend all your time at Sun Valley. You should also spare an hour or so to explore Ketchum. This is a quaint, charming town, which offers a laid-back village vibe, with its beautiful brick buildings and cabin-style boutique shops.
Oregon Coast Road Trip
The Oregon Coast is one of the most phenomenal places in this country. And since it also falls in this area, it should be part of your Pacific Northwest road trips.
This area is known for its delightful beaches, eye-catching sea stacks and lots of water adventures. Some of the places to visit on this road trip include:
The Rouge River is located on the South Oregon Coast, close to Golds Beach.
It offers plenty of adventure for watersports lovers, with jet-boarding being the most popular one.
During this trip, you will cruise the entire river on a boat, enjoying the area’s spectacular and rugged scenery.
It’s also highly likely that you will come across some wildlife along the way, foraging in the grasslands around the river.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is also found in this area. It stretches for over 40 miles, featuring a coastline, forests and desert landscapes. Here, you have several options when it comes to exploring this area.
First, you can opt to hike some of the trails in the forest park. You also have the option of hiring either a quad bike or an ATV to go and explore the breathtaking dunes. Whichever option you choose, you are assured of having a great time.
If you feel like you’ve had enough of the wilderness areas, then you should head over to the town of Astoria. Here, there are several places to visit and numerous things to do, whether you are on a family trip or a couple’s getaway.
Popular attractions in this town include the Ecola State Park, where you can see starfish swimming in tide pools or even come across a family of elks. There’s also the majestic Haystack Rock and several other sea stacks to admire.
Umpqua National Forest and McKenzie River Valley Road Trip
If you prefer spending your weekends visiting parks and wilderness, then the Umpqua National Forest and McKenzie River Valley road trip should make your list of the best Pacific Northwest Road Trips.
Along this route, you will enjoy some of the most magical views, thanks to its vast range of hot springs, national forests, lakes, and waterfalls.
Some of the stops that you should make during this road trip include:
Umpqua National Forest
The Umpqua National Forest is a must-stop for everyone on the Oregon Coast road trip. This forest has close to 20 waterfalls, which you can visit through hikes.
There are also a couple of hot springs in the area, with Umpqua Hot Springs being the most popular one with visitors.
If you love spending your time surrounded by forests and rivers, then you should ensure you drop by this forest.
McKenzie River Valley
The McKenzie River Valley is yet another awesome place to check out during your Oregon Coast road trip.
The main attraction here is the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail, which cuts through the turquoise blue waters of the River McKenzie. This trail will also lead you to two breathtaking waterfalls, which are Sahalie and Koosah.
The Cascades Loop is a 440-mile round trip, which you should do in five to seven days. Along the route, there are rolling river valleys, striking mountains, and pristine islands.
The recommended time for this road trip is five to seven days since there are lots of great places to visit and things to do.
You can either go clockwise or anti-clockwise, depending on your preferences. Some of the places that you shouldn’t fail to visit include:
North Cascades National Park
The North Cascades National Park is the highlight of this trip. Located approximately three hours from Seattle, this national park showcases a wide range of diverse landscapes like pristine forests, beautiful waterfalls, several glacier-fed lakes and huge granite peaks.
However, we should point out that the hikes in this national park are quite challenging. In fact, they are only recommended for seasoned or active hikers.
So, if you are a beginner, then this park may not be the ideal one for you. But for the seasoned hiker, you will be rewarded with some of the most striking views.
Deception Pass is the most visited park in Washington State. And, it’s easy to see why. It encompasses rugged cliffs and several bays. You will also catch some of the most breathtaking sunsets from this location.
Furthermore, there are enough beaches and hiking trails to explore. Its strategic location also means you will enjoy stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, Juan de Fuca as well as the San Juan Islands.
If hiking in the North Cascades National Park feels like too much work for you or you still have some time left after exploring other areas, then you should head over to the town of Leavenworth.
This laid-back Bavarian village was re-designed in the 1960s to attract tourists. It borrows its design from three German towns
These are Munich, Bemalte Fassaden and Leipzig.
Besides enjoying the beautiful houses, you can also explore the shops, enjoy local cuisines in one of the restaurants, go on a horseback tour, or even try your hand at golf at the local Leavenworth Golf Club.
Columbia River Gorge Road Trip
The Columbia River Gorge is a 125-mile round trip, ideal for those who love hiking, waterfalls, scenic drives and fruit picking. As you may probably know, the Columbia River Gorge is the biggest and most extensive National Scenic Area in the U.S.
While there are more than enough activities along the way to make the trip a memorable one, you should make sure you check out the Columbia River Highway, Hood River Region and the Cascade Locks Marine Park.
Columbia River Highway
For those who love waterfalls, then a drive along the Columbia River Highway is a must. This area has the highest concentration of awe-inspiring waterfalls, with Multnomah Falls being the most popular.
While here, you should also follow the Wahkeena Falls Loop Trail, which will lead you to four other waterfalls.
Cascade Locks Marine Park
If you are looking to spend the night in the area, then you can camp at the Cascade Locks Marine Park, which is just a few miles from the Columbia River.
However, this park fills up quite fast, since it’s small. So, ensure you book early.
Hood River Region
If you love picking fruits, then you should check out the Hood River Fruit Loop trail. During this self-guided tour, you will be able to visit more than 30 family-owned orchards, farms, wineries, cideries and breweries.
Here, you will pick your own fruit and vegetables if you visit during fall and sample the local wines and beers.
- The Pacific Northwest has enough road trip destinations for outdoor lovers
- You will explore coastal areas, forest parks, old towns and wilderness areas
- These road trips will satisfy nature lovers, history lovers, and watersports lovers
- Spring is the best time to go for these road trips