The Pacific Northwest is a gorgeous, sprawling region of the United States. The PNW is often considered to be made up of core states Oregon and Washington State. Areas of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska are sometimes included in this region as well. In such a large area, road trip options are nearly endless – here are 10 great suggestions offering a variety of destinations and activities for your next road trip.
Summer 2021 Note: If you are planning on driving in your own car, you won’t need to plan much of your road trip in advance. However, if you are thinking of renting a car, rental shortages are happening throughout the U.S., so planning ahead will be key!
1. Travel along the Historic Columbia River Highway
The Historic Columbia River Highway stretches for 75 miles throughout Oregon. It features stunning scenery along the driving route. In addition, there are several gorgeous waterfalls either directly along the route or nearby it. Some examples include Multnomah Falls and Watson Falls. There are also several lodging or camping opportunities for those looking to spend several days exploring the area.
2. Traverse the Oregon and Washington Coasts
The Washington and Oregon coasts are among the most stunning in the country and make for a great road trip. Travelling along the coast offers gorgeous views, interesting towns, and plenty of options for lodging. Depending on the intended length and location of such a trip, travelers can take US-101 down portions of the coast. Those interested in extending the trip beyond the PNW can also continue onto the Pacific Coast Highway, which stretches across California.
3. Explore the Olympic Peninsula
The Olympic Peninsula is home to Olympic National Park as well as several other scenic locations. A road trip to – or around – the peninsula is a great option for those looking a little bit of all things Pacific Northwest in their roadtrip. Travelers can explore the Olympic rainforest, head over to the coast to see Puget Sound, or visit cities such as Port Angeles.
4. Visit Crater Lake and Bend, Oregon
For a road trip with a mix of outdoor adventure and the city comforts, consider Bend, Oregon, and Crater Lake National Park. Depending on the direction you’re interested in traveling, you could start at either location and head to the other one. Bend is approximately a two hours drive through several scenic locations from Crater Lake. Travelers stopping in Bend can enjoy a variety of lodging and shops, allowing either preparation or rest from hiking and camping at Crater Lake.
5. Travel between Portland and Cannon Beach
Another excellent pair of locations, Portland and Cannon Beach are approximately an hour and a half drive apart from each other. Travelers could make a trip out of the two locations alone – there’s plenty to explore at both – or include them as stops on a larger road trip itinerary.
6. Traverse from Seattle to Leavenworth
Whether you live in Seattle and are looking for new places in Washington to explore, or you’re looking to get outside of the city for a day on your next vacation to the area, consider checking out Leavenworth, WA. Approximately a 2-hour drive away from Seattle, Leavenworth is a unique and popular tourist destination in the state. This cozy town is entirely Bavarian-themed, including the hotels and shops. It is also close to several hiking trails and locations for water activities and offers winter attractions such as a Christmas light festival and sleigh rides as well.
7. Explore Eastern Washington
Eastern Washington is less popular than areas on the other side of the cascades, but contains many hidden gems. Palouse Falls, as well as the Palouse prairie area, are located amongst the desert-like climate on that side of the state. There are also a number of unique small towns for those interested in local or one-of-a-kind dining or lodging experiences.
8. Go city to city between Seattle and Portland
If you’re looking to experience the Pacific Northwest, why not visit two of the most notable cities? Travelers can experience iconic attractions in both cities such as The Space Needle (Seattle) or the Oregon Zoo (Portland). The trip between the two cities is an adventure in of itself – while the cities are only three hours apart, you will be able to travel through gorgeous scenery, and having plenty of options for stops to further explore the area.
9. Visit Missoula, Montana
For those looking for road trip ideas further from the Pacific Coast, consider a roadtrip to Missoula, Montana. Not only are the surrounding areas gorgeous, but this medium sized town also offers a variety of attractions. Such attractions include various outdoor sports, museums, theatre shows, and nearby ghost towns.
10. Visit Silverwood Theme Park
For those looking to add some classic theme park fun to their next adventure, consider a road trip to or including Silverwood Theme Park. Located just outside of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, the park features an old Western theme along with a waterpark.
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