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- Multiple Routes: Take the full two-week trip or mix and match suggestions for spending time in the Olympic Peninsula, Seattle, Portland, the Oregon Coast, Vancouver, and more
- Eat, Sleep, Stop and Explore: With lists of the best hikes, views, and more, you can venture through lush rainforest in search of towering waterfalls, race across sand dunes on the Oregon Coast, and kayak the Puget Sound. Marvel at totem poles carved by First Nation tribes in Vancouver, study the contemporary masterpieces at the Seattle Art Museum, or tour Oregon's collection of picturesque lighthouses. Indulge in a food truck feast in Portland, sample cheese and ice cream in Tillamook, or snack on authentic Canadian poutine
- Maps and Driving Tools: Over 30 easy-to-use maps keep you oriented on and off the highway, along with site-to-site mileage, driving times, detailed directions, and full-color photos throughout
- Local Insight: Native Washingtonian and outdoorswoman Allison Williams shares her favorite spots and experiences in the Pacific Northwest
- Planning Your Trip: Know when and where to get gas, how to avoid traffic, tips for driving in different road and weather conditions, and suggestions for LGBTQ+ travelers, seniors, and road trippers with children
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DISCOVER The Pacific Northwest
Planning Your Trip
Best Rainy-Day Distractions
Hit the Road
Best Roadside Attractions
Best Scenic Drives
Best Brewpubs and Taprooms
It’s not unusual to think of the Pacific Northwest as green and lush. But you must tour the entire region to truly appreciate how many shades of the color blanket this corner of the world.
There’s the deep evergreen of Douglas fir trees and the dusty pale green of rainforest moss. The electric green of Seattle’s hometown sports jerseys. A green ethos keeps Portland running on bicycle power and compost. And then there is all that green cash that companies like Starbucks, Nike, Microsoft, and others bring to the region. And envy? It seems like everyone’s jealous of the great Pacific Northwest; population growth is off the charts.
Between nature and culture, every possible shade of green appears in the Pacific Northwest. The best way to see the treasures of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia is to follow the roads connecting vibrant cities like Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland with the wild green places in between—an untamed coast, a deep forest, and a legendary mountain (or two).
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
Where to Go
The future is waiting around every corner of this waterfront city—from the towering Space Needle to the collection of spacecraft at the Museum of Flight. Wake early for the Seattle Art Museum and bustling Pike Place Market, but prepare to stay up late for farm-to-table dining and a diverse selection of live music.
Mountains tower over Vancouver, Canada—so close that Grouse Mountain skiers practically slide down next to the city’s skyscrapers. Bike or walk around downtown’s Stanley Park, browse the wares on offer at the Granville Island Public Market, and take in some Olympic history with a day trip to Whistler. At night, sample the myriad options on offer from Vancouver’s international culinary scene.
Victoria may be only a short ferry ride away, at the tip of Vancouver Island, but a visit here feels like crossing the pond to Britain. This is the capital of British Columbia, and a tour of the British Columbia Parliament Buildings provides a primer on the parliamentary system of government. Enjoy the delicate elegance of afternoon tea in the Fairmont Empress Hotel as it holds court over Victoria’s Inner Harbour, and then visit The Butchart Gardens, a world-class garden housed in an old quarry.
Washington’s “green thumb” is a promontory of land rich in natural features. Olympic National Park is home to Hurricane Ridge, with its sweeping ridgetop vistas, and the verdant mists of the Hoh Rain Forest. The peninsula’s beaches and bays stretch from the town of Port Angeles to Neah Bay and continue down the coast.
Driving down U.S. 101, it seems like the beaches of the Oregon Coast never end. From Astoria, the sand stretches for miles past Cannon Beach and Tillamook Bay. Along the way, follow the footsteps of Lewis and Clark at Fort Clatsop, explore the tide pools at Haystack Rock, and nibble bites of cheese at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.
Few cities have more personality than Portland. Each small block is packed with unique shops, creative eateries, tasty brewpubs, and residents biking across the bridges between them. Stop and smell the roses that line the International Rose Test Garden (one of the world’s largest) in Washington Park, gaze in awe at the Pittock Mansion’s three-story staircase, and wander amid the giant playground that is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
When “The Mountain” is out, it’s one of the most spectacular sights in the Northwest—a giant dotted with glaciers and flanked by wildflower meadows. Stop at the Jackson Visitor Center in the aptly named Paradise, or spend the night at the historical Paradise Inn. Add a side trip to Mount St. Helens and drive up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory for a firsthand look at where the mountain blew in 1980.
When to Go
If there’s one thing you can depend on in the Pacific Northwest, it’s that you can’t depend on the weather. The region is known for rain, but it doesn’t fall in regular intervals. Summer is the driest and sunniest season. Occasionally temperatures can soar above 90 degrees, and the lack of widespread air-conditioning can make it uncomfortable. Fall can vary between brisk, beautiful days and soggy, gray ones. Winter rarely brings much snow outside of the mountains and passes (but when it does snow in the city, stay off the streets). Mountain roads, such as those around Mount Rainier, are prone to seasonal closures and may require chains in winter months. Spring is often the rainiest time of year, but it doesn’t tend to pour in the region—instead, expect drizzles with the occasional shower. (Sometimes it’s even sunny!) In general, when the rain falls in the region it’s of this gentler variety—which is why you’ll notice the locals make do with hats and hoodies rather than umbrellas, and don’t tend to let it stop them from getting out and about.
Before You Go
It’s nice to leave room for the unexpected in a trip to the Pacific Northwest, but some things should be arranged in advance. International visitors will most likely need a visa, though Canadian neighbors can make due with only their passport. Residents of a country other than the United States or Canada should know in advance if they plan to cross the border on their trip. Most visitors will enter through the international airports in Seattle, Portland, or Vancouver; all have some form of public transportation running to the center of town, but not all run 24 hours.
Hotels in big cities like Seattle and Portland can fill quickly during popular times: the middle of summer, winter holidays, and around big conventions and sporting events. Given the limited accommodations in smaller towns on the Olympic Peninsula and Oregon Coast, sellouts are possible. Campgrounds that take reservations are likely to fill up in advance during the summer, as are big national park or mountain lodges. Rental cars are less in danger of being completely out of stock, but train and bus tickets are also best reserved in advance. Ferry reservations in Washington and British Columbia should be arranged as soon as travel plans are set; the former releases availability in batches (only for San Juan Island and Victoria trips; the rest of the Puget Sound ferries don’t take advance bookings).
As for attractions and dining, book ahead only if you need to ensure availability at a certain time, or have your heart set on a particular fine dining restaurant. Tickets for sporting events like professional football and even soccer should also be scheduled in advance. Otherwise, once you’ve secured the bones of a Pacific Northwest trip, there’s lots of room to explore, improvise, and discover things along the way.
It’s best to use headlights even during the day to appear visible to approaching vehicles. Also take care to watch for animals on the road, because hitting a deer at high speeds can be lethal to the driver as well as the deer. Passing is discouraged except in very open areas, and on roads that travel uphill there are often passing lanes built in to keep drivers safer.
Mountain roads, such as those around Mount Rainier, are especially prone to seasonal closures and may legally require snow chains in winter months. However, this is only an issue on roads that climb to high elevations and isn’t a problem on I-5 or coastal roads.
Take note of your gas-tank level on all roads other than interstates, though large regions without services are often signed. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s very important to have working windshield wipers—you’ll encounter rain in every season here, and driving is impossible without them. Also locate your bright lights in advance of needing them, as they may be necessary in cases of fog or on rural highways without streetlights.
HIT THE ROAD
Circle the Pacific Northwest in this two-week drive. Start in Seattle, Washington, and head north to Vancouver, British Columbia. After a brief stop in Victoria, ferry over to the Olympic Peninsula and drive down the Oregon Coast. Loop inland to Portland, and then head north with stops at Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier before returning to Seattle. Alternatively, start in Portland or Vancouver and follow the loop from there.
For directions on each leg of the trip, see the Getting to sections in each chapter and notes on where to stop in between.
The 14-Day Best of the Pacific Northwest
Spend two days visiting the many sides of Seattle (see details and suggestions on click here). Wander the city’s bustling downtown, watch the fish fly at Pike Place Market, spot volcanoes from atop the Space Needle, and indulge in one of Capitol Hill’s restaurants. Add a day trip to the winemaking hub of Woodinville, or hop a ferry to see more of sparkling Puget Sound.
Days 3-5: Vancouver
SEATTLE TO VANCOUVER
141 miles, 3 hours
Head north on I-5 to Vancouver, British Columbia. Leave plenty of time for delays at the Peace Arch border crossing between the United States and Canada because lanes back up on weekends and holidays.
Spend two days exploring downtown Vancouver (see details and suggestions on click here). Bike around sprawling Stanley Park, tour the city’s Olympic sights, and drive north of the city to ride the tram up Grouse Mountain. Add a day trip to Whistler and make reservations for tomorrow’s ferry to Victoria.
Day 6: Victoria
VANCOUVER TO VICTORIA
113 kilometers (70 miles), 3 hours
From Vancouver, drive 35 kilometers (22 miles) south on Highway 99 to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal and board the B.C. Ferry to Victoria. The 90-minute boat trip arrives in Swartz Bay. Follow Highway 17 for 32 kilometers (20 miles) south to Victoria. It’s a quick trip into the city, though traffic can build in the early morning.
Explore Victoria’s Inner Harbour (see details and suggestions on click here). Reserve an Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, take the Harbour Ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf, and cap the night in bustling Chinatown and its historical Fan Tan Alley.
Days 7-8: Olympic Peninsula
VICTORIA TO FORKS
80 miles, 3 hours
Take the Black Ball Ferry Line across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, arriving in Port Angeles, Washington. Follow U.S. 101 west as it passes through Olympic National Park. Take care on the two-lane highway, as trucks and cars alike can speed on the tight turns.
Spend at least one day enjoying the verdant wonders of Olympic National Park (see details and suggestions on click here). Stop at Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center for sweeping views, and then spend the night at Lake Crescent or continue south to Forks. Day two brings quick access to the crashing waves at La Push, or explore the park’s Hoh Rain Forest and Lake Quinault.
Day 9: Olympic Peninsula to the Oregon Coast
FORKS TO ASTORIA
185 miles, 4 hours
It’s a long trip on U.S. 101 from Forks down to Astoria on the Oregon Coast, so start early. Traffic is less likely to be an issue, but any small backup or accident on the road can cause problems. Plan to arrive in Astoria in time for a casual dinner in the industrial waterfront town.
Day 10: Oregon Coast
ASTORIA TO FLORENCE
183 miles, 4.5 hours
This simple drive down the Oregon Coast follows U.S. 101 south, with worthwhile stops along the way (see details and suggestions on click here). Stop for lunch on the sand in Cannon Beach, visit the aquarium in Newport, or take a sand dune tour in Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Exploring the Three Capes Loop will add extra time (and 50 miles) to this leg of the trip.
Days 11-12: Portland
FLORENCE TO PORTLAND
173 miles, 3 hours
Leave Florence early, following U.S. 126 east for 56 miles to I-5. Take I-5 north for 115 miles to Portland. You’ll roll into the city just after the morning traffic jams.
You can see a lot of Portland in two days (see details and suggestions on click here). Spend one day exploring downtown sights such as Powell’s City of Books and the South Park Blocks. On day two, cross the Willamette River to visit the southeast neighborhoods and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
Day 13: Mount Rainier
PORTLAND TO MOUNT RAINIER
137 miles, 2.5 hours
Leave Portland early (before rush-hour traffic). Head north on I-5, then take U.S. 12 east for 30 miles. At Morton, follow Highway 7 north for 15 miles to Highway 706. Turn east and take Highway 706 to Mount Rainier’s Nisqually Entrance.
Spend the day hiking through wildflower meadows at Paradise, or enjoy a scenic drive through the national park to Sunrise (see details and suggestions on click here).
Day 14: Return to Seattle
MOUNT RAINIER TO SEATTLE
86 miles, 2 hours
In summer, head north out of the national park on Highway 410, driving through Enumclaw back to Seattle. When the roads are closed, exit back through the Nisqually Entrance on Highway 706 toward Ashford and circle back to I-5 and Seattle.
Options for Shorter Trips
SEATTLE TO VANCOUVER
Hit the region’s two biggest cities in a short road trip. Start in Seattle and spend two days exploring the downtown sights. Drive north on I-5, stopping in Anacortes or the tiny towns of Bow and Edison. Arrive in Vancouver and enjoy some outdoorsy side trips to the mountains north of the city or to Whistler.
An easy loop from Portland includes the best of both city and nature. Spend two days discovering Portland’s neighborhood gems, and then take I-5 north into Washington and drive 44 miles to Longview. At Longview, jog west on Highway 432 to U.S. 30 and continue 45 miles to Astoria on the coast. Spend a day or two following U.S. 101 south along the coast with stops to walk on the beach or watch whales. At Newport, take U.S. 20 east for about 63 miles to the towns of Corvallis and Albany, where it meets up with I-5. From Albany, follow I-5 north for 70 miles to return to Portland.
- On Sale
- Aug 3, 2021
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- Moon Travel