Moon Pacific Northwest

With Oregon, Washington & Vancouver


By Allison Williams

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Rugged mountains, wild coastlines, and dense forests coexist with vibrant, diverse cities in one of the wildest corners of North America. Explore the PNW with Moon Pacific Northwest. Inside you’ll find:
  • Flexible, strategic itineraries ranging from two-day getaways to Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver to a two-week Pacific Northwest road trip
  • The best spots for outdoor adventures, including hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, and skiing
  • The top sights and unique experiences: Hike through rain forests and alpine meadows, trek jagged ridges in the Cascade Mountains, or drive along the wild Oregon coast. Learn about the First Nations culture in Vancouver, catch a performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, or visit Pike Place Market in Seattle. Spot orcas in the San Juan Islands, or head up to Whistler to ski the powdery slopes. Taste world-class cabernets and merlots in wine country, stomp your own grapes during the harvest, and hop your way through local craft breweries. Grab a bite from Portland’s famous food trucks, enjoy freshly caught salmon, or stroll along Vancouver’s scenic waterfront
  • Expert advice from Seattle local Allison Williams on when to go, where to stay, and where to eat
  • Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
  • Background information on the landscape, plants and animals, history, and culture
  • Travel tips for international visitors, seniors, families with children, and LGBTQ travelers
  • Full coverage of Seattle, the Cascades, the Olympic Peninsula, the San Juan Islands, Washington Wine Country, Portland, the Willamette Valley, Bend and Central Oregon, the Oregon Coast, Ashland and Southern Oregon, Vancouver, Victoria, and Vancouver Island
With Moon Pacific Northwest’s expert tips and local know-how, you can plan your trip your way.

Sticking to one region? Check out Moon Oregon, Moon Washington, or Moon Victoria & Vancouver Island.


Seattle Space Needle

Portland Farmers Market

DISCOVER the Pacific Northwest


Planning Your Trip


The Best of the Pacific Northwest


Portland Loop: The Foodie Northwest



Seattle Loop: Island Edition


the Oregon Coast from Oswald West State Park.

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 here.

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).

Olympic National Park



1 Wilderness Hiking: From rainforests to high alpine meadows, you can explore the region’s magnificent terrain by trail (click here).

2 Brewpubs and Taprooms: Taste craft brews on their home turf (click here). Most American beer hops are grown right here in the Pacific Northwest.

3 Columbia River Gorge: From rich evergreen forests to arid grasslands, with mountains and kiteboarders in between, this National Scenic Area offers an abundance of recreational options (click here).

4 Mountain Getaways: For classic retreats, head to places like Mount Rainier’s Paradise Inn (click here) and Mount Hood’s Timberline Lodge (click here) for both relaxation and recreation at your doorstep.

5 Driving the Oregon Coast: Follow a highway that hugs the curves and coves of this wild, scenic coastline (click here).

6 Pike Place Market: Fresh-caught fish fly through the air at this bustling marketplace, where you’ll find everything from flower vendors to handmade crafts to heartsick buskers (click here).

7 Wine Country: Low-key, friendly winemakers take advantage of ideal climates in Washington, especially in Walla Walla (click here), and Oregon (click here).

8 Powell’s City of Books: Discover Portland in a nutshell at this storied store filled with books covering every quirky subject (click here).

9 Whale-Watching from the San Juan Islands: You’ll feel the true wonder of this archipelago when you spot some of its resident orcas (click here, click here, and click here).

10 Stanley Park: Enjoy Vancouver’s waterfront from this picturesque peninsular park filled with beaches, trails, and an aquarium (click here).

11 Oregon Shakespeare Festival: Bond with the Bard at this months-long festival in the charming town of Ashland (click here).

12 Tea Time in Victoria: This refined city celebrates its British roots with elaborate afternoon teas served in classic style with scones and sandwiches (click here).

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.

The Cascades

When “The Mountain”—as Mount Rainier is known—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. Farther north, you’ll find the Bavarian village of Leavenworth; the tiny town of Chelan, which affords access to the 50-mile Lake Chelan; and Wild West town Winthrop, gateway to North Cascades National Park and its remote, jagged peaks.

Olympic Peninsula

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.

Olympic National Park

San Juan Islands

Accessible by ferry, the San Juan Islands just off the coast of Washington offer bucolic getaways, complete with opportunities for whale-watching—the San Juans have resident orca pods. Home to the quaint town of Friday Harbor, the historic American Camp and English Camp, and colorful San Juan Islands Sculpture Park, San Juan Island is the most bustling of the archipelago. Fun and funky Orcas Island and sleepy Lopez Island each have their own appeal, with hiking at Mount Constitution popular on the former and biking on the latter.

Washington Wine Country

Sit back and take in the rolling hills of eastern Washington with a glass of cabernet in hand. Wander through the Yakima Valley to small wineries and breweries—aside from its grapes, this region grows hops aplenty. Continue to the Tri-Cities to stroll along the Columbia River and visit the area’s scattered wineries. In Walla Walla, head to the downtown wineries first to prep the palate, then venture farther out to scenic vineyards in the surrounding area. A visit to historic Whitman Mission gives a taste of the region’s past, where the Oregon Trail intersected with Native American culture.


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. Just outside the city are natural wonders to explore, including the Columbia River Gorge, cutting a chasm between forested hills and rocky bluffs lined with waterfalls, and Mount Hood, where majestic Timberline Lodge sits halfway up the volcano, hikers roam in the summer, and skiers trace snowfields year-round.


Willamette Valley

The wide, rich valley centered around the Willamette River is famous for its fertile lands, drawing dreamers as far back as the Oregon Trail. These days the dream is of a perfect pinot; you’ll find the valley filled with wineries, concentrated around small towns like Newberg and Dundee. Retreat to charming McMinnville for more wineries and dining options. Continue farther south and you’ll find the state’s biggest cities after Portland, state capital Salem and hippie-inflected Eugene, home of the University of Oregon.

Bend and Central Oregon

Welcome to the high desert, where the air is dry, the sun shines, and the biggest decision of the day is what outdoor adventure to embark on and where to drink afterward. Hike, bike, or ski Mount Bachelor, float the Deschutes River, or head underground and explore the volcanic landscape at Lava River Cave. Leave plenty of room for ales and meals to take advantage of Bend’s vibrant brewing and dining scene. Also not to be missed is the rocky landscape of picturesque Smith Rock State Park, near the towns of Redmond and Sisters.

Oregon Coast

Driving down U.S. 101, it seems like the beaches of the Oregon Coast never end. Along the way, follow the footsteps of Lewis and Clark at Fort Clatsop, explore the tide pools at Haystack Rock, nibble bites of cheese at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, check out lighthouses, and discover local marinelife at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Ashland and Southern Oregon

If all the world’s a stage, charming Ashland is the front row, host to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and its months of plays and outdoor events. Find poetry in every form in the quiet paths of the town’s Lithia Park. Then head north to magical Crater Lake National Park, the deepest lake in America, surrounded by scenic peaks and punctuated by Wizard Island.


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—home to the Vancouver Aquarium—browse the wares on offer at the Granville Island Public Market, and take in some Olympic history with a day trip or more to Whistler. At night, sample the myriad options on offer from Vancouver’s international culinary scene.

Vancouver Aquarium

beach on the Olympic Peninsula


Victoria and Vancouver Island

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. Far west across the wild island, Tofino is a surf town in a cold region, its wave-riders drawn to the crashing Pacific. Find more beaches at nearby Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, or warm up at Hot Springs Cove.

Know Before You 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°F, 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 drizzle 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.

Passports and Visas

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 best reserved in advance. Ferry reservations should be arranged as soon as travel plans are set; Washington State Ferry releases availability in batches for the San Juan Islands and Victoria trips.

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.

The Best of the Pacific Northwest

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 a stop at Mount Rainier before returning to Seattle. Alternatively, start in Portland or Vancouver and follow the loop from there.

Days 1-2

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.

Pike Place Market



Add a day trip to the winemaking hub of Woodinville. Or head farther afield for an overnight in Washington wine country, which begins in the Yakima Valley and stretches east to Walla Walla. With 2-3 extra days, you can drive north to nearby Anacortes and hop a ferry to the San Juan Islands (see details and suggestions on click here under Days 2-3 of the Seattle Loop).

Days 3-5: Vancouver
141 MILES/227 KM (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.

Include a day trip to Whistler for epic skiing in the winter and beautiful hiking or mountain biking in the summer.

Day 6: Victoria
70 MILES/113 KM (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.


Explore more of wild Vancouver Island with a two-day side trip to Tofino on the western coast (see details and suggestions for Victoria to Tofino on click here under the Seattle Loop).

Days 7-8: Olympic Peninsula
80 MILES/129 KM (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 (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.

Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry


On Sale
Jan 22, 2019
Page Count
550 pages
Moon Travel

Allison Williams

About the Author

While growing up in Olympia, Washington, Allison Williams spent much of her childhood climbing trees and reading books at the top. Family vacations involved camping in the shadow of Mount Rainier or exploring the very dark, probably haunted tunnels of Port Townsend’s old forts.

Allison received her bachelor’s degree in biology and English from Duke University, with studies at Oxford University and an ethnobiology field school in Costa Rica. She worked as a writer and editor in New York City for eight years, including staff positions at Metro newspaper and Time Out New York. When the lure of the Northwest’s mountains, drizzle, and summer berry harvests became impossible to ignore, she relocated to Seattle. She has since realized two lifelong dreams: summiting Mount Rainier and poking sticks into the campfire without being disciplined.

Allison earned her MFA in creative writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage, where her fiction thesis won the Jason Wenger Award for Literary Excellence. Her journalistic work has been recognized with awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and a nomination from the City and Regional Magazine Association. As senior editor at Seattle Met magazine, she covers travel and the outdoors by hiking every trail and driving every road she can find on a map.

Learn more about this author