From rugged coastlines and commanding mountains to crystal clear lakes and lush rainforests, the Pacific Northwest is arguably one of the most breathtaking regions in the States. With spring on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to take a PNW road trip. While you really can’t go wrong anywhere in the area, we’ve put together a list of must-do excursions. So lace up those hiking boots and get ready for some prime picture-taking because stunning nature awaits.
1. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Winding westward through the Cascade Range into the Pacific Ocean, the 75-mile long Columbia River Highway is the oldest scenic byway in the States. It’s touted as one of the most beautiful drives in the country — and with good reason. The leaf-peeping is at its prime during the fall, and there are more waterfalls than you can count on two hands. In fact, the Columbia River Gorge along the way has the largest concentration of waterfalls in North America and is deemed the largest designated National Scenic area in the USA. Outdoor, active enthusiasts will appreciate the five-mile Wahkeena Falls Loop Trail, where five stunning falls can be spotted up close. Providing you have a designated driver, stop at one of the copious wineries along the way.
Point your wheels towards the Fruit Loop in Hood River. The 35-mile long scenic drive takes you past several local farms brimming with local produce and u-pick fruit; farm stands with local jams, jellies, wines, and beer; lavender farms; alpaca ranches; wineries; breweries; and more. Grab a free Fruit Loop map anywhere along the Loop, or pick one up at the Hood River County Visitor Center. Taking round trip into consideration, you’ll need at least 3-5 days to enjoy your drive. You’ll find several quaint B&B’s, motels, and campsites in the area when it comes to accommodation.
2. Olympic Peninsula, Washington
One of the best road trips from Seattle is the Olympic Peninsula, which is approximately 375 miles round trip. It’s also a good PNW trek for beginners because Highway 101 forms a 300-mile loop around the peninsula. A large portion of this region is made up of the renowned Olympic National Park. A blend of nature and geology sculpted the park, so expect to see breathtaking beauty in the form of ancient cedar spruce trees, glacial lakes, remote and rugged coastlines, undulating mountain ranges, subalpine meadows, and verdant old-growth rainforests.
Lake Crescent, Hoh Rainforest, and Hurricane Ridge are popular stop-off points. Mount Rainier National Park is also in the area and could easily be an addition to your itinerary. If you don’t plan on sleeping in an RV, there are two lodges and two resorts on the park grounds, as well as several campsites, B&B’s, and motels in the area.
While many travelers tend to visit nearby Port Angeles, the smaller and more quaint town of Port Townsend is a more desirable choice. Bordered by the Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, this charming historic Victorian seaport is filled with stunning Victorian homes and beautiful old brick buildings that house restaurants, shops, hotels, inns, and museums.
3. Salmon River Scenic Byway Road Trip, Idaho
This road trip is approximately 539 miles round trip from Boise, so you’ll need at least a week to complete it. If you love staying active on the road, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for biking, hiking, and water sports (think white water rafting, some of the best in the country) along this Byway. History enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the Land of the Yankee Fork Historic Area, where several ghost towns remain. It’s also another Pacific Northwest road trip where you’ll see some spectacular Fall colors.
You simply can’t make this trip without stopping to take a dip in one of Idaho’s hot springs. Notable springs include Goldbug, Snake Pit, Sunbeam, Kirkham, and Frenchman’s Bend. If you really want to become one with nature, make a pit stop at the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, which consists of 300 high-mountain lakes and an impressive 700 miles of trails to explore by foot or horseback. You can also enjoy boat cruises, swimming, rafting, canoeing, paddleboarding, and fishing on the sparkling Redfish Lake.
Stay in one of the cabins or campsites on the grounds so you can enjoy all of the recreational activities for a couple of days. If you prefer more of a resort town vibe, take the Sun Valley route back to Boise. It’s full of history and charm while providing modern-day conveniences such as restaurants, shops, and accommodations. Nearby Ketchum is also worth a stop for the same reasons.
Once you’ve decided which direction you’re pointing your car, it’s time to start packing for your road trip. Whether you have an RV or a small car, you mustn’t overpack, so your PNW trek is a comfortable one — especially if you bring your fur baby along! Not to worry; Briggs & Riley has got you covered. Our favorite road trip picks include any of our Travel Backpacks, Duffle Bags, and Weekend Bags. What are you waiting for? It’s time to gas up and hit the road!