We all deserve a summer vacation. Whether you’re shaking off the winter or escaping the heat from down south, few places offer more spectacular scenery than the Pacific Northwest. If you spend your days dreaming of all the delicious cuisine you want to eat on your travels, considering where you might plan a resort stay, or even looking up routes for an off-the-beaten-path road trip, consider these must-see PNW destinations. They might just change your plans.
1. San Juan Island, Washington: The San Juan Islands, a group of islands of which San Juan Island is one, get half the rainfall of nearby Seattle and Portland but offer just as much beauty. Take a ferry to this most populous island in the archipelago or, for a real adventure, fly in a sea plane. From there, wander the shops at Friday Harbor, bring a picnic to Lime Kiln Point, and watch for whales or shuck your own fresh oysters at Westcott Bay Shellfish.
2. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon / Washington: The Columbia River is what divides the majority of Oregon and Washington, and its remarkable vistas make it clear why neither state would want to part with it. Although sections of the gorge burned in 2017, it’s still a stunning location for hiking, water sports, or a scenic road trip. Stop at the impressive Multnomah Falls, the second-highest year-round waterfall in the country; try your hand at paddle boarding or even kite boarding in Hood River; and have an afternoon wine-tasting at one of the more than 30 wineries in the area.
3. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington: You could spend a lifetime wandering the awe-inspiring trails surrounding Mount Rainier and never get enough. While we definitely recommend taking a hike, summertime means you can also drive a circle around the towering volcano or take the most scenic route on the Chinook Byway. Want to stay for the night? Rent the Cedar Creek Treehouse, which has its own observatory, swings, and a suspension bridge — which you’ll need, since you’ll be sleeping 80 feet above the ground!
4. Lassen Volcanic National Park, Northern California: While this might not look like the typical Pacific Northwest, volcanic activity is the bedrock of the stunning landscapes we’ve come to recognize in the region. Lassen lets you beat the crowds you’d find at Yosemite and still get a glimpse of volcanic power. See hydrothermal features such as roaring fumaroles (steam and volcanic-gas vents), mud pots, and boiling pools from the safety of sturdy walkaways, and visit breathtaking lakes and tall forests.
5. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: Crater Lake is hard to adequately capture in pictures, but it’s exactly what it sounds like — a lake that formed in the crater center of a long-ago exploded volcano. The resulting 1,949-foot-deep lake is the deepest in the United States and ninth-deepest in the world. Take the 33-mile drive around the lake, venture out on the water on a boat tour, and sleep for the night at the Crater Lake Lodge so you can sneak out after dark to get one of the best views of the Milky Way in America.
6. Crescent City, Northern California: After being devastated by a tsunami in 1964, Crescent City has rebuilt with a beautiful waterfront town. Visit Battery Point Lighthouse, which is only accessible at low tide, for a gorgeous panoramic view. When you’ve got your fill of the sea, take a trip to Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, which is home to old-growth coast redwood trees.
7. Cannon Beach, Oregon: If you want more from a beach than just a great place to tan, plan a stop at Cannon Beach, a standout among many spectacular towns along the Oregon Coast. Known for large, looming Haystack Rock, the beach is home to tide pools where you may spot starfish or crab, and are certain to see many anemone. Take a horseback ride along the beach, hike up to Ecola Point, and see Hug Point where the remnants of a primitive road still remain — just make sure to go at low tide.
What are your favorite spots to visit in the Pacific Northwest? Let us know on Twitter @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)