With beautiful coastlines, imposing mountain ranges and lots of green trees, the Pacific Northwest has so many gorgeous road trips that it’s hard to keep track of them. When summertime hits, it’s time to grab your throw blankets, roll the windows down and enjoy the view. Here’s your guide to five unforgettable trips: the Columbia Gorge, the Oregon Coast, Sea to Sky, Northwest Washington, and the Olympic Peninsula Loop.
Columbia Gorge (And Lewis and Clark Memorial Highway)
Columbia Gorge (152 miles, 244 km)/Lewis and Clark Memorial Highway (176 miles, 283 km): These two drives are parallel to each other – one on the Washington side of the border and the other on the Oregon side, but we’ll imagine we’re on the Oregon side. This means at exit 22 you won’t want to miss Crown Point State Park if you’re looking for a hike. Later on the drive you’ll definitely want to see Multnomah Falls, which is the second highest waterfall in the U.S. Other points of interest include the Bridge of the Gods, the Dalles Dam and the Goldendale Observatory.
The Oregon Coast (338 miles, 544 km)
The Oregon Coast has to be one of the most beautiful drives in all of North America, as Highway 101 pushes against the Pacific Ocean, with several worthwhile scenic stops and towns to see along the way.
Start in Astoria, but don’t miss the Astoria Column before you leave town. It was built in 1926, stands 600 feet above sea level, and you can take 164 spiraling steps to the top. The next stop you won’t want to miss is Cannon Beach, home of Ecola State Park and the famous Haystack Rock. Further down the road are the Sea Lion Caves and much more to see. If you drive past the Oregon-California border on Highway 101, you’ll continue to the Redwood Highway.
Sea to Sky, British Columbia (254 miles, 409 km)
Okay, this might be Canada’s southwest, but I’m including it anyways. From the skyscrapers of Vancouver to the majestic beauty of Whistler, you’ll begin and end in polar opposites on the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) in British Columbia.
Chuckanut Drive (19 miles, 31 km): While spending my first two years of college in Bellingham, Washington, this is a drive I would often leave Interstate-5 to enjoy. Going north, use exit 231. From the south, use exit 250. Drivers beware: the road is skinny, with huge drops off cliffs, so be careful. To get to the beach, I recommend Larrabee State Park.
Mount Baker Highway (46 miles, 75 km): Start just west of the aforementioned town of Bellingham and take Route 542. By journey’s end you’ll be at Artist’s Point, a hiker’s paradise in the summer and a skier’s playground in the winter.
Olympic Peninsula Loop (329 miles, 530 km)
Green, green and more green – with a touch of the Olympic Mountains and Pacific Ocean. Take US-101 outside of Olympia past Shelton (my hometown), and eventually you’ll wind your way up to Hood Canal. If you want to go a little off-course, consider Lake Cushman State Park (turn onto WA-119 in Hoodsport). This offers some amazing views and Staircase, a popular hiking destination, is nearby.
About another hour away is the Port Townsend, where you can easily let the time fly in their downtown shops, galleries and restaurants. Continue on and reach Sequim, which features the popular Olympic Game Farm. Next up is Port Angeles, where you’ll want to visit Hurricane Ridge (pictured). Lake Crescent and the town of Forks (of “Twilight” fame) are also in your sights as you continue your loop all the way back to Olympia.
This post was written by Bryden McGrath, a freelance journalist, photographer, blogger, and recent college graduate from Seattle.