Amazing Pacific Northwest Drives and Day Trips

The Pacific Northwest has amazing destinations that bring you closer to nature. Check out what you can find when traveling from Portland, Eugene or Seattle.

With the peaks of the Cascade Mountains to the east and the majestic Pacific Ocean to the west, the Pacific Northwest is abundant with life of all kinds. Travelers will spot wildlife in the towering trees and on the floors of the temperate rainforests. At the peak of harvest season, cultivated vineyards and orchards provide award winning-wines and overflowing fruit baskets. Local arts, food and culture thrive even in the smallest towns in the region. Whether you’re planning a family vacation or a special getaway for mom and dad, a trip to the Pacific Northwest will leave travelers of any age well fed, revitalized by the wonders of nature and inspired to explore all the back roads. 

Willamette Valley Wine Country, Oregon

Drive 70 minutes southwest from Portland to the town of McMinnville, which has a number of excellent restaurants and tasting rooms, thanks to its location in wine country. Grain elevators still tower over the small town, but the crop has changed to pinot or chardonnay grapes. You may also see a pasture full of alpacas or a pen of goats. Delicious local cheeses, some possibly sourced from the goats you drove by, pair well with the region’s wines. If you have time, stay overnight at Abbey Road Farm, where you’ll sleep in a converted grain silo and have breakfast made with ingredients from the on-site 82-acre farm.

Willamette Valley Wine Country, Oregon Willamette Valley Wine Country, Oregon

McKenzie Pass between Eugene and Bend, Oregon

The craggy peaks of the Cascade Range are volcanoes. There may be no better place to experience its past volcanic activity than at the top of McKenzie Pass, where you’re surrounded by chunky black lava rock. Bring the kids to Dee Wright Observatory, an otherworldly castle tower built from that lava rock. A bronze peak finder and strategically placed windows help you identify and enjoy framed views of the surrounding peaks. Finish your journey in Bend, where you’ll discover microbreweries, coffee, and one-of-a-kind shopping at the Workhouse, an art co-op with a variety of handmade crafts.

McKenzie Pass, Oregon McKenzie Pass, Oregon

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

With more than 1,400 square miles, Olympic National Park is full of spectacular views and diversions. Wander under the moss-draped maples, surround yourself with towering Sitka spruce trees or go beachcombing at low tide, walking the spines of bleached tree trunks and building sand castles. Ruby Beach is marked with rugged sea stacks — stone outcroppings worn away by the relentless power of the Pacific. It’s an ideal place to witness nature’s raw beauty. Make your home base in Seabrook, a village that has fully equipped accommodations, from efficient little cabins to large homes that will sleep the entire family.

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Hood River, Oregon

Visit six waterfall stops along the Historic Columbia River Highway, including Multnomah Falls – one of the highest waterfalls in the country at 620 feet. The bridge near the visitor center spans the lower falls and provides an unbeatable photo op. Fans of Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild will want to see the Bridge of the Gods, which spans the mighty Columbia River and is the place where Strayed ended her 1,100-mile journey. Outdoor enthusiasts make Hood River County their home base for skiing at nearby Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort, windsurfing, hiking and biking.

Hood River, Oregon Hood River, Oregon
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About the Author

Pam Mandel is a freelance writer and photographer who divides her time between Seattle, Washington, and her husband’s hometown in the Austrian alps. She plays the ukulele and really likes cake.