Have you ever considered why Lewis and Clark set off toward the Pacific Northwest? Well, they were charged with finding a way to connect the continental interior of U.S. to the Pacific Ocean, via the Missouri and Columbia rivers. The stories of their two-plus years’ journey got many Americans interested in venturing to the Pacific Northwest and the area today remains a popular travel destination. Why? Because there is so much here from mountains to beaches, glaciers and lakes, big cities, little towns, vineyards, apple orchards, cheese, and possibly an alien or two. Let’s take a deep dive into why you should explore this area on your camping travels.
For our travels, we’ll highlight Oregon and Washington because thanks to the more than 20 campgrounds sprinkled across both states, there is plenty of camping to be done and plenty of Pacific Northwest to be explored.
Explore the coastline, visit the wineries, hike the trails, ride the waters, and discover the ordinary and odd that makes Oregon a must-see Pacific Northwest choice.
How about a road trip up, or down, the 360+ mile coast? U.S. Route 101 is an option and highlights include Seaside’s Promenade, Cannon Beach and its iconic Haystack Rock, and Heceta Head Lighthouse. The charming coastal towns each offer their own personality and there are plenty of hiking and biking trails to add to the coastal adventure.
Then, there’s quirky Portland that consistently ranks as one of the greenest, and most walkable, cities in the U.S. The city’s Forest Park is an amazing, and massive, urban nature area with biking and hiking trails, the Witch’s Castle, and glimpses of the 112 bird and 62 mammal species that make their home here. The Shanghai Tunnels, a series of 150-year-old tunnels underneath the city, provide a history lesson with some haunting tales tossed in for fun. For details and info on tours, visit shanghaitunnels.com. Other Stumptown highlights include The Portland Japanese Garden, and the Oregon Zoo, the oldest zoo west of the Mississippi.
The Willamette Valley accounts for more than half of the state’s wineries and several wine tours are available (willamettewines.com). In addition to the wineries, this beautiful portion of Oregon is great for hiking, biking, fishing, and kayaking. For a break from the wine-tasting, check out the Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park.
The Mt. Hood area is an all-season wonderland for outdoor activities. There’s the historic Timberline Lodge, built by the WPA in the 1930s, the Mt. Hood Skibowl, the Mt. Hood Scenic Loop drive, a load of waterfalls, and plenty of festivals and special events to enjoy here.
Bend is another destination for outdoor lovers with Mt. Bachelor, the Deschutes River Trail and Tumalo Falls all providing outdoor adventure. There’s also the Bend Ale Trail for craft beer enthusiasts and downtown Bend has great restaurants and coffee shops.
Out of the ordinary Oregon could include a visit to McMinnville for its annual UFO Festival (set this year for May 19-20). Cheese-lovers will like the town of Tillamook and the Tillamook Creamery.
Washington has a little bit of everything so that you feel like a vacation here can please everyone in the group. Music lovers may enjoy the Grunge Tour of Seattle while the outdoorsy ones will appreciate the national parks (there are 3). There are mountains and islands, big cities and small towns. There are only-in-Washington experiences like the Space Needle, Mt. St. Helens and Snoqualmie Falls.
From a nature-lover’s standpoint, plan ahead to visit Washington when the tulips are in bloom. The state’s Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is held each April and visitors can see the millions of tulips in bloom across the fields in the Valley, definitely a unique visual experience. Another interesting visual experience are the whales that can be seen off the coast, that include Orcas, grey and humpback whales. Take a tour for the best chance to spot these magnificent creatures. Located outside Seattle, Snoqualmie Falls is another major scenic attraction – cascading 268 feet over granite cliffs, the Falls are twice as high as Niagara Falls.
The State’s number one attraction is undoubtedly Mount Rainier National Park where visitors can find waterfalls, glaciers, ancient forests, hiking trails, meadows of wildflowers and of course, majestic Mt. Rainier (book a stay at Chehalis to be near this national park).
Big city Seattle has the Space Needle, iconic Pike Place Market and the interesting Museum of Pop Culture. As we mentioned, music lover’s may appreciate the Grunge Tour, which takes visitors on a tour of some of the most important places/spaces related to the “Seattle sound” born in the 1990s. Lovely Leavenworth, a Bavarian-styled town, about two hours from Seattle offers small town charm with a European flair. There are wineries, a nutcracker museum, and plenty of fishing, hiking, and biking to be found here. Speaking of small-town charm, if you plan to see the tulips, don’t miss the small town vibes of Anacortes and La Conner, both located in the Skagit Valley. Anacortes offers great views of the Cascade Mountains, plus shops and galleries while La Conner has several interesting museums specific to the area including the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum and the Skagit County Historical Museum.
Washington also has several islands worth a visit. The San Juan Islands are made up of three islands: Orcas Island, San Juan Island, and Lopez Island. Orcas is home to a vibrant art scene, while Lopez, known as the “Friendly Island,” is great for biking, birding, and has a winery. San Juan Island has lavender farms, lighthouses, and an alpaca farm! Fidalgo Island is home to the afore-mentioned Anacortes, but also has Deception Pass State Park with hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities.
- Fun in the sun doesn’t have to stop in the winter months. Check out these winter sun towns and soak up the warm temperatures this winter season.
- Make 2023 the best year for travel and camping yet with this list of, well, list makers!
- Hoping to get out and camp but don’t know where to start? Here’s a schedule we put together to keep you traveling all year long.
- Help feed our feathered friends with these cute and delicious bird feeder treats!
- Explore the Thousand Trails Camping Pass and the Thousand Trails Cabin Pass!
- Find more campgrounds at ThousandTrails.com.