The Pacific Northwest is home to live volcanoes, ancient forests, migrating whales, lush vineyards, and vibrant modern cities. It is the world of pristine beaches edged by steep, rugged cliffs and charming historic beach towns and fishing villages. The icon of the region is Mount Rainier, a 14,410-foot-tall active volcano above southern Washington.
Astoria is a charming port city on the shore of the Columbia River, where it enters the Pacific Ocean. It is the oldest city in Oregon and the oldest American city west of the Rocky Mountains. When the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter at Fort Clatsop in 1805–1806, what is today modern Astoria was then just a small log structure. The fort has been recreated and developed as a historical park. The beautiful Astoria-Megler Bridge spanning the Columbia River is an icon of both Astoria and Oregon. The best way to see the city is from the top of the Astoria Column, a massive hilltop monument with colorful murals depicting the history of the area. The Columbia River Maritime Museum, located in a historic waterfront building, tells the story of the city’s past through fascinating exhibits that showcase shipping, fishing, and military history. The Flavel House Museum, located in an opulent Queen Anne-style mansion, showcases original period furniture and lovely manicured gardens.
Located in the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains in central Washington State, Leavenworth is a charming Bavarian-styled village surrounded by huge wilderness with mountain meadows, alpine lakes, wild rivers, and rich wildlife. The Alpine-style buildings along Front Street house quaint restaurants serving German beer and food. The Nutcracker Museum has a collection of thousands of nutcrackers, some centuries old. Located on the Wenatchee River running through the town, Waterfront Park is a wetland habitat for ospreys and eagles. The village is a popular starting point for trips to nearby wineries and ski areas.
Bend is a small Oregon city on the Deschutes River, at the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, famous for wonderful skiing in the winter and hiking trails in the summer. Pilot Butte is an extinct volcano in the heart of the city with a network of trails that local use for recreation. South of the city is the High Desert Museum, which showcases the local environment with fascinating live wildlife exhibits. The Lava River Cave, a part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, has 55 steep stairs that lead to a mile-long lava tube with arched ceiling that takes more than an hour to explore. The Deschutes Historical Museum, located in the historic Reid School, is the place to learn about the local history.
4. Hood River
The city of Hood River, Oregon, is a port on the Columbia River, located in the heart of the scenic Columbia River Gorge, at the confluence of the Hood River and the Columbia River. Mount Hood, the tallest peak in the state, is only about 30 miles away. To the south of the city is Hood River Valley, a fertile spot famous for its apples, pears, and cherries. Hood River’s History Museum of Hood River County tells the story of the area’s past. The city is also home to the International Museum of Carousel Art as well as the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum. Downtown Hood River has more than two dozen historic buildings and sites registered on the National Register of Historic Places, including the 1920 Columbia Gorge Hotel. Hood River offers excellent windsurfing, kitesurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking.
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5. Sun Valley
Once a famed gold mining town, Sun Valley is today a popular resort town in Idaho’s Rocky Mountains, surrounded by the slopes of Bald Mountain and nearby Dollar Mountain. Sun Valley is famous for its miles of mountain trails, biking and equestrian routes, and meadows covered with masses of wildflowers. There are trails that start from nearby areas, such as Fox Creek and Trail Creek, taking hikers up Proctor Mountain for spectacular views of the valley. In the winter, skiers and snowboarders enjoy over 2,000 skiable acres and almost 40 kilometers of cross-country tracks. The town combines a charming Old West rustic vibe with contemporary amenities and rich cultural offerings. There are 12 art galleries, a free summer symphony concert series, and summer ballet performances. The resort’s Opera House can seat more than 300 people and often projects first-run movies.
6. Seattle, Pacific Northwest
Seattle is Washington State’s largest city. Located on Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, it is surrounded by water, snow-covered mountains, and vast evergreen forests. It is home to thousands of acres of parkland and a large tech industry including the headquarters of Microsoft and Amazon. The stunning 605-foot-tall Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, is Seattle’s most iconic landmark. Pike Place Market is a public market on the Elliott Bay waterfront. Chihuly Garden and Glass is an art museum and sculpture garden showcasing large, colorful glass sculptures created by Dale Chihuly. The Museum of Pop Culture was inspired by Jimi Hendrix. Seattle Center is an arts, entertainment, educational, and tourism center.
For thousands of years the home of the Shasta people, who lived in the valley along Ashland Creek, today’s Ashland is famous for its annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Southwest of downtown, Ashland Creek is surrounded by verdant Lithia Park with trails, duck ponds, and a magnificent rose garden. North Mountain Park at the northeast part of the city has a nature center with the butterfly and herb gardens. The ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum is a kids’ favorite, with the Da Vinci’s Garage space where they can build and experiment. Ashland also has a world-class theater and some of the oldest wineries in the state in the Rogue and Applegate valleys.
8. Coos Bay
Located on Oregon’s magnificent Adventure Coast, Coos Bay is surrounded by the massive dunes and sandy beaches of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and Shore Acres State Park, a botanical garden perched on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean. The area is famous for a range of outdoor activities such as fishing, clamming, wildlife and bird watching, whale watching, biking, and riding the dunes. Coos Bay has a nicely renovated downtown with antique and gift shops, a theater, an art museum, and plenty of restaurants and cafes. Coos Bay was historically known as Marshfield, with a rich history in shipbuilding and lumber production. The best place to learn about the city’s past is the Coos History Museum, which is located in a lovely Art Deco former post office building, featuring works by local and regional artists. Sunset Bay State Park has a lovely beach surrounded by sea cliffs.
Coos Bay, Oregon
9. Places to Visit in the Pacific Northwest: Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is a small coastal Oregon town famous for 9 miles of wide sandy beaches and the famous 235 foot-high Haystack Rock, the third largest coastal monolith in the world. The area around the rock is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge as well as a designated National Wilderness Area. The city’s name comes from a cannon that was washed on the beach when the U.S. Navy schooner Shark was wrecked in 1846. The charming downtown is full of art and craft galleries and is perfect for strolling between the art shops, book stores, restaurants, and bistros. Ecola State Park has dense conifer forest and lovely shady hiking trails. The park is located near Ecola Point, which offers wonderful views of Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock, and the entire coast.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Nestled between the Coastal Mountains, Yaquina Bay, and the Pacific Ocean, Newport has been a favorite tourist playground since the late 1800s. Once a lively fishing village, Newport is a jewel of Oregon’s central coast. Get to know the local marine life at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, located on Yaquina Bay. The iconic Yaquina Bay Bridge has two observation areas from which you can see the whole magnificent coast. The 1871 Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is perched high above the coast in Yaquina Bay State Park and just next to it is a long basalt rock beach. Newport is also home to the Hatfield Marine Science Center, Pacific Maritime Heritage Center, and the popular brewery Rogue Ales. Stroll through Mariner’s Square on Newport’s Bayfront, where you can visit the Waxworks Museum, the Oregon Undersea Gardens, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
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11. Mount Hood National Forest
Only about 20 miles from Portland, Oregon, and the Willamette River valley, Mount Hood National Forest stretches from the magnificent Columbia River Gorge through 60 miles of verdant mountains, lakes, and streams all the way to the Olallie Scenic Area under the slopes of Mount Jefferson. At 11,240 feet, Mount Hood is the highest mountain in the state. This dormant volcano covered by ancient glaciers is the main attraction of the Mount Hood National Forest and can be seen from the streets of Portland. The forest is home to cold alpine lakes, great ski trails, and the historic 1930s Timberline Lodge. Hiking the Timberline Trail, visitors can walk around the peak, pass by magnificent waterfalls, glacial creeks, and flowering meadows.
Mount Hood National Forest Headquarters, 16400 Champion Way, Sandy, OR 97055, Phone: 503-668-1700
12. Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park was established in 1902 to protect Crater Lake and the surrounding unique environment, with 15 species of conifers such as ponderosa pines and white bark pines, and the wildlife they shelter such as black bears, elk, mountain lions, and spotted owls. Fed by rain and snow, Crater Lake is the deepest and purest lake in the country. Its magnificent location atop the Cascade Range and incredibly blue color have been attracting artists, photographers, and sightseers forever. The lake was formed by the collapse of the Mount Mazama volcano. A cinder cone island called Wizard Island is located near the lake’s western edge. Rim Drive is a scenic road that runs around the lake, offering wonderful views of the park.
Crater Lake National Park, PO Box 7, Crater Lake, OR 97604, Phone: 541-594-3000
13. Places to Visit in the Pacific Northwest: Bellingham
Bellingham is the major city on the shores of Bellingham Bay where the Washington coastline meets the Canadian border. The city is the heart of a picturesque area with a range of cultural, educational, recreational, and economic activities. Most of the ferries to Alaska depart from the port of Bellingham. Mount Baker, a large snow-capped volcano, provides a picturesque background to the city and offers excellent ski runs. The SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention, located in downtown Bellingham, contains a range of fascinating hands-on science exhibits. The Whatcom Museum occupies three distinct sites that showcase area’s nature, art, and history. One of the museum’s sites is the Lightcatcher building, with its beautiful translucent curving wall. Whatcom Falls Park is a lushly forested 241-acre park known for four sets of waterfalls, miles of great walking trails, and Whatcom Creek, which runs from Lake Whatcom to Bellingham Bay.
14. Olympia, Pacific Northwest
Located at the southern end of Puget Sound, Olympia is the capital of Washington state, a mid-sized city with a unique feel of a small Pacific Northwest small town. The sprawling Washington State Capitol Campus features Capitol Lake, the stately Legislative Building, and the magnificent 1909 Governor’s Mansion. Percival Landing Park on the waterfront has a popular boardwalk and public art. Just outside Olympia is the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, with an estuary that provides home to over 200 bird species. For outdoor enthusiasts, Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, and the Washington coast are just a short drive away.
15. Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is a spectacular protected area on Olympic Peninsula in Washington's Pacific Northwest. The park includes several unique ecosystems, from the dramatic snow-covered peaks of the Olympic Mountains to vast old-growth forests. The summit of glacier-covered Mount Olympus is a popular destination for climbers. Numerous hiking and backpacking trails run through the park's ancient rainforests and all along the Pacific coastline. The park has been designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve. The park is used as a living laboratory for a large number of scientists and students as well as a popular natural playground for millions of visitors.
600 E. Park Avenue, Port Angeles, WA 98362, Phone: 360-565-3130
16. Portland, Pacific Northwest
Portland is a major port in the Willamette Valley, located on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, at the foothills of snow-covered Mount Hood. The largest city in Oregon, Portland is known for its 10,000 acres of parks, scenic bridges, hiking and biking paths, microbreweries, and coffeehouses. It is considered one of the country’s most eco-friendly cities. Beautiful Washington Park includes some of Portland’s most iconic attractions, such as the formal Japanese Garden and Oregon Zoo. The city has a rich music, art, and theater scenes. Pioneer Courthouse Square is a popular local gathering place that includes an 1875 courthouse and hosts many public events. Portland Saturday Market offers craft and art vendors, diverse food carts, and live entertainment. Portland Art Museum features collections of Asian, American, and Native American art.
17. Coeur d’Alene
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Coeur d’Alene is a small northwest Idaho city on the banks of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The lake is great for all sorts of watersports and the nearby Canfield Mountain Natural Area and Coeur d’Alene National Forest offer great hiking and biking trails. Downtown McEuen Park has a nice grassy lawn for picnics and a network of trails that lead up nearby Tubbs Hill. The City Park & Beach at the lakeside has shady picnic areas and a kids’ playground. The Museum of North Idaho in downtown Coeur d’Alene tells the story about the regional history and the city's timber industry. Coeur d’Alene is one of the world's major golf destinations and home to the famous floating green. If you want to know what is going on in the city’s art world, check out the Art Spirit Gallery. Wine lovers should not miss tasting local wines at the Coeur D'Alene Cellars winery.
Located in the heart of the Washington’s Sequim-Dungeness Valley on the breathtakingly beautiful Olympic Peninsula, Sequim is a small town surrounded by pristine forests and the longest natural sand spit in the country. Although one of the driest areas in western Washington, Sequim is a popular destination for folks looking for outdoor fun. Hiking through ancient pristine forests, golfing at the unique golf courses, biking on the Olympic Discovery Trail, fishing in the sea or rivers, and visiting huge berry and lavender farms are just some of the things you can do in Sequim. The charming downtown is full of quaint shops, galleries, restaurants, and cafes. Try to catch a performance at Olympic Theatre Arts, stroll through the Sequim Farmer's Market, and enjoy one of many festivals such as the Sequim Irrigation Festival or Sequim Lavender Weekend.
Driggs is a city in Teton County in Idaho, in the heart of Teton Valley. Driggs is a popular tourist destination with a rugged Old West feel with an old-time drug store, soda fountain, and blacksmith shop, but also all signs of a modern town with a health food store, art galleries and studios, pubs, cafes, and outdoor gear shops. Surrounded by magnificent nature, the city attracts many artists and free spirits that have made Driggs their home. Driggs has a vast range of recreation opportunities, from an indoor climbing gym to a first-class golf course, excellent fly fishing in Teton River, hiking, biking, and glider flying. In the winter, a popular snow sculpture competition attracts artists from all over the country. During the summer, visitors enjoy the farmers’ market at the City Plaza, the Teton Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival, the Plein Air Arts Festival, and Shakespeare in the Park.
20. Walla Walla
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Located in one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the country, Walla Walla is a small town in Washington State with an incredibly charming downtown. In fact, its Main Street has been voted as one of the most beautiful in the country. Start exploring Walla Walla by strolling down shady tree-lined streets with a funky mix of boutiques, vintage shops, cafes, tasting rooms, bookstores, restaurants, and galleries. Enjoy many large pieces of public art, visit the seasonal farmers market and outdoor concerts, and take a tour of the surrounding farms to see huge fields full of wheat, asparagus, strawberries, and the renowned Walla Walla sweet onions. Make a separate trip to the Walla Walla wine country to see what Walla Walla is most celebrated for – more than 120 wineries.
Walla Walla, Washington
21. Gig Harbor, Pacific Northwest
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Called "the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula, Gig Harbor was once a small fishing village and today is a modern and sophisticated town on the Kitsap Peninsula. The town has strong Scandinavian and Croatian roots that even today largely influence its nautical lifestyle and fishing village vibe. Gig Harbor is a popular tourist destination and offers a wide range of shops, art galleries, boutiques, and lively waterfront restaurants. There are popular monthly art walks and live theater, numerous community events, and great farmers markets. The Harbor History Museum is a great place to learn about the area’s history, with fascinating exhibitions on the local heritage and maritime history. Tacoma Narrows Bridge consists of two suspension bridges over Puget Sound.
Gig Harbor, Washington
22. Friday Harbor
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Located on San Juan Island, one of 172 islands in the scenic archipelago in Washington State, Friday Harbor is a historic, incredibly charming, and walkable seaport with small, friendly shops and family-owned restaurants. Everything on the island is within walking distance. Take a stroll and you will see something new around every bend in the road: An alpaca ranch, a green valley with grazing cows or sheep, a fragrant lavender farm, lush vineyards with a tasting room in an old former schoolhouse, a dense old forest that gives way to the shimmering sea, a passing pod of orca whales, and two historic iconic lighthouses. In town, you can visit the Whale Museum, the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, the San Juan Historical Museum, and the San Juan Community Theatre.
Friday Harbor, Washington
23. Copalis Beach
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Copalis Beach is a small coastal community in Washington State located between the Copalis River and the ocean. The town has been known for centuries for razor clam digging, since it is located at the end of the world’s largest razor clam bed. If you do not want to go digging for clams, Copalis Beach is also great for fishing, beachcombing, and hiking. Iron Springs Resort offers charming oceanside cabins, a perfect starting point for heading out along one of many hiking trails or hitting the beach. A 364-acre Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park is located at the mouth of the Copalis River on the Pacific Ocean and has a lovely beach edged by low dunes and 8,316 feet of ocean shoreline. The historic Dorothy Anderson Cabin is a great place to visualize the life the islanders lived in the not so distant past.
Copalis Beach, Washington
24. La Push, Pacific Northwest
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Located at the mouth of the Quillayute River on the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula, La Push is a small village in Washington State surrounded by Olympic National Park. The village is home to the Quileute Tribe, which has lived and hunted in the area for thousands of years. The Quileute have built a simple tourism industry for those who seek a peaceful wild getaway. The tribe owns and operates Oceanside Resort overlooking First Beach. La Push is a great spot for whale watching, surfing, fishing, and hiking. There are forested trails that lead to Second and Third beaches, which are a heaven for birdwatchers as many birds gather on the interesting offshore rock formations. The tide pools at Rialto Beach surround a fascinating natural rock arch called Hole-in-the-Wall.
La Push, Washington
25. Mount Rainier National Park
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Established in 1899, Mount Rainier National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the US. Located in Washington State, the park was established to preserve 236,381 acres, including entire Mount Rainier, a 14,411-foot live volcano. The mountain rises dramatically from the surrounding land, with the highest point in the Cascade Range. The highest point in the park that can be reached by car is 5,400-foot-high Paradise. Mount Rainier National Park is a rich world of valleys, subalpine meadows, waterfalls, 91,000 acres of old-growth forest, and 25 glaciers sliding down the flanks of the volcano. Mount Rainier is an icon in the Washington State landscape and is a popular recreation destination. It is encircled by the spectacular Wonderland Trail and is a popular peak for mountaineering.
Mount Rainier, Washington
The 25 Best Places to Visit in the Pacific Northwest near me today according to local experts: