We've spent the past summer partnering with Holiday Inn to find the most epic road trip. To decide on the final route, we had travelers show us their favorite places to visit.
The only places in America outside of the Pacific Northwest that experience more rainfall are Alaska and Hawaii. And all of that rain has made the forests of Oregon and Washington into surreal, verdant wonderlands. In addition, the Pacific Northwest experiences an incredible variety of climates, including coastal, high mountain, alpine, semi-arid, and rainforest. So, starting in Forks, Washington, which is home to the continental U.S.'s highest annual rainfall, the most epic road trip through the Pacific Northwest will take you to some of the most beautiful natural wonders, bustling cities, and amazing historic sites.
The Pacific Northwest is known for its mountains and coast, but it's also home to rainforests! Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park is one of the best hikes in the park. The temperate rainforest features dense stands of trees all covered in verdant moss and lined with lush ferns. It's a surreal spot for some awesome exploring!
Olympic National Park is a must-see for anyone exploring the Pacific Northwest. The forests and mountains are typical of the landscapes across the region, and the beaches, with their tide pools and sea stacks, are unlike the beaches anywhere else in the country. Drive Hurricane Ridge, hike along Ruby Beach, explore Sol Duc Falls, hunt for glaciers, and feel the magic of this special park!
Seattle's iconic Space Needle was built for the 1962 World's Fair, and has been a popular attraction ever since! The view of the mountains, Pacific Ocean, and the Seattle Skyline from the top is worth checking out, and there's also a super fancy revolving restaurant at the top as well. Pro tip: Lines can get long, so get there early, or book tickets online in advance!
The other really famous attraction in Seattle is Pike Place Market. It's definitely a little touristy, but rest assured that locals like to come here to pick up fresh and artisanal food and shop for other goods. Of course, you'll want to watch the workers throwing fish, to and grab a cup of coffee, but also make a point to check out the Market Theater Gum Wall, grab some chowder, and check out the little local shops on the bottom level!
For an iconic Pacific Northwest view, drive out of Seattle to Snoqualmie Falls. The observation deck offers a killer view, but the Salish Lodge and Spa right on the riverbank above the falls is absolutely awesome. If the lodge looks familiar, it's probably because it was the filming location for exterior shots of the Great Northern in "Twin Peaks"!
Mount Rainier National Park is utterly breathtaking, and even after you've visited, you might still have a hard time convincing yourself that it is, in fact, a real place. Snowcapped mountain peaks, lush alpine forests, and fields covered in bright wildflowers make for an incredible and unforgettable landscape. If you're short on time, head to the Paradise Jackson Visitor Center for a quick hike and some great views, and if you want to spend the night here, look into booking a stay at the Cedar Creek Treehouse.
As you make your way into the Columbia River Gorge, stop at Maryhill Stonehenge. Set on a hill above the river, this is the country's first memorial to those who sacrificed their lives during WWI. The original Stonehenge had a place for sacrificial offerings; this modern take is meant to act as a reminder that mankind still sacrifices itself on the altar of war. It's a nice place to stretch your legs and do some reflecting, especially as you begin to drive along the lovely Columbia River Highway.
The Columbia River Gorge is home to countless waterfalls, but few are more picture perfect than Multnomah Falls. The two-tiered falls, spanned by a footbridge, look like something from a fairytale. Hike to the top of the upper falls and get an incredible view of the whole gorge!
The Portland Japanese Garden is the best spot to go for views of the city. On a hill above Portland, the impeccably landscaped gardens feature trees, flower beds, ponds, and more. It's 5.5 acres of stunning, zen beauty, and many consider it to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. Pro tip: it's right next door to the equally incredibly International Rose Test Garden!
The Oregon Coast is unlike any other stretch of coast in the U.S. It's misty and rugged, with sea stacks, misty cliffs, old-growth forests, and white-capped waves. Cape Perpetua is one of the most enchanting stretches of Oregon coast: Thor's Well, Heceta Head Lighthouse, scenic drives, tide pools, and more are all waiting to be explored!
Between the quirky cities and scenic beauty, it's hard to think of a way to make the Pacific Northwest any more incredible... but a cheese factory pretty much does the trick. The Tillamook Valley is known for its pastures and dairy farms, and the Tillamook Cheese Factory is where the milk from those farms becomes some of the country's most delectable cheddar. A tour of their facility teaches you about cows and dairy farming, lets you take a peek into the cheesemaking process, and gives you the chance to sample some of their wares. They also have an awesome restaurant onsite with delicious grilled-cheese sandwiches and tasty ice cream.
If you're a fan of "The Goonies," you'll recognize Cannon Beach right away as the spot where the beach scenes were filmed, but you don't have to be a fan of the childhood classic to appreciate the beauty of Ecola State Park's Cannon Beach. The giant rock from the movie is one of the world's largest sea stacks... it's known as Haystack Rock, and it's pretty hard to miss. Who knows... maybe you'll find buried treasure here!
From the coast to the mountains to the cities, the Pacific Northwest is an adventure-lover's paradise. It's a special region, where quirky is the norm, and parks hide rainforests and glaciers at the same time. Pack up your coziest flannel and your sturdiest hiking boots and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime!
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