The Definitive Guide to Visiting the Pacific Northwest
It’s time to get reacquainted with the PNW—home to massive mountains, lush rainforests, empty islands, and the greatest oysters you’ll ever taste
Throughout the pandemic, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.
Hot Springs Cove, British Columbia
Comprised of a half-dozen pools within 6,600-acre Maquinna Marine Provincial Park, Hot Springs Cove is nature’s way of telling us we’re loved. Most people visit as part of a whale-watching day tour out of nearby Tofino, but we suggest you hire an Ocean Outfitters water taxi ($160 round-trip; oceanoutfitters.bc.ca), wait for the crowds to leave, and spend the night. After disembarking at a small dock, you’ll hike a mile through moody rainforest to the springs, which spill from a ten-foot waterfall and combine with flood tides to reach a perfect 104 degrees. You can’t sleep at the springs, but a small first-come, first-served campground is located near the dock. Want more comfort? Get a stateroom aboard the five-cabin InnChanter, a 1920s heritage ship with a fireplace, which is moored in Clayoquot Sound (from $115; innchanter.com).
Taste the Terrior
Wolves and People, Oregon
In 1996, Outside contributor Christian DeBenedetti scored a prestigious fellowship to study beer, traveling through Europe and Africa as part of his research. He channeled everything he learned into his brewery, Wolves and People, which opened in May 2016 in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. DeBenedetti’s creations take advantage of the surrounding agricultural bounty, incorporating hazelnuts and wild yeast from his family’s farm in addition to locally grown white truffles and golden raspberries. Best of all, the brewery is only about 65 miles from the coast, making it a worthy stop between clam chowder missions. Stay in a refurbished 1957 Airstream at the Vintages Trailer Resort, in Dayton, where cruiser bikes come standard ($95; the-vintages.com). Cap your ride at the brewery and enjoy a crisp saison in the beer garden, which is festooned with patio lights.
Walk on Water
Haida Gwaii Archipelago, British Columbia
Ocean House, an inn owned by the Haida people that’s opening this month off Moresby Island, offers a view of the Haida Gwaii region that few ever see. The floating 12-room seasonal lodge will be barged up the Peel Inlet from Vancouver to the island, where it will be moored among the misty cedars and Sitkas until late summer. Book a three-night stay and head out each day to scope bald eagles in the rainforest, tour native villages, or launch kayaks and paddleboards into the fjords to spy on orcas. Each night, chefs fill your belly with fresh salmon and crisp greens, washed down with complimentary local wine. Afterward a massage will prepare your muscles for the next day. From $3,500 for three nights, all-inclusive; oceanhouse.ca
Follow the Tide
Bandon and Brookings, Oregon
A trip up Highway 101 is on every long-distance cyclist’s dream list. Even better: ride the coast on a fat bike. You can grab one at South Coast Bicycles ($50; southcoastbicycles.com) in Bandon, then pick a starting spot along the Oregon coastline, where four new routes have opened between Lakeside to the north and Brookings to the south, each up to 20 miles long. Our favorite ride might be the 12-mile Banana Belt Loop, which runs from Cape Sebastian State Park to singletrack-ringed Lola Lake, with options to cruise through arches and pedal out to sea stacks during low tide. At day’s end, head back to Gold Beach for a Pistol River pale ale at Arch Rock Brewing. Stay in a beachside cabin at Ireland’s (from $149; irelandsrusticlodges.com).
Claim Your Trail
Mendocino Coast, California
The 1,200-mile California Coastal Trail is about half complete, and some of its most spectacular day hikes run along the gnarled shores of Mendocino County. Plot out your adventures using the web-based app from the Mendocino Land Trust (mendocinolandtrust.org). The group recently unveiled the Pelican Bluffs Trail, which runs for a little over two miles through a forest of Bishop pines, home to endangered mountain beavers. The 2.3-mile Peter Douglas Trail, completed in 2016, now gets you access to the wildly remote Lost Coast Trail, winding for 53 miles through Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and King Range National Conservation Area. Rent a 1930s cottage with a fireplace at the Stanford Inn, an eco-resort on Mendocino Bay (from $308; stanfordinn.com).
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Twenty-eight-square-mile Bainbridge Island sits just across Puget Sound from the nation’s fifth-fastest-growing major city. It has a rep as a bedroom community for Jeff Bezos’s Amazonians, but we’re not buying it: with lonely roads that are perfect for biking, killer new restaurants, and no fewer than seven wineries, this place encapsulates just about everything that makes the Northwest great. Base yourself out of the eight-room Eagle Harbor Inn (from $180; theeagleharborinn.com), a 15-minute walk from the ferry terminal, and load up on Liège waffles at L’Atelier TR, a chocolatier and bistro that opened in September. Take a hike through the firs and madrones of 240-acre Grand Forest, or rent a ride from one of the two nearby bike shops and spend the day spinning country lanes to places like Fort Ward Park, home to a secret World War II naval base. Feeling thirsty? Tour Bainbridge runs winery and history tours every day in summer (from $69; tourbainbridge.com).
Siskiyou County, California
At the far north of the state, along the Oregon border, Siskiyou County has no shortage of adventure. Folks come to backpack for days in the 517,000-acre Trinity Alps Wilderness or to wander along the frothy McCloud River Trail to a series of cascading falls, some as high as 50 feet. You, however, should come to up your grilling game: at Belcampo Meat Camps in Gazelle, students spend three days learning how to butcher lamb shoulders and pork chops, cooking them over an open-flame wood fire, and receiving expert instruction in sauces, stews, and bone broths, all while glamping on a more than 20,000-acre organic farm. Each morning, guests take hikes around the property in the Mount Shasta foothills. Camps start June 15 and include women-only and family-friendly options. From $900; belcampo.com/meatcamp
Want more tips for visiting the Big Green? These locals know the region's crags, trails, breaks, and restaurants best.
Jess Matthews, Climber
Matthews has been guiding for the past four years with RMI Expeditions, the oldest and most prestigious climbing outfitter on Mount Rainier. She’s glad to call the place home come spring each year. “A lot of people in the Northwest put up with the winter just to have the summer,” says the 35-year-old. “Summers here are spectacular.” To date, Matthews has logged 32 summits of the 14,410-foot peak and scaled its flanks more than 70 times. When family and friends visit, she takes them paddleboarding on Alder Lake or hiking around Rainier’s Sunrise Point. But if they’re looking for something more ambitious, Matthews suggests the trek up to Hogsback Camp, at the toe of Mount Baker’s Coleman Glacier. It’s a lung-busting route that gains more than 2,000 feet in a couple of miles.
Sebastian Elrite, Fisherman
Elrite knows a good oyster. The 49-year-old Eureka, California, resident has spent the past two decades tending his Bucksport bivalves in Humboldt Bay. “This is the sweet spot,” he says of the location. Rich nutrients waft in on ocean tides and give his Aqua-Rodeo Farms oysters “a briny burst with a melony finish.” When he’s not leading tours and handing out samples, you can find Elrite enjoying the topside bounty of the surrounding region. For hikes in Redwood National Park, he recommends the 7.6-mile Skunk Cabbage Trail, north of Orick, which wends through coastal rainforest to a secluded beach. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is also worth a visit, he says. On its 9.2-mile James Irvine Trail, you’ll pass the 50-foot-high walls of Fern Canyon, used as a location in The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
Lydia Ricard, Surfer
Perfectly positioned on Vancouver Island’s western shore, Tofino remains one of the best year-round surf spots on the continent. “We’re lucky,” says Ricard, a 25-year-old instructor with Surf Sister, an all-women company that offers lessons. “All of our breaks have sandy bottoms, so you can get lefts and rights.” A six-minute drive from town will take you to two of her favorites, North and South Chesterman, which are well sheltered during storms. Another winner? Long Beach, in the 200-square-mile Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. “It’s awesome being out there with the whales,” says Ricard. Next on her agenda: the annual Queen of the Peak festival, a women-only surf competition in Tofino this September. Register via queenofthepeak.com.
We need your support...
Outside Online aims to deliver readers the world, dispatching our writers and photographers to the ends of the earth to report the one-of-a-kind stories that have inspired and informed generations of readers. We hear from our audience every day about how much they love our long-form journalism. But it’s no longer sustainable for us to give it away for free. Making a financial contribution to Outside is not tax-deductible, but it will help pay for the writers, editors, fact-checkers, designers, and photographers that stories like these demand—and will ensure we can keep publishing them for years to come. Please support Outside Online today.