The Best Pacific Northwest Road Trips
Plus: where to stay, eat, and play outside along the way
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The best thing about road trips? You don’t have to plan every little detail. Pick a few highlights—sights you definitely want to see, towns you’d like to stay in for a few days, and maybe the highway café with the best nachos—and the rest can unfold naturally, wherever the route takes you. In the Pacific Northwest, roadways lead up and down rugged coastlines, toward jagged mountain ranges, across vast stretches of volcano-filled wilderness, and into throwback fishing towns filled with oyster farms and coffee shops. All you have to do is decide what area and type of activities you’re after.
For Mountain Bikers
Oakridge to Mount Hood, Oregon
Mountain bikers love the Pacific Northwest for its dense, year-round trail networks that wind through old-growth forests. Start in central Oregon at the singletrack hub of Oakridge, an hour southeast of Eugene. Stay at the eight-room Westfir Lodge (from $109), where the on-site Mountain Market has beers and sandwiches and a yoga studio. From the lodge, the shuttle service Cogwild will take you to the top of the 15-mile Alpine Trail. Next hit up Bend, two hours east by car, for its 277 miles (and counting) of mountain-bike trails, ranging from rolling cross-country to a lift-served bike park on Mount Bachelor. The Hub Cyclery has all your bike-gear needs plus trail beta. Or stay at LOGE Bend (bunks from $50, private rooms from $110) for its on-site bike-demo fleet. For your third stop, the Columbia River Gorge, three hours north of Bend near Mount Hood, has a wide variety of trails, like the Post Canyon Loop near the town of Hood River. All 41 rooms at the historic Hood River Hotel (from $99) have recently been restored.
Westport, Washington, to Tofino, British Columbia
Surfing in the PNW isn’t for everyone. You’ll need a thick wetsuit and considerable resilience for the coast’s hard-to-access beaches, cold temperatures, and wet conditions in and out of the water. If you’re up for all of that, the Northwest has empty and world-class surf spots waiting for you. There are three surf breaks to choose from in Westport, on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where you can rent a board and a wetsuit from the surf shop Steepwater. Pick up clam chowder and a dozen oysters at Brady’s Oysters, 30 minutes east, in Aberdeen, for your 125-mile drive north on scenic Highway 101, en route to the town of Forks. The Manitou Lodge (from $129) has cabins, tent sites, and rooms just a few miles from the reef break at La Push. From there it’s a stunning eight-hour drive, which includes a one-hour ferry ride from Port Angeles, Washington, to Victoria, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, to reach Tofino, an old fishing village that’s morphed into the Northwest’s premier surf spot. Ocean Village Resort (from $127) has beachfront cedar cabins, where you can have a post-surf bonfire on MacKenzie Beach.
Smith Rock State Park, Oregon, to Squamish, British Columbia
Smith Rock State Park, in central Oregon’s high desert, is a basalt gorge with rock spires that have long been a haven for sport climbers. Pitch a tent alongside others at the Bivy, the walk-in, year-round campground inside the park, or stay in this Airbnb studio (from $72), a 15-minute drive south, in Redmond. In the adjacent town of Terrebonne, Redpoint Climber’s Supply has gear, a massage studio, and beer and kombucha on tap. Don’t miss the pulled-pork nachos at nearby Terrebonne Depot, which is now owned by a couple of climbers. Hit the road northbound for five hours to North Bend, Washington, where you can climb 30 minutes from downtown Seattle at Exit 32 off Interstate 90, in an overhanging zone called Little Si, before picking up sprinkled mochi doughnuts at the newly opened Dochi in Seattle’s International District. Beeline it four hours north and across the border into Squamish, where you can find everything from easy-access bouldering to giant, multi-pitch walls. Stay in a cabin along the Cheakamus River at Sunwolf (from $86) or get a ski- or mountain-bike-themed room at the revamped Crash Hotel (from $79), which opened in October.
Crystal Mountain, Washington, to Revelstoke, British Columbia
Begin your winter road trip at Crystal Mountain, a snow-drenched ski area two hours southeast of Seattle under the shadows of Mount Rainier. End your day with nachos at the steamy Snorting Elk Cellar, below the Alpine Inn at the base of the mountain, and a soak in the pool-size hot tub in front of your condo at Silver Skis Chalet (from $300). Next it’s off to Washington’s low-key Mount Baker Ski Area, 200 miles north. The six-room Blue T Lodge (from $99) or the condos at Snowwater Resort (from $145), in the tiny town of Glacier at the base of the ski area’s access road, are next door to Chair 9 Pizza, the go-to après-ski spot for a slice and a pint. It’s another 350 miles north to reach Revelstoke, B.C., which is opening a new intermediate-friendly lift this winter called the Stellar chair from the top of the gondola. The Stoke Hotel (from $82) in town has a free breakfast spread and dog-friendly rooms.
For Trail Runners
Boise, Idaho, to Leavenworth, Washington
Find excellent trail running five minutes north of downtown Boise when you start at Camel’s Back Park and head 1.5 miles to Hull’s Gulch Reserve. Stay at the Modern Hotel and Bar (from $155), a restored property with newly added apartments and a hip late-night cocktail scene in the city’s Linen District. In the morning, grab a coffee at Push and Pour, owned by former pro skateboarder Lucas Erlebach and housed in an old auto-body shop. It’s a 450-mile haul from there to the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, but you can stop en route for a run in the Wallowa Mountains of eastern Oregon. (The 10.5-mile Hurricane Creek Trail into Eagle Cap Wilderness is a standout for its views.) Once you make it to Leavenworth, you’ll find hundreds of miles of trails; after, have a few steins of beer at Icicle Brewing Company. Sleeping Lady Resort (from $193) has lofted rooms and cabins that fit the whole family.
Rogue River, Oregon, to Forks of Salmon, California
You cannot beat a four-day day float down Oregon’s Wild and Scenic–designated Rogue River to kick off a road trip. Northwest Rafting Company offers guided adventures from $1,095. Stay in a rustic riverside cabin at Galice Resort (from $129) before you put in. Afterward enjoy a dramatic150-mile drive south through the Klamath Mountains to reach the tiny Northern California town of Forks of Salmon, located at the confluence of the north and south forks of the Salmon River. Otter Bar Lodge (from $2,490 for an all-inclusive stay and instruction) runs a whitewater-kayaking school for everyone from rookies to kids to experienced paddlers. The lodge itself sleeps up to 14 and features catered meals and a wood-fired sauna.