Pacific Northwest Summers: Top 11 Outdoor Destinations in Oregon & Southwest Washington

June 25, 2015

There’s no better place for outdoor enthusiasts than the Pacific Northwest in summer. You can’t throw a pineconepacific northwest beach without hitting a campground, hiking trail, waterfall or some other stunning natural feature.

With so many activities to choose from, it’s no wonder National Geographic named Portland, Oregon, one of the nation’s top five adventure cities. Here’s a look at 11 outdoor activities residents of Oregon and southwest Washington get to regularly enjoy:

  1. Beachcomb on the Oregon coast.

From the famous shipwreck ruins at Fort Stevens to the rolling dunes of Coos Bay, all 363 miles of Oregon’s surf-pounded coastline are yours to explore. You’ll discover an abundance of forested parks, historic lighthouses, family-friendly festivals and whale-watching opportunities throughout the summer.

  1. Explore Washington’s old-growth forests.

Amble in the shade of 1,000-year-old trees and marvel at the beauty of an alpine wilderness at Mount Rainier National Park. With hot springs, 25 major glaciers, and opportunities for wilderness hiking and backcountry camping, the park draws more than two million outdoor enthusiasts each year.

  1. Drive the Columbia River Gorge.

Take the scenic route along North America’s second-longest river, where waterfalls, breathtaking vistas and historic landmarks greet you around every curve. Visitors can stand in the spray of Multnomah Falls’ 611-foot icy cascade, watch the sun set over a full-scale replica of Stonehenge, and use the picturesque town of Hood River as a launch pad for windsurfing, kayaking or boating.

  1. Climb an active volcano.

More than 30 years after the devastating eruption, the wildlife around Mount St. Helens has slowly begun to bounce back. Investigate the blast zone’s standing dead forest and log-choked lake, or marvel at the pristine beauty of the mountain’s largely untouched south side.

  1. Tour Willamette Valley wineries.

Sip world-class pinot noir while watching the sun drench the rolling hills of Oregon’s finest vineyards. More than 400 wineries dot the Willamette Valley countryside, each more charming than the last.

  1. Hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

Hard-core and casual hikers alike can get a taste of the Pacific Crest Trail. Pick it up where it crosses the White Pass Scenic Byway in southwest Washington for an afternoon jaunt or a days-long excursion through some of the nation’s most dramatic scenery.

  1. Stroll through the Oregon Garden.

Soak in the botanical beauty of the Pacific Northwest at the 80-acre Oregon Garden. Designed to recycle water from the town of Silverton, the site delights visitors with its innovative specialty gardens, including a circular water garden and a therapeutic sensory garden.

  1. Sail to the San Juan Islands.

Like a string of jewels dropped in the Pacific Ocean, this stunning archipelago offers unparalleled opportunities for wildlife watching. Just a ferry ride away from northwest Washington, it’s one of Lonely Planet’s top Northwest destinations.

  1. Soak in a hot springs.

Let your stress drain away at Oregon’s beloved Bagby Hot Springs. Open 24 hours a day, the 136-degree soaking tubs are located at the end of a 1.5-mile hike through old-growth forest.

  1. Get a whitewater adrenaline rush.

Navigate the rapids of the Deschutes River to see why Discovery News named it the best U.S. destination for whitewater rafting.

  1. Relax in a city park.

You don’t have to go far to enjoy the outdoors. Most Northwest cities offer incredible parks right within their city limits. Bush’s Pasture Park in Salem, for example, provides more than 90 acres of bike paths, gardens, tennis courts, playgrounds and more—all right downtown.


What will you do this summer?


Photo by Diana Robinson via CC license.

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