Pacific Northwest: Our favorite places and spaces at each state we visited
Randy and I recently just returned from the Pacific Northwest, and I for one, LOVED being able to drive through sandy beaches one day and snow storms the next day. (And everything in between!) Now, we’d like to share with you some of our favorite places and spaces we encountered! Some were seen before, and some we’ve never been to. It was a fantastic road-trip and one that we hope inspire you to visit the PNW!
Jackson Hole, WY
We didn’t plan on visiting Jackson, Wyoming, but we are so glad we did! Our initial route was to go directly north to Billings, Montana and then head towards Kalispell, MT (Northwest Montana) but the road between Cheyenne and Billings was closed due to a winter storm. If you’ve never experienced driving through Wyoming on I-25 during high winds and blowing snow…let’s just say I hope you never have to. It’s scary not being able to see but ten feet in front of you (at best). So we headed directly West, and then planned to head North from there. We landed at Jackson, WY and it was such a cool place. By far, we didn’t spend enough time there, but we’ll definitely be back. The mountains surrounding the area are so gorgeous and the activities (both summer and winter) are plentiful! Adventure your heart out…seriously. The activities include all types of skiing (including heli- skiing!), mountaineering, snowshoeing, ice skating and dog sledding just to name a few. In the summer, there is equally just as much to do like biking, fishing, hang gliding (YES!) and Tipi Camping. On top of all the activities, the restaurants, shopping and lodges are also really unique. It’s one of my favorite stops on the trip and we’re definitely coming back!
Glacier National Park, Kalispell, MT
Although not a first for us, it’s an all-time favorite! What’s not to love about Glacier National Park? While the summer and winter experiences you may have will differ depending on road conditions, the beautiful surroundings are worth a visit during each season! In the summer, you can drive/shuttle up 50 miles to the Going-to-the-Sun Road which winds through the majestic mountains and gives you some of the best views of Northwest Montana. You likely will see some wildlife such as mountain goats or deer! Plus, it’s a hiker’s paradise with hundreds of trips available. In the winter its equally as majestic with loads of trails to snowshoe or cross-country ski around Lake McDonald. It’s one of my favorite National Parks. Be sure to check out NPS.gov for current conditions in the park, and also for FREE access days all throughout the year. I personally purchase an Annual Pass that’s good for access to over 2,000 recreation areas to use even in my own backyard! Worth the cost and goes towards the upkeep of these beautiful locations.
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, Elk City, ID
During our travels, I had been reading in the car (as I often do) to find a unique adventure in Idaho. I stumbled upon hot springs in Idaho, and one happened to be near our preferred route! I researched a bit more on how to get to the springs and we headed towards Highway 12, which is approximately 25 miles west of Lolo Pass. We traveled to mile marker 152, to Warm Springs Pack Bridge, and then hiked about a mile over the bridge and through the woods to our destination. In the summer, the area is supposed to be quite popular (which I can totally tell it is.) In the winter it was suggested to bring snowshoes, however, since it’s a pretty popular area, the trail was totally visible and they were not needed. In total, there are three locations for you to rest and relax in the springs. We ended up stopping at the first location that were literally next to the frigid river! It made for a super cool location and the pictures were outstanding! One of the most unique thing about the springs are they do not smell like Sulphur (as many come to think they would.) It is a clothing-optional area, but we didn’t end up seeing anyone partaking. It was a stop that we both enjoyed and the area is beautiful! There were tons of other opportunities to backcountry ski, cross-country ski and snowshoe!
Crystal Mountain, Enumclaw, WA
I LOVE Washington state. I truly do! And Seattle and the surrounding areas are gorgeous. Something about being near the coast, but still with huge mountains and outdoor activities is appealing to me. That being said, I’ve been here many times and we’ve seen the must-see places like Pikes Place Market (stop and get salmon candy!) Mt. Rainier, Mt. Saint Helen’s and Seattle-go-to, which is why we branched out a bit to discover some new awesome places! In talking with some local’s, we decided to take out our snowshoe’s and head to Crystal Mountain for a day of trekking and riding gondolas. The ride up was really scenic with lots of snow and tree’s that surround you. You can tell you’re getting close to the ski resort with loads of people sledding, hiking up towards the mountain and shuttles. We parked, hopped onto the open-air shuttle and then road up the gondola. It was a quick ride up and we happened to meet one of the founders of the park riding up! He gave us great tips on snowshoeing locations for the day, which we definitely used. We headed to the right of the gondola park, and then down a cat-walk (which is a slight slope for skiers to cross) and then across ridges to meet a meadow that opened up to a gorgeous view of Mt. Rainier. Honestly, it was one of the best locations to snap pics of the 14k mountain top, and also its surrounding peaks like Mt. Adams and Mt. Saint Helens. Not only that, but after a long day of trekking, you can replenish apres-ski style at the mountain top lodge!
Mt. Bachelor, Bend, Oregon
One of our most unique adventures this trip, and one I’ve been wanting to do for forever, was dog sledding! And it was so exhilarating that I can’t wait to do it again this winter! We decided to get a guided tour at Mt. Bachelor for an Oregon excursion out in the snow-covered pine trees with a team of Iditarod sled dogs. No but really. The owner of Oregon Trail of Dreams (the guiding company) is a three-time competitor in the Iditarod, which is a 1,200 mile race across the Alaskan wilderness. CRAZY! Our guide was awesome, and talked about the history of dog sledding, the types and roles the dogs take and many other cool facts about sledding. After the ride, we were able to help feed the dogs, take more photos and enjoy our surroundings. An awesome stop and one I highly suggest. Not only is Mt. Bachelor home to dog sledding, but also incredible skiing and snowboarding, as well as tubing! (Just to name a few). In the summer, there is hiking, mountain biking and even caving lava tube tunneling! A short distance away is the town of Bend, which opens up even more fun with dining, festivals and brews! It’s a place I’d definitely go back to and spend more time at.
Redwood National Park, Crescent City, CA
Randy and I have been wanting to visit the west coast of California for some time now, and drive through the beach towns and forest’s. What better time than the present to do so? We headed into Crescent City, and I insisted on stopping in to the Visitor Center to talk with someone to give us the must-see locations! There is only so much research you can do yourself! I’m so glad we did, because we met Rick, and he literally talked with us for 30 minutes about locations in Redwood (and ones outside of the park as well including a cheese factory!) We ended up picking out a few places and headed down the coast, which has many opportunities for awesome photos with beach and trees surrounding you! Eventually we got off onto the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway which was a must-see for tall trees and wonderful hikes in the forest. This is where you can find the Corkscrew Tree, Big Tree Wayside and Gold Bluffs Beach. I literally could have spent days there, but we drove on to our hike for the day, which is only available by permit. You must check into a Visitor Center first, and request the Tall Trees access pass, which will give you a super, secret lock code to make the 6+ mile drive down to the trailhead. From there, you hike down 2.1 miles to tree’s as tall as a 35 story building. The one-mile loop around the grove is spectacular, and well worth every step up the steep hike back to your car.
The Biggest Little City in the World is a stop we enjoyed, not only for this trip, but also previous trips before. It’s a desert-mecca that’s famous for its casino’s and gaming industry, but if you look, you can always uncover adventure. For this trip, we made a pit-stop for some fresh and healthy food while travelling in a car, and made our way to Great Full Gardens Cafe, BUT I can’t help but mention the rock climbing opportunity right in the midst of all the casino’s downtown. If you haven’t seen Basecamp at Whitney Peak Hotel, it’s a must-stop on our list. It’s home to the world’s tallest climbing wall (on the side of the hotel!) and a 7,000 square foot bouldering park. They also have a slackline for those who want to test their balance and yoga classes! It makes for a great way to stretch out those legs and burn some energy.
Although on our list of stops, the crummy weather put a hold on this adventure, however, I’m still including this as a must-see. Moab, home of two National Parks and endless adventures is one of our favorites to visit each year. Not only can you mountain bike till your heart’s desire, you can hike, raft, four-wheel drive and even sky-dive among the stunning red rock formations. It also makes for a great base-camp to do multiple activities with tons of camping. It’s a MUST for outdoor enthusiasts!
Our trip concluded with over 4,560 miles clocked on the Subaru Forester, 12 road-side egg McMuffins, 6+ National Parks and Forests visited, 4 hand-pressed green juice and 2 Voodoo donuts with endless memories, many adventures and new friends. We were exhausted, but the better for it. And in the end, had all these wonderful places to think about and speak about. Which I continue to fall back on, and encourage others to do travel as often as possible, because “People don’t take trips. Trips take people.”- John Steinbeck
Other places we stopped at and loved
We had to throw in our go-to spot for after a day of hiking at Glacier National Park. Moose’s pizza is definitely our hang out location with cabin-like digs. From the wooden tables carved out with hundreds of visitors initials and names, or the smell of pepperoni and cheese, this place is one to stop to replenish those calories.
Crater Lake, OR
Again, not originally a park we planned to visit, but one that we are so glad we did! We heard about Crater Lake while still in Washington, and it ended up being on the route towards the Redwood National Forest, so we decided to detour to see it. After leaving Bend Oregon, we drove south to Chiloquin, OR, and then west on Highway 62 to Rim Village where we heard there was a record-breaking snowfall days earlier. YES, it was true! The snow was over the Subaru by a few feet at least, and unfortunately, the day we went it was an overcast day to make the lake invisible. That being said though, if we had more time we would have done the short hike in but had to get going on our way. No worries though, from all the interesting facts about the deepest lake in North America, we’ll be back to view this in person soon.
Vashon Island, WA
The first-runner up would have to be Vashon Island, and it was a first for me! I had never been on a ferry like this before, and it was so cool to drive on, and then float over to a quaint island for the day! Vashon, with a small population of 11,000 or so, still feels pretty spread out and with unique history like the “bike in a tree”. We also stopped along the drive to the Point Robinson Lighthouse, and of course to some of the local eateries to enjoy the local coffee and food! I enjoyed exploring a different part of Washington for the day!