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Best Kept Secrets Along the West Coast, USA

Summer is always a popular time to travel. However, when it comes to planning your trip to the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, it’s time to change it up. Fall is the ideal time to visit since crowds have dispersed, colors are breathtaking, outdoor activities are at their best, and the culinary scene is mouth-watering. Discover the perfect activity-packed, fall vacation as you take a journey around the Northwest section of Highway 101 on the West Coast, USA. To fully enjoy your time, be sure to plan ahead, make reservations, and always recreate responsibly.

This article was created in partnership with the Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau, Washington. By Erika Land & Emily Taylor. All photos by Erika Land.

Day #1 on the Olympic Peninsula

Along Hood Canal

West Coast, USA pin for Olympic Peninsula

Get an early start, hop in the car, and drive onto the ferry in downtown Seattle. Once you arrive on Bainbridge Island, head southwest on Highway 3 toward Belfair, which becomes Highway 106, hugging the shores of the Hood Canal and merging with Highway 101. As you drive along the water through tall trees reaching to the sky, your senses will be on joyous overload with evergreen scents and a kaleidoscope of autumn color. Take time to stop and stretch your legs, grab a snack, or hike to a waterfall. The Hama Hama Oyster Saloon is a must-do when you are driving along the canal. Located on the water, you’ll see the oyster beds, taste their sweet, briny deliciousness, and enjoy your favorite drink amid the natural beauty of the area.

Olympic, peninsula

Olympic, peninsula

Olympic, peninsula

Heading North on the Olympic Peninsula

As you drive north toward Port Townsend, stop off in Chimacum. There, you will find Finnriver Farm and Cidery. The 80-acre orchard and farm will fuel your taste buds with delicious hard cider and local food. What complements autumn better than locally brewed cider? Following new safety protocols, Finnriver invites you to relax and join them for a taste of life on the land.

Olympic, peninsula

Port Townsend and Fort Worden State Park

Port Townsend is Washington’s Victorian seaport and arts community. This vibrant town is rich in talent and inspiration. Slow down and wander through the charming downtown. Support some local artists by bringing home a locally crafted memory with you.

Olympic, peninsula

Fort Worden State Park is just a short drive north. There you’ll find campgrounds, vacation rentals, two miles of beautiful shoreline, and the historic Point Wilson Lighthouse. Built as part of the early 20th century coastal defense system known as the “Triangle of Fire,” Fort Worden’s setting high on the bluff offers spectacular views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This part of the West Coast, USA has a unique personality that you’ll want to learn more about.

Olympic, peninsula

Onward for Sequim

Sequim is another charming small town on the Olympic Peninsula that has abundant activities. Railroad Bridge Park is located nearby on the Olympic Discovery Trail where you can explore the Dungeness River Audubon Center. This center honors the Olympic Peninsula’s unique natural and cultural resources, with emphasis on birds, rivers, fish, and people

Day #2 on the Olympic Peninsula

Wake up and smell the lavender! Sequim is the “Lavender Capital of North America” and provides unique, organic beauty. Even though fall is the end of the season for these farms, you can still drop in for a visit, enjoy the peaceful fields, learn how lavender products are made, and shop for them around town. While you’re in Sequim, take a walk along the Dungeness Spit, the longest natural stretch of sand in the USA!

Olympic, peninsula

Port Angeles and Hurricane Ridge: Where the Mountains Meet the Sea

Port Angeles is a working port town known for its maritime history, scattered artistic gems, and Native American heritage. It is also a gateway to Olympic National Park. You will truly understand the meaning of “where the mountains meet the sea” as you drive from sea level up 5,000 feet to Hurricane Ridge. There you can take in the 360-degree views of the breathtaking mountain ranges of Olympic National Park, as well as the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island.

Olympic, peninsula

West on Highway 101, a West Coast, USA Classic Highway!

This part of the highway is full of easily accessible natural beauties that you won’t want to miss. A short detour off the highway will take you to lovely Madison Falls. Lake Crescent is another beauty right off the highway. If you have time, take a kayak out on the lake or hike to Marymere Falls.

Olympic, peninsula

Olympic, Peninsula

Sol Duc Falls

Another detour off Highway 101, and further into Olympic National Park, you will discover a hiking trail to the breathtaking Sol Duc Falls. As you walk through the magnificent enormous trees, you’ll feel dwarfed by their size. A “hidden gem” on the way to or from the falls is Salmon Cascades, so named for the salmon migrating upstream where they spawn, and are best seen from late September into November, especially after a heavy rain.

Olympic, Peninsula

Continue Toward Forks

Forks is a small town with a big heart located on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula, at the edge of the peninsula’s temperate rain forest. Nestled between the Olympic Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Forks is a great basecamp for exploration. If you’re a fan of the Twilight saga, this is where the novels are based and where a replica of Bella’s truck is parked. You can also explore the Forks Timber Museum to learn more about the area’s logging industry.

Olympic, Peninsula

Lodging in Forks

Forks is the perfect place to reset, relax, and get away from it all. There are many choices for places to stay near Forks, some hidden between the trees of the rain forest, such as the serene Quillayute River Resort. Here, your front door opens up to the Quillayute River, with the rain forest surrounding the rest of the property.

Olympic, Peninsula

Day #3 on the Olympic Peninsula

A Day of Beach Hopping

Start exploring the Pacific Coast beaches, where your day may begin with a foggy morning at breathtaking Rialto Beach, just a few miles from Quillayute River Resort. How often do we get to enjoy fresh ocean air mixed with that of a rain forest? It’s a wonderful sensation. Time your beach visit with low tide, and you might be able to walk out to Hole-in-the-Wall, a sea-carved arch, for some tide-pool discoveries.

Olympic, Peninsula

Traveling south on Highway 101, you won’t want to miss Ruby Beach. Located within Olympic National Park, Ruby Beach, so called because of the ruby-like crystals in the sand, is often considered the prettiest beach in Washington. The weathered driftwood, dense rain forest and protruding sea stacks give this beach dramatic beauty—truly a must visit. Just a little further south, stop at Kalaloch Beach to see the renowned Tree of Life.

Olympic, Peninsula

Quinault Rain Forest and Lake Quinault

After a day filled with Pacific beaches, it’s time to trade in salt water for fresh water. Quinault is an ideal spot to enjoy nature at your leisure. You can take a kayak or boat out on the lake, rent a bike, go fishing, or take a hike through the colorful, enchanting forest. These hikes are filled with stunning waterfalls, moss-covered trees, and flowing rivers.

Olympic, Peninsula

Lake Quinault Lodge

Lake Quinault Lodge is a bucket-list destination that you’ll be delighted to experience. This rustic, cozy lodge is surrounded by the trees of the Quinault Rain Forest with views overlooking Lake Quinault. Stress doesn’t exist next to the calm water, fairy-tale forest, and blazing sunset at this lodge.

Olympic, Peninsula

Wrapping up your West Coast, USA Route

The Olympic Peninsula region on the West Coast is beautiful and breathtaking. It is the perfect combination of rain forest, striking mountain ranges, and dramatic beaches. Even better, visiting in the fall is the best way to ensure that the crowds don’t distract from the serenity of this much-loved destination.




Maple Pass Loop: One of the Best North Cascades Hikes

The fact that North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited US national parks is surprising, to say the least. The Cascade Mountains are stunning, and anyone planning a trip to or through Washington should be sure to take time to appreciate this area. A great way to see the beauty of the North Cascades is to take a hike. One of the best North Cascades hikes is Maple Pass Loop. This hike has breathtaking views of snowcapped mountains, lakes, waterfalls, glaciers,  and wildflowers. Plus, it’s a loop, so you get new scenery every step of the way.

Getting There

To access the Maple Pass Loop hike, use the Rainy Pass Trailhead, located just off North Cascades Highway. This is the highway that goes through North Cascades National Park. You should definitely at least drive through the national park, even if you don’t have too much time. One of the places that’s a quick and easy stop on the way through North Cascades National Park is the Diablo Lake Overlook. The lake’s beautiful turquoise water with surrounding mountain peaks make it a wonderful photo op.

From the Diablo Lake Overlook, continue on North Cascades Highway for about 20 more miles and you’ll see signs for Rainy Pass Trailhead. The trailhead is located in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and has a large parking lot with a few vault toilets and picnic tables.

Hiking Maple Pass Loop

Because the trail is a loop, you have a choice which direction to hike it—clockwise or counterclockwise. For those that prefer a more gradual descent to spare some stress on the joints, doing the hike clockwise is recommended. Some claim hiking the trail counterclockwise offers slightly more dramatic views. But really, the views will be stunning no matter which direction you choose to hike Maple Pass loop.

When doing the hike clockwise, one of the first large clearings you come upon offers a view of Rainy Lake and the winding North Cascades Highway. If you’re up for more adventure, you can take the branch of the trail that leads to Rainy Lake.

The views of Rainy Lake with trickling waterfalls continue as you make your way up the trail. This will help distract you from the workout you’ll likely be getting from the elevation gain during the ascent.

After a while, you’ll reach the series of switchbacks that leads to the trail’s summit. Wildflowers dot the hillside and snowcapped peaks appear closer and closer, motivating you to continue the climb to the top.

Upon reaching the summit at just under 7,000 feet elevation, you’re greeted with incredible views of mountain peaks and glacial features. This is the perfect place to stop for a rest, have a snack, and take plenty of photos.

From there, it’s basically all downhill. Well, at least in terms of elevation. The scenery certainly doesn’t go downhill, as you continue to have gorgeous views of alpine lakes and towering mountains. Watch for a beautiful turquoise lake that’s visible through a clearing (pictured below). This is Lewis Lake with Black Peak behind it. The allure of this little lake is something else. If you can’t resist exploring that area, look for the less-established trails going to Lewis Lake, Wing Lake, and Black Peak. You can access those trails in the Heather Pass area. However, these trails are slightly more difficult to navigate so be prepared.

As you continue on the trail, a little while later you’ll get a great view of another lake, Lake Ann. Wildflowers are also abundant in this area, especially in mid-July. If you have time and energy, the branch trail to Lake Ann is a fun detour.

As you continue on the trail, you’ll go through a more treed area. Then eventually you’ll reach the Rainy Pass Trailhead and parking lot. After finishing, you’ll likely feel a deep sense of satisfaction from experiencing one of the best hikes of your life. This hike just about has it all—mountains, lakes, wildflowers, and glaciers. And, it’s a decent workout, but not unreasonably strenuous. Be sure to add Maple Pass Loop to your list of must-do North Cascades hikes!

Tips & More Things to Know

If you’re planning to hike the Maple Pass Loop, here are a few tips and things to know:

  • Due to the elevation, it’s not uncommon to encounter patches of snow on the trail, even in July. You may want to bring hiking poles or some sort of traction system for your footwear, depending on the time of year you’re doing the hike.
  • To spare your joints while descending, do the hike clockwise.
  • Wear sunscreen⁠—always a good reminder especially at higher elevations!
  • Bring bug spray because there are some places along the trail where bugs will find you pretty quickly if you stop moving.
  • Although bear sightings are not common along Maple Pass Loop, carrying bear spray is a good idea since there are bears in the area.
  • Dogs are allowed on this trail, but should be kept on a leash.

Want to do even more exploring in the North Cascades area? Check out our Cascade Loop itinerary! It even has a few more suggestions for North Cascades hikes.




The Perfect Cellar Season Road Trip through the Willamette Valley

Nestled between the Pacific Coast and the Cascade Mountain Range, Oregon’s Willamette Valley offers an incredible variety of year-round activities. Our favorite time to visit is during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall; a time the locals have affectionately come to call “cellar season.”

That’s when the trails are quieter, access to local wineries and restaurants is uncrowded, and you can take advantage of the newest Pacific Northwest craze—truffle hunting! There are countless ways to explore the Willamette Valley, but this three-day road trip is a great place to start.

COVID-19 is still a reality throughout the world and the Willamette Valley. Here are a few things to expect when you visit in 2020/21. Non-essential travel is currently strongly discouraged in Oregon, and it’s still important for individuals to stay local to their county and community. Face coverings are required in all indoor spaces. Some locations may deny access without a face covering; this is no different than “no shirt, no shoes, no service” signs. Expect to maintain physical distancing at all times. This means you will see tables spaced at least six feet apart to ensure appropriate physical distancing—and you should keep your distance between all individuals not in your own party. Find more Willamette Valley travel alerts. Learn about how Willamette Valley is reopening—and keeping you safe in the process—here.

This story was created in partnership with The Willamette Valley Visitors Association.

Wine Tasting in Willamette Valley, Oregon

DAY 1: SIP WINE, HUNT FOR TRUFFLES, AND HIKE IN THE CASCADE FOOTHILLS

Morning

Cellar Season in Willamette Valley road trip pin

Chances are, you’ll begin your road trip in Portland. Head southbound through the Willamette Valley, where there are more than 500 wineries within 150 miles. On the northeastern side of the region in the shadow of Mount Hood, these foothills offer a great introduction. Make a pit stop in the town of Aurora, where the Old Aurora Colony museum pays homage to the pioneering history of the area. If it’s a Saturday, be sure to carry on to TMK Creamery, where the whole family can enjoy a tour of a working dairy farm. What goes better with cheese than wine? The Cascade Foothills Winegrowers Association, a collection of 15 family-owned and operated wineries, is based in this region and any of their members are worth a visit! Be sure to call ahead, as you may need to taste by appointment, rather than dropping in.

Truffle Hunting in Willamette Valley

Afternoon

Stretch your legs with a hike on the 7.6-mile roundtrip Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park, where beautiful waterfalls bring the Pacific Northwest feel of the Willamette Valley to life. If you spent a full day at Silver Falls State Park, you might elect to stay at the Oregon Garden Resort, located on 80 acres of beautifully manicured botanical gardens in the city of Silverton, near the state park.

Alternatively, you can partake in an afternoon of truffle hunting—Oregon’s newest obsession! Follow the trusty noses of special truffle-hunting dogs during a private tour through a forest of Douglas Fir. This small fungus is native to the area and when harvested sustainably makes for a delectable treat!

Your next stop for the day is probably Salem, the capital city of Oregon. Overnight across the river in the country at the brand new Independence Hotel or The Grand Hotel, which is walking distance to many popular areas in Salem.

Cellar Season in Willamette Valley

DAY 2: JOURNEY ONWARDS TO CENTRAL WILLAMETTE VALLEY

Morning

The following morning, road trip 30 minutes south to the central Willamette Valley. Here you’ll find more opportunities for recreation and great food and wine in the cities of Albany and Corvallis. Enjoy a morning stroll at the Talking Water Gardens in Albany. Be sure to also stop by the Monteith House—a perfectly restored pioneer home from 1849 that has been turned into a museum.

You can also watch for bald eagles and waterfowl along the river walkway, right in downtown Albany. If you’re ready for more, consider a longer hike or mountain bike ride in the McDonald-Dunn Research Forest.

Downtown Corvallis in Willamette Valley

Afternoon

Head over to Corvallis and slow down in the Avery Park Rose Gardens. Make time for more wine tasting at local spots like Harris Bridge Winery located at the historic covered Harris Bridge. You might also visit Marcotte, a moon-shinery in the Philomath area serving up spirits with flavors like coconut, apple pie, and jalapeño.

Before dinner, check out the incredible art murals in downtown Corvallis. Overnight at any number of familiar hotels in Corvallis (such as the convenient Courtyard Marriott), or try the quirky 206 ½ Hotel in downtown Albany; a historic spot with plenty of charm. Leaping Lamb Farm offers a truly unique Willamette experience. Lambing season takes place in the winter—another benefit of visiting during cellar season!

The Whit in Eugene, Oregon

DAY 3: TOP IT OFF WITH A FOOD AND WINE ADVENTURE IN EUGENE, TRACKTOWN USA

Morning

Your final destination in Willamette Valley is the college-town of Eugene; affectionately called “TrackTown USA.” It’s here that some of the fastest athletes in the world will convene at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 in July, 2022. Whether you’re in Eugene to run or to sightsee, you can enjoy world-class wine and scrumptious eats along the way!

It’s time for your road trip finale: a journey from Eugene to South Willamette Valley wine country. First, stop for a cinnamon roll or other tasty treat at Camas Country Mill Bakery & Store to fuel up for your day.

Wine Tasting South of Eugene, Oregon

Afternoon

That afternoon, you’ll have the chance to visit six vineyards within a 10-mile radius. Not into grapes? Check out Eugene’s beer district downtown, called the Whit. For dinner, enjoy a hearty ribeye or oysters at Marché, or the aptly-named Party Bar. After all, Eugene is a college town! We recommend embracing the theme and spending the night at the Graduate, although there are a plethora of lodging options in town.

Want to do more in Oregon? We don’t blame you. Learn more at oregonwinecountry.org and be sure to check out ways to bring the tastes home with you while giving back.




Why Bellingham, Washington is a Must on Your Next West Coast Road Trip

Lush forests, green and white ferry boats, and sockeye salmon are only a few of the iconic images that come to mind when you imagine the Pacific Northwest. An area with so much to offer is the perfect destination for a road trip! One small town not to miss is Bellingham, Washington. Just a 90-minute drive north of Seattle, here you can immerse yourself in the authentic Pacific Northwest where mountains still dominate the horizon, solitude is found on uncrowded trails, and farm-to-table dining isn’t a trend—it’s a way of life. Here are just a few reasons why Bellingham should be the cornerstone of your next West Coast road trip. 

This story was created in partnership with Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism.

Bellingham Washington has Unbeatable Views

Bellingham Washington West Coast Road Trip Pin

BELLINGHAM HAS AN UNBEATABLE LOCATION

Nestled on the coast of northern Washington between North Cascades National Park and the rugged coastline of the Salish Sea, the city of Bellingham enjoys a privileged location in the Pacific Northwest. Here you’ll find easy access to trails, a charming downtown, and miles of waterfront where idyllic sailboats fill the marinas. Mount Baker, a 10,781-foot peak that holds the world-record for the highest snowfall recorded in a single year (95 feet in 1999), stands guard on the skyline and provides a year-round playground. If it does happen to rain, you’ll find a number of entertainment options like the Whatcom Museum where exhibits from the Smithsonian are often on display. It’s no wonder Bellingham is a favorite destination for professional athletes, university students, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world!

Endless Activities in Bellingham

WASHINGTON STATE’S ADVENTURE CAPITAL

No matter what time of year you plan your West Coast road trip, Bellingham offers outdoor adventure for the whole family. In the summer, enjoy unparalleled access to the North Cascades, where hiking trails and over 50 miles of the best mountain bike singletrack in the state awaits. For those who enjoy cycling on the road, miles of quiet blacktop are available to explore. You’ll also want to spend some time on the Salish Sea! Tackle the coastline by kayak, sailboat, or stand-up paddleboard. Whale-watching tours are incredible here and leave daily, rain or shine, May-September.

In the winter, enjoy alpine skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing at Mount Baker. You’ll find a mixture of all of the above activities if your itinerary is in the spring or fall, depending on the weather. Outdoor adventure defines Bellingham and will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable parts of your visit!

Bellingham, Washington Beer and Foodie Scene

THRIVING FARM-TO-TABLE FOOD AND BEER SCENE

Not only does Bellingham offer fresh seafood like salmon, crab, and shellfish, but it is developing a reputation as a foodie scene to reckon with! The downtown area serves as a great incubator for young chefs and restaurant owners to get started at a lower cost than in nearby big cities, with fresh ingredients sourced right out the back door. In fact, the Bellingham farmers market is one of the best in the state! In addition, nearby Lummi Island boasts The Willows Inn, named the best restaurant in America for the third year in a row. Thirsty travelers will also enjoy taking a break from their West Coast road trip in one of Bellingham’s 16 craft breweries. Don’t miss Chuckanut Brewery, a local favorite and the winner of the 2019 Washington State Large Brewery of the Year! 

North Cascades National Park Outside of Bellingham

WEST COAST ROAD TRIP OR NOT, BELLINGHAM IS EASY TO ACCESS

Whether you are traveling by plane, train, or automobile, it’s easier than ever before to access Bellingham. With an international airport serving both Alaska and Allegiant airlines with daily flights from Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and beyond, you can combine a trip to the Pacific Northwest with your other West Coast destinations with ease. Prefer to travel by rail? Amtrak operates daily journeys from Vancouver all the way to Los Angeles. And of course, our favorite way to explore the region is by car. That way you can connect destinations like Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park, Seattle, the San Juan Islands, and even Vancouver at your leisure. 

Hotel Bellwether in Bellingham, Washington is ideal lodging for a West Coast road trip

HISTORIC HOTELS AND OUTDOORSY ACCOMMODATIONS

Bellingham is home to a plethora of accommodations that will make you feel right at home during your West Coast road trip. One example is the famous Hotel Bellwether, located right on the water of Bellingham Bay. The luxury hotel features an iconic lighthouse suite for the ultimate romantic getaway! Another option is the Hotel Leo. Originally built in 1889, the Leo combines historic touches with modern design flare in the heart of Bellingham. We also love the Heliotrope; a perfect spot for outdoor enthusiasts to crash after a long day playing in the elements. You will find all of these destinations and more at your fingertips for the perfect West Coast road trip accommodations in Bellingham. 




The Ultimate West Coast USA Road Trip: Cascade Loop

Known as the best road trip in Washington, the Cascade Loop is a 440-mile route that winds through a large part of the state, including North Cascade National Park. From the sea to the mountains, this west coast USA road trip gives visitors the chance to experience the diverse landscape that Washington has to offer. 

THIS STORY WAS CREATED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH CASCADE LOOP, WASHINGTON. ALL PHOTOS FROM CASCADE LOOP.

Best west coast USA road trip

The quantity of cities, towns, and activities along the Cascade Loop allows road-trippers to personalize their vacation with ease. We recommend travelers fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and rent a car from there. The loop is best traveled in five to seven days and can be driven in either direction. Summer and fall seasons offer the most temperate, sunny weather. 

West Coast USA Road Trip Pin Cascade Loop

Day 1: Everett to Leavenworth (about 2 hours)

Everett is just 40 minutes north of Seattle. If you’re not international, you could even fly into Paine Field Airport in Snohomish County. From there to Leavenworth you’ll drive alongside the Skykomish River and on to Stevens Pass Greenway, with views of jagged mountain peaks in the distance. If you haven’t been to Leavenworth, you’re in for a treat. From the architecture to the food, the entire town is Bavarian-styled. Grab a German beer and pretend you’re in Europe. 

Leavenworth Bavaria on the best west coast USA road trip

Also along the way, hike to an incredible waterfall in Wallace Falls State Park,  go whitewater rafting in Index, or photograph the fall colors in Tumwater Canyon outside of Leavenworth. Be sure to check out Espresso Chalet near Bridal Veil Falls. 

Collage of pictures from best west coast USA road trip

Day 2: Leavenworth to Mazama (about 2.5 hours)

Next you’ll drive down into Wenatchee and Columbia River Valley, up through Lake Chelan Valley, and then to Methow Valley. What does it mean when there are so many valleys in less than 100 miles? Lots of mountains and great views. 

Wenatchee and Columbia River Valley

Wenatchee Valley is historically known as the Apple Capital of the World. Visit the Pybus Public Market, where they boast to have the “world’s best farmers market.” Hike one of the Horse Lake Trails through grasslands of rolling hills. 

Farmers market in Wenatchee Valley

Chelan Valley

Chelan Valley is known for the 55-mile long Lake Chelan that sits in the middle of the valley and is surrounded by beaches, woods and vineyards. Stay at a resort, rent a boat on the water, or taste the local wine at one of the many wineries

Collage of pictures from best west coast USA road trip

Methow Valley

Drive along the Methow River through Methow Valley. Travelers will notice that because of the confluence of two rivers, the valley is a popular spot for fishermen. Go fishing for big ones, hike to Cutthroat Lake in the fall to see the larch changing colors, or be in Winthrop for the hot air balloon festival.

Larch on Cutthroat Lake

Day 3: Mazama to North Cascades National Park (about 1.5 hours)

As if you haven’t had enough stunning views, now you’ll enter North Cascades National Park, where many snow-capped peaks rise above 9,000 feet, waterfalls are ubiquitous, and more than 300 glaciers still remain. Hike up to one of the park’s turquoise-colored lakes, rent a kayak to explore Devil’s Creek on Ross Lake, or go wildlife viewing and searching for wildflowers. Choose to camp in the park or stay in one of the towns of Newhalem, Marblemount or Rockport.

Collage of pictures from best west coast USA road trip

Day 4: North Cascades National Park to Anacortes (about 2 hours)

We recommend spending another morning in the park before heading out towards Skagit Valley and Fidalgo Island. Slowly leave the mountains behind you in exchange for rolling hills of farmland, small communities, and finally, an island in the sea.

In the spring, experience the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival or the La Conner Daffodil Festival. In the fall, visit the annual Festival of Family Farms to experience farm tours, harvest markets, and pumpkin patches. 

Tulip fields in Washington.

Upon arriving in Anacortes, there are many activities to choose, from fishing and crabbing to dining and shopping. We recommend making a whale watching tour your first priority. There’s nothing like seeing a ten-thousand-pound orca breach from the water. 

Orca whale in washington

Day 5: Anacortes to Everett (about 1 hour)

This next section is known as Whidbey Scenic Isle Way, where you’ll want to focus on the food and the history. Oak Harbor is the largest town in this section of the drive, and Coupeville is the second-oldest town in Washington, with more than 100 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit—or even stay overnight in—the historic Captain Whidbey Inn surrounded by old-growth fir trees. 

Captain Whidbey Inn in Coupeville, Washington.

Spend a calm morning sea kayaking off Whidbey Island or try fresh oysters at a restaurant nearby. Finally, spend some time in Everett before finishing up your west coast USA road trip. We particularly recommend a stop at the Boeing Future of Flight Museum.

Sea kayaking off Whidbey Island

The Cascade Loop is best traveled in five to ten days. Whether you’re a rock climber, bird watcher, or photographer, this route is easily one of the best west coast USA road trips out there. Bonus: you get to see one of the least visited national parks in the country. If you like peace and quiet in nature, North Cascades is for you. 




Wine Tours and More in the Pacific Northwest

We love the darling country in Walla Walla, Washington. But, what’s not to love? Downtown is charming and chock full of restaurants, boutiques and tasting rooms. Wine tastings and tours throughout the valley are educational and immersive … and fun! Walla Walla wine country backs its viticulture with diverse and local dining options, often a surprise to visitors to such a small town.

The beauty of Walla Walla’s landscape is as breathtaking as it is inspiring. The great outdoors surrounding town offer all kinds of recreation opportunities, while downtown maintains a historic presence with welcoming, impressive architecture.

Downtown Walla Walla, Washington

This article was created in partnership with Visit Walla Walla, Washington. All images provided by Visit Walla Walla.

Walla Walla Wine Country Pin

Come for the Wine Country

Walla Walla has a rich wine culture that spans the gorgeous rolling hills of southern Washington and northern Oregon. With over 120 wineries, there are varietals for everyone! The wineries are grouped into five regions, each offering a different character. Quite unique in Walla Walla are the wineries near the regional airport, where more than a dozen fill WWII-era mess halls, firehouses, and other buildings. It’s easy to explore the 40 different downtown wineries on foot while staying in town, and just as easy to pair your tastings with the exceptional food and shopping scene. Wineries on the Westside are some of the most established in the region, and those on the Eastside whisk you away to a charming, picturesque countryside.

Wine Country Tastings and Tours in Walla Walla, Washington

How to get around

The best part about exploring vineyards in this valley is that you can do it on foot, on a bicycle, in a vintage limousine, or simply in the comfort of your own vehicle. With so many options for wine tour transportation, you’re bound to find one that fits your group.

Wine Tours Transportation Walla Walla, Washington

Stay for the food

You’ll be impressed with the culinary offerings that abound in Walla Walla. Chefs from larger cities have flocked to the area, crafting dishes that enhance other experiences in Walla Walla wine country. There is a world of fine and casual dining options that will complement your day of wine tours. Start your morning with fresh baked goods and locally roasted coffee. In the afternoon explore the food truck and fast casual dining options. For dinner, fine dining paired with local wines completes the true Walla Walla experience.

Food and Dining in Walla Walla, Washington

Stay for the outdoors

Tucked in the shadow of the Blue Mountains, Walla Walla also offers plenty of fresh air and outdoor activities. Coupling a hike in the hills with a wine tasting in the valley is the perfect combination for a stay in southeastern Washington. For a different experience in the outdoors, tee off at one of Walla Walla’s three golf courses!

Finally, we can’t talk about this area without mentioning the cycling. Meandering, scenic farm roads provide some of the best road cycling in Washington. Meanwhile, the hills of the Blue Mountains offer technical challenges and ear-to-ear grins for mountain bikers.

Golf in Walla Walla, Washington Cycling through Walla Walla, Washington

Stay for the… stay

Downtown Walla Walla is as quaint and charming as it is convenient. If you plan to stay downtown, you’ll have 40 wineries at your fingertips, plus countless restaurants and shops. The historic downtown is incredibly walkable, and perfectly preserved through time. Outside of downtown you’ll find countless lodging options from unique bed and breakfasts to sophisticated vineyard lodges, all surrounded by the endless vistas and diverse wine tasting options of the valley. Additionally, there are RV parks and campgrounds for outdoor lovers and vacation rentals for groups. Regardless of your preferences, staying in this wine country is a coveted and memorable experience.

Lodging and Accommodations in Walla Walla, Washington

Planning a trip in the northwest? Stop in Walla Walla, Washington during a road trip from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains.




National Parks Road Trip Itinerary: Utah to Yellowstone & Grand Teton

National Parks Road Trip Itinerary: Utah to Yellowstone & Grand Teton

In this national parks road trip itinerary we’ll take you from Salt Lake City up to a few of the most iconic national parks, but not without passing through a myriad of smaller, more quaint, less-traveled towns that Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho have to offer. 


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
Tobey

State: 
Utah, Idaho, Wyoming

Start/End: 
Salt Lake City, Utah

Total miles:
940 (1,500 km)

Suggested days: 
At least 8 – 14

Suggested season:
summer, fall, late spring

Overview

What’s great about this national parks road trip is that it’s accessible and adjustable for all kinds of groups including first-timers to the US, families with children and grandparents, honeymooners, photographers, campers, van-lifers, and more. Our route has you flying in and out of Salt Lake International Airport. Rather than hitting the road right away, we recommend spending your first few days exploring Salt Lake City. Most people will be flying in from a lower elevation than SLC, and driving into Wyoming will take you even higher, so acclimating your body first will prevent sickness, which no one wants on road trips!

Preparation

This route is intended for a summer, fall or late spring season road trip. While most of the destinations on our itinerary are very popular winter ski destinations (Park City, Utah literally hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics), the roads between these places are not always open and can be dangerous with snow cover. It’d be best if you have about 10 to 12 days for this trip, but it could probably be done in eight days if you didn’t mind driving a bit every day.

#1 Salt lake City, Utah

Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.

If you don’t know a lot about Salt Lake City, you might at least know these two facts: it’s known for being the city with nine ski resorts within an hour’s drive, and for being the world headquarters of the Mormon religion.

Save the skiing for winter, but don’t miss visiting Temple Square, whether you’re religious or not. It’s a 35-acre area in the heart of downtown with plenty of historical buildings, food, sights to see and activities. Right beside Temple Square, you can visit City Creek Center, Salt Lake’s unique shopping center.

Best family activity:

Visit the Natural History Museum of Utah

Best place to take the kids:

Ogden Adventure Park

Must-do hike to see the wildflowers:

Hike in Albion Basin

Most popular mountain biking trail:

Wasatch Crest Trail

#2 Cache Valley

Logan Canyon road in Cache Valley, Utah.

1.25 hours – 81 miles/130 km

About 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of SLC you’ll head into Cache Valley, which is home to the metropolitan area of Logan, Utah. 

We recommend spending a day and night here, as there’s a lot to see and do

Probably the most epically scenic drive is through Logan Canyon—September and October are perfect months to see the fall leaves changing colors. 

About an hour outside of Logan, and on your way, we recommend stopping to explore Bear Lake—often called the “Caribbean of the Rockies” because of its turquoise water and sandy beaches.

Best activity at Bear Lake:

Jet Skiing or Water Trampolines

Best spot for history:

 American West Heritage Center

What to do in the evening:

Go See a Show

Best hike:

Wind Caves in Logan Canyon

#3 Star Valley

Antler arch in Afton, Wyoming.

2.25 hours – 119 miles/191 km

On your way up through Idaho and into Wyoming, you’ll be passing through some authentically western, undiscovered small towns that are all worthy of a visit. The first is Montepelier, Idaho, which is just 35 minutes from Bear Lake. For a classic American breakfast and your “cup of joe”, we suggest starting your driving day off at Ranch Hand Trail Stop in Montepelier. Biscuits and gravy for $3? Count me in. Next you’ll head into Wyoming and drive through Afton, Thayne and Alpine. We suggest spending a night in Alpine before heading into the busyness of Jackson and the national parks.

Best place to stay in Alpine, WY: 

Flying Saddle Resort

Must-do hike in Afton, WY: 

Intermittent Spring

Best place for sweets in Afton, WY:

Star Valley Chocolates

Most western activity in Thayne, WY:

Visit & Tour Haderlie Farms

#4 Grand Teton National Park

Wranglers in front of the Grand Tetons, Wyoming.

1.75 hours – 84 MILES/135 KM

We said this was a national parks road trip, right? Well, park #1: The famous, jagged mountain peaks of the Grand Tetons are one of the reasons the park attracts so many visitors, putting it on the list for the top ten most visited national parks. We recommend that you first do a scenic drive through the park to take in the views and get acquainted with the area. 

Fishing and hiking are among the best activities here. If you want something more casual, wildlife viewing is a good option as animals are ubiquitous in the park, such as black bears, bison, moose, elk and more—just do not approach them. Ever!

Most scenic drive:

Jenny Lake Scenic Drive

Best place to view wildlife:

Oxbow Bend

Most adventurous activity:

Canoe to Your Campsite at Leigh Lake

Best place to stay: 

The Cabins at Togwotee Mountain Lodge

#5 Yellowstone National Park

Elk walking through meadows in Yellowstone/Teton/Idaho area

2 hours – 73 miles/173 km

Watching Old Faithful Geyser erupt in Yellowstone National Park? Time to check that one off your bucket list! Old Faithful erupts about 17 times a day and it’s one of six geysers that park rangers currently predict, out of nearly 500 geysers in the park. You’ve come all this way, so stay a few days. 

Yellowstone covers a lot of acreage, so it’s best to spend a night or two in the park. Other than sight-seeing, we recommend going horseback riding—you are in cowboy country after all.

Out-of-the-ordinary activity:

Soak in Natural Hot Springs

A must-do in cowboy country:

Go Horseback Riding

Activity for the whole family: 

Drive the Grand Loop

Best fishing hole:

Firehole River

#6 Pinedale, Wyoming

Downtown Pinedale, Wyoming.

3.25 hours – 160 miles/257 km

It’s time to head down to one of those small, undiscovered Wyoming’s towns we told you about. In Sublette County, bordered by three incredible mountain ranges, you’ll find the town of Pinedale, which the locals call “the real Wyoming.” 

With a population of under 2,000 people it’ll be a nice change of pace from the traffic in the parks. Pinedale really does have it all: incredible mountain views from town, glacially-fed lakes, great fishing in the rivers, and an awesome brewery. What more do you need?

Best place to get a drink:

Wind River Brewing Company

Best spot for photos:

Photographer’s Point

Most popular destination:

Cirque of the Towers (backpacking trip)

Casual activity in town:

Disk Golfing

#7 Flaming Gorge

2.5 hours – 163 miles/262 km

You’ll be heading back toward the desert, but the trip is not over yet. On the border of Wyoming and Utah is Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, a 91-mile long reservoir with stunning desert-red cliffs towering above. 

Between boating and water sports, hiking, and rafting, Flaming Gorge Country is stacked with fun things to do.

For the adrenaline seekers:

Raft the Green River

Best place to stay:

The Private Lake Cabins at Red Canyon Lodge

Best hike for the whole family:

Moonshine Arch

Most laid-back activity on the water:

Boat Camping on the Reservoir

#8 Vernal

Two people paddle boarding in Dinosaurland, Utah.

1.25 hours – 52 miles/84 km

Not far from Flaming Gorge Country is Vernal, Utah, the gateway to Dinosaur National Monument. Vernal is known as one of the best places in America to see fossils, and you can’t leave the western US without looking at fossils and petroglyphs! 

There are tons of other things to do in Vernal, in addition to visiting Dinosaur National Monument.

Best family hike:

Desert Voices Trail

Best spot to bike:

Yampa Bench Road

For a day inside:

Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum

Best spot for a picnic:

Steinaker State Park

#9 Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah

3 hours – 161 miles/259 km

Like we said, Park City held the 2002 Winter Olympics, so they’re kind of a big dea. To this day, the Utah Olympic Park is used as a training facility, and they allow visitors to join the fun as well. So, if you’ve never ridden a bobsled at 70mph (112kph) or been extreme tubing at speeds of 50mph (80kph) then Park City is the place for you! 

When it’s not snowing, Park City is a great place for mountain biking, ziplining, golfing, hot air ballooning, and more.

Must-do year-round activity:

Bobsled at Utah Olympic Park

Don’t want to miss:

Flying Ace All-Stars Freestyle Show

Most unique adventure: 

Hot Air Ballooning

Activity everyone will enjoy:

Food Tours Park City

Salt Lake City is just a 45-minute drive from Park City. Take some time in SLC to unwind after a packed trip, or catch your flight home and start planning when you’ll return for your winter ski trip! Cheers!
 
 




A National Park, the Rocky Mountains and Back

A National Park, the Rocky Mountains and Back

This is a road trip of epic proportions as you travel from sea level to 10,000 ft.  and back again. From the pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, and through a national park or two,  this trip will give you an experience of a lifetime.

national park


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States:
Washington, Montana, Idaho

Start/End:
Seattle, Washington

Total miles:
2,000

Suggested days:
At least 14

Type:
epic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers

Suggested season: 
Spring through Fall

Overview

This trip will not only take you from the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest to the high desert beyond the Rocky Mountains, but also through a beautiful National Park or two. This will be an epic road-trip that will start in the mists of the Pacific Northwest and head east to the sun-soaked sage-brushed flats of Idaho, before turning back west and ending back in Seattle. The trip will take you from sea level to 6,000 ft or more, so be prepared for a little acclimatization. Seattle is one of the world’s great cities, and there is so much to do here, from the expansive parks to the piers where you can fresh fish right off the boat. Our recommendation would be to fly into Seattle, immediately get your luggage and car, and then head out on the road to explore a National Park. The reason being, this is going to be a unbelievably fun trip, but there is so much you are going to see and do, that to “unwind” for a few days in Seattle before you head back home would be a great way to end your trip.

How to Prepare

We recommend at least three weeks to encompass all of the possible offerings that are suggested in this itinerary, including a National Park. A lot of distance is covered here, so it would be ideal to spend a couple of days in, say, North Cascades National Park or Mount Rainier National Park, driving many hours to and from there. (Of course, the drives themselves are wonderfully scenic, so it won’t feel long at all! The journey is the destination, as they say.) Many of the drives are relatively short – many are only around three road hours between stops – while at least two of the drives will take a good portion of your day, so plan accordingly. (These longer drives could be broken up into segments, too.) The weather in the region is generally predictable: somewhat chilly in the early spring, quite hot in the peak summer months, crisp and cool in the fall. In Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, it can occasionally snow in the later fall months, so pack intelligently. This trip could be done almost any time of year, but possible heavy snow in November through February can make driving in those more mountainous areas rather dangerous. Aside from frequent rain in the winter, the coastal regions would be fine at any time.

DAY 1: arrival in seattle

Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and pick up your rental car. The city is relatively easy to navigate by car, though it may be best to avoid driving in the late afternoon, as the freeways and roads can be horribly gridlocked around rush hour. We know you might be itching to explore Seattle, but our recommendation would be to head toward your first destination, North Cascades National Park and save the wonders of Seattle for the end of the trip where you can treat yourself to a few days of Rest and Relaxing in this great American city. As you head North on Interstate 5 towards Cascades, here are some suggestion for you to stop along the way to start your trip off in style.

Best place to stock up on gear:

REI-Flagship Store

Best place to stock up on supplies:

Whole Foods Market

Stop to Stretch your legs-Delta:

Langus Riverfront Park

Grab a taco on the road-Arlington:

La Hacienda

Best place to stay for the night-Marblemount:

Buffalo Run Inn

Must stop-Marblemount:

North Cascades Visitor Center

DAY 2: North Cascades national park

3.5 hours/186 miles

North Cascades National Park is one of the most singularly beautiful places in the world. Ice Capped Granite spires rise to meet the sky and blue-tinged glaciers slowly work their way down to become tumbling mountain streams in moss covered banks. It is also one of the least visited Parks in the lower 48, for one very specific reason. While staggeringly beautiful, it is also very remote. The only way into the park is on foot or hoof, and once you get inside the borders, there are no amenities, ranger stations or structure of any time. But there are a few ways into the park and you can spend a few on the outskirts as your base camp while exploring the fringes of the park, or head in, but you will need to be prepared for self-sufficiency for the duration of your stay.

Best short hike:

Thornton Trail

Best long Hike:

Sourdough Mountain

Grab a bite on the road:

5b’s Bakery in Concrete

Pedal your way around the valley:

Stehekin Discovery Bikes

Best place to grab some dinner:

Stormy Mountain Brewing

Best place to stay:

Cambells Resort

DAY 3: Beautiful Coeur D’Alene

national parks

3.5 hours/182 miles

Your next stop as you head east is the lovely Idaho town of Coeur D’Alene, nestled on the banks of the massive 25-mile-long lake of the same name. The town’s proximity to two major ski resorts and generally tranquil natural setting has made it a destination for outdoor-oriented travelers. Camping, hiking, kayaking and skiing are all within a short trip from the center of town. As this city is on the edge of the Pacific Northwest, there are the usual quality-of-life perks, even in this relatively small town: fine coffee, plenty of microbrews and a wide array of stellar places to eat.

Best place to shop local:

Kootenai County Farmers’ Market

Best place for a swim:

Couer D’Alene City Park

Best secret trip:

Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch

Best place to stretch your legs:

Tubbs Hill Nature Trails

Best place for dinner:

Crafted Tap House

Best Night Out:

Downtown Coeur d’Alene

DAY 4: Missoula

3.2 hours/168 miles

Go Grizzlys! Today you head to the fantastic university town of Missoula. Missoula is a really fun town and you are going to have to make a choice if you want to do all the outdoor activities, all the indoor activities or a mixture of both. A great place to start your decision making process though, would be to head to the visitor’s bureau; Destination Missoula. They wil be able to help you fine tune your trip, but in the meantime, here are a few suggestions.

Great place for a hike:

Blue Mountain Recreation Area

Best Missoula thing ever:

A Carousel For Missoula

Best place to grab a quick bite:

Five on Black Brazilian Cafe

Can’t miss it:

Brennan’s Wave-a man made kayaking wave in the heart of downtown Missoula

Best place for a picnic:

Caras Park

Where the locals eat:

The Depot

Drink local:

TAke your Pick-Missoula has 10 breweries, 2 distilleries and one cider house

Best place to catch a show:

The Top Hat

DAY 5: Missoula to Butte via Phillipsburg

national parks

2 hours/119 miles

Today you head out through the Lolo National Forest to Butte. Its a relatively short drive, but this will give you a chance to have a lazy breakfast at the best breakfast joint in Missoula, Paul’s Pancake Parlor. After that, head south to little mining town of Phillipsburg. Stop at Montana Gems to mine for precious stones before spending an hour or so at the Granite County Museum. From Philipsburg, its just a short drive into Butte. Butte is the county seat of Silver Bow County, Montana and has a long and fascinating history with mining and the mining industry. There are numerous tours and museums dedicated to this rich history, but one not-to-be-missed tour is the Old Butte Historical Adventure Tour. Two hours in length, the tour takes you through some of the more interesting and quirky aspects of Butte, including a tour through the old jail.

Great place for a hike:

Big Butte Open Area

Best historical visit:

The Dumas Brothel

Other best historical visit:

The Mai Wah

Best place for a quick bite:

Front Street Market

Best place to cool off:

Ridge Waters Park

Best place to have a upscale dinner:

The Uptown Cafe

DAY 6: Rexburg, Idaho

3 hours/150 miles

From Butte its off into Idaho and the town of Rexburg. This town of nearly 26,000 has plenty of things to see and do but there are two not-to-be-missed experiences that you should make time for. The first is the BYU-Idaho Campus and the magnificent Rexburg Idaho Temple located right near by. The second is Yellowstone Bear World, a phenomenal wildlife attraction, this park is essentially a drive through North American wildlife in their natural habitats including rocky mountain elk, bison, white-tail deer, rocky mountain goats, moose, and of course, American black bear, grizzly bear and gray wolves.

Best place for a stroll:

Porter Park

Best place take a lazy float down a river:

Warm Slough

Best place to learn about bears:

Yellowstone Bear World

Best place to grab a bite:

The Hickory on Main

Most unique experience:

Heber Hatchets Axe Throwing

Best coffee in the morning:

June’s Place

DAY 7: rexburg to Pocatello

national parks

1 hour 15 minutes/78 miles

The drive from Rexburg to Pocatello will be fairly short, but this will give you a full day to explore the surrounding area, including Craters Of The Moon National Monument and Preserve. Craters of the Moon formed during eight major eruptive periods between 15,000 and 2000 years ago. Lava erupted from the Great Rift, a series of deep cracks that start near the visitor center and stretch 52 miles to the southeast. During this time the Craters of the Moon lava field grew to cover 618 square miles. Our recommendation would be to head to Pocatello and get settled for the day, gather a picnic together, then head out to Craters of the Moon. The best place to start your adventure is at the Robert Limbert Visitor Center. The center will be able to provide you with maps and information, as well as an exquisite exhibit center and bookstore.
After Craters of the Moon, head back to Pocatello and get ready for a great night. There are a number of different things to do in Pocatello, but we would recommend heading right to the heart, Old Town Pocatello. From specialty shops to fine dining, Old Town Pocatello is a magnet for people looking for a unique experience.

Great breakfast:

Frontier Pies

Best Coffee on the go:

June’s Place

Best Hike:

Wilderness Trail

Can’t miss it:

Exploring the caves

Best place to catch the sunset:

The Sunset Cone

Best place to get some dinner:

Uncle Jim’s Family Dining

DAY 8: Pocatello to Twin Falls via Massacre Rock State Park

1 hour 58 minutes/115 miles

From Pocatello you turn west to Twin Falls and the Gateway to the Snake River Canyon. But first you will take a little detour into Massacre Rock State Park. Massacre Rocks were a well known location along the Oregon Trail where the trail passed through a series of narrow rocks where ambushes from Native Americans were expected. Though this actually happening was extremely rare, it is an interesting historical park and well worth a visit. Upon arriving in Twin Falls for the night, we would recommend heading to the Blue Lakes Inn for a great family-style hotel.

Can’t miss it:

Perrine Coulee Falls

Best hike:

Shoshone Falls

Best museum:

Herrett Center for Arts and Science

Great photo op:

Evel Knievel Snake River Canyon Jump Site

Where the locals eat dinner:

Elevation 486

Drink local:

Koto Brewing Company

DAY 9: Spectacular Sun Valley

From Twin Falls your road heads North and into the resort town of Sun Valley. This is a short drive, but that’s okay because it will give you plenty of time to explore this great little town nestled in the Sawtooth Mountains. There is a plethora of outdoor activities here, but being a resort town, there is plenty of civilization for you to enjoy. Sun Valley and more specifically Ketcham, is known as the last home of the famed American writer Ernest Hemingway. A memorial pays homage to this father of contemporary American prose. It is well worth a visit.

Best place for a stroll:

Sawtooth Valley Botanical Gardens

Best hike:

Bald Mountain Trail

Best place to ride a horse:

Sun Valley Stables

Most unique experience:

Fly Sun Valley

Best place for dinner:

Enoteca

Cant’s Miss it:

The Casino Bar-Where Hemingway Drank

DAY 10: Through the Sawtooth National Forest and Boise

national park

4 hours/198 miles

The trip into Boise will take you through the beautiful Sawtooth National Forest on the Highway 75 Sawtooth Scenic Byway to the junction of Highway 21 Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route at Stanley. This road will wind its way through the Sawtooth Valley and up over the mountains. Traversing this road in the early spring or late fall, however, could lead you into some snowy conditions, so keep up to date on the road conditions. A great stop along the way is Redfish Lake, just outside of Stanley. This is the largest lake in the Sawtooths and can make for great stop to snap some photos.  Once you pick up the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route in Stanley, the road will follow winding canyons and mountain peaks, so make sure you plan plenty of time for stops before ending for the night in Boise.

Best place for a quick bite:

Stanley Baking Company

Can’t miss it:

The Springs at historic Idaho City

Best place for a hike in Boise:

Hulls Gulch

Best trip into history:

Old Idaho Penitentiary

Best way to see Boise:

Boise Scavenger Hunt

Best spot for dinner:

The Barbacoa

DAY 11: to Lewiston and Washington

national parks

5 hours/270 miles

Today will be a longer driving day, but will take you through some of America’s most pristine examples of the High Desert. So sit back, plug in your favorite playlist and enjoy the road. There are plenty of little towns along the way, so feel free to stop at your leisure and explore. One thing not to be missed, however, is the Nez Perce National Historic Park and Scenic Overlook. Its a beautiful area and a great place to stop and stretch your legs. From here its down into the valley of the Clearwater River and your stop for the night, Lewiston.

Great place to learn about the Corps of Discovery:

Lewis and Clark Discovery Center

Can’t miss it:

Hells Gate State Park

See a ghost:

Lewiston Ghost Tour

Stock up on gear:

Follettt’s Mountain Sports

Great place for a stroll:

Historic Downtown Lewiston

Best local burger and brew:

MJ Barley Hoppers

DAY 12: walla walla washington

national park

1 hour 45 minutes/95 miles

Welcome to wine country! When you get to Walla Walla, you will officially be in the Columbia River Valley and some of Washington’s best vineyards. With only a two hour drive from Lewiston, you will have plenty of time to visit the valley’s numerous winery’s. There are plenty to choose from, but perhaps the best way to see them is to take a few different tours. Here are some options.

Walla Walla Wine Tours

Imbibe Wine Tours

d’Vine Wine Tour

Can’t miss it:

Whitman Mission

Best outdoor recreation:

Mill Creek Dam and Bennington Lake

Visit Walla Walla’s oldest mansion:

Kirkman House

Best place to buy local cheese:

Walla Walla Cheese Company

Best place to get some culture:

Sheehan Gallery

Where the locals eat breakfast:

Maple Counter Cafe

DAY 13: Yakima and the Yakima Reservation

2 hours 19 minutes/134 miles

Today you are heading to Yakima and the Yakima Indian Reservation. Our recommendation would be to first find a place to stay before heading into the Reservation for the day. A great place right in the heart of Downtown Yakima is the Hotel Maison. After dropping off your gear, explore some of the towns of the reservation and get a feel for the traditions and culture of the Yakima people. A great place to start would be the Yakima Nation Cultural Center located in the town of Toppenish. After exploring the reservation, head back to Yakima and the bevy of things to do in this city.

Find more Information on the Yakima Reservation here.

Shop local:

Downtown Yakima Farmer’s Market

Best museum:

Yakima Valley Museum

Best place for a stroll:

Yakima Area Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

Shopper’s Paradise:

Downtown Yakima

Can’t miss it:

Johnson Orchards

Where the locals eat dinner:

Cowiche Canyon

DAY 14: Mount Rainier National Park

national parks

2.5 hours/103 miles

Your next stop of this journey is to Mount Rainier National Park, which, at 14,410 feet is an iconic feature of the Washington landscape. This active volcano is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States and spawns six major rivers. Visit the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center to get some orientation around the park and decide if you want to spend a full afternoon here or even longer. (As with all of the national parks, you could spend a day or a week at Rainier, so it’s largely up to you to figure this out.)

Best road for photo ops:

Circle Mount Rainier Drive

Best hike:

Shadow Lakes Trail

Can’t miss it:

Narada Falls

Take in mountain wildflowers:

Paradise Valley

Best place for dinner:

The Snorting Elk Cellar

Best place to stay:

Crystal Mountain

DAY 14: Back to seattle

2.5 hours /80 miles

Congratulations on completing the Great American Road Trip! You deserve a little Rest and Relaxation and Seattle is just the city to provide it.  Like many West Coast cities, Seattle is fairly spread apart, so it’s best to pick a few neighborhoods and explore from there. Downtown has the iconic Pike Place Market, as well as the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Aquarium and the first ever Starbucks Coffee, all within easy walking distance. Other great walkable neighborhoods worth checking out include the Ballard, Fremont and Capital Hill districts.  Spend a few days here. You’ve earned it and the memories will last a lifetime.

Best place for a stroll:

The Seattle Waterfront

Can’t Miss It:

Pike Place Market

Best architectural wonder:

Seattle Space Needle

Best city view:

Kerry Park

Best place for seafood:

Elliot’s Oyster House

Best place to stay:

Inn at the Market



An Oregon Road Trip on the Central Coast and Willamette Valley

Winter is an exceptional time to road trip and visit the state of Oregon. The main roads and byways support all kinds of weather.  In a car, you will quickly see how diverse the landscapes can be, it makes road trips exciting!

This article was created in partnership with the Oregon Coast Visitors Bureau & Willamette Valley Visitors Association.

You can easily fly into a regional airport like Eugene or the international airport in Portland, and grab your bags.  Breeze through the on-sight rental car center and hit the road for a romantic road trip filled with wines, wings, and whales.

Miles and Miles of Public Space

Once you reach the People’s Coast (named that way because all 362 miles are open to the public) you’ll travel north or south on Highway 101. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to connect with nature whether it’s whale watching or winter birding at any of the fantastic wildlife refuges. The Central Coast made up of beautiful Lincoln County, Florence, and Reedsport caters to those who love the outdoors. Whether you’re looking for historic lighthouses or sprawling state parks to explore, the Central Coast is sure to astound you with its natural beauty and architecture.

A Coast of Marvels

Visit the city of Florence, once a quaint fishing village, located almost smack dab in the middle of the Oregon Coast. Race across sand dunes on a dune buggy. Stay in a reputedly haunted lighthouse.  You can also chase storms, if you so choose. There’s Depoe Bay, the Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast.  You can marvel at the resident pod of grey whales who make their home from March to December in the world’s smallest navigable harbor. You can choose to visit the Central Coast’s largest city Newport and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Lincoln City has seven miles of soft sandy beaches. Visitors can investigate tidepools, beachcomb for treasures left over after a storm, or even fly a kite!

Get Cozy

Facing inclement weather? No problem! Cozy up in front of the fireplace with a nice glass of wine. Watch the crashing waves or look for more magnificent whales. Nearly 20,000 gray whales migrate south along the coast heading to Mexico. They return with their babies between March and June. There are 24 designated whale-watching points.

Wonderful Wine

Once you’ve had your fill of rugged coastline, lighthouses and walks on the beach, hop in the car. It’s time to head to the Willamette Valley. This stunning area is known as Oregon’s leading wine region. It plays home to two-thirds of the state’s wineries and vineyards and more than 500 wineries. Known especially for Pinot Noir, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better area to try your hand at becoming a sommelier (or at least, gain an increased and enhanced appreciation for wine). The wineries come in all shapes and sizes: traditional, organic, biodynamic. Collectively they are young, dynamic and fiercely independent, but above all friendly.

A Culinary Disposition

The abundance of coastline and rich soil means there is a natural disposition towards food. Whether it is the delicious chowders, fish and chips, herbal cheeses or hearty meats, the restaurants have extensive offerings to appeal to nearly every taste. Oregon regional cuisine distinctly highlights the pioneer spirit woven into the Oregon culture. It is more than just farm-to-table, it is also forage-to-table and seed-to-table.

A Trip To Remember

Healthy wetlands and marches are why Oregon is also the choice habitat for many wintering birds. There are several wildlife refuges and parks. Animal preservation and habitat go hand in hand with the region’s focus on rehabilitation and education.

Between days spent viewing wildlife, wine tasting and eating well, your road trip on the Oregon Coast and through Willamette Valley will be something you remember forever!

Oregon Coast Pin
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D0P0a2dQjA




7 Incredible Landscapes You Didn’t Know Existed in America

America is home to some of the most recognizable landscapes in the world. It also holds countless gems that are less familiar, less crowded, and are some of the most beautiful places to visit in the US. Look outside the box to find incredible landscapes you’ve never heard of. Here are just a few examples:

Northeast: Smugglers’ Notch State Park, Vermont

American history fills this narrow, steep pass. What was smuggled across the Canadian border here? Cattle and goods slipping past trade embargoes, fugitive slaves reaching freedom on the Underground Railroad, liquor finding thirsty Americans during Prohibition. “Smuggle” a picnic and your sense of adventure into this gorgeous place in history.

Smuggs, Smuggs ice bash, Smugglers Notch, Smugglers Notch Skiing, Smugglers Notch Hiking, Vermont State Parks

The park office at Smugglers’ Notch State Park by Jesse Keck

Midwest: Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

This “Superior Wilderness” is surrounded by Lake Superior and is only accessible by boat or plane, but the views and the story are worth the effort. Step into a stunning landscape, complete with a lake lighthouse, an old copper mine, and a long list of potential wildlife sightings.

Isle Royale National Park, National Park Service, Lake Superior, Michigan, Mitten state

Photo courtesy of National Park Service

Southeast: Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Even if “largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States” and “astonishing biodiversity” don’t mean anything to you, taking a walk down this boardwalk and soak up the depth of beauty at Congaree National Park’s will stay in your heart forever.

Congaree National Park, boardwalk, trees, forest

Photo courtesy of National Parks Service/Tarpley

South: Big Bend National Park, Texas

The National Park Service promises “splendid isolation” in Big Bend, a massive park in the state where everything’s bigger. Locals recommend a long list of adventures: Kayak the Rio Grande through enormous canyons, explore the Chisos Mountains (the only mountain range entirely in a national park), rent a kiva house or yurt, soak in hot springs, gaze at the Mexican Chihuahua Desert from America, go birdwatching, and bask in incredible sunsets.

Big Bend National Park, photography national park, Big Bend Texas, Texas national park

Photo courtesy of National Park Service/Cookie Ballou

Wild West: Sinks Canyon State Park, Wyoming

“The Sinks” is a cave in which a river just dives underground…only to bubble back up a few hundred yards away in a pool called “The Rise.” While pondering this disappearing act, look upward at the dramatic cliff walls and wild spaces that stretch out of sight into the mountains.

Sinks Canyon State Park, national forest, popo agie river, fly fishing, fly fishing wyoming

Photo by David Rule

West Coast: Sun Lakes/Dry Falls State Park, Washington

Dry Falls is the American geological wonder you’ve never heard of. Once four times the size of Niagara Falls, the long-gone waterfall was formed by Ice Age floods. Today, you can see the 400-foot tall, 3.5-mile wide cliff where melting ice once cascaded while playing on the lake shores.

Dry Falls in Sun Lakes, Dry Falls State Park, beautiful landscapes in America, state parks, national parks

Photo courtesy Washington State Parks

What beautiful places to visit in the US are on your list this summer? Be sure to check out our road trip itineraries to plan your next adventure!