Bucket List Road Trips in the Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwest Bucket List Road Trips

The Pacific Northwest region of the United States, encompassing Washington, Oregon, and parts of Idaho, is filled with diverse landscapes and stunning natural beauty just waiting to be explored.

From rugged coastlines and old-growth forests to volcanic peaks and high deserts, this area offers some of the most epic road trips imaginable for your bucket list.

A road trip through the Pacific Northwest allows you to experience the freedom of the open road while taking in breathtaking vistas around every bend. If you’re looking for an unforgettable driving adventure, here are some bucket list-worthy Pacific Northwest road trips to add to your list.

1. Pacific Coast Highway, Oregon, and Washington

One of the most iconic drives in the region is the Pacific Coast Highway section along the Oregon and Washington coasts. This drive takes you along towering sea cliffs with views of crashing ocean waves and quaint coastal towns dotted along the way.

Stop to admire Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, hike through old-growth forests in Olympic National Park, and make sure to sample fresh seafood in coastal cities like Astoria. The winding road and dramatic coastline vistas make this a must-do road trip.

2. Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, Washington

For stunning mountain scenery, a road trip to Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens in Washington is hard to beat. Drive along routes that take you through national parks with access to hiking trails past waterfalls and fields of wildflowers with the mountains as a backdrop.

Stop at viewpoints like Reflection Lakes in Mount Rainier National Park and Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mount St. Helens to admire these iconic volcanic peaks up close. Don’t miss the turquoise blue waters of Spirit Lake within the blast zone of Mount St. Helens.

Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, Washington

3. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon and Washington

Carve through the Cascade Mountains on a drive along the Columbia River Gorge, following the mighty Columbia River with its rolling hills and steep cliffs covered in evergreen trees.

Stop for scenic hikes to waterfalls like Multnomah Falls and Horsetail Falls, go white water rafting or kiteboarding along the river, and walk across the bridge to admire the gorge views. With wineries and fruit orchards dotting the landscape as well, there is plenty of tasty food and drink to sample.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon and Washington

4. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Journey to southern Oregon for a visit to stunning Crater Lake, formed in the caldera of a collapsed volcano. With its impossibly deep blue waters and Wizard Island formed from volcanic eruptions, this exceptionally beautiful lake is a magical destination.

Drive around the 33-mile Rim Drive to take in views from every angle of this pristine wonder, stopping at viewpoints like Discovery Point and Cloudcap Overlook. Hike down the Cleetwood Cove Trail to reach the lake’s edge if time allows.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon and Washington

5. Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington

Loop around Washington’s remote and wild Olympic Peninsula for a road trip filled with diversity, from rugged Pacific coastlines to rainforests hemmed in by mountains. Drive along the Pacific Ocean from Kalaloch, taking in beaches dotted with tide pools and jagged sea stacks reaching out of the water.

Stop in the coastal town of Forks before winding your way through forests dense with towering evergreen trees. Make time for a detour to Hurricane Ridge to admire panoramic alpine scenery with views across the national park.

Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington

6. The Cascade Loop, Washington

The Cascade Loop is a 440-mile drive through the heart of Washington’s Cascade Mountains. Start in Seattle and head east through Snoqualmie Pass to Cle Elum and Wenatchee, where you can explore wineries and orchards full of Washington’s famous apples.

Continue south through small mountain towns like Leavenworth, known for its Bavarian architecture. Stop at Lake Chelan for water activities against a mountain backdrop before continuing west towards Stevens Pass.

Make sure to detour to see majestic Diablo Lake with its turquoise waters. After passing through North Cascades National Park, head south back to Seattle for an epic loop.

The Cascade Loop, Washington

7. Glacier National Park, Montana

Though not technically part of the Pacific Northwest, no list of regional road trips is complete without mentioning Glacier National Park. Located in northwest Montana, Glacier has over 1 million acres of pristine forest, meadows, lakes, and rugged snow-capped mountains.

The 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road spans the width of the park, offering breathtaking views and access to hiking trails. Time your visit during summer and fall for the best accessibility.

Make sure to drive to the Sun Point overlook to see St. Mary Lake and the towering Garden Wall. Stop for wildlife-watching opportunities to potentially see bears, moose, and mountain goats.

Glacier National Park, Montana

8. San Juan Islands, Washington

Escape to the peaceful San Juan Islands in northern Washington’s Puget Sound for a road trip ferrying between land and sea. Start in Anacortes then take ferries between islands like Orcas, Lopez and San Juan Island for phenomenal whale watching, kayaking, hiking and bicycling opportunities.

Visit Lime Kiln Point State Park and San Juan County Park on San Juan Island to explore tidal pools and rocky beaches. Enjoy fresh seafood in island towns like Eastsound and Friday Harbor. While you’ll leave your car on land for island hopping, you’ll enjoy breathtaking vistas over Haro Strait throughout this coastal adventure.

San Juan Islands, Washington

Conclusion:

A road trip through the Pacific Northwest offers the chance to soak in the natural beauty and diversity of the region at a relaxed pace. From coastal drives along rugged cliffs to mountain landscapes with volcanic peaks, you’ll find endless inspiration around every turn.

As you travel through lush rainforests, stop at charming towns, and pause to hike to thundering waterfalls, you may find it hard to limit yourself to just one of these unforgettable bucket list drives. With so many epic options, you may just have to plan multiple trips to see it all.

Treat yourself to a Pacific Northwest road trip, and enjoy the journey of a lifetime exploring this spectacular corner of the country. Check out here for more Travel and adventure lists.