Summer in Washington State can only mean one thing: it’s road trip season! And with Vancouver’s convenient location on the Washington/Oregon border, that means that we’re centrally located to find the best destinations in two states. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite road trip destinations a short drive from Vancouver. Here are some ideas for summer fun:
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
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Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is about a 90 minute drive from Vancouver. At the visitor’s center, you can learn about the infamous 1980 eruption and its impact on the local ecosystem. The park isn’t all about disaster, though. There are numerous trails and viewpoints to keep you entertained for a full day of hiking. If you want to experience something a little outside the norm, you can visit Ape Canyon, the site of an alleged Sasquatch attack in 1924.
Located just over two hours away from Vancouver, Mount Rainier is the tallest mountain in the Pacific Northwest. The national park that hosts this geological monument also features scenic waterfalls, summer wildflowers, and miles of trails for your family to enjoy. Mount Rainier is also the most glaciated peak in the contiguous US. At higher elevation trails, you can see snow and ice year-round. These icy conditions mean that not all roads are open certain times of year, so be sure to check on the road status before you plan your visit.
Olympic National Park is an expansive nature area located about two and a half hours north of Vancouver. Just about every type of Pacific Northwest terrain is represented within its boundaries. If you want to see mountains, check out Hurricane Ridge for an accessible and picturesque alpine hike. If strolls through a forest are more to your liking, try a day hike in the Hoh Rain Forest. If you would rather do some beachcombing and see the ocean, Kalaloch and Ruby Beach offer some spectacular coastal views. There’s far more to do here than can be covered in a single day, so you could have an entire summer’s worth of day trips just at this park!
For an outdoor adventure a little closer to home, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is only a short 20-minute drive away. This park is the largest National Scenic Area in the country, and the views are breathtaking. This park is perhaps most famous for its waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls, Latourell Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Horsetail Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Punch Bowl Falls. There are various nature trails and park areas for you to explore, with day hikes for all levels of ability. A good first trip would be to cross to the Oregon side of the Columbia River and follow the historic Columbia River Highway, stopping at each waterfall along the way.
For a more urban adventure, try visiting our state’s capital, just a 90-minute drive away. Olympia is home to the Washington State Capitol Building, which is a hit with fans of civics and architecture. After you tour the government buildings, head north to the downtown area for a bite to eat and some shopping. Percival Landing Park is another popular destination. This waterfront park has a 0.9 mile boardwalk where you can take in the waterfront and downtown views.
For a relaxing beach getaway, drive two hours east of Vancouver to Seaside, Oregon. This resort town offers a front-row seat to the Pacific Ocean and a quaint downtown just off the beach. While you are downtown, be sure to check out the Seaside Carousel Mall for an old-timey carousel ride and some classic arcade games. A 1.5 mile long boardwalk called the Seaside Promenade (“The Prom” to locals) hugs the coastline and makes for an unforgettable stroll. Along the Prom, you can also find the Seaside Aquarium. Founded in 1937, this is one of the oldest aquariums on the west coast.
Astoria, Oregon is just north of Seaside and just under 2 hours away from Vancouver. This quaint harbor town at the mouth of the Columbia River might look familiar to fans of 80s movies. Much of the classic film The Goonies was filmed here. Visit the Oregon Film Museum to learn more about movies that were filmed in the state. Another educational experience can be found at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, where you can learn about how the Columbia River contributed to the fortunes of Astoria and Vancouver throughout history.
We hope you find these road trip tips to be helpful. Have fun out there!