It’s official: Summer is finally here, and it’s here to stay. If you’re like us, that’ll make you want to hit the road, forget your worries, and explore a little of what the North American west has to offer. If at this point you’re looking at your car keys and letting your imagination wander, then you’ll like what’s next.
Of course we all know about options like the Pacific Coast Highway, so here are four destinations you might not know about, varying in length, and complete with excellent stops along the way.
The Painted Hills
Starting off with something close to Bend, The Painted Hills are a geological treasure. Like the topographical canvas of a giant, these earthen hills will delight you with their rich, warm tones and dramatic shape. For anyone heading out from the Portland Metro area, you’d be driving through Mt. Hood National Forest, so why not make a stop there along the way?
Shifting focus North and into Washington, the Olympic Peninsula offers hundreds of potential destinations and two great routes, either by coast or Interstate 5. If you’re taking the coast, we’d recommend making a stop in Astoria or at Cape Disappointment, which doesn’t, well, you know.
The Peninsula itself offers the Olympic Mountains, old growth rainforests, all rubbing shoulders with strange and beautiful coasts like Shi Shi Beach with rocks that jut proudly out of the ocean. If you want a great mountain view, Hurricane Ridge is easy to reach by car.
Another worthwhile stop is located all the way at the tip of the peninsula and is the most northwest point of the continental United States. Cape Flattery offers a gorgeous view of an incredibly dynamic coast.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Looking to get your passport stamped without a long flight to get it? This unique attraction is just north of the U.S./Canadian border and will show you what it’s like to walk through the forest canopy. More than just a bridge over a river, this park has a cliff walk, a maze of walkways through the canopy, and a treehouse. While you’re driving up there, why not stop in Seattle for a ferry ride on the Puget Sound or lunch in the Space Needle?
If you’re looking to escape to the south, Northern California has a lot to offer. There’s the serene quite and incredible pine smell of Redwood National and State Parks, there’s fresh seafood in the quaint coastal town of Crescent City, a relaxing canoe trip in Six Rivers National Forest, or a challenging hike in the mountains of Shasta-Trinity National Forest! The possibilities are near endless.
Or if you’re willing to drive a little more, why not go all the way to San Fransisco, enjoy the city, and make stop in Muir Woods?
Zion National Park
For those seeking a long haul, the two day drive to Utah’s Zion National Park means plenty of great potential stops for a Pacific Northwesterner. The route will take you out out through the Columbia River Gorge, down through Boise and Twin Falls, past Salt Lake City, and reward you with one of the United States’ best parks. Often overshadowed by the Grand Canyon, Zion is a lush canyon oasis and a treasure trove of camp grounds, history, and hiking. One such hike is pictured above, and so long as you’re not afraid of heights, is unmissable. The trail is referred to as Angel’s Landing and it features a near-1,500ft gain and a panoramic view of the entire canyon.
This trail begins by hiking down into a canyon. Once at the bottom you’ll follow a river to its source as the walls of the canyon slowly close in, until, reaching each other, you’ll enter a rounded tunnel naturally carved out by water. The only word for it is otherworldly.
Well, what do you think? Have we inspired you to get out onto the open road? We truly hope so – Autumn will be here before you know it so get out there and put your windows down!