Whether or not we choose to believe it, summer is inevitably coming to a close. But before you trade your swimsuit for a sweater and your margarita for a pumpkin latte, see if you can get one last adventure in before we welcome the fall!
To help you make the most of the final days of summer, we are highlighting 15 must-visit destinations in Washington and Oregon, from Lake Chelan in north-central Washington to some fascinating caves in southwestern Oregon. Including both action-packed, outdoor adventures and relaxing, laid-back activities, these places would make the perfect weekend getaway or a simple day trip, depending on where you live throughout the region.
Above all, we hope you savor the final days of summer!
Encompassing nearly one million acres in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park is one of the state’s most popular national parks. This 922,650-acre park has an incredible range of precipitation, elevation and terrain. In fact, the park has three distinctly different ecosystems, including subalpine forest and wildflower meadow, temperature forest, and the rugged Pacific coast. You could hike through a lush, damp forest and dip your toes in the ocean all in the same day at Olympic National Park! But while you’re there, be sure to visit the Olympic National Park Visitor Center, go to Lake Crescent, soak in Sol Duc Hot Springs, hike through Hoh Rain Forest, go to Kalaloch and Ruby Beach, and take in views at Hurricane Ridge. Learn more about Olympic National Park and other national parks in the Pacific Northwest here!
Situated directly along the south-facing riverfront near downtown Vancouver, the relatively new Vancouver Waterfront has so much in store for both visitors and residents. In fact, you could spend an entire day exploring this state-of-the-art mixed-use development! The Vancouver Waterfront contains various parks, apartments and condos, offices, a boutique hotel, restaurants, wine bars and more. To help you navigate the list of things to do at Vancouver Waterfront, we put together a full itinerary, starting with coffee in the morning and ending with a sunset on the pier.
You know how the song goes! “Climb every mountain, search high and low, follow every highway, every path you know…” Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have plenty of mountains to explore, from Mount Baker near the Washington-Canada border to Mount Thielsen in Southern Oregon. One of our favorites is Mount Rainier, a massive, active stratovolcano situated about 60 miles southeast of Seattle. With a summit elevation of 14,411 feet, it is the highest mountain in the state of Washington and the entire Cascade Range. It is also considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the large amount of glacial ice that has the potential to produce massive lahars.
While only about 8,000 experienced climbers complete the three-day climb to the top each year, the volcano is surrounded by a number of hiking trails that appeal to hikers of all skill levels and abilities. Plus, Mount Rainier is popular during the warmer months for mountain biking, camping, fishing, horseback riding and more — plus skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling during the winter. With year-round beauty and diverse terrain, there’s nearly no outdoor activity you can’t do at Mount Rainier.
Walking through the town of Leavenworth is like stepping into a storybook. This charming Bavarian-themed village is tucked in the Cascades just over 2 hours east of Seattle in Central Washington. During the summer, the town is bustling with activity, as visitors duck in and out of small boutiques, quaint cafes and other businesses adhering to the town’s strict Old World Bavarian architectural theme, sign and lighting standards and business regulations codes. Make Leavenworth your home base while you explore the many nearby hiking trails, rivers, and other outdoor adventures that await!
A trip to Seattle isn’t complete without a ferry ride to one of the many islands or peninsulas across the Puget Sound. One of the best and most popular ferry destinations is Bainbridge Island, which has plenty of parks to explore, plus a charming downtown area lined with shops, restaurants, coffee shops, museums and other small businesses. The best part? Once you’re on the island, you can take a bridge located at the northern tip to reach other nearby towns surrounded by water, including Poulsbo, Kingston, Bremerton, and more!
On a hot August day, there’s no relief quite like a trip to a water park. And one of the best in the state is tucked inside Great Wolf Lodge in Ground Mound, Washington, just south of Olympia. This family-friendly resort has a massive indoor water park, fun attractions and events, a variety of dining options, and more. The indoor water park has several thrilling slides and tubes, wave pools, activity pools, and more, plus,an outdoor splash pad area. Book your stay at Great Wolf Lodge for a few days of action-packed fun in the water!
All Washingtonians are familiar with Lake Chelan, the long and narrow lake in north-central Washington many families flock to in order to escape the heat each summer. With a maximum depth of 1,486 feet, Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the country! But perhaps more importantly, the water is extremely cold, providing a refreshing escape from the high summer temperatures of Chelan County. Make one last trip to Lake Chelan for a few days of fun on the water and book your stay at one of these places, whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly destination or a luxury resort!
People flock from all around the country — and the world — to catch a glimpse of the iconic Crater Lake, a jaw-dropping, bright blue lake surrounded by a national park. If you haven’t visited Crater Lake National Park to see the lake in person, just know — pictures don’t do this beauty justice. With a depth of 1,943 feet, this stunning lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the intense blue color reflects the lake’s purity and depth. Word of Caution: Before you make the trek to Crater Lake, check the weather forecast and live webcam to ensure the lake is visible, as storms can hide it from view — or at least make the view a bit underwhelming.
There are several viewpoints overlooking the lake, but a favorite is the historic fire lookout tower on the Watchman Peak Trail, which is less than a mile long. Or take in several different vantage points by driving along the 33-mile Rim Drive encircling the lake and providing 30 overlooks.
The Hood River Fruit Loop is a scenic 35-mile drive through the valley featuring 29 member stands offering a variety of wines, fruits, vegetables, flowers, ciders, food and more. The loop is popular all year long — but it is especially popular during the summer, when you can pick your own fruit and other berries at a number of farms and orchards. In August and September, you can pick your own peaches, plums, blueberries, dahlias, nectarines, bartlett pears, apples and more! Use our interactive map and guide to find the perfect you-pick destination in Hood River.
The Oregon Coast
As one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, the Oregon Coast is packed with natural beauty and quaint coastal towns worth exploring. Get one last beach trip before we transition to back-to-school mode. If you’ve visited Cannon Beach or Seaside several times already, consider exploring a new town along the coast! Here are a few destination-worthy beach towns along the coast, from Astoria to the north all the way south to Brookings.
Before the flowers wilt and the leaves begin to change colors, make one more visit to the Portland Japanese Garden. While it is stunning all year long due to the evergreen nature of the city, the Portland Japanese Garden puts on an extra special display during the spring and summer. Nestled in Portland’s iconic Washington Park, this 12-acre garden provides a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city for locals and visitors alike. The garden includes eight separate garden styles amongst meandering streams, intimate walkways and an authentic Japanese tea house. And every once in a while, you can catch a glimpse of Mount Hood. Spend a few hours exploring the overwhelming beauty of flora and fauna at the Portland Japanese Garden before summer comes to a close!
Situated just outside of Bend, Smith Rock State Park is an absolutely spectacular sight to see — and one of our favorite hiking destinations in the area. There is so much to explore within this 641-acre state park, whether you like to hike, mountain climb, camp, bike, run, or simply admire nature and wildlife. The park is open from dawn to dusk year-round and the day use fee is $5 per vehicle. Make sure you pack sunscreen and plenty of water, as the park can get quite hot during the summer!
Willamette Valley Wineries
Make a toast to summer at one of the many wineries situated in Oregon’s renowned Willamette Valley. You’ll have no shortage of options, as the valley is home to more than 500 wineries, encompassing over two-thirds of the state’s wineries. Take a look at some of must-visit wineries in the Willamette Valley, complete with a map to help you plan your very own self-guided tasting tour!
The Columbia River Gorge
Stretching over 80 miles from east to west along the Washington-Oregon border, the Columbia River Gorge is a massive 4,000-foot-deep canyon filled with adventure and beautiful scenery. Visitors can visit the many cliffs and viewpoints in both Washington and Oregon overlooking the spectacular Columbia River as it cuts through the Cascades. There are so many things to do, see and taste in the Gorge, from waterfall hikes to kiteboarding, and local breweries to fruit orchards. Take a look at some of our favorite things to do in the Columbia River Gorge, whether you’ve never been there or you’ve visited several times! And if you’re looking to visit Hood River while you’re there, we have a guide for that, too — which includes ideas for places to stay in the Gorge area.
Make your way to southwestern Oregon for a unique and thrilling adventure exploring a fascinating cave system discovered by nearby resident Elijah Davidson in 1874. But the natural phenomenon dates back a few million years! The 4,554-acre national park offers guided tours of the caves from mid-April through early November. Choose the Discovery Cave Tour, the Candlelight Cave Tour, the Kids and Family Tour, or the Off-Trail Caving Tour. These twisting passages in the Siskiyou Mountain total approximately 15,000 feet, formed in limestone that metamorphosed into marble. While you’re in the park, make sure to visit the 13-foot-wide Big Tree, the widest Douglas Fir in the state of Oregon!
Savor the Summer
We hope you enjoy the final days of summer to the fullest! What end-of-summer activities are on your to-do list? Tell us about them in the comments below.