Settled in gorgeous Southwest Washington, Vancouver is a road trip destination all on its own. Offering some of the best recreation destinations in the country, a small town feel and a plethora of other things to do—we don’t know why you’d ever want to leave!
But if you do find yourself itching for some adventure, Vancouver is great for that too. Our prime location within the Pacific Northwest region means you can easily access a number of small towns, large cities and scenic areas in less than three hours.
Below we’ve listed several Washington and Oregon cities we think would make for perfect day vacations—never more than two and a half hours to reach. Have fun!
Distance from Vancouver: 9.6 Miles (About 15 Minutes)
Located just 15 minutes from Vancouver, Portland is a no-brainer for a fun day trip. This fun and quirky city offers a plethora of things to do and explore from incredible breweries to world-class shopping destinations and more. But the must dos include visiting the Portland Japanese Garden (a zen-like garden within Washington Park), exploring the largest independent bookstore in the nation, Powell’s Books, and grabbing a bite to eat at one of Portland’s many incredible restaurants.
As one of our hometowns, we discuss Portland a lot here on our blog! In fact, we have several guides that will help you plan out your exciting PDX day like A Complete Itinerary for Spending a Full Day in Downtown Portland, The 17 Best Coffee Shops in Portland, 7 Speakeasies in Portland You May Not Know About, The Ultimate Music Lover’s Guide to Portland, Oregon, and many more!
Distance from Vancouver: 54.2 Miles (About 1 Hour)
Just an hour outside of Vancouver, Salem, Oregon’s capital city, is home to hundreds of natural wonders. Scenic vistas, vineyards, old-growth forests and clear crystal streams—this big city with a small town charm is the perfect choice for a day or even weekend vacation in Oregon.
For museum lovers, don’t miss the Hallie Ford Museum of Art or the Willamette Heritage Center. If you have children with you, a visit to the Gilbert House Children’s Museum is a great idea too! You can also take a tour of the Oregon State Capitol, sip wine at Cristom Vineyards, peruse The Oregon Garden, or take a ride on the Riverfront Carousel in Riverfront City Park.
Distance from Vancouver: 106 Miles (About 1 Hour, 30 Minutes)
As long as you’re taking a tour of state capitals, why not head to Washington’s Olympia! This sprawling city is located about an hour south of Seattle on the sparkling waters of the Puget Sound. It’s a city big on history, culture and art offering hundreds of family-friendly attractions, incredible dining and more.
Take a tour of the Washington State Capitol campus, watch the Tumwater Falls at Brewery Park or check out the Hands-on Children’s Museum. If you’re looking for a few things to do off the beaten track, check out the Mima Mounds, a park full of strange, unexplained mounds that you can explore. Or, head to Bordeaux, a little abandoned logging town outside the city that has been crumbled away by the forest.
Mount Saint Helens
Distance from Vancouver: 66.2 Miles (About 1 Hour, 30 Minutes)
It just wouldn’t be a list of amazing travel destinations in Oregon and Washington without mentioning Mount Saint Helens. This amazing “mountain” is actually an active stratovolcano that you can spend an entire day exploring. The area is ripe with amazing hiking and biking trails with sections of steep, rugged terrain experienced hikers love to explore. There are also non-hiking attractions to peruse as well, like Ape Cave, the longest lava tube in the United States, or the Johnston Ridge Observatory where you can get a direct look into the crater.
When you aren’t exploring the monument itself, there are several towns around Mount Saint Helens where you can go shopping, grab a bite to eat or hit another fun attraction! Castle Rock, Cougar, Kalama, Kelso, Longview, Toutle or Woodland are all great destinations on their own. We recommend checking out the Visit Mt. St. Helen’s website to learn more about each area and form your own local itinerary!
Distance from Vancouver: 86 Miles (About 1 Hour, 40 Minutes)
Cannon Beach is a popular vacation destination in the Pacific Northwest—and for good reason. This tiny beach town is home to the iconic Haystack Rock and a charming downtown area, lined with locally-owned shops and boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, wine bars, art galleries and much more.
When spending the day at Cannon Beach, there are plenty of things to do! From spending time at the titular Cannon Beach and taking some Instagram-worthy pictures in front of Haystack Rock to heading to one of the four state parks that surround this quaint area. Plus, if you find yourself itching for even more Oregon coast adventures, there are several other tiny coastal towns nearby that you can explore. Click here to read about some of our favorites!
Mount Rainer National Park
Distance from Vancouver: 130 Miles (About 2 Hours, 15 Minutes)
Here in the Pacific Northwest, there are 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!
Distance from Vancouver: 136 Miles (About 2 Hours, 17 Minutes)
Photo courtesy of Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Much like its name, Cottage Grove is reminiscent of another era. Located just past Eugene, Oregon, Cottage Grove is also known known as the “Covered Bridge Capital of the West,” with seven covered bridges around town. The Chambers Railroad Bridge is the most famous as it’s the only covered railroad bridge west of the Mississippi River.
There are plenty of ways you can spend the day in Cottage Grove, but we’re partial to exploring the area’s history. Admire the breathtaking hand-painted murals throughout Cottage Grove, learn about the area’s gold mining history at the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum or the Oregon Aviation Historical Society. Or simply spend the day walking around the city’s picturesque downtown area, which is home to just over 10,000 residents and packed with century-old buildings containing art galleries, boutiques and cafes. Wherever you go in Cottage Grove, we promise you’ll be immersed in history and small-town charm!
Have Fun Exploring!
What cities should we add to our itinerary? Let us know in the comments below.