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The Pacific Northwest

A Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation + Adventure Travel Overview

06.05.17

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The Pacific Northwest

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  • Tongue Point and Crescent Bay.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Hole-in-the-wall with James Island and Little James Island in the distance. Olympic National Park.- The Pacific Northwest
  • View north from the summit of Mount Ellinor.- The Pacific Northwest
  • A kayaker carries his boat along the eastern shore of Clark Island.- The Pacific Northwest
  • The view from the summit of Crown Mountain over Vancouver and the Georgia Strait.- The Pacific Northwest
  • View of Shannon Falls from the lookout.- The Pacific Northwest
  • The view from the ridge at the base of the Tusk. Garibaldi Lake and Mount Garibaldi top right.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Backcountry skiing in British Columbia's Callaghan Country.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Boston Basin filled with clouds.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Your first view of Minotaur Lake as you enter the basin.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Ross Lake Resort and Jack Mountain (9,066 ft).- The Pacific Northwest
  • Downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier (14,411 ft) from Kerry Park.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Headlamps illuminate multiple routes on Mount Rainier (14,411 ft).- The Pacific Northwest
  • Mount Rainier's summit to the left, Russel Cliff above and to the right from Camp Schurman.- The Pacific Northwest
  • High clouds appear to emanate from the smoldering volcano.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Contributor Shane Kucera at the base of 335-foot Falls Creek Falls.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Enjoying the descent on the southwest chutes of Mount Adams.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Munra Point Hike.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Wild Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tschawutscha) spawning in late summer.- The Pacific Northwest
  • The lodge is full of Christmas cheer during the holiday season.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Illumination Saddle makes for a great campsite with views of Mount Jefferson and the city of Portland.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Surfer at Pacific City, Oregon.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Tide pools at Yaquina Head State Natural Area.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Salt Creek Falls from the upper viewpoint.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Three Pools, Opal Creek Wilderness.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Excellent star viewing with minimal light pollution in the wilderness.- The Pacific Northwest
  • View of Little Lava Lake looking southeast.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Aerial photo of the Three Sisters Wilderness.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Headlamps, flashlights, or rented lanterns are a must.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Views from the Watchman lookout tower are unbeatable.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Whenever the trail comes close to the shore, it becomes rockier and more technical.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Sunset view from above Heceta Head Lighthouse.- The Pacific Northwest
  • View of the Southern Oregon Coast at Samuel Boardman State Park along the Oregon Coast Trail.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Sunset creates magical textures on the dunes at Myers Creek Beach.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Visitors dwarfed by the redwoods in Jedediah Smith State Park.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Stout Tree in Stout Memorial Grove.- The Pacific Northwest
  • A climber ascends a steep snowfield at dawn.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Sloqet Hot Springs.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Breitenbush Hot Springs, Upper Sacred Pool.- The Pacific Northwest
  • Paddling through Lower Washboard Rapid on the Rogue River.- The Pacific Northwest
Article
Team

Never been to the Pacific Northwest?

We're pretty sure after you check this out that will change.

If you're a local, let this serve as a tribute to the unparalleled land we call the Pacific Northwest, "PNW" or "Cascadia."

The Pacific Northwest is a region in North America that has various defining boundaries but is undeniably linked by the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains - a series of volcanoes stretching from Lassen Peak in northern California to Mount Garibaldi in southern British Columbia.

The people are known to be friendly, liberal, have an obsession with coffee and craft beer, wear flannel, enjoy legal marijuana, and all seemingly drive Subarus.

But, as far as we're concerned, it is the unmatched natural beauty that brings those in the Pacific Northwest together (and perhaps their tolerance of rain). The volcanoes rise prominently, the trees grow tall, waterfalls abound, salmon swim strong, and the Pacific Ocean carves dramatic and craggy shorelines.

To tease your recreation and adventure travel sensibilities we've teamed with our friends Outlive Creative to highlight just a few of the wonders that make the Pacific Northwest so unique.


 

Here are just a few highlights:

Favorite PNW Recreation-Oriented Towns

Downtown Manzanita on the Northern Oregon Coast. Photo by Tyson Gillard.​

British Columbia:

  • Whistler (Ski and winter recreation capital of North America)
  • Vancouver (The emerging best base camp for downhill mountain biking)
  • Tofino (Canada's surfing capital)

Washington:

Oregon:

  • Manzanita (Oregon's best little beach town)
  • Hood River (Kite and windsurfing capital of North America) 
  • Bend (Most diverse recreation town west of the Rockies) 
  • Oakridge (Oregon's mountain biking Mecca) 
  • Gold Beach (Gateway to the redwoods and rugged coastline)

California:

  • McCloud (Mount Shasta and Lassen access point, and one of California's most charming towns)

 


 

PNW's Best Lodging + Base Camps

Ross Lake Resort in Washington's North Cascades. Photo by Tyson Gillard.​

Erected from stands of coniferous old-growth lumber, the wilderness areas of Pacific Northwest are sprinkled with quintessential rustic lodges and cabins fit for the most deserving outdoor travelers. Whether you're looking to sit lakeside in an Adirondack chair, cozy up to a large stone fireplace with some bourbon, or rough it in the woods with a tent and little more, you'll find no shortage of incredible overnight accommodations and campsites that make you feel thousands of miles from the stresses of being home.

Camping Articles:

 


 

PNW National Parks + Monuments

Vibrant sunset from the Discovery Point Trail in Crater Lake National Park. Photo by Race Jones.

 


 

PNW's Best Hiking + Backpacking

Artist Point with a view of Mount Shuksan on the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail in Washington's North Cascades. Photo by Jared Kennedy.

From hiking through the United States' most undeveloped coastline to some of the continent's most prominent peaks, the Pacific Northwest has a jaw-dropping array of hiking and backpacking opportunities. The only downside is that snow lingers late for anything with a trailhead over 5,000 feet in elevation, so the window for exploring alpine meadows and lakes is relatively short. The best months are August, September and even early October. Highlights include:

Articles:

 


 

PNW's Best Mountaineering + Climbing

View of ​Mount Rainier from Unicorn Peak. Photo by Andrew Stohner.

Simply, the Pacific Northwest is a climbers paradise. It's not the type of climbing you'll find in Joshua Tree or Yosemite Valley where you can virtually drive up to your destination; rather, in the PNW you're going to have to work for every climb. Long and rewarding approaches into alpine conditions are the mark of climbing in the Cascades and into British Columbia's Coast Mountains. Twenty stratovolcanoes make up the dominant Cascade Peaks, and the North Cascades and Coast Range have nearly countless gnarly granite peaks worthy of the world's best climbers. Highlights include:

 


 

PNW's Best Winter Recreation

A snowboarder descends down Mount Brew in the Squamish/Whistler backcountry, with views of ​Castle Towers Mountain (8,779 ft) and Mount Garibaldi (8,786 ft) in the distance. Photo by Duncan Sadava.

While the Rockies may have lighter snow, there's one thing the Pacific Northwest has that leaves all other winter destinations on the continent drooling with envy, and that's glaciers. Why does that matter? Well, while global climate change is certainly putting our glaciers to the test, the glaciers here mean that the PNW provides skiing year round. And, with several mountains with over 9,000 feet of elevation, that's a lot of snow to shred! So, in spring while others around the country are packing up their ski equipment for the season, those in the PNW are strapping on their skins and taking to the volcanoes for epic corn-filled rides.

The volcanoes not withstanding, the PNW also receives more snowfall than anywhere else on the planet (record 1,140 inches fell on Mount Baker in the winter of 1998-1999), so you'll find no shortage of winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or sledding. Highlights include:

​Ski Resorts:

Backcountry Skiing + Touring:

Cross-country Skiing + Snowshoeing:

Articles:

 


 

PNW's Best Mountain Biking

Built-up trails on Mount Fromme outside of Vancouver, B.C. Photo by Adam Cowcill.

Move over Moab, Utah, there's some new kids in town. It may be a controversial statement for those from the Rockies, but from our perspective it's clear that the Pacific Northwest has become the continent's premiere mountain biking region. All of this can chiefly be attributed to the local infrastructure investment in southern British Columbia with near-countless dizzyingly epic downhill rides - with gaps, bridges, jumps, teeter totters and much, much more. And the rest of the PNW has taken note, with Oakridge, Oregon, emerging as the West Coast's top cross-country biking destination. Highlights include:

Articles:

 


 

PNW's Best Sea Kayaking + Canoeing

A kayaker crosses from Orcas Island to Sucia Island in Washington's San Juan Islands. Photo by Shane Kucera.

The Salish Sea is one of the Pacific Northwest's most defining and iconic bodies of water. Its Puget Sound lies in the U.S., its Strait of Georgia in Canada, and its Strait of Juan de Fuca divides the two nations. It also happens to be a sea kayaker's paradise. In fact, Seattle and Vancouver can easily claim to be the world co-capitals for sea kayaking. Home to orcas, sea otters, harbor porpoises, giant Pacific octopus, Stellar sea lions, and many, many other wildlife species, along with quaint port towns, lighthouses and rustic lodges, the Salish Sea truly is a world-class venue for paddlers, and overnight, multi-island adventures can make for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Higher up in the mountains, melting glaciers create stunning crystal clear and opal waters that are perfect for canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Whether you are exploring Washington's Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Central Oregon's Cascade Lakes, or the countless other inland bodies of water, you'll be mesmerized by how picturesque, tranquil and relaxing the lakes of the PNW really are.

Highlights for both sea and lakes include:

Paddle Articles:

 


 

PNW's Best Whitewater Kayaking + Rafting

Kayakers and rafters on Canyon Creek in southwest Washington. Photo by Adam Elliott.

It is no secret that it rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest, and it also happens to be home to the most snowfall on Earth. That, combined with mountains, equals a lot of whitewater. And by a lot, we really mean a LOT! Unfortunately/fortunately, this means that most of the rivers are reserved for the most professional and daring of paddlers willing to drop waterfalls, but it does still mean that there are a few stretches of river left for us mere mortals to enjoy. Here's a highlight of a few extreme and calmer runs:

 


 

​PNW's Best Beaches

Hunters Cove near Cape Sebastian on the Southern Oregon Coast. Photo by Denis LeBlanc.

While California's Big Sur coastline gets a lot of attention from the outside world, Oregon's 363 miles of free and completely public rugged shoreline are equally impressive and certainly underrated... which also makes them less crowded. And Olympic National Park's 73 miles of completely undeveloped coastline in Washington are truly remarkable. Step into the British Columbia and the extent of wild coastline just becomes incomprehensible.

Combined, the beaches and shorelines of the Pacific Northwest are most iconically recognized by rugged sea stacks (rocky monoliths and outcroppings that have slowly separated themselves from the mainland) and charming beach towns, surf spots and fishing ports that are the subject of adventure traveler's dreams. To just get a sampling, give these highlights a once-over:

Articles:

 


 

PNW's Best Hot Springs

Sloquet Hot Springs in British Columbia. Photo by Duncan Sadava.

As you might expect, with volcanoes also comes geothermal springs perfect for a quiet and truly sensual soaking. It is the submersion of the Juan de Fuca Tectonic Plate colliding with the North American Plate that has caused magma to rise to the continental crust, and as with volcanoes and lava flows, this energy has to be released somehow...so, why not in a spring-fed bath deep in the forest. That's exactly what we have here. While by number there are certainly more hot springs in Nevada or Idaho, the foothills of the Cascades are certainly a perfect setting for a dip, and we invite you to check out just a few of our favorites:

Articles:

 


 

The Tallest Trees in the World

The Stout Tree in the Stout Memorial Grove, Redwoods National + State Parks. Photo by Aron Bosworth.

Standing at 379 feet (115 m), the Hyperion tree, a coastal redwood, located on California's Del Norte Coast just south of the Oregon state boarder, is the largest tree in the world, and it is surrounded by countless other giants that are seemingly unreal in their colossal size. There is nothing like standing at the base of one of these giants - it is a truly surreal experience. Their size and age (up to nearly 2,000 years old) will remind you, in the best way possible, that there are greater forces outside of ourselves and that we as humans are only temporary visitors on this phenomenal planet.

In fact, the Pacific Northwest is home to the largest specimens of numerous tree families beyond the redwoods, including spruces (Sitka spruce), cedars (western redcedar), maples (bigleaf maple) and firs (Douglas firs). The relatively mild winter climate in the coastal and lowland areas of the PNW are also home to the world's densest forests (measured in terms of total living matter per acre) - even more so than the planet's tropical rainforests. Luckily, its relatively easy to visit these natural wonders that will leave you in awe. Highlights inlclude:

Articles:

 


 

PNW's Most Impressive Waterfalls

White River Falls flowing off of Mount Hood's eastern slopes in Oregon. Photo by Jeremy Forrest.

If there's one thing all outdoor enthusiasts are drawn to, it's waterfalls. Whether accessible on the side of the road, requiring a 15-mile hike or accessible only to kayakers, the Pacific Northwest is teaming with spectacular waterfalls. And, nowhere else are these waterfalls more prominently on display than in the Columbia River Gorge. Here, the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Range, bisecting the mountains and creating the divide between Oregon and Washington. Rainwater runoff spills down all sides of this 3,000- to 4,000-foot deep chasm. In total the Columbia River Gorge is home to the highest concentration of accessible waterfalls anywhere in North America. But, beyond the Gorge, you'll find waterfalls everywhere. Some of our favorites include:

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