If you like to pack as much adventure and natural beauty into one road trip as possible, then the Pacific Northwest is for you! No matter where you visit in the PNW, you’ll have the opportunity to go hiking, fishing, swimming, surfing, biking, and more. Additionally, the PNW is very adventure van friendly; there are plenty of campsites, each featuring many amenities all over the area.
The Pacific Northwest is known for beautiful scenic drives all year round, but the many deciduous trees in this area make for impressive fall scenery. You really can’t pick one to beat them all, so we’ve picked a few of our favorite scenic routes in the PNW.
Keep reading to get all the information you need on our favorite routes.
Washington Road Trip Picks
The Cascade Loop Road Trip
One of the most famous road trips in Washington state is the Cascade Loop. This loop is designed to take you to iconic spots on the coast, in the Washington farmland, and along the forested areas of the mountains. We have highlighted our favorite places, but feel free to tackle as many spots as you can fit into your trip.
Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed town with beer steins, German-style restaurants, shops, and more. The German roots shine during the fall when they host their annual Oktoberfest. It’s considered one of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the USA, with imported German beer, live music, and other events.
Once you finish exploring the charm of the city, head over to Leavenworth KOA for the night, this campground has Wi-Fi, a pool, firewood and propane for sale, and 50/30/20 Amps. This campground is surrounded by trails for hiking and biking, horseback riding, canoeing, river rafting, fishing, and birdwatching — basically, everything you could ever want (or could ever fit in your adventure van).
Everett is just over two hours away from Leavenworth — another great stop on the Cascade Loop. One of the unique experiences you can have in Everett is a tour through the Boeing Company. As a leader in aviation equipment manufacturing, you can get an up-close look at impressive jetliners like the Boeing 747.
Suppose you want to take a beautiful stroll, head over to the Evergreen Arboretum & Gardens. These gardens stretch over 3.5 acres and have a variety of plant life, including PNW native trees, Japanese maples, impressive hedges, and local flora.
To end your day, take your adventure van to Thunderbird RV & Camping Resort. This camping site has picnic tables, WiFi, showers, electric hookups, flush toilets, sanitary dumps, and sewer hookups.
Since this campground is located on the Skykomish River, there are plenty of water activities to enhance your trip. The actual campground features a minigolf course, pools, and playgrounds.
Just over an hour away from Everett is Marblemount, a small town filled with outdoor adventure. One of the most popular activities in the area is a hike to Monogram Lake, and this is a moderately challenging hike that will take you to the lake and back in 9.8 miles.
Once you reach the peak of the hike, you will have a beautiful viewpoint of Monogram Lake, surrounded by forested hills, with a look at the mountains in the background. This is not a sight to miss during a fall road trip.
Another famous sight to see here is the Lazy Bear Falls. This waterfall is over 70 feet tall and has two different drops. After a short drive and a short hike on a rocky road, your view of the waterfall will be unmatched, so don’t forget your camera!
Once you are done exploring, use the Shannon Creek Campground for your overnight stay. There aren’t any electrical hookups here, but there are picnic tables, campfire rings, flush toilets, and drinking water. Plus, Mt. Baker National Recreation Area is right next to the campground, giving you easy access to a range of hiking trails and parks.
Olympic Peninsula Road Trip
The Olympic Peninsula is another extremely popular route in Washington, and the entire route takes about 12 hours to drive.
Below, we have listed some of our favorite stops on the way:
Forks is another classic stop in Washington that conveniently sits on the Olympic Peninsula route. To enjoy the benefits of the Pacific Northwest’s infamous gloomy weather, visit the Hoh Rainforest. This temperate rainforest gets almost 14 feet of rain a year, which means the greenery is lush and beautiful. You will also see impressive trees that are local to the area, like the Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock.
We have to recommend a visit to Olympic National Park. This park is massive: While you can easily do it during a day trip, you can also park here for multiple days and find plenty to explore. (Just keep in mind the heavy rains — November being the wettest month of the year.)
An excellent spot to visit for a day trip is Lake Crescent. There is parking nearby, and it gives you stunning views of the lake that was carved out by glaciers. Feel free to go kayaking on the water or hiking to Marymere Falls.
Once you’re done for the day, finish up at the Twin Beach Campground. Use one of the many campsites and enjoy their picnic tables, fire pits, and flush toilets. There aren’t any showers here; after a day of hiking and exploring, you might be ready to rinse off. If you’re so inclined, outfit your van with a portable shower so you can feel refreshed and ready for the next stop.
Oregon Road Trip Picks
Portland to the Columbia River Gorge
Starting off in Oregon’s most famous city (Portland) is a fantastic way to get a taste of PNW city life before moving on to more remote locations.
Hiking is extremely popular in Portland, and one of the most popular trails is the Macleay Park to Pittock Mansion Hike. It is an out-and-back hike that takes you to Pittock Mansion and back in five miles. It's moderately difficult, but it is a must-do if you are in the area.
If you are looking for an indoor activity, check out the Portland Art Museum. This museum is one of the oldest museums in the country and is one of the foundations of Portland's arts and culture scene. There are over 42,000 works of art at this museum, so you are bound to find something you like here.
For camping, check out Oxbow Regional Park, which is technically located in Gresham, Oregon. There are over 70 campsites at this park, and you can use their fire pits, cooking grills, flush toilets, and water showers. This park is situated on a river that provides excellent chances to boat, fish, or relax on the beach.
Columbia River Gorge
Just 20 minutes from Portland is the start of the Columbia River Gorge. The drive to and along the Columbia River Gorge will be breathtaking in the fall, with rolling hills and trees with golden leaves lining your entire path.
Many people visit the gorge and spend their entire time on the water. You can bring your gear or rent some to go kiteboarding, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, stand-up paddle boarding, and jet skiing.
Suppose you want to stop along the gorge and spend the night; head over to Tucker Park Campground. This campground is adjacent to the river, meaning you can fall asleep to the comforting songs of rushing water.
It is also located near Hood River, giving you easy access to restaurants, markets, and shopping if you need to pick something up. If you need something to do, head into Mount Hood National Forest for a great hike. Mount Hood is a potentially active volcano; scientists are unsure if/when it will erupt again. If only for that, keep your gas tank full.
Southern Oregon Road Trip
Southern Oregon is home to some of the best fall foliage and also has some of the best beaches and coastal communities. There are plenty of potential stops to make, but here we have listed a few of our favorites.
Ashland is best known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It is held every year from February to October, so you should be able to fit it into a fall road trip itinerary. They have over 700 Shakespearean productions annually, giving the city a beautiful art scene.
The Rogue River travels from Crater Lake, all the way to the ocean, passing by Ashland in the meantime. This river is famous for whitewater rafting, so be sure to book a trip with a local guide.
If rafting isn’t your ideal day, book a tour with Rogue Jet Boat Adventures and take in the sights of Upper and Lower Table Rock while learning about the area's history from a local expert.
To end the night, head to Ashland Creekside Campground & RV Park. There are a lot of amenities to enjoy here, including toilets, showers, laundry, a pool, horseshoe and basketball courts, a recreation room, and WiFi.
Bandon is one of the most popular spots on the Oregon coast for visitors. If you can’t decide on one water-side spot to visit, take a trip on Beach Loop Drive, and this road will take you to multiple water-front viewpoints.
You will also have access to a trail that takes you down the road to the beach, where you can walk through tidal pools. Along Beach Loop Drive, you will also find many restaurants and shops.
For more exploring and a campground, head to Bullards Beach State Park. Here you will find over 100 campsites, with 103 full-hookup sites. You can also use their flush toilets, showers, picnic shelters, dump station, and firewood while you are here. If you want to swap driving for riding, try the horse camp and saddle up for a beautiful trail ride there.
Idaho Road Trip Picks
Boise to Stanley Road Trip
Similar to Oregon, it is fun to start out in the state’s most popular city, which in this case is Boise, and move onto more remote areas.
To start your trip off with a great outdoor activity, spend the day at Julia Davis Park. This park sits on the Boise River, setting up the ideal opportunity for fun on and off the water. Additionally, museums and a zoo on the park’s property are worth checking out.
For a special treat, grab a donut at Guru Donuts. This spot downtown is a beloved small business in the community that serves a large selection of housemade donuts. After you make your pick, eat it while walking around and exploring the rest of downtown.
To end your day, drive over to Pine Flats Campground. It’s a relatively small campground, but you won’t have a problem getting a spot if you book ahead. Each campsite has a campfire ring, grill, and picnic table. There is a river near the campgrounds that many people use for water sports and fishing.
Stanley is a small, beautiful town, just three hours away from Boise. One of the most popular attractions in the area is Stanley lake. Surrounded by alpine trees and mountains in the distance, sitting by this lake gives you a stunning viewpoint. The small beach there offers equipment rentals for paddleboarding and kayaking.
After a day at the lake, head to Stanley RV + camp for the night. This campground has full hookup RV sites, including electric, water, and sewer. You can also enjoy their picnic tables, fire pits, and free WiFi!
Wallowa Lake, OR to McCall Road Trip
This wonderful stretch of North Eastern Oregon and Idaho will give you a beautiful and unforgettable experience.
Wallowa Lake State Park sits in front of a breathtaking glacial lake next to the peaks of the Wallowa Mountains in the Northeast corner of Oregon. If you want to spend the day on the water, this lake is perfect for sitting on the beach, fishing, kayaking, boating, and swimming.
If you prefer to stay out of the water, use one of their many hiking trails. A popular trail is the Cape Lookout Trail, a 2.4-mile hike that takes you to lush greenery to a viewpoint of the entire park and ocean.
There are campgrounds on the Wallowa Lake State Park property, with 121 full hook-up sites. They also have showers, flush toilets, a dump station, a playground, and firewood for sale.
McCall is a gorgeous mountain town that attracts many visitors every year. One main tourist attraction is the hot springs in the national forests surrounding McCall. The closest hot springs to McCall are the Burgdorf Hot Springs, Zims Hot Springs, and Gold Fork Hot Springs.
If you are interested in winter sports, check out Brundage Mountain Resort. Here, you will find over 2,000 acres of space for skiing. There are 46 named routes, with an average of over 300 inches of snow annually. There are various levels of difficulty on the slopes, making this resort family-friendly.
To end your Idaho road trip, head over to McCall RV Resort. Each RV site at these campgrounds has water/sewer hookups, electric, cable, and WiFi. As a guest, you will also have access to the Northfork Lodge, which has an indoor swimming pool, spa, steam room, and fitness facility. The campground sits on the Payette River, giving you another opportunity for fun water activities!
The Mountains and the Coast
No matter what you choose, a Pacific Northwest road trip will give you an adventurous and picturesque experience. Before you start out, make sure you are properly packed, and your van is in good shape. If you are in need of any extra supplies or equipment for your adventure van, we have you covered.
Mount Hood--History and Hazards of Oregon's Most Recently Active Volcano | USGS