things to do in the pacific northwest

My Pacific Northwest Roadtrip: first impressions

My Pacific Northwest Roadtrip: first impressions after coming home

It has already been a few weeks since I came home from my Pacific Northwest roadtrip, yet it feels like I was there yesterday. I’ve wanted to go and see it forever and last summer, that dream finally came true. My head is filled with stories I’d like to tell you about this super special place. There were highlights, lows, amazing landscapes and not so amazing landscapes. Today I’m giving you my first impressions of my Pacific Northwest roadtrip!

The cities

Although you may not expect it from me, but a nice city does make me really happy. I’ve visited both Vancouver and Victoria in Canada on my previous trips (which technically also are a part of the PNW) and this time I visited both Seattle and Portland. Seattle made the biggest impression on me, it’s such a buzzing city. Portland didn’t really do it for me, maybe that’s also because I was here on a Sunday and most foodtrucks (which I think the city is famous for) were closed plus I still had a major jetlag. I’d still like to go back one day though to explore more of it!

The nature

Nature was my main reason to see the Pacific Northwest. A few years ago I made a four week roadtrip in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and I have to say that I enjoyed the Pacific Northwest as much as that region. Especially Crater Lake National Park and Mount Rainier made a great impression on me. Other places I visited and loved were the Oregon Coast, Mount Hood, Columbia River Gorge and Olympic National Park. My hiker-heart instantly started beating a lot faster upon entering those areas.
reis door de pacific northwest

The camping

Well yeah, camping was a little bit of an issue. As I had not booked anything in advance, finding a place to pitch up my tent became quite a challenge each day. Most sites were already booked up and because of that I even spent one night sleeping in my car. Plus on my last campsites there was a bear which kind of scared me at some point. Being all by myself in a tent in bear country was a bit of a thing, but nonetheless it was super exciting, too. Generally said I do love camping in the US though. Especially the national park sites are amazing, despite the fact they do not have showers and at some point, I hadn’t showered in over a week.

The people

Although I have met quite a bunch of friends and people I know during my trip (Garth in the Columbia River Gorge, my friends Melissa and Cindy in Portland and fellow Dutchie Inge in Seattle) I didn’t really get to know many other travelers. I have to say that Americans are very friendly and interested, but other than the regular talk (who are you, where are you from, where are you going, why are you alone?) I didn’t really connect with others. It may also have to do with the fact that I camped and was not staying in hostels and it’s OK really. As for a digital nomad, it may not be ideal to roadtrip through the US if you want to make some friends along the way.

The budget

I gave myself a USD 1.000 budget for this trip, not counting the planeticket and my rental car. Eventually I spent about USD 1.250 which is a bit more than planned. I had an expensive dinner in Seattle with Inge as a thank you for sleeping on her couch and booked myself a few hotels because of early flights. I also bought some souvenirs for friends and family back home so all in all I can’t really say I’ve been way over my limit. Plus my trip to Alaska ended up quite a bit cheaper than planned so I’m quite happy in general.
reis door de pacific northwest

The number one highlight of my Pacific Northwest Roadtrip

This must be Crater Lake National Park. I’ve always wanted to visit and in reality it’s even prettier than on the pictures I’d seen on the internet. I climbed Mount Scott which is the highest point inside the park, drove the Rim Road twice (simply because it’s that stunning) and just gazed at the lake for hours. It was quite a drive to get there, but well worth every hour behind the wheel. If you ever get the chance: GO!
pacific north west roadtrip crater lake national park

The lows of my Pacific Northwest Roadtrip

This is definitely missing North Cascades National Park. Or at least, the views. At the end of my trip I drove here and it got very hazy. As it turned out, there were bushfires all over British Columbia and the smoke had been blown to Washington. The views were not good and after spending one night in the park, I decided to leave as it’s not very good for my asthma. It’s a good reason to come back to this region one day though! Another low definitely was how busy it was at certain places. Sometimes I had to queue for an hour to get into a certain national park. Especially Mount Rainier was extremely busy as well as the Oregon Coast, but I guess that comes with traveling in the high season. Next time I’ll try to travel later to avoid such crowds for sure.
pacific northwest roadtrip

What else …

All in all I really enjoyed my time in the Pacific Northwest. It was green, gorgeous and basically one of the most beautiful natural places in the US I have been to. The volcanoes were stunning, the hikes were gorgeous and basically I never felt scared or uncomfortable despite the fact I was all by myself. I’d really like to return here one day and spend more time because overall, two weeks to see so much is definitely not nearly enough. More blogs about my Pacific Northwest Roadtrip will be coming up soon!
Want to read more? You may also like these posts:
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  • Leah

    I’m ashamed to say that I’ve not been north of San Francisco in the USA. I’ve heard that the Pacific Northwest is stunning, but my goodness, your photos confirm. Water, mountains, and forest…just magical!

    • anto

      Yeah it’s stunning. And don’t be ashamed, there’s many places in Europe I haven’t visited myself yet, though they are relatively close 😉

  • Mei and Kerstin

    We’ve been to the West Coast many times (we even spent 6 months in SF 4 years ago), but never went beyond the Sacramento/Bryce Canyon line. Not because we were not interested in the Pacific Northwest, but because the lush green scenery of this region reminds us pretty much of Europe. So we prefered to see the “dry” and “orange” national parks first. 🙂 Now reading your post makes me really want to go there. Thank you for letting us know that Mt Rainier is pretty crowded during summer time. Guess we should go there during Spring then!

    • anto

      I can totally see why. The red rocks of Utah I’d seen during my first US roadtrip and loved for sure, because they are so different to Europe. Many people asked me why I headed to the PNW (rather than for example California) but I just love green hills and white mountains haha. It’s super nice but crowded, so hopefully I can go again late next summer …

  • Linda

    I would love to camp near a wild bear even though I might not want to leave my tent when it is inside. Crater Lake National Park looks stunning. Pity you missed the nice views at North Cascades.

  • Drew

    Crater Lake National Park looks spectacular. The PNW is such a beautiful part of the US and a great choice by you for a road trip. The scenery around that area makes the long hours of driving pass by with ease. Bummer about Cascades though. That would have been another great park to explore.

  • Rhonda Albom

    We aren’t the biggest fan of being couped up in cars all the time, so road trips never really seem to pan out for us. Furthermore, the only type of camping we’ll consider is glamping (and definitely not in bear country – how terrifying!) But wow that is stunning. I would love to visit just for those impressive views.

    • anto

      Yeah I can see why, I drove way too many kms on this trip because I was by myself and wanted to see as much as possible. Glamping would be fun, I still need to try that one day …

  • Lydia Smith

    In as much as the idea of camping with bears seems adventurous, its scary. I won’t be able to close my eyes, it would be a night filled with horrible instances of bear invasion. Nevertheless, it doesn’t look a bad visit.

  • Lydia Smith

    I might not be comfortable camping with bears but lol, I love all other things. Hiking would do just fine for me. There’s been so much ado about North Cascades, I thought I was going to see it here but we are both disappointed. Please do try to visit again and come share us, hopefully, I also make it to Pacific Northwest.

  • Megan Jerrard

    We did a similar roadtrip and loved it, the buzzing cities were fun for a couple of days, though they didn’t do a great deal for me. Personally my big draw was the nature – I fell in LOVE with Olympic National Park 🙂 I didn’t make it to Crater Lake National Park though, so have to get back, especially since you said it was a highlight. I’ve seen incredible pictures, we just didn’t have the chance to make it work on our trip.

    Glad you enjoyed the Pacific Northwest – hopefully you’ll have a better opportunity for views in North Cascades National Park on the next trip 🙂

    • anto

      Yes, nature is the one reason to go to the PNW for sure. Olympic NP is stunning and I can’t wait to go back and do some more backcountry hiking there. Crater Lake is stunning but quite a ride away, I can totally see why you couldn’t make it…

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