Last summer I made a fantastic road trip through the American Pacific Northwest. The Pacific Northwest does not have any official boundaries, but from what I’ve been told the American part includes Washington and Oregon and the Canadian part covers pieces of British Columbia. Since I had already been to the Canadian part twice before, I decided that during this Pacific Northwest road trip I’d only visit Oregon and Washington, a long time dream of mine come true. In this blog you will find my two-week Pacific Northwest itinerary, combining bustling cities with scenic nature. Enjoy!
Also read: more tips for your North West USA road trip
Day 1. Arrival in Seattle
If you are flying, your Pacific Northwest road trip will usually start in Seattle or Portland. I flew to Seattle with Icelandair from Amsterdam, a super scenic flight right over Greenland. I had my nose against the window most of the time, looking at the gigantic ice fields below me non-stop. Upon arrival in Seattle I quite easily went through security (they just asked me why I was solo traveling in the US) and straight after I picked up my rental car. As my flight arrived quite late in the afternoon, I had booked myself an overnight in Motel 6 Seattle South. A simple hotel providing all I needed for my first night.
Overnight in Motel 6 Seattle SeaTac Airport South.
More tips on where to stay in Seattle can be found on this post by The Broke Backpacker.
Day 2. SeaTac – Portland – Columbia River Valley
I woke up early on my second day and took Interstate 5 down south to Portland. Here I was meeting a friend of mine, who took me on a trip through Columbia River Valley. The Columbia River is the natural border between Oregon and Washington and seeing the beautiful waterfalls such as Multnomah Falls was a true pleasure and a great first impression of what the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Unfortunately, shortly after my visit the Columbia River Valley was hit by huge bush fires and so I’d advise you to check upon arrival which sights are still accessible. I heard back from that friend that most sites are open, but to avoid disappointment just check shortly before you head over!
I overnighted in a local Airbnb in the suburbs of Portland but wasn’t too enthusiastic about that. Next time I’ll just go for a hotel in Portland. Suggestions for good downtown hotels are The Paramount and The Mark Spencer Hotel.
Day 3. Portland
Today I was meeting friends from Canada and Los Angeles. After picking up my friend Melissa from Portland Airport, we drove into the city for breakfast at Pine Street Market. After this we walked through the city and in the afternoon we visited the Rose Garden. This is located on a hill from where you have amazing views of downtown Portland and Mount Hood in the distance. As I was visiting Portland on a Sunday, many of the food trucks which the city is known for were closed, so if this is one of the main reasons for you to visit, it’s better to pick another day of the week.
Day 4. Portland – Crater Lake National Park
The number one reason for me to make a Pacific Northwest road trip was because I really wanted to see Crater Lake National Park. Ever since my first US roadtrip back in 2013 I knew I wanted to go here one day, as it was advised to me by many. The drive there is long but well worth it. After leaving Interstate 5 behind, the landscape becomes greener and with a bit of luck (and depending on the season you are traveling in) you will see some snow covered mountains in the distance.
I arrived in Crater Lake National Park in the early afternoon but unfortunately the main campground in the park was already full. They advised me to drive on to Farewell Bend campsite just outside of the park borders. They still had space available and so after pitching up my tent, I drove back to the park where I made a short hike at the Rim of the lake. I also paid a short visit to the Visitor’s Center as well as a road trip around the lake. Finally seeing Crater Lake National Park in real life truly was a dream come true for me!
Overnight on Farewell Bend Campground.
If you are not camping there are minimal overnight options near the park. Check all options here.
Day 5. Crater Lake National Park – Redmond
In the early morning I got up and climbed Mount Scott, measuring 2.721 m. above sea level making that the highest point in Crater Lake National Park. Once on the top I had amazing views of the whole area around me, truly amazing! During my descent dark clouds gathered above my head and just before I got back tot the car, it started raining and thunder storming. I still wanted to visit The Pinnacles and after a short hike in that section of the park, I decided to leave Crater Lake National Park behind and drove back up north towards my next destination: Mount Hood. It was too long a drive to make it in one late afternoon so eventually I pitched up my tent in Redmond, high up in the deserts of Central Oregon.
Also read my guide on things to do in Crater Lake National Park
Overnight on Redmond / Central Oregon KOA
Day 6. Redmond – Mount Hood
Mount Hood is a stratovolcano and the highest point in Oregon. Right on its wings you will find the Timberline Lodge, a beautiful hotel that was used to feature in the movie The Shining as The Overlook Hotel. From here there are numerous hikes, I decided to head out on the famous Pacific Crest Trail for a while. After my hike I sat down on the lodge terrace for a drink and I spent the afternoon looking around in Government Camp Village. Unfortunately all campsites in town were fully booked, but eventually I found a camping spot on the shores of a pretty lake.
Also read my travel guide to 24 hours in Mount Hood!
Overnight on Clear Lake Campsite
Accommodation near Mount Good is limited, so I suggest to book well ahead. Go here to see availability and prices!
Day 7. Mount Hood – Pacific Coast
This was the longest as well as the most frustrating part of my Pacific Northwest road trip. I woke up early to do a short hike to Mirror Lake (total must-do!) and eventually drove back towards the coast through Tillamook State Park. After a few short stops along the coastline I decided to start searching for a spot for my tent but it was impossible since everything was fully booked. I only found one campsite that wanted to charge me 90 dollars for just me and my tent, which I kindly refused because it was way above my budget. And so I spent the night on a parking lot, sleeping in my car. Not the best idea ever, so please make sure to book your accommodation or campsite well ahead if you are visiting the Oregon Coast during the summer months!
Check accommodation options, availability and prices here!
Day 8. Pacific Coast – Olympic National Park
As I didn’t sleep well in my car, I woke up super early and drove towards the Olympic Peninsula in northwest Washington. After a quick stop in busy Port Angeles I drove into the park and arrived around noon, finding a spot to camp right inside the park. Lucky me! As I was still quite tired because of the strange night, I didn’t do much that afternoon, except read a book and sleep.
Overnight on Heart O’ the Hills Campsite
Looking for a place to stay in Port Angeles? Go here for options, prices and availability.
Day 10. Olympic National Park
Today I spent all day exploring Olympic National Park. I chose to get up early and drive up to Hurricane Ridge for quick visit to their vistor’s center. From here, I decided to do the Klahhane Ridge hike which took me some four hours. It’s a bit of a strenuous hike but once on the ridge, the views into the distance are stunning. You can see all the way into Canada as well as Mount Baker, a huge snow capped mountain on the US/Canadian border. In the late afternoon I drove to another section of the park called Lake Crescent. Here I hiked to Marymere Falls and hiked through lush and green forests, such a difference compared to the alpine area of the park.
Overnachting op Heart O’ the Hills Campsite
Day 10. Olympic National Park – Mount Rainier National Park
Once again I woke up early for the long drive to Mount Rainier National Park. Here I did not have any reservation so I’m driving with the best of luck in my mind. Luckily I found a camping spot on Cougar Rock Campsite. As the weather was pretty amazing in the afternoon already, I decide to drive up to the Paradise area and hike the Skyline Trail. Unfortunately it was still partly closed because of the snow (yes, even in August) but it still was a gorgeous hike nonetheless. Together with Crater Lake National Park, this definitely was the best experience of my Pacific Nortwest road trip.
Overnight on Cougar Rock Campsite
Day 11. Mount Rainier National Park – Leavenworth
In the morning I pack my tent again and make my way to Reflection Lakes. Even though the skies are clear, there is a fierce wind and there is no reflection in the lake, just a zillion mosquitos instead. From here I drive onwards to Leavenworth. Here I’d like to hike to The Enchantments which is a pretty tough hike, however upon arrival it’s extremely warm and humid and so I realize it might not be the best of ideas as I’m traveling solo. And so I spend the afternoon reading a book by the pool of the campsite I’m staying at. Leavenworth is a cute town well worth checking out!
Overnachting op Pine Village KOA Campsite
If you’re looking for a lodge to stay at, I can definitely recommend The Linderhof Inn
Day 12. Leavenworth – North Cascades National Park
The next place I’m really looking forward to a lot is North Cascades National Park. It has been referred to Alaska in small and since Alaska is one of the most stunning places in the world, I can’t wait to see Northern Cascades NP. As soon as I leave Leavenworth, the sky gets quite smokey and upon arrival it turns out that bushfires from Canada are happening and the smoke is blown across the border all over the Pacific Northwest. The views of Diablo Lake are stunning nonetheless. In the afternoon I pitch up my tent at a local camp site and spend my time writing and walking around the area.
Overnachting op Newhalem Creek Campsite
Day 13. North Cascades National Park – Seattle
Unfortunately the next morning the haze has only gotten worse. After I inquire with the Visitors Center, I decide to head back to Seattle since it may stay like this for days. I visit fellow Dutchie Inge where I sleep on her couch and we have dinner at Salty’s Seattle in the evening, with an amazing view over the bay and the Seattle skyline.
Day 14. Seattle
As I arrived back in Seattle one day earlier than planned, I decide to give the city a thorough visit. Even though it’s still smokey, I get up with the Space Needle. I visit the first Starbucks in the world and walk around Pike Place Market and the Waterfront. By the end of the afternoon I drive back to Seattle Airport, where I’ve booked night at Motel 6 South again. I drop off my rental car and head to bed early, because the next morning at 06.00 am I’m flying to Alaska for another amazing adventure. My Pacific Northwest road trip has come to an end.
Overnachting in Motel 6 Seattle SeaTac Airport South
Additional travel tips for your Pacific Northwest road trip:
– Except for the overnights on Seattle Airport and the Airbnb in Portland I had nothing booked in advance. Somehow I figured that, despite the fact it was the high season, there would always be a place on a campsite for me. How wrong I was. Some campgrounds in the national parks are ‘first come, first serve’ but those were usually well booked up half way through the day already. I had quite a bit of a struggle each night to find a place to sleep and when not camping, it may be quite impossible to find a hotel for the night, so make sure to book well ahead. Booking.com has some great deals and depending on the terms and conditions, you may also still cancel at no additional fee if you decide to go elsewhere.
– For the national parks you can buy a pass that allows you entrance to all US national parks for a whole year. It’s $80 per person so if you’re visiting more than two national parks for a few days, it may be cheaper. Daily entrance fees for the national parks varies between $10-15 pp/day.
– As for renting a car, you don’t need an SUV, but since I was solo tripping I enjoyed having a larger car that made me feel safe on the road. Go here to compare rental car rates for your north west USA road trip.
– When camping there are strict rules when it comes to safety and bears, espcially in Washington (Olympic NP and Morthern Cascades NP). Everything that smells needs to be in your car at all times when not around and food should never be left unattended.
– I’d definitely recommend getting yourself a Pacific Northwest Guidebook for your trip planning as well as this Pacific Northwest roadmap which can be useful along the way as well.
– Also worth a visit: Tacoma near Seattle. Read more here about things to do in Tacoma. If you have more time in Oregon, also make sure to visit Bend, Oregon. Check this post for the best of Bend.
Solo female travel in the USA
I really enjoyed my Pacific Northwest road trip. The landscapes are truly gorgeous and I completely felt at ease in nature. The only time I felt a little insecure as a woman, was when I had to overnight in a car park, I would definitely recommend this to anyone. Of course I also took care when solo hiking in bear country and I kept my family and friends updated on my whereabouts by sending them my location via Whatsapp every day, as well as tell them about the hikes I did.
Conclusion and disclaimer
I hope you found this blog useful for planning your Pacific Northwest road trip. If you want to know more or if you have any additional questions, feel free to leave them below or send me a message. As I traveled solo I have probably done less miles than I would have with a partner, since I didn’t want to spend all the time driving. However, I’d have loved to spend more time in the national parks, so I’m sure you can make that work. Enjoy your trip planning and eventually your Pacific Northwest road trip as well!
Note that this blog contains affiliate links. In case you make a reservation or purchase through any of those links, I may earn a small commission at absolutely no extra cost to you.