13 Seriously Fun Things To Do To Make the Most of Summer in the Pacific Northwest

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Ask any local, and they’ll tell you that there is no better place in the world than the Pacific Northwest during the summer. It’s during this time that the region’s rainy weather takes a break and is replaced by long, warm days that are perfect for lounging on the river, hiking in the mountains, or playing at the park.

If you’re new to the area and want some ideas for how to spend your first summer in the PNW or a longtime local looking for a new summer adventure, we have you covered.

Here are our favorite things to do during the summer months in the Pacific Northwest.

Hike to Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park, Washington

Morning Hike to Sol Duc Falls in Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, Washington
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Located on the north side of Olympic National Park, this part of the park, with its rushing river and towering trees, stays cool even on the hottest summer days. This is the perfect spot to spend a weekend day in July immersed in nature, with the payoff of the waterfall being the cherry on top. Add in a trip to the nearby beaches of the Pacific Coast, and you’ll have a quintessential PNW adventure.

Camp at Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon Coast

Cape Lookout State Park Oregon
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Cape Lookout State Park is nestled up against the Pacific Ocean along a long stretch of sandy beach. Along this stretch of coast the busy Highway 101 runs further inland so your stay here will be peaceful and free from highway noise that can plague other areas.

Pitch a tent at one of the campground’s many camping spots, or try your luck at grabbing one of the popular yurt or cabin rentals to enjoy a glamping experience.

Kayak in the San Juan Islands, Washington

Sea Kayaking in the San Juan Islands in Northwest Washington
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The San Juan Islands are a kayaker’s dream, with numerous protected bays for first-time kayakers to uninhabited islands that can only be reached after a long day’s paddle. For the ultimate Pacific Northwest kayaking experience, take off from the beach on the north side of Orca Island and paddle the 2.2 miles over to Sucia Island. The island is a state park with numerous bays to explore, miles of trails crisscrossing the entire island, and numerous camping opportunities right along the beach.

Visit Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock, Oregon Coast

Summer sunset at Haystack Rock, an iconic monolithic rock at Cannon Beach in Clatsop County, Oregon, USA.
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On hot summer days in the Willamette Valley, locals flock to nearby Cannon Beach in an attempt to escape the heat. And for good reason: this gorgeous stretch of coast is one of the nicest places to visit in all of Oregon. With wide, sandy beaches, incredible state parks right next door, and the ever-present Haystack Rock standing watch out in the Pacific, Cannon Beach is a must-visit destination during the summer months.

Whale Watching Tour from Victoria, British Columbia

Southern resident killer whale (Orca) off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada,
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Victoria, British Columbia, is just a short ferry ride across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles, Washington. This day or overnight trip is a great way to get out on the water and experience the charm of Victoria.

The city is also a great jumping-off point for whale-watching tours as the resident orcas that call these waters home are typically easy to find, and it’s a treat to watch them go about their day searching for food, jumping out of the water, and caring for their young. While these trips can be spendy, we would consider them a bucket list adventure that everyone should experience at least once in their life.

Wine Tasting in Willamette Valley, Oregon

 Stoller estates is a famous winery in the Willamette Valley, with a nice and beautiful tasting room opened on the hills and vines.
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The Willamette Valley wine region has quickly established itself as one of the most prestigious in the entire world. Oregon’s Pinot Noir has become world-famous for its earthy tones and smooth flavor. With hundreds of wineries dotting the region, there is no better way to spend a summer day than to pack a picnic and head out for a day of wine tasting.

Many of the area wineries now require advance reservations so check before you head out. Worry not, though, if you’re making a last-minute trip, as there are still plenty of tasting rooms around the area that take walk-ins.

Take A Scenic Drive on the North Cascades Scenic Highway, Washington

The North Cascades Highway Passing Through the North Cascades National Park in Washington State, USA
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The North Cascades National Park is by far the least visited national park on the entire west coast with only 40,000 visitors a year. This is in part due to the fact that the road through the park is only open from late spring through early fall as the areas massive snowfall makes keeping it open during the winter months an impossible task.

For those who do venture through the park, the road offers stunning views of the little-visited peaks of the North Cascade Range and the turquoise-blue waters of Diablo Lake.

Explore Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington

View of the Great Wheel from Pike Place Market.
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Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, Washington, is always bustling, but during the summer months, it really comes alive. With fresh seafood straight from the nearby waters of the Pacific Ocean, fresh produce from local farms, and plenty of quirky charm to take in, this destination is a must-visit.

If you want to have the ultimate PNW experience, drive over to the east side of the sound and take the ferry across. Pike Place Market is only a short walk from the terminal and you can then avoid dealing with finding a parking spot in busy downtown Seattle.

Stargaze at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Panorama milky way
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Southern Oregon is home to some of the best stargazing in the world, with its incredibly dark skies and frequent clear weather during the summer months. Crater Lake makes for the perfect stargazing setting, especially for astrophotographers who want to capture the Milky Way rising above the crystal clear waters of the lake.

Set up shop along any one of the numerous pullouts around the lake as traffic drops to nearly nothing during the night, so there is little worry of headlights ruining your night vision.

Mountain Biking in Galbraith Mountain, Bellingham, Washington

Young man mountain biking on pnw alpine trail at Galbraith Mountain
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Bellingham, Washington, often flies under the radar for Pacific Northwest destinations, but locals know that this is one of the premier mountain biking destinations in the region. With miles of trails right in town, you can pick up a demo at a local bike shop and ride straight to the trails of Galbraith Mountain.

Here, you’ll find jumps, flow, and plenty of dirt to keep you going all day. As an added bonus, at the end of the day, you can hit up downtown Bellingham’s pump track while enjoying some food and a beer from Kulshan Brewing Co.

Explore the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon/Washington

Multnomah Falls, Oregon, USA located in the Columbia River Gorge.
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Visitors and locals alike flock to the Columbia River Gorge year-round for wildflower hikes, waterfalls, stunning vistas, and calf-busting hikes to the top of the peaks that line this natural wonder. During the summer months, the area truly comes alive with windsurfers catching air out on the river, locals cooling off in their favorite swimming hole, and adventurous souls even jumping or kayaking off some of the area’s waterfalls into deep pools below.

Check out the Eagle Creek trail for one of the highest ratios of waterfalls to miles that you’ll find anywhere.

Fly Fishing Along the Cascade Lakes Highway, Bend, Oregon

This hatchery was completed in 1929 and introduces trout into the Fall River.  Fly fishing welcome.
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The scenic Cascade Lakes Highway outside of Bend, Oregon, is home to a plethora of lakes and streams that hold numerous species of trout ready to challenge any fly fisher. These range from large lakes with heavy boat traffic to serene streams that require a hike in to reach.

If you’re ready to try your hand at catching some of the savviest fish around, head over to the crystal-clear waters of Fall River. Here, the local rainbow, brown, and brook trout have seen it all from anglers, so bring your best stuff, or you’ll be leaving empty-handed.

Berry Picking on Sauvie Island, Oregon

Strawberry picking in a berry farm on a sunny day. Fresh strawberries in a white bucket.
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Sauvie Island is a pancake-flat chunk of land sitting at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. This, along with the area’s rich soil, made it the perfect place for farming, and generations of Portlanders have made the summer trek to Sauvie to pick their own blueberries, marionberries, raspberries, peaches, and strawberries.

This region has some of the best weather around for berry growing and the result is super sweet and plump berries that will leave your fingers purple and sticky.

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest