15 Must-Visit Summer Vacation Destinations in the Pacific Northwest

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It is hard to name a place I would rather be during the summer months than the Pacific Northwest. This normally rainy locale shuts off the faucet from July (the local’s joke is that summer doesn’t start until the 4th of July) through September and transforms into a traveler’s paradise.

In Puget Sound, the water fills with boaters taking in the sun on the water, while in the Columbia River Gorge, hikers set off into the woods in search of waterfalls. Even the normally cool Oregon Coast warms up a little and becomes the go-to spot to get away from the heat waves that tend to settle in at least once per summer.

If you’re looking for the best summer destinations in the Pacific Northwest, look no further—we have you covered starting now!

Seattle, Washington

Colorful Seattle, Washington Waterfront At Sunrise. View of the newly renovated attractions along the waterfront area without the old viaduct.
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Seattle takes the cake as one of the nicest places to be during the summer. Temperatures never get too hot, but even when they do, Puget Sound is right there to keep things cool. The coastal breeze keeps most wildfire smoke away. And there is so much to do in and around this incredible city.

While tourists flock to the city to see sites like the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, locals head to the parks to enjoy the warm summer evenings. Gas Works Park is a great spot to visit, with its location right on Lake Union and unique structures that harken back to the day when this was an industrial site. You’ll find plenty of both locals and visitors enjoying the space throughout the summer.

Portland, Oregon

Downtown Portland Oregon Cherry Trees in Peak Bloom along the Willamette River and the Steel Bridge.
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This eclectic city manages to stay busy year-round, but it truly comes alive during the summer months. Diners at Portland’s many incredible restaurants and food carts spill out onto outdoor patios to nosh on amazing food and drinks. The city’s parks also become a playground for everyone, with only-in-Portland-type events like the soapbox derby on Mt. Tabor.

With Mt. Hood right next door, there are plenty of places to get lost in the forest or up high to escape the heat on the warmest of summer days.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Beautiful aerial view of downtown Vancouver skyline, British Columbia, Canada at sunset
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This cosmopolitan city along the southeastern edge of British Columbia offers up a little bit of everything to visitors during the summer. Its location right on the ocean and its plentiful parks means there are plenty of places to get outside and enjoy the city’s warm summer afternoons. When you’ve had your fill of outdoor fun, it’s time to hit up Vancouver’s incredible dining scene, which has become a melting pot of cultures, all centered around the fresh produce and seafood available all around the city.

Just north of the city, you’ll find mountains, lakes, islands, and bays, perfect for exploring this stunningly beautiful area’s wilderness.

Victoria, British Columbia

The Empress Hotel in Victoria
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Victoria stands as the capital of British Columbia yet is far overshadowed by its neighbor, Vancouver, to the east. It is time that this changes, though, as Victoria offers up the perfect blend of nature, culture, and dining and is only a short ferry ride across the Salish Sea from Port Angeles.

This makes it a perfect summer weekend getaway as you can ride the ferry over, take in the sights of the city within its compact and walkable downtown core, or maybe even enjoy a day out on the water on a kayak in its protected bays, then turn around and hop the ferry back home before the day is even over.

Whistler, British Columbia

Glacial mountain Garibaldi lake with turquoise water in the middle of coniferous forest at sunset. View of a mountain lake between fir trees. Mountain peaks above the lake lit by sunset rays. Canada
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This Pacific Northwest mega resort doesn’t slow down just because the snow has melted. We would argue that Whistler becomes even better during the summer with miles of hiking trails, world-class mountain biking, alpine lakes to explore, and the vibrant downtown scene that stays alive year-round.

Nearby, you’ll find one of the most scenic locations in all of British Columbia in, Garibaldi Lake. Note that the views here don’t come easy, though, as this trail is 11 miles long and requires over 3,000 feet of climbing. For those who make the trek, the views are definitely worth it.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach, OR, USA, Panorama view
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Cannon Beach is one of the most popular places on the entire Oregon coast, but don’t let that deter you from visiting this idyllic coastal town. With its combination of charm and breathtaking scenery, this is a place you won’t soon forget.

After breakfast at one of the town’s many excellent restaurants, hit the beach or head into the hills for a hike. Cannon Beach’s long, flat beach is perfect for families who want to kick back and play in the sand or fly a kite. If you’re instead looking for an idyllic nature experience, head over to the gorgeous Ecola State Park, where you can discover hidden beaches, take in breathtaking views, and hike to the lookout where you can see Terrible Tilly, the lonely lighthouse sitting on a rock a mile out to sea.

San Juan Islands, Washington

Washington State Ferry and boats moored at Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
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This is your sign to hop on a ferry and take a trip out to the San Juan Islands this summer. As soon as you board the boat, it feels like time starts to slow down as you slowly make your way through the islands that make up this little slice of paradise. Once there, spend your days kayaking and exploring secluded bays, tasting your way through the islands’ seafood offerings, and staying in rental homes with stunning views out over the sound.

While you’re there, look for the resident orcas who call these waters home.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier in Washington State
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Located under two hours from downtown Seattle, Mt. Rainier National Park should be a must-visit for anyone in the Seattle area (or the entire Pacific Northwest, for that matter!)

This massive mountain is omnipresent for anyone living around Puget Sound, but it isn’t until you arrive at the park that you really appreciate just how huge it is. Most visitors enter through either the Paradise corridor, which takes you to the Paradise area and its stunning wildflower meadows and glaciated hikes, or at Sunrise, which offers stunning views of the mountain from nearby peaks. We recommend budgeting enough time to visit both sides as they are both so unique and offer different perspectives of this giant of the Pacific Northwest.

Olympic National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park in Washington State - Deer Park Campground
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If you ask 10 people who live in northwest Washington what their favorite part of Olympic National Park is, you’ll probably get 10 different answers. This park offers so much diversity in its landscapes that it feels like you discover something new every single time you visit. From lush old-growth forests draped in moss to valleys with 100s of waterfalls streaming over the cliffs to tranquil hot springs to wild coastlines just waiting to be explored, this park truly has it all!

If you only have one day to visit Olympic National Park, we recommend heading over to the west side, where you can hike the Hall of Mosses trail in the Hoh Rainforest, followed by taking a walk along any of the park’s stunning beaches.

Hood River, Oregon

Beautiful View of Hood River Bridge going over Columbia River with Mt Hood in the background. Taken in White Salmon, Washington, USA.
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If a weekend of wineries, apple orchards, and waterfalls is what you’ve been longing for, then Hood River will be right up your alley. Located on the eastern side of the Columbia River Gorge waterfall corridor, this charming town serves as the perfect base camp for spending the day discovering the area’s most stunning waterfalls.

After a day of adventuring in the forest, head out to one of the many wineries that dot the hills above town to taste some of their award-winning wines. During the fall months, you can also hop over to an apple orchard to fulfill your dreams of picking your own apples and pears and do it all, with Mt. Hood serving as the backdrop for the dreamiest Instagram-worthy photos.

Bend, Oregon

Mirror pond in Bend Oregon
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Bend is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise with miles of hiking and biking trails, countless lakes perfect for paddleboarding, and the Deschutes River, which runs right through downtown and is perfect for floating the day away. This Central Oregon city is also brimming with incredible restaurants, breweries that produce some of Oregon’s most well-known beers, and a recent surge of wineries looking to bring their incredible offerings to this otherwise tough wine-growing region.

One of our favorite morning activities in Bend is to grab a coffee from Lone Pine and walk the river trail along the Deschutes from downtown over to the Old Mill district.

Leavenworth, Washington

A horse carriage for hire with tourists in the colorful Bavarian themed village of Leavenworth.
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Driving into Leavenworth might leave you wondering if you have suddenly been transported to Bavaria with its German-styled buildings, beer halls, and bratwurst offerings. Fear not, though, as I can ensure you that you are still firmly located in the heart of the Washington Cascades. This scenic town serves as the perfect backdrop for adventures into the hills above.

Leavenworth sits at the doorstep of the much-loved Enchantment Lakes area, which is famous for its high alpine lakes, granite peaks, and stunning fall colors, which attract hikers and photographers from around the country.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Summer View of Wizard Island at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.
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Oregon’s only national park, Crater Lake, is home to the deepest lake in the United States and also, arguably, its most picturesque. The stunningly blue waters of the lake almost look fake when you first crest the rim and gaze upon this Oregon landmark. The park itself remains wild and scenic with only a few services offered near the main lodge. While there is a road that winds its way around the entire lake, the only other offering you’ll find is the boat tour that requires a steep hike from the rim down to the lake.

Astoria, Oregon

Astoria Megler Bridge across the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington and over the red boutique Cannery Pier Hotel and Spa
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There is perhaps no town on the Oregon coast that has done a better job of blending its past and present than Astoria. This maritime hub, located just inside the treacherous Columbia River Bar, has long served as a center of commerce due to its strategic location. This is evident in the rich architecture of the downtown buildings, and although many of the businesses have changed over the years, the downtown still retains much of its original charm that harkens back to the town’s fishing and maritime past.

One of our favorite activities is to walk the boardwalk or ride the trolley past the buildings that once housed the dozens of canneries that used to call the Astoria waterfront home. Today, these buildings have been restored into hotels, restaurants, breweries, and shops that beckon in visitors and locals alike.

Joseph, Oregon

Red barn near Wallowa Mountains in Oregon
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Located deep in the northeastern corner of Oregon this remote town sits at the end of a long road that dead ends at the rugged Wallowa Mountains. Because of its remote location, hours from any population centers, Joseph has managed to retain much of its small-town charm while still catering to the visitors who come to this beautiful area to enjoy boating on Wallowa Lake, backing packing through the mountains, or just enjoying the quiet that comes with life at the end of the road.

Despite the town’s small size, there is so much to do in Joseph, like riding an old rail line on custom-made pedal-powered rail cars, taking the tram to the top of Mt. Howard, or listening to a concert on the lawn of the Wallowa Lake Lodge.

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