The Pacific Northwest should be on your radar for a number of reasons. Within the region, you have access to mountains, forests, and coastline along with unique and vibrant cities. The PNW generally includes Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia. However, for your 5 to 7 day Pacific Northwest itinerary we’re going to look specifically at Washington and Oregon.
Should you have more time to spend in the area, extend your trip to visit Idaho and BC. We’ll include a combination of urban and natural areas, as well as destinations that are a bit more off the beaten path. Keep reading for the perfect Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary.
Best Time to Visit the Pacific Northwest
The best time to visit the PNW is the summer. Summers tend to be mild–they are warm and comfortable. During this time of year, you can plan to pack sandals, shorts, and a light jacket. Always have a rain jacket on hand as the PNW is known for brief and sudden downpours before returning to beautiful blue skies.
Keep in mind that a visit in August or September might force you to travel around wildfires. Eastern and central Washington and Oregon experience their highest number of wildfires during these months, so it might be the case that some trails or forest areas are off-limits to visitors.
Summer may be the best time to visit the Pacific Northwest, but you can still visit during other months. Visiting national parks or state forests during the fall provides the opportunity to witness the stunning changing of the leaves.
In October, it’s usually still warm enough to camp and you can enjoy the orange and yellow leaves. The winter months in Washington and Oregon are cold and wet, but if you enjoy winter sports, consider paying a visit to the PNW during this time. There are several ski resorts as well as opportunities for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing.
As a general rule of thumb, never visit the PNW without a rain jacket or umbrella. The area is known for being flush with green all year round, but this is only possible due to large amounts of rain. Make sure you pack carefully for whichever season you plan to visit.
5 to 7 Day Pacific Northwest Itinerary
If you’re lucky enough to have a full 7 days to spend in the PNW, take this itinerary to guide your travels. We also have options for a 5-day itinerary that will take you to some of the PNW’s best places.
If you need to rent a car for this trip, then you can browse Rentalcars.com which aggregates prices across a number of companies. Alternatively, you can also consider renting an RV or a campervan from Outdoorsy.
Day 1 – Seattle, Washington
Beginning your travels in Seattle, Washington is the perfect way to kick off your Pacific Northwest itinerary. You can visit the city in one day, but it’s ideal if you can spare more than that.
Seattle is most well known for the Space Needle, museums, and Pike’s Place Market, where you’ll find delicious seafood, outstanding views of Puget Sound, and the original Starbucks coffee. The Chihuly is a blown glass museum that tends to be a fan favorite. You must also make sure to pay the famous gum wall at Pike’s Place a visit.
Spending a day in Seattle can give you a great taste for the city before continuing onto the rest of your PNW itinerary.
Where to Stay in Seattle
Plan to spend the first night of your 5 to 7 days in the Pacific Norwest in Seattle. As a popular tourist destination, there are countless places to stay in the Emerald City. If you’re looking for something that suits your needs, have a browse through the suggestions below:
The Mediterranean Inn — Situated within walking distance of the iconic Space Needle, this hotel is a great option for staying in Seattle. You can choose from a range of rooms including some with self-catering facilities and there is a 24-hour reception. Click here to see their availability
Inn at the Market – Located close to the iconic Pike Place Market, this boutique hotel is a great option if you’re not worried about your budget. There are a range of comfortable rooms to choose from and a great rooftop bar with spectacular views of Seattle. Click here to see their availability
HotelHotel Hostel — If you’re travelling on a budget or are solo and looking for a social atmosphere, then this hostel is a great choice! Centrally located in Seattle, they offer both private rooms and dorms with good common areas as well! Click here to see their availability
Private Rental — If you’d prefer to have your own place to stay in Seattle, then it’s worth considering a private apartment for your stay. There are a number of great properties to choose from, from a basic one-bedroom apartment to unique stays like this urban treehouse. Click here to find the best private rentals in Seattle!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Seattle!
Day 2 – Olympic National Park & Rialto Beach
For day two, head northwest toward Olympic National Park. If you sat on the waterfront in Seattle and looked west, you most likely saw a mountain range–this is the Olympic peninsula. Here you’ll find forests, mountains, and beaches to explore.
At the furthest tip of the peninsula is the stunning Cape Flattery. There’s a road that goes around the outskirts of the park, but you should make sure to venture into the mountains and rainforests, namely the Hoh Rainforest.
One of the most popular areas of the Olympics is Rialto Beach. It’s near La Push, made famous because of the Twilight movies filmed there. Rialto is unique for its stacks of driftwood and ecosystems, a combination of beach and coastal forest.
If your Pacific Northwest itinerary allows, try to visit during sunset. On a clear summer evening, set up a blanket and watch the gorgeous sunset over the ocean.
Where to Stay Near Olympic National Park
Though we generally recommend spending a few days in Olympic National Park, planning to spend the night on this beautiful peninsula will allow you to experience quite a bit of the Park without eating too much into the rest of your itinerary. If you’re wondering where to stay near the Park entrance, have a look at these suggestions:
Olympic Lodge — Located in Port Angeles, this is one of the top options if you’d prefer a luxury accommodation to come back to after exploring the National Park. They have a number of great rooms and great facilities such as a swimming pool and a restaurant on site. Click here to see their availability
Emerald Valley Inn — Also situated in Port Angeles, this inn is located near the park entrance making it convenient for those who want to start exploring early! They have a range of rooms available including some with a patio and there is also a restaurant on site. Click here to see their availability
Greenhouse Inn by the Bay — Located in the town of Sequim, this bed and breakfast is the perfect cosy place to rest your head after a day of exploring the park. They have a range of comfortable rooms to choose from, with breakfast included in the nightly rate and a nice garden to relax in. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental — Another great accommodation option near Olympic National Park is a private rental. There are several options near the park that will give you more privacy and let you cook your own meals. For instance, this charming cottage in Port Angeles is an excellent option for a base! Click here to find the best private rentals near Olympic National Park!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other places to stay in Olympic National Park!
Day 3 – Oregon Coast
The cute and quaint coastal town of Astoria is a favorite getaway for a quiet weekend — it is actually the oldest city in Oregon, founded in 1811.
The Astoria Column is one of the most famous sites. It sits atop a hill overlooking the town. The column is covered in historical depictions of the region. For another look into local history, stop at the Columbia River Maritime Museum.
The Columbia River divides Washington from Oregon and was a critical part of the area’s economy many years ago. The museum details local fishing, shipping, and military history.
No road trip through the PNW is complete without exploring the coast, so make sure to pay Cannon Beach a visit on your way to Portland. Cannon Beach is home to Haystack Rock, one of the most iconic sites along the coast. Take a hike through Ecola State Park or visit Arch Cape.
These are areas that will get you away from the crowds as Cannon Beach does tend to see a lot of visitors, especially during the summer months. Make sure to try local seafood to round out your Oregon coast visit.
Where to Stay in Portland
Plan to spend your third day driving down the coast to Portland, where you’ll spend your next two nights. As another major tourist destination in the Pacific Northwest, there are countless places to rest your head in this hip city. If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Portland, make sure to have a look at these suggestions:
The Society Hotel — Centrally located close to all the major attractions of the city, this hotel is a perfect mid-range option. There are several rooms to choose from and there is also a restaurant and bar on site. Click here to see their availability
Kimpton Riverplace Hotel — If you’d prefer luxury accommodation during your stay in Portland then this hotel is a fantastic option. Located on the banks of the Willamette River, they offer a range of luxe rooms with all the amenities you would expect. Click here to see their availability
Travelers House — If you’re heading to Portland solo or on a budget, then this social hostel is a good choice particularly if you want to meet other travellers. They offer both dorms and private rooms with a great common area and kitchen. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental — If you would rather have a bit of privacy and be able to cook your own meals, then a private apartment might be a good option for you. There are a number of great properties to choose from, like this quaint, centrally located cottage. Click here to find more private rentals in Portland!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Portland!
Day 4 – Portland, Oregon
Portland is the other main city in the Pacific Northwest and well worth a visit. Though spending two days in Portland is probably most ideal, you can still cover quite a bit of ground in just one day, as well.
The city’s mantra “keep Portland weird” rings true as you explore everything the city has to offer. Food and hikes are local favorites. There are neighborhoods throughout Portland that have the best food and nightlife, so make sure you research them before choosing where to spend your time.
Powell’s bookstore, Pittock Mansion, the Japanese Gardens, and more are excellent ways to spend a day. If you’re looking for a quiet way to spend an afternoon, consider a picnic in Laurelhurst Park.
Day 5 – Mt. Hood & Bend
If you drive just east of Portland, you’ll quickly arrive at Mt. Hood National Forest. You most likely saw Mt. Hood from Portland if it was a clear day, you might’ve also caught a glimpse of Mount St. Helens. Mt. Hood National Forest is filled with hikes of varying difficulty and camping.
The historic Timberline Lodge is worth a visit even if you’re not staying the night. Take a short hike to Trillium Lake or tackle a more strenuous hike up the side of the mountain. During the winter, Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline are two popular ski areas.
Bend, Oregon is a great place to stop, refuel, and restock your snacks while exploring a central Oregon city – and there are also plenty of places to explore when driving from Portland to Bend.
Bend is known for its breweries, so take your pick and have lunch at one. The Deschutes River runs through the city and offers a much-needed relief from the heat during the summer.
During winter, Mt. Bachelor is a favored spot for outdoor activities. During your time in Bend, you can choose to stick to the city shops and restaurants or venture out to Pilot Butte or Smith Rock State Park for some time outside.
Where to Stay in Bend
The city of Bend makes for an excellent base for the rest of this route. If you are only planning a 5-day Pacific Northwest itinerary, then plan to end your trip in this Oregon city. If you’re wondering where to stay in Bend, the below places are great options:
Hampton Inn & Suites — If you’re after a basic clean hotel, then this is certainly a great option. Offering a range of different rooms in a central location, they have breakfast included daily and a hot tub and fitness centre for guests to use. Click here to see their availability
Oxford Hotel — This locally-run and eco-friendly boutique hotel is an excellent option for spending the night in Bend. They offer several different types of rooms in a central location with great facilities. A superb breakfast is available each morning. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental — If you value your privacy and would rather stay in a private rental in Bend than a hotel, then are several options such as this historic home in central Bend. Click here to browse private rentals in Bend!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Bend!
Day 6 – John Day Fossil Beds, Painted Hills & Umpqua National Forest
The John Day Fossil Beds are filled with striped hills and ancient remnants of many years ago. These colorful rock formations capture the history of the region. It’s one of the richest fossil beds in North America and a fun spot to visit for those traveling with small children.
Sit at an outlook to enjoy the view or tie up your hiking shoes to take a walk through these rolling hills. You can learn how creatures that once walked the earth here as well as climate changes while you explore.
The Painted Hills and John Day Fossil Beds go hand-in-hand. Oregon’s Painted Hills are one of three units of John Day and perhaps one of the most recognizable. It’s hard to miss the towering hills striped with reds, browns, and yellows–colors that look like they’ve been painted on.
In total, the area is 3,132 acres, giving you ample space to explore and step away from the crowds if you desire. The Painted Hills are listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, so maybe you want to challenge yourself to visit as many wonders as possible during your Pacific Northwest itinerary.
Next, head to the Umpqua National Forest. Within the forest, you’ll find waterfalls — we recommend paying Toketee Falls a visit, and several trails.
The forest covers 983,126 acres across three southern Oregon counties. Camping here during the summer is highly recommended.
There are several campgrounds that you can book in advance as well as many that are first come first serve, so they can better fit in your Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary. Take a break from the crowds and cities by spending a day exploring Umpqua National Forest.
Day 7 – Umpqua Hot Springs & Crater Lake National Park
Seated in the Umpqua National Forest are the river’s hot springs. Visitors park in a designated parking lot before hiking a short and steep hike to the pools. Each pool is about the size of an average adult, making them ideal for lounging.
They are carved into the side of a hill and the stone around the pools do tend to get slippery, so make sure you wear proper shoes and remain cautious of where you’re stepping. The crowds at the pools tend to be a hit or miss. A weekend day usually draws more crowds than a midweek visit, so try to build your itinerary according to your preferences.
The Umpqua Hot Springs provide a nice place to rest and relax toward the end of your PNW road trip.
Finally, it’s time to head to Crater Lake. As the only national park in Oregon, Crater Lake is a must-see during your road trip through the Pacific Northwest. Nearly 8,000 years old, a volcanic explosion rocked the area. The result was a 6,173-foot lake filled with crystal clear water that makes it appear a vibrant blue.
It’s worth visiting the park any time of year, but winters bring intense snowpack that may close roads and summer risks wildfires that can close the park. However, on a clear summer day, Crater Lake is unlike any place you’ve visited before.
Have More Time?
We highly recommend venturing into Idaho and western Montana, or even into British Columbia – in fact, there are plenty of place to visit on the drive from Seattle to Vancouver.
If you have more time, try spending an extra day or two in the national parks and cities like Portland or Seattle. There is a lot to see during your 7-day Pacific Northwest road trip, so be sure to plan a trip that works for the speed you want to travel at.
Take a look at a few highlights to add to your itinerary should you have some time to spare.
Here is a recommendation for those who enjoy wine tasting. The Yamhill-Carlton area is a rising player in the wine industry. Wineries here are specifically known for their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Spend a day exploring a few local wineries and enjoying the lush green rolling hills of Yamhill-Carlton. There are also several wine festivals throughout the summer that are worth the visit if your Pacific Northwest itinerary aligns.
If you’re looking for a challenging hike to round out your time in the PNW, look no further than the Enchantments. You can get permits to camp at the top of the pass, but they are highly competitive. Many people opt to thru-hike the area.
If you’re not interested in a 20-mile day hike with substantial elevation gain, you can hike up to Colchuck Lake to take in the bright blue water and snowy peaks. It’s the most picturesque section of the hike and a favorite by those who make the trek up to see.
North Cascades National Park
“The North Cascades are calling!” Located just north of Leavenworth are the North Cascades. These impressive mountains are loaded with hikes and vantage points that welcome visitors wholeheartedly.
With more than 3,000 glaciers, bright blue lakes, and snow-kissed peaks, these mountains are well worth the visit. Make sure to explore which hikes you’re interested in doing prior to arrival as some require permits.
The North Cascades are paradise for backcountry hikers. Winter severely limits which parts of the park you can access, so visiting during summer is recommended. Early summer avoids the late summer heat waves and there’s still some snow on the mountains.
Whether you have five days, seven days, or more, the Pacific Northwest has a little something for everyone. With so much natural space to explore, unique cities, and geological wonders, it’s hard to decide what to visit first. Use this itinerary to guide your road trip decisions, but remember to create a trip that caters to your interests and you’re certain to have an unforgettable Pacific Northwest itinerary.
Are you planning a trip to the Pacific Nortwest? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!