Last summer kind of got away from me so when we planned our Pacific Northwest Road Trip, it was totally last minute! Not my style typically, but I think we did alright! My two oldest kids are in college/post college so they are both working and had their own little summer trips planned so scheduling something seemed impossible. I had work obligations early summer that I couldn’t really plan around.
So about a week before leaving, I told my daughter we needed to plan something. She agreed and we booked our flights! We planned to go from Northern California into Oregon and Washington State! All of us had lots of things on our list that we wanted to try to see. After our California Adventure trip a few years ago, this was the piece of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) we couldn’t fit in. So this time we wanted to see the northern part of the west coast! I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it, we just had to see it. BUT…we only had a week so we would have a lot to fit into those 7 days. I was exhausted just thinking about it!
Day 1: San Francisco to Mendocino!
On a Tuesday afternoon, we flew into San Francisco, picked up our rental car and started north. That day IT WAS COLD in San Francisco!
We drove close to 4 hours the first night driving into Mendocino, Ca. This was one regret for the trip. I had no idea what to expect for the drive into Mendocino and we drove this area at night. Even in the dark, I could tell this was beautiful country. It was peppered with vineyards and Redwood forests. I could have kicked myself for not allowing some extra time during the day to see the sights on the way in, but that gives me a good excuse to come back.
Day 2: Mendocino to Oregon State
The next day the morning light allowed us to see Mendocino during the day. This was a town that took us back in time to an Old West type atmosphere. The coast lining this town was gorgeous and our first morning was made more complete with a few whales passing by. Not much time to take in too much there though. We were on a mission to get into Bandon, Oregon later that afternoon.
As we moved on up the coast we made a stop at Glass Beach. This little beach was a bit hard to find. Actually now called MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, Ca., this little gem is filled with exactly that – gems! Or sea glass that was actually created from an old dump site near the coast. Great to see something good come out of something that was likely an eyesore at one time. The colors of the sea glass on the beach really were spectacular.
Of course, no road trip in the Pacific Northwest is complete without a pit-stop at Redwood National Forest! Who can’t stop and look at these magnificent trees? This old tree stump may look like a great place to sit and take a pic, but it was actually pretty scary and we all were being really careful about where we stepped because it felt like it could cave in at any moment. Climbing up wasn’t too easy either unless you’re 19 and can jump like a deer, like my son.
We finally made it into the beautiful state of Oregon where we stopped several places to see and hike the gorgeous coast line in Samuel H. Boardman State Park. Did I mention that IT. IS. BEAUTIFUL? Our favorite was a little beach area called Secret Beach. It isn’t marked, but it’s not a bad walk down and the views here are incredible. I highly recommend it.
We spent the night in Bandon, Oregon at a nice Airbnb. Bandon is a quaint little town with great views of the coast and sunsets are gorgeous. My only critique is that almost everything closes down very early in the evening. We were going to dinner around 8:30 or 9 since we wanted to get the most our of daylight hours and most places looked like they closed around 6:00.
Day 3: Toketee Falls, Crater Lake and on to Portland!
The next day we headed inland to Toketee Falls. This was probably everyone’s favorite experience on the trip. These amazing falls have a nice trail leading to a great overlook. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for us. We climbed over the rail and scaled the side of the mountain down to the bottom of the falls. If you are up to it and able to go down, I would highly recommend to try it. It’s not an easy climb down or back up but once we got down there, I could not believe the vibrant colors. All three of the kids jumped into the freezing cold water, but they didn’t stay in long (seriously they said the minute they hit it, it felt like needles hitting their bodies…it was COLD!). I was happy with the views. Pictures simply do not do it justice.
Once we climbed out of there, we made the quick 40 minute drive over to Crater Lake. That BLUE! We really enjoyed watching the chipmunks and trying to get our camera set up for a few selfies. In case you don’t know or haven’t been, this marvel was formed from a volcano eruption. The water, formed from rain and snow, is known for its purity.
We headed on to Portland from Crater Lake.
Day 4: Portland and Columbia River Gorge
Just outside of Portland, we spent the morning in Columbia River Gorge. Highly recommended if you are waterfall enthusiasts, like we seem to be. The scenic drive in includes views of several of the most beautiful waterfalls in Oregon. We also made the hike to see the Oneonta Narrows and falls. Everything we read online was right about this short hike. The hike itself wasn’t bad but there was a large log jam at the beginning. It wasn’t bad navigating over this, but later in the day it got more crowded and it got a little more slippery and a lot more tricky. At this point you were navigating the logs AND other people.
You will get wet on this hike so be sure to wear the proper shoes and clothes. You also have to wade through chest deep water. It’s very cold but it’s short and the view of the falls was worth it.
After enjoying the rest of the afternoon exploring downtown Portland, we headed north to Seattle. Although I didn’t have time to research anything in Portland or Seattle prior to the trip, we explored the city streets in both and found a lot of fun things to see and do. I’d love to do both of these cities exploring some of the breweries – with adults only. 🙂
Day 5 and 6: Seattle
We spent one day exploring Seattle and wandering the streets. Then drove over toward Olympic National park where we spent one of our last free days on a whale watching tour where we saw lots of humpback whales.
Unfortunately the weather that afternoon after whale watching was rainy and foggy and we didn’t get to explore Olympic National Park. We could barely see in front of us to drive. So we started south back toward San Francisco.
Day 7: McArthur-Burney Falls
On our way back through, we stopped at the beautiful McArthur-Burney Falls in Cali. These falls are simply gorgeous. Unfortunately, this may have been the shot I was trying to take when I fell and twisted my ankle pretty badly on the rocks. Luckily the camera didn’t get damaged and the kids did their best to hold back their laughter. (I think they were just surprised I almost made it through the whole trip before I took a tumble. Honestly, I was too!)
Day 8 – San Fran and back home
A late flight out of San Fran on our last day allowed us to spend the day exploring this fantastic city again. I love it there and could seriously spend hours watching those seals at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Our trip was put together quickly and we fit in a LOT into a short amount of time, but it gave us a glimpse into some really amazing sites in northern California, Oregon and Washington. We had a great time and shared some fantastic family memories.
Pacific Northwest Road Trip Highs:
- Toketee Falls
- Oneonta Falls and Narrows
- Columbia River Gorge.
- Hanging with my kiddos
- All of our short hikes
- McArthur-Burney Falls
- San Francisco
- All of Oregon
- Boardman State Park
Road trip Lows:
- Being in the car so much.
- You really need more than a week to do this trip well. We were in a hurry and didn’t get to enjoy a lot of the scenery.
- I would have liked to have seen Mt. Rainier and completed some hikes around Olympic National Park, but the day we were there, it was rainy and foggy and you couldn’t see very far ahead. Another reason to go back!