The Pacific Northwest of the United States is best known for its beautiful coastline, green interior, rainy weather, and spectacular mountains.
States, cities, and other destinations of the Pacific Northwest
Sometimes the neighboring areas of northern California, western Idaho, Southeastern Alaska, and British Columbia are also considered part of the Pacific Northwest.
There are hundreds of cities and towns in the Pacific Northwest; check the states above for more complete listings. Here are ten of them.
The Pacific Northwest is an outdoorsy place, and there are lots of places to camp and see in the Pacific Northwest. Here are some major ones you should check out.
- Mount St. Helens: Is alive again after a few years of quietness.
- Mount Rainier: Extremely photogenic mountain, rising from close to sea level to 14,410 feet (4392m).
- Olympic National Park: Contains a coastal temperate rain forest and several mid-sized mountains.
- Crater Lake National Park: The deepest lake in North America, known for its clear blue color.
- Mount Hood: Skiing year round and the largest night ski area in America.
- Mount Bachelor: Ski area near Bend, OR.
- Mount Baker: Ski the glacier in July.
- San Juan Islands: Famous for abundant eagles and orca whales, the islands are the sunniest and warmest location along this entire coast thanks to the "rain shadow".
- Opal Creek: Located in Central Oregon, this world-renowned protected area hosts a rich history, incredible hiking and swimming, and unique lodging.
Most people associate the Pacific Northwest with a lush region that receives large amounts of rain during the winter months, with wonderful summer days. But the Northwest has a variety of climate regions, from the Pacific Coast to the valley and, once over the mountains, a desert region -- all within a few hours drive of each other. There is enough to keep the outdoor enthusiast busy. The Pacific Northwest is known for its airplane and computer product facilities. Some of the largest and most well-known corporations call the Northwest home, these include: Costco, Eddie Bauer, Expedia, Amazon.com, Starbucks, Tully's Coffee, Lionsgate Studios, Boeing, Microsoft, Intel, and Nike just to name a few. There are many exciting areas to see.
English is the main language spoken in the Pacific Northwest and almost everyone living there speaks it. Some theorize that there is a distinct Pacific Northwest variation on language but most of the time people in the Pacific Northwest speak close to standard English with a few minor differences. Knowledge of other languages generally won't assist in this area.
The most convenient "gateways" to the Pacific Northwest are Seattle and Portland. Both of these cities are well-connected to the rest of the world by plane, car and train, and are good starting points for trips to other areas of the Pacific Northwest.
The main airports in the Pacific Northwest are Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Portland International Airport. Both airports offer flights to most cities in the USA and some flights to Asia and Europe. Other smaller airports are sprinkled around the Northwest, but most have few commercial flights except to other places in the Pacific Northwest.
Amtrak offers three routes serving the Northwest.
- The Amtrak Cascades: Runs from Eugene to Vancouver, BC with major stops in Seattle and Portland. The train service connects 18 cities in the Pacific Northwest region along a 467-mile rail corridor.
- The Coast Starlight: This scenic route connects Seattle and Portland to California. This train runs daily between Los Angeles and Seattle, passes through the Santa Barbara, the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and Portland. Widely regarded as one of the most spectacular of all train routes, the Coast Starlight links the greatest cities on the West Coast. This route is often hours late, so for regional trips the Amtrak Cascades is more reliable. The dome cars allow you to relax and see the countryside.
- The Empire Builder: The Empire Builder, named after railroad magnet James J. Hill, travels daily between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest along major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail. The Empire Builder route takes you on an exciting adventure through majestic wilderness, following the footsteps of early pioneers. It starts in Chicago and goes west to Spokane, where it splits up into two branches: one goes to Portland, OR and the other goes to Seattle, WA.
- The Bolt Bus Goes along the I-5 corridor from Vancouver, BC to Los Angeles, CA..
I-5 runs north-south from the Canadian border through Seattle and Portland to California. From the east, there are two main options: I90, from Seattle east to Chicago and Boston, and I84 which starts in Portland and goes southeast to Salt Lake City.
Outside the main cities of Portland and Seattle, public transportation is scarce and is not of much use for extensive sightseeing, so renting a car is a good idea. Although distances can be long, most roads are paved and well-maintained.
The Pacfic Northwest is a very diverse region and has a lot of beautiful scenery, including rugged coastlines, sparkling streams, picturesque islands and jagged mountains. Some of the destinations are listed in the Other Destinations section: here are some more sights.
- Columbia Gorge Scenic drive and its waterfalls. Offer beautiful hikes and is just a short trip from Portland. edit
- Oregon Coast. A beautiful stretch of coastline edit
- San Juan Islands. A thousand islands in the Juan De Fuca Straight. The four major islands, San Juan, Orca, Lopez and Shaw can be reached by Ferry. edit
- Whitewater rafting is extremely popular on the many rivers, particularly the Snake River.
- Gray whale watching is good along the coast in spring and fall during their migration.
- Killer whale watching is excellent in the San Juan Islands from spring through fall.
- Sea kayaking as a sport began in the Pacific Northwest and there are thousands of miles of convoluted shoreline to explore, especially in the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound of Washington.
- Skiing and Snowboarding can be found at many destinations in the Cascade mountains to enjoy.
- Hunting and Fishing is popular due to the natural biosphere of the pacific northwest.
- Hiking and Backpacking are very popular throughout this region, especially in the Cascade mountains. The Pacific Crest Trail is a very long trail that starts in British Columbia, heads south through the Cascade mountains to California; other opportunities for hiking/backpacking can be found nearly everywhere.
- Seafood is one of the best options in the area.
If you are passing through Astoria, Oregon (the town where the movie "The Goonies" was filmed), stop by Hondo's Brew & Pub. They have micro-brews and a fantastic set of home brew supply equipment. The brewmaster, RJ Keipke, is very knowledgeable. []
Use standard tools to find brand name hotels. Alternatively, there are some hidden jewels in the Pacific Northwest, deep in the Cascades mountains such as the Cascades Inn in historic Skykomish, WA.
- Bug repellent is a necessity, especially for warding off insects carrying diseases.
- When hiking wear sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support.
- Carry or bring water everywhere you travel.
- If going on an excursion of any type (camping for a weekend or just an afternoon hike) bring a small first aid kit.
- If possible bring a cell phone, however, cell phone coverage is spotty in rural areas away from interstate highways.
- Don't forget batteries - assuming that you are carrying something that uses batteries. A flashlight, maybe?
- Tap water in Western Washington and Oregon is some of the safest in the world!
- Be aware that the weather can change extremely quickly, so be prepared.
- Crime in most Northwest cities exists and is a growing problem. Perhaps the highest crime rate of any city in the Northwest is in Tacoma (mainly in East Tacoma, Hilltop and South Tacoma) while the most dangerous neighborhood in the Northwest is the Rainier Valley neighborhood in Seattle. Other areas visitors should use caution in include Northeast Portland (especially the King neighborhood), Seattle's Central District and Lake City neighborhoods, and White Center.