Ice caves, whale watching, and whitewater rafting are what make these getaways shine
From Washington’s famed Olympic Peninsula all the way down to Ashland and its small-town vibe, these Pacific Northwest road trip destinations along the I-5 corridor (and beyond) are what family time is all about. Whether you plan to hit the road when the summer sun is shining or when the waterfalls are bursting with spring rain, you’re going to amazed at how beautiful this part of the country is.
These Oregon Road Trips Are Made for Families
Families flock to Bend from all over the country for its unmatched outdoor recreation and adventures. No wonder it's a popular Pacific Northwest road trip destination, especially in summer when you can get wet and wild on the Deschutes River with Sun Country Tours. Their guides can take you on a white water rafting excursion or a relaxing tour down the river by stand up paddle board or inner tube. Just a little further south on 97, you'll find the world-renowned Smith Rock; climbers come to the area for an opportunity to scale the sheer walls of Monkey Face. Your little monkeys may not be ready to climb like a pro, but book a day with the guides at Chockstone Climbing Guides and they will be well on their way. All of the required gear is provided, and you will feel safe in the hands of these climbing experts.
When in Bend, do like the locals and hit the breweries. Stop by the iconic Deschutes Brewery for some true Central Oregon flair. You will enjoy a selection of award-winning craft beer and hand-crafted ales. Plus, if you are craving a good burger, they won't disappoint. 10 Barrel is another local brewery that offers up fantastic brews along with outdoor fire pits and plenty of room for kids to be kids.
Mt. Bachelor Village gives traveling families a variety of lodging options. Rent a hotel room, a river view condo or a vacation home. There is something available to fit every family budget and all options come with amenities like indoor and outdoor pools, playgrounds, golf courses and access to biking and hiking paths.
If you want to give your family a truly epic Pacific Northwest road trip experience, there's no destination like one that takes you to one of Oregon's gorgeous hot springs. While there are many to choose from, Crystal Crane is well worth it for families. This eastern Oregon hot spring is a wonderland for both parents and kids alike. The large heated pond is spacious enough for little ones to splash and enjoy themselves, and there's a private bathhouse where parents can soak in cedar-enclosed tubs. But, the hot spring is only part of the the fun. Lodging options include cabins, tent and RV camping. All of the options are cozy and rustic, and will have your kids talking about it for years to come.
For a little adventure head to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Just 29 miles away, this location is home to over 58 species of mammals including mule deer, pronghorn antelope, Rocky Mountain elk, coyotes and bobcats. The visitor center is a great place to start, and late summer is perfect for wildlife viewing, fishing and some great photos.
Summer is the perfect time to witness Oregon's waterfalls in their full glory. Gushing with runoff from the winter melt, the views will leave you in awe. Silver Falls State Park is easy to overlook for bigger vacations elsewhere, but don’t be fooled, the green jewel is full of fun times and is affordable and easy to get to. You’ll be able to escape to the woods while still sleeping warm and cozy.
The state park offers over 35 miles of hiking trails, and the good news is that summer is the perfect time to see wildflowers. Waterfalls are the thing to see here, and the full seven-mile trail of Ten Falls loop will let you see them all. Don’t miss out on the four falls that you can actually walk behind. If you’re not up for the full loop you can easily drive to the trailheads and break it up into sections as small as one or two miles. And if you want to go a bit faster, hit the dirt on your mountain bikes. Or just spend a day hanging by the wide creek and throwing sticks in the river on the South Lawn. Nearby you’ll find picnic shelters, barbeque stands, a playground and horseshoe pits for the perfect afternoon picnic.
If you need a day in town after some hiking, drive 15 minutes to Silverton, a sweet historic town. Go on a mural hunt for the town’s 30 gorgeous works, try some locally-brewed beers (ok, parents only), find a Frank Lloyd Wright house or stop by the 80 acres of the Oregon Garden for more spectacular summer blooms.
Another short jaunt north leads you to Mt. Angel, the faux-Bavarian town that hosts an Oktoberfest every year by their authentic glockenspiel. Get some sausages at the Mt. Angel Sausage Company, and stay in cabins at the park through the state park site.
If you want an Oregon road trip that will fulfill all of your PNW getaway dreams, Ashland is a must-visit locale. Southern Oregon boasts beautiful green fields, a wine country to rival the best and stunning rugged landscapes. It also has some of the best family-friendly activities around. Ashland is known for its Shakespeare Festival, with performances through October, and you can also check out the charming town and its many offerings in the way of restaurants and shops. An experience that's perfect after a day of outdoorsy fun. The nearby mighty Rogue River is great fun to raft in the summer, and the family-owned Fishing the Rogue will set you up with an unforgettable chance to fish for your dinner.
For a unique experience, why not stay at a working farm? The Willow Witt Ranch has 445 acres of forest, wetland and a small sustainable farm. Choose from the Farmhouse Studio, the large Meadow House or pitch your own tent. Then spend your days finding spring blooms in the meadows around it. For a really different experience, go on a day hike with the goats. The goats will pack your lunch on the 4-hour excursion up to nearby Grizzly Peak, where you can enjoy beautiful views of the valley below. There's also birding opportunities available, as well as miles and miles of hiking trails right outside your front door.
What would summer be without a little ocean air? This historic town is where the forest meets the sea, and your family meets a good time. Started by Scandinavians, fur traders, Lewis and Clark, and named for John Jacob Astor, the city boasts a mix of all those influences perfectly. Admire the lovely Victorian houses on the hilltops, stop by Finn Ware for some Scandinavian-inspired goods (like salty licorice) or check out Lewis and Clark’s 1805 winter camp at Fort Clatsop.
In town, don’t miss a walk along the pier and a stop at Frite and Scoop ice cream before heading to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, especially if your little ones are fans of boats. This small museum does a really great job offering interesting and dynamic exhibits, and you can even step aboard a real floating lighthouse ship. You’ll look at the river outside differently once you learn how dangerous it actually is to the ships sailing it.
Stay at the Cannery Pier Hotel, built on the site of an old cannery, 600 feet over the water. You’ll get views of the real working boats that ply the waters, and you can rent bikes to explore even more.
Across the river in Washington, take a day to explore Cape Disappointment, which is much better than it sounds. Clamber over rocks to scan the waters for whales, who spend summers in the area. The numerous hiking options include a great lighthouse, and you can also visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, which marks the end of the group’s epic journey to the Pacific.
For a stay on the Washington side of the river, check out the Sou’wester Lodge in Seaview. A beloved hipster hodgepodge of vintage airstream trailers, cabins and a guesthouse, the campus offers a sauna and spa services, live music on weekends, fire pits for roasting, an honor-system store with local goods and bikes to borrow to search out the beach just down the road.
Crater Lake is a destination that stands out from most Oregon road trip destinations. It should definitely be on your Pacific Northwest road trip list this summer. Did you know it is the deepest lake in the United States? The water-filled caldera is a stunning blue and the scenic Rim Drive is a must-do activity for all visiting families. This 33-mile tour winds around Crater Lake and has plenty of pullouts along the way for photo ops and restless legs.
Crater Lake National Park Lodge offers visitors three types of in-park lodging to choose from. The lodge is located in Rim Village and overlooks the lake. They also have cabins at Mazama Village located south of the rim in a beautiful forest setting. And for families who want to camp, the Mazama Village Campgrounds are available. If you decide to leave the lodge for dining, check out Beckie's Cafe. Try the hot cakes for breakfast, a Farewell Bend Burger for lunch or a Rogue Gorge Steak for dinner. And don't pass up a piece of the homemade pies.
These Easy Washington Road Trips Aren’t Too Far
Packed with activities and events, Hood Canal calls itself the “wild side of Washington,” but sometimes its best moments are found simply relaxing on a deck, looking at the view. The Hood Canal is “wildly” popular in summer—but summer tempts without the crowds. Approaching the fjord, the winding waterway gives drivers glimpses of sparkling blue, while scenic spots offer insta-worthy mountain views. Bike trails abound, from long distance to leisurely pedaling. Anglers will rejoice; grab a pole to catch dinner. You’ll also finds scenic hiking trails, golf courses for all levels, kayaking, SUP and boating galore. The Ridge Motorsports Park is a racing course for tiny speed demons. Want more? Hood Canal is famous for SCUBA, with its gentle currents and giant Pacific octopuses as diving friends.
Meals are meant to be savored outdoors in Hood Canal, overlooking happy campers playing in the water. When the family cook is off-duty head into Union for some stand out options. The Restaurant at Alderbrook is a culinary treat with views to match. Union Square Deli is the place to pick up sammies and pizza. The charming, European-style Union City Market at Hood Canal Marina is a must. Grab provisions, souvenirs and wine, and sit outside on their eclectic patio with stunning views of the Olympics over the water. The world-famous, all-ages Hamma Hamma Oyster Saloon awaits up in the road in Hoodsport.
There's no better home base for this trip than Alderbrook Resort & Spa. Book one of the two-bedroom cottages for great views, more space and a kitchen that helps cut down on the cost of food when you travel. Everything you need to enjoy the Hood Canal is at your fingertips here, including watersport rentals and an indoor pool that sits right on the shores of the Canal.
Long Beach Peninsula
For families dreaming of surf breaks in the summer, head to Long Beach Peninsula, where beach life is a year-round state of mind. One of our favorite Washington road trip destinations, the aptly-named beach is an adventure wonderland. Splash, play tag, build sandcastles, fly kites or stroll the half mile boardwalk through the rolling dunes to spot whales. There is much more than the beach to entertain families. Visit the World Kite Museum and take home a flying piece of art. Afterward treat your sweet tooth to some delectable goodies at historic Cottage Bakery and Delicatessen. West Coast Horse Rides will put smiles on your budding wranglers.
There are many culinary delights in town but these two are highly recommended and worth the short drive. The Depot in Seaview was once a working train depot, now Chef Michael Lalewicz works to create magic on a plate. Kiddos love their burger night. For a unique experience enjoy oysters, beer and wine at Oysterville Sea Farms & Seafood Market, the only spot in historic Oysterville on the Willapa Bay.
This Airbnb sleeps up to eight and has an awesome game room with air hockey, foosball, dart board, cornhole and a wall-mounted, flat-screen TV. Bikes are provided for guests to enjoy and the Discovery Trail is just a quick pedal away.
Just north of the Columbia River Gorge, Glenwood is an easy drive for Portland families and a fantastic launching point for your summer adventures. We love that you're just a stone's throw away from the watersport mecca, the Columbia River Gorge, without being in the thick of it.
Start your family adventure with a run on the White Salmon River. Zoller's Outdoor Odysseys runs a tight ship, and you can't go wrong booking a trip with them. That's one way to stay cool in the heat of August. Another excellent adventure for families looking to create memories is exploring the Guler Ice Caves. Fair warning, it's cold down there and you'll definitely want to bring a headlamp or two (although your cell phone flashlight will work in a pinch). There are so many quick hikes and wilderness areas to explore, you'll find reasons to go back again and again.
For an atypical family trip, book a Getaway cabin that sleeps anywhere from two to four people. A truly unique experience, these quiet cabins don't have WiFi, but they do have walking trails, fire pits, heat (for fall and winter months) and all the peace and quiet your family needs to regroup before the summer ends.
Just over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, gateway to the Olympic Peninsula, you'll find the charming town of Gig Harbor. If you're looking to explore a true Pacific Northwest hidden gem, you've found it.
Get to know the city by taking a gondola ride around the Harbor where you'll learn its history and be shown all the important landmarks that are worth exploring once you're back on land. A trip to the Harbor History Museum is always a hit with kids, and the fact they offer free admission for everyone is an added bonus for parents. Nearby Donkey Creek and Crescent Creek parks are great places for kids to wander or to enjoy a summer picnic. The waterfront offers miles to explore by foot, and families can duck into sweet shops and eateries as they make their way from one end of the harbor to the next. Some of our favorites stops include the Harbor General Store, Suzanne's Bakery and Frills and Java & Clay Cafe, where you can spend the day painting pottery they'll ship to you once you get home.
Uptown has lots to explore as well. It's where you'll find the Galaxy Theatre with an IMAX screen to catch the latest flick, and Ocean5 is just across the way for families who want try their hand at duckpin bowling, laser tag or arcade games. Paint nights, karaoke and movie nights on the lanes are all part of the fun here.
Beyond the two hubs of activity in town, families can spend time at the beach. Bring your floaties to Kopachuck State Park where it's easy enough to wade in the water at low tide. And putting in a SUP or kayak off of the DeMolay Sandspit is easy enough your kids can do it too. Narrows Park is another one the check out when you visit. With views of the bridge, Mt. Rainier and a chance to spot some orcas, consider it a can't-miss spot. Just remember to pack your beach toys and a blanket, the kids will want to stay a while.
We'll cheat a little bit on this one because this Pacific Northwest road trip is worth the extra hours. Make it more than a weekend when you head to the Olympic Peninsula and explore at your own pace. Washington’s largest national park is a vast playground of snowy peaks, temperate rain forests and dramatic Pacific sunsets. Start with Port Townsend, go beachcombing around Fort Worden, then take a break in town—the kids will love Elevated Ice Cream. Walk along the shops and bites of Water Street and take in the festive vibe.
Beachcombers and tidepool fans will enjoy exploring Dungeness Spit, an 11-mile sand spit that also gave us the tasty crab of the same name. The kids will love Olympic Game Farm where they can gawk at lions, tigers, bison, zebras and lynx without leaving the car.
Further afield, families who are truly yearning to get away from it all will value the solitude at Kalaloch. You and the kids will find yourselves surrounded by miles of ocean, forest and very little else. Enjoy lunch on the beach among the massive logs, then drive to spectacular Ruby Beach for sunset.
Hikers and nature lovers will thrall to the Hoh Rainforest. The Hall of Mosses Trail is perfect for tots; at less than one mile, it's still packed with natural wonder. Tired muscles should seek out the soothing waters of Sol Duc Hot Springs. With multiple pools at up to 104 degrees, (including a full-sized swimming pool) tadpoles of all ages will revel in a soothing soak. Also nearby you'll find a scenic hike to Marymere Falls and it's hard to resist lunch at Lake Crescent Lodge.
—Allison Sutcliffe, Natalie Compagno & Annette Benedetti
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