Looking for a much-needed break this summer that won’t wreck your budget? While an international epic vacation may be out of reach for most us, we can still have a ton of memorable fun, just a short drive away. And as we know, summer in the Pacific Northwest is truly magical (there’s a reason most people visit here Jun.-Aug!). From mountain retreats to high desert adventures, to sweet getaways right on the ocean, here are some of our favorite roadtrip destinations—all under three hours from downtown.
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Drive from Downtown Portland: 2.5 hours
If the idea of spending a weekend in a cabin in the woods sounds like bliss, then Mt. Rainier is the spot for your family. There are plenty of lowland hikes that will take you through towering trees, along babbling rivers and streams and by crystalline waterfalls. For families looking for tours, opportunities to meet wildlife up close and in person, make a reservation with Northwest Trek.
Where to Stay in Mt. Rainer: While hotels are nice, there’s nothing like a night or two in a luxury cabin. Altimeter Cabin is our top pick for the perfect family retreat. This rustic, yet luxurious spot has a private hot tub, free wifi, a fire pit, wood stove and a fully stocked kitchen. The kid will love playing a little putt putt golf while mom and dad grills up dinner. And then, once dinner is complete, spend time with your loved ones beneath the starry sky surrounded by towering cedars while you relax in the hot tub or roast marshmallows by the campfire. Sleeping arrangements include a fun, open sleeping loft with log ladder.
Good to Know: Always check the conditions before heading into Mt. Rainier National Park.
34509 State Route 706 East
Drive from Downtown Portland: 1 hour
Bingen is just a short car drive away but if you aren't in the mood to hit the road, it is only two stops away from Portland and three stops from Seattle by Amtrak. Another outdoor mecca for active families, Bingen is home to The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail—a scenic spot for family bike rides or hikes that takes you along the winding curves of the cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge where you'll see unspoiled breathtaking views of the water. You can also observe natural life along the Catherine Creek Trail—a stunning wildflower hike that gives visitors breathtaking views of Mt. Hood. It’s easy for little feet and parents with kids on their backs—making this one a great morning or afternoon activity.
Insider Tip: For extra hot days, book a full or half day trip (or a multi-day trip if you're inclined) and go whitewater rafting down the Lower Salmon River. PS: these trips are best for kids 10+ years old.
Where to Stay in Bingen, WA: The Society Hotel is only five blocks away from the Amtrak station and features a community gathering space that offers affordable rates, varied accommodation options and concierge-style service parents will appreciate. Room options include 10 European-style standard hotel rooms that are each themed after a school subject and have access to a shared bathroom.
For larger families, we suggest one of the 20 cabins that encircle a grass area with a fire pit, bathhouse and spa. The two-room cabins are perfect for a family of four. They have cozy beds, a sitting and dining area and a small kitchenette where you can cook your own meals. Outside you’ll find a picnic bench and hammock swing to kick back in.
The Society Hotel
Drive from Downtown Portland: About 3 hours
Located in the gorgeous high desert of Central Oregon, visitors can enjoy a multitude of activities in the area like hiking, biking, and rock climbing. As the temps rise, prepare to 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. Book a climbing session at Chockstone Climbing Guides who will help your little monkey learn to climb rock walls.
For some low-impact local fun, you can stroll through Drake park and watch the ducks and geese play or hit a nearby trail on bike or on foot.
Mt. Bachelor Village offers 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, of course, access to all the biking and hiking paths.
Mt. Bachelor Village
Astoria, Seaside & Cannon Beach
Cruise along the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, and you’ll reach Astoria Seaside, Pacific City and Cannon Beach. Listed as some of the best Oregon coasts worth a visit (there’s a great riverfront trolley you can take here), there are historical landmarks and shipwreck remnants plus Astoria Column—a breathtaking view for those who dare to climb to the top.
Here you’ll also find the Maritime Museum which will thrill you little sailors. Don't forget to indulge in cinematic nostalgia—Goonies was filmed near here afterall. Nearby Cannon Beach is popular for families and offers bird and whale watching, plus water activities like surfing and boating. And don't miss Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area—another cool place to explore. This rolling-hills beach with giant dunes covers nearly 40 miles—the largest dune expanse in North America. Of course, you’ll find lots of activities suited to the area: ATV riding, hiking and camping.
Astoria has a variety of lodging options for your stay but we recommend Best Western Astoria Bayfront Hotel. This lovely hotel has beautiful, spacious rooms with high quality linens and amenities.