The Ultimate Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary

pacific northwest road trip
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One of the best parts of living in the Pacific Northwest is being able to jump in the car and drive to explore a new area anytime you want. Going on a Pacific Northwest road trip is one of the most scenic trips you’ll ever do.

I have dozens of articles based on all the amazing cities in the area, so picking where to stop for a Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary was tough. My days trips from Seattle post is one that’s often referenced, but I wanted to write an extended itinerary that took you through some of my favorite parts.

While I have a post on ideas for a road trip from Seattle, this itinerary will take you through all the Pacific Northwest national parks, which are some of the best parts of the region. You’ll also stop in a few major cities along the way so you can see everything the area has to offer.

Tips for a Pacific Northwest National Parks Road Trip

Here are some tips to help you with your Pacific Northwest itinerary.

  • Buy the America the Beautiful Pass – It normally costs about $30 per park for the entrance fee, so you can save money by buying this pass that will get you into all the US parks for one year for only $80. This is a must for your Pacific Northwest road trip.
  • Pack your road trip essentials – I have a whole post on what to bring on a road trip, but the basics are an emergency roadside kit, water bottle, and car phone charger.
  • Check the weather – Some of the national parks in the Pacific Northwest like Mount Rainier and North Cascades close multiple entrances in the winter due to ice and snow, so you’ll want to plan your trip accordingly. I recommend going late spring through late summer for ideal weather.

Looking for the ultimate Seattle travel guide written by a local that tells you all the best places to go and what to see? My new ebook is now live, so click here to buy your copy!

Pacific Northwest Road Trip Map

This map gives you an overview of your Pacific Northwest trip itinerary so you can start to plan out where you want to stop. You can see that the Washington stops are closer together, and the Oregon ones are a little farther apart. You’re able to save this map to use if you want.

This Pacific Northwest itinerary map gives you a better idea of how all the stops connect.

Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary Options

You can pick and choose from any of these Pacific Northwest road trip stops to make your own itinerary. Maybe you have time to see them all, or maybe you’re more interested in going on a Pacific Northwest national parks road trip. You can also check out my Washington bucket list to see places you might want to add to your itinerary.

Depending on how much time you have, you could just visit the Washington national parks or you could just pick the PNW national parks that appeal to you the most.

Here are a few suggested itineraries based on a one week Pacific Northwest itinerary and a 10 day Pacific Northwest trip itinerary.

7-Day Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary

Here is where I suggest you stop if you have 7 days for a Pacific Northwest trip itinerary.

Day Stop
Day 1 North Cascades National Park
Day 2 Seattle
Day 3 Olympic National Park
Day 4 Mount Rainier National Park
Day 5 Mount St. Helens
Day 6 Portland
Day 7 Crater Lake National Park

10-Day Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary

Day Stop
Day 1 North Cascades National Park
Day 2 Seattle
Day 3 Olympic National Park (explore the rainforest)
Day 4 Olympic National Park (explore the coast)
Day 5 Mount Rainier National Park
Day 6 Mount St. Helens
Day 7 Portland
Day 8 Crater Lake National Park
Day 9 Redding
Day 10 Redwoods National Park

Need help planning out your road trip? I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to see exactly how long it’ll take from one point to the next and also to find new places to add to my itinerary!

Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary

Pacific Northwest National Parks boast an assortment of beautiful things to see, from steamy volcanic terrain and icy vistas to alpine wonderlands with roaring waterfalls. There are three Washington national parks alone, so I encourage you to visit all of them if you have time.

Discover jewel blue lakes or challenge yourself to a stunning hike amongst rocky terrains. Or relax and enjoy some spectacular sites right from the comfort of your vehicle on your road trip itinerary. 

You’ll come to find the hustle and bustle of cities boasting a variety of different cuisines and cultures to serene monuments and mountainsides. Let’s take a look at where to stop on a Pacific Northwest vacation itinerary.

1. North Cascades National Park

diablo lake north cascades

Kick-off your Pacific Northwest national parks road trip by exploring the North Cascades National Park, one of the top Washington National Parks. You’ll see the Cascades’ stony teeth, snow-covered mountains, and around 300 magnificent glaciers as you drive through America’s version of the Alps. 

The park boasts some remarkable and remote wilderness areas, where you’ll find adventure and solitude with all the things to do in North Cascades National Park. The landscapes are beautifully diverse, from towering peaks and thundering waterfalls to old-growth forests. 

It’s a mountaineers and backpackers haven, boasting almost 400 miles of trails and plenty of glaciers. So, spend some time exploring North Cascades day hikes, filled with an assortment of waterfalls and wildlife, from bald eagles to grizzlies. 

In winter, you can go skiing at Mt. Baker or hike Mount Shuksan in summer. It’s the perfect place to start your trip while visiting one of the most scenic Pacific Northwest national parks.

Where to Stay:

  • Winthrop has the closest hotels, and one of my favorites is Hotel Rio Vista, which is right on the river. (rates start at $99 per night)
  • For a vacation rental, this Charming Cedar Chalet with Hot Tub has two bedrooms and an outdoor hot tub. (rates start at $200 per night) 

2. Seattle

cheap things to do in seattle

Distance from North Cascades: 107 miles

Travel Time: 2 hours

Before you embark further on the next part of your road trip, take some time to recharge and explore Seattle, Washington. I’ve created the perfect itinerary for one day in Seattle to help you maximize your time. You’ll get to indulge in fresh seafood, taste legendary coffee, go sea kayaking, and much more. Whether you’re visiting Seattle on a budget or looking for what to do on a rainy day in Seattle, you’ll find plenty to do on this stop of your Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary.

Visit the world’s first Starbucks at Pike Place Market. It’s also worth it to take some time and walk around the market as it’s filled with history. You also won’t want to miss Seattle’s museums, including the rotating exhibits. The waterfront is another good place to stroll around and one of the best places to stay in Seattle.

Seattle has ample green spaces to enjoy as well, such as the Waterfall Garden Park in Pioneer Square and the impressive Discovery Park. If you’re looking for dramatic panoramic views, take a trip to Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill, which is one of the best Seattle Instagram spots.

The city is a vibrant stop-off in between exploring the wild and wonderful national parks. Relax and unwind before heading to your next stop on your Pacific Northwest national park road trip – Olympic National Park. 

Where to Stay:

  • Hotel Max is a beautiful hotel with affordable prices and a convenient location. (rates start at $125 per night)
  • This waterfront condo has stunning views of Seattle and Puget Sound. (rates start at $250 per night)

3. Olympic National Park

one day in olympic national park

Distance from Seattle: 83 miles

Travel Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

You’ll want to reserve some time to visit Olympic National Park exclusively on your Pacific Northwest national parks road trip. One of the best national parks in Washington State, Olympic provides a broad diversity of ecosystems and landscapes all around. It’s topped with glaciers, old-growth woodlands, temperate rainforests covered with moss, miles of coastline, hot springs, and trails. 

To fully appreciate this park’s beauty, decide on one of the scenic Olympic National Park hiking trails to experience the rainforest and the beautiful landscapes. Hurricane Ridge is one of the most incredible tracks in the park, standing at an elevation of around 5,200 feet. It also provides a great ski terrain in wintertime, which is rare in the Northwest national parks.

If you have time, book a guided tour to explore the spectacular Hurricane Ridge. After your hike, take a dip in one of the natural geothermal pools at Sol Duc Hot Springs. This area is also a popular Pacific Northwest family vacation idea.

Olympic is one of the most unique national parks in the PNW in that it has mountains, a rainforest, and an ocean in it. If you have time to extend your trip, I recommend staying here for a few days so you can see all of the Olympic Peninsula loop.

Where to Stay:

  • Lake Crescent Lodge – This is one of the few places you can stay that’s actually in the park. There’s no better place to rest your head during your Olympic National Park vacation than this lodge on a beautiful lake. (rates start at $139 per night)
  • Quiet Retreat Cabin – This secluded cabin is a few miles west of Port Angeles and sleeps up to six people. (rates start at $135 per night)

4. Mount Rainier National Park

mount rainier waterfalls

Distance from Olympic: 161 miles

Travel Time: 4 hours

Home to one of the tallest mountains in the United States, Mount Rainier National Park is an alpine wonderland. It’s filled with roaring waterfalls, meadows carpeted in flowers, lush forests, and beautiful glacial views. 

During your time in the park, hop aboard the antique steam train at the Mount Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum. You’ll take a ride along the Upper Nisqually River to Mineral town. Along the way, you’ll get to see some picturesque views and majestic mountain peaks at what many people consider one of the best national parks in the Pacific Northwest.

While you’re here, take a trail to explore the surroundings of this beautiful park. The 5.5-mile Skyline Trail is one of my favorite trails that goes along the Nisqually Glacier up to Panorama Point. Whether you’re taking a day trip to Mount Rainier or have more time, you’ll love your time here.

Note: Around midsummer, Rainier’s meadows erupt in color and show off one of the most exquisite floral displays. If you can time your Pacific Northwest road trip for late July or early August, you’ll be in for a treat. Mount Rainier is also one of the most popular Pacific Northwest national parks, so you’ll want to start your day early.

Where to Stay:

  • Treat yourself to a night at National Park Inn, a beautiful historical lodge. (rates start at $212 per night)
  • Creekfront Cabin has large chalet-style windows that overlook Big Creek and Osborne Mountain. (rates start at $168 per night)

5. Mount St. Helens

climbing mt st helens

Distance from Mount Rainier: 60 miles

Travel Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

There’s no other place quite like Mount St. Helens. It was once a massive volcano that produced its first eruption in over 100 years – in the 1980s. Today, it attracts over half a million people every year with miles of beautiful trails to be discovered, boasting breathtaking views of the crater rim. 

Those brave enough can even hike Mount St. Helens to go all the way to the top; keep in mind permits are required for anyone looking to climb above 4,800 feet. There’s also a learning center where you can find out more about what happened on the day Mount St. Helens erupted. 

Once you have completed your tour of Mount St. Helens, head on further south into Oregon and discover what Portland is all about.

Where to Stay: One of the closest hotels to the mountain is Timberland Inn & Suites, so you’ll love the convenient location. (rates start at $89 per night)

6. Portland

portland road trip

Distance from Mount St. Helens: 103 miles

Travel Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Portland is the perfect place to relax and unwind. It’s a favorite amongst many Seattle locals, who often travel to Portland for a Seattle weekend getaway.

The city boasts a divine selection of cuisine. A definite must-try would be at one of the many food trucks seen driving around the city or parked near the parks. If you spot one of them, try out a tasty meal or two to refuel during your Pacific Northwest road trip – you won’t be disappointed. 

Portland is also known to be the home of craft beer, offering an array of breweries, such as the Baerlic Brewing Company or the Ecliptic Brewing. If you have some time, pop over to the Portland Japanese Garden and walk around in peace and tranquillity. 

There are also plenty of day trips from Portland you won’t want to miss, so book a night or two and enjoy these before carrying on to the next park.

Where to Stay: The AC Hotel is nearby many restaurants and attractions in downtown Portland. (rates start at $127 per night)

7. Crater Lake National Park

crater lake national park

Distance from Portland: 183 miles

Travel Time: 3 hours

Crater Lake National Park is a stop you won’t want to miss on your national parks trip. The park is known for its large body of water, created by a massive eruption that left a hole in the earth’s surface. Crater Lake is one of the most scenic national parks in the United States and the only national park in Oregon.

Crater Lake provides some amazing viewpoints, with some of the best hiking trails around the lake and down near the water’s edges. You’ll also get spectacular views of the island within the lake, named Wizard Island.

To experience the most from this majestic blue lake, take the one-day drive around the rim during your Pacific Northwest tour itinerary. There’s also the Cleetwood Trail, ideal for an easy and direct route to the lake’s shores. There are also camping options available here to put on your Pacific Northwest trip itinerary.

If you’re looking to extend your Pacific Northwest national parks itinerary, consider booking a spectacular 3-day tour from Portland and enjoying a guided trip through Crater Lake during your Pacific Northwest road trip.

Where to Stay: Best Western Crater Lake Highway White City/Medford will have you right next to the freeway so you’re ready to go the next day. (rates start at $88 per night)

8. Redwoods National Park

armstrong redwoods sonoma

Distance from Crater Lake: 155 miles

Travel Time: 3 hours

Located on California’s northern coast, the collection of national and state parklands is home to some of the world’s largest trees. You’ll find trees towering over, up to 350 feet high, so you’ll want to stop here on your Pacific Northwest national parks road trip.

Although these trees don’t boast as much girth as the Sequoia trees found in California, they do have a large diameter – large enough to drive a car through. You won’t find any trees like that in any of the other Northwest national parks.

To fully enjoy the park and it’s beastly beauties, the great Redwoods, join one of the beautiful paths through the forest. If you’re into biking, you can rent a bike to explore the surroundings on your Northwest national parks road trip. A popular route takes you through 10-miles of peaceful redwoods in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park on the paved Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.

Where to Stay: Trinidad Inn is a cute, rustic inn by the water that you’ll love staying in for the night. (rates start at $135 per night)

9. Redding

redding california sundial

Distance from Redwoods: 131 miles

Travel Time: 3 hours

Before you end your trip on your PNW road trip, spend a day exploring Redding. Here, you’ll find a complete paradise, boasting beautiful lakes, an assortment of mountains, perfect for hiking.

If you’re short on time you may want to skip this stop, as it’s a bit out of the way. However, if you’re taking a 10 day Pacific Northwest road trip, take the time to visit this area. Redding is also a good place to drop off your rental car and fly home if you’re doing a one-way trip.

There’s an array of things to do here, from olive oil tasting at Lucero Olive Oil to seeing Sundial Bridge that goes over the Sacramento River. If you’re feeling festive, make way to Downtown Redding to enjoy street performances, public art shows, and a fun music scene. 

Once you’ve worked up an appetite with the number of things to see and do around Redding, stopover at Moonstone Bistro, they have a stunning selection of meals, and best of all, they use fresh and organic ingredients.

Stay the night in one of the city’s hotels so that you’re fresh and ready for your flight the next morning.

Where to Stay: TownePlace Suites Redding is a comfortable place to stay and close to the freeway and highway. (rates start at $125 per night)

Hopefully, by now you’ve planned your own Pacific Northwest road trip! Whether you decided to do all the stops or just visit the Pacific Northwest national parks, you’ll have a chance to see a beautiful part of the country.


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