Photo: Kirk Scheidt/Shutterstock

28 Experiences to Have in the Pacific Northwest Before You Die

Oregon Washington Insider Guides
by Ingrid McQuivey Oct 14, 2015

1. Climb or mountaineer Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Cascade Mountain Range and an active volcano that rises 14,410 feet above sea level.

Pack your snow shoes for a winter ecology walk with a ranger through ancient forest.

2. Slide and slurp fresh-harvested, Olympic Peninsula oysters in the town of Shelton, at Xinh’s Clam and Oyster House located on the Puget Sound.

3. Pack a picnic lunch and travel to Hood River’s waterfront park to watch kiteboarders, or ride the wind and strap the board to your own two feet by contacting Cascade Kiteboarding for lessons.

4. Attend a Shakespeare production in Ashland during the annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Find your place in the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theater while bats swoop overhead at dusk. Catch a Green Show before your production — they’re free — with Renaissance Shakespeare-inspired acts, music and dance.

5. Grab a coat and stargaze at the Goldendale Observatory, a year-round, certified Dark Sky Park at a 2,100 foot elevation.

6. Travel down historic highway 101, staying in yurts and cabins along the way.

Be prepared to love each other, as you will be huddled into a single space. Start a fire and have a marshmallow roasting contest — the most golden wins. Snuggle under layers of blankets and read a family novel by lamp light.

7. Stay the night at Cape Blanco State Park, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Hike to a protected beach inlet with weathered driftwood and massive rocks. Take a tour at the nearby nineteenth-century lighthouse, the oldest standing lighthouse in Oregon. Learn about the Fresnel Lens directing the ships along the water.

8. Reserve a Camp Sherman cabin and attend the Sisters Folk Festival in Oregon.

Sway with the music of Blues, Jazz, Indie, Americana, Folk and Acoustic-Roots. Volunteer and get in for free. End your weekend visiting the head of the Metolius River, fed by a free-flowing spring out of a mossy hillside. Hide a few peanuts in your pockets as the Golden-mantled ground squirrels and the Yellow-pine chipmunks will be spectators of your visit.

9. Pull on wool gloves and a hat, drink hot cocoa and enjoy the carolers and holiday concerts, at the Bavarian-themed town, Leavenworth, Washington.

Find your Christmas cheer amongst a half a million lights adorning the city, or hike the gentle loop trail of Icicle Gorge and finish the evening at King Ludwig’s Restaurant.

10. Drive and explore the White Pass Scenic Byway recreation areas, including: the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests, Mount St. Helens National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park and Mount Adams Wilderness Area.

Apply for necessary permits and bring your gold prospecting tools. Stop in at Packwood Prospecting & Mining Supplies, LLC for forgotten supplies. Take a photograph with Hank, the wooden chainsaw sculpture.

11. Browse amongst book characters living upon the shelves of Powell’s City of Books, with 68,000 Square feet — an entire city block — on Portland’s Burnside Street.

Meander your way to the rust-red room of travel and draw your knees into a chair, dreaming about your next trip.

12. Eat lunch in Portland at the Jewish Delicatessen, Kenny and Zuke’s.

Find a stool and watch the chefs create your original smoked beef pastrami on homemade rye, slathered with swiss and sauerkraut. Devour and join the masses claiming a “BODY BY PASTRAMI.”

13. Check out the Wheels and Waves Car Show, a yearly event in Seaside, Oregon.

Discover a 1932, sunlight-yellow Ford Cabriolet with Rooster-head light covers, or a hulk-of- a-car called Kryptonite. Walk to the end of the street and find a monument of Lewis and Clark overlooking the ocean. Remove your shoes and run through the sand looking for whole sand dollars. Satisfy your hunger by heading to the Firehouse Grill and ordering the halibut fish and chips, hand-dipped in beer batter with fresh, homestyle fries and homemade tartar.

14. Grab a bag of five-dollar, homemade kettle corn while bartering at the Packwood Flea Market, Washington State’s largest.

Smile as little old ladies discuss the finer points of china; a biker dude carries a tiny dog in his vest; or a bow-legged, twenty-year-old cowboy answers to his mama calling his name.

15. Organize your backpack and drive to Shellburg Falls in Oregon.

Reserve a small first-come, first-serve campsite. Set up camp, following bear guidelines, and prepare for a light hike into a quiet, unfrequented waterfall. Swim in water cascading over a monolithic rock into a round pool, surrounded by lush, green growth climbing forest walls.

16. Take a weekend and hike Tam McArthur Rim, in the Central Cascades.

Pack a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, food and water. Remember, no fire is allowed. Pitch a tent right below Broken Top Glacier and sleep under the stars. Drink pure, clear glacier water without filtering it. Stand with gratitude as you view Mt. Hood on a clear day and most of Oregon.

17. Fly into Bandon State Airport for the day with a golf foursome.

Play the nearby Bandon Dunes links-style course, similar to those found in Scotland. Walk with your caddies on an open, oceanside fairway. Connect by discussing the wind variation and how a 150-yard-shot would normally be a seven iron, but turns into a three iron. Fight the wind while putting. Linger a little longer at a favorite hole bordering the Pacific Ocean. Eat at the clubhouse and fly home that same night.

18. Purchase the book Curious Gorge (or look up the hikes online) and trek in the Columbia River Gorge.

Include Falls Creek Caves, spelunking hidden, mossy-covered, volcanic rock. Take two lights: a headlamp and a flashlight. Read the words of past explorers marking the cave walls. Stumble upon a group of “meetup” photographers lighting fifty tea candles and waving sparklers.

19. Bring an inner tube to Drake Park in Bend, Oregon and float the Deschutes River.

Pack food and a blanket and share the park with wild geese. Watch passing groups on rented beer bikes pedal through town, possibly on the Ale Trail. Rest, then head to the Old Mill shopping area. Stop at REI and don’t forget to ask about the historic building and its transformation, or ask about internationally-recognized climbing and mountaineering areas near Bend.

20. Print off a training schedule and run the Eugene Marathon.

Sign up for the pre-race tradition and overload on carbs. Have the speaker of the night (like Olympian Meb Keflezighi) sign a race shirt. Watch for family and friends on race day waving posters in support of your efforts. Cross the finish line at Hayward Field Track. Avoid your finish-line photograph.

21. Plan a 50-mile hike in the Olympic National Forest.

Take a week and make sure your route includes the Hoh Rain Forest, one of the largest, temperate forests in the United States. Arrange to stop at the secluded, pristine, turquoise waters of Heart Lake, near the O’Neil Pass Trail. Watch for brown bears at LaCrosse Pass, opening up to Honeymoon Meadows. Stop as a bear drops spread eagle in the middle of the meadow on a large snow patch. Stand frozen as it rolls on its back and begins to squirm around, moaning and getting the bugs off itself. Laugh in relief and leave as the bear enjoys the cold snow.

22. Fish Buoy 10 near the Astoria, Oregon bridge.

Bring your G.Loomis rod and North River boat, or hire a guide, and fish for salmon in the Columbia River Bar, where the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River meet. Begin at dawn, bobbing along, trolling fresh herring or anchovies. Wear wet-weather gear and hope you don’t lose your lunch with the swells.

23. Dress up like a pirate and race in the mud in Yakima, Washington at the Pirate Plunder Adventure Race.

Photograph your cleanliness before the race, sporting bandanas, feathered-enhanced pirates hats, and eye patches. Conquer one of the most notable obstacles, an enormous slide which emerges into a mud pit. Cross the finish line and spin around, as you are sprayed by older-than-last-year’s firefighters. Soak your mud-stained clothing in the bathtub.

24. Plan a sea kayaking trip in the San Juan Islands, within the Puget Sound of Washington State.

Spend several days paddling, discovering jellyfish, or behold the soaring flight of a bald eagle. Wish for luck that the elusive orca will show itself. Beach your kayak on the shore, hike the varied terrain. Display bravery by camping under a self-made shelter, wearing your favorite flannel shirt.

25. Visit Hot Poop, “Washington’s oldest independent record store,” in Walla Walla, Washington.

Comb through the records of bygone times and maybe unearth, “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown”, by artist Jim Croce. Hold the record and remember singing the song at a young, voice-breaking pitch with your parents. Grin and reflect on how you wondered if your dad would use the “d” word, feeling like you were singing a bad song.

26. Lounge in Seattle’s Urban landscape, in Capitol Hill, at Roy Street Coffee and Tea.

Embrace the warmth of vintage-restored furniture, lush fabrics, industrial metal and worn wood. Choose a seat by the window and people watch, or read a favorite book, or take advantage of free wifi. Cup a warm drink and snuggle into an aroma of winter mornings, the ambience of coming home.

27. Order a speciality waffle from Kurbside Kitchen, a red and silver food truck parked on Thomas Street at the base of the Space Needle, owned by Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield of the Space Needle’s SkyCity Restaurant.

Sit at a nearby bistro table eating your Nutella waffle with maple-glazed berries, topped with whipping cream.

28. Bike the rim of Crater Lake. Start from the North Entrance and ride the rim clockwise.

Bring plenty of food and water as you round the deepest lake in North America, one of the “7 wonders of Oregon.” Stop and hike down a steep, switchback trail to Cleetwood Cove. Jump in and swim.

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