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For spectacular scenery of rugged coastlines, jagged mountain ranges, lush rainforests, crystal clear luminous lakes and rivers, and vast stretches of volcanic wilderness, it’s hard to beat a Pacific Northwest road trip.
We spent most of the summer last year road tripping through the states that make up the Pacific Northwest region in the USA: Oregon, Washington State, and Idaho.
We had incredible adventures and made lifelong memories.
Right now, you are probably planning for Fall Travel, and in a safer way to areas that are more nature based.
Fall Travel brings the opportunity for cooler weather to enjoy the abundance of Pacific Northwest forest and outdoor activities on the coast as well as the spectacular colors of change.
Here are seven Pacific Northwest ideas for your Fall Travel road trip itinerary.
Get around the Pacific Northwest in an RV Rental
Our Pacific Northwest road trip suggestions are in partnership with RVshare.
The Pacific Northwest USA (PNW) is the perfect place for an RV road trip, especially given the current unsettling times. Save yourself the hassle of buying, owning, and maintaining your own RV and consider an RV rental instead.
Renting an RV gives you the ability to travel safely with the comforts of home while getting up close and personal with the beautiful world around you. You can go more off the beaten path at a cheaper price. (More details about RVshare down below after our tips.)
Be sure to book your RV camping in advance as these areas can fill up quickly.
If you have any other valuable tips that don’t appear here, we’d love to hear about them in the comments.
1. Columbia River Gorge Road Trip, Oregon
If you love waterfalls, hiking, wineries, fruit picking and scenic drives the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon is the perfect location for your Pacific Northwest road trip.
It’s the largest designated National Scenic Area in the USA.
When it comes to fall colors, Beacon State Park, Route 20 (Maple Pass and Lake Ann), the Historic Columbia River Highway, and the Lewis and Clark Trail Scenic Byway all come highly recommended.
Columbia River Gorge
There are plenty of waterfalls and scenic vistas along the 75-mile Columbia River Highway, the oldest scenic byway in the USA, and one of America’s most popular scenic drives.
It winds westward through the Cascade Range into the Pacific Ocean just west of Astoria.
Columbia River Gorge is known to possibly have the largest concentration of high waterfalls in North America, the most popular being Multnomah Falls.
We recommend doing the 5-mile Wahkeena Falls Loop Trail, which takes in five other Columbia River Gorge waterfalls (including Multnomah).
Hood River Region
The Hood River Fruit Loop trail is a stunning 35-mile self-guided road trip through the fertile Hood River Valley with the spectacular backdrop of snowcapped Mount Hood and Mt Adams.
There are nearly 30 small, family owned farms, orchards, cideries, breweries, and wineries ready to fill your bellies with good local produce.
Fall is the prime time to visit this fruit picking region of Oregon.
RV Camping: Cascade Locks Marine Park
The Cascades Lock Marine Park has a beautiful location on the river centrally located to all attractions in the Columbia River Gorge National Recreational Area.
It’s also a two minute walk to Thunder Island Brewery – not to miss for good beers and river views.
It’s a small campground and books out far in advance.
Watch our Columbia River Gorge Video:
2. Olympic Peninsula Road Trip, Washington
Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is in the state’s northwestern corner and is one of the premier road trip destinations in the Pacific Northwest coast.
Highway 101 forms a 300-mile loop around the peninsula. It’s easy to start and end this pacific northwest road trip in Seattle.
Mount Rainier National Park is also close by and an easy addition to this road trip.
Olympic National Park
Choose your own adventure from this pristine region of ancient cedar spruce trees, glacial lakes, sub-alpine meadows, mountain ranges, verdant old-growth rainforests, and remote and rugged coastlines.
The most popular sections to visit are Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, and the Hoh Rain Forest. Do not miss the wild rugged coastline section as well.
Many people tend to visit Port Angeles, the closet town to the Olympic National Park, but I much preferred the smaller Port Townsend.
It’s a pretty and charming historic Victorian seaport bordered by Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Separated by a flight of stairs, Uptown is filled with beautiful Victorian homes, and Downtown has large, ornate brick buildings which house shops, hotels, restaurants, and museums.
You could visit on a day trip from the Hurricane Ridge area of Olympic National Park or park your RV at the state fairground or the historic Fort Worden State Park has beautiful camp sites on the water.
RV Camping on the Olympic Peninsula
Choose a campsite centrally located to where you will be exploring to reduce driving time. We stayed 2-3 nights at each of the following (with our 37 ft travel trailer):
- Hard Rain Cafe, Hoh Rainforest:This small café is just outside the entrance to Hoh Rainforest and has a small RV park attached. Water and electric included. They also have cheap burgers and breakfast options.
- Rainforest Resort Village, Lake Quinault: A pretty campsite on the shores of Lake Quinault, close to trails and Lake Quinault lodge. Easy walk to Salmon House Restaurant.
- Heart O’ the Hills Campground: This was a beautiful campground Surrounded by old growth forest in the northern section of the park as you enter the Hurricane Ridge area. It was only 10 minutes from downtown Port Angeles and close to Port Townsend.
Watch our Olympic National Park Video:
3. Oregon Coast Road Trip
The Oregon Coast is known for its stunning beaches, dramatic sea stacks, and endless coastal adventures.
Where you start for this road trip would depend on where you are coming and going from. Astoria is 2 hours from Portland and Florence is one hour from Eugene.
Jet Boating Rouge River
Start this Pacific Northwest Coast Road trip with an adventurous day jet boating 104 miles on the wild and scenic Rogue River on the South Oregon Coast near Golds Beach.
The scenery is rugged and spectacular and it’s highly possible you’ll see lots of wildlife along the way.
Florence & Yachats
Further up the Pacific Coast are the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area in Florence, a merging of forest, ocean and desert that stretches south about 40 miles from Florence to Coos Bay on the Oregon Central Coast.
Rent an ATV or quad bike and zip and down the miles of undulating dunes. It’s a fun activity to do with the kids!
This area is also famous for the tide pools that can be explored during low tide along a 180-mile stretch of the Oregon coast road trip from Florence up to Astoria.
We visited the tide pools near Thor’s Well just outside the small town of Yachats.
Yachats Brewing + Farmstore is a must not miss pacific northwest coast attraction. It was one of our favorite breweries on our USA road trip for its quality and innovative farm-to-table food, craft beers and cute small-town coastal ambiance.
Astoria and Cannon Beach
Goonies lovers will be ending this road trip at Astoria, home to this much-loved Gen X childhood adventure movie.
The Oregon coastline here with its sea stack rocks is stunning, particularly Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park. Haystack Rock, which rises about 300 feet out of the water and is one of the most iconic Oregon coast landmarks.
This area also has the exceedingly popular North Coast Craft Beer Trail includes 12 breweries between Astoria and Pacific City.
RV Campsites on the Oregon Coast
We stayed at the Humbug Mountain State Park, a pretty campsite surrounded by forested hills at the bottom of Humbug Mountain on the coast about 30 minutes from Golds Beach.
Near Florence, we stayed at the South Jetty RV Camping Resort close to the Pacific Ocean and the sand dunes.
The Seaside RV Resort in Seaside was halfway between Cannon Beach and Astoria.
Oregon Coast Road Trip Videos
4. Salmon River Scenic Byway Road Trip, Idaho
One of my favorite USA road trips is through the spectacular Salmon River Scenic Byway in Idaho.
Along this Byway, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, river activities and exploring the ghost towns of the Land of the Yankee Fork Historic Area.
This area is also said to have some of the most spectacular Fall colors in Idaho. It would be best to start and end this Pacific Northwest road trip in Boise. See this guide I wrote on Visit Idaho.
Hot Springs along the Salmon River Scenic Byway
The Salmon River Scenic Byway also has many hot springs beside the Salmon River, which is also home to some of the best white-water rafting in the country.
The don’t miss Idaho hot springs:
- Goldbug Hot Springs
- Sunbeam Hot Springs
- Snake Pit Hot Springs
- Kirkham Hot Springs
- Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs, Ketcuhum
Stanley and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Picturesque Stanley is one of the most scenic small towns in the country. It’s nestled in the crook of the Salmon River with the backdrop of the striking Sawtooth Mountains.
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is an area that offers 300 high-mountain lakes and 700 miles of trails to explore.
You can enjoy these views as you ride on horseback through the ponderosa forest beside sparkling lakes, one of which is the spectacular Redfish Lake – my second favorite lake in the country.
Here you can enjoy paddle boarding, boat cruises and swimming.
Sun Valley and Ketchum
If you are returning to Boise, take the Sun Valley route home. Sun Valley is full of history and charm, but it’s also a popular resort town with something for the whole family.
I preferred the old-time charm of nearby Ketchum with its cabin-style shops and historic brick buildings.
This region abounds with natural beauty and outdoor adventures, including vibrant leaves and pumpkin spiced lattes during the Fall. You’ll find a slower pace and unique festivals that create a special time of year.
Boise is one of the coolest cities we found on our US road trip and totally unexpected. We wish we had longer to explore its vibrant college vibe, and exceptionally good restaurants.
You can find some beautiful Fall colors on its 25 miles of cycling greenbelt and Kathryn Albertson Park and Julia Davis Park.
For beautiful views of the city be sure to hike up Camel Back Mountain.
Where to Stay on the Salmon River Scenic Byway
We camped on the May Family Ranch B&B which offered warm Idaho hospitality with the most beautiful pristine views and rural silence. Plus, that great big waterslide!!
Just north of Ketchum you will find boondocking spots like this one:
Watch our Sawtooth National Recreation Area Video:
5. Oregon National Forest, Crater Lake, Bend Road Trip
This Pacific Northwest road trip encompasses a beautiful region of national forest, hot springs, waterfalls, a stunning crater lake, and the contrasting arid Bend region.
The Fall colors in this region are meant to be spectacular!
You can start and finish in the nearby college town of Eugene and explore further into the Willamette Valley, famous for its wines, in particular pinot noir.
Umpqua National Forest
The 66-mile Umpqua River Scenic Byway follows the Umpqua River and the beautiful forest of the Coast Range.
This corridor has seventeen waterfalls you can explore on short hikes and a few hidden springs, including the popular Umpqua Hot Springs. Read more about the Umpqua National Forest waterfalls.
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the USA and one of the most pristine on earth, its purity created by rain and snow filling in the caldera formed during a violent eruption 7,700 years ago.
It’s a small US national park (and Oregon’s only one) and its main draw card being the 33-mile loop road around its crater offering many stops offs for spectacular views and hikes. Read more about a day trip to Crater Lake National Park.
Bend is a high-desert town surrounded by cool volcanic landscape of desert, lush forest, and black lava beds of the Newberry Volcanic National Monument.
Misery Ridge Trail in nearby Smith Rock State Park is spectacular and in my top 5 hikes in the United States.
During October, the nearby Smith Rock Ranch opens their farm to the public for Fall family-friendly activities including pumpkin picking and a corn maize
Get your pumpkin ale fixes along the Bend Ale Trail, which includes 23 high-desert breweries.
McKenzie River Valley
The McKenzie River Valley is a year-round recreation destination, and a centerpiece is the 26-mile McKenzie River National Recreation Trail.
The green forested trail meanders beside the pristine turquoise waters of the Mackenzie River taking you to two spectacular waterfalls: Koosah and Sahalie Falls.
This was my favorite area in Oregon.
There are two major scenic highways in this area that showcases Oregon’s wildly diverse landscapes: Fir and cedar forests, mossy-green river valleys, snowy glaciated peaks, and stark black lava fields.
There are several boondocking options in the Umpqua National Forest. We used this as a base to drive to Crater Lake for a day trip (1 hour away)
Alternatively, Crater Lake the Mazama Campground has 214 sites for tents and RVs.
In Bend, we camped at the Bend-Sunriver RV Campground, about 30 minutes from downtown. We recommend staying closer to town.
Although it was close to Sunriver and the Newberry Volcanic National Monument so could be a good option. It’s situated on 283 acres along the Little Deschutes River and has large sites and great amenities.
Paradise Campground in the Mckenzie River Trail was one of my favorite campsites on our US RV trip for it’s lush forest setting by the river.
Watch our Crater Lakes Video:
6. Cascades Loop Road Trip, Washington
Touted as Washington State’s Ultimate Road Trip, the Cascades Loop encompasses pristine mountains, grand rivers, picturesque islands, and rolling river valleys.
The route contains three of the state’s designated scenic byways—the Stevens Pass Greenway, North Cascades Highway, and the Whidbey Scenic Isle Way.
There is hot debate over which direction it is best to drive the Cascades Loop.
We drove in a clockwise direction, merely because we were not completing the loop but continuing into Idaho, so it made sense for what we wanted to see and do in the Cascades region.
Start with orca whale watching (plus minkes and humpbacks) about 30 miles north of Seattle in Everett, where the Cascades Loop Drive officially begins. We saw so many orca whales and the scenery is spectacular.
LA Conner and Deception Pass
Deception Pass is Washington’s most-visited state park and offers mysterious coves, rugged cliffs, and beautiful sunsets.
The park is located on two islands — Fidalgo to the north and Whidbey to the south.
There are plenty of hiking trails and beaches to explore. The Deception Pass Bridge has gorgeous views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Olympic mountains, and the San Juan Islands.
We explored it on a day trip from our campsite at La Conner, a picturesque small historic Washington town on the Swinomish Channel.
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is a small and lessor known US national park that showcases massive granite peaks, glacier-fed lakes, pristine forests and majestic waterfalls, and our most challenging hike on our road trip.
Leavenworth is a Bavarian style village complete with alpine-style lodging, beer gardens, and a plenty of events and festivities taking place throughout the year. It made our cool places to visit in the USA list.
Wenatchee & Lake Chelan
The town of Wenatchee is known as the Apple Capital of the World and wine lovers will enjoy the emerging wine region of Lake Chelan, the third deepest lake in the US and snakes into the North Cascades.
Stevens Pass is where you’ll find waterfalls, and in the Fall, beautiful forest with leaves of shades of reds and yellow.
Where to Stay on the Cascades Loop Drive
In North Cascades, we camped at Newhalem Creek campground, which was a gorgeous campsite in forests of cedar, hemlock, and Douglas fir and set alongside the glacial melt Skagit River.
It’s midway in the park so close to all amenities and trails.
In Leavenworth we stayed at the Leavenworth RV Campground about 30 minutes from downtown. It was great park in a serene location situated amid 300 acres of forests and meadows – but a little challenging if you want to sample all those ciders in Leavenworth. I recommend staying closer to town!
The La Conner RV Campsite has a beautiful location on Skagit Bay, with views out to nearby islands and gorgeous sunsets! It’s about a 10-minute drive to La Conner and 20 minutes to Deception Pass Bridge.
7. Northern Idaho Panhandle Road Trip
Coeur d’Alene in the northern panhandle is a vibrant, yet laid-back town with a spectacular setting on Lake Coeur D’Alene offering many outdoor water activities.
You hike around the perimeter of Tubbs Hill and find yourself a small secluded cove to take a dip and be sure to enjoy a sunset cruise on the lake that spans 26 miles and has more than 135 miles of shoreline.
Lake Pend Oreielle
A little north is the Farragut State Park on Lake Pend Oreille, the largest and deepest lake in Idaho. On its shores is also the quaint town of Sandpoint, popular for its stunning white sandy beach.
Offering some of the best skiing in Idaho, Schweitzer Mountain is also an adventure playground with rock climbing, zip lining, horse riding and hiking and biking trails.
The panoramic 360-degree vista that stretches into three states and Canada is spectacular with its verdant green forest (colorful in the Fall), three mountain ranges, and the vast and shimmering turquoise expanse of Lake Pend Oreille
The annual Fall Fest has rides, live music, and craft brews. (cancelled 2020)
Route of the Hiawatha
Ready to end your Northern Idaho road trip with one of the best rail-to-trail adventures in the US?
Ring that bell and flip on your headlamp, as you pedal downhill for 15 miles through 10 tunnels of various lengths and darkness and 7 trestle bridges standing 230-feet above the valley floor.
The Route of the Hiawatha offers adventure and stunning views. Ride back up if you dare, or let the shuttle bus take you up those daunting hills.
Where to Stay in Idaho’s Northern Panhandle
Blackwall Island RV Park is situated on the lake about a mile away from downtown Couer d A’lene. We loved riding our bikes along the lake front into downtown.
Self contained RV’s can park at Schweitzer Mountain for only $20 a night.
There are plenty of campgrounds on Lake Pend Orielle. Springy Point is close to Sandpoint and looks beautiful.
About RV Share
RVshare is the first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace. They can accommodate any kind of outdoor adventure for your Pacific Northwest road trip.
Whether a weekend camping trip or longer tour of multiple states, they have a range of rentals from affordable travel trailers to luxury motorhomes.
Here are a few other benefits of renting an RV though RVshare:
- Worry free rental guarantee that offers payment and fraud protection
- Largest RV Rental Marketplace: 60,000 five star reviews from happy customers
- Safest and Most Trusted: 24/7 Emergency roadside assistance on every booking
- Pet-friendly options
- Delivery and stationary options
- One-way rentals available
- Comprehensive Nationwide Protection: RVshare Rental Insurance covers both domestic and international renters and provides collision and comprehensive coverage