Northwest, US Roadtrips

Pacific Northwest Roadtrip Itinerary

Northwest Itinerary

Back in May of 2014, we were determined to make a dent in the Northwest US portion of our travel bucket list.  After hearing such great things about Oregon, I planned a week long trip, starting in Portland, and ending up in Seattle.  During our stay, we explored Portland, the Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon coast, Seattle and Mt Rainer National Park.  It was a wonderful vacation combined the perfect mix of city sightseeing and exploring nature.

Trip Logistics – Getting There

We booked two one way tickets on different airlines, flying into Portland and out of Seattle.  This itinerary could easily be reversed if prices are more favorable the opposite way.  We went the last week of May, and had really nice weather.  It was chilly on the coast and at night, and we had some overcast days in Portland, but overall it was comfortable temperatures and we lucked out with 3 sunny days in Seattle!

Upon arriving in Portland, we took the MAX Light Rail Red Line into downtown to our hotel.  It only cost about $2.50 a person and took just over a half hour.  Portland is very walk-able if you stay downtown, but on the second day we did pick up a rental car downtown to allow us to drive the remainder of the trip.

Northwest Roadtrip

Stay – 3 Nights in Portland

We stayed at the Hilton Portland and Executive Tower.  It was a pretty good location, easy to walk to everything we wanted to visit downtown.  The room was comfortable and nice and the views of downtown Portland were great.

We spent 3 nights in Portland which was enough time to explore downtown and the craft brewery scene, check out the International Rose Garden and Japanese Gardens, and spend a day driving through, exploring and hiking the Columbia River Gorge and Hood River.  Although Portland was a neat city, my favorite parts of Oregon were the Columbia River Gorge and the coast.  I would encourage you not to miss either on a trip to Oregon.  Also, if I did this trip again I would likely swap one night in Portland for a night in Hood River to maximize time in the Columbia River Gorge.

Downtown Portland Oregon

Stay – 1 Night in Cannon Beach

From Portland, we drove about 2 hours out to the coast of Oregon and spent an afternoon driving and hiking at different outlooks and stops on our way to Cannon Beach.  Truly, the Oregon Coast was one of the most beautiful parts of this trip.  I could have easily spent another day exploring here but we woke up to a second day of rain and low visibility.

We spent the night at the Inn at Cannon Beach.  It was nice accommodation with very friendly staff, but a few blocks from the beach.  Next time I would splurge on something directly on the beach.

Related: The Three Capes Scenic Route along the Oregon Coast

Stay – 3 Nights in Seattle

The longest stretch in our road trip was from Cannon Beach to Seattle and took about 3.5 hours.  Over our 3 nights in Seattle we were able to explore downtown, visit the top of the Space Needle, catch a Mariners baseball game, do a day trip for hiking in Mt Rainier National Park, see the Boeing Aviation Center and visit many of the parks in downtown Seattle.

We stayed at Hotel Vintage, a Kimpton Hotel downtown on Spring and 5th Avenue.  Despite a steep hill down to the waterfront, it was nice and centrally located.

What to Pack for the Northwest

Light layers worked best this time of year in the Northwest.  On a sunny day, short sleeves were comfortable in the sun, but we always carried rain jackets or a light sweater.  At night on the coast was considerably chillier since the breeze was pretty strong off the ocean.  We also had some chilly temperatures in the higher altitudes of Mt Rainer National Park.

This itinerary is a mix of city exploring and hiking, so bring clothes for both and comfortable shoes for every day.  I suggest a backpack filled with snacks and water bottle for the hiking days.

Know Before You Go

There is a considerable amount of driving through windy roads.  If you are prone to motion sickness like me, pack some medication!  The longest stretch is about a 3.5 hour drive from the Oregon Coast to downtown Seattle.  You will get to see lots of Northwest scenery along the way!  Although we got very lucky in the weather department, expect rain and plan accordingly.

Although there are many more places in the Northwest on our list to explore, this itinerary is the perfect introduction to some of the best sights the Northwest has to offer!  For more detailed posts on what to see and do in each of these locations, check out:

The Three Capes Scenic Route along the Oregon Coast

The Columbia River Gorge and Hood River Oregon

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Pacific Northwest Itinerary

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  • Melissa Beare

    We stayed in Cannon Beach this year as well – definitely worth it to stay directly on the beach.