14-Day Best of the Pacific Northwest Road Trip Loop

Circle the Pacific Northwest following this two-week itinerary. Start in Seattle, Washington and head north to Vancouver, British Columbia. After a brief stop in Victoria, ferry over to the Olympic Peninsula and drive down the Oregon Coast. Loop inland to Portland, and then head north with stops at Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier before returning to Seattle. Alternatively, start in Portland or Vancouver and follow the loop from there.

For directions on each leg of the trip and notes on stops between destinations, check out Moon Pacific Northwest Road Trip.

Days 1-2: Seattle

Spend two days visiting the many sides of Seattle. Wander the city’s bustling downtown, watch the fish fly at Pike Place Market, and dine atop the Space Needle. Add a day trip to the winemaking hub of Woodinville.

Days 3-5: Vancouver (Seattle to Vancouver 140 miles/3 hours)

Head north on I-5 to Vancouver, British Columbia. Leave plenty of time for delays at the Peace Arch border crossing between the U.S. and Canada because lanes back up on weekends and holidays between the United States and Canada.

Spend two days exploring downtown Vancouver. Bike around sprawling Stanley Park, tour the city’s Olympic sights, and drive north of the city to ride the tram up Grouse Mountain. Add a day trip to Whistler and make reservations for tomorrow’s ferry to Victoria.

Day 6: Victoria (Vancouver to Victoria 70 miles/3 hours)

From Vancouver, drive 35 kilometers south on Highway 99 to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal and board the B.C. Ferry to Victoria. The 90-minute boat trip arrives in Swartz Bay. Follow Highway 17 for 32 kilometers south to Victoria. It’s a quick trip into the city, though traffic can build in the early morning.

Explore Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Reserve an Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, take the Harbour Ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf, and cap the night in bustling Chinatown.

Color map of Downtown Vancouver, BC

Downtown Vancouver

Color map of Downtown Victoria, BC

Downtown Victoria

Days 7-8: Olympic Peninsula (Victoria to Forks 80 miles/3 hours)

Take the Black Ball Ferry Line across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, arriving in Port Angeles, Washington. Follow U.S. 101 west as it passes through Olympic National Park. Take care on the two-lane highway as trucks and cars alike can speed on the tight turns.

Moss-covered rocks on the shores of Olympic National Park in Washington.

Olympic National Park in Washington. Photo © Galyna Andrushko/123rf.

Spend at least one day enjoying the verdant wonders of Olympic National Park. Stop at Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center for sweeping views, and then spend the night at Lake Crescent or continue south to Forks. Day two brings quick access to the crashing waves at La Push or exploring the park’s Hoh Rain Forest and Lake Quinault.

Day 9: Olympic Peninsula to the Oregon Coast (Forks to Astoria 185 miles/4 hours)

It’s a long trip on U.S. 101 from Forks down to Astoria on the Oregon Coast, so start early. Traffic is less likely to be an issue, but any small backup or accident on the road can cause problems. Plan to arrive in Astoria in time for a casual dinner in the industrial waterfront town.

Day 10: Oregon Coast (Astoria to Florence 183 miles/4.5 hours)

This simple drive down the Oregon Coast follows U.S. 101 south, with worthwhile stops along the way. Stop for lunch on the sand in Cannon Beach, visit the aquarium in Newport, or take a sand dune tour in Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Exploring the Three Capes Loop will add extra time (and 50 miles) to this leg of the trip.

Large stone seastacks offshore at Cannon Beach.

Seastacks at Cannon Beach, Oregon. Photo © Matt Ragen/123rf.

Days 11-12: Portland (Florence to Portland 173 miles/3 hours)

Leave Florence early, following Highway 126 east for 56 miles to I-5. Take I-5 north for 115 miles to Portland. You’ll roll into the city just after the morning traffic jams.

You can see a lot of Portland in two days. Spend one day exploring downtown sights such as Powell’s Books and the South Park Blocks. On day two, cross the Willamette River to visit the southeast neighborhoods and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Day 13: Mount Rainier (Portland to Mount Rainier 137 miles/2.5 hours)

Leave Portland early (before rush-hour traffic). Head north on I-5; then take Highway 12 east for 30 miles. At Morton, follow Highway 7 north for 15 miles to Highway 706. Turn east and take Highway 706 to Mount Rainier’s Nisqually entrance.

Spend the day hiking through wildflower meadows at Paradise, or enjoy a scenic drive through the national park to Sunrise.

Lupins in full bloom in Mount Rainier National Park.

Wildflower displays in Mount Rainier National Park. Photo © Chiya Li/123rf.

Day 14: Return to Seattle (Mount Rainier to Seattle 86 miles/2 hours)

In summer, head north out of the national park on Highway 410, driving through Enumclaw back to Seattle. When the roads are closed, exit back through the Nisqually Entrance on Highway 706 toward Ashford and circle back to I-5 and Seattle.

Options for Shorter Trips

Seattle to Vancouver

Hit the region’s two biggest cities in a short road trip. Start in Seattle and spend two days exploring the downtown sights. Drive north on I-5, stopping in Anacortes or the tiny towns of Bow and Edison. Arrive in Vancouver and enjoy some outdoorsy side trips to the mountains north of the city or to Whistler.

Portland Loop

An easy loop from Portland includes the best of both city and nature. Spend two days discovering Portland’s neighborhood gems, and then take I-5 north into Washington and drive 44 miles to Longview. At Longview, jog west on Highway 432 to U.S. 30 and continue 45 miles to Astoria on the coast. Spend a day or two following U.S. 101 south along the coast with stops to walk on the beach or watch whales. At Newport, take Highway 20 east about 63 miles to the towns of Corvallis and Albany, where it meets up with I-5. From Albany, follow I-5 north for 70 miles to return to Portland.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Pacific Northwest Road Trip.