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10 Day Pacific Northwest Road Trip For Solo Travelers

I have lots of friends in the PNW, so I’ve made a Pacific Northwest road trip a few times in the last few years.

I made a trip out there in Winter 2023 to go snow shoeing with my friends, and I went out there Fall 2023 in my Rav4 for summer hikes and outdoor restaurants.

I’m creating this Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary as if you’ve never been to this region of the country before. It will get you into the most notorious areas of the Pacific Northwest, whether in the lush forests in most popular national parks or the fun city center highlights.

See my other US road trip ideas 😇

Pro Tips For Your Pacific Northwest Road Trip

  • Best Time to Travel: The best time to embark on this road trip is during the late spring to early fall, as you’ll experience milder temperatures and fewer rainy days, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable journey.
  • Book A Rental Car: Ditch the wear and tear on your car and book a rental car for your road trips.

PRO TIP: Get around and see things off the beaten path on your trip. Book your affordable car rental here.

10 Day Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary

I did all of this while car camping, opting for rentals when I was in the city (or crashing with friends). Here’s what I would recommend.

Day 1: Seattle

Arrive in Seattle. Visit Pike Place Market, take a ride to the top of the Space Needle, and explore the Museum of Pop Culture.

seattle public market
Photo by: Marquis Matson

I have a few friends in Seattle and my mom travels to Seattle a lot for work, so I love meeting up with people in Seattle a few times a year. I just love this city. There is so much to do and all of it is surrounded by water or forest. It’s a multicultural city that offers a little taste of cultures from all around the world.

For a first-timer, here’s how I recommend you begin.

Morning:

  • 8:00 AM: Start your day with a hearty breakfast at a local café. Consider visiting The Crumpet Shop in Pike Place Market for some delicious crumpets and tea.
  • 9:00 AM: Head to Pike Place Market, one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the U.S. Wander through the various stalls, watch the famous fish-throwing spectacle, and don’t forget to visit the original Starbucks store.

Midday:

  • 12:00 PM: For lunch, consider grabbing a bite at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, known for its mouthwatering mac & cheese.
  • 1:00 PM: Take a leisurely walk through the Downtown and Belltown neighborhoods. These areas are bustling with shops, art galleries, and street performers.
space needle seattle
Space Needle in Seattle; Photo by: Marquis Matson

Afternoon:

  • 3:00 PM: Visit the Space Needle. Tickets are about $60 for adults, with discounts available for seniors and children. The panoramic views of the city, Puget Sound, and Mount Rainier are breathtaking. More Info & Tickets
  • 5:00 PM: Explore the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). The museum offers a blend of pop culture, music, and sci-fi exhibits. Tickets are around $30 for adults. More Info & Tickets

Evening:

  • 7:00 PM: For dinner, consider dining at The Pink Door, an Italian-American restaurant in Pike Place Market known for its romantic ambiance and delicious cuisine.
  • 9:00 PM: Take a leisurely stroll along the Seattle Waterfront, enjoying the evening lights and the serene ambiance of Elliott Bay.

What to Expect: Seattle is a vibrant city with a mix of modern skyscrapers and historic architecture. The weather can be unpredictable, so it’s advisable to carry an umbrella or rain jacket. The city center itself is also quite walkable, but there’s a good public transportation system if you prefer.

Where to Stay: Book a hotel in Seattle or a cozy rental home.

Online Resources: For more detailed information about attractions, events, and other travel tips, consider checking out Visit Seattle, the city’s official tourism website.

Day 2: Seattle

Spend your second day in Seattle visiting Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Seattle Aquarium, and taking a sunset cruise around Elliott Bay.

Morning:

  • 8:00 AM: Kick off your day with a delightful breakfast at Café Campagne in Pike Place Market, known for its French-inspired dishes.
  • 9:30 AM: Head to the Chihuly Garden and Glass. This museum showcases the studio glass of Dale Chihuly. Wander through the eight galleries, the lush garden, and the stunning Glasshouse. Tickets are typically around $32 for adults. More Info & Tickets

Midday:

  • 12:00 PM: For lunch, consider Lola, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant offering delicious kebabs, tangy tzatziki, and other delightful dishes.
  • 1:30 PM: Make your way to the Seattle Aquarium. Dive into the marine life of the Pacific Northwest and get up close with sea otters, seals, and even touch a few sea creatures in the touch tanks. Adult tickets are usually priced at $34.95. More Info & Tickets

Afternoon:

  • 4:00 PM: Take a leisurely stroll along Pier 59, where you can enjoy the views, shop for souvenirs, and maybe grab a coffee or ice cream.

Evening:

  • 6:00 PM: Board a sunset cruise around Elliott Bay. Sunset cruise companies offer scenic tours that provide stunning views of the Seattle skyline, the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges, and the serene waters of Elliott Bay. Prices vary but expect to pay around $80 – $100 for an adult ticket.
  • 8:00 PM: For dinner, consider Six Seven Restaurant located on the waterfront. They offer Pacific Northwest-inspired dishes with a view that’s hard to beat.
  • 10:00 PM: Wind down your day with a walk along the Seattle Waterfront Park, enjoying the shimmering city lights reflecting on the water.

What to Expect: Day 2 offers a blend of artistic inspiration, marine exploration, and scenic beauty. Seattle’s waterfront area can get a bit chilly in the evening, so it’s advisable to bring a light jacket.

Find the perfect accommodations for your upcoming trip here ✈️

Day 3: Olympic National Park

Take a day trip to the Olympic National Park, where you can hike through rainforest trails and visit stunning coastline vistas. The Olympic Peninsula, a gem in the Pacific Northwest, captivates with its stunning diversity, from the lush rainforests of the Hoh and Quinault to the rugged, wave-battered coastlines of Rialto and Ruby Beach. This unique region, crowned by the majestic Olympic Mountains, offers a serene escape into nature’s embrace, where ancient forests whisper tales of the earth’s primordial past.

Morning:

  • 7:00 AM: Depart early from Seattle to make the most of your day in Olympic National Park. The drive is approximately 2.5 hours to the park’s main visitor center.
  • 9:30 AM: Arrive at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles. Here, you can gather maps, check trail conditions, and get expert advice on the best spots to visit.
  • 10:00 AM: Begin your exploration with the Hoh Rain Forest, one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S. Walk the Hall of Mosses Trail, a short 0.8-mile loop that showcases the lush, green beauty of the forest.

Midday:

  • 12:30 PM: Enjoy a packed lunch amidst nature. There are several picnic spots in the park where you can relax and savor your meal.
  • 1:30 PM: Head to Ruby Beach, one of the most famous beaches in Olympic National Park. Marvel at the sea stacks, driftwood, and often misty coastline.

Afternoon:

  • 3:30 PM: Explore Lake Crescent, a deep, glacially carved lake known for its brilliant blue waters. Consider taking a short hike to Marymere Falls or simply relax by the lake.
  • 5:00 PM: If time permits, visit Sol Duc Valley. The Sol Duc River runs through the valley and is home to the Sol Duc Falls, a picturesque multi-tiered waterfall.

Evening:

  • 7:00 PM: Begin your journey back to Seattle. Consider stopping in Port Angeles for dinner. C’est Si Bon is a local favorite, offering French cuisine in a cozy setting.

What to Expect: Olympic National Park is vast, with diverse ecosystems ranging from rainforests to coastal areas. The weather can be unpredictable, so pack layers and waterproof gear. Entry fees for the only national park, are $30 per vehicle, valid for seven days. More Info & Fees

Where to Stay: Book a hotel near Olympic National Park or a cozy rental home near Olympic National Park.

Online Resources: For detailed information about the park, trail conditions, and any alerts, visit the official Olympic National Park website.

Day 4: Mount Rainier National Park

Mt. Rainier; Photo by: Marquis Matson

Head out for a day trip to Mount Rainier National Park, explore the Paradise area, and try some hiking. I stopped in Mount Rainier on my way from Portland to Seattle when I was visiting my friends over the summer. Someone had recommended I make the trip out there and so I allotted half a day to exploring.

I regret treating it so casually.

I could easily spend a few days exploring Mount Rainier National Park, even weeks if I had it my way. I recommend taking a look at the different trails and views to see what is within your abilities. 

mt rainier
Mt. Rainier National Park; Photo by: Marquis Matson

Morning:

  • 7:00 AM: Begin your day early to maximize your time at the park. Pack a picnic lunch, snacks, and plenty of water for the day.
  • 8:30 AM: Arrive at Mount Rainier National Park. The entrance fee is typically around $30 per vehicle, but prices may vary. More Info & Fees
  • 9:00 AM: Start your exploration in the Paradise area, known for its breathtaking views of Mount Rainier, wildflower meadows, and well-maintained trails.

Midday:

  • 12:00 PM: Enjoy your packed lunch at one of the picnic areas in Paradise, surrounded by the beauty of the park.
  • 1:00 PM: Embark on a hike. The Skyline Trail is a popular choice in the Paradise area, offering panoramic views of the mountain, meadows, and even some wildlife.

Afternoon:

  • 3:30 PM: After your hike, take a leisurely drive through the park, stopping at various viewpoints and visitor centers. The Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center in Paradise is a great place to learn more about the park’s history, geology, and wildlife.
  • 5:00 PM: If time permits, consider exploring other areas of the park or taking a shorter trail.

Evening:

  • 7:00 PM: As you exit the park, consider dining at a local eatery in the nearby town of Ashford. Copper Creek Inn is a popular choice, known for its hearty meals and famous blackberry pie.

What to Expect: Mount Rainier National Park is vast and offers a diverse range of experiences. The weather can be unpredictable, especially at higher elevations, so dress in layers and be prepared for sudden changes. Trails can range from easy to challenging, so choose one that matches your fitness level.

Where to Stay: Book a hotel near Mt. Rainier or a cozy rental home near Mt. Rainier.

Online Resources: For detailed information about trails, road conditions, and other park-related queries, visit the official Mount Rainier National Park website.

Day 5: Portland

Drive to Portland. Spend your day exploring Powell’s City of Books, International Rose Test Garden, and taste some unique local doughnuts at Voodoo Doughnut.

downtown portland
Photo by: Marquis Matson

I have some very good friends in Portland so I’ve had the absolute pleasure of visiting them a few times now. I also have visited Portland over the years being from Cali and all. I’ve never been too impressed with any particular thing. It’s more like a place for fluttering around and seeing what you can find around you. Wherever you are, you will find cool shops, luscious parks for walking, and interesting food options.

Morning:

  • 8:00 AM: Begin your day with a breakfast at Tasty n Alder, a downtown favorite known for its diverse and delectable breakfast menu.
  • 9:30 AM: Head to Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore. Spanning an entire city block, this literary haven offers over a million new and used books. Dive into the rare book room or join one of the daily tours that provide an in-depth look at the store’s history and unique architecture.

Midday:

  • 12:00 PM: For lunch, try Lardo, a sandwich shop that celebrates all things pork, or if you’re vegetarian, Harlow offers delicious and healthy options.
  • 1:30 PM: Visit the International Rose Test Garden located in Washington Park. With over 10,000 rose bushes of approximately 650 varieties, it’s a sensory delight. The best time to see the roses in bloom is from April through October, with peak bloom in June.

Afternoon:

  • 3:30 PM: Stroll through the Pearl District, known for its art galleries, boutiques, and urban parks. The area is a blend of modern architecture and historic buildings, giving it a unique charm.
  • 5:00 PM: Time for a sweet treat! Head to Voodoo Doughnut and try their eclectic range of doughnuts. The “Portland Cream” is a must-try, but if you’re feeling adventurous, the “Bacon Maple Bar” is a popular choice.

Evening:

  • 7:00 PM: For dinner, consider Andina, a Peruvian restaurant that offers a fusion of traditional and Novo-Andean cuisine. Their tapas are a highlight.
  • 9:00 PM: End your day with a walk along the Willamette River at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The view of the city lights reflecting on the water is a serene way to conclude your Portland exploration.

What to Expect: Portland, often dubbed the “City of Roses,” is known for its eco-friendliness, microbreweries, and coffeehouses. It has a laid-back vibe, with a mix of nature and urban sophistication. The city is also quite pedestrian and bike-friendly.

Where to Stay: Book a hotel in Portland or a cozy rental home.

Online Resources: For more detailed information about attractions, events, and other travel tips, consider checking out Travel Portland, the city’s official tourism website.

Day 6: Portland

Visit the Portland Japanese Garden, then take a tour of some of the city’s unique microbreweries in the evening.

Photo by: Marquis Matson

Morning:

  • 8:00 AM: Begin your day with a delightful breakfast at Tasty n Alder, a downtown Portland staple known for its innovative dishes and cozy atmosphere.
  • 9:30 AM: Head to the Portland Japanese Garden located in the West Hills of Portland. This garden is renowned as the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of its various sections, including the Natural Garden, Sand and Stone Garden, and the Flat Garden. Admission is around $18.95 for adults. More Info & Tickets

Midday:

  • 12:30 PM: For lunch, venture to Nong’s Khao Man Gai, a popular spot known for its delicious Thai chicken and rice dish.
  • 2:00 PM: Spend your early afternoon exploring the Pearl District, a vibrant neighborhood filled with art galleries, boutique shops, and historic architecture. Don’t miss the iconic Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore.

Afternoon:

  • 4:00 PM: Take a leisurely stroll along the Willamette River via the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Enjoy the views of the city skyline, historic bridges, and perhaps even a riverside festival or event. I have my friends to take me around on little hikes throughout Portland, so I recommend you book a hiking tour of Portland for a similar experience!

Evening:

  • 6:00 PM: Dive into Portland’s renowned craft beer scene. Start your brewery tour at Deschutes Brewery for some classic Pacific Northwest brews.
  • 8:00 PM: Continue your beer journey at 10 Barrel Brewing Co., where you can enjoy a rooftop setting along with your brews.
  • 10:00 PM: Conclude your evening at Cascade Brewing Barrel House, known for its sour beers. Pair your drink with some local snacks or charcuterie.

What to Expect: Portland, often dubbed the “City of Roses,” is known for its eco-friendliness, vibrant arts scene, and a plethora of microbreweries. The city is bike-friendly, so consider renting a bike if you’re up for some cycling. The weather can be a mix of rain and shine, so packing a light rain jacket is advisable.

Online Resources: For more detailed information about attractions, events, and other travel tips, consider checking out Travel Portland, the city’s official tourism website.

Day 7: Willamette Valley

Spend the day in the Willamette Valley wine country, where you can tour vineyards and enjoy wine tastings.

Morning:

  • 9:00 AM: Begin your day with a delightful breakfast at a local café in the valley. Consider Red Hills Market in Dundee for a farm-to-table experience.
  • 10:30 AM: Start your wine journey with a visit to Adelsheim Vineyard, one of the region’s pioneering wineries. Enjoy a guided tour of the vineyard and learn about the winemaking process.

Midday:

  • 12:30 PM: Head to Stoller Family Estate for a wine tasting paired with a gourmet lunch. The estate offers panoramic views of the valley, making it a perfect spot for a midday break.

Afternoon:

  • 2:30 PM: Continue your wine exploration at Domaine Serene, renowned for its exquisite Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Opt for a seated tasting experience in their elegant tasting room.
  • 4:00 PM: Visit Argyle Winery in Dundee, known for its sparkling wines. Take a tour of their tasting house and indulge in a flight of their best bubbles.

Evening:

  • 6:30 PM: For dinner, dine at The Painted Lady in Newberg. This restored Victorian-era house offers a fine dining experience with dishes crafted from local ingredients.
  • 8:00 PM: Take a leisurely stroll in the town of Newberg, soaking in the serene ambiance of the valley at dusk.

What to Expect: The Willamette Valley is famed for its world-class Pinot Noir. The region boasts a cool climate, making it ideal for viticulture. Expect to meet passionate winemakers, learn about the valley’s unique terroir, and savor wines that are a true reflection of the land.

Where to Stay: Book a hotel in Willamette Valley or a cozy rental home.

Online Resources: For more detailed information about wineries, events, and other travel tips, consider checking out Willamette Wines, the official website dedicated to the valley’s wine scene.

Day 8: Columbia River Gorge

Take a day trip to the Columbia River Gorge. Visit Multnomah Falls and try some windsurfing in Hood River.

Morning:

  • 8:00 AM: Kickstart your day with a hearty breakfast. If you’re starting from Portland, consider stopping by Broder Café for some Scandinavian-inspired dishes.
  • 9:30 AM: Begin your journey to the Columbia River Gorge. The drive itself offers picturesque views of the river and surrounding landscapes.

Midday:

  • 11:00 AM: Your first stop is the majestic Multnomah Falls. As Oregon’s tallest waterfall, it’s a sight to behold. There’s a viewing platform at the base, but for a closer look, you can hike up to Benson Bridge. The hike is relatively short but can be steep, so wear comfortable shoes.
  • 1:00 PM: For lunch, head to Hood River, known for its vibrant food scene. Solstice Wood Fire Cafe & Bar is a great spot for pizzas and has views of the river.

Afternoon:

  • 2:30 PM: Experience the thrill of windsurfing in Hood River, often referred to as the windsurfing capital of the world. There are several rental shops and schools like Big Winds where beginners can take lessons.
  • 5:00 PM: Explore the town of Hood River. Wander through its quaint streets, visit local boutiques, and perhaps stop by a local brewery like Full Sail Brewing Company.

Evening:

  • 7:00 PM: Dine in Hood River. Celilo Restaurant and Bar offers Pacific Northwest cuisine with a focus on local and organic ingredients.
  • 9:00 PM: As you drive back, take a moment to pull over at one of the scenic overlooks and enjoy the serene beauty of the gorge under the evening sky.

What to Expect: The Columbia River Gorge offers a mix of natural beauty and adventure. The weather can be quite variable, so it’s advisable to check forecasts and pack accordingly. If you’re planning to windsurf, be prepared for strong winds and chilly waters.

Where to Stay: Book a hotel near Columbia Gorge or a cozy rental home.

Online Resources: For more detailed information about attractions, events, and other travel tips in the region, consider checking out Travel Oregon, a comprehensive guide to exploring the state.

Day 9: Mount Hood

Spend your day on Mount Hood national forest where you can enjoy hiking, and breathtaking views.

Morning:

  • 8:00 AM: Begin your day with a hearty breakfast at Government Camp, a small town located at the base of Mount Hood. Huckleberry Inn is a popular spot known for its huckleberry pancakes.
  • 9:00 AM: Head to Timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark located on the southern flank of Mount Hood. The lodge offers breathtaking views of the mountain and is a great starting point for various hiking trails.

Midday:

  • 12:00 PM: For lunch, consider grabbing a bite at Timberline Lodge’s Cascade Dining Room. Enjoy a meal with panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.
  • 1:00 PM: Embark on a hike. The Timberline Trail is a popular choice, circling the mountain and offering diverse terrains and vistas. For a shorter hike, consider the Trillium Lake Trail, known for its iconic view of Mount Hood reflecting in the lake.

Afternoon:

  • 3:00 PM: Visit the Mt. Hood Cultural Center & Museum in Government Camp to learn about the history, culture, and geology of the region.
  • 5:00 PM: If you’re into winter sports, consider skiing or snowboarding. Mount Hood is unique in offering year-round snow activities, thanks to the Palmer Snowfield.

Evening:

  • 7:00 PM: Dine at Charlie’s Mountain View, a local favorite in Government Camp, known for its comfort food and cozy ambiance.
  • 9:00 PM: Relax and stargaze. The clear skies around Mount Hood offer a mesmerizing view of the stars, making it a perfect way to wind down your day.

What to Expect: Mount Hood offers a blend of recreational activities, from hiking and skiing to simply relaxing and taking in the views. The weather can be quite chilly, even in summer, so pack layers and be prepared for sudden weather changes.

Where to Stay: Book a hotel near Mt. Hood or a cozy rental home.

Online Resources: For more detailed information about attractions, activities, and other travel tips, consider checking out Mt. Hood Territory, the official tourism website for the region.

Day 10: Return to Seattle

Drive back to Seattle for your departure.

Morning:

  • 8:00 AM: Begin your day with a breakfast stop at Top Pot Doughnuts. Indulge in some of the city’s best hand-forged doughnuts and a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
  • 9:00 AM: Start your drive back to Seattle. If you didn’t get a chance earlier, consider taking a detour to Snoqualmie Falls, a majestic 268-foot waterfall located just 30 minutes outside of Seattle.

Midday:

  • 12:00 PM: Arrive in Seattle and head to Fremont, the city’s quirky and artsy neighborhood. Grab lunch at Fremont Brewing, where you can enjoy a variety of craft beers and local food trucks.
  • 1:30 PM: Take a leisurely walk to the Fremont Troll, an iconic sculpture hiding beneath the Aurora Bridge.

Afternoon:

  • 3:00 PM: If you have some time before your departure, visit the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). Explore a diverse collection of art pieces ranging from ancient to contemporary. More Info & Tickets
  • 5:00 PM: Head to Kerry Park for one last view of the city. This park offers one of the most stunning views of Seattle’s skyline, with the Space Needle standing tall and Mount Rainier in the backdrop.

Evening:

  • 7:00 PM: For your farewell dinner, consider dining at Ray’s Boathouse in Ballard. Enjoy fresh seafood with panoramic views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.
  • 9:00 PM: Prepare for your departure. Depending on your plans, you might be heading to the airport, train station, or perhaps a local hotel for the night.

What to Expect: As you wrap up your road trip, take the time to soak in the city’s ambiance. Seattle’s evening lights, combined with the natural beauty of the surrounding landscapes, offer a tranquil setting.

Online Resources: For last-minute details, updates on events, or other travel tips, refer to Visit Seattle, the city’s official tourism website.

PRO TIP: Get around and see things off the beaten path on your trip. Book your affordable car rental here.

Other Notable Places In The Pacific Northwest

Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve visited the Pacific Northwest a lot in my life. There are some things that I’ve done that don’t really fit into a 10-day itinerary because they’re slightly “out of the way”. Here are a few spots in the Pacific Northwest region that might be worth adding to your road trip if you’re up for an improvised (and gorgeous) Pacific Northwest road trip.

winter gear for women
Leavenworth, Washington; Photo by: Marquis Matson
  • North Cascades National Park: My god, this is truly my favorite area of the Pacific Northwest region. I went snowshoeing in Leavenworth, which is just south of North Cascades National Park. If you’re more into the outdoors scene than the city scene, then a jaunt over to the Cascade mountains could replace a visit to Portland. Even if you can’t spend much time exploring the national park, the North Cascades highway itself is worth the drive.
  • Crater Lake National Park: If you want to head a little further south and maybe start your road trip from Portland, then a visit to Crater Lake National Park, the deepest lake in the US, is worth the drive. It’s absolutely gorgeous and kicks your ass on the way up, making it a great hike as well as view.
  • Washington and Oregon Coast Road Trip: I’ve mostly laid out an itinerary for the mountains in the Pacific Northwest. If you’re more of those gloomy and magical coastal vibes the West Coast is notorious for, then adjust your itinerary to run along the Pacific Coast. You’ll find lots of cute coastal towns with damn good food.

Final Thoughts

I hope that you enjoy this Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary, or at least find some inspiration for your own road trip. There are plenty of lush forests to explore along the Pacific Ocean and breathtaking scenic vistas along the mountains of Washington state. No matter where you find yourself, your will discover endless beauty all around you.

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