Essential RV Pacific Northwest
Favorite Mountain Coast
by Ashley Oakes Scott
Lush pines, winding roads, snow-kissed mountain peaks, and the ocean breeze are your picturesque views as you venture through the Pacific Northwest—an area that encapsulates the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Rocky Mountains to the east. What is in between these two travel destinations is your next road trip through one of America’s most beautiful regions.
Let’s explore some of our favorite RV stops along the way in Oregon and Washington!
Traveling Through Oregon
As you head up the Pacific Northwest, you will most likely be on the Oregon Coast—known for its breathtaking views, hiking, boating, and fishing. There are several stops that are worth a visit as you head up to the beautiful city of Portland.
In the middle of the mountainous and treelined views of the Pacific Northwest, the Oregon Dunes is an enormous beach-like area that is a destination for motorsports and camping.
Another stop up the Pacific Northwest that all cheese lovers have to visit is the official Tillamook Creamery for a free self-guided tour. Learn why the location is so important for the Tillamook cows, watch the cheese-making process, and—of course—taste their delicious products! Reservations are encouraged.
One quaint town to stop in is Astoria on the Columbia River. Best known as the last stop for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Astoria has plenty to offer. Start with Fort Clatsop, a recreation of the last encampment built by Lewis and Clark.
Another unique view in the city is the Astoria Column. They say this site is the best place to begin your Pacific Northwest adventure because of its vast views. Visitors can climb to the top of the column and take in 360-degree vistas. It’s also free to visit the park and column, and there is only a small parking fee when you arrive.
Oregon’s most familiar spot on the coast is the environmentally-friendly city of Portland. Making a stop in the city that takes pride in its “weirdness” is a must for the first leg of your RV tour. There are several spots in the city, such as Jantzen Beach RV Park, with stops along the Columbia River that give you a chance to explore everything that Portland has to offer.
Also, along the Columbia River is one of the most stunning and highly sought-out falls with scenic views, Multnomah Falls. You can reach the entrance to the falls by travelling east on Interstate 84 to exit 31-Multnomah Falls. Once parked, head underneath the interstate and railroad tracks to the Multnomah Falls Lodge where you can begin your walk to this gorgeous plunge of cascades. This historical lodge has a stone cottage vibe and is the perfect spot to grab a drink before or after visiting. For the best views of the falls, take a walk to Benson Bridge. Don’t forget a rain jacket as the sprays from the powerful falls create a cooler climate in the area!
First things first! Stretch your legs and grab an ice cream cone from the famous Salt & Straw as you walk through the leaf-strewn streets of Portland. This ice cream shop started as a food truck and is known for its locally sourced ingredients and unique seasonal flavors. If they have it, the seasonal Pear and Blue Cheese ice cream is a must try! Otherwise, the Salted, Malted, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough or Honey Lavender flavors are a staple favorite.
Portland is known as the “City of Roses and, if you are in the city April through October, you have to visit the International Rose Test Garden at Washington Park. This park features over 10,000 rose bushes with pristine gardens and celestial aromas. The garden is open daily, and admission is free.
Portland is known for its organic and locally known food, so visit where these ingredients come from on the Farm Loop near Mount Hood. You can check out three self-guided tours from Travel Portland that feature flower farms, grain stores, produce farms, ranches, and vineyards. You’ll want to pick up the delicious offerings and artisan finds from these local purveyors to enjoy on your next leg of the RV trip!
Take a day trip to Willamette Valley where some of the best Oregon and international wines are produced. With the cool coastal weather, these vineyards are known for producing Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc.
If there isn’t enough time to take advantage of a Willamette Valley wine tasting route, the must-see wineries out of the 300 in Oregon’s wine country include Stoller and Argyle.
Rosé all day when you visit the Stoller Family Estate in the Dundee Hills. Stoller is known for their sustainable growing practices and award-winning Pinot Noirs, one including a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Rosé. This estate features a beautiful tasting room and experience center with views that can’t be beat.
Also, in the Dundee Hills is Argyle, a winery known for its sparkling wines. Argyle has received accolades from Wine Spectator for years and is one of Willamette’s oldest wineries.
The next stop on your RV Pacific Northwest bucket list has to be a tour of Seattle, Washington. This city is set in between two classic Washington destinations: Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountain range, which should also be on your bucket list.
Puget Sound, a beautiful inlet of the Pacific Ocean and part of the Salish Sea is home to the Seattle coast. There is a lot of marine wildlife in this area along with incredibly scenic views. This area features San Juan Island which you can access by ferry. (Be sure to reserve a spot and check on RV costs.) Or if you’re feeling adventurous, sailing to San Juan Island is always an option! On this island there are galleries, shops, restaurants, wineries, spas, fishing, and whale watching.
The Cascade Mountain range is only 25 miles from Seattle and boasts glacial views and is known as the “American Alps”. Mount Rainier is one of the most famous and photogenic areas of this mountain range, known for its active stratovolcano. An area with vast history is Ohanapecosh, a river area perfect for RV camping. Once a hot springs resort, the area has reverted back to its original pristine state. While you can’t soak in the springs, the nearby river does have swimming options.
For the ultimate Instagram photo op on the mountain range, head to Goat Lake in the Central Cascades. This crystal-clear lake is surrounded by forest and is a great day-hike with picturesque views of the mountains and waterfalls.
Once you make it into the city of “coffee, culture, and grunge” be ready to explore! There are several iconic spots that you have to fit into your itinerary that will give you the full Seattle experience. Parking your RV in the city is not ideal, but if there is a lot of street side parking that is more readily available later in the day and on weekends.
Pike Place Market was the original Seattle farmer’s market and, to this day, has some of the best specialty products that the country has to offer. The quickest and easiest way to get everything that Pike Place Market has to offer is to sign up for a guided tour. With a vast amount of history and intricacies, this is the perfect way to understand what makes Seattle so special.
If you want to create your own tour, here is a list of some of the most famous Pike Place Market spots that you have to visit. Don’t forget to browse through the still standing market areas for fresh flowers, foods, spices, and souvenirs.
Market Theatre Gum Wall is one of the most popular photo ops in the country. Just as it sounds, it is literally a wall of chewed gum! The story goes that people began adding gum to the wall in the 1990s while waiting in line for shows at Unexpected Productions—Seattle’s longest running improv theatre. Even through the theatre tried to remove the gum, the trend stuck and it’s still something that tourists flock to.
The first Starbucks originated in Pikes Place Market. There are actually two Starbucks stores in the area: make sure to visit the right one at 1912 Pike Place in Seattle (zip code 98101). The nostalgic storefront showcases the original Starbucks logo and, while small, this store is known to get tourists in and out quickly.
Visit the Crafts Market located in the North Arcade. Booths are rented to local craftsmen, and the rule is that all things must be handmade that are sold. You can watch different items being made or pick up a gift for an upcoming holiday.
One lady that you can’t miss while walking in the market is Rachel the Pig. Rachel the Pig is a huge, bronze piggy bank where people can donate their change to the Market Foundation. It’s known as a meetup spot for friends and of course a photo op.
A fun thing to watch at the market is the flying fish. When orders come through at Pike Place Fish, the fishmongers throw full-sized fish through the air as customers watch the action.
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese gained its national popularity when Oprah announced it was her favorite go-to for macaroni and cheese. Using fresh milk from local farms, Beecher’s creates artisan cheeses in their shop. They also have a menu to grab a bite while walking around the market, which includes their famous mac and cheese, plus soups and sandwiches.
About five minutes from Pike Place Market is the epic Space Needle. Get a photo with all of Seattle behind you from the top of the well-known observation tower. It now also touts “the loupe” which is a room with a rotating glass floor. This Seattle landmark originated as a centerpiece for the once famous Seattle Fair and is still a must-see spot when you visit the city.
Overall, the Pacific Northwest has something for everyone. From city life to outdoor adventure, there are numerous destinations to fill your itinerary. This guide to all the stops along the way are just a few as you explore new roads and unusual sites in cities that love to be known for their quirky offerings.