As a resident of Seattle, I have been fortunate to experience the beautiful destinations scattered around the Pacific Northwest. What I love most about this part of the country, is that you can spend each season differently and somewhere completely new, which is why I’d like to share with you my favorite spots for each season! Here is our insider’s guide to the perfect weekend escapes in the PNW.
Winter: Lake Wenatchee
Why Lake Wenatchee?
Tucked away in the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains is a glacier and snow-fed lake, known as Lake Wenatchee. If you love everything that comes with winter, then this is the perfect winter escape for you. Lake Wenatchee will give you the outdoor access most suited for snow shoeing, back country skiing and cross country skiing. The closest ski resort, Steven’s Pass is also about 20 miles away.
The Lake Wenatchee area has many options for lodging but I most often book through Airbnb. In fact, the best Airbnb I ever stayed at was at The Duncan Cabin.
It’s a rustic log cabin that was originally built in 1890 by Norwegian immigrants and was renovated in 2014. My favorite part about this dreamy cabin was making breakfast on the wood-burning stove; I felt like I was transported back in time!
Spring: Smith Rock State Park and Vantage, WA aka The Frenchman’s Coulee
When it comes to rock climbing, I couldn’t pick one place. Both Smith Rock and Vantage are equally as beautiful and both are worth checking out, but it really depends on the amount of time you have. Smith Rock is better if you have a long weekend 3+ days, and Vantage is best for a quick weekend trip. The Smith Rock road trip from Seattle is also stunning with beautiful views of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge.
Why Smith Rock?
I mean, first of all look at this place…
Found in central Oregon, Smith Rock is not only breathtaking but has routes for all levels of climbers. Here there are more than a thousand routes that are bolted and waiting to be clipped into as well as miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.
Similar to Smith Rock, Vantage is a popular destination for rock climbers with incredible rock formations along the Columbia River Gorge. It’s perfect for those looking to practice their belaying skills as well as those who are advanced climbers. Nearby you will find hikes with views of the columnar basalt and a seasonal spring waterfall surrounded by blossoms.
Note: If you’re a climber it’s best to come here in the spring before the high desert temperatures take affect. It’s also a great escape from the cool spring temps of Seattle. In the spring it reaches 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit and in the summer the temperatures can reach up to 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Summer: Shi Shi Beach
Why Shi Shi Beach?
Located on the rugged Olympic Coast, Shi Shi Beach is the dreamiest beach in Washington. You can get here by car after you take the ferry from Seattle, but once you arrive at the trailhead it’s 8 miles round trip. Make sure you are prepared to hike in and out with your food, water (or water filter, there is a stream close by) and camping gear.
Once your camp is setup, it’s time to explore! The sandy beaches are covered with white bleached logs and go on for miles. There are stunning rock formations, also known as Point of Arches at each end perfect for the eager photographer to capture during sunset. At low tide, you can search tidal pools where you’ll discover crab, fish and starfish hidden between the crags of the arches. At night, if you’re able to gather dried driftwood you can make a cozy fire and fall asleep to the waves crashing into the shore.
Fall: Leavenworth, WA
Two hours east of Seattle is the Bavarian themed town of Leavenworth. This little town is charismatic with twinkling lights strung through the whole town! With Oktoberfest, breweries, Bavarian cuisine, live music, shopping and more it’s definitely worth checking off your list this Fall!
Whenever I visit Leavenworth I stop at Icicle Brewery where I usually treat myself to their raspberry Hefeweizen or Chocolate Stout (warning: it tastes just like a milkshake). For dinner, I like to go to restaurants with live music and schnitzel, because when in Leavenworth, you must eat schnitzel! I’ve most often stopped at the Bavarian Bistro and Bar because there is no cover and they serve the best hot buttered rum in town that warms you up on a chilly fall night! It’s the perfect weekend escape in the PNW.
Bonus Location For All Of You Hiking Fans: Snow Lake
Snow Lake is a gorgeous hike 60 miles east of Seattle in Snoqualmie Pass. It is 6.6 miles round trip making it good for all ages and fitness levels. The trail goes up above the South Fork Snoqualmie River through forests and over a pass to a gorgeous alpine lake. In early fall, I like to pack up lunch, head up to the lake and spend the day with friends surrounded by the striking foliage.
Limiting my favorite places to only a few was hard because there are countless places around the Pacific Northwest to be explored! However, I can say with certainty, that these have been the most memorable getaways for me and I cannot wait to discover more this spring!