I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest, so that was a major vacation destination for us. Especially when I learned how many National Parks are there. We hoped to go in 2020, but we kept putting off our planning as we heard worrying reports of a pesky virus. But we finally came back in 2022. And what a vacation—I’ll call it the summer vacation of snow and starfish.
We flew into Portland and spent a night there, then drove up to Seattle and stayed in friend’s Airbnb. We took an overnight trip to the Olympic Peninsula, returned to our friend’s place and flew out from Seattle. We planned a lot for seven days (when are we going to get this chance again?), but we also managed to have lots of down time.
First, let’s talk about where we stayed:
- A great little Airbnb in Portland with this mural across the street.
- The bottom floor of a friend’s Airbnb in West Seattle with this glorious view of the Seattle skyline across the harbor. On clear days (and there weren’t many of those), you could see snowy mountains in the distance). Not only did the place have a great view, but they had the perfect reading coach on the balcony to take in that skyline.
- A tiny house Airbnb in Forks that had this river just down the hill, complete with a hammock.
For most of this trip it never got above 64 degrees. I think on the way to the airport on the last day it hit 68. Many of the days were in the 50s. This is significant because it hit 100 degrees for several days back home in Minnesota while we were gone.
It also snowed. The Paradise visitor’s center at Mount Rainier had tons of snow—they were still selling snow shoes. We threw snowballs.
Unfortunately, that weather also meant we couldn’t see the majestic views of Mount Rainier. That was a big bummer, but the huge piles of snow were pretty good too. Unfortunately we hit a similar issue at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. We were basically in a cloud and couldn’t see the mountain views.
Otherwise we had what I took to be typical Pacific Northwest weather: It rained every day. But never very hard or for very long. If you waited 20 minutes, the weather would change (from raining to sunny and back again).
After hitting Powell’s bookstore and a used Lego shop in Portland, we went up the Columbia River Gorge to see the waterfalls. Multnomah Falls was just incredible. We also saw Horsetail Falls and Wahkeena Falls. We could have spent a lot more time exploring here.
On the drive from Portland to Seattle we took a detour to Mount Rainier. While we couldn’t see much at the top, the drive there was gorgeous.
Once in Seattle, we saw some of the city sights, including Pike’s Place Market and the gum wall (yes, gross), as well as the Space Needle (we just looked—didn’t seem worth riding to the top).
Our day trip to Olympic National Park was likely the highlight of the trip. Again, Hurricane Ridge was too cloudy, but the rest of it was all pretty great. We hit Madison Creek Falls, the Ancient Grove trail, the Hoh Rain Forest, and Rialto Beach for tide pools and sea stacks.
The Ancient Grove trail was kind of a teaser for the Hoh Rain Forest, though I was glad we did it. It’s a lot easier to get to and felt different enough to be worth it.
The Hoh Rain Forest is notoriously busy and road construction threatened to add a half hour delay, so we hit it after supper. We got there at 6:30 and the place was mostly empty.
We didn’t see big animals like elk, but the banana slugs were pretty cool (or gross, depending on your take). They’re about as fat as your thumb and longer than your finger. So weird!
Rialto Beach was another unexpected gem. We checked the tide tables and hit a very low tide just right. It’s a good 1.5 mile walk up to Hole in the Wall, and the tide pools were full of starfish and anemones. It took some searching to find a good spot for starfish, but once we found it they were everywhere, crammed into nooks and crannies, clinging to rocks and waiting for the tide to return.
We also managed to hit six different bookstores between Portland, Seattle, and Port Angeles.