DISCOVER the Pacific Northwest It’s not unusual to think of the Pacific Northwest as green and lush. But you must tour the entire region to truly appreciate how many shades of the color blanket this corner of the world.
There’s the deep evergreen of Douglas fir trees and the dusty pale green of rainforest moss. The electric green of Seattle’s hometown sports jerseys. A green ethos keeps Portland running on bicycle power and compost. And then there is all that green cash that companies like Starbucks, Nike, Microsoft, and others bring to the region. And envy? It seems like everyone’s jealous of the great Pacific Northwest; population growth is off the charts. Between nature and culture, every possible shade of green appears here.
The best way to see the treasures of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia is to follow the roads connecting vibrant cities like Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland with the wild green places in between—an untamed coast, a deep forest, and a legendary mountain (or two).
PLANNING YOUR TIME
DISCOVER the Pacific Northwest When exploring the Cascades, keep in mind that attractions and recreation sites may be scattered miles apart, separated by small, winding roads, so it’s wise to take at least two days to appreciate the scenery. The beautiful mountain drives between the small towns are an attraction in themselves.
Mount Rainier National Park can be explored as a day trip from Seattle, or stay overnight at Paradise Inn. For the North Cascades, you might base yourself in Leavenworth or Chelan and take day trips to other spots. Alternatively, make Winthrop your hub to explore North Cascades National Park in depth. Mount St. Helens is a good lengthy detour on a drive between Seattle and Portland; it actually makes more sense as a day trip from Portland.
Avoid winter travel if you aren’t interested in the area’s seasonal activities and sports; the icy roads aren’t worth the bother, and the fall and winter crowds in Leavenworth—book accommodations at least six months in advance if you plan to visit during the town’s Oktoberfest or Christmas Lighting Festival—ease in early spring. Few major roads run through the Cascades, but the east-west I-90 and U.S. 2 are useful thoroughfares. They stay open year-round, but in winter may have short closures for avalanche control, severe snow, or accidents. Access to the North Cascades is very limited in winter, as Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway, closes every year between mileposts 134 and 171 when snows start to fall. The closure typically lasts mid-November-mid-April.