There are so many places to see around Washington, and so little time to experience them all. Now that it’s getting warmer out, the best way to start is by heading out for a road trip over the weekend. This 2-day loop in the southwestern region will take you along the Columbia River Gorge, and to some of the most wondrous places in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. If you’re up for a memorable adventure, grab your keys and be sure to check out this
Google Map for more directions.
1. Start out at the Waterfront Renaissance Trail in Vancouver.
A wonderful way to kick off your trip is by going for a walk along the waterfront by the Columbia River. This wide, paved path stretches almost five miles long, and features mesmerizing views of Mount Hood in the distance.
Along the way, you'll be able to find several shops, restaurants and picnic spots before hitting the road again. Trailheads and parking can be found at Wintler, Marine and Waterfront parks.
2. Go for a hike at the Mount St. Helens National Monument.
After a peaceful walk in Vancouver, you'll want to head north to see this iconic volcano in person. The area has a little something for everyone, with both shorter and longer hikes and many attractions like the Johnston Ridge Observatory, Ape Caves and
Lava Canyon Bridge
. Try the 8-mile Harry Ridge Trail, which provides outstanding views of Mount St. Helens and Spirit Lake.
3. Go for a hike to see Lower Lewis River Falls.
You won't want to pass by the Gifford Pinchot National Forest without stopping to find this spectacular cascade. The trail out heads through ancient forests filled with moss, and continues on towards the middle and upper falls.
4. Explore the Guler Ice Caves.
After Lower Lewis River Falls, you'll want to keep heading south and turn out to see these mystical
near Trout Lake. They're filled with awe-inspiring ice formations nearly year-round, but the best time to see them is during early spring. Check out more photos of these incredible ice caves at
5. Take the trail up Dog Mountain.
As you're driving back along the Columbia River Gorge, try stopping for this challenging 7-mile hike up a forested mountain. Besides the panoramic views up top, the trail draws in hikers for the beautiful balsamroot flowers that bloom in late spring and early summer.
6. Refresh at the Bonneville Hot Springs.
While it may not be your typical hot springs, this polished resort is still almost just as magical. The spa provides a top-rate place to stay for the night, as well as relaxing mineral baths with water sourced directly from an all-natural spring.
7. Visit Beacon Rock State Park (and hike to see Rodney Falls).
This beautiful park has a rich history and incredible hiking and rock climbing opportunities. While you're here, be sure to check out Rodney Falls and the park's namesake, Beacon Rock. The unique rock is actually the core of an ancient volcano.
Ready to grab your keys yet? Where else would you recommend stopping along the way?