PNW summer road trip ideas | PEMCO

June 6, 2023 by PEMCO Insurance

Pacific Northwesterners live for summer. The months and months of gray skies and drizzle are worth it once we begin to catch glimpses of warmth and sunshine during May or June. In fact, we like to say we *prepare* for summer during all the other months of the year! So, whether you’re into kayaking, paddle boarding, brewery hopping, wine tasting, hiking, sightseeing, or just hanging out with your dog, we’ve got you covered with our list of top summer destinations in the #PNW. 

Top destinations in the Pacific Northwest to visit during summer:

GettyImages-1338118709-(1).jpgBend, Oregon

Bend is a unique and lively city (population 99,000) nestled in the heart of Central Oregon, renowned for its craft beer culture, outdoor activities, and lively summer events. With a backdrop of the stunning Cascade Mountains, Bend is an adventurer's paradise during the summer months. 

Explore the vibrant beer scene by visiting local breweries and participating in craft beer festivals and tasting events such as the Bend Ale Trail. Enjoy paddleboarding or floating along the Deschutes River, and soak up the sun while attending outdoor concerts at the iconic outdoor amphitheater. Don't miss the opportunity to hike the beautiful trails in nearby Deschutes National Forest, with hikes for people of all ages and abilities. Our favorite trails are here and here. 

GettyImages-1437989650.jpgWalla Walla, Washington

Walla Walla, tucked into the heart of Washington wine country, is the perfect destination for wine enthusiasts, art lovers, and history buffs. Summer brings warm weather (it’s almost always sunny), picture-perfect vineyards, and a very charming downtown with boutique shops, art galleries, and cafes for everyone. 

Embark on a wine tasting adventure in the Walla Walla Valley, home to numerous wineries known for their exceptional wines. To ensure there is no risk of driving under the influence, we recommend a tour that includes transportation (check out this vendor that provides accessible tours). And, if wine isn’t your thing, you can dive into the region's history at the Fort Walla Walla Museum, which is home to a wealth of artifacts and exhibits from the pioneer era. 

GettyImages-200333918-001.jpgSan Juan Islands, Washington

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago of islands (172 of them, to be exact) located in the north Puget Sound. The largest islands—San Juan, Lopez, and Orcas—are most accessible and offer the most amenities such as lodging, dining, and tours. The San Juans offer a tranquil escape surrounded by water, renowned for their natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and sweet, slow-paced island charm. 

We recommend experiencing the San Juans through a kayaking expedition. This way, you can explore hidden coves and keep an eye out for marine wildlife such as orcas and seals. Visit Lime Kiln Point State Park, known as Whale Watch Park, where you can witness orcas from the shoreline (a bucket list experience for any PNWer!).  

GettyImages-643185394.jpgPainted Hills, Oregon

We think this is the most unique destination on our list! Journey to the Painted Hills in Central Oregon, a geological wonderland built by striking layers of colored soil that create an otherworldly landscape. Truly, it feels like you’re on another planet! Summer is the best time to visit, as it’s always warm and the sun makes the soil's colors even more vibrant.  

Explore the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, where well-marked trails offer panoramic viewpoints. Our pro tip? Visit the hills during either sunrise or sunset, when the golden light illuminates the hills creating. It’s a truly magical experience. 

GettyImages-1399629901.jpgSequim, Washington

Known as the "Lavender Capital of North America," Sequim offers an idyllic summer getaway or day trip for people of all ages. The charming town comes alive during the annual Lavender Festival, celebrating the region's bountiful lavender fields. This year, the festival runs from July 21 to 23 and offers live music, booths from local artisans, unique lavender-infused food and drink to try, and much more. 

If you’re in the Sequim area, we also recommend exploring the surrounding natural wonders, including the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and the scenic Olympic Discovery Trail, which is an amazing touring trail specifically for non-motorized touring. It winds through fields, farms, and parks; over creeks and ravines on restored trestles, and winds past beaches and recreation sites. 

GettyImages-175512186.jpgGrand Coulee Dam, Washington

The Grand Coulee Dam, located on the Columbia River in central Washington, is an iconic #PNW engineering marvel. Summer offers the perfect time to visit with guided tours and outdoor activities. However, what you don’t want to miss at the dam this summer is one of their spectacular laser light shows! This year’s laser light show theme is “One River, Many Voices.” Nightly showtimes are at 10 p.m. until August 1, when the nightly show will begin starting at 9: 30 p.m. From September 1-30, the show begins at 8:30 p.m. 

For another visitor option, try a guided tour of the Grand Coulee Dam, where you can learn more about its fascinating history and truly take in its scale. Enjoy panoramic views of the Columbia River from the Visitor Center's observation deck.  

As we all know well, there’s something magical about the Pacific Northwest’s summer months of sun and warmth. Many of us tolerate months and months of gray and drizzly weather simply for the glorious #PNWsummer.  
We encourage you to pack up your loved ones (and maybe even your dog!) and hit the road to see one (or some) of these unique, iconic destinations. Before you embark, make sure you check out your car for these summertime driving hazards, and don’t forget the sunscreen and extra water! 

No matter where you go, adventure awaits you in the Pacific Northwest. #worryless #livemore 

Share on social media

Comments on this post