Easy Day Trips From 5 NW Cities

BY KYLEE MCCAULEY 

As the world settles on a renewed sense of normalcy, people may understandably be hesitant to book flights or flock to a densely populated city any time soon. But it’s important as ever to find tranquility and peace where we can to give our minds a much-needed break. Luckily, right here in the Northwest we have options rich in history and geology that provide a fun and safe escape. Below is a roundup of five intriguing destinations that are ideal for day trips free of hassle and worrisome accommodations.  

Portland – Astoria, 196 miles roundtrip 

Astoria is a coastal town not far from Portland that’s rich in Northwest and Oregon state history. It’s the oldest city in Oregon and was the first settlement in America west of the Rocky Mountains. Over the years the city has developed into a combination of old Victorian charm due to its long-standing history and Portland-like quirky atmosphere we all know and love. There are abundant activities in Astoria depending on your interests. Driving around town and marveling at the sites is a favorite, or stretch your legs and explore the town on foot including the Riverwalk.  

If you’d prefer to connect with nature, you’ll find state parks in the area. There are also exciting deep-sea fishing excursions to catch halibut, tuna and rockfish. Other options include paddle boarding, scuba diving and kayaking. 

Must-see sites include: the Peter Iredale shipwreck, the Astoria column—a 125-foot hilltop tower offering panoramic views of the town—and the 4-mile-long Astoria-Megler Bridge that crosses the Columbia River.  

Head to travelastoria.com for help with planning your Astoria day trip. 

Boise – Bruneau Dunes, 124 miles roundtrip 

About an hour from Boise, you’ll find a unique experience: Bruneau Dunes, an Idaho state park. Sand dunes in the Northwest? Yes, you read that right. We have the desert experience in our backyard, without the long flights and jet lag. A few dunes can be found scattered across the continent, but Bruneau is a cut above the rest, as it’s the tallest in North America at 470 feet.  

The activities are expansive and customizable, including camping at on-site campgrounds, fishing in the small lake and amazing views of the starry night skies. If you’re seeking adventure, bring gear from home, like four-wheelers, sandboards, sleds, or rent similar items from the visitor center. You can try to conquer the tallest dune which will take about an hour to climb or spend time enjoying mini climbs and descents throughout the park. Regardless of what you choose, be sure to bring some good shoes. With the summer heat waning, late summer and early fall are the perfect times to visit the Bruneau Dunes to avoid high heat and hot sand.  

Find information at parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/bruneau-dunes. To find travel information about Boise, visit boise.org 

Eugene – Crater Lake, 320 miles roundtrip 

In Southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park contains the remnants of the collapsed Mount Mazama volcano, old-growth forests and a record-breaking lake. The lake itself is 1,949 feet deep, making it the deepest lake in America and ninth deepest in the world. Crater Lake was uniquely formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago and now offers beautiful one-of-a-kind deep blue waters. When visiting you’ll also find the remnants of Mount Mazama’s last major volcanic eruption where the once massive volcano collapsed in on itself and left us with the smaller aftermath we see today. Other volcanic creations remain today after thousands of years, including the Phantom Ship which is a 160-foot-tall island of old lava flows and the Pinnacles which are hardened volcanic ash columns.  

The perimeter of the park consists of numerous trails and wildlife. A fall trip is a perfect time to visit while it’s not too hot and the fall foliage is abundant. You may see the last of summer’s expansive wildflower growth before they sleep for the winter season. Be sure to check out Rim Drive, a road that winds around the park with numerous viewpoints offering an aerial perspective of the lake down below.  

To get there, take Highway 58 out of Eugene, connect to US 97 South and cut over to the national park on Highway 138. Check out nps.gov/crla for more information regarding your trip to Crater Lake. For information on Eugene, your starting point for the back-road drive to Crater Lake, visit eugenecascadescoast.org 

Spokane – Dry Falls, 210 miles roundtrip 

Located a hundred miles west of Spokane is a state park in Coulee City rich in geological and historical wonders. Dry Falls is the result of the last Ice Age floods and retreating glaciers passing through the area, leaving room for water that never returned. What’s now left is the almost completely dried and hollowed-out falls that clue visitors in to what this landscape was once like.  

Interestingly, if water were still flowing through the Dry Falls, then this would be the largest waterfall in the entire world being 3 ½ miles wide and 400 feet tall. But instead, visitors get a unique dry, canyon-like view showcasing significant local history.  

There is still a small body of water encased in the park that offers different kinds of trout for fishing, but it’s nothing like it was once upon a time. Be sure to also keep an eye out for the area’s unique wildlife and flora. If the visitor’s center is fully operational it’s a great place for the educational aspect of your excursion, or you can check out the link below to learn about the area’s history and geology to get the most out of your trip.  

Go to parks.state.wa.us/251/Dry-Falls for help with planning your getaway. To find more information on Spokane, go to visitspokane.com 

Seattle – Snoqualmie Falls, 60 miles roundtrip 

Located a short distance east of Seattle is an oasis to be explored. Snoqualmie Falls offers scenic and panoramic views and your destination for a natural reprieve. The 270-ft waterfall is a highlight all year long, with most activity taking place in the spring season after the winter snow begins to melt. But don’t fret– nature’s shift to fall foliage and reduction in crowds is the perfect time to sneak away and sightsee at your own pace without meandering through clusters of people. 

The observation deck is only a short walk from the parking lot and there is also a gift shop, lodge and two-acre park if you wish to linger. The sights don’t just begin when you arrive at the falls, the drive there will offer the same autumn appeal. Be sure to bring some rain gear just in case Washington decides to be… well, Washington, and to guard against any potential splashes the falls hurl your way. 

To plan you trip go to snoqualmiefalls.com, and for more activities near the falls check out savorsnoqualmievalley.org