We recently returned from a trip across the Pacific Northwest. Driving across 4 states, and 2,000 miles in 9 days to be exact. Oh, and there was a kidney stone too… but we’ll get to that a little later.
If you’ve been following along on our journey, you might know that we’d been planning a trip across the PNW for quite a while. In preparation, we made reservations at RV parks along the way, however we tried to be sure we didn’t over-commit or over-plan. With two young kids in tow, we have found that being flexible is key to a successful road trip.
So, let’s rewind to a few weeks before our trip. We were planning to drive through Portland and Seattle on the way to Vancouver, B.C. But when the stars aligned and presented an opportunity to visit family in Idaho, we made some quick changes to our itinerary. This is where being flexible paid off. A couple of calls to a few RV parks and a new route mapped and viola, we had a new adventure planned. Portland ✔, Columbia River Gorge✓, Multnomah Falls✓ and we were also able to add eastern Washington and Crater Lake to the trip. Not a bad deal.
We set out on a Friday morning with the plan of driving through California into Sutherlin, OR, right outside of Eugene. It was here that I first noticed symptoms that seemed a lot like the early stages of passing a kidney stone. What we found out a few days later was that I don’t ever want to pass one again. Ever.
Despite the discomfort I was feeling, I remember being captivated by the landscapes out our windows – that first glimpse of Mt. Shasta, or the way the skies seemed bluer and the trees greener as we crossed from California into Oregon. The rivers and creeks we passed kept adding layers of beauty to this remarkable place.
When we reached Hi-Way Haven RV Park, our first stop on this adventure, we were pleasantly surprised to find a clean, quaint park situated along a hillside in Oregon. And the kids were thrilled to discover that they were playing the movie Madagascar on their drive-in screen. That’s right…this RV Park had a drive-in movie screen that could be viewed from a grassy area in the park or from the comfort of your own RV. The other great thing about this park is that was only about 2.5 hours from Portland, making it a great place to stop and rest our heads for a night.
Our next stop was Portland. We stayed at Pheasant Ridge RV Park, which was also very comfortable. Great pull through spots, indoor heated pool, and nice amenities. If you’re looking for a woodsy, more traditional camping environment, this park may not be for you. But for us, it was great. We were looking for campground that was clean and we wanted a pool for the kids, but we also wanted to have easy access to downtown Portland. This park checked all those boxes.
Portland is a great town. It’s not every day you can visit a city with an urban feel and still be surrounded by beautiful hills, rivers and the greenery for which Oregon is so well known. There is something nice about turning a corner or getting on an expressway only to be greeted by Mt. Hood, which seemed to be visible wherever we were.
We loved visiting Oregon Zoo. The kids were delighted to see lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, flamingoes, and so much more…and we were able to make it through the whole zoo in about 3 hours. If you have extra time to spare, the Portland Children’s Museum is right next door. Although we didn’t have a chance to stop there, it looked like tons of fun.
Next, we hit a few downtown Portland staples. First stop was Powell’s Bookstore, which is great for kids. Ours loved it! Then it was off to celebrate Daddy List’s birthday with dinner at Deschutes Brewery, which we were pleased to discover had great food and a kid-friendly environment.
We also checked out the breathtaking Multnomah Falls , which are only about 30 minutes outside of Portland. We visited on a Sunday and, while totally worth it, we learned the hard way that this place was very busy on the weekends. If we had it to do over again, we would try to visit early and on a weekday to avoid the crowds, however the falls themselves are a must see for sure.
Columbia River Gorge and the Palouse
The next leg of our trip had us driving to Moscow, Idado. But, not without a quick stop at the ER to get checked out by a doctor and have some meds prescribed for the pain I was in…remember the kidney stone? While I won’t be reviewing Legacy Hospital, if you’ve seen one ER room you’ve seen them all.
It’s hard to decide which part of the next leg was our favorite, but the Columbia River Gorge made sure it was part of the conversation. Driving along the Columbia River for miles and miles along the Oregon/Washington border is about as beautiful as it gets. When we finally crossed the Oregon/Washington border, we thought we had left the scenery behind, but we realized we were mistaken once we reached the Palouse in eastern Washington. With golden hills (and in some cases bright green when the wheat is not ready for harvest), Washington and Idaho definitely did not disappoint.
Pullman, WA / Moscow, ID
During our stay in Moscow, ID, an adorable town straight out of a Norma Rockwell painting, we had a chance to visit Washington State. The campus was filled with the lazy, laid back vibes of summer, which made a stop at Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shop a clear choice. Although I didn’t know it when I walked in, this was the place where my kidney stone decided it was time for us to part ways. That’s right…I passed a kidney stone in a public restroom at an ice cream shop on a college campus. And for that I will always say Go Cougs!
Bend / Crater Lake / Shasta
The final leg of our trip had us stopping in Bend, OR, Crater Lake (also in OR) and Mount Shasta City, CA before heading home. As we drove on Hwy 97 near Bend and Redmond the landscape was quite different – but just as beautiful – as the previous Oregon we’d seen. The rich brown terrain and the rock formations along the highway made it feel like we were in Wyoming. When we finally reached Bend, we kind of fell in love with it. From the quaint downtown to Drakes Park along the Deschutes River, every corner was incredibly inviting. We hated to leave, but it was time to start making our way home.
Our route home included a stop at Crater Lake. To be honest, we expected to be somewhat underwhelmed because we had seen so much written about it. Kind of like when everyone tells you how great a movie is, then you finally watch it and you’re like eehh. As it turns out, Crater Lake totally lived up to its reputation. With its sapphire blue water and lush surrounding forest, it looks like a painting come to life. We would highly recommend if you’re in the area.
We made our last stop at a KOA in Mt. Shasta City. With spectacular views of Mt. Shasta and a pool for our little road trip rock stars to unwind, it was the perfect pit stop at the end of our journey.
So now that we’re home and back in the groove of Silicon Valley life, we often think back to our wonderful trip through the PNW. I can’t help but ask myself what took us so long to visit. It’s a little like realizing you’ve lived next to the beautiful girl next door your whole life and never noticed her. Now that we’ve discovered our beautiful neighbor, all we want to do is go over to her house and play records.….maybe some Rolling Stones? (Pun totally intended)