THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE MOST ENCHANTING HIDDEN GEMS IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
Ross Lake, Tamolitch Pool, Mount Si… these are just a few of the most underrated but overwhelmingly drop-dead gorgeous off-the-beaten-path hidden gems of the Pacific Northwest.
Image via Flickr/Esther Lee
The Pacific Northwest possesses an abundance of natural wonders. The rugged coastline, the towering mountains, and the lush temperate rainforests are all what make the PNW so special. In search of that authentic Northwestern experience? Here are a few completely unique places you don’t want to miss.
Image via Flickr/jill, jellidonut… whatever
No one thinks of a desert in Oregon. But there, right in the middle of the state, glowing in a multitude of yellows, golds, reds and blacks, lies the John Day Fossil Beds. The national monument is split into three units: The Painted Hills, Sheep Rock, and the Clarno Unit. The Painted Hills are layers and layers of strata, formed over 40 million years of volcanic eruptions and erosion, resulting in colors and patterns that appear to have been created with an artist’s hand. The layers are so precise and well-defined that you can see all 40 million years in the delicate stripes of color. The Painted Hills are always beautiful, but the colors vary in vibrancy and hue as the light and the moisture in the air change. Visit in the late afternoon for the most dazzling views! Plus, if you want to make an overnight trip of it, the Clyde Holliday State Recreation Site is located close by, and it has every amenity you could want in a campsite: shady trees, great views, dump stations and electrical hookups, the works. Even the drive out to the Painted Hills is pure, untouched Oregon beauty!
Image via Flickr/Alison and Fil
This beautiful lake in North Cascades National Park is the epitome of the Cascade experience. Crystal clear water, verdant forests, fabulous vistas, and plenty of remote camping spots. Make the Main Campground your home base— it’s super close to the Newhalem Visitor Center, as well as plenty of shorter hiking trails! The best place to set up camp in your RV is the nearby Newhalem Creek Campground, which can accommodate pretty much any camper in secluded, wooded serenity.
Image via Flickr/Thomas Shahan
Known for good reason as the “Blue Pool,” Tamolitch Pool in Oregon is an unforgettable shade of turquoise. It was once the basin of a natural waterfall, but the waterfall has since dried up. The pool remains, though, now fed by the McKenzie River as it rises from its underground journey through ancient lava tunnels. The water is 30-40 feet deep and constantly moving, but it is so unbelievably clear that you can see straight to the bottom and it appears to be perfectly still. The iridescent blue is hypnotizing in its purity, and you’ll never find another shade quite like it in nature. You can hike your way in, admiring multiple waterfalls, log bridges, and traces of lava flow as you go, but is even better to take a mountain bike: The McKenzie River Trail was recently named the best mountain biking trail in the country! Put it in park along the equally gorgeous Blue River at the picturesque Mona Campground when you aren’t swimming and sunning yourself at the Blue Pool.
Image via Flickr/Joel
Twin Peaks fans will recognize this particular mountain just a short drive from Seattle – its distinctive peak was featured prominently throughout the show. It’s a strenuous hike to the top, and it is frequently used as part of the exercise regimen for soldiers preparing to go overseas. Don’t let that deter you though, because on a clear day the view is unbelievable. Plus, if you stay at Nor’Wester RV Park, you’ll get incredible views of the mountain— which is pretty good inspiration to get out there and climb it.
Image via Flickr/Jeff Gunn
Bring your umbrella, because this is one of the wettest, rainiest spots in America. However, this temperate rainforest is so beautiful that we doubt you’ll even notice the rain. The words “magical,” “enchanting,” and “otherworldly” are used again and again to describe the Hoh Rainforest in Washington state. The Hall of Mosses is straight out of a storybook, and the glacier sediment in the Hoh River gives the water a unique milky blue color that a camera can never quite capture. This is one natural wonder you’ll never forget! Ohanapecosh Campground is right in the middle of the splendor with some sites even sitting right along the river for maximum scenic beauty.
Lava River Cave
Image via Flickr/Rob Hannawacker
If you like exploring in the dark, take a self-guided tour of this mile-long lava tube. Part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument near Bend, Oregon, the tube was formed around 80,000 years ago. Enjoy the sound of your own voice in Echo Hall, where the walls are so smooth and symmetrical that they produce an excellent echo. Visit the Sand Garden, where the constant dripping of water into fine volcanic ash over the last 6,600 years has created some fantastical sand formations. Bring your own light source, because that’s all the light you’ll have while you travel the tube like an intrepid explorer! And once you’re done exploring for the day, trek back to the Oregon Dunes KOA for some campground fun before calling it for the night— they have an arcade, hay rides, a pet playground, and more!
Tree Cave in Kalaloch, aka The Tree of Life
Image via Flickr/David Fulmer
There is a miracle growing in Olympic National Park! On Kalaloch Beach, which is an extraordinary and beautiful beach worth visiting anyway, a tree is thriving despite the fact that its intricate root system is unanchored and exposed. The soil that once held it has all eroded away, leaving the tree hanging in midair, supported only by a few delicate root tendrils on either side. How this tree still lives is a complete mystery, because not only has it refused to fall, it is green and healthy. It can hardly be surprising that a legend about its immortality has sprung up in the local area. Be sure to pay your respects the next time you visit Kalaloch! There’s also a great campground nearby, the Kalaloch Campground, that lets you park right by the beach and fall asleep to the sound of the waves.