Discover the NW: Roadside Attractions
Many people will be postponing air travel and staying closer to home this summer, but that doesn’t mean your family can’t still have fun. With gas prices at a record low, this is the perfect summer for a road trip. We’re so lucky to have so many diverse and scenic areas within easy reach.
During these fast-changing times, please check your destination for guidelines, closures, and updated hours.
Road Trip: The Coast
For us, the ocean is close enough for a day trip or far enough for a vacation get away. In just a couple of hours you can be on the beach with sand pails and kites. Seaside and Cannon Beach are two popular beach towns closest to our Metro area, just a straight shot out of Portland on Highway 26. Or, follow Route 6 through the breathtaking Tillamook National Forest to the Tillamook Coast, with its natural beauty and quaint towns such as Garibaldi, Rockaway and Manzanita.
Long Beach is our closest Washington Coast beach. The Long Beach Peninsula is a favorite destination of many northwest travelers. It’s known for its miles of continuous sandy beach, and has the longest drivable beach in the U.S. Many travelers access Long Beach via Astoria and the 4.1 mile long Astoria-Megler Bridge over the mouth of the Columbia River. It’s the longest truss bridge in North America.
Offbeat things to see along the way
500 Feet of Spiral Art On 125-Foot Tall Column, Astoria
Dedicated in 1926, the Astoria Column is a locally treasured landmark. Admire the 500 feet of spiral handpainted scenes of local history.
Most Tourist-Friendly Shipwreck, Hammond
The Peter Iredale wrecked on the beach near Fort Stevens State Park in 1906 and there some of it remains. You can walk right up for a close-up look at low tide.
40-foot Climbable Fire Lookout Tower, Tillamook Forest Center
Fifty miles from the town of Tillamook, on Highway 26, is the Tillamook Forest Center. It’s the largest forest-based learning center and outdoor classroom in the region showcasing the history of the Tillamook Burn and reforestation. Highlights include a 40-foot tall replica of a forest fire lookout tower and a 250-foot-long pedestrian suspension bridge across the Wilson River to the Wilson River Trail and nearby Jones Creek Campground.
World’s Largest Corndog, Rockaway
A hot dog stand on Rockaway Beach in the 1930s was the birthplace of the “pronto pup” (a.ka. corndog). The original trademarked recipe is still used at The Original Pronto Pup in Rockaway with the World’s Largest Corndog on its roof. It’s also the only place in the world where you can ride a mechanical corndog.
Jake the Alligator Man & World’s Largest Frying Pan, Long Beach
If you drive around the Pacific Northwest enough, you’re likely to see a bumpersticker featuring what looks like a half man, half alligator creature. The famous Jake the Alligator Man and other notable oddities reside at Marsh’s Free Museum, a regionally famous curiosity shop. You should also notice the 14- foot tall frying pan across the street from the Museum because it happens to be the world’s largest.
Road Trip: The Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is a popular area for hiking, water recreation, and scenic viewpoints—and it’s right in our backyards for an afternoon drive or weekend retreat. The 80 mile river canyon is lined with black basalt and walls rising to 4,000 feet. There you’ll find lush forest, wildflowers, steep cliffs, waterfalls and amazing geological wonder.
The Columbia River is famous for its size, hydropower and salmon runs. I-84 is the best route for viewing waterfalls like the famous Multnomah Falls. On the Washington side, Highway 14 winds through the quaint Skamania County towns of North Bonneville, Stevenson and White Salmon all the way to Maryhill with its winery, museum and state park.
Offbeat things to see along the way
Bigfoot Family Carved from Wood, North Bonneville
Visitors to North Bonneville are welcomed by a wood-carved Bigfoot family. Over a dozen Bigfoot carvings keep visitors company scattered along the town’s paved Bigfoot Discovery Trail that loops around the city. There are also miles of paved paths and trails as part of the Heritage Trail System.
(Almost) Bavarian Town, White Salmon
In the 1970s, White Salmon tried to copy the Bavarian transformation of Leavenworth, WA but the theme never completely caught on. Yet, the German black lettered signs, glockenspiel and backdrop of mountain peaks are nearly convincing. It’s a friendly town and great place to stop for a bite while you watch kite-boarders and windsurfers brave the wild waters of the Columbia River.
Herman the Sturgeon, Cascade Locks
Oregon’s most famous fish is 10 feet long, over 500 pounds and over 70 years old. Herman the Sturgeon can be found with his other sturgeon friends at the Sturgeon Viewing and Interpretive Center at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery where visitors can also see salmon rearing ponds and feed rainbow trout. Free admission and parking.
Stonehenge Replica, Goldendale
Three miles east of Maryhill Museum of Art stands Sam Hill’s Stonehenge, a full-scale replica of the original prehistoric Stonehenge in England. The local replica was built by Maryhill Museum of Art founder Sam Hill who intended it to mark the fallen soldiers of The Great War. Completed in 1929, it was the first WWI memorial in the United States. Admission is free to roam around Stonehenge, and the nearby Klickitat County Veteran’s Memorial, as well the William and Catherine Dickson Sculpture Park on the grounds of the Maryhill Art Museum.
Road Trip: The Mountains
For adventure, relaxation or just a change of scenery, you don’t have to go far to get away from it all. Head up into the forest for some rugged camping or put the boat in the water at a mountain lake—wherever you go, there will be scenic beauty.
The 180,000 acres of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest includes the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument with its 200 miles of trails ranging from paved walkways to more difficult day hikes and overnight backpacking trips. In the heart of the blast zone, Johnston Ridge Observatory reveals the biological, geological, and human story of Mount St. Helens.
Offbeat things to see along the way
An easy stop off of Interstate 5 just before Longview is Kalama where you’ll find miles of riverfront recreation areas at the Port of Kalama Marine Park. A cluster of totem poles and interpretive center there depict Native American lore and tradition.
Longview’s Squirrel Bridges
Just a short detour off of Interstate 5 is the squirrel-friendly City of Longview. The original Nutty Narrows Squirrel Bridge was built in 1963 out of concern for the safety of squirrels crossing the busy Olympia Way. It currently resides on Olympia Way, between 18th Ave and Maple St. Since then several additional bridges have been built, each its own display of engineering and artistry.
Largest Bigfoot Statue & Buried A-Frame, Spirit Lake Hwy
Local legend says Bigfoot was killed in the May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. There’s a statue to honor his memory at the North Fork Survivors Gift Shop off of Spirit Lake Memorial Highway on the way to the Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mount St. Helens. It’s the largest known statue of Big Foot—28 feet tall, made of concrete. Nearby is the “Buried A-Frame” which serves as evidence of when the town of Kid Valley was buried under a river of mud 8 ½ hours after the eruption.