If you’re happiest outside, if you long for the solitude and beauty of nature, you owe it to yourself to visit the Pacific North West this winter. Even if you’re the sort of person that prefers to do their outdoor exploring in the sunnier months, the PNW’s winter attractions are impossible to pass up.
Everybody knows the classic PNW draws: go to Pike’s Place Market, explore the Oregon coast, swim in some crystal clear lakes, hike to some beautiful waterfalls, take some selfies and tag it all #northwestisbest. But as temperatures drop and the snow starts to fall, the people and attractions of the northwest regroup, change, adapt, and become even more beautiful. Plenty of folks enjoy summer here, but winters are what make you fall in love.
As the aspens turn yellow, leaves drop, and are then replaced with a blanket of snow, the PNW’s character changes. Tourists head home, trailheads empty, and everything just gets a little quieter, a little more relaxed. The same beautiful mountains and rivers are still there, resplendent in their winter coats, but there are fewer people to enjoy them, which means fewer folks to compete with as you try to take that perfect photo. And as winter sets in, a whole new slew of activities start up.
For those looking for a downhill rush, there’s no better place to snowboard than Mount Hood, with multiple resorts surrounding the volcano, including one that is open year-round. If you don’t own gear, just hit up a snowboard store for a snowboard rental, they’ll be able to set you up with all the gear you need and give you some tips as you get started. If you’ve got your own gear gathering dust in the closet, consider asking around for who does the best snowboard tuning, a good shop can get it back to better than new condition fast. Enjoy your day on the slopes at Timberline and if you still have the energy, cap it off with some night riding at Ski Bowl.
For a lower-intensity but still invigorating activity, consider renting snowshoes and exploring Crater Lake. This natural volcanic crater is stunningly beautiful and looks almost like a set from a fantasy movie. But it’s easy to access via snowshoes while you take in the natural beauty of the landscape and wildlife.
If you’ve never walked the Oregon coast in winter, bundled against the wind as frigid waves break on beaches occasionally blanketed in snow, you’re missing out on a whole new beautiful side of the ocean. Coldwater surfers relish the colder months as bigger swells set in and the beaches quiet down and remain beautiful. Even if you have no desire to get into the water, a hike along the shore will introduce you to a stark beauty that’s impossible to find elsewhere.
If you’re looking for more of an all-inclusive mountain village experience, head to Leavenworth. There you’ll find a beautiful Bavarian-style village tucked between sheer mountains. Ice skate in town, or just walk the streets and enjoy the light show. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the alps, even though you’re just a couple of hours from the Seattle airport.
And all of those waterfalls that the PNW is known for? Well, they’re all still flowing in the winter, and a fresh coat of snow makes them even more stunning. Most of their hiking trails get packed in during the winter, so just bring some microspikes and some trekking poles to help deal with ice, and head out for a beautiful winter hike.
If you like to experience nature from inside, try taking a scenic ferry ride around the Puget Sound. The guide will be able to describe the islands and coastlines you’re experiencing and point out any wildlife, all from the comfort of your heated cabin.
No matter how you like to experience nature, the PNW has an activity that’s perfectly suited to you. Sure, it’s a blast to visit in the summer, and totally worth a trip then too, but winter is when the real magic happens. Something about that silent shroud of snow reveals the true character of this landscape and brings joy to everyone who dares experience it. So don’t wait, mark it out on your calendar and start getting ready. The mountains are calling, will you go?