Affordable Weekend Trips in the Pacific Northwest

The Gorge White House, Hood River, Oregon
Affordable Weekend Trips in the Pacific Northwest

The northwestern states of the U.S.A., along with the stretch of Pacific coastline in Canada’s province of British Columbia, constitute a region known as the “PNW” or Pacific Northwest. This area is known for progressive and modern cities, stunning old-growth forests, beautiful mountains, rugged coastlines, and friendly people. For those that live nearby (or even if you’re coming from far away), plenty of affordable destinations can be found in this region for a good weekend trip. Or, if you have a full week, why not combine several of the destinations together?

We asked a number of travel experts about their favorite spots in the Pacific Northwest. Below are their suggestions for places to visit for a weekend on a budget in this beautiful region of North America. So, let’s get to it! (We’ve organized it by state/province.)

Washington State

Seattle

When looking for budget travel weekend trips in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle should definitely be on your list. There are many free things to do in Seattle, and the city’s public transportation and relatively small footprint make it easy to navigate without having to rent a car. 

When visiting Seattle for the weekend, make sure you check out Pike Place Market. Wandering through the market is a great way to try a variety of cheap, delicious food, or simply people watch. While you’re there, check out the Gum Wall as well – it makes for a fun Instagram background for photos.

You can also make the trek up to the University of Washington to explore the campus and enjoy the architecture. With all of the students nearby, there’s plenty of cheap eats to be had near the university as well.

To enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest scenery Seattle is known for, check out Discovery Park – it’s the perfect place for a picnic. For a great view of the Seattle skyline, including the Space Needle, take the ferry ride over to Bainbridge Island and spend some time exploring the island as well.

And if you absolutely must make it to the top of the Space Needle or want to see the beautiful glass sculptures at Chihuly Garden and Glass, save some money by buying a CityPass, which includes admission to up to 5 Seattle attractions. It’s cheaper than buying tickets individually.

For smaller crowds, cheaper tickets, and budget Airbnb prices, avoid visiting Seattle in the peak of summer. Instead, plan your visit between September to April. Sure, there’ll be some rain and fog, but the city is most beautiful (and easily explored) in the rain. 

By Ale @ Sea Salt & Fog

Issaquah

Downtown Issaquah
Downtown Issaquah

Issaquah is located about 30 minutes west of downtown Seattle, but it feels a world away thanks to its location nestled against the base of the Cascade Mountain Range. It’s also much more affordable than staying in Seattle. Issaquah is famous in the Pacific Northwest for its hiking, since the city is home to both Tiger Mountain State Forest and Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. It’s also where you’ll find the popular Poo Poo Point Trail, a steep trail that rewards hikers with an epic view at the top. There are many things to do in Issaquah besides hiking, though. Issaquah is home to a historic old town area that is lined with delicious restaurants and bars and is close to parks and trails. For those who like water activities, you can head to Lake Sammamish State Park for some beach time, boating, or stand up paddle boarding. Issaquah is also home to Cougar Mountain Zoo, the Friends of Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, Boehm’s Candies, and the historic Triple XXX Root Beer Drive-in Restaurant — all of which are popular things to add to your weekend itinerary for Issaquah. 

From Gina Tarnacki of Evergreen & Salt

Mount Rainier

Hiking Mount Rainier
Hiking Mount Rainier

One of the most affordable places to visit in the Pacific Northwest is Mount Rainier National Park. You can save some money by camping at one of the many campgrounds. Cougar Rock is one of the best campsites in the park.

There are many activities and areas to explore at Mount Rainier. One of the most popular things to do is to hike the Skyline Trail. This trail has beautiful 360 views throughout the hike, with Mount Rainier being the main attraction. There is also a beautiful waterfall at the end of this trail called Myrtle Falls. If you are into photography, you can get a stunning picture of the waterfall and Mount Rainier in the picture. Grove Of The Patriarchs Loop Trail is another popular trail to do with the whole family. The hike is pretty easy with striking views of enormous old grove trees. Another great hike to do is Comet Falls. I recommend doing this hike on rainy days, and since it is the Pacific Northwest, you might run into rainy, foggy days. Even on foggy days, this trail is beautiful. The trees are green and lush, the river is flowing and Comet Waterfall is so tall and wonderful.

There is so much to see and to do at Mount Rainier National Parks. It is one of the best places to hike in Washington and for a good reason.

From Michelle Stelly, The Wandering Queen

Grand Coulee Dam, Washington

Dry Falls, Washington by Jan from Leisurely Drives

Affordable weekend getaway in Washington state?  Grand Coulee dam is just a 4-hour drive from Seattle. The dam is truly grand, a massive structure that holds an equally massive lake.  The best place to view the dam is the “Crown Point” lookout, about two miles west out of Coulee Dam, just off WA-174 where the evening sun bathes the downstream side while the morning sun lights up the upstream side.  We had a lovely picnic dinner watching the evening laser light shows projected onto the dam wall.

A short drive away is Dry Falls, the remnant of a waterfall bigger than the Niagara Falls when, created during the Ice Age when an ice dam on Lake Missoula collapsed. From the edge of the basin you can look down on the plunge pools where the mass of water dropped hundreds of feet over an embankment.

By the side of the I-90 you will find the unique Wild Horses Monument, a 200 foot line of steel ponies on a ridge, against the sky, with the wide and deep Columbia gorge falls on the other side of the road. This is a sight not to be missed. Very reasonable and comfortable accommodation is plentiful, making the Grand Coulee a lovely choice for an affordable getaway.

By Jan from Leisurely Drives

Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula has no shortage of adventure for those looking for an affordable weekend on the Pacific Northwest! The myriad of outdoor activities makes for a stunning mix of beauty, and affordability. The Olympic Peninsula is a unique position in the United States that give it a wonderful mix of different landscapes. And has a coastline, rainforest, and alpine slopes.

The highlight of this getaway is Olympic National Park. One of the top national parks in America, and home to a verity of cheap campgrounds to choose from. Gather all of your camping gear for this experience, as it will put you on the doorstep of pristine nature.

If nature isn’t your bag, you always have Olympia. The capital of Washington State packs all the fun of a big city but maintains the feeling of a small town. The city has a lot of museums – for both children and adults – energetic farmers markets, and great day trips.

Without a doubt, the Olympic Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the United States. It’s an area of the country that has any type of landscape you can imagine. And the variety of outdoor adventures that help you stretch your budget. 

Suggested by Stephen from Copenhagen Rocks

Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest

My husband and I have traveled all over the US in our camper van and one of our favorite memories was visiting the Hoh Rainforest in Washington state. Many people are unaware that rainforests exist in the mainland USA, but Hoh is located right on the Olympic Peninsula. If you can set aside a weekend, camping in the Hoh rainforest is a fantastic budget friendly trip.

There are free campsites located within the park and miles of hiking trails to keep you entertained the entire weekend. This forest is also dog friendly so it’s a fun place to take the entire family for a trip.

Coming from the southwest, we were blown away by the lush colors of the forest. Hoh receives an astounding 140 inches of rain per year so you can expect a lot of condensation on your tent when waking up in the morning.

The landscape is soft and mossy with a towering canopy of trees overhead. The forest really blocks out sound so the area feels particularly quiet even when spending the night next to some neighbors.

By Kate Moore from Parked In Paradise

The San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago on the Pacific Northwest coast that is well known for rural landscapes and diverse wildlife. A ferry runs to the islands from Anacortes Ferry Terminal regularly, which costs around $30 for an adult, round trip. The scenic ferry ride is not only a means of transportation but also an enjoyable ride and provides indoor and outdoor seating. Most people get off at Friday Harbor, the center of San Juan Island. 

Friday Harbor
Friday Harbor

While in Friday Harbor you can explore the small town on foot or bike, taking a looking in the small shops, enjoying local foods at the San Juan Bistro, grab an ice cream cone from the Friday Harbor Ice Cream Co., and checking out the Whale Museum.

The best thing to do in the San Juan Islands is to go whale watching. This may not be the most affordable part of your trip and costs around $125 per adult, but you will likely see a diverse array of wildlife like Orca Whales, Humpback Whales, Minke Whales, Seals, Porpoises, Sea Lions and many different Sea Birds.

For a weekend stay, consider some of the cottages for rent around the Island or even one of the glamping setups available. 

From Dan Bagby, CabinCritic.com

Gig Harbor

Gig Harbor, Washington
Gig Harbor, Washington

Beautiful, friendly and affordable, Gig Harbor is a perfect get-away any day of the week.  Less than an hour from Seattle and two and a half hours from Portland, Gig Harbor is ideally situated in the South Puget Sound region.

Base yourself in historic downtown Gig Harbor, alive with water activities from kayaking to boat tours.  Stroll the waterfront streets and learn fun and interesting facts through interpretive signage along the way.  Stop for a coffee, ice cream or lunch or just sit and enjoy the view.  Gig Harbor sports one of the most iconic views anywhere in the world.

The history of “the harbor” is its pride and joy and visitors can enjoy a wonderful exhibit at the Harbor History Museum.  Learn how Croatian fisherman settled the area, how Native Americans fished here long before, and how Scandinavian settlers rounded out the early days with a strong agricultural ethic.

A local fishing fleet is viewable from the waterfront walk, and fishing families work the netsheds and celebrate annually at the Blessing of the Fleet the first weekend in June, as well as the Gig Harbor Chum Festival in the fall.  Many other events and activities take place throughout the historic core all year long including a weekly farmers market, concerts, parades, kayak festival, Girls Night Out, and It’s a Wonderful Harbor Christmas activities.

Bring your appetite too. Gig Harbor offers everything from fish and chips to Beef Bourguignon, tacos to halibut– delicious foods for every taste and budget. There are boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts and Airbnb’s available, both in historic downtown and scattered around the maritime city. Learn more about Gig Harbor at GigHarborWaterfront.org.

From Laureen Lund of My Fab Fifties Life

Spokane

There’s more to the Pacific Northwest than the west coast. Located at the nexus of the Pacific Northwest’s ‘Inland Empire,’ the city is home to picturesque public gardens, waterfalls, and unique museums. It’s one of the most underestimated cities in Washington since Spokane offers outdoor activities for every season, amazing restaurants, and lots of events for all tastes. In Spokane, you can explore the downtown shops and restaurants, listen to a performance by the Spokane Symphony orchestra, go wine tasting at Latah Creek Winery and go hiking along 37.5 mile-long Centennial Trail.

Spokane, Washington

Mobius Children’s Museum offers a fun, engaging, and interactive way for children to learn about different subjects like science, art, and culture.Visit Riverfront Park, arguably the most spectacular urban park in the United States. This is a 100-acre urban park that offers unparalleled views of upper Spokane Falls. You’ll also want to make time for Manito Park, a 90-acre public space in the South Hill area of the city. There you’ll find themed gardens (the dahlia garden and the Japanese garden), scrupulously-manicured lawns, and a conservatory to name a few highlights. if you’re looking for some extra reasons to visit, come to Spokane on the first Sunday of May to enjoy a 12 km road race with over 50,000 runners and walkers participating every year.

From Ivan at Mind the Travel

Whidbey Island

Front Street Grill on Whidbey Island

One of our favorite Pacific Northwest weekend getaways is Whidbey Island in Washington State. There’s a ferry from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island, or you can drive up through Deception Pass to access the island. There are two popular places to stay on Whidbey Island: Langley and Coupeville. Langley is located near the ferry terminal and that’s where you’ll find the Langely Whale Center, a small museum with some incredible hands-on exhibits and activities for the whole family. Coupeville is an adorable small town with an indie bookstore, a cool toy store, lots of restaurants, and a shop that sells Dutch treats and souvenirs. Speaking of restaurants, one of the best things to eat on Whidbey Island is their famous Penn Cove mussels. You’ll see them served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in almost every restaurant on the island. Some top things to do on Whidbey Island include exploring Fort Casey, checking out the lighthouses, going hiking in Deception Pass, and spending time searching for painted rocks. While there are several boutique hotels and vacation rentals, a budget-friendly place to stay on Whidbey Island is in one of their campgrounds. Whidbey Island is gorgeous year-round, but it’s especially nice in the summer and early fall.

By Marcie Cheung from Marcie in Mommyland

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass is located just an hour outside of Seattle and the perfect place for anyone who wants to enjoy the outdoors on an affordable weekend getaway. Snoqualmie Pass is famous for the filming location of the cult classic TV show, “Twin Peaks,” but the views, great food, and waterfalls are what make this the perfect weekend. There are plenty of great spots for camping around the area if you want to save extra, or you can book an Airbnb ( We stayed at a really affordable B&B that we found on AirBnB). On our first day, we hiked Snow Lake. It was our favorite hike of the weekend. This out and back 7.2 mile trail ends at a lake with crystal clear blue water and the mountain peaks will keep you smiling all day.  Grab a beer and dinner at local brewery Dru Bro in Snoqualmie Pass as a reward after your hike.

On your second day, explore some of the waterfalls in the area and local farms. You can start by hiking to Franklin Falls. This beautiful waterfall is an easy 1.2 mile hike in and out, mostly flat making it a leisurely stroll through the woods. Stop in North Bend for lunch where there are plenty of cute cafes and local restaurants to enjoy. After lunch, head to Snoqualmie Falls for great views and the famous hotel from “Twin Peaks.” From here make a stop at a lavender farm for something fresh to take home. This is the perfect long weekend to spend outdoors in a beautiful spot away from the city.

From Meghan the Traveling Teacher

Cape Flattery

One of the most exciting places to visit in the Pacific Northwest is Cape Flattery. This is the northwestern most point of the contiguous 48 in the United States. It is a dreamy walk to the point of Cape Flattery, which is part of the Makah Reservation. The entire hike is less than a 1.5 miles round trip, and most of the walk is paved. It’s one of the most beautiful walks landing you right on the cliffs over the Pacific Ocean. It’s definitely worth the trip all the way to the point. Take a picnic lunch to enjoy as you soak up all the views around you. (Just be sure to take your trash back with you!) If you’re ever up in the northern part of Washington state, be sure to stop by and enjoy the unbeatable views of Cape Flattery. 

Suggested by Sara from Our Kind of Crazy

Oregon

Portland

Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregan is such an affordable weekend trip in the Pacific Northwest. Portland has many activities that are free or affordable that can be visited during two days in Portland. It offers a variety of things to do from outdoor adventures to museums.

Visitors to Portland must spend some time browsing through Powell’s Bookstore, one of the largest independent bookstores in the world. Museum-lovers may want to head to the Oregon Historical Society, dedicated to the history of Oregon. For those who like the outdoors, visit one of the many gardens across the city. The Grotto is one free option conveniently located near the airport. A visit to Multnomah Falls is another free thing to do. Visitors can opt to view the falls from below or take a hike up to the top. 

Willamette Valley wine country, located right outside of Portland, is an easy day trip. Many of the wine tastings are around $15. Those into whiskey should head to distillery row to try out one of the 12 distilleries in the area. 

Portland is known for its foodie scene, so make sure to spend some time trying out the various eateries throughout the city. Voodoo Donuts is always a popular spot for their unique donuts. Fried Egg I’m in Love is a classic stop for breakfast. For dinner, do not miss Mucca Osteria, a delicious Italian option. There are endless options to do during a weekend in Portland!

By Francesca at Homeroom Travel

Astoria

Sea Lions in Astoria, Oregon
Sea Lions in Astoria, Oregon

The sleepy seaside town of Astoria, Oregon, sits at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River.  Known as the ending point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, this town is rich in history and adventure.

Discover the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, explore the historic forts, or visit the set of the famous movie, “The Goonies.”   The Astoria Boardwalk welcomes visitors with an assortment of boutiques, seaside dining, and their ever vocal resident seals. 

During a walk along the boardwalk, take notice of engineering marvel known as the Astoria-Megler bridge. The bridge appears to rise out of the sea, then dips commuters into the water on their journey to Washington.

A stop into the Columbia River Maritime Museum tells the tales of how forty feet high waves take place during winter storms. In addition to exhibits about the Coast Guard, take a tour of the floating lighthouse, known as the lightship Columbia. 

Fresh seafood is plentiful as fisherman bring in their catches daily.  Stop into Northwest Wild Products for a quick lunch along the boardwalk or grab a beer at Bouy Beer Company as the ships pass by. 

Charming bed and breakfasts, riverside hotels and campgrounds offer guests the opportunity to extend their visit to Astoria for a long weekend. It is one-stop along the west coast that is not to be missed.

By Stephanie from Consistently Curious

Hood River

The Gorge White House, Hood River, Oregon
The Gorge White House, a fantastic winery in Hood River, Oregon

The delightful town of Hood River sits on the Columbia River Gorge where the namesake Hood River flows into it from the south. Here you’ll find delicious restaurants, quaint shops, hiking trails, a beach park, and more. But one of the best attractions is the surrounding countryside full of vineyards, wineries, and farms. It’s called the Fruit Loop, and you can grab a map and start exploring. Taste wine and fresh fruit, pet farm animals such as llamas, eat fresh ice cream and other goodies, and admire the views of the fields with Mt. Hood in the background.

Hood River has plenty of places to stay. And if you want to camp, we suggest Tucker Park as it is sheltered from the high winds of the Gorge.

Mount Hood

Mount Hood, Oregon
Mount Hood, Oregon

Portlanders have it really good with Mount Hood as their playground. There are so many things to do in the area, you’d need a few weekends in a row to actually complete them all.Personally, I love hiking around Mount Hood the most. There are several hikes but a favorite is the Tom, Dick, and Harry hike because it’s across from Mount Hood. You can get a much better view of Mount Hood from this hike plus there are adorable chipmunks waiting for you at the summit too. Just below is Mirror Lake which has a great loop hike and campsites too. If the water is still enough, you’ll get an epic reflection of Mount Hood on the lake.

Trillium Lake is a popular spot to hang out for the weekend as well. The campsites here can go quickly, so reserve a spot and relax near the lake, takes a kayak out, or hike the perimeter.There are also a number of gorgeous waterfalls around Mount Hood. Ramona Waterfalls is probably the most popular, Umbrella Waterfalls is great too because it’s an easy hike to get to, and my favorite is the Tamanawas Waterfall hike. It’s a moderate three-mile round trip hike to Tamanawas Falls which is a thundering waterfall that you can walk behind!

From Nina Ragusa, Oregon is for Adventure

Bend

Smith Rock, Bend, Oregon
Smith Rock, Bend, Oregon

Traveling from San Francisco to Seattle, we visited many cities in the Pacific Northwest and found Bend, Oregon to be one of our favorites. The town of Bend has many great breweries and restaurants all within walking distance of each other. It makes for an affordable weekend trip because there are so many outdoor activities in the area, no matter the season. The Deschutes River runs right through Bend and offers plenty of rafting, tubing, kayaking, and swimming opportunities. There are numerous walking and biking trails nearby and various state parks. Some of our favorite outdoor activities were hiking Smith Rock State Park, seeing Tumalo Falls, seeing the views from Pilot Butte Scenic Viewpoint, visiting the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and Lava River Cave, and learning about the geography in the High Desert Museum. In the winter, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling are very popular in the mountains.

By Margie from DQ Family Travel

Sisters

Scott Lake, near Sisters, Oregon
Scott Lake, near Sisters, Oregon

When you arrive in Sisters you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back to the days of the Wild West. The entire downtown area of this small town features buildings with facades that look like they date back to the 1800’s. This is what gives Sisters its outpost-like charm. Whether you are driving through or staying for a few days, there is much to see and do in the area.

Named after the Three Sisters to the west, Sisters Oregon is located just 20 minutes north of Bend, Oregon on the east flank of the Cascade mountain range in Oregon. It is a lively, artsy town that is the gateway to many outdoor recreation opportunities. 

You’ll find plenty of things to do in the area, such as taking a drive up McKenzie Pass Highway for some spectacular scenery or hiking up towards the towering North Sister mountain from the Three Creeks Trailhead.

Camp Sherman is also a must-visit. This idyllic riverside community is nestled along the Metolius River. If you go, don’t miss the headwaters where the Metolius river gushes out of the ground.

If you are a beer aficionado you can check out Three Creek Brewing Company or one of the many microbreweries in Bend, Oregon .

From Rand Shoaf of Bend Explored

Yachats

The Oregon Coast is magical for many reasons, but Yachats, Oregon (pronounced YAH-hots) is one of the best stops along the coast. Closer to the southern border of the state, Yachats is the perfect weekend getaway for people who love dramatic scenery, low crowds, and affordable prices. The best seasons to visit are any season outside of Spring. Spring is mostly constant rainfall, so there are less opportunities to hike the nearby trails (such as Ya’Xaik Trail or 804 trail). Winter is also rainy, but the waves at the coast are most powerful and amazing to watch. Summer has the most agreeable weather, sunny but not too hot, and Fall boasts colorful foliage. Whichever season you decide to visit, stay in one of the many cozy cabins and cottages along the sand, and wake up to the sound of waves each morning. Although Yachats isn’t a foodie paradise, the restaurants in Yachats are adamant about sourcing their products from local businesses and farmers, and take the term “farm to table” fresh to heart! When you visit, you must stop by Bread & Roses for a morning pastry and coffee (fair-trade coffee beans from Eugene, Oregon), the Hilltop Cafe and Bistro for lunch, and then grab some iconic Oregon coast seafood from Luna Seafood Fish House. When you’re ready to explore the great outdoors, head out to Cape Perpetua for some jaw-dropping views. There you will find Thor’s Well, Spouting Horn, and Devil’s Churn. Yachats is also home to the largest sea lion cave in the USA! 

From Kay, The Awkward Traveller

Seaside

Seaside, Oregon

A sleepy resort town close to the coast in Northwest Oregon, Seaside makes for a lovely weekend trip or a fun stop on an Oregon / Washington road trip! Within walking distance to a public beach littered with driftwood and public swingsets in the sand, Seaside’s downtown is quiet and quaint. You’ll have your pick of fresh seafood restaurants and cute candy shops; families will also want to stop by the famous Seaside carousel inside the mall! Visitors of all ages will enjoy visiting the Seaside Aquarium that’s been a local institution for 80 years and feeding the seals. After exploring the town, Ecola State Park is a must-see. There are several trails to choose from or you can play in the sand and walk along the beach while the waves roll in. Don’t miss Tillamook Head Trail, which will lead you to where you can look out at a lighthouse in the ocean!

– Stephanie from Explore More Clean Less

Southeast Oregon 

Steens Mountain, Oregon
Steens Mountain

At first glance, Southeast Oregon appears to be empty and barren. It lies in a largely forgotten part of the state that features brush-covered landscapes and wide-open vistas.

Yet, this immense swath of land is full of surprises. Geothermal lakes and bubbling springs litter the landscape. The lush Malheur Wildlife Refuge attracts thousands of colorful birds. Hiking trails in the Steens Mountain Wilderness lead to glimmering lakes. 

A perfect Southeast Oregon itinerary includes both the Steens Mountain Wilderness and the Alvord Desert. The scenic Steens Mountain Loop begins in Frenchglen, at the mountain’s convergence with the Malheur Wetlands. It is an unpaved road that highlights gorges, mountain lakes, alpine forests, and stunning aerial views of the Alvord Desert. 

The area is a wonderland for those looking to get off the beaten path. It is one of the last unexplored wilderness areas of the Pacific Northwest.

Alvord Desert
Alvord Desert

The Alvord Desert sprawls beneath the shadow of Steens Mountain. The desert is an unmissable highlight of Southeast Oregon. Its main feature is a large dried out lake bed—called a playa—that covers an area 12 miles long and 7 miles wide. 

Driving out on the playa is an unforgettable experience. The landscape reveals a checkerboard of cracked earth that extends outward like a flattened piece of crumpled paper. From its center, the mirage-inducing landscape seems to carry on forever. 

Spending a weekend in Southeast Oregon makes for an affordable Pacific Northwest getaway. Camping on the Alvord Desert Playa is completely free and does not require advanced reservations. Aside from the small charge for soaking in the Alvord Hot Spring, there are no other fees associated with visiting the area. 

The Alvord Hot Spring lies at the edge of the desert playa, near the foot of Steens Mountain. It is the perfect place to sit back, relax, and soak in the beauty of the surrounding scenery. 

By Erika Bisbocci of Erika’s Travels

Idaho

Craters of the Moon National Monument

Craters of the Moon National Monument - Idaho

Craters of the Moon is probably one of the most surreal landscapes you’ll find in Idaho. Everywhere you look, you’ll see black lava rock. There’s a scenic drive, so you can explore the park by car, but there are also a couple of really cool hiking trails. If you hike to the top of the Inferno Cone (it’s only 0.2 miles, but pretty steep), you will be rewarded with a great view of Craters of the Moon National Monument.

One of the coolest things to do in the park is to explore some of the caves. To visit those, you can get a permit for free in the visitor center and don’t forget to bring a flashlight! I can highly recommend visiting the Indian Tunnel, a long cave (it has some openings, this is the only cave where you don’t really need flashlight) where you can walk all the way through. When you walk back, you’ll step on a sea of lava rock, which is pretty cool!

A visit to Craters of the Moon can be combined with a visit to Twin Falls, where you’ll find the amazing Shoshone Falls (a.k.a. Niagara of the West).

From Jacoba at Op reis met Co

British Columbia

Vancouver

Vancouver is an incredibly diverse city with something on offer for absolutely everyone. Considered the largest city in B.C, Canada, located at the foot of mountains, the city has a lot to offer from amazing landscapes to great food.

As you walk around the city, you will notice the increasingly popular culture of food trucks, usually by the waterfront overlooking the Vancouver Harbour, you can enjoy an array of cuisines whilst enjoying the fresh breeze. Be sure to spend some time watching the many sea planes take off from the water and return after their city tours. Or, take one of the seaplane tours yourself!

Two of the most popular attractions of the city are the walks along Cold Harbour and Stanley Park. The Cold Harbour is a lovely walk along the water, stretching about 5km with beautiful views of Stanley Park and the mountains in the back drop. Stanley park is a must visit for every trip to Vancouver. It almost feels like being on a little island, this stunning park is surrounded by fresh water and is buzzing all day. There are 4 restaurants in the park and forest trails which will take a fair few hours to get through. We would recommend spending a whole day here.

From Manpreet of HelloManpreet.com

See also: Travel Costs for Vancouver

Whistler

Biking on Whistler Mountain

Whistler in British Columbia is the ultimate outdoor adventure destination in Canada. It’s a 90-minute scenic drive north of Vancouver and is the perfect distance for a weekend escape from the city. There’s a very good public transport network up to Whistler from Vancouver if you’re not driving, although taking a Canadian road trip should be high up on your bucket list.

In 2010 the Winter Olympic Games were held in Whistler but it’s not just a winter destination. During the winter months, you’ll find all kinds of winter sports on offer and in the summer, you can switch out the skis for mountain bikes. If you’re not a daredevil mountain biker, there are lots of easy paved trails you can take that are perfect for the whole family. Mountain bike rental is available in both Whistler Village, Blackcomb and Creekside. And don’t worry, there are plenty of other activities in Whistler in the summer, too.

If you want to get to the top of Whistler Mountain for some incredible views, you can take the gondola for some easy lift-assisted hiking but if you have the time and the energy, you’ll save a lot of money by hiking up. Make sure to check out the relatively new Cloudraker Skybridge at the top (if you’re not afraid of heights).

The hotels in Whistler village can be a touch on the pricey side but there are plenty of self-catering apartments available. Whistler Creekside can be a slightly cheaper alternative. 

By Jacquie from Flashpacking Family

Nelson

Nelson, B.C.

Nelson is a cute mountain town that makes an affordable weekend escape in the Pacific Northwest.

The majestic peaks of the Selkirk mountains tower over town providing many wonderful (and free) hikes in the summer, and reasonably priced skiing or back-country snowshoeing in the winter. If you’d rather the water than the mountains, Kootenay Lake, running through the town, offers the opportunity to fish, swim, kayak or just lounge on the sandy beach at Lakeside Park. 

Nelson offers an astonishing variety of independent restaurants and coffee shops at small-town prices. No trip here is complete without a stop at Oso Negro cafe or a wander through the Nelson Co-op grocery store (trust me, it’s worth it!). One of the hardest decisions you’ll make is where to eat, and you’ll wish you had just one more day so you can try a few more restaurants.

If shopping is your jam, but you want to stick to a budget, you’ll find thrift stores and antique shops to satisfy your craving. And if you’re on a tighter budget, just wandering Baker street for a bit of window shopping is an enjoyable experience. 

Whether you want to spend the weekend outdoors, at the spa, eating or shopping, Nelson offers a little bit for everyone. 

From Kyla @ Where Is The World

Kelowna & the Okanagan Valley

Vineyards in the Okanagan Valley

If you are looking for an affordable and fantastic weekend trip, then Kelowna, British Columbia is a great destination to get away to. Kelowna is nestled among the Okanagan Valley which is known for its Okanagan vineyards and wineries. Spend the weekend sipping wine at one of the 100+ wineries in the area while tasting great farm to table food from the culinary chefs. Visit some of the various breweries and cideries too! The scenery is breathtaking with the vineyards, fruit orchards, mountains and lakes all within this valley. If you are up for more activities you can rent bikes and go along the Myra Canyon rail trail, hike Knox Mountain, golf at one of the many courses, seek out one of the waterfalls close by or walk along the Kelowna promenade with views of the boat harbour. There is always something going on in the city with festivals and events on the weekends, but sometimes the best afternoons are relaxing at one of the many beaches in the city.

By Nicole of The Passport Kids

Victoria

Victoria Parliament buildings
Victoria Parliament buildings

The state capital of British Columbia and one of Canada’s most historic small cities, Victoria is the main city on Vancouver Island  easily accessible from Seattle and Vancouver by regular ferry services as well as flights. The city is centred around this small city’s inner harbour, where you’ll find sail boats, float planes, Victoria’s very own Harbour Air terminal, and some great options for going on whale and orca watching expeditions in the Salish sea. 

Victoria is best known to visitors for its colonial architecture and old-world charm – there’s nowhere better in North America to enjoy an English style Afternoon Tea (for the very best, book ahead at the Fairmont Empress hotel) although there are plenty more budget-friendly spots too. Butchart Gardens to the north-east of Victoria is also a top attraction, with different style gardens laid out and fireworks on summer evenings. Victoria is also home to a budding art and creative scene, and you can learn about the rich First Nations heritage at the BC Museum, or just by strolling around Beacon Hill park and admiring the totem poles. If you have time to explore the city a little more, the beach at Gonzales Bay is one of our favourites and a great place to hang out with locals. 

Victoria is busiest in summer with cruise visitors and weekend trippers, so for the best deals try shoulder season – September and October are also great months for whale watching and sunny skies. Book hotels well ahead, too. 

By Ellie & Ravi of Soul Travel Blog

Vancouver Island

Avatar Grove, Port Renfrew
Avatar Grove, Port Renfrew

The Pacific Marine Circle Route is an off-the-beaten-path loop road trip on southern Vancouver Island in British Columbia. It’s a short 260 km (160 miles) drive that you can easily complete in a weekend, but with so much to see, you may want to linger. 

The route travels west from Victoria following the wild West Coast. Along the way, you can stop to visit wilderness beaches and waterfalls. Don’t miss beautiful Sombrio Beach and spectacular Sandcut Falls. Be sure to stop for lunch in the cute town of Sooke or grab a pasty at Shirley Delicious Bakery in the blink-and-you’ve-missed-it village of Shirley.

Plan to stay overnight in Port Renfrew either at the beachside campground or in a cozy cabin. This tiny former logging town is reinventing itself as an adventure tourism hub for fishing, surfing, and hiking. The world-famous West Coast Trail starts here too.  Port Renfrew is also nicknamed the Tall Tree Capital of Canada thanks to the groves of giant old-growth cedar, fir, and spruce trees that grow just outside of town. Some of the trees are over 60m (200 feet) tall! 

The second half of the Pacific Marine Circle Route road trip heads inland through the lush rainforest to Lake Cowichan and the Cowichan Valley, then south back to Victoria. The highlights in this section include a stop at the Duncan Farmer’s Market for locally made cheese, wine and more, and a quick hike to the waterfalls at beautiful Goldstream Provincial Park. 

By Taryn of Happiest Outdoors

Bear Beach, Juan de Fuca Trail
Bear Beach, Juan de Fuca Trail

Located on the West Coast of Canada in British Columbia, Vancouver Island is the largest island on the Pacific Coast of North America. With rugged shorelines, endless beaches, covered in beautiful old growth forest the island offers some of the best hiking around Vancouver. The Juan de Fuca hiking trail is a spectacular coastal hiking trail on Vancouver island on which you can see a huge variety of animals like orcas, whales, dolphins and black bears.  Backpacking part of the trail is an amazing weekend adventure on Vancouver Island. The complete trail is a strenuous 49 km hike taking 4 days to complete. Several trailheads can easily be reached by road with car parking available. This makes day hikes or shorter backpacking and camping trips possible from Parkinson Creek, Sombrio Beach or China Beach. Sombrio Beach is a fantastic spot to camp for a weekend. You can camp and make fire on the beach here. Sombrio is a popular surf spot with beautiful surroundings. Taking a shower in the beautiful ‘secret waterfall’ in a slot canyon from the beach is something not to miss. For a great hiking weekend spend one night on Sombrio Beach, do a beautiful day hike over beaches and 3 fantastic suspension bridges hiking from Sombrio to Chin Beach where you can also camp right on the beach. The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is open the whole year, no booking is required for campsites , but the best weather is from mid-May to mid-September. To get to Victoria, the capital of  Vancouver Island by ferry and bus takes about 4 hours from downtown Vancouver. The West Coast Trail Express bus can be booked to pick you up or drop you in Victoria or any of the beaches on the trail.

By Campbell Louw, Stingy Nomads

Tofino

Tofino at first glance seems like a luxury destination in the Pacific Northwest, but with a little clever trip planning, this can actually be one of the most adventurous and affordable places to explore on Vancouver Island!

Tofino is located on the westernmost edge of British Columbia, with expansive views of the Pacific Ocean on nearly every shoreline. To keep this destination affordable, we recommend
renting a vacation home rather than booking an expensive lodge. There are many convenient places in town that rent single rooms, as well as campgrounds that have affordable tent sites along the beach.

There are so many cool things to do in Tofino that don’t require spending a lot of money. One of our favorite things to do is go hiking, and there are tons of trails around the area, including beachcombing along the shoreline. If you have a Parks Canada Pass, you can access a huge variety of trails and beaches in the Pacific Rim National Park. The most popular trails in Tofino include the Tonquin Beach Trail, Shorepine Bog, and Schooner Cove Trail. Another free and beautiful trail in the area includes the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet. Come during sunset for incredible photography opportunities!

Another great way to enjoy Tofino on a budget is by going surfing! If you’ve got your own board, you can spend the day at popular beaches like Long Beach or Mackenzie Beach, and catch waves all afternoon. Make sure to go with a buddy to stay safe!

No matter how you spend your time, Tofino is a surprisingly inexpensive place to enjoy a weekend in the Pacific Northwest!

By Emily Mandagie from The Mandagies

And here are more details about Tofino….

Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island is a picturesque town situated in amongst waterways, islands, mountains and rainforests. Surfing is what initially brought people to the shores of Tofino but now it is a popular place for people to come and visit for a few days, especially from Victoria and Vancouver.

Tofino still has the small town, surfer and hippy vibe that makes it so attractive to visit. But it also has developed to cater for the many tourists with amazing hotels, plenty of restaurants and boutique shops selling arts and crafts from local artists.

The surrounding area is what really makes Tofino such a brilliant place to visit. The coastline is covered in beautiful beaches with tall trees lining the sand, there are plenty of hikes you can enjoy as well as different boat tours which leave from the inner harbour in Tofino. These include bear watching, whale watching, and trips to the natural Tofino hot springs. We suggest partaking in one of these tours as you will have a chance to see the maze of waterways here while also catching glimpses of the local wildlife.

Tofino is an adventure lovers paradise and offers so many awesome things to do in one stunning location. For those travelling on a budget you also have the option to stay at one of the many campsites that line the beaches here and you can spend your time exploring the many natural wonders in the area.

By Luke & Roxy from The Coastal Campaign

Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake

Yoho National Park in British Columbia makes for a wonderful weekend getaway in the Canadian Rockies. Part of the Canadian Rockies UNESCO World Heritage Site, Yoho National Park is renowned for its spectacular natural beauty. It is less crowded than neighboring Banff and Jasper National Parks, so if you are looking for the beauty without the crowds, head to Yoho! You are guaranteed to have a lovely relaxing time, and you can see a list of things to do here.

At Yoho National Park, visit Emerald Lake, whose waters really are the color of the gem. You can take a canoe or rowboat out onto the water, or walk the trail that goes around the lake. We did both, to see the beautiful scenery from different perspectives. Also visit the Natural Bridge over Kicking Horse River, which is very close to Emerald Lake, and Takakkaw Falls, which are one of the highest waterfalls in Canada.

If you enjoy hiking, you have a choice to trails of varying lengths and difficulties from which to pick. Watch for wildlife: you can see deer, elk, bear and more in the park. Visit the little town of Field for places to eat. You will also find places to stay in Field, or you can stay at the lodge on the shore of Emerald Lake.

By Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles

Bryan

Bryan has visited exactly one more country than his wife, and she won't let him forget it! Also an avid photographer, he enjoys entrenching himself within the local culture in order to learn more about the people of a place. He is the co-founder of Budget Your Trip and loves a good adventure, an exotic meal, or a passionate conversation about global events.

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