The Pacific Northwest is known for many incredible sites and some lesser-known ones. These are some of the best little-known destinations to explore.
The Pacific Northwest has an abundance of iconic landmarks. Sites like Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, the Oregon Coast, and the San Juan Islands are favorites in the region. If you’re looking to step off the beaten path and visit some of the little-known destinations in the Pacific Northwest, you’ve come to the right place. It’s no secret that the Northwest is paradise for those seeking outdoor adventure, and we’ve compiled a list of 8 amazing secret locations for you to explore.
Discovering little-known parts of the Pacific Northwest can make your stay all the more memorable. Here is a list of areas that may not be world famous, but deserve attention all the same. Each of the destinations offers something unique and are true examples of what the great northwest has to offer. Keep reading for 8 of the Pacific Northwest’s hidden gems.
In recent years, Devil’s Punchbowl has unsurprisingly started to rise in popularity. People are beginning to witness the intensity of this site. Sitting along the cliffs of the Oregon coast, this hole sucks in ocean water as it swells up and over the site in waves. From the visitor’s perspective, it swallows these waves, creating a whirlpool effect. Devil’s Punchbowl is a perfect place to explore to get a rush of Mother Nature. It’s over 8 dense acres of PNW goodness.
Visitors will get a rush of Oregon’s vast coastline with the sounds and smells of saltwater and coastal wildlife. The sights of the area’s classic rock formations, deep blue water, and flourishing green life are what make this part of the Oregon coast famous. Feeling the coastal breeze come over the land is a rewarding feeling for any adventurer that made the trek to reach the bowl.
Currently, the area is limited daytime use only due to COVID-19 closures.
Little Crater Lake
Mount Hood National Forest, OR
“Wait… there’s a little Crater Lake?”
Yes, and it’s absolutely worth seeking out. Little Crater Lake is often overshadowed by Crater Lake National Park that sees flocks of visitors each year. The national park’s younger sibling is located in the Mount Hood National Forest and offers visitors the same vibrant blue waters and lush green scenery around it. As one of the little-known sites of the Pacific Northwest, Little Crater Lake offers the same splendor as Crater Lake but without the crowds. Little Crater Lake is surrounded by thick forests with hiking trails. The nearby campground allows for an overnight stay or afternoon picnic.
Waterfalls are famous residents of the Pacific Northwest. No list of places in the Pacific Northwest would be complete without some. Wynoochee Falls is a lesser-known, but cannot-miss destination. The falls are tucked into the Washington wilderness, surrounded by lush Northwest trees and water that shimmers on sunny days. It’s a favorite weekend activity for locals who know of this secret spot, and a unique site for visitors as well.
Only one mile from its trailhead, Wynoochee Falls offers something for everyone: a gravel area for picnics, a pond at the base of the falls to cool off in, and plenty of room to enjoy the roaring falls. The trail is easy walking, making it accessible to the majority of visitors.
Blue River, OR
Tamolitch Pool, known by locals as The Blue Pool, is another quick and easy 2-mile hike that immediately pays off. Located along the McKenzie River trail, there is no shortage of vibrant color in this location. The Blue Pool itself is even similar in shape to a gemstone, making this addition to the list a literal hidden gem.
The pool area is truly a unique sight to behold due to its crystal clear body of water. The pool does not seem to be moving at first sight, but water is actually flowing to the end as the river continues. Hikers can either take in the pool or hop in for a quick swim, but beware because these waters are frigid. If visitors just want to see the pool without hiking, a shuttle is available from the trailhead for $25.
Cape Disappointment State Park, WA
Despite the rather uninviting name, this bit of Washington’s coastline is not a disappointment. The 1,800+ acre park sits on the Long Beach Peninsula, offering a combination of nature and history.
Head out to the coast to catch a view of the picture-perfect lighthouse or to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center to get an interactive history lesson on the region we all love. There’s plenty to discover in this park, so visitors can rent a cabin to get the most out of it.
The beach lovers will feel right at home. There are multiple beaches that invite both relaxers and active explorers. This state park has something for everyone and is easily the most versatile spot on this list.
Due to COVID-19 safety measures, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is temporarily closed, but the rest of the park is still open, including on-site vacation houses.
Prairie City, OR
Strawberry Lake is a healthy 6-mile, round-trip trek located just outside of Prairie City, Oregon. The lake itself is a mirror of the surrounding beauty. As is a staple of these hidden northwest gems, the area is loaded with scenery of trees and mountains.
The trail itself is a loop around the vast Strawberry Lake. During this lengthy lap, there are plenty of sights to behold including remnants of a mountain winter, birds chirping about, and wildlife such as mountain goats scaling the terrain.
While the trailhead begins as a narrow passage among a thicket of pine trees, it eventually opens up to the vast mountain lake. Be prepared to encounter some snow along the way. Please keep in mind that the trail is rocky and may not be suitable for all hikers.
Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, WA
There are several fascinating caves to explore in Oregon, and Ape Cave is one of the lesser-known sites. Ape Cave is a lava tube located in northwest Washington that is directly connected to the iconic Mount Saint Helens. Over 2,000 years ago, the cave was formed from a lava flow that came from the local volcano. The cave is the 37th longest cave in the world, making it the third longest in the mainland United States.
The tube features an upper and lower deck, both of which offer a different experience. The upper deck is easier to walk through, while the lower half becomes so small that not even a crawl is sufficient and passengers are forced to turn back.
The cave is more challenging than the other occupants of this list. While it is open year-round, the conditions inside the cave, in particular the temperature, can be harsh for visitors arriving unprepared. Bring as many layers as needed for warmth and be ready to crawl during this exploration.
Gold Hill, OR
If you’re seeking something truly unique in the Pacific Northwest, try the Oregon Vortex. The vortex is located near Gold Hill, Oregon, and is a textbook hidden gem of the northwest. The vortex is located on a “unique gravitational vortex” that plays tricks on visitors’ senses. People can appear taller or shorter depending on which platform they stand on. They change in height while walking. Balls roll uphill and structures may look uneven from one angle then straight from a different angle.
This location is a fun option if you’re traveling with kids. What was once a gold mine in the wilderness is now a mystery for people to come and experience its wonders. Due to COVID-19 public health concerns, a limited number of people are allowed to the site at once. Anyone planning a visit should refer here for more updated information.
These little-known locations in the Pacific Northwest are just a few of many. The region has so much to offer that many fantastic trails, lakes, and attractions go without mention. The Pacific Northwest’s potential is truly limitless. There’s a little something for every explorer.