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  • Writer's pictureGig Harbor Living Local

(Re)Discover the Outdoors

Northwest Adventures: Which one is right for you?

By Allison Pollock-Pugh


Summer is when the Northwest takes center stage and shines like the sun on the sea. There’s nothing quite like a summer day spent outdoors, enjoying the picturesque views of glistening rivers and lakes surrounded by evergreen trees, only falling into shadow when the sun sets behind the beautifully steadfast mountain ranges.

The warm summer weather creates an idyllic time for outdoor activities. Access to some of the greatest rivers in the country, hundreds of campsites, thousands of trails and lakes provide abundant opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.

Whether you’re ready for extreme whitewater rafting, planning a family camping trip, or outdoor wine tasting tours are more your thing, here are some outdoor adventures to try based on your interests and personality.

If you like an outdoor walk in nature

It may be the fresh air, the serenity, or the forced disconnect that comes with no cell service in the mountains, but hiking has a way of clearing your mind and making you feel calm and refreshed. Whether you’re traversing a steep grade to a panoramic mountain peak, overnight backpacking through the Cascade or Rocky Mountain Ranges, or just taking a quiet walk in the forest, the benefits of hiking are as vast as the mountains themselves.

Hiking has many advantages and is even medically prescribed as “ecotherapy” for the mental health benefits it provides. It can improve your overall fitness and stamina while also offering options for any skill and ability level. Looking for an easy hike close to home? Or, maybe something more challenging that ends at a hot spring? In the Northwest, you don’t have to go far to find a beautiful spot to suit your needs. Plus, there are numerous websites that provide details and difficulty levels of hiking trails so you can be well-prepared before setting out on your adventure.

If your ideal outdoor experience includes charcuterie and tastings

One of the best parts of having so many wineries in the Northwest are the opportunities to enjoy the beautiful scenery that comes with vast sprawling vineyards. And, with all the amazing vineyards clustered together throughout the region, who says you can’t experience the outdoors while tasting some of the award-winning wines?

Valleys adorned with thousands of rows of grapevines surrounded by rolling hills, mountains and rivers provide panoramic views and a peaceful atmosphere not to be rivaled. Since they’re also a hotspot for travelers, there is often a wide variety of restaurants and outdoor activities nearby. Some ways to get more time in nature while exploring the vineyards are walking tours, bike rentals, or golf courses—there are even wineries where you can have a tasting with your feet in a river. Whether you prefer crisp whites, sparkling bubbly or bold reds, you’ll find plenty of outdoor experience while sipping your tasting flight at one of the region’s wineries.

If you’re a thrill-seeker looking for action

Have you ever wondered what life is like for the birds? Parasailing from a boat is a great family activity and gives an aerial view from 500 feet while paragliding lets the wind take you over water. Maybe being high up amongst the trees is more your style. The whole family can take in the view as you glide through the treetops while ziplining down a mountain.

Looking for adventure but want to stay out of the sky? Whitewater rafting is an experience the whole family can enjoy, with each river providing a different current and challenge. If you want an endurance-filled activity, the forests, deserts and backcountry trails make the Northwest one of the country’s best locations for mountain biking. Whichever activity you choose, just make sure you find a reputable guide before heading out.

If you’re a water-lover (don’t forget your life vest!)

There is simply nothing better than a summer day on the water in the Northwest, which makes it one of the top water sport destinations in the US. Whether you want to kayak on the sound searching for seals, go fly fishing for trout in the Snake River, or load up your kids and floaties for a day at the beach, the opportunities to spend a day (or week) on the water are endless.

Boating is a great way to get on the water, and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of gliding across the water on water skis, a wakeboard or innertube. But, being pulled behind a boat isn’t the only way to get moving on the water. Take a sunset sailing cruise, a gondola ride, or go whale-watching. Rent a kayak, paddleboard or canoe and enjoy a more relaxed but equally beautiful adventure.

If you find the idea of living off the grid appealing

Camping is one of the most common outdoor activities in the world, and for good reason. Disconnecting from everyday stressors while being engulfed in nature and sleeping underneath the stars is revitalizing—allowing you to slow down, focus on relationships and learn valuable life skills.

Camping is also very flexible, so depending on whether you’ll be truly roughing it or are looking for more of a Troop Beverly Hills experience, there are options for you to choose what works best for you and your family. Do you want to backpack into your campsite? Is “glamping” more your style? Or are you RV camping? The various terrains throughout the region allow you to choose the environment where you spend your camping days and nights. Just remember that many campgrounds require reservations and some book up quickly!

The Northwest’s proximity to water, mountains and desert make it one of the most appealing places to spend the summer. While some activities require training or expensive equipment (boats/RVs), spending time outdoors doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant—there’s a reason country songs have been written about simply floating a river.

Lifelong memories are made during the little moments of togetherness. So, load up the life vests, water toys, sunscreen and snacks, and wherever you’re headed, you’ll be set for a great adventure.

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