Yes, we’re aware it rains in the Pacific Northwest. That does not stop us from loving it. The climate has created the landscape and it’s shaped the culture. When it rains, it can be kind of a bummer, but when it doesn’t, it’s amazing. We could bounce around our favorite cities-Seattle, Vancouver, Portland-or stay out of them completely and just play on the trails and in the mountains.
Here are a few of our favorite things-oh, and for our purposes, “Pacific Northwest” means Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia (or Cascadia, if you prefer):
1. The Beer
Neither Oregon nor Washington have the most per capita craft breweries in the United States. They have the third and second most, respectively, according to the Brewers Association-382 between the two states.
2. The Coffee
You can love or hate Starbucks (we happen to be quite enamored with it when driving through former Espresso Deserts along interstate highways in the Midwest), but you have to admit that the chain has had more than a little to do with the proliferation of coffee culture in the United States and has provided us with many opportunities to not have to drink Folger’s coffee. Alternately, you don’t have to admit that-you can just go try to have a coffee at every single great coffee shop in the Pacific Northwest. Which should take you several months.
3. Bike Culture
In Bicycling Magazine’s 2014 ranking of bike friendly cities, Portland came in fourth and Washington came in eighth (Eugene was 15th, and Salem was 38th). The League of American Bicyclists named Washington the number one bike-friendly state in the U.S., and Oregon number five.
4. The Oregon Coast
It’s like California without the people (hallelujah!), the water temperature is usually about the same as Santa Cruz, and where it’s not beach, it often looks like Big Sur. There’s tons of camping, and every foot of beach in Oregon is public (thank you 1967 Oregon Beach Bill).
5. Smith Rock
It’s steep, it’s technical, it’s the birthplace of sport climbing in the United States, and it ain’t bad looking either.
6. The Skiing
The snow has higher moisture content, so it sticks to higher-angle faces that might not hold snow in drier climates. Plus, there’s just so damn much of it: Mt. Baker Ski Area clocks an average of more than 53 feet of snow each year and in 1998-99 got 95.
7. The Summer
Sure, Colorado has 300 days of sunshine, and in Southern California the temperature hardly ever dips below a point where you need more than a light jacket. But in the Pacific Northwest, they really appreciate summer-it rains off and on for much of the year, but one day in June or July every year, the sun comes out for real and shows up for work for several weeks in a row.
8. The Vulcaneering
Drive around Oregon and Washington a little bit on a few clear days, and you’ll see one famous volcano after another rising out of the horizon like white ghosts: Rainier, Hood, Baker, Adams, the Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor, and Mt. St. Helens. Most of them are good for climbing, most are good for skiing, and some are good for skiing year-round.
9. The North Cascades
Are the North Cascades the gnarliest mountain range in the Lower 48? It’s very likely you wouldn’t know, isn’t it? They’re hard to access, hard to get across, and hard to climb, but way easy to take an incredible photo of.
10. The Mountain Biking
Dark, lovely loam, glowing green rain forests, and it just so happens to be the birthplace of elaborate trail-building in America.
Not many towns can claim to have world-class biking and skiing, but Whistler can. The brown pow is as good as the white pow, and the bike park is the standard by which all are measured.
Amazing, varied granite climbing from one to fifteen pitches, right in front of your face-and that’s just the Chief. If you have a little bit of good weather during a visit to Squamish, you’ll see why it’s the most famous rock climbing destination in Canada, and if you have nothing but good weather, you’ll probably think it’s the best rock climbing destination in North America.