Thrills and spills in the Pacific Northwest
September 12, 2012 3:00 PM   Subscribe

Exciting things to do within driving distance of the BC-WA border?

After living a stone's throw from the US border for a while now, I've decided it's about time I check out what's on the other side. I have a passport, a car, I'm super comfortable driving, and I'm prepared to spend a bit to ensure, as a young lady, my comfort and safety (no couchsurfing, hostels are OK, but must be very well reviewed). So, looking for day/short trips (a week or less) within driving range of the BC-Washington border. What's out there, MeFi? And what should I know before I go?

Most interested in: spectacular scenery, physical adventure (kayaking, riding horses, canoeing, shooting range, learning to fly, etc), sites of historical interest, museums with more than potsherds, famous places, doing things I've never done before. Not so interested in: food, bars, music, shops, nightlife, the arts scene, just wandering/sitting around. I'm after thrills and chills - visual or physical. A day sat around is a day wasted. That said, I'm not a huge fan of totally roughing it. I like my facilities.

Possible complications: #1: I'm a foreigner here in Canada, not yet a permanent resident. My understanding is that I can expect an hour+ at the border just to deal with the paperwork.

#2: I'm likely to end up going alone, and I'm a young single white female of sensitive disposition (conflict-averse, easily spooked, not given to taking risks with my safety or sense of). My past solo drive experience consists of Vancouver to Edmonton in the summertime.
posted by eldindeer to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Ugh, should clarify: not given to taking risks with my safety where other people are concerned. Or doing straight-up reckless things (given my inexperience) like going for a stroll in cougar territory, or hiking alone. Paragliding or whitewater rafting or whatever is a hell yeah, however! (Provided it's a reputable outfit with an excellent safety record...)
posted by eldindeer at 3:09 PM on September 12, 2012

Mount Rainier / Crystal Mountain Gondola, east/southeast of Seattle. Just the drive there has spectacular scenery and awesome. Navigate that site to find a whole passel of trails and visually stunning routes to hike or see.

Heck, even Portland, Oregon is within driving distance if you're willing to stay the night.
posted by fireoyster at 3:14 PM on September 12, 2012

Drive up the Mount Baker Highway to Artist's Point. You'll be right between Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan with amazing views. There are lots of great hikes along the Mount Baker Highway as well.
posted by bajema at 3:34 PM on September 12, 2012

If you take a ferry from Vancouver, BC to Nanaimo, you could drive down the coastal road along the eastern side of Vancouver Island. The ferry ride itself is beautiful on a clear day, with views of mountain ranges and wide open seas. The drive down the coast is very scenic. You could end up in Victoria to take another ferry to the US, to Port Angeles, WA, from where you can very nearly directly drive up to the Hurricane Ridge observation center, overlooking the majestic Olympic mountains. On a clear day, the view is stunning.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:52 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live in Victoria, and something we are considering doing as a family next summer is taking the Coho down to Port Angeles, and then driving east towards Bellingham. There are a number of bridges and islands between the Olympic Peninsula and Bellingham, and it would be a great trip I think. We would then head to Anacortes and take the ferry back to Sidney, north of Victoria.

You of course could take BC Ferries to the island (Tsawwassen to Sidney), take the Coho to Port Angeles, and then drive back to Vancouver.

Of course, La Push on the Pacific side of the Olympic Peninsula looks pretty spectacular, too.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:58 PM on September 12, 2012

Tulip fields near La Conner in the spring!

A little foodie excursion to Bow/Edison.

Fairhaven, just on the south end of Bellingham, is a sweet place to spend an afternoon. Browse the bookstore and art shops, walk along the water to the park and back, eat some pierogis at Magdalena's. Yum.
Ooh! Then drive Chuckanut Drive to Edison--a really nice day trip.
posted by Sublimity at 4:29 PM on September 12, 2012

Ach, maybe not so thrilling and chilling on a second read--but worth knowing about nonetheless. Gotta eat somewhere, may as well be someplace pleasant!
posted by Sublimity at 4:31 PM on September 12, 2012

If you haven't gone whale watching ever, do it! I just went on a trip out of Washington's San Juan Islands with Sea Quest. It was a good experience, we saw orcas (note: technically not whales), and our guide, Evan, was knowledgeable and personable - he was a delight. Take a multi-day trip, if you can.

Lime Kiln State Park, on San Juan Island, is one of the best places on land to see orca... in the US, anyway! You could also do something out of the Gulf Islands or Vancouver Island, on the BC side of the border, if you'd rather.

Orcas Island, also in the San Juans, is less developed than San Juan Island. Mt. Constitution, in Moran State Park, gives fantastic views of everything around.

On the mainland, try the North Cascades National Park.

Towards the center of Washington is the Ginko Petrified Forest. Also the Grand Coulee Dam.
posted by SirNovember at 5:14 PM on September 12, 2012

Shooting range? You could visit Kesselring's Gun Shop in Whatcom County, if you're from a country where ordinary people don't/can't own guns, it'll be a real eye opener. Unfortunately I do not know of a range that has rental guns/training programs in Whatcom or Skagit counties. There is a good shooting range in Whatcom County but it assumes you will bring your own gun.

There are some learn-to-fly outfits at the Bellingham airport and also at the Skagit County airport which is about halfway between Burlington and Anacortes. Might be cheaper than taking lessons in BC, but not much... (The Boundary Bay airport in Delta, BC is already the home of several flight training schools).
posted by thewalrus at 6:18 PM on September 12, 2012

I personally am comfortable hiking alone as long as it's on easy, crowded trails. You might start with a place like Deception Pass -- even if you fell and broke your leg it would be about 10 minutes before somebody wandered by. I also like Heather Lake (near Everett) and Little Si (near North Bend WA). Mt St Helens is amazing, but you would want a buddy.

You can probably find hiking buddies on the Bellingham/Seattle craigslists, or the Washington Trails Association website, without much effort.

If you go to the Seattle area, I can heartily recommend the College Inn, which is a cheap, safe, quiet, central hostel. I recall staying there for $45/night a few years ago.

I have heard good things about biking on the Iron Horse trail (I-90 an hour E of Seattle).

I really like Boise for paved trail riding (along the Boise river), and the surrounding country is desert-beautiful -- it's also dirt-cheap to stay there if you poke around on Hotwire. That's 10 hrs from the border though, which must be close to/over your limit. That said, I've done five-day trips to there from Seattle and enjoyed it immensely. It's also a cheap place to take your meals and drinks, with lots of places you can pop in and out of to get on the road.

It might blow your budget, but there's also the Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham -- you can take a boat up the Inside Passage to places like Ketchikan. I kick myself for never having done this.
posted by zvs at 8:18 PM on September 12, 2012

I lurve just about the entire Olympic Peninsula. In addition to Hurricane Ridge as someone previously mentioned, I'd also recommend The Dungeness Spit, Cape Flattery (most NW point in the US and THE most spectacular views imo), and the Ho rainforest. Heck, the entire western coast does it for me, scenery-wise. This time of year I am sure you can rustle up some whitewater rafting, horses, etc.). I second the idea that hiking alone during this time of year in many places is quite safe.

If you do go to the OlyPen, allow me to plug the best hostel I know of: ToadLily House. The proprietors are great folks, and can tell you about fun activities in the area. The accommodations are inexpensive and clean and include internet access and a full kitchen.
posted by parrot_person at 9:07 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oops: ToadLily House is in Port Angeles, close to Hurricane Ridge. Look 'em up on facebook or at
posted by parrot_person at 9:09 PM on September 12, 2012

« Older How to clean a TV screen?   |   What are the pluses and minuses of moving to Italy... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.