Winning tip: Cape Flattery, Washington state
On a stormy day, dramatic tree-covered cliffs and rocky outcrops being pounded by the surf with cormorants swirling in the wind make the short hike to Cape Flattery well worth the effort. On the Olympic peninsula, and forming part of the Makah Reservation, it’s the northwesternmost point of the contiguous US. From the car park (permits available in nearby Neah Bay), the trail leads through the forest on a mixture of gravel paths and boardwalks. These lead to three viewing platforms from which you can enjoy views of all sides of the point. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to see whales and otters.
Port Angeles on the north side of Olympic national park is a great place for whale-watching trips. Most companies offer a guarantee of whale sightings, so plan a few days in the area for a repeat sailing – you can explore the park while you’re there. There are resident orcas in the strait and seeing them is an amazing sight, especially if they come close or are breaching.
I knew the Pacific Northwest was famous for its rain but I didn’t know I could visit a living rainforest. The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic national park is stunning and well signed, accessible trails make it easy to get into the forest itself. From the visitor’s centre, the Hall of Mosses trail is an easy three-quarter-mile walk so green and lush it’s almost surreal. Moss coats everything from the ground either side of the path to the trunks of the tall maple and spruce trees surrounding you. Looking up you can even see the deep green cover dripping down from the branches above. Camping is available at the ranger’s station near the visitor centre and at sites deeper in the forest for longer trails.
Beautiful wilderness escape
The southern shores of Chelan lake in central Washington state offer water sports in summer, a peaceful retreat in winter, and wineries to explore all year. But the real jewel of this deep, 55-mile lake is its fjord-like northern end and the tiny settlement of Stehekin. One of the most remote places in the US, Stehekin is only accessible by boat and float-plane from the town of Chelan. You can rent a cabin or stay at the rustic North Cascade Lodge (from $151 a night) and relax in the heart of the wilderness (no mobile signal – yay!).
Rachel S Imper
The creation of Troll Haven is as fantastic as the place itself: a Californian engineer made his fortune by selling a hinge to Boeing and channelled his love of Tolkien into creating this 150 acre-mystic sanctuary. Staying in the Gatekeepers Castle with its own private beach costs $800 a night, but for day trips there are regular garden and home tours of all the buildings, carvings and sculptures, and as the site contains a working farm from August to November you can pick fruit and vegetables daily (don’t miss the homemade organic cider).
Seafood in Seattle
As water shapes Seattle’s identity – either sea, river, rain or in beer – its seafood should be celebrated and the Walrus and Carpenter pub is where locals head for a quick plate of oysters and a city brewed ale. It’s bright and modern inside, although the chandelier looks like it’s been recovered from the Titanic. Freshly caught oysters, salmon and mussels are ordered by name. At the end of happy hour, around 6pm, the Walrus is buzzing with conversation: tables of strangers unite and high bar stools edge closer. It helps if you are a Seattle Mariners fan or simply want to understand baseball, as I did!
Heliskiing in the American Alps
In north central Washington near Winthrop, is a little-known outfit called North Cascade Heliski. Its licence terrain is wild and spectacular, with peaks close to 3,000 metres and annual snow fall sometimes over 15 metres. The company offers daily or extended packages, with most guests staying at the homey Freestone Inn in nearby Mazama. This has a “cowboy boots off, ski boots on” ambience, very refreshing and unassuming. You get as much vertical as you can handle and better snow conditions than in the coastal resorts.
In a rainforest surrounded by some of the largest trees in the world, the old-fashioned Lake Quinault Lodge is traditional yet relaxed enough for jeans and a (must-have) rain jacket.
• Doubles from $100, quinaultrainforest.com
The Three Pools in the Opal Creek Wilderness east of Salem are possibly the most beautiful mountain lakes in the whole state of Oregon. You will find a secluded and tranquil haven of pure natural beauty. Great for swimming and cliff-jumping.
River tubing round the Bend
Ah, Bend. Year-round sunshine, perfect temperatures and access to pretty much any outdoor sport you can think of, including river tubing. You can rent your tube easy-peasy in River Bend Park and float your way down the Deschutes river, passing the famous brewery and on to some controlled rapids for a fun finish. Water-park rides simply cannot compare.
Of all the US states I’ve visited, Oregon stands alone in terms of its beauty and range of activities. Most amazing was the drive to pinot noir country along the Willamette Highway, with view after view around every corner. We’ve done wine tasting in many parts of the world, but here in Oregon it’s relaxed and unstuffy and the wine is outstanding. A couple of nights in McMinneville to explore the likes of Youngberg and Brooks wineries is an absolute must!
Eugene: fabulous laid-back college town
Follow the Willamette river from Portland by taking the Amtrak – quick, before Trump axes it. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one of the long-distance epic services from Canada to LA, hitching a ride for a few hours before alighting at Eugene’s tiny station. Pick an Airbnb near the university or one of the usual chains downtown. Rent a bike and idle down by the river. Pay homage to runner Steve Prefontaine in Hendricks Park, then go for craft beer and Thai food in a downtown eatery. Up in the mountains you can ski in powder as late as April. A more liveable small town is difficult to imagine.
An inland Oregon trail
Venture inland beyond Bend towards Baker City to see ghost towns and yesteryear cowboy towns such as Mitchell, John Day and Unity. Touring bikers can be seen lovingly polishing their Harleys like stockmen tending their horses. Route 26 makes its way through spectacular lush forests, the Painted Hills, the John Day Fossil Beds and other-worldly canyons and plains. Loop to Portland via Pendleton and I-84 alongside dramatic mountains, the Columbia river and tourist towns like Hood River.
Hiker/cyclist-friendly campsites can be found in most of Oregon’s state parks and are also dotted along the coast. If you arrive on foot or by bicycle you don’t need a reservation, will only be charged about $5 a night, and staff will always try to find you a spot if they can. Hassle-free, quiet camping in the most beautiful parts of Oregon… What’s not to love?
Chilling in Cape Kiwanda
I went on a great road trip in Oregon a while back, inland from Portland as far as Crater Lake. Still snow there in June! We came back along the stunning coastline. The highlight was Cape Kiwanda, where there’s a beautiful sandy beach with a pub (Pelican Brewing ) plus a great place to stay overlooking it all, the Inn at Cape Kiwanda (doubles from $159).
The greatest breakfast I ever had
Astoria is a small fishing port sitting on the mouth of the Columbia in Oregon. It’s seen better days and if you love the Goonies it’s a must, but the thing that stood out was the breakfast at the Astoria Coffee House & Bistro (on 11th Street), specifically the Willapa Bay oyster hash ($13.95). Oysters fried – so both salty and fatty – with hash, poached eggs and hollandaise. I still dream about it and I’ve never seen it on a menu anywhere else…