The Pacific Northwest stretches across Oregon, Washington, the Canadian province of British Columbia and — perhaps — areas like Idaho and northern California, depending on who you ask. But regardless of the unofficial boundaries, the Pacific Northwest contains some of the most stunning landscapes in the world, and the summer is a great time to soak up the natural beauty.

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While parts of the Pacific Northwest, like Seattle, are known for being expensive, you can still take affordable vacations in the area. In particular, if you’re taking a road trip, you can make stops that cost little to nothing, such as if you’re simply viewing natural landmarks or hiking. 

1. Visit the “Most Underrated” National Park

If you want to visit a national park this summer, consider making your way to the North Cascades National Park in Washington, near the Canadian border. It’s usually a little over two hours from Seattle and under three hours from Vancouver, and it’s full of beautiful glaciers, lakes, mountains, and more. 

As a kid, David Ciccarelli, founder and CEO of Lake.com, has fond memories of a family road trip from the East Coast to the West Coast, where they reached Sacramento and then headed to the coast for a trip northbound into the Pacific Northwest. That included visiting Mount Saint Helens in southern Washington to see the destruction of the 1980 volcano eruption, as well as going through the North Cascades.

“The entire trip took about three weeks as we camped along the way, and it was the time I first learned about national parks,” he said.

While trips like this are timeless to some extent, the glaciers in the North Cascades are retreating as the planet warms, so you might want to visit sooner rather than later.

2. Camp at Diablo Lake

You don’t have to take such a long road trip if you’re short on time, but either way, camping is a good way to save money while traveling on overnight trips. A great spot to do so is along Diablo Lake, part of the broader North Cascades National Park Complex. For example, you can book a campsite at the Colonial Creek campground for $24 per night this summer.

Driving to Diablo Lake from Seattle along State Route 20, also called the North Cascades Highway, is a scenic route recommended by Wendy Diep, co-founder and CEO of Let’s Jetty, a group travel planning app, though be prepared to lose cell service, she said.

When you reach your destination, “there are a ton of hiking trails out there from hard to easy, and of course, the beautiful lake,” added Diep.

If you want to get in the lake though, be prepared for chilly water, even in summer. Diep recommended bringing a paddle board so you don’t have to submerge yourself.

3. Island Escape from Seattle

For those looking for a short road trip if your starting point is the Seattle area, Diep also recommends Whidbey Island. Getting there can still take a few hours, as you either have to take a ferry or drive in from the north via a bridge, turning it into a roughly 125-mile trip from Seattle.

“My friends and I did a weekend there. We stopped at Greenbank Farm for food on the way; it had great to-go food along with a great selection of cheeses and bread. For what you’re getting, it’s definitely worth it,” said Diep.

For accommodations, Diep stayed at an Airbnb that had beautiful seaside views.

“Because we traveled as a group and the place was a bit on the smaller side, it was really cheap per person,” she said. “But I like that when traveling in groups sometimes; you get a more intimate feel with your close friends.

“What I loved about the trip was we were able to visit different areas on Whidbey Island; there’s wine, food, and art — sometimes all in one place — at prices that are much more affordable than Seattle itself,” she added.

“Winery visits are a must,” she added. “My favorite was Spoiled Dog; it was just so cute…and the customer service just made you feel at home.”

4. Explore a Mix of Nature and City Life in Oregon

Another great Pacific Northwest road trip is to get a taste of both urban and remote life throughout Oregon.

Suzie Palma, co-founder, chief product and growth officer of Let’s Jetty, recommended taking a trip from Cannon Beach in northwest Oregon to Crater Lake National Park in south-central Oregon.

Along the way, she suggests stopping “in Portland then looping around to hit Bend on the way back. It’s one of my favorite road trips in the Pacific Northwest because you experience a variety of beautiful landscapes from the beach to the mountains, while still getting the unique city vibes, culture, food, and craft beer that Oregon has to offer — all in one trip.”

“It’s the perfect road trip for outdoor enthusiasts/adventurers, photographers, and for anyone who enjoys great views and chill vibes,” she added.

While the city stops can be more expensive, those can be balanced by the nature ones.

“To keep it affordable, I’d opt for camping at Cannon Beach and Crater Lake, then sharing a hotel or home rental in Portland and Bend. This lets you shower and freshen up in between,” she said.

Some of Palma’s top recommendations as part of this road trip include hiking Mt. Scott, which is Crater Lake’s highest point. Also, she urges visitors to not miss out on viewing the night sky at Crater Lake — a free yet incredible experience.

Other recommendations include hiking or rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park near Bend, as well as going on a brewery tour in Bend, a city known for great beer.

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“There’s bound to be one you’ll love,” said Palma. “It’s really hard to pick a favorite but Crux stood out, not only for their beer but for their vibe with great food trucks, music, and a lawn to spread out.”

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 4 Best Frugal Road Trips in the Pacific Northwest in 2024

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