Whether you're looking to escape for a day or you're happy to hit the open road for a longer trip, adventure awaits throughout the Pacific Northwest.
From beautiful day hikes and camping, to cities that'll have you enjoying food and wine, try one of these reasonable road trips this summer and get to know the areas around the Inland Northwest a whole lot better.
WINE, WINE FOR ANY TIMEYou've wanted to go to Walla Walla for its renowned wineries, but maybe you don't know where to start as you collect a case of wine on your visit.
Problem solved: This summer you can head about three hours southwest of Spokane and participate in the Walla Walla 12, which gives you ideas for a dozen occasions when you might want to enjoy some wine. From a steak dinner to Taco Tuesday, the smart folks in the Walla Walla Valley have created a self-guided scavenger hunt with 12 reasons to drink wine.
The idea is that with your handy sticker sheet in hand you can get help from the pros at a tasting room or winery discovering the perfect wine to drink on that occasion. Slap the sticker onto the bottle you buy so you can remember which is which later. You can order a sheet ahead of time at wallawallawine.com/walla-walla-12 or pick one up at a participating winery.
"In the Walla Walla Valley, we believe that wine pairs best with life," Robert Hansen, executive director of Walla Walla Valley Wine, says in an announcement. "Whether you are casually sipping on your patio or pulling out a bottle for a special steak dinner, the Walla Walla Valley has a wine for that."
STAR GARNET HUNTINGThe Inland Northwest is full of beautiful finds for gem hunters, including opals, agates and jasper. But perhaps the most special regional treasures are star garnets, which are found in only two places in the world: India and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.
For $15 for visitors 13 and older and $5 for kids, you can sift through piles of rocks at the Emerald Creek Garnet Area and take home up to five pounds of the gems yourself. Registration costs an extra dollar and must be done in advance online at recreation.gov.
The area has designated rock piles to sort through and a sluice box area to assist garnet seekers and is only about a two hours' drive from Spokane. It's also very close to the Emerald Creek Campground if you want to spend additional time enjoying the beautiful national forest area.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARKWhether you chill in a raft up on Bowman Lake or spend your days seeking out hikes along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park offers a huge variety of places to access nature and see some of the few remaining glaciers before they disappear forever.
This road trip will take about five hours to reach the park's west entrance, and plan on driving another hour or more to reach your campsite.
This year the park is also requiring a $2 Going-to-the-Sun Road entry ticket, which you need to reserve online at recreation.gov, on top of the national park vehicle pass. Most of the early reservations have already been swept up for the summer, but the park reserved a quarter of available permits to be released two days in advance of the date they're good for, so you can try to snag a last-minute ticket.
The extra planning will be worth it to access the views of impressive mountain peaks, swim in one of the refreshing lakes and get up-close views of wildlife like mountain goats and grizzly bears (hopefully not too up close!).
WONDERFUL WENATCHEEHave a taste for the sweeter things? Take a trip to the Wenatchee Valley and check out the bounty of Washington along the way.
Travel here midsummer and on the way you're likely to find roadside stands and farms offering cherries, apricots, peaches and other fruit, while later in the season you'll find those famous apples.
Need dining ideas? Try Anjou, an incredible bakery in Cashmere that serves delicious pastries and sandwiches made with their fresh-baked bread. Word to the wise: For the best odds of trying what you want from their limited daily selection, stop by early in the day, and remember they're only open Thursday to Sunday.
Another great stop in Wenatchee is Pybus Market, where you'll find a huge selection of artisan foods and goods. We hear that at the end of September, the market is also transformed into one of the largest dahlia displays around with the North Central Washington Dahlia Society bringing in their best flowers for the public to admire.
CHOOSE YOUR WATERFALLWho doesn't love staring at a good waterfall and listening to the roaring power that encourages an almost meditative state? With a little bit of effort and gas money, you can see some of the best falls around.
Washington's official state waterfall, Palouse Falls, plunges 200 feet over an Ice Age flood-carved landscape, making it officially taller than Niagara Falls by more than 30 feet. Palouse Falls State Park is about a two-hour drive from Spokane and offers interpretive signs, walking trails, and a picnic area where you can safely view the power of nature.
About three hours south of Spokane/Coeur d'Alene there's more beauty at Elk Creek Falls, where you'll find the tallest waterfall in Idaho among the three falls there. Take a nice 2- to 3-mile hike through this area and enjoy a picnic lunch with a view of the falls while tucked in the shade of the forested path.
MOUNTAIN COLOR RUNIf you're up for some colorful time outdoors, drive on up to Schweitzer this summer for the Huckleberry Color Fun Run & Walk on Aug. 8. The run costs $35 to $45 depending on when you register, and you can opt for either a 2.5k or 5k course.
"Run or walk through the forest and get covered with color tossed by the forest urchins," event organizers say. "All participants will receive a custom multi-use bandana/face covering, gourmet hotdog lunch, sunglasses, powder pack for the color toss, and a complementary lift ticket for after the run, valid Aug. 9 only." ♦