Best in Northwest
Lonely Planet names Top 15 destinations
No doubt about it, the country is catching on 1 to the fact that the Pacific Northwest is one of the top spots in the USA to find scenic, unique travel destinations worthy of an extended visit. Now, Lonely Planet has come up with what they consider to be the Top 15 attractions in the region.

San Juan Islands, Washington: Lonely Planet says "sailing to the San Juan archipelago is like entering another world; a greener, cleaner America where bark-stripped madrone trees outnumber buildings and cars play second fiddle to bicycles." Excellent ferry service helps make them accessible to the non-boaters, and several charming communities await exploration.

Mt Rainier, Washington: "At 14,411 feet, majestic Rainier is the Cascades’ highest peak and a longstanding northwestern icon," Lonely Planet says. Attractions here are the hiking trails, gorgeous meadows and incredible mountain views.

Seattle, Washington: "The largest city in the Pacific Northwest also happens to be a perfect distillation of all the great things the region has going for it." Not hard to see why Seattle was picked with its parks, natural beauty, music scene, restaurants and world-class hotels.

Vancouver, British Columbia: "It’s Western Canada’s largest city, a magnet for 8.7 million annual visitors and best known around the world as a utopia of joie de vivre ringed by dense waterfront forest and looming snow-topped mountains." Even more beautiful than Seattle, Vancouver has a mountain backdrop that is unbelievably scenic and attractions such as Stanley Park, Granville Island and lots of funky neighborhoods.

Portland, Oregon: Portland "hums with a youthful vitality and personal style that aren’t easy to pigeonhole," the Lonely Planet says. The city is an appealing mix of the outdoors and the sophisticated with fun neighborhoods and a decidedly outdoorsy population.

Crater Lake, Oregon: This is Oregon's only national park and is in fact the USA's deepest lake. The views are incredible.

Victoria & Vancouver Island, British Columbia: "Vancouver Island is laced with colorful, often eccentric settlements...Picture-postcard Victoria, the capital of British Columbia and the island’s main city, was long-touted as North America’s most English city," Lonely Planet says.

Oregon Coast, Oregon: "Rocky headlands loom high above the ocean, providing astounding vistas, while craggy rocks lie scattered along the shoreline like oceanic sentinels." A drive up or down the coast is a winner any time of the year.

Mt St Helens, Washington: Who can forget the events of May 18, 1980? Lonely Planet says "a visit to Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument will demonstrate how nature has restored much life to the mountain, although the devastation wreaked by the explosion is still hauntingly evident."

Olympic National Park, Washington: Lonely Planet points to "350 miles of wild, storm-lashed beaches along with some of the country’s most untainted and pristine rural ecosystems." The Olympic National Park is the most popular attration on the peninsula with mountains, forests, trails and incredible views.

Mt Hood, Oregon: It's Oregon's highest peak and Lonely Planet points out that "in summer wildflowers bloom on the mountainsides and hidden ponds shimmer in blue, making for some unforgettable hikes; in winter, downhill and cross-country skiing dominates people’s minds and bodies."

John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon: These fossil beds are up to 50 million years old, and the animals depicted here will amaze.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon: Separating Washington and Oregon, the Columbia Gorge offers gorgeous scenery that ranges from high mountain walls to almost desert-like conditions to the east. Closer to Portland, the waterfalls are plentiful and hiking trails abound.

Yakima Valley, Washington: It's all about the Yakima River, and if you just follow the water you find "a lucrative agricultural industry that churns out copious amounts of cherries, hops, vegetables and peaches, along with the world’s largest yield of apples."

Ashland Oregon: More than 100,000 people each year come to Ashland's Shakespeare Festival, which now runs nine months each year. Looking for something unique? This is it.
PHOTOS: Ferry near San Juan Islands
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