With vaccines rolling out, cleaning protocols solidified as mainstay daily procedures, and socially-distant PNW adventures waiting to be had, it may be time to start planning that spring break road trip or summer weekend getaway to Vancouver USA.

Choose a regional outdoor area, book your hotel, and take a much-needed and long-awaited vacation!

Coyote Wall in the Columbia River Gorge

Outdoor Spot: Columbia River Gorge

What to Do: Whether you head out for a simple scenic drive or an exhilarating excursion, the 80-mile Columbia River Gorge is a sight to see, and one of the Pacific Northwest’s true wild wonders. Choose to stay close to the car with picturesque stops, like the Cape Horn Overlook or Dog Creek Falls just off Highway 14, or plan for a day-long hike to see the fields of spring wildflowers along Dog Mountain Trail (be sure to get a $1 trail permit if you plan to hike on a weekend between mid-April and mid-June) or Coyote Wall (pictured above; also popular for mountain biking).

Take a stroll through the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, a peaceful birder’s paradise, in Washougal on your way back to town, and take a pit stop in Camas for quaint small-town boutiques and eats.    

Where to Stay: Book a hotel in east Vancouver, surrounded by family-friendly restaurants and post-adventure activities. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Camas-Vancouver promises deep cleaning with hospital-grade disinfectants and other science-led protocols. The relatively new Best Western Premier offers modified grab-and-go breakfast service, along with industry-leading cleaning standards as part of their new “We Care Clean” program.

Mt St Helens

Outdoor Spot: Mount St. Helens

What to Do: Another Pacific Northwest gem right in Vancouver’s backyard, Mount St. Helens attracts a variety of visitors from the casual mountainous scene viewer to the thrill-seeking backpacker looking to circumnavigate an active volcano. Stop off at pull-outs along the road to Hummocks Trail, a mostly flat and short path, for clear views of Mount St. Helens. Picnic at Coldwater Lake (pictured in header photo) across the street, or go to the end of WA-504 to find the Johnston Ridge Observatory in the heart of the blast zone.

Remain on the south side of the volcano with a drive through the small town of Cougar (a good spot to stop and purchase permits if needed) for access to Ape Cave, a safe underground hiking experience, or the starting point to a spring or summer summit at Climbers Bivouac (this permit must be purchased online ahead of time).

Where to Stay: Make Vancouver your home base by staying in a hotel on the northern side of the city. The Holiday Inn Express in Salmon Creek has similar cleaning protocols as the Holiday Inn mentioned above, and is located near the Cougar Trails at Washington State University’s Vancouver campus and the ilani casino for a post-hike unwind. The Quality Inn & Suites, located next to the Clark County Fairgrounds, shares its commitment to clean and safety with a redesigned housekeeping program and personal hand sanitizer for all guests.

Moulton Falls Bridge

Outdoor Spot: Moulton Falls

What to Do: In search of waterfalls, mountain biking trails, or a flat stroll along a river? Head to Moulton Falls Regional Park to be surrounded by towering trees and picture-perfect bridges (above). On hot days, swim in the chilly Lewis River and jump from rocks carved by early lava flows. If you prefer to stay above water, find the Bells Mountain Trail for a long hike or premier mountain biking.

Check out more spots on the Northern Clark County Scenic Drive with stops at the Cedar Creek Grist Mill and the Pomeroy Living History Farm (when open for events or wine tasting).

Where to Stay: Stay in a central location, like at one of the Sonesta ES Suites that boast the 2020 AAA Inspector’s Best of Housekeeping title for surpassing cleanliness and condition expectations. Or find a cozy escape at The Heathman Lodge, which installed a revolutionary air purifying system that removes up to 90 percent of COVID-19 and provides cleaner, safer air in all areas of the hotel.

Wildlife Wonder

Outdoor Spot: Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

What to Do: Just north of Vancouver lies the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge—200 acres of marshes, lakes, and grassland offering a myriad of activities. Take the driving route on the River ‘S’ Unit (self-driven) Auto Tour, or walk the Kiwa Seasonal Trail and Oaks to Wetlands Trail for a breath of fresh air. Get even closer to the natural sights by kayaking through the area with your eyes peeled for Sandhill Cranes and bald eagles. Keep exploring to find the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, which tells the story of the area’s first inhabitants.

Nearby, Whipple Creek Park offers 4.3 miles of dirt trails among massive Douglas fir trees. Not far from cityscapes, it is truly a natural oasis easily accessed by urban dwellers.

Where to Stay: The brand new My Place Vancouver Hotel was opened in compliance with its “Always Clean” initiative standards, including hand sanitizing stations, regularly disinfected common areas, and touchless check out. A bit farther away, TownePlace Suites by Marriott consults with its Cleanliness Council that works with in-house and external experts to redefine safety measures regarding infection prevention, hotel operations, and food and water safety.

Ilchee Statue

Outdoor Spot: Urban Trails & Parks

What to Do: While we are the fourth largest city in Washington, you wouldn’t know it walking through Vancouver’s accessible downtown and cute surrounding neighborhoods. If you gain energy from a buzzing city center, check out one of Vancouver’s many trails covering more than 20 miles for walkers, runners, and bicyclists, or one of the city’s 90 parks and 20 natural areas.

Paved trails worth noting are the Columbia River Waterfront Renaissance Trail, the Salmon Creek Greenway Trail, and the Discovery Historic Loop that snakes through the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Parks like Vancouver Lake, Frenchman’s Bar, and Lewisville all contain perfect walking paths fit for the whole family.

Where to Stay: Pick lodging close to downtown and the waterfront, such as Hilton Vancouver WA or Homewood Suites by Hilton – both of which follow the Hilton CleanStay program that builds on the already rigorous cleaning standards in partnership with RB, the maker of Lysol and Dettol.