Nestled between the snow-covered Cascade Mountains and the rushing Columbia River on the Washington/Oregon border, Vancouver, Washington, is defined by its natural beauty.
Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline-fueled hike to a breathtaking vista or a tranquil retreat to a hidden waterfall or other natural wonder, exploration is at the heart of the Vancouver’s historic appeal. So, pack your bags and strap on your hiking boots to discover the great outdoors and the many things to do in Vancouver.
History and Natural Beauty Meet in Vancouver
The oldest city in Washington, Vancouver was established as the main western trading outpost of the British Hudson’s Bay Company in the early 19th century. Since then the city has continued to center its culture on its incredible natural resources as it evolved into the largest suburb of Portland, Oregon.
Unlike any other urban skyline, Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Jefferson and Mount Adams are all visible from the city. The Columbia River Gorge, Moulton Falls, and countless other natural wonders are also at arm’s reach, with each offering a bevy of recreational activities and ways to sightsee.
Hike or Bike the Many Parks and Trails
There are countless reasons why hiking and biking are pastimes of the Vancouver area. Regardless of the season, there is no wrong way to join in on the adventure.
Mount Saint Helens alone offers a variety of activities just an hour and a half away from the city. Stop by the Johnston Ridge Observatory to watch videos and speak to park rangers about the historic volcano eruption in 1980 and check the schedule for the Music on the Mountain concert series for a chance to take in the amazing views while enjoying a live performance. During winter visit the Marble Mountain Sno-Park on the south side of the mountain for a snowmobile ride, wintry hike, or cross-country ski trek into the lush forests.
Beyond Mount Saint Helens, there is a range of other places to hike and explore around Vancouver. Whipple Creek Regional Park offers climbs for people of all skill levels to enjoy, while those with a little more experience can take on the five to ten-mile hike to the top of Silver Star Mountain with a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. Hamilton Mountain and Dog Mountain require a little more mental and physical strength but pay that off in beautiful views during the spring and summer months.
If you’re more comfortable on two wheels, grab your bike and hit one of the many trails in and around the city. The Columbia River Waterfront Renaissance Trail is a five-mile, paved route lined with restaurants, sculptures, and historical markers. Frenchman’s Bar Park is a beautiful coastal run with views of the Columbia River and Vancouver Lake, while the 3.5-mile Lacamas Heritage Trail is a great way to the shoreline of the Lacamas Lake. Adventurous mountain bikers can take on the Bells Mountain Trails, which starts with a gorgeous view from the top of the trail followed an electrifying 1.5-mile downhill ride to Moulton Falls Regional Park.
Dip Your Toes in the Water
Once you’ve explored the trails, take your kayak, canoe, or paddle board out to explore the abundance of watersports on the rivers and lakes around Vancouver.
The beautiful Columbia River Gorge, a 70-mile river stretch cut through the Cascade Mountains known as the Bridge of the Gods, is a popular destination for kiteboarding, windsurfing, and stand-up paddleboards. There you’ll also find the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum that tells about the gorge’s natural and cultural history. This is a great, budget-friendly, activity for families. Moulton Falls is a less crowded but still picturesque rival to the Columbia River Gorge. Lacamas Lake and the Washougal River are also great spots for a relaxing paddle in a kayak or canoe.
With over 3,000 miles of tidal shoreline, Vancouver is also a go-to destination for fisherman. Pitch a tent near Battle Ground Lake and fish for rainbow and coastal cutthroat trout, or spend some time at Vancouver Lake Park, the Lewis River, and Horseshoe Lake. Klineline Pond is stocked yearly with rainbow and brown trout, so it is a great destination for families and first-timers.
Unplug and Unwind on a Relaxing Stroll through Nature
Vancouver also boasts a number of more relaxing ways to dive into nature. Bring your binoculars or camera to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge to catch a glimpse of the elusive western finch and other native birds or walk in the footsteps of the legendary Lewis and Clark in Captain William Clark Park.
The Northern Clark County Scenic Drive is a great day trip with exceptional views, which you can cap off with a free concert at the city’s Six to Sunset series in Esther Short Park in the heart of downtown.
With millions of acres of natural beauty to explore, your next great outdoor adventure awaits in Vancouver, Washington.