If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure in the Pacific Northwest, try this three-day itinerary through Vancouver, Washington. From exploring downtown on foot to kayaking the nearby waterways, follow writer Michael Fagin and his wife Elizabeth's low-carbon footprint adventure around Southwest Washington!
Day 1 - Around Town
Leaving our car at home was an easy decision. Do I drive from Seattle which can take over three hours, since getting through Tacoma is slow, or relax on the train for three? If you are coming from the south of Portland there is also traffic through Portland. We took the Amtrak Cascades first thing in the morning, and I relaxed with coffee and a fresh breakfast burrito from a local Seattle bakery. My wife decided to have a Baileys Irish Cream, coffee, and a turkey sandwich. We arrived in Vancouver and ordered a ride share to the Hilton downtown. Although, we could have walked the less than a mile route.
We dropped our luggage at the hotel and walked to the nearby Mighty Bowl. However, across the street from the Hilton, we saw smoke billowing from the big barrel smoker and the aroma of something wonderful. Well, we knew where our dinner was going to be: The Smokin’ Oak for some Texas-style barbecue! Our lunch was a healthy and tasty Evergreen Bowl with brown rice, grilled chicken, avocado, and much more. The best part was their famous Mighty Sauce, zesty lemon curry.
Now, time for some walking. We took a 10-minute walk down to the waterfront to explore the Columbia River Renaissance Trail, which is five miles one way. I noticed folks biking and decided that next time I will bring mine on the train; the cost is only $5.
The west side of the trail is filled with wine tasting rooms, restaurants, taprooms, and ice cream shops. Since we had just eaten a big lunch, we took notes of which places to visit tomorrow.
We turned around, walked east along the trail, and saw a cruise ship, barge, and some pleasure boats. We continued under the I-5 overpass and soon found the trail at a juncture (#17 on the map), The Old Apple Tree Park on the Discovery Historic Loop. Just for a point of reference, we could have continued east on the Columbia River Renaissance Trail but wanted to explore some history of the area.
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site was the main point of interest on this trail. It contains fascinating history. The Fort was the fur trading camp founded by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1825. You will also find the Vancouver Barracks, established by the US Army in 1849. This served as a supply depot for the Civil War and World War I. It was also the world’s largest lumber mill. There is much, much, more history, and I will need to return to visit Pearson Air Museum and Airfield, which is one of the oldest continuously operating airfields in the United States.
Three hours after this walk we returned to the hotel. I didn’t keep track of the mileage or steps; all I know is that I needed a fresh shower and to unwind for our next day on the water.
Day 2 - Hit the Water
No car, no problem. Uber whisked us off in 20 minutes to Sweetwater SUP Rentals located on Lacamas Lake. They rent kayaks and SUP (Standup Paddle Boards). We paddled the kayak around this lake and then went under a bridge to the adjoining Round Lake. Round Lake is a beautiful little lake, surrounded by woods. It was so peaceful.
Photo by A Paul Newman, courtesy of Sweetwater SUP Rentals
After several hours on the lakes, we were ready for the next adventure: Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge on the Lake River. Here we met up with the folks of Ridgefield Kayak Rentals. They have kayaks, canoes, and SUP and we opted again for a kayak. We had two choices of where to paddle and decided to head south and enjoy some of the wildlife while paddling along the shaded (at least on the sides) river. However, maybe next time we’ll paddle to the north on the Lake River to the Columbia River and around Bachelor Island. This route would require more expertise, so you might want to sign up for one of their classes or guided trips.
We were done for the day, back on Uber, and 25 minutes later at the hotel. The next day we were looking forward to doing more walking and checking out the Clark County Wine Trail.
Day 3 - The SW Washington wine scene
Big decision day, there are 36 tasting rooms in the area and we decided to spend time at just two. We proceeded to the quick walk down to the waterfront and debated which wineries to visit. We walked past Barnard Griffin Winery where winemaker Rob Griffin has been at the helm since 1983 at their flagship winery in Richland, WA. Rob’s daughter, Megan Hughes, is now a second-generation winemaker. We love their wines! However, we wanted to go somewhere different. Also on the waterfront, we went for a tasting at Maryhill Winery. It is a stunning venue with ample seating inside and on their outside patio. Their flagship winery is in the Columbia River Gorge and 100 miles east of Vancouver in Goldendale. We enjoyed the seven wines presented and the refreshing Albariño won out as our favorite on this warm summer day.
One more winery! We decided to walk north of the waterfront to the only winery that is producing wine within the city of Vancouver, Burnt Bridge Cellars. This locally owned and based winery has been making wine since 2010 and sources grapes from eastern Washington. We tasted eight different wines and my favorite was the Vantuscan. This is a Super Tuscan blend primarily of Sangiovese grape. After the tasting, we took the 15-minute walk back to the hotel. Interesting that we noticed several buses going by so if the weather does not cooperate one could jump on a bus (C-TRAN). Once at the hotel, we grabbed our luggage and quickly made it to the Amtrak Cascades to Seattle. On the train ride home, we discussed what to do next time in Vancouver.