Active Adventure: Sun Chaser Weekends
Updated October 4, 2019
Each fall, Northwest days get shorter, grayer and wetter this time of year, luring even some of the heartiest souls inside with the promise of a roaring hearth or a steaming cup of java. For those who refuse to heed that seasonal siren call, there is light on the horizon.
It comes from the sunnier spots on the map. Towns that bask in blue skies long after Portland and Seattle have packed away their shades for the year. These are places where the running, cycling, hiking, climbing and other activities don’t really ever have to yield to the season.
If you’re into chasing the sun — or cycling after it or hiking in it — these places may be just what you’re looking for.
They don’t call it “Sunny Sequim” for nothing. This small town 65 miles northwest of Seattle sits in the Olympic Mountains rain shadow and receives just a fraction of the Northwest’s notorious rain. As a result, conditions are almost always nice for a bike ride on the Olympic Discovery Trail or a mountain bike romp up the Burnt Hill trail. The area is also home to three golf courses and nice day hikes like the Lower Dungeness Trail and the Gray Wolf Trail.
With more than 300 sunny days per year, Wenatchee basks in sunshine all year-round. Road runners will enjoy the 10.5-mile Apple Capital Loop trail, which crosses the Columbia River twice, while trail runners will relish the hills and views of Devil’s Spur and Sage Hills. Drop a kayak or canoe into the Columbia at Wenatchee Confluence State Park or pedal your way up and down the 16 miles of Joe Miller Road for expansive river views and a heart-thumping workout.
Nearby: Also check out Leavenworth, 25 miles northwest, which features hiking and climbing along Icicle Creek.
Portland snowbirds often head to this sunny central Oregon town for a little off-season weekend brightness. String together a portion of the Deschutes River Trail for a scenic run or walk, or hike the 2-mile loop to the top of Pilot Butte for incredible Cascade views. When winter comes, the snow here is a lighter powder than in other parts of Oregon, which makes for great downhill skiing at Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort or more than 25 miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails at Meissner Nordic’s.
Just about 20 miles east of the Gorge from Hood River, The Dalles boasts 300 days of sunshine a year and half as much rain as its nearby neighbor. Walk, run or bike the city’s relatively new 10-mile Riverfront Trail, which runs along the southern banks of the Columbia River. A great nearby hike is the 6.5-mile Memaloose Hills Loop. You can also find bouldering and rock climbing just across the river at Horse Thief Butte.