The Best Outdoor Activities in Vancouver, WA: Exploring Nature's Playground


Are you ready to explore Vancouver, WA? Nestled in the stunning Pacific Northwest and conveniently located near Portland, Oregon, this vibrant city offers a multitude of outdoor activities that will ignite your sense of adventure. From the awe-inspiring Columbia River Gorge to the serene parks and rich historic sites, Vancouver beckons you to discover nature’s playground. 

Vancouver, WA is home to 40 trails covering over 200 miles, providing ample opportunities for hiking, biking, and exploring. And, with Vancouver having one of the highest ratios of parkland to residents in the United States, it’s no wonder why outdoor enthusiasts flock to this area. 


Discover the Columbia River Gorge  

The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It is up to 4,000 feet deep and stretches for over eighty miles as the river winds westward through the Cascade Range, forming the boundary between the state of Washington to the north and Oregon to the south. On the Washington side of the gorge there are many exciting stops to make while cruising Highway 14 toward the Bridge of the Gods. Take a free tour of the Pendleton Woolen Mill to witness the process of creating Native American-inspired blankets. Stretch your legs at Cape Horn Overlook or have a picnic at Beacon Rock State Park. Climb the 1.6-mile trail to the top of Beacon Rock for a panoramic view of the Gorge. Cross the Bridge of the Gods to visit Bonneville Lock and Dam to explore historical exhibits, a visitor center, and a fish ladder viewing station. Meet Herman the Sturgeon, an 11-foot-long, 500-pound, 70-year-old white fish! For adrenaline seekers, there are heart-thumping activities such as hiking, mountain biking at Coyote Wall, and water sports like kiteboarding, windsurfing, and stand-up paddleboarding on the Columbia River. 



Embrace Serenity at Esther Short Park 

Find solace in the heart of Vancouver at Esther Short Park, offering a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Immerse yourself in the peaceful ambiance of the oldest public square in Washington. The park covers 5 acres and contains a clock tower, gazebo, large picnic shelter/stage, playground, rose garden, walking paths, and a seasonal water feature. Spread out a blanket on the lush green lawns and indulge in a leisurely picnic, or explore the vibrant Vancouver Farmers Market held within the park. Let the cheerful chirping of birds and the gentle rustling of trees envelop you in a tranquil embrace. If you’re in town toward the end of July, check out The Craft Beer and Wine Fest, held in the park.


Unleash Your Inner Explorer at Mount St. Helens 

Embark on a journey to Mount St. Helens, a historically significant volcano that will awaken your inner explorer. With the third longest lava tube in the continental United States, the renowned Ape Cave, this mountain promises an exhilarating adventure for nature enthusiasts. Strap on your hiking boots and enter the captivating darkness of the Ape Cave, navigating through its volcanic tunnel adorned with remnants of past eruptions. As you emerge into daylight, a breathtaking view of the majestic volcano awaits, leaving you with a profound appreciation for the forces of nature. 


Connect with Nature at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site  

Immerse yourself in nature’s beauty while exploring the historic Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Fort Vancouver was an important Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) fur trading post that was established in 1824. Beyond its historical significance, this site features enchanting gardens and orchards that surround the reconstructed fort. Take a leisurely stroll through the gardens, where fragrant flowers bloom and towering trees provide shade. Discover the harmony between history and nature as you marvel at the serenity of this remarkable site. 


Get Active at Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park  

Indulge in a day of outdoor fun and activities at Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park. Located along the scenic banks of the Columbia River, this 120-acre park opened in 1997 and offers stunning views and a myriad of recreational opportunities. A 2.5-mile trail connects the park to Vancouver Lake Regional Park. The park is named after Paul Hauray, a Frenchman who bound out to engage in fur trading in Alaska. Fleeing intolerable conditions, Hauray jumped ship and made his way to Astoria to work in the salmon canneries. Wanting to increase his wealth above that of a low-paid cannery worker, he perused the shoreline of the Columbia River for an ideal fish netting location and in 1915 he purchased land five miles downstream from Fort Vancouver.  


Pedal through Scenic Trails at Vancouver Lake Regional Park 

Experience the beauty of Vancouver’s outdoors by pedaling through the scenic trails of Vancouver Lake Regional Park. Boasting an extensive trail system, this park caters to walkers, runners, and cyclists alike. Rent a bike or bring your own and embark on a picturesque journey through the surrounding wetlands and along the tranquil Vancouver Lake. Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of nature as you revel in the beauty of the park’s diverse landscapes. 


Seek Tranquility at Lacamas Lake Regional Park 

Lacamas Regional Park is a 312-acre hidden gem that offers something for everyone: fishing, hiking, canoeing, bird-watching, and even cliff-jumping! You can explore the trails around Round Lake and Lacamas Lake, where you might spot deer, beavers, osprey, and bald eagles. You can also admire the beautiful Camas Lilies that bloom in spring, giving the park its name. And if you’re feeling brave, you can take a plunge into the refreshing water at Pothole Falls, where the rocks have been carved by Lacamas Creek. 


A Few More Interesting Attractions 


Devil-ish Little Things Museum 

The Devil-ish Little Things Museum is a hidden gem in Vancouver, WA. The museum is home to a collection of over 10,000 novelty objects, mostly European, depicting devils, satyrs, krampuses, and other horned creatures. The collection was started by Marion Held, a special effects artist who has been collecting these objects for over 30 years. 


The Old Apple Tree Park 

The Old Apple Tree Park is located in Vancouver, Washington and is home to the oldest apple tree in the Pacific Northwest. The tree was planted in 1826 on Fort Vancouver land and is considered the matriarch of Washington State’s apple industry. Unfortunately, the Old Apple Tree died in 2020 at the age of 194 but its history lives on through saplings that share its genetic makeup. The park intersects with the Discovery Historic Loop Trail via the Confluence Land Bridge. 



Vancouver, WA is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting a wide array of activities that cater to all interests and skill levels. So, pack your hiking boots, grab your camera, and embark on your own adventure in the great outdoors of this Pacific Northwest gem. With its stunning landscapes, abundant parkland, and historical sites, this city beckons you to explore and connect with nature. Get ready to create unforgettable memories and experience the magic of Vancouver’s outdoor wonders.  

About the Author: Derek Hines

About the Author: Derek Hines

Digital Marketing Specialist

Derek is originally from the great state of Wisconsin (go Badgers), but is slowly becoming a Pacific Northwesterner. As part of the Digital Marketing team, he writes extensively on storage, moving and life for West Coast Self-Storage, based in Everett, Washington.