Vancouver, Washington, just north of Portland, is one of the greenest and most accessible cities in the Pacific Northwest. Situated between the infamous Cascade Mountains and Columbia River, and close to the Puget Sound, Vancouver encourages visitors of all ages and ability to explore nature. Even downtown Vancouver hosts opportunities to engage with both its historical and natural history.
The first downtown Vancouver nature experience for any visitor should be Esther Short Park. This accessible landscape is the oldest Public Square in Washington State, having been founded in 1853, and is home to the Salmon Run Bell Tower. Several prominent downtown hotels, bars, and restaurants also line the exterior of the park.
Urban visitors seeking a little more outdoor exposure with their serving of history are encouraged to visit the National Historic Site of Fort Vancouver downtown. Fort Vancouver along the bank of the Columbia River where sprawling views of mountains are captured. Fort Vancouver is not your average doughty military history site, but instead, tourists can engage in representations of what life was like in the 19th century, including dressing up in costume and being engaged through living-history performances. Other educational activities like archaeology and walking trails connected to the adventures of Lewis and Clark also stem from Fort Vancouver.
One of these related trails would be the Vancouver Land Bridge. This is a significant place for the people of Washington is it connects Lewis and Clark with the Klickitat Trail. Visitors have the opportunity to traverse a grassy pedestrian bridge that stands to represent the European trading that took place in the Pacific Northwest through the 1800s. The bridge takes visitors from Fort Vancouver over to the Columbia River. Along the bridge, visitors will also find indigenous plants, views of mountains and the Columbia River, and opportunities to reflect on Vancouver’s Native American legacy.
For the truly urban visitor, Officer’s Row near downtown is the perfect destination. Vancouver continues its efforts in preserving its history, and this is evident when touring the 22 restored homes from the 1800s that compose Officer’s Row, and which were originally home to American army officers. The homes, now part of the National Historic register, include the Ulysses S. Grant House, constructed in 1850 as the first home on Officer’s Row. While some homes are private residences, visitors will have the opportunity to tour several exhibits, including the Ulysses S. Grant House.
For those looking for a truly immersive nature-inspired experience, a popular destination is a now extinct volcano called Silver Star Mountain, also part of the Cascade Mountain range. From the peak, hikers have an unobstructed view of the region and the opportunity to survey Vancouver, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, and neighboring Portland. Nearby, nature and animal enthusiasts can enjoy Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge which is a popular destination and winter habitat for Canadian geese. Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is home to dozens of distinct species across 5,300 acres comprised of grasslands, forests, and wetlands. This is the perfect place for bird watchers as the temperate Vancouver climate offers a home to native species as well as wintering waterfowl and neotropical songbirds.
Outside of downtown Vancouver, naturalists and explorers can further diversify their experiences by venturing to Moulton Falls Regional Park which is home to two waterfalls across 387 acres of natural history. The forested park sits atop volcanic formations, traditional Native American land, and several bridges from which to obtain views of the scenic landscape. Additionally, for advanced swimmers, there are varying access points to rivers for swimming.
For industrialists and historians, another great Vancouver spot is the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, a working museum. This mill runs its day-to-day activities in the same way it would have accomplished them in the year it was built, 1876. The mill still produces flour, cornmeal, and cider through hydraulic power without the use of gas or electricity.
After a long day of the nature-inspired urban and rural landscape, visitors to Vancouver can partake in one of the Pacific Northwest’s common pastimes by relaxing and immersing themselves in the booming beer scene. Vancouver host more than 24 taprooms and breweries. There are also beer tours, including the Couve Cycle tour, available so hops enthusiasts can experience the best of Vancouver.
Overall, Vancouver offers more than the average city. This city boasts excitement for preserving the natural beauty of the land, combined with a creative focus on the future. Visiting Vancouver is not only accessible, but affordable, and green!