How to PNW Picnic
The weather is one of our finest assets in the Northwest. We have a temperate climate conditioned by the ocean and the mountains, making for a comfortable outdoor experience most any time of the year.
A little cloud cover and a cool breeze go well with a fresh meal, a fine beverage, and some breathtaking scenery.
Here’s everything you need to plan the perfect PNW picnic.
1. WHERE TO GET FRESH FOOD/DRINK
Before hitting the trail you might want to stock up with something that’s not freeze-dried chili. You need the energy of real food, preferably harvested, plucked, or brewed locally in the environs just north of Seattle.
Here are some of the best choices for dining al fresco luxuries.
Sno-Isle Natural Foods Co-op, Everett
2804 Grand Ave, Everett, WA 98201
Located in a historic building in downtown Everett, the “co-op” as the locals simply call it, is the best place to taste the bounty of Seattle NorthCountry. Most of the produce comes from the surrounding farms and river valleys of Snohomish County. I recommend their selection of fine cheeses and to-go containers of fresh deli salads. Local fruit changes with the seasons and a simple side of washed apples or grapes can you give you a boost of flavorful energy for the hike back to the car.
Garden Treasures, Arlington
3328 WA-530, Arlington, WA 98223
Headed out to the north leg of the Mountain Highway Loop? Stop at this roadside stand for fresh fruit, cheese, honey, assorted snacks and beverages--- tuck a few of these items in your rucksack for later. Most of the food literally comes from the fields surrounding this just-off-the-road barn.
2. BEST PICNIC BETS
Where to start? Seattle NorthCountry is full of natural grandeur, so great views are a dime a dozen. Here are the best bets, based on views and places to seek refuge when it rains.
Big Four Ice Caves, Mountain Loop Highway
Follow the Mountain Loop Highway through the foothills of the Cascades to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The Big Four Ice Caves are one of the most spectacular places to visit in the region and they’re a mere mile hike from the road. The path to the caves follows a mild incline, not at all challenging for amateur hikers or even families.
A word of caution: please don’t venture too near to the caves. There are multiple signs on the trail warning you of this. The ice caves can and have collapsed. It’s important to keep your distance as you spread out your picnic blanket and enjoy the naturally refrigerated air wafting out of the Pacific Northwest mountains.
Legion Memorial Park, Everett
145 Alverson Blvd, Everett, WA 98201
If you like sweeping views of the Salish Sea and don’t want to hike a billion miles, visit Legion. The place has historical significance and was once considered sacred by the first peoples of the area. It’s not hard to see why when you visit. From the vantage point on a bluff you can gaze out at Gedney, Whidbey, and Camano Islands. Watch the mouth of the Snohomish River filter into the Salish Sea. Legion also has a covered picnic area with grills if a rain squall unexpectedly kicks up (it happens quite a bit).
Need to supplement your picnic packings with an organic pastry or espresso? Stop at nearby Cafe Zippy (1502 Rucker Ave, Everett, WA 98201) en route for fine organic treats.
Mukilteo Beach, Mukilteo
3rd St, Mukilteo, WA 98275
A place with covered picnicking area is never a bad idea in these parts. Mukilteo Beach makes the list of great places to picnic because it has it all: driftwood, saltwater, panoramic views of islands, a boat launch, lighthouses, and ferries. And it’s got covered picnic areas with little grills.
The park also has a playground for kids and a seasonal farmers market. If you get there during the farmers market, why not add some kettle corn or fresh Washington cherries to your meal?
Al Borlin Park, Monroe
615 Simons Rd, Monroe, WA 98272
Picnicking next to a river is fun. Picnicking right on the river is even more fun. When the weather heats up the sandbars of the Skykomish River are easily accessible from the river bank. It makes for a scenic little meal, right there in a riparian zone with the mountains and the river flowing past.
After a day on the water or in the mountains it’s nice to come back to a clean hotel in an urban context. There are plenty of places to stay in the coastal communities of Seattle NorthCountry. Take your weekend trip as an excuse to spend the night and explore up-and-coming Everett (home of international toymaker Funko), or stroll the small boutiques and bistros of waterfront Edmonds.
Book hotels and other accommodations here.