Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River, Washington and Oregon.

These Towns on the Pacific Coast Come Alive in Winter

When winter arrives on the Pacific Coast, the region’s small towns transform into enchanting wonderlands along the Pacific Ocean’s shore. Although most coastal towns receive little snowfall, the mild temperatures make the Pacific Coast an excellent area for outdoor adventures during the cold-weather season. Nature enthusiasts can witness the incredible spectacle of whales and northern elephant seals migrating while exploring picturesque wooded trails in towns like Cambria, California. Several seaside towns celebrate their eclectic art communities and fishing heritage during winter festivals, such as the FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon. Whether exploring coastal towns in northern Washington, central California, or throughout the coast of Oregon, these towns on the Pacific Coast come alive in winter.

Astoria, Oregon

Alderbrook neighborhood in Astoria, Oregon - Winter snowscape.

Alderbrook neighborhood in Astoria, Oregon.

Located along the Columbia River near the Pacific Ocean, Astoria experiences a winter charm with its historic architecture and natural surroundings. The town comes to life in the winter as visitors enjoy hiking and exploring the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. The park provides trails for hikers to experience what it was like for the famous explorers Merriwether Lewis and William Clark during the winter season when they explored the area. For incredible vista views of the Pacific Ocean, take the Fort to Sea Trail that begins at the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center and goes to Sunset Beach. 

For more outdoor adventures, enjoy the Astoria Riverwalk along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. In the winter, nature enthusiasts enjoy taking the 12.8-mile walk along the riverfront to view Youngs Bay and the 1,232-foot Astoria-Megler Bridge, the longest continuous truss in America. In February, the town honors its commercial fishing heritage by hosting the annual FisherPoets Gathering. Nearly 100 fishermen celebrate the fishing industry each year through poetry and song at local venues.

Port Angeles, Washington

High angle view over water, Port Angeles, Washington, USA.
High-angle view over water, Port Angeles, Washington, USA. Editorial credit: Angela Dukich /

Nestled at the foothills of the Olympic Mountains is the coastal town of Port Angeles, Washington, a hub for winter enthusiasts. One of the few coastal towns that receives snow, Port Angeles is a great base for skiing and snowshoeing along pristine forests and snow-capped peaks in Olympic National Park. Inside the park is the stunning Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area with a summit elevation of 5,240 feet. Visitors can ski and snowboard on ten trails, snow tube, and sled in Hurricane Ridge, as well as cross-country ski and snowshoe along ungroomed trails in the area. 

During the winter, downtown Port Angeles transforms into the Winter Ice Village. Cold-weather enthusiasts can ice skate on the only outdoor covered ice skating rink on the Olympic Peninsula. In December, enjoy the Wintertide Festival at Webster’s Woods Sculpture Park, part of the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center. The center showcases exhibits throughout the winter season, allowing guests to escape the cold and enjoy local works in the art gallery or view open-air art in the unique sculpture park.

Seaside, Oregon

Monument of Lewis & Clark at the End of the Trail, Seaside, Oregon.
Monument of Lewis & Clark at the End of the Trail, Seaside, Oregon.

The scenic town of Seaside, Oregon, comes alive in winter with its expansive beachfront and hiking trails. Just south of town is Ecola State Park, providing coastal trails with views of towering cliffs. One of the best trails in the park is Tillamook Head Trail, which offers a picturesque view of the famous Tillamook Lighthouse. In the winter, park visitors have the chance to see whales in the Pacific Ocean. The town is also known for its incredible winter storms over the ocean, drawing nature enthusiasts to witness the power of the sea and 50-foot waves. 

For outdoor lovers, the cold weather season is a great time to explore the nearby Saddle Mountain State Natural Area. Weather permitting, winter hikers can take the trail to the 3,290-foot summit for views of Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, and the Pacific Ocean. More hiking and winter camping are available in the 154,000-acre Clatsop State Forest, where visitors can behold snow-capped mountain peaks.

Brookings, Oregon

Drone view of Rivers RV Resort by Chetco River, Brookings, Oregon, USA.
Drone view of Rivers RV Resort by Chetco River, Brookings, Oregon, USA. Editorial credit: Manuela Durson /

Situated along the coast in southern Oregon, Brookings transforms into a winter paradise with its mild weather and sunny days. The town is a great spot for whale watching from January to March, as gray whales pass by as they migrate to Mexico. With its rugged sea stacks and forested bluffs, Harris Beach State Park offers picturesque views of the whales. Outdoor enthusiasts also enjoy exploring several trails in the park, bird-watching along several sites, and camping in the winter. 

Nestled along the edge of town is the 1.8-million-acre Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, with scenic winter hiking trails. The Chetco River runs through the forest and the seaside town, providing ample fishing for salmon and steelhead in the winter. In town, visitors enjoy the annual Winter Art and Chocolate Festival each February. The festival features works by local artists and delicious treats from chocolate makers in the area.

Mendocino, California

Back street in Mendocino, United States.
Back street in Mendocino, United States. Editorial credit: oliverdelahaye /

With a population of only 715 people, the small town of Mendocino, California, offers a serene winter getaway. A winter retreat in the coastal town includes exploring seaside cliffs, dense forests, and coastal bluffs in Mendocino Headlands State Park. Located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, the state park also offers whale watching in the winter, miles of trails to hike, and sea arches to view. Just north of town is Russian Gulch State Park, which has incredible views of redwoods and a 36-foot waterfall on its 15 miles of trails. Nature enthusiasts enjoy hiking along the park’s coastal trail for views of the incredible 200-foot sea cave known as Devil’s Punchbowl. The town is also a great area for recreational fishing in the Big River, where anglers can catch surfperch and Dungeness crabs.

Port Orford, Oregon

The barracks/office building on the left and the officer-in-charge residence on the right of the former Port Orford Coast Guard Station in Port Orford, Oregon, United States.

The barracks/office building and the officer-in-charge residence of the former Port Orford Coast Guard Station in Port Orford, Oregon, United States. By Ian Poellet, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Port Orford is located along the southern Oregon coast, known as “Oregon’s Banana Belt” due to its mild weather throughout the year. In the winter, the fishing town’s rugged coastline provides a dramatic setting for winter walks and wildlife observation. Outdoor enthusiasts can fat tire bike the 8-mile ride from the town to Cape Blanco State Park, along the state’s westernmost tip. The state park offers fishing in the Sixes River, views of the 19th-century Cape Blanco Lighthouse, and eight miles of hiking. More winter hiking is available at Port Orford Heads State Park, home to the 1934 Port Orford Lifeboat Station which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For those wanting to explore the scenic South Coast on bike, the town is a great starting point for the Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway. Bicyclists can start the nearly 61-mile bike ride at Battle Rock Park in Port Orford for possible views of migrating gray whales.

Cambria, California

 Downtown Main Street, West End, Cambria, California, USA.
 Downtown Main Street, West End, Cambria, California, USA. Editorial credit: randy andy /

Located along the coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the quaint seaside town of Cambria, California, has become a haven for outdoor adventurers, nature enthusiasts, and art lovers. From mid-November through February, visitors can witness the incredible migration of the northern elephant seals, including pups being born, along Hearst San Simeon State Park. The park also offers a 3.3-mile hiking trail that overlooks coastal bluffs and the picturesque shoreline. For more nature exploration, the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve provides eight miles of hiking trails in its Monterey pine forest and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Nearby is Moonstone Beach Park, an excellent spot for whale watching and witnessing playful sea otters. 

The charming seaside village is also known for its vibrant arts community, even in the winter. Each January, Cambria hosts the annual Art and Wine Festival, featuring art demonstrations, wine tastings, and works by local artists. In February, movie buffs delight in the Cambria Film Festival, showcasing independent romantic films from around the world.

Winter Wonders On the Pacific Coast

These small towns on the Pacific Coast come alive in winter with their charming festivals, enchanting outdoor explorations, and incredible ocean views. The region’s temperate weather allows visitors to experience outdoor adventures that typically do not take place in the winter, such as hiking, fishing, and whale watching. Whether strolling along scenic coastal trails in Mendocino, California, or experiencing winter camping in Seaside, Oregon, the Pacific Coast provides a serene winter retreat.

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