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Need Help Choosing: North Cascades / Mount Rainier / Olympic

Charlotte,NC
posts: 1
Need Help Choosing: North Cascades / Mount Rainier / Olympic

Hello,

Traveling to Seattle for first time for 6 days in August. Want to visit national park or maybe more than one. 2 people, enjoy day hikes of 4-8 miles in length (moderate, but not killer-strenuous), scenery, wildlife, etc. Recently been to Tetons, Glacier National, Ouray Colorado, Moab, etc. Not sure if one park is much better than another (of 3 in subject line). Best to settle down at only one park? Or split time between 2? Maybe all 3? Not sure if weather is different between them. Looks like a lot of distance between them. Don't mind missing one if there is plenty to do in others. Don't like wasting too much time in car. GREATLY appreciate any advice anyone can provide...will plan based on your recommendations. :) Thanks!!!

Oregon
Destination Expert
for Newport, Depoe Bay
posts: 8,351
reviews: 43
1. Re: Need Help Choosing: North Cascades / Mount Rainier / Olympic

Wash and Oreg have a lot of National Forests, so do not limit yourself to National Parks. One example of NF place is Mt St Helens, the volcano, which is a good visit, can go well with Mr Rainier for time you have. and working out of Seattle

Seattle, Wa
posts: 2,549
reviews: 30
2. Re: Need Help Choosing: North Cascades / Mount Rainier / Olympic

Choose North Cascades if you want a wilderness type experience--it's a hikers park, without all the development you find in many parks. It's some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the US. You will need to hike close to your 8 mile limit to really experience this park.

Choose Olympic if you want an incredible diversity of landscape--rainforest, wilderness beach, mountains.

Choose Rainier...well, you have to choose Rainier. :) I work for the park service and Rainier is a favorite of nearly all of us. It has everything a park should have--astounding natural features, abundant wildlife, historic buildings, the most amazing wildflower display in any national park.

Olympic gets the most visitors of the 3--it was the 6th most visited NP in 2010.

You can easily choose 2 of these with 6 days. Rainier can be a day trip from Seattle if it needs to be--I regularly do day hikes at Rainier from Seattle. The Paradise visitor center area will be crowded, but Sunrise won't be as bad, and there are plenty of trails in your mileage range that don't start at the visitor center areas that will be relatively uncrowded even on an August weekend.

Port Angeles, WA
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
posts: 6,583
reviews: 6
3. Re: Need Help Choosing: North Cascades / Mount Rainier / Olympic

Christy1 gives excellent advice, but I am afraid that her choice of words may give you the impression that ONP is somehow more developed than the others. Actually, ONP is one of the last true wilderness areas left in the lower 48. It is much wilder and less developed than Mt. Rainier, lovely as the latter is. ONP contains regions that are farther from a road than anywhere else in the lower 48. It also has one of the last spots in the nation where you can avoid man made sounds such as airplane noise. The fact that ONP is in the top ten of most visited parks is very misleading. There is a tremendous drop-off in visitor count between the top 5 and the rest, and most of those visitors who do get to ONP spend their time in only a few areas. The only time you will encounter a crowd is in the Hurricane Ridge parking lot or, perhaps, the Rialto Beach parking lot on a weekend in high summer.

The Cascades have by far the more impressive mountains, and Mt. Rainier looks like something from another world, but ONP provides an incredible wilderness experience with some of the most diverse scenery in the world. You might check out www.kaleberg.com for detailed info about ONP. The pictures and trail descriptions will give you an idea of what to expect there.

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
posts: 4,963
reviews: 5
4. Re: Need Help Choosing: North Cascades / Mount Rainier / Olympic

With 6 days I would choose 2 Personally I would choose Olympic and Mt.Rainier. North Cascades is a beautiful Park, but harder to do in conjuction with another. It also has less places stay close to the Park. Rainier is a great Park and easy to visit, with lots of good hikes and one of America's most beautiful peaks! Olympic as stated by Christy and Kaleberg is one of the most unique of our National Parks with glaciated peaks, temperate rainforests and wild ocean beaches. Olympic will offer a chance to see ancient old growth forest that the other parks you have visited do not have. I plan on a minimum of 2 days at Rainier and a minimum of 3 days at Olympic. Olympic IMO is best visited by staying in at least 2 locations. The Northern Olympics around Port Angeles and the Coastal side around Forks.

Longview, Washington
Destination Expert
for Mount Rainier National Park
posts: 2,489
reviews: 99
5. Re: Need Help Choosing: North Cascades / Mount Rainier / Olympic

My vote goes for Rainier and Olympic, plus plan a day for Mt. St. Helens, either before or after Rainier - our resident volcano is still interesting and one never knows when she may decide to warm up again.

Port Angeles, WA
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
posts: 6,583
reviews: 6
6. Re: Need Help Choosing: North Cascades / Mount Rainier / Olympic

Don't try to bite off too much. Western WA is enormous, and driving can be slow here due to ferries, bridges, and two lane rural roads.

NJ
posts: 1,115
reviews: 27
7. Re: Need Help Choosing: North Cascades / Mount Rainier / Olympic

I did NC, MR and O in one trip, add in Lake Chelan, but i took two weeks for it all. They are all so different.

The most pleasant surprise was Rainier. i expect the "alps" of the US to be incredibly beautiful and they were and hiking Cascade pass one of the highlights of my trip

Olympic was "harder" to visit, and you don't get into the interior without hardcore backpacking. but there were great hikes to the beach on miles of boardwalk, hurricane ridge was very impressive. But Rainier was just spectacular for me. weather was picture perfect (i was there in mid september) the day hikes were great and just so beautiful! but unfortunately if you have 6 days, to do your visits justice you have to knock out North Cascades. I am headed back this july for the lavendar festival and i'll visit mostly olympic (i only gave it a couple of days last time) and Mt. St.Helens. i don't have time to go back to Rainier, as i like to do long day hikes so i like to give places 2 or 3 days at a minimum. anyway way you decide you will be very happy

NJ
posts: 1,115
reviews: 27
8. Re: Need Help Choosing: North Cascades / Mount Rainier / Olympic

I did NC, MR and O in one trip, add in Lake Chelan, but i took two weeks for it all. They are all so different.

The most pleasant surprise was Rainier. i expect the "alps" of the US to be incredibly beautiful and they were and hiking Cascade pass one of the highlights of my trip

Olympic was "harder" to visit, and you don't get into the interior without hardcore backpacking. but there were great hikes to the beach on miles of boardwalk, hurricane ridge was very impressive. But Rainier was just spectacular for me. weather was picture perfect (i was there in mid september) the day hikes were great and just so beautiful! but unfortunately if you have 6 days, to do your visits justice you have to knock out North Cascades. I am headed back this july for the lavendar festival and i'll visit mostly olympic (i only gave it a couple of days last time) and Mt. St.Helens. i don't have time to go back to Rainier, as i like to do long day hikes so i like to give places 2 or 3 days at a minimum. anyway way you decide you will be very happy

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
posts: 4,963
reviews: 5
9. Re: Need Help Choosing: North Cascades / Mount Rainier / Olympic

The Olympic National Park is more difficult to visit than Rainier and my favorite spots for the most part do require backpacking to get to. There are, however lots great hikes like you describe Enjoys that can be done within its boundries. It is a huge Park with lots of options. You can not even scratch the surface with one visit. I have been hiking it for 35 years and have only scratched the surface. If you choose Rainier and Olympic, I agree with Kaleberg do not try and do too much if you are into hiking and really want to experience our Parks. Two locations in 6 days is plenty.

10. Re: Need Help Choosing: North Cascades / Mount Rainier / Olympic

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