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Thoughts on WA/SEA part of a 2wk road trip to LA

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New York City, New...
posts: 21
reviews: 26
Thoughts on WA/SEA part of a 2wk road trip to LA

My husband & i will be driving from Seattle to LA this summer and have 2 weeks to do it. We will be landing in Seattle on the 4th of July (yes, i know, smack in the middle of the height of the tourist season). I have been to Seattle several times for work but this will be the first time for my husband. We will be staying downtown so he can see the fish market, space needle and on the 4th at night check out the fireworks. On the 5th of July we will be picking up our rental car and are looking for recommendations for a day trip/things to do in and around Seattle for that day. We will return to Seattle that night.

As a side note, my husband and i are both food people and would love to check out fantastic seafood or anything that shows what Washington state has to offer. I am not sure if July is great for oysters, but we would love to stop by any place that has fresh seafood (even if it's a shack) to experience it.

On the 6th, we are planning on leaving Seattle early in the AM to begin our southward journey. I was thinking that we should visit Mt. St Helens for the day and overnight somewhere before continuing south into Portland OR and that leg of our trip, which will include wine country and then coastal driving and time on the Rogue River.

My questions are:

1. What do you suggest for a day trip on the 5th of July? I realize it's over the holiday weekend and that may make things a bit more complicated in terms of traffic, etc...

2. Do you think that an overnight at Mt. St Helens will be a good amount of time to check out the sights (we are both physically fit and can hike)? Or should we check out Mt.Ranier instead?

3. DO you have any recommendations for places to stay near Mt. St Helens?

4. Are there any spots in Seattle that are better than others to check out the fireworks? We will not have a car and would need to get around via mass transit (we are from NY so are fine with this option)?

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

11 replies to this topic
seattle
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 14,677
reviews: 84
1. Re: Thoughts on WA/SEA part of a 2wk road trip to LA

I'm a tour guide so do this trip a lot driving to SF from Seattle. Mt St Helens exit on 5 till Portland is less than 48 miles so its way better to just stay in Portland that nite. On your free day I was going to suggest Mt. Rainier but if you wanted to get a sense of the water you may choose to drive across Whidbey Island taking the ferry and at the end stopping at Deception Pass or even the town of La Conner before reconnecting with I-5 and coming back into Seattle. Hoping your renting your car downtown as the taxes and fees will be less.

New York City, New...
posts: 21
reviews: 26
2. Re: Thoughts on WA/SEA part of a 2wk road trip to LA

Hi David,

I am picking up the rental car in downtown Seattle (have done this before and it's close to where we will be staying). What is there to do on Whitdbey Island?

With regards to St Helens, would it be enough time to check it out for only a day and then continue to Portland that night or would we want to have the next morning to check things out as well? How far is it from Seattle to Mt. St Helens? I think about an hour and a half if i'm not mistaken.....

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 3,445
3. Re: Thoughts on WA/SEA part of a 2wk road trip to LA

Seattle to the Johnston Ridge visitors center is basically three hours. With an early start you could get to MSH, have half a day to walk around, and still easily be in Portland that night. Aside from pretty typical freeway motels there really isn't that much of tourist interest between the MSH turnoffs and greater Portland.

Just personal opinion, of course, but to me Mount St Helens is a spectacular sight, but not a place where you'll want to linger overly long, particularly if you view it in the context of things that you could do with the same amount of time.

For example, if you stayed the night in the Portland area, you could take the next day and visit the Columbia Gorge, the Hood River Valley, Mount Hood, and still be in downtown Portland that night. It sounds like your trip past Portland will be to the Willamette Valley and then down the coast, which is fine, but missing the Gorge is a big no-no. Spend the night around the Portland airport or (if they have room) at McMenamin's Edgefield in Troutdale (remarkable conversion of the county poor farm into a funky resort with brewery, winery, distillery, gardens, pubs, movie theater, vineyards, golf...). The the next morning take the historic Gorge highway (above the riverside freeway) past numerous waterfalls to Hood River, a nice little town. Follow the Hood River Valley (orchards beneath looming Mount Hood) up to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, then loop on US 26 back to Portland for the night. It's an incomparable day.

Whidbey Island is a mainly rural island with beaches, amazing views of the Olympic mountains, several adorable little waterfront towns (Langley and Coupeville the best) and topped by Deception Pass, a narrow channel separating Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands. The tide changes through the gap are awesome, there are superb views and hiking trails - one of the real highlights of the Puget Sound region. A day "looping" Whidbey - Seattle to Mukilteo, ferry to Whidbey, back from Whidbey via I-5 (no ferry needed at the north end) is the quintessential Puget Sound day trip. Use SR 526 to get to Mukilteo and you'll pass the Boeing Everett plant, biggest building in the world and the home of the Boeing wide-body planes.

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
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4. Re: Thoughts on WA/SEA part of a 2wk road trip to LA

I like Ibgardyloo's ideas. I agree do not overnight around St Helens. Get as early a start as possible and end up in Portland. If you want to see something glorious and enjoy the outdoors I would choose Rainier over Whidbey. More driving, but it is spectacular. Wait and see what the weather is like.

Visiting the Oregon Coast and the Rogue River makes it a little tough to advise on an itinerary.

New York City, New...
posts: 21
reviews: 26
5. Re: Thoughts on WA/SEA part of a 2wk road trip to LA

Hi all,

Thank you for your replies. We have decided to try and hike to the summit of Mt. St Helens (weather permitting) and have gotten the permits for it. If the conditions are not favorable for the climb, we may then bypass and put Mt Hood & the Gorge in it's place - we will need to wait and see.

Thank you for the info on the day trip to Whidbey - that sounds very cool and will definitely include that in our trip.

We have arranged to have a second night in Portland, so we will do our best to fit the Gorge into the trip here if it does not work out in place of MSH.

There seems to be too many cool things to do and simply not enough time to do them! I guess that's why you always leave one thing off so you can go back next time and do it.....

seattle
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 14,677
reviews: 84
6. Re: Thoughts on WA/SEA part of a 2wk road trip to LA

Its 100 miles to the MSH exit. Then another 50 miles to Johnston Ridge. 5 miles from I-5 is the Silver Lk Visitors Ctr. They charge to go in however they have a webcam to show you the crater at Johnston Ridge. That would give you a good chance to decide whether to go or not. I've also done the Mt. Hood loop road with a stop at Timberline Lodge. I think that is very worthwhile to see and do.

New York City, New...
posts: 21
reviews: 26
7. Re: Thoughts on WA/SEA part of a 2wk road trip to LA

Thank you David for your note on the mileage.

July is still a ways away and we will see as the date draws closer how we will end up.

thanks again!

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 3,445
8. Re: Thoughts on WA/SEA part of a 2wk road trip to LA

Certainly not an expert but isn't the summit route accessed from a Forest Service road well to the south of the main Johnston Ridge road? If so then the talk of 3 hours or whatever access from Seattle is moot - it's likely to take considerably longer than that to get to the trailhead.

Maybe you're already familiar with this page - wta.org/go-hiking/…mount-saint-helens - but if not well worth a read, especially regarding clothing and preparation for the summit hike.

New York City, New...
posts: 21
reviews: 26
9. Re: Thoughts on WA/SEA part of a 2wk road trip to LA

Hi ibgardyloo,

we will pick up our permits from Cougar WA and then make the ascent from the trail head about an hour from there - we have already secured accommodation the night before we plan to hike. we have begun reading the posts on all of the sites related to MSH and will be sure to keep checking the weather as the date draws near.

Now to figure out how to get from the W in downtown seattle to the best place to see the fireworks on 4th of july. Any ideas/thoughts?

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 3,445
10. Re: Thoughts on WA/SEA part of a 2wk road trip to LA

From the W you can walk to the Lake Union streetcar stop at Westlake and take the tram to South Lake Union. The fireworks are launched from a barge near the north end of Lake Union (opposite Gasworks Park) but can be seen from anywhere on or near the lake.

Alternatively, for a terrific and not terribly costly experience, look at Argosy Cruise's special cruises from the central waterfront through the Ballard Locks to Lake Union. They anchor close to the barge and offer an incomparable view of the fireworks; in addition it's a great harbor tour and passing through the locks is very interesting. http://www.argosycruises.com/

Entering Lake Union - http://gardyloo.us/20110705_35s.JPG

Houseboats; waiting for the show - http://gardyloo.us/20110705_64s2.JPG

The crowd at Gasworks Park - http://gardyloo.us/20110705_72s.JPG

Last light - http://gardyloo.us/20110705_91s.JPG

Kaboom - http://gardyloo.us/20110705_157s.JPG and http://gardyloo.us/20110705_214s.JPG

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