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Road trip ideas out of Seattle

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Sydney
posts: 4
reviews: 2
Road trip ideas out of Seattle

hi there

we are a family of four (two children 10/12) who are visiting Seattle next July to do a cruise.

We would like to rent a car to do a road trip for around 6 days between the cruise end and our flight out of Seattle, so looking for suggestions.

While distance driving doesn't bother us (Australians), I would like to enjoy the moment too and not just drive for the sake of ticking off sites.

Probably natural scenery and sights is more our thing - for example, would a trip to Yellowstone be do-able? Or could we make it to the Rockies or is that too much?

Ideas gratefully received!

Port Angeles, WA
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
posts: 6,590
reviews: 6
1. Re: Road trip ideas out of Seattle

Don't leave the Pacific Northwest. There is so much to see and do in WA, you should spend your time here. I would suggest a subset of the following: the San Juan Islands, Olympic National Park, the North Cascades (still likely to have snow), Mt. Rainier (snowy but magnificent), and Mt. St. Helens. Just be aware that you cannot do all of these in six days. Pick two, particularly if you are interested in Olympic National Park or the San Juans, both of which require several days to appreciate.

What are your interests? Do you want to hike or to kayak?

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 3,964
2. Re: Road trip ideas out of Seattle

While there certainly is a lot to see and experience in the Pacific NW, much of the scenery you'd get with a typical mountains/islands itinerary would be not terribly different than what you'll see in a week cruising to SE Alaska.

Yellowstone is a long day or easy day and a half from Seattle, (around 11-12 hours drive) and although it will be full of folks in July, it really is a tremendous place to visit - probably more wildlife (almost definitely, in fact) than you'll see in Alaska, amazing geothermal features, waterfalls... the whole deal. With 6 days you could spend at least 3 full days in the park, which while not excessive is enough time to see the main sights. You could also include a short visit to Grand Teton National Park, just south of Yellowstone.

The Canadian Rockies - Banff and Jasper NPs - are about the same distance in time terms. Much more spectacular mountain scenery than Yellowstone (which is at a generally high altitude, hence the mountains aren't as dramatic) but the tradeoff is much less in the way of geysers, hot springs, etc. Not as much wildlife, and not as much variety.

Sydney
posts: 4
reviews: 2
3. Re: Road trip ideas out of Seattle

thank you for the fast replies.

I think we will see about Yellowstone - any tips on a suggested route?

Green Valley...
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park, Seattle
posts: 16,764
reviews: 45
4. Re: Road trip ideas out of Seattle

I'm a huge fan of YNP, but also of the Pacific NW. Given six days, I'd be torn between the two, depending on what you want to do.

Here's a route that might help you plan a tour of this region, using all of your available time: Options for self drive itineraries in the Seattle region, with websites. tripadvisor.com/Travel-g60878-c112037/Seattl…

Re: YNP... the direct route is scenic, so I'd go I 90 then choose one of the three roads south into the park. Which road you take might depend on where you'll be lodging the first night, whether inside or outside of the park. Plan on an overnight en route, i.e., you'll use 1.5 days, 3.0 days, round trip leaving about 3+ days in the park, and you'll easily fill them up sightseeing.

If you decide on YNP, post on the Wyoming TA Forum for ideas - lodging, wildlife observation, etc. You need to plan on lodging now, especially if you wish to stay inside the park. It is a huge park, so study lodging locations (Canyon is the most centrally located.)

To get you started...

Yellowstone National Park Website: http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm

The park website contains a massive amount of useful information. See “Things to Do”, it opens a menu of options. If what you want is not easily found, use the search box.

See “View Map” on home page for interactive map. http://www.nps.gov/yell/

For lodging INSIDE the Park - http://www.travelyellowstone.com/ Xanterra is the YNP contracted lodging resource. Other agencies might charge a nonrefundable fee and they have to contact Xanterra themselves which you can do for free.

If you go to the Wyoming forum, I, and others, can provide more advice re: lodging both inside and outside the park, wildlife observation and more. Or, PM me so I don't take space on this forum.

Edited: 10:23 am, November 01, 2012
Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 3,964
5. Re: Road trip ideas out of Seattle

Since time is not on your side, I'd just drive east on Interstate 90 from Seattle to the junction of US 191 near Bozeman, Montana, then south to West Yellowstone.

If you leave Seattle the same day your ship arrives, you probably will have been up quite early for disembarkation. By the time you go through all the arrival business and get a car (there are no car pick-up locations at the cruise terminals; instead there are shuttles to a couple of downtown car agencies) it's unlikely you'll have enough time (or desire) to make it all the way the same day. So I'd probably look at spending that night around Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, a very nice lakefront town just east of Spokane, Washington - around 6 hours from Seattle wheels turning (so more counting stops.)

The drive from Seattle to Spokane/CdA passes through the Seattle suburbs, then over the Cascade mountains and into central Washington - first ranch country, then high desert, then wheat country most of the way into Spokane. Once you leave Coeur d'Alene you're in mountain country again (this time the Rockies.) The drive from CdA pretty much all the way into Yellowstone is very pretty - real "old west" stuff.

If time permits (thinking about kids in the car) there are some interesting short detours that can be made en route. First is Snoqualmie Falls, around 15 min. from the I-90 freeway near the town of Snoqualmie, around 30 min. east of Seattle. In July there won't be a lot of water flowing over the falls, but it's still a good place to stretch legs.

I-90 crosses the Columbia River near the little town of Vantage; the scenery is quite spectacular there and a short stop at the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park (next to the river) is quite worthwhile - petrified trees and some excellent Native American petroglyphs etched on some rocks.

In Montana, downtown Missoula is very attractive with a lot of interesting shops, and a detour to Helena, the state capital, is very worthwhile - many wonderful 19th century buildings and who can resist walking along the main street, Last Chance Gulch?

Finally in Butte one can visit the famous Berkeley Pit, one of the largest open-cast mines in the world, now largely filled with water. (The Super Pit in Oz is way bigger, so this might not be that big a draw, but if you should find yourselves in Butte with a need to see a toxic mining site, this one is convenient enough.)

Returning from Yellowstone, if time allows, you could follow US 12 across Idaho, to its junction with the Columbia River, then follow the Columbia (use I-84) west to the Columbia Gorge, just east of Portland. The Columbia Gorge is a national treasure, worth a day at least. Note however this option will add a full day to the travel time, which you might not be able to squeeze in.

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
posts: 4,972
reviews: 5
6. Re: Road trip ideas out of Seattle

Stay in the Pacific NW. Kaleberg is right. We have three of Americas's best National Parks right in Washington. Why spend two of 6 days driving? I know you are coming a long way for the cruise and Yellowstone is amazing, but driving that far with only six days just does not make that much sense! Our topography is similar to Alaska, but it is not the same IMO. Besides on a cruise how much time do you really have to penetrate an area. I have cruised to Alaska. You will love it, but it is not the same as something like three days in Olympic National Park and two days in the San Juan Islands. I highly suggest you read reviews and trip reports on our area from visitors from around the world. You have world class scenery around Seattle and Portland, why spend a third of your time in a car.

Davie, Florida
posts: 11,185
reviews: 2
7. Re: Road trip ideas out of Seattle

Its about 800 miles from seattle to yellowstone and yellowstone is unique enough it may just be worth it to you. all depends on ones wishes. use gmaps and youtube to look things over.

Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle, Family Travel
posts: 5,587
reviews: 16
8. Re: Road trip ideas out of Seattle

I agree with GM and kaleberg. I would stay in the PNW. There is so much to explore and see for both you and the kids. In many ways, like Australia, distances are great here, and to spend 2-3 of your 6 days driving just doesn't make sense to me. I assume your 6 days also includes Seattle touring? Tell us, do you prefer to stay a couple days in one location or are you looking to change accommodations every night? What do you and the kids like to do?

I think you will very much enjoy the greenery, water, mountains that is so very different from Australia. What are your exact dates?

Green Valley...
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park, Seattle
posts: 16,764
reviews: 45
9. Re: Road trip ideas out of Seattle

If you really had six full days for a YNP trip, it is an option. Less than six full days, and know that you'll use 3 days RT from Seattle, stay in the PNW. If you decide on YNP, you might consider flying into Seattle for the cruise, and fly out of another city nearer YNP. Here is a Forum string that might help: tripadvisor.com/…14293887

You might save YNP for another trip, including Grand Teton, Glacier, and perhaps Waterton, Banff and Jasper National Parks. For the first three, at least 3 days, 2 days, 2 days, in order, plus driving time between them (at least 2 more days).

western WA
Destination Expert
for Seattle, Outdoors / Adventure Travel, Family Travel
posts: 8,806
reviews: 14
10. Re: Road trip ideas out of Seattle

Six days - Yellowstone? I think it is too far. I drove there last summer (and have many times in the past) and I'm still sick of the car after that long ride! Four days ride for two days in YNP - not worth it. Stick around here. We have plenty of great sights.