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Western National Parks Roadtrips

Prague, Czech...
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Western National Parks Roadtrips

Hello Tripadvisors,

we are planning honeymoon roadtrip from SF along the coast to the north and then heading east, visiting mainly the national parks. My I ask you for advice in the Washington part please?

I do not know how to estimate the number of days to spend in each place. We would be coming from Portland, Oregon, then (probably skipping Mt. St. Helens) to Mt. Rainier, spend 1 day there, then Seattle, Olympic NP (for how many days?), then maybe Vancouver in Canada, Cascades NP (2 days?) and then east towards Glacier NP.

It is all for 3 weeks from San Francisco to Denver (whole itinerary http://goo.gl/el4qgc), so plenty of places to see and not much time, unfortunately... But we are really looking forward!

Thank you for your help!

Seattle, Washington
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11. Re: Western National Parks Roadtrips

When you reach the east side of the North Cascades highway, you will arrive at the western-themed town of Winthrop. Its a fine stopping place for the night. There is camping about 3 miles out of town at Big Twin Lake campground, or you may opt for a honeymoon splurge and stay at rustic-chic and romantic Sun Mountain Lodge. Chewuch Inn and Cabins is another good choice. We also like to stay at the decidedly funky Duck Brand hotel in the center of town. Its not quiet there - restaurant, bar, and live music below the rooms; but nobody is going to complain if you're upstairs in your room making noise. :)

The tiny Winthrop Brewing Company makes great beer and serves really good pub food. (OK, maybe the best beer I ever drank was a Czech Pilsner, but hey, you're on the road in a foreign land, so drink the local produce.)

Boulder Creek deli is a good place to pick up sandwiches and other lunch fare on your way out of town. Food shops heading east get pretty sparse until you are across the Idaho border.

If you have time on your way into or out of Winthrop, and a small sense of driving adventure, you can head to the small town of Mazama and drive up to the top of Harts Pass. At 1859 meters, its Washington state's highest col serviced by a road (albeit gravel road.) Folks like to call it Washington's most treacherous road - its anything but. Well graded, the road is driveable by any passenger vehicle. Back in the day, my friend and I drove his 1957 Volkswagon Beetle to camp at the top. Views on the road, as well as vistas at the top are magnificent. You will have missed wildflower season, but the mountain views are worth the drive. The Mazama Store is a great place for food and drink. On weekends especially, the place is crowded with outdoor enthusiasts.

Seattle, Washington
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12. Re: Western National Parks Roadtrips

I suggest you drop the visit to Vancouver from your plans, not because its not a worthy destination in its own right, but because it is a worthy destination in its own right. Crossing the international border (twice) and the short stay in British Columbia just does not do justice to this spectacular destination, or to the time invested. Trust me, you will be back in your lifetime, can fly directly into Vancouver and have another truly memorable Pacific Northwest travel adventure.

Use the day in another part of your travel plans.

Prague, Czech...
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13. Re: Western National Parks Roadtrips

Thank you Ray for your amazing help! I like your reasoning for dropping Vancouver, BC :-) It is probably true that we will be back for Canada one day anyway. Plus I did not quite realize crossing the border will take a while...

I know our trip plan will require a lot and lot of driving, but we still would like to make some time for hiking, it is not that we have to drive everywhere. We love hiking! Two years ago we hiked the Half Dome in Yosemite and it was absolutely amazing, so we would like to hike some more difficult, but still in one day doable hikes, I am sure there is plenty of those in Washington. Would you please have any suggestions Ray? I've read your comments for Olympic and Cascades, which was really helpful, would you recommend something in particular in Mt. Rainier? Thank you!

The reason for dropping Mt. St. Helens was simple (and maybe stupid) - it is not a national park and we don't have time for everything we would like to see on our trip. But if you think it is worth it that we will add it to the itinerary again.

Thank you all for help!

Seattle, Washington
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14. Re: Western National Parks Roadtrips

Mt. St. Helens is a spectacular monument to the awsome power and raw fury of nature. Its last eruption is marked on the psyche to every Northwesterner who was alive at the time - every one of them can tell you exactly where they were, what they were doing, and how they felt. (Where were you 17.11.1989?) Getting there and seeing the ruined shell of a mountain that was once more beautiful than Mt. Fuji is sobering. It's also a full day's journey.

You have 21 gold coins to spend. What will you spend them on? :)

Like Yosemite, you can be on the valley floor by the Merced river and see the wonders of nature all around, or you can hike a trail up toward the heights and be consumed by the wonder of nature.

There is an vast number of day hikes in and around Mt. Rainier that will leave you with pleasant memories for a lifetime. Go to mountaineers.org for comprehensive information on hikes throughout the Cascade mountains, including Rainier.

I don't know anyplace, however, that rewards a hiker's efforts quite like the Olympic Mountains. Go to www.kaleberg.com and browse the trails section. See if you can get kaleberg wound up and on this discussion. He will give you first-hand accounts on about a hundred day hikes on ONP. :)

Edited: 6:27 pm, August 12, 2014
Seattle, Washington
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15. Re: Western National Parks Roadtrips

Specifically for Rainier:

everytrail.com/best/hiking-mount-rainier-nat…

http://alltrails.com/lists/mt-rainier-np

Here's a good trip advisor thread on Rainier hikes: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g143044-i3163-k369…

Every hike mentioned brought a smile to my lips.

If you stay two nights at Ohnopecosh, you can tour the mountain, do several of the 'easy' hikes (Grove of the Patriarchs, Comet Falls, etc.), stay night one; then on the 2nd day pick a longer hike to cap your experience on this magnificent mountain, stay night two; then leave the following morning.

Oregon Coast
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for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
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16. Re: Western National Parks Roadtrips

Mt St Helens definitely is not worth going if the weather is not nice. We've been there when there is snow on the ground and also when it's windy/foggy/cloudy and it's honestly not very enjoyable then.

The last time we visited Johnston Ridge visitor center we were quite disappointed by the fact that many of the more interesting displays were gone or just plain not working. Years ago they had a lot more information about the actual eruption - now they are concentrating more on showing how the forest is recovering.

It will take a lot of your time to get there and back.

There is lots of information here about hiking, but you have to balance the number of miles you'll be driving with taking hours for hikes. (Sometimes people use the term "hike" when they really mean a "walk" - a short one.) You're planning to cover a lot of territory with *many* miles to drive, so just be sure to figure your timing carefully and allow for all your driving miles :-)

Prague, Czech...
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17. Re: Western National Parks Roadtrips

Thank you all for your suggestions. I've read through a lot of materials on line. Just have a quick question. Ray you say we should take the ferry from Seattle and then drive along the NP border to the south towards Quinault. As I looked it up on Goggle maps the drive is about 200 miles, which takes 5 hours, is it worth the drive? What would you think about the option of going from Seattle through Tacoma and Olympia directly to Quinaullt, which takes about 3 hours, and invest the time saved into some hiking in the Quinault area?

And if I understand it OK - the next day after Quinault we would hike in the Hoh Rain Forest, sleep on the coast (night 2; Ozette or Mora?) and then go to Port Angeles and hike the Hurricane Hill Trail. Sounds perfect :-)

Seattle, Washington
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18. Re: Western National Parks Roadtrips

The ferry to Bremerton and drive to Lake Quinault takes about 4 hours. 50 minutes of the time-in-transit is the beautiful ferry ride across Elliott Bay and through Rich Passage to Bremerton - a tour must in my opinion. You get your water tour of Seattle for cheap, and it takes you on your way to the next destination.

Driving south through Tacoma and Olympia is theoretically faster, but in practice traffic congestion along the I-5 corridor can quickly negate any time-in-transit advantage. Crawling for miles down I-5 past the massive Joint Base Lewis-McChord military complex south of Tacoma is nobody's idea of a good time.

The 2nd day after Lake Quinault will require a bit of planning as to what beach(es) to visit, in what order beach/forest hikes should be taken, and where to stay. Go to www.kaleberg.com for some great pictures and descriptions of the various forest and beach hikes available, and timing of the hikes (most beach hikes should be timed of low tide, and take hiking time to get to the beach itself.)

Also, search for forum for posts by kaleberg (www.tripadvisor.com/members-forums/kaleberg). Being an ONP destination expert extraordinaire, his input will be the best you can get on maximizing your park visit.

Edited: 11:36 am, August 19, 2014
Prague, Czech...
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19. Re: Western National Parks Roadtrips

Thank you Ray, we will do as you suggested. I've looked on kaleberg.com for some hikes around Port Angeles, so I will do some research on the beaches. It is an amazing source of information!

Do you think is necessary to book the ferry in advance or is it OK just to come and go? Thank you!

Seattle, Washington
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20. Re: Western National Parks Roadtrips

The Bremerton ferry is first-come-first-served. The ferries are large, and handle hundreds of vehicles. If you are there about 30 minutes before your desired sailing time, you should have no problem getting on the next boat.

http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/ is the official site of the Washington State Ferry system. You will find fare, route and schedule information. (The ferries will have switched to the Fall schedule.) Also information on wait times, and web cams of many of the ferry terminals so you can keep an eye on how many vehicles are waiting.