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Seattle - Olympic National Park or Mt Rainer - Vancouver

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
36 posts
12 reviews
Seattle - Olympic National Park or Mt Rainer - Vancouver

Hi all -

My husband and I are thinking of coming to the Pacific Northwest mid-July. We plan on being there 8 days. I've read various threads on tripadvisor and don't think going to Tofino or Victoria may work out but wanted to see the thoughts on this:

Seattle - 2 days

Mt. Rainer - 1 day

Olympic National Park - 1 Day

Victoria - 1 day

Vancouver - 2 days

Thoughts? Is it way too much? If I need to eliminate anything I can't decide between Mt Rainer or Olympic because photographs look just amazing. I also don't know the best way to go about except having a car when we do the day trips, take the ferry to Vancouver and then I guess rent a car for Victoria.

Any advice is most welcome!

Mukilteo, Washington
Level Contributor
746 posts
8 reviews
1. Re: Seattle - Olympic National Park or Mt Rainer - Vancouver

Rainier can be done as a day trip by driving up hwy 410 to Sunrise Visitors' Center, so that part of your plan is OK.

From there on the trip gets too rushed. Plan at least two days for Olympic National Park and choose either Victoria or Vancouver for the Canadian leg.

I'd recommend driving through Olympic Park from south to north, (through Aberdeen/Hoquiam) along the Pacific Coast with one night in Lake Quinault or near Forks, the second night in Port Angeles. From Port Angeles you can take the Black Ball ferry to Victoria as a day trip (car not needed - you can walk-on the ferry and leave the car in P.A.). Return to Port Angeles and either spend another night or complete your loop of the Olympic Peninsula via the Kingston to Edmonds ferry and return to Seattle.

Port Angeles, WA
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
11,816 posts
20 reviews
2. Re: Seattle - Olympic National Park or Mt Rainer - Vancouver

Eliminate either Olympic National Park or Vancouver. Like many prospective visitors to the PNW, you greatly underestimate travel times in this region. There are scores of threads on this subject on TA. Read some of them to get an idea of just how long it takes to get around here, and then if you are still undecided write back. This time tell us what you hope to do. ONP has few scenic drives, and it does not reward a lightening trip, but it is absolute heaven for a hiker with enough time to appreciate the natural beauty to be found here. Vancouver is a wonderful, exciting city. What are you looking for?

Seattle, Wa
Level Contributor
5,928 posts
49 reviews
3. Re: Seattle - Olympic National Park or Mt Rainer - Vancouver

Read up a bit more on these places-there's no ferry to Vancouver from WA, and you need a car for everything, not just Victoria. With only 1 day, skip Olympic. If you can do an overnight, focus on the northern section of the park-don't try to circumnavigate it, since that's a mostly crappy drive outside park boundaries. Personally I'd overnight at Rainier at Paradise Lodge, though are you coming in a few weeks or in 2015? If you mean this July you might have problems getting a hotel in all of these spots.

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
Level Contributor
3,193 posts
179 reviews
4. Re: Seattle - Olympic National Park or Mt Rainer - Vancouver

I would skip Vancouver and Victoria and just focus on Washington.

If you can, overnight at or near Mt. Rainier. The historic inn at Paradise is rustic but a great experience being up the mountain late. However the issue is that Paradise (only really about 5400') is still under significant snowcover. It often does not get thawed out until maybe the first week of August. Mid July there will still be snow at Paradise. Still there is plenty to do in the park to warrant an overnight. We can give more information if you are interested in detailed options.

The next day leave the park via the Ohanapecosh area (perhaps do the Grove of the Patriarch's trail first thing in the morning) and then head to Olympia. From there approach ONP from the SW corner. Start in the lake Quinault area with some old growth forest hiking and take the loop road around the lake. There are some great champion trees just off the road or accessible with a short walk. Then go up the coast. There is Kalaloch beach but I would hold out for Ruby Beach. Head up the Hoh river valley to the Hoh Rainforest visitor center. ONP has quite a bit of spectacular temperate rainforest. The Hoh has the most visitors and infrastructure. It is well worth a visit. Further up the coast there are other great characteristic Pacific NW beaches with seastacks, driftwood, tide pools ... Stop at Rialto beach and may hike up to the Hole in the Wall.

I would stay in Forks or perhaps Lake Crescent or up on the Makah reservation for your second night. That will be a long day. But the next day you have options like driving up to Hurricane Ridge ... maybe seeing Dungeness Spit ... or from the Makah reservation you could hike down to Shi Shi beach in the morning. It is one of the most spectacular beaches in the U.S. Or you could drive up to Cape Flattery (the NW point of the continental US) and maybe see the Makah cultural center.

Keep in mind that it is 3.5-5 hours back to Seattle depending on where you are staying the second night. So if you are going to head back to the city that next day you really only have about a half a day before you need to head back.

You still have another day though so you could either spend another day in Seattle (three days is not too much) or you could spend another day away from the city. One idea would be to drive after your second night in ONP to Port Townsend. You could spend the night in the characteristic victorian village or take a ferry across to Whidbey Island and stay in Coupeville. The next day on the way back to Seattle you could see Deception Pass in the morning and then head south to Langley for lunch before taking the Mukilteo ferry which will get you back to Rt. 5 and a straight shot back to Seattle.

Keep in mind that July is full of events in Seattle. There will be a lot to do in the city like Ballard Seafood Fest, West Seattle Fest, the International District-Chinatown Dragon Fest, Capitol Hill Block Party music festival, Torchlight Parade (last weekend of the month), live music (typically Artist Home has a beach bonfire music series at Golden Gardens with at least one performance in July) and more. You could see some of the city sites, check out some of the special events, take a ferry to Bainbridge Island, day hike in Discovery Park, kayak on Lake Union. There are tons of options.


Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
Level Contributor
3,193 posts
179 reviews
5. Re: Seattle - Olympic National Park or Mt Rainer - Vancouver

Just to recap it might look like this

Day 1/ Night 1 Seattle

Day 2/ Night 2 Seattle

Day 3/Night 3 to Mt Rainier Paradise/Longmire Hiking etc. Overnight Mt. Rainier.

Day 4/Night 4 to ONP (AM Grove of the Patriarchs then to Lake Quinault area)

Day 5/Night 5 ONP (Hoh/Beaches; overnight Forks or Lake Crescent or Makah reservation)

Day 6/Night 6 AM Shi Shi beach, Hurricane Ridge or Dungeness Spit then to Port Townsend or Coupeville

Day 7/Night 7 Whidbey Island (Deception Pass, Langley) to Seattle

Day 8 Depart

Edited: 9:39 pm, June 26, 2014
Level Contributor
12 posts
5 reviews
6. Re: Seattle - Olympic National Park or Mt Rainer - Vancouver

klsalas, what is the drive like between Ranier and Lake Quinault? I googled and saw it is 3.5 hours. Is it a scenic/easy drive or is it a long day?

7. Re: Seattle - Olympic National Park or Mt Rainer - Vancouver

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