1st time Oregon visitor needs advice...

Old Mar 3rd, 2022, 08:51 PM
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1st time Oregon visitor needs advice...

I am planning a trip to Oregon and Olympic Nat'l Park in September. We will be starting this portion in Ashland Oregon. Originally we planned on 1st night in Portland, then onto Port Angeles, Washington.
Now, we want to add Mt. Hood and Columbia River into the trip. I'm thinking of taking Hwy 62 and 97 through Bend and then the 26 to Mt. Hood and Columbia River area.
Is this a good idea vs. I-5 to Portland and then east to Mt. Hood? one way is scenic, the other faster. That would keep us from backtracking in and out of Portland. From port Angeles we plan to make our way down the Oregon coast back to San Diego.
This is my first time using this forum, so any advice will be greatly appreciated. Also, is Port Angeles the best home base to see Olympic National park, without a ton of driving all day?
I think we will be bypassing the southern section of the park heading straight down the coast.

Last edited by paulpalmer9946; Mar 3rd, 2022 at 08:57 PM. Reason: Additional information needed
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Old Mar 4th, 2022, 06:37 AM
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Yes, it's a good idea to take US 97 as you can stop off en route at Crater Lake National Park (only 30 minutes out of your way). It's pretty impressive.

Bridge of the Gods @ Casade Locks. This toll bridge crosses the highly scenic Columbia River Gorge.

Ashland. Described as one of the coolest small towns in America, it has a hippie vibe and Southern Oregon University. There are some wonderful parks incuding Lithia Park and Siskiyou Mt. Park. Nearby is the famous Rogue National Scenic River which which has waterwater rafting. There is a hands-on science museum.
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Old Mar 4th, 2022, 06:47 AM
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Can we assume that you don't have any time restrictions? Maybe you could tell us how many days you have for this trip, and also maybe something about yourselves - hikers, wine connoisseurs...? Is San Diego your home?

Your route is fine; in September you might also consider a short spur from SR 62 to see Crater Lake. I'd also suggest a stop at Smith Rock State Park, not far from Bend, reached easily from US 97. After Timberline Lodge, I'd recommend taking SR 35 north through the lovely Hood River Valley (which will probably be in harvest mode - wine grapes, pears, apples, etc. - at that time. Then from Hood River you can head west through the Gorge to continue your trip north. Here's a map - https://goo.gl/maps/TQ2pwPj4XwSWcbBt6

Now that said, you're going to have to be alert for forest fires, which have plagued our region right at that time of year for some time now, and sadly, things seem to be getting worse. I'd have a fallback plan in your pocket in case you need to act fast. Also be ready for high temperatures; the Rogue Valley (Ashland, Medford etc.) can get hot as hell in September; make sure your car's AC is working.

As for the Olympic National Park part of your trip, you really should do a bit more research. Port Angeles is convenient for seeing Hurricane Ridge, and possibly Lake Crescent, but otherwise it's NOT a good base for seeing Olympic National Park, because there isn't one. The park's highlights are spread over a very large area, accessed by US 101 that circles the periphery of the peninsula but doesn't physically touch the park except for a small part of the park's Pacific coastal strip. Key destinations in the park, such as Hurricane Ridge, the La Push beaches, the Hoh and Quinault rain forests etc., are hours apart and reached by traveling roads that are not scenic in the least.

So if it was me I'd be doing some serious research on Olympic NP and deciding what in particular you want to experience. Generally even the most cursory visits to the park need three days, simply due to the distance between things. Maybe that's not going to be a problem for you; see my first point.

Welcome to Fodor's and happy planning!
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Old Mar 4th, 2022, 07:12 AM
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I agree with all the comments above. We are based in Seattle and drove the Ashland, Crater Lake, Bend, Hood River route last May. Bes sure to give yourself enough time to really slow down and enjoy it.

Here's a good article about some nice food places in the Colombia river gorge area

https://www.spokesman.com/stories/20...ake-a-food-to/

Unfortunately we missed the chance to try Grassland BBQ as it was just get open when we were there.

Here's a good link to start looking at bases for the Olympic peninsula. Both Kalaloch and Lake Quinault Lodge are well known but of course the choice will depend on your travel style and budget.

https://westcoastwayfarers.com/where...%20campgrounds.
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Old Mar 4th, 2022, 07:31 AM
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I would definitely take the route up the east side of the Cascades and take time to see Crater Lake.


and perhaps take more time to see Mt St. Helens:

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Old Mar 4th, 2022, 09:30 AM
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Without knowing how long you plan for this part of the trip, its not really possible to give useful advice -- there is a BIG difference between say one week and 3 weeks .

You say "We will be starting this portion in Ashland Oregon " and "From port Angeles we plan to make our way down the Oregon coast back to San Diego." So apparently You are driving up through the full length of California and then all the way back down to SD. Are you sightseeing in California too or just heading straight up I-5 to Ashland? If you are touring CA/OR/WA - that would take a lot of time.
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Old Mar 4th, 2022, 11:12 AM
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Not sure of tour timing as you just mention September, but no exact dates. New for this summer is that the Columbia River Gorge is requiring driving permits for the busiest area. The permits will be required from late May until Sept. 5, so if your date is the first few days of September you will need permit to even drive on the scenic highway.
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Old Mar 4th, 2022, 02:38 PM
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If you didn't have something you wanted to see/do in Ashland, you could turn off I-5 in Weed CA and head north on US 97. If you wanted to visit Crater Lake NP, you could try for a room at the Crater Lake Lodge. You could exit Crater Lake NP via the north entrance and take OR 140 east to get back on US 97. Stop for lunch in Bend on the way north to Biggs Junction on I-84. If you want to get a closer look at Mt. Hood you can travel up on the east side on OR Rt. 35 from Hood River.
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Old Mar 4th, 2022, 04:17 PM
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Thank you!

I appreciate all the good information and advice. We are driving from San Diego, 1st night in Sacramento. 2nd Ashland, which now might be Crater Lake Lodge! we're thinking 2 nights in
Columbia River Gorge area, then on to Olympic. Originally thought 4 nights in port Angeles and 2 in Quinault area. but, after researching The Oregon Coast, we have been considering skipping Quinault to add more time down the coast places likes Yachats ,Bend, Port Orford and definitely Astoria. After that we just need a night to get back home. Seems like the more info I get, the more confused I am!
I will keep researching and again, I thank you all for the help
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Old Mar 4th, 2022, 04:31 PM
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Thank you!

I appreciate all the good information and advice. We are driving from San Diego, 1st night in Sacramento. 2nd Ashland, which now might be Crater Lake Lodge! we're thinking 2 nights in
Columbia River Gorge area, then on to Olympic. Originally thought 4 nights in port Angeles and 2 in Quinault area. but, after researching The Oregon Coast, we have been considering skipping Quinault to add more time down the coast places likes Yachats ,Bend, Port Orford and definitely Astoria. After that we just need a night to get back home. Seems like the more info I get, the more confused I am!
I will keep researching and again, I thank you all for the help
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Old Mar 4th, 2022, 08:22 PM
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Crater Lake is a must see, on a par with the Grand Canyon in beauty. And the scope of it is surprising and astounding. If they are doing boat tours at that time, also a must, but it takes a big descent to get down there. And if you don't want to stay down there forever, an ascent afterwards. It is the super highlight of the Pacific Northwest. Second is the Redwood Grove at Jedediah Smith Stare Park in California.

For Crater Lake, we stayed at the Diamond Lake Resort.

Last edited by shelemm; Mar 4th, 2022 at 08:25 PM.
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Old Mar 5th, 2022, 06:35 AM
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Please don't mention Bend among the coastal cities. Do try to get lodging at Crater Lake Lodge or at Diamond Lake. Instead of staying in downtown Portland, try for lodging in Hood River after Bend.
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Old Mar 5th, 2022, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by paulpalmer9946 View Post
Originally thought 4 nights in port Angeles and 2 in Quinault area. but, after researching The Oregon Coast, we have been considering skipping Quinault to add more time down the coast places likes Yachats ,Bend, Port Orford and definitely Astoria. After that we just need a night to get back home.
I'm going to comment just on this part of your post. Overall, however, I think your plan is too ambitious and that the distances and drive times are likely going to be much greater than you think. But that's for another time.

Four nights in Port Angeles is three too many, and in fact now that the Oregon coast is appearing as more of a priority, I frankly think you might be well advised to drop Olympic NP altogether, and revise your schedule to allow more time in the remaining areas, or at least a less rushed one.

Now I do think that the Olympic NP rain forests - either/both the Quinault and Hoh valleys - are pretty spectacular destinations, but the fact is that in September even those areas can be drying out a little, far from their best. But more importantly, the time penalty would be pretty high. You COULD include the Quinault Valley as a spur north from the mouth of the Columbia (Astoria etc.) despite the fact that getting there would include two or three hours in each direction where the countryside is bleak (or worse.) Personally, I'd probably skip it and allocate those hours someplace else, in particular the redwoods over the California line. Anyway, here's a map showing this possible idea, starting in Portland (after the Gorge) and ending down the Oregon coast as you travel south. Google the places on it. Note that Port Angeles is missing; more on that below. https://goo.gl/maps/KQw2byDm5JBu2BfH7

What this shows is heading from Portland out to the mouth of the Columbia River, using the historic and fairly scenic north shore of the river rather than the less scenic (but quicker) routes through Oregon. Cape Disappointment State Park is the initial destination; you can stay in the nearby fishing village of Ilwaco, not a bad place at all.

Then - if you choose - you can venture north to Lake Quinault. It's around 2 1/2 hours from Ilwaco, and not a terribly pleasant 2 1/2 hours at that. The Quinault rain forest is quite lush and Lake Quinault Lodge is quite picturesque and iconic, but whether an overnight there, and some exploration of the valley, is worth the drive is - to me at least - a tough call. Personally, at that time of year I'd be more inclined to use that day later, somewhere in the redwood country in Del Norte or Humboldt counties in California.

Anyway, whether you include Quinault or not, from there it's a southbound drive all the way down the Oregon coast and into the redwood country. I've included a few personal fave points such as Bandon and its lovely beach, and the drop-dead views at Myers Creek, between Gold Beach and Brookings.



Once you're over the California line, I'd use the extra hours or days to explore the redwood country. One place/area to consider might be around Ferndale and the top of the "Lost Coast," the last remaining coastal wilderness in California. Ferndale is a very pretty town full of Victorian buildings, and it's convenient not just to the "Lost Coast loop" but also to the Avenue of the Giants, a superb route through the Humboldt redwoods. Taking a day or more just to hang out in this area would be a great idea, at least to me.

After that we just need a night to get back home.

Only if you're driving something with wings. From the central Oregon coast to San Diego is a three-day drive unless you're ready to live on No-Doz and coffee for a couple of days. I would make at least two stops en route, one in the redwoods and a second somewhere south of San Francisco. In September I'd stick to US 101 in order to avoid the heat of the central valley, not to mention the 18-wheeler Grand Prix between the Bay area and the Grapevine. And of course getting through LA, whether it's on I-5 or US101 / I-405, is anything but quick.

Oh, regarding dropping Port Angeles. The only major Olympic NP sight close to PA is Hurricane Ridge. It's spectacular enough, but inasmuch that you'll have already seen Crater Lake and Mount Hood on the way north, missing the alpine scenery of Hurricane Ridge would be - again, to me - an acceptable loss. I might suggest instead that you plan another visit to our area, possibly earlier in the summer, when you could include Olympic NP and possible some other areas such as the San Juan Islands, or Vancouver Island and Victoria, the Canadian Gulf Islands, etc. These are all marvelous destinations well worth exploring when you don't have to rush around.

Sorry for going on so long, but just trying to be helpful.
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Old Mar 5th, 2022, 09:39 AM
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Ditto everything Gardyloo posted.

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Old Mar 6th, 2022, 08:17 AM
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Yes I agree with janis and gardyloo.

You could spend the leg after Sacramento at Crater Lake then after that you might even consider just stopping for lunch in Bend and then spending the night somewhere in the Hood River Colombia Gorge area. It is only one and half hours from Crater Lake to Bend and while Bend is certainly cute, I think Bend is comparable to so many cute towns in California, and you would get a good look at it with a lunch stop and decide if you want to come back to take advantage of the "lifestyle for skiing, paddle boarding, hiking, etc.

If you continue on up to Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge then you can make your way over to Astoria and down the coast and then cut back over to I-5 at somewhere between Florence and Coos Bay Bandon area and then spend a night in Ashland on your way back after dividing the trip nights among that stretch.

IMO, that is the best of both worlds to stay at Crater Lake on one leg and Ashland on the other. Ashland itself is cute and you probably know is renowned for its Shakespeare Festival. If you love sweets, make sure you stop at the Heaven On Earth Bakery in Azalea OR. They are famous for their cinnamon rolls the size of your head-they are sold in cake carriers! They do have smaller versions as well And they actually are a full service restaurant, although I have never eaten there:

https://www.heavenonearthbakery.com/


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Old Mar 6th, 2022, 04:51 PM
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I had a great experience visiting Oregon Caves National Monument. Went on a ranger-led descent into a lava tube cave. Not a show cave. Had to squeeze through the entrance.
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Old Mar 7th, 2022, 10:30 AM
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Crater Lake

I've missed out on lodging in Crater Lake Lodge, it's booked. How is the drive from Diamond Lake? Google says 5 miles? Any thoughts?
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Old Mar 7th, 2022, 11:16 AM
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Easy drive from Diamond Lake to Crater Lake. The Lodge at Crater was rather dated last time I was there. Don’t expect luxury. Another place I have stayed is Prospect Inn in the little town of Prospect. Part of the Inn is like a motel but the main inn, is rooms with antique furnishing. There is a restaurant with pretty good food and I think breakfast is included in fee.
Also Steamboat Inn is a nice place with location on the River and a restaurant.
along Hwy. 138, there are many waterfall hikes. Watson Falls and Susan Falls are a couple of favorites. Some of the falls are just short walks, others longer. You could spend a day just visiting waterfalls.
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Old Mar 7th, 2022, 11:38 AM
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If you're in the Yachats area, Thor's Well is a really cool thing to see. For the best experience you should get there about an hour before high tide and stay until at least high tide. We timed it wrong and got there a little after high tide, so didn't get the full experience, but thought it was wonderful anyway. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/thor-s-well

Heceta Head lighthouse is worth a stop, and we really enjoyed going to the Oregon Sea Lion Cave, America's largest sea cave, which has a large colony of sea lions inside. You take an elevator to get down inside the cave, so is pretty easily accessible, though they do charge an entrance fee. These are both on the coast south of Yachats. https://www.sealioncaves.com/#
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Old Mar 7th, 2022, 02:03 PM
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Crater Lake

Is one full day enough time to see Crater Lake?
We head up to Bend that night, then Timberline Lodge on the way to Hood River the next night
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