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Help Planning for Seattle, ONP, North Cascades, possibly Mt Rainier

Help Planning for Seattle, ONP, North Cascades, possibly Mt Rainier

Old Jun 19th, 2005, 01:54 AM
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Help Planning for Seattle, ONP, North Cascades, possibly Mt Rainier

Hi all,

We're hoping someone can help us out with our trip to Seattle. We're planning a 10 night trip to cover Seattle, Olympic National Park, North Cascades, and possibly Mt Rainier for a day if we have time left. We're not the hiking type, but prefer to take the fly-and-drive (from the UK) holiday route I've been to Seattle/ONP 10 yrs ago and enjoyed it tremendously but that was for a conference so I'm hoping to spend more time there now.

Here's the current plan. We'll be trying for early - mid August.

Nights
------
1 Seattle
2 Seattle
3 Seattle
4 ONP - Lake Quinault
5 ONP - Lake Quinault
6 ONP - Lake Crescent
7 North Cascades
(Is it hard to get a car ferry from Port Townsend to Keystone? That'd cut down driving time tremendously)
8 North Cascades
9 Mt Rainier (Don't have to stay there, can take a day trip from Seattle)
10 Seattle

I'm not sure if 2 nights (3 days) at North Cascades is sufficient... Given a choice between NC and Mt Rainier, we'd prefer to spend time with NC I think.

1. Is the driving time between locations crazy or are we okay? My main concern is driving from Lake Crescent to North Cascades (eg Winthrop). If the ferry service between Pt Townsend and Keystone is good, then that'd cut down some time, but still I think it'll be a long drive between these 2 points.
2. What are the nice places to stay for North Cascades? We're looking at not more than $140 per night.

Would appreciate any help on this! Are we missing anything else? We live in the city and would love to visit locations in Washington which are as un-city-like as possible (okay, discouting the compulsory Seattle touristy thing!) Mountains, lakes, places for us to just enjoy the peace and beauty of nature...

Thanks in advance,
Saidean
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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 05:25 AM
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although some may disagree with me, if you are not a hiker, north cascades may only warrant one day if time is tight.

I stayed about 3 days and did some wonderful hiking. (Cascades Pass what a great hike and not too hard)

I did a google search for lodging for the towns around north cascades. you won't see any chain motels out there.

I really don't recall that many places to stay, i stayed somewhere in a rental cabin complex where there were rabbits everywhere, it was odd.

(i did not have reservations, just a list of places to check out - this was 2001 right after 9/11 - i mean like 3 days later so there were a lot of cancelled reservations that made it easy for me to find places to stay,even in Rainier)


I am also a big fan of Lake Chelan. really a pretty lake to the east of the pass thru cascades.

Rainier shouldn't be missed. at first i thought maybe i could squeeze it in, andd boy am i glad i did, i ended up staying a couple of days. what a beautiful mountain.

You may want to check out the lavendar farms on the penninsula, my favorite was Purple Haze, just for the name if nothing else!

Also hit Hurricane ridge in ONP. I also did a day trip out of (either port townsend or angeles) to Friday Harbor. Just the ferry ride is beautiful.

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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 08:11 AM
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I like your itinerary and your questions. Here are some possibilities:

• If the skies are clear on your third day in Seattle, that might be a good day to take a day trip to Mt. Rainier.
• Spend one night at Lake Quinault and two nights at Crescent Lake Lodge (which is better situated to Hurricane Ridge and more other ONP attractions).
• Your driving times are realistic, but ferry travel is always problematic. (This past weekend a route was closed for hours due to a false bomb scare.) However, do what others do—wait in line. The Washington State Ferry website gives up-to-the-minute information about delays, etc.

We enjoy Winthrop more when we stay at a “resort” rather than a motel. Recently we rented a cabin at River Run Inn, which is a 10- to 15-minute walk from downtown Winthrop. It was large, private, and quiet. On our next visit we plan to stay at Wolf Ridge Resort, which is about 5 miles out of town—half way to Sun Mountain Lodge. Both these places have accommodations for under $140.

We had a very good and reasonably priced meal at Topo Café—a comparatively new Asian restaurant in downtown Winthrop. Fiddlehead restaurant in the nearby town of Twisp is also a good place to eat.

The dining room at Sun Mountain Lodge is very expensive, but the bar menu has good choices and the view from the bar deck is fabulous.

I assume you will drive back to Seattle via the Columbia River, Chelan, Leavenworth, and Stevens Pass. If you arrive in Leavenworth at lunch time, the deck at Gustav’s is a great place to enjoy a sandwich or salad. Otherwise, nearby Visconti’s is a good choice.
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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 08:14 AM
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Two nights in Winthrop is good, especially considering your first night is on a big travel day.
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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 10:05 AM
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Hi all,

Thanks for the quick replies. My hubby has a medical condition that makes it problematic for hiking! So far, our trips to (eg) Norway had been very fruitful even given this handicap - we drove as much as we could, took our time at stops just soaking in the view and scenary, and that's what counts I guess...!

happytrailstoyou - your suggestion of day trip to Rainier on day 3 sounds wonderful! Must do that!

I was thinking 2 nights at Lake Quinault so that we could hit Hoh, La Push, plus i'm not sure how long the drive from Seattle to Quinault can be, so first night might just be a rest night. I agree that Crescent might be better though, as we'd really like to spend more time near Hurricane Ridge (mountains are our weakness.. we love them!)

We just discovered that we MUST go up to Artist Point (cliche it might be) to view Mt Shuksan and Picture Lake. Hubby's childhood home had a massive wallposter (tacky but hey it was the 70s) of the famous Mt Shuksan/Picture Lake view and it'd be nice to just go there to see it in real life.

So given that we're moving off from ONP/Port Townsend towards North Cascades, up to artist point, and then back on State 20 east towards Winthrop, would that be too much, or should we stop somewhere westwards on 20 (eg Marblemount or Newhalem etc)?

We might push for Winthrop if it isn't too tedious, or we might stop at an initial point west of it, and 2nd night at Winthrop.

Yes, we'll be heading to Stevens Pass/Leavenheath on way back to Seattle! It'll be great!
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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 08:04 PM
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Lake Quinault is about 155 miles from Seattle—a 3 ˝- to 4-hour drive.

Ruby Beach and the Hoh Rain Forest are logically visited on the trip from Lake Quinault to Crescent Lake. I don’t feel La Push is a “must see” after a walk on Ruby Beach, but others may disagree.

Artist’s Point isn’t open yet, but it may be open when you are in the area. (Check for the opening date at 360 856-5700, Ext. 515). In any event, Artist’s Point will add a very long drive and the views you want cannot be enjoyed without a hike. I advise against this detour considering your husband’s medical condition.

I don’t think there is any place to stay in Newhalem, but you will want to stay somewhere other than Winthrop if you decide to go there via Mt. Baker.



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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 08:30 PM
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The lake they want to see, with Mt. Shuksan in the background, is right next to the road. There are actually some very nice views from the parking lot/picnic area at Artist's Point. It will be open in August.
I can't imagine how you could make it from Lake Crescent, to Artist's Point, then to Winthrop in one day. That is wayyy too much driving and it might be dark while you're driving through the beautiful NC. Staying in Marblemount, Rockport or Concrete, west of the mts., is a better idea. You might even consider staying somewhere along the Mt. Baker Highway so you aren't feeling too rushed.

Near Winthrop there are some beautiful drives. The drive to Slate Peak Lookout
is the highest road in Washington-there are views along the way and if your husband can manage the 1/4 mile walk to the fire lookout at the end, you will find terrific views.

Someone suggested Lake Chelan-taking the boat up the lake to Stehekin provides some wonderful mountain scenery. If you do this, pay extra for the fast boats-the slow boats are slowww. The scenery uplake is much, much prettier than the southern end that you'll pass through by car.
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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 11:00 PM
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Hi Christy1,

Yes I think taking a stop near Marblemount/Concrete/Rockport might be a better idea. Do you know of any recommended lodges/resorts etc around the area?

We've just checked with some lodges in Winthrop - Wolf Ridge is out because they have no more rooms on the weekend that we'll be arriving at North Cascades, but Rio Vista said they have vacancies. Has anyone stayed at Rio Vista? I recalled reading elsewhere that it's on the main road so will noise be a factor?
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Old Jun 20th, 2005, 03:39 AM
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Hi Christy1,

Slate Peak Lookout is via Hart's Pass isn't it? I was reading Lonely Planet and it indicated that the drive is... not for the fainthearted lol. Now we've been to Norway where some of the drives are quite 'adventurous' to say the least, but has the situation with the road to Slate Peak improved (LP stated that last 12 miles are gravel), with no guard rails, steep drop offs!

Sounds like fun. I guess we should bring warm clothing near the end of it as well?
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Old Jun 20th, 2005, 09:19 AM
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Street noise is not a factor at the Rio Vista--all rooms face the river. The motel is a block away from Topo Cafe--a very good Asian bistro.
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Old Jun 20th, 2005, 11:23 AM
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I'm going to comment as one who's led various sets of friends from the UK around the region, doing car-based tours similar to your description of your style. Obviously I don't know your preferences or other travel experiences, so take the following with a measure of salt, and also I must confess to some personal biases that will be all too evident.

I think the North Cascades Highway, given the rest of your itinerary, is not the best use of your time. If you had two or three more days, I'd say sure, go for it, then return to Seattle via the eastern slopes of the Cascades, even approaching Mt. Rainier from the east on US 12.

But given your time on the coast and Olympic Peninsula, I think trying to get to Winthrop or some such will simply be too tiring, and in terms of scenery, not worth the effort compared to other things you could do with the same time. (Called "opportunity cost" in the financial biz.)

The problem with SR 20 is that it's tedious as hell from Burlington up to Diablo Lake, and if you've started the day at Port Angeles, waited for the Whidbey ferry (which can, in summer, not only be crowded, requiring long waits to get a slot, but also subject to cancellations if low tides prevent docking at Whidbey) and then set off into the hills, you'll arrive at whatever overnight spot you pick (which are exceedingly scarce inside the National Park) tired and rump-sprung and not in an especially festive mood. Then the next day's drive back to Seattle (or beyond) is nearly as tiring. Note that if you cross the mountains and get over to the Columbia River drainage, in August it will likely be hot as hell - not a problem in the car, but it can be a bit draining if you're in and out for picture-taking etc.

It's also been a poor year for snow pack, so by August much of the snowy-peak scenery will be gravel and rocky-peak scenery, save for the glaciers on Mts. Baker and Shuksan - but views of those from SR 20 are, if memory serves, zilch.

Here would be my recommendation instead, for what it's worth.

Take the Port Townsend-Keystone ferry and then head for La Conner for the evening. Cute town, some decent restaurants, easy from the peninsula.

Next day, day trip up to the Mt. Baker ski lodge, around 2 hours. The views from the lakes and roads around the lodge are stunning, the road is not a hard drive. There is very little in the way of commercial development on the highway, so pick up picnic goodies when you can. Then return to the Seattle area that night, using SR 9 rather than Interstate 5. Pretty country road (for part of the way.) The lodge will be closed, sadly, but the loos are open, thankfully.

If you want to get s better feel of the Puget Sound environment, overnight at the Silver Cloud Inn in Mukilteo (just south of Everett) which is built on piers over the water, next to the "other" Whidbey ferry dock, and close to the biggest building in the world at the Boeing widebody assembly plant.

Next day, head out early for Mt. Rainier (around 3 hours) then end up the night back in Seattle. I believe this is either the same day you would have returned, or a day early (lost count) but in any event the day trip to Mt. Rainier will be doable that day.

I don't know if you're coming directly from the UK to Seattle at the beginning, but if you are I would not try Mt. Rainier at the beginning of the trip - I'd suggest using a couple of days to get de-lagged before taking off on the wrong side of the road in the mountains.

This may help or hinder your plans; hope the former, regrets if the latter.
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Old Jun 20th, 2005, 05:17 PM
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The drive from Burlington to Rockport on Highway 20 is tedious--we prefer to drive 530 from Rockport to Arlington.

However, the Methow Valley (where Winthrop is located) is a magical place. And, the drive down the Columbia River to Highway 2 is another great experience.

Highway 542 to Mt. Baker provides few mountain views, and the views you want from Artist's Point can only be seen when hiking. It isn't a hard hike, but it is a hike. Also, some years Artist's Point doesn't open until late July.
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Old Jun 20th, 2005, 05:28 PM
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Well we can disagree on magic, but they're coming from PA so Burlington would be the only logical route.

I doubt that too many snow-closed roads are going to be very closed this summer. IIRC SR 20 reopened at a record early date.

I agree that the east side down to US 2 or even I-90 is lovely; I just think it's a longish schlep given their time. Frankly, I would have suggested (and have done) doing the Olympic/Cascade loop in the opposite direction - Seattle to PA to the coast to Rainier (straight shot on US 12) to Yakima to US 2 to Seattle.
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Old Jun 20th, 2005, 10:36 PM
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I've never stayed there, but I know a number of people who've liked the Skagit River Resort in Rockport. I don't think it's anything particularly special, but it sounds like a decent option. In Winthrop, have you looked at Sun Mountain Lodge? It's pricey, but that pool would feel awfully good in August.

Regarding my Slate Peak suggestion-I had to laugh. It didn't occur to me that not everyone is used to driving on gravel roads high up in the mountains-I guess I've lived and hiked in Washington too long! It really is not dangerous in the least, but I can certainly see how, if you aren't used to that kind of driving, it might sound intimidating.

Why is everyone going on about the drive between Burlington and Newhalem? That's all of an hour and a half, and it's not a bad drive.
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Old Jun 21st, 2005, 02:09 AM
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The idea of doing the reverse is something I'm trying to work out now, and it seems to make more sense.

In any case, I contacted Lake Crescent Lodge by phone (used their contact form for the past 2 days, but never received a reply) and found that they're fully booked for August, although cancellations are possible closer to the time.

Are there any other nice places to stay in north ONP? The next destination after Lake Crescent would've been Lake Quinault (which still looks okay for the dates we're planning - thank God for online bookings!).

Has anyone been to Sol Duc Resort (affiliated with Lake Quinault Lodge)? Their website has no pictures of their rooms so I can't tell.

The other option is Log Cabin Resort - has anyone tried that? Cleanliness is a big thing for me ...!
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Old Jun 21st, 2005, 10:05 AM
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I basically liked your original itinerary, but now it seems you are getting lost in the woods.

If your primary interst is mountains, you would be better off in the Canadian Rockies: Banff, Jasper, Ice Fields Parkway, Kootenay, Yoho, and Waterton Lakes provide incomparable mountain drives. And you don't have to worry about ferries. Fly into Calgary and rent a car.
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Old Feb 13th, 2006, 08:14 PM
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You should have stayed at the Buffalo Run Inn in Marblemount, Washington. It is a historic 1889 roadhouse that was a gathering spot for the gold miners, lumberjacks and mountain men traveling up the Skagit River to the North Cascades. The rooms are luxurious, the rates are reasonable and the Buffalo Run Restaurant is right across the street, where all guests get a 10% discount!
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Old Feb 13th, 2006, 08:38 PM
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Old Feb 14th, 2006, 07:24 AM
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If you can't hike, skip some of the mountains and take the ferry over to Victoria, BC and possibly Vancouver. The Burchart Gardens are not to be missed.
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Old Feb 15th, 2006, 11:00 AM
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Hi, A couple of websites that might help with your planning are www. experiencewashington.com and www.washingtontourist.com they have many great ideas and other links to help visitors to our great state. Whatever you do have a great time, Kim
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