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amcquiggan May 23rd, 2005 11:35 AM

How feasible is it to do Olympic nat. park, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, North Cascades, and the San Juan Islands on a 14 day vacation?
I listed a post a few weeks ago about my trip to Washington state June1- June14. I have gotten some good advice, but the more I read about the area, the more I want to include in my trip. Being a hiker (not mountain climbing) and amateur photographer that I am, I am overwhelmed by all the beauty Washington has to offer.
I think I need help.

So, with 14 days (knowing my likes)what would you do?
Do I have time to fit all of those locations in?
Am I missing any great locations? What trails at each of these parks are most spectacular?
Is the weather typically conducive to photography this time of year?
Are the North Cascades less rainy?
Which of the San Juan islands has the best scenery (if I had to choose)?
Should I make reservations for lodging in advance during this part of the season?

Thanks in advance for the advice.

happytrailstoyou May 23rd, 2005 11:53 AM

Your itinerary is doable. Here is one possible routing: Mt. Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Lake Quinault Lodge ONP, Crescent Lake Lodge ONP, Whidbey Island (via Port Townsend), San Juan Island of your choice from Anacortes (San Juan Island has natural beauty, historic buildings, and whales), North Cascade Highway (staying at Winthrop), return to Seattle via Route 2 (Leavenworth and Stevens Pass).

If I were making this trip I would book my rooms today, and I would also book dining reservations at Lake Quinault Lodge and Crescent Lake Lodge.

Gardyloo May 23rd, 2005 11:56 AM

<i>Do I have time to fit all of those locations in?</i>
Yes, but not a lot of time in each.

<i>Am I missing any great locations?</i>
Yes, Columbia Gorge.

<i>What trails at each of these parks are most spectacular?</i>
Too big to generalize. St Helens is more of a drive-to-Johnstone Ridge, get out, snap, snap, back in car, bye. Many trails in the park are closed for safety reason. Rainier has umpteen trails, all rather heavily used, all worthwhile. Olympic has mountains, rainforests, beaches - way too dependent on your precise itinerary to generalize.

<i>Is the weather typically conducive to photography this time of year?</i>
June can be rainy on the coast and in the hills - atmospheric photos, great in the rainforest. Otherwise clouds happen. Good color saturation.

<i>Are the North Cascades less rainy?</i>
East slopes are dry, west slopes are wet.

<i>Which of the San Juan islands has the best scenery (if I had to choose)?</i>
Orcas has the biggest hills, San Juan the cutest village (Roche Harbor) Lopez the nicest inlets and rural countryside. Pick 'em.

<i>Should I make reservations for lodging in advance during this part of the season?</i>
You should have made them four months ago. Get on it.

amcquiggan May 23rd, 2005 01:50 PM

Thanks for all of the information so far.
My husband and I are more &quot;go with the flow&quot; travelers... we stay in one location as long as we are occupied and then we move on, making it difficult to reserve lodging past the first few nights. Is this area so saturated with tourists during this period that it is a &quot;must&quot; to book all of our nights? If so, I probably should have booked some things earlier :-)

Gardyloo May 23rd, 2005 02:26 PM

You can play it by ear provided you're not opposed to having to stay outside the national parks and commute in/out during the days. Ocean Shores and vicinity have plenty of accommodation with so-so convenience to the southern Olympic NP coastal strip; Forks and Port Angeles for the northern part. Rainier can really be handled as a day trip from Seattle, St Helens from Portland. The San Juans would be the biggest concern, especially on weekends.

Clousie May 23rd, 2005 02:55 PM

We're going to ONP later in the summer, and were also concerned about the few places to stay. Some folks had warned us that Forks isn't the garden spot on the coast, but we were able to find several B&amp;B's that look rather nice, and aren't right in town.

We're staying at manitou Lodge
and I just saw that they have availability when you'll be there. For beach walking, hiking and photography, I hope we've chosen a good location.

Clousie May 23rd, 2005 03:25 PM

Also wanted to give you this site, which lists other accommodations.

happytrailstoyou May 23rd, 2005 03:49 PM

If you aren't particular where you hang your hat, you should be able to find rooms in June and we have sometimes found that special places which have been &quot;booked for months&quot; have a room available at the last minute.

However, if it is important to you to spend a night at special places such as Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainier or wonderful Crescent Lake Lodge on the Olympic Penninsula, you would be wise to make a reservation now.

christy1 May 23rd, 2005 03:51 PM

I would not head to the San Juans without reservations, even on a weekday. Like Gardyloo said, they all have their good points. If you want whales and the longest public beach in the islands, San Juan; Orcas for hiking, the best restaurants and the amazing view from Mt. Constitution; Lopez for biking, fewer tourists, nice small beaches.

You will also probably have a hard time finding good lodging on weekends at many of those locations without reservations. The problem with playing it by ear is that all of the best places, the waterfront b and b's in the San Juans, the National Park lodges, etc, will be booked by those who made advance reservations. If you aren't picky about where you stay, how far from your intended destination you stay and how much you pay, you'll probably be allright.

The best trails in the mountains will still be under snow. Other trails have not yet had their annual summer maintanance, and might have bridges out or other washouts. When you visit each park, ask for recommendations at the visitor's center for hikes. They will know what is safe and accessible.

Given our often cool June weather, I'd urge you to spend at least part of your time in the eastern Cascades. The Winthrop/Methow Valley area is a great place. There is a ranger station/visitors center in Winthrop that can help you with finding good, accessible hikes and scenic drives with photo opportunities. You will have more snow-free options up there. Also, Sun Mountain Lodge, which is a lovely but usually expensive place to stay near Winthrop, is offering special deals on weekday stays in June. That would be worth planning for.

If you haven't already, I'd get a guidebook for the region. I like the Moon Handbooks-they have good advice on lodging and restaurants as well as hikes and other outdoor activities.

amcquiggan May 24th, 2005 09:05 AM

Wow, thanks for the fabulous advice. I will try to come up with a rough itenerary in the next couple days to see what all of you think (I know it is difficult to give specific advice when I am being so general). I did not realize that some hiking paths would still be under snow. How much of my trip will be limited by the time period that I have chosen: hopefully not too much :-) ?

christy1 May 24th, 2005 09:47 AM

June is an okay time for some places, not the best for others. The ocean and the rainforest at ONP won't, of course, be under snow, so there's hiking there. The weather could be nice or it could be cool and rainy. The San Juan Islands get a bit less rain, so June is a perfectly good time to go there. The eastern Cascades should have nice weather.
Usually the best trails in the mountains don't melt out until mid-July (sometimes later). We did have a low snowpack this year, and trails will be accessible earlier, but it's hard to suggest hikes at this point-you'll need to call or talk to rangers/visitors center staff as you approach each destination. BUT, I can guarantee that there will be at least some worthwhile hikes that you will be able to take.
This site gives you an idea of what spring hiking is like and how you need to plan for it (the other national parks will have similar updates on their websites):

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