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Just another person needing itenerary help for PNW trip

Just another person needing itenerary help for PNW trip

Old Apr 24th, 2024, 01:55 PM
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Just another person needing itenerary help for PNW trip

Hello - I see this is a repeat topic but couldn't find one that is specific enough to our situation so I thought I would ask here and am so grateful for any guidance!

traveling August 2024 - myself and husband, three kids who will be 8, 12 and 14. Flying in and out of Portland. We have 10 days, including the day we land majority of the day but the day we leave we depart nice and early. About us - we like small-ish hikes, our max is about 3 miles as family. We are from the midwest so our focus is on amazing scenery - we cant wait to see the beautiful beaches, waterfalls and mountains! We have never been to this region and probably won't again. We prefer to stay in air bnb's and are comfortable with day trips from lodging up to 2 hours away. We will have a rental vehicle. We are not really all that interested in city stuff - Portland or Seattle but also not opposed for quick half day or whatever driving through.

Here are the places we have researched and would love to see/spend time at:
Columbia River Gorge
Mt. Rainier
Somewhere coastal Oregon (roughly Canon Beach area but really anywhere)
Olympic NP - specifically Hoh rainforest is of interest as well as Crescent Lake/Hurricane Ridge
Puget Sound area

I have two areas needing feedback! Firstly, how do-able is this? My first thought was planning a big loop! And we don't mind driving but staying at a different place each night is not really ideal for us and the loop is huge 🤪. Our alternative thought is maybe we should be doing a different loop of south to include areas like Mt. Hood, Bend, down to Crater Lake and up the coast???
Secondly - if we stick with original idea I am just really looking for some feedback on how to best design this.
I fully realize we may have to skip areas of interest to make this work! We want a balance of not driving around constantly and being in new lodging every night and also not staying in just one place!

The original itinerary I mapped out was:
Day 1: Land in Portland, explore few hours and head to coast
Day 2: Coastal exploring
Day 3: coastal exploring
Day 4: Head north and spend night near Forks
Day 5: Visit Hoh rainforest and then head to Port Angeles area
Day 6:Explore ONP from (from p.a. lodging)
Day 7: Explore Puget sound island/Whidbey?? (from p.a. lodging)
Day 8: Head towards Mt. Rainier and stay in cabin in the area
Day 9: Explore Mt Rainier
Day 10: fly out
*I don't like that this doesn't include Columbia River Gorge and I'm also worried about packing up all of our crap multiple times to location hop. I'm wondering if we just need to cancel an entire destination and if so, which one?

Thanks so much!
halliewemmie3093 is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2024, 08:24 AM
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If you haven't yet, please come on over to Trip Advisor, the Washington State forum. There are extremely valuable, knowledgeable posters there for the region (only a couple cross post on Fodors). Itineraries like this are discussed in detail on pretty much a daily basis. You can start by reading thru all the other questions, and most of yours will be answered. Welcome!
suze is online now  
Old Apr 25th, 2024, 08:28 AM
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A couple small tweaks I'll throw out... I wouldn't go into downtown Portland for only a couple hours of exploring. The airport is now in downtown and would be so much easier to just head to the coast directly. I'd skip the Whidbey Island part. I really like it there but your timing is too tight and it's out of the way (and for no really good reason I can think of).

You could add the Gorge and skip ONP. Especially since you are flying in and out of Portland. The Oregon Coast and the Gorge alone (maybe do then include a day in Portland) would make a fine 10 day trip.

Happy planning!
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Old Apr 25th, 2024, 08:39 AM
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Hi and welcome to Fodor's!

I think it's too much, and there are a couple of logistical issues that need to be confronted. First, accommodation is VERY limited on the Pacific coastal strip of Olympic National Park, and much of it, especially places suitable for a party of 5, are very likely already booked. The same goes for other principal targets in your post, such as Mount Rainier.

Second, the popularity of these places is such that there is now "metered" or permit-based entry into, for example, the Hoh rainforest visitor center, and all of Mount Rainier NP. The same goes for the "waterfall zone" along the Columbia River Gorge, but see below for more on that area.

Third, the risk is likely to be higher than normal (already high) that this winter's lower-than-average snowfall in the Cascade mountains is going to make for summer droughts and very dry conditions by late summer, hence raising the risk of forest and wildfires. Now obviously one can't and shouldn't base a whole vacation plan on the chance that it MIGHT be disrupted or impacted by fires or smoke, but the more your trip is a series of dominoes - one place after another after another - the higher the risk that one disruption will send the remaining dominoes down, if you get my gist.

And fourth (and really most importantly) you're doing what many first time visitors to the region do - underestimating the distances and time needed to get from one amazing place to the next. Your outline plan is really three trips of similar length to the one you have time for.

So what to suggest? Well, less is more, I guess. I'd propose a big "figure 8" that includes the Columbia Gorge and Mount Hood area, and a loop out to the north coast. Here's a schematic map, and note Google only allows 10 places on it, so some of the recommended stops might not be shown.

Map - https://maps.app.goo.gl/VcZjWzDTUWmNB2247

Gorge/Hood River/Mount Hood: This is a remarkably diverse area with many attractions very close to one another, thereby lending itself to a "base" with day trips rather than some kind of progression. The waterfalls along the Gorge wall are marvelous, of course, even if the flow of water will be diminished by August. But Hood River itself offers all kinds of fun things for families - wind surfing and kite boarding on the Columbia, traveling around the "fruit loop" in the gorgeous Hood River Valley, day trips to Timberline Lodge on the side of Mount Hood, maybe including a ride on the "magic mile" chairlift up to the permanent ice fields on the side of the big volcano...

You can visit beautiful Trillium Lake with its view of Mount Hood reflected in the water, say hello to Herman the Sturgeon (a huge and ancient fish) at the Bonneville hatchery, or visit the remarkable Maryhill Museum of Art - Rodin in the sagebrush - in Maryhill, 40 minutes east of Hood River.

A few days based in Hood River, or really anywhere along the Columbia east of the airport, and you can see and experience a wonderful array of sights and activities. More time doing things, less time behind the wheel.

Coastal loop: Many places on the northern Oregon coast require multiple nights (at least 2) bookings, and as I said above, you're going to need to hustle to get anything booked for a party of 5.

But it's sort of a similar idea to the Gorge/Mount Hood area. It's possible to base yourselves, pretty much anywhere from Cannon Beach in the south to Ilwaco or Long Beach (WA) in the north, and be able to access a pretty wide range of places and activities as day trips.

These include the shops and terrific beach in Cannon Beach, or adjacent Ecola State Park - stunning. Seaside, Oregon and Long Beach, Washington, both have a sort of salt-water-taffy vibe, or there's historic Astoria (rapidly becoming a foodie destination.) Across the (awesome) mouth of the Columbia is the funky fishing village of Ilwaco, or stunning Cape Disappointment State Park, with its lighthouses, waves-on-rocks scenery, Lewis and Clark interpretive center, and Waikiki Beach - the other one.

The nearby Willapa wildlife refuge offers wetlands boardwalks, lots of wildlife, and hikes through rainforests. It's not the Hoh forest, but it's pretty cool, and WAY less crowded.

I'd return to Portland via the north shore of the Columbia - scenic and historic and off the beaten path.

Now, all this is pretty different than what you propose, but I'd give it some thought and some googling. My guess, not knowing you or your family, is that this could make for a pretty terrific time of things.

And again, welcome to Fodor's!

Gardyloo is online now  
Old Apr 25th, 2024, 11:40 AM
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Great route suggested by Gardyloo. Spend your first night in Hood River. You can check out Multnomah Falls on the way to Hood River. The parking is in the median of I-86 (left exit). There is a walkway under the eastbound lanes to get to the falls. Multnomah Falls is the tallest in Oregon. Hood River is known worldwide for the wind surfing on the Columbia River.

If you wanted to see more of the Cascades, you could go the other way on US 26 and US 97 to get to Bend. There is a lot to do and see in the Bend area. IMO Mt. Hood and the mountains to the south of it are just as great as Mt. Rainier and Mount Adams.
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Old Apr 26th, 2024, 07:44 AM
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I'm hoping that hallie is not a "one and done" poster. Please come back and give us your thoughts and plans.
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Old Apr 26th, 2024, 10:34 AM
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Thanks everyone for the thoughts and suggestions!! I was well aware that my original itinerary was probably too much but had so much trouble deciding what to trim or if it should be re-imagined in entirety. There is just so much to see in the area that we won't get back to so it's hard deciding!I have already located air bnbs in the areas of my original itinerary but realize that the options have dwindled and continuing to do so, so time is of the essence!!
Thanks again
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Old Apr 26th, 2024, 04:14 PM
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Lets pretend that you live in the midwest and that you are eight, twelve, and fourteen...

And that you're going to the northwest for the first time...

the emphasis needs to be on mountains and ocean if you're admittedly none too keen on visiting the cities.

I can't quite justify bothering with the northern leg of your journey, given your lodging desires (bases, and day trips)

I'm not sure that Mount Rainier is going to offer you a whole lot extra when the gang can get right to the seeming side of Mount Hood just 90 minutes from the center of Portland.

You want unique mountains? - try volcanic Mount St. Helens, a mere 2 hours from central Portland.

You want views of multiple mountains??? You could roll the dice as far as clouds go, and visit Larch Mountain, from which several mountains can be seen from one spot in clear weather.

Otherwise, if you find the right spot in central Oregon, looking westward from single spots west and south of Redmond, you can see 8 or 10 different cone-like mountaintops, with most considerably prominent (one's even Broken )

You mentioned "Forks"... is ANY of your interest there related to the Twilight movie series of old?

IF so, you can visit tiny St. Helens, Oregon and perhaps get as much Twilight as you might in Forks, with St. Helens, Oregon just 30 miles / 45 minutes from central Portland.

The Columbia Gorge is worth a journey if you're eight, twelve and fourteen-year-old outdoorsy types.

Obviously the Pacific Coast is a destination for midwesterners... be aware that The Washington Coast is NOT as accessible or even visible as is the Oregon Coast (lots of driving with limited/minimal water views on the WA side).

So clearly you'd do best to get your ocean views on the Oregon side.

If you reduce the broad scope of your trip, you can be more thorough in various directions in a scenario you like.

And IF, by chance, you thoroughly committed yourself to a southern trip down the coast, you might be able to squeeze in a trip eastward to Crater Lake, combined with an inland return to the north on a path east of the mountains.

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Old Apr 26th, 2024, 04:23 PM
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Thank you NorthwestMale
I have decided to shrink our trip to a larger loop around Portland to include Mt. St Helens, Columbia Gorge/Mt Hood, west towards the coast (dipping a little south on our way there to stop at Silver Falls State Park) and then up to Cape Disappointment and back! Any specific recs within these new guidelines appreciated! Will save the Olympic National Park area for a different trip if we are ever lucky enough to be able to!
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Old Apr 27th, 2024, 07:25 AM
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Note that access to the Johnston Ridge observatory overlooking the Mt. St. Helens caldera is blocked by a landslide on SR 504, and not expected to be reopened this year. While there are a couple of other places where you can see the mountain, none are as dramatic as Johnston Ridge and may not be worth the time needed to get to them. Your call.

For a long but very rewarding day if you're based around Hood River, a drive down to Smith Rock State Park can be very worthwhile. It illustrates the amazing variety of landscapes relatively close to each other in this area.

Map - https://maps.app.goo.gl/3J7dLuUrLU8pJBdn6

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Old Apr 27th, 2024, 07:44 AM
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Make sure you have enough time to do the Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park. One of my top 10 hikes ever.
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