National Park trip/What's realistic???

Jan 11th, 2019, 12:42 PM
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National Park trip/What's realistic???

We are planning on visiting the last week of May. We will fly into Seattle and spend 1 or 2 nights. From there I think we are most interested in visiting North Cascades NP, San Juan Islands for whale watching and kayaking, and Olympic National Park. Is this doable in 1 week? How much time should we allow for each location? Could we fit anything else in? It may be possible to extend the trip by a day or two. I would love suggestions on highlights to see and lodging as well. Thank you!
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Jan 11th, 2019, 01:54 PM
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mms
 
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No this is not doable in a week. Besides, this is way too early for the North Cascades so cut that then it works much better. You really want at least 3 full days for ONP.
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Jan 16th, 2019, 11:04 AM
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Sorry, no definitely not doable in only 1-week, especially with 1-2 days dedicated to Seattle proper. No way can you do the other 3 areas in only 5 days! Many first time visitors make the mistake of not realizing how BIG things are in the PNW.

In May I would pick Seattle + either the San Juans or the Olympic peninsula (also note there are other places you can go outside the actual national park, like driving out to the coast and around, cute small towns, beaches, etc.
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Jan 16th, 2019, 02:35 PM
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suze--What cute small towns? That is definitely not anything I have ever seen on the Olympic peninsula.
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Jan 16th, 2019, 04:24 PM
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North Cascades will be snowbound and probably socked in anyway.

You can do the San Juans and Olympic NP in a week.

Day 1 - Seattle to Anacortes via Whidbey Island
Days 2-3 Friday Harbor
Day 4 - Friday Harbor to Port Angeles; PM to Hurricane Ridge
Day 5 - PA to either La Push or Hoh rain forest, overnight Forks
Day 6 - Forks to either Hoh or La Push, back to PA
Day 7 - PA to Seattle, fly home.
Map - https://goo.gl/maps/oQPopLoMJFJ2 Google the places shown.

An easier but still rewarding time could be had by swapping Whidbey Island for the San Juans, and doing whale chasing (if you must) from Port Townsend or Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula. There are kayak rentals in Langley and Coupeville (both very pretty little towns on Whidbey.) Revised map - https://goo.gl/maps/ZiWN7vC3uQ92

Note the last week of May (Memorial Day weekend in particular) is VERY busy in the San Juans, and ferries in general tend to be crowded. It's very important to book space on the San Juan boats and on the Whidbey-Port Townsend boat.
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Jan 17th, 2019, 11:27 AM
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Don't towns like Ocean Shores, Westport, Graylands, Long Beach, Seaview, etc. count as being on the peninsula?
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Jan 17th, 2019, 11:38 AM
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Have you been to those places, Suze? I don’t remember any of them as “cute” but it’s been a while...

but no, those aren’t really what people are generally talking about when they say the peninsula. Ocean shores and Long Beach are nowhere near the ONP

Last edited by marvelousmouse; Jan 17th, 2019 at 11:42 AM.
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Jan 17th, 2019, 11:59 AM
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It sounds like our trip is ambitious! I appreciate the honest feedback and suggestions. North Cascades is my son's #1 place to visit to see the glaciers. Would it be worth a day trip or would snow prohibit us from seeing anything? Is the highway generally open and clear to travel on by the end of May? I don't want to make the drive if its a waste of time but am willing if its not.

Our new thought is to Fly into Vancouver and spend 2 nights then possibly drive to NCNP for the day ( I know this would be a lot of driving). Then drive to Anacortes.
Spend one night in Anacortes and take the Ferry the next morning to Friday Harbor.
We would spend 2 nights in Friday Harbour before traveling to Forks and spend 2 more nights in Forks. Is Forks a good Home Base for 2 nightsto see the Hot Rain Forest, Hurricane Ridge, and Rialto Beach?
We added one extra night to spend in Seattle and take a red eye home the next night. This gives us 8 nights and 8 full days plus our day of arrival in Vancouver. This will probably our only chance to get to the area so we are trying to fit in as many highlights as we can but of course still enjoy our trip. We can always sleep when we come home! lol

Last edited by kdkerr; Jan 17th, 2019 at 12:11 PM.
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Jan 17th, 2019, 12:50 PM
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Yes I've been to them. I didn't say they were part of the Olympic National Park. I thought the coastline was considered part of the Peninsula as it appears on a map. As in suggesting an alternative to ONP.

but never mind if it's an inappropriate suggestion.
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Jan 17th, 2019, 12:55 PM
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marvelousmouse--I agree 100%.

kdkerr--The road will be open, but hiking will be another issue. Most trails will still be under a lot of snow. If you just want to do the drive and some easy viewpoints though, then yes. It can certainly be a day trip from Seattle, we do it often, but it will be a very long day so be prepared. If that is important to your son, then yes, make it work The problem with ONP is that a home base does not work as it is so spread out. Forks is fine for the Hoh, and beaches, but for Hurricane Ridge you really want to be at least as far north as Lake Crescent, so look there or around Port Angeles.
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Jan 17th, 2019, 12:58 PM
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suze--No, those towns are not considered part of the peninsula, at least by people who live there. DH spent summers in that area with family and they still only describe that area as the coast, not the peninsula.
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Jan 17th, 2019, 02:20 PM
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OK. Thank you for clarifying (because that's not what you see on a map). A coworker was out to Neah Bay and did a loop last weekend, so we were just looking at that area and the route he took. They covered a lot of ground (skirting the ONP) with only a 1-overnight away from the city.
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Jan 17th, 2019, 02:29 PM
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Suze--Neah Bay is an interesting area. DH has done a lot of fishing out of there, and we have explored and camped in the area quite a bit. Definitely not a cute town, lol, but it has its merits if you like to fish etc.
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Jan 17th, 2019, 03:06 PM
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I should have never used the word "cute". The coastal towns on the Pacific coastline have been fun to kick around and made a nice weekend getaway from Seattle. Funky eateries, antique and 2nd hand stores, stuff like that. Would weirdly wonderful have been a better description?
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Jan 17th, 2019, 03:16 PM
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That still wont' describe the towns on the Olympic Peninsula. I know you have said before you haven't been over there. Its hard to describe, but basically the towns along there are pretty run down with very little to offer. Forks has the only real grocery store, to give you an idea.
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Jan 17th, 2019, 03:45 PM
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Not true. I would have never said that because I have been out that way more than a few times. Sequim, Port Townsend, Port Angeles. Kalaloch Lodge and Lake Quinault Lodge, just not extensive hiking into the ONP.

My mistake was thinking that the coastal towns that I've spent the most time in were considered on the Peninsula. Because when I pull up a map of "Olympic Peninsula" it includes the entire peninsula... showing Olympia and Aberdeen down near the base. Hoquiam, then Copalis, etc. working up the coast. Neah Bay, Port Townsend on the top, etc.

But clearly that does not match the definition used by locals.

Bowing out now...
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Jan 17th, 2019, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by kdkerr View Post
It sounds like our trip is ambitious! I appreciate the honest feedback and suggestions. North Cascades is my son's #1 place to visit to see the glaciers. Would it be worth a day trip or would snow prohibit us from seeing anything? Is the highway generally open and clear to travel on by the end of May? I don't want to make the drive if its a waste of time but am willing if its not.
Here's a table showing historical opening and closing dates for a couple of key mountain roads. https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/travel/high...sures-openings SR 20 is the North Cascades Hwy, so you can see that it's generally open by mid-May, if not before. By all reports this is an average to slightly above-average snow season, so it's reasonable to say it will probably be open by late May. However, that's not the whole picture, far from it. First, having the road open doesn't mean you're going to be able to see much. Here's a picture I took on on Chinook Pass, near Mt. Rainier, around the middle of June some years ago. (Chinook is around the same altitude as Washington Pass on SR 20.)



What you can see on that picture is that the snowbanks on both sides of the road are very high. What you can't see is that the pullouts and viewpoints along the road have not been plowed, and won't be for some time. The same would hold for SR 20 through the north Cascades, so the chances of having a good experience for views would be iffy. In addition - and this applies everywhere in the Cascades - the odds are very great that clouds, rain, fog or snow - or combinations thereof - will limit visibility to, well, nothing. So bottom line, you can probably make it along SR 20, but the chances are high that you'll be disappointed in the process. No guarantees of course, but, well, do you feel lucky?

Originally Posted by kdkerr View Post
Our new thought is to Fly into Vancouver and spend 2 nights then possibly drive to NCNP for the day ( I know this would be a lot of driving). Then drive to Anacortes.
Spend one night in Anacortes and take the Ferry the next morning to Friday Harbor.
That would be a really long day's drive. From I-5 to, say, Diablo Dam, is a very long drive. Add time for the border crossing (which could be quite long) and traffic out of Vancouver - well, again, it wouldn't be my choice.

Originally Posted by kdkerr View Post
We would spend 2 nights in Friday Harbour before traveling to Forks and spend 2 more nights in Forks. Is Forks a good Home Base for 2 nights to see the Hot Rain Forest, Hurricane Ridge, and Rialto Beach?
We added one extra night to spend in Seattle and take a red eye home the next night. This gives us 8 nights and 8 full days plus our day of arrival in Vancouver. This will probably our only chance to get to the area so we are trying to fit in as many highlights as we can but of course still enjoy our trip. We can always sleep when we come home! lol
Curious... where's home? Your spelling of "harbour" is in the British/Canadian manner, so is home the UK or eastern Canada?

Forks is a... well, a hole. But it's convenient for sights along the west coast - the La Push beaches and Hoh rain forest in particular. However I really wouldn't want to spend more than a night there if I could manage. Something like this: drive from Port Angeles to, say, Rialto Beach, call it a couple of hours, depending on some road construction along Lake Crescent that might or might not slow things. (By the way, do not believe Google maps' time estimates - they're notoriously optimistic.) Visit Rialto (or First or Second Beaches) then return to Forks for the night. Next day, head out early to the Hoh rain forest, then when you're done, drive back to Port Angeles. Hurricane Ridge is around an hour from PA and is not easily visited as a day trip from Forks.

Let me offer a somewhat different idea. Fly into Vancouver and monitor the weather to see if the forecast is decent. If so, make your day trip up to Whistler. Ride the Peak 2 Peak gondola, and maybe even hike on a snowfield/glacier. Look here: https://www.whistler.com/blog/post/2...-and-ice-axes/

Then instead of the San Juans, travel to one of the Canadian Gulf Islands, such as Salt Spring Island. These are similar to the San Juans, but with more variety. Continue from the island to Vancouver Island and visit Victoria, then take the Coho ferry across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Angeles. This would expedite your travel to Olympic National Park, and avoid border delays along the BC 99/I-5 corridor. Here's a map - https://goo.gl/maps/8vDgYiMfWLB2

Do some research on the Gulf Islands and see what you think. https://www.hellobc.com/places-to-go/gulf-islands/
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Jan 17th, 2019, 04:19 PM
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Meant to add, I don't know what your budget might be, but I'm going to throw out a real curve ball. Alaska.

Round trip flights from Seattle to Juneau in May cost around $320 per person. Juneau is Alaska's capital city and a very interesting and historic one at that. Not far from Juneau's airport is Mendenhall Glacier. You can look at it from a distance, kayak up to it, hike around the edges, land on it in a helicopter...



You can watch whales from Juneau (more than just orcas) or visit the historic Russian church, visit local rain forests, pan for gold...

Now I know this is a somewhat dramatic departure from your plans, but I felt the need to throw it out here. There will be cruise ships in port during the days, but the ships sail in the early evening, and the town reverts back to its quirky nature. There are affordable hotels and terrific restaurants in town, and you might find it unexpectedly pleasant compared to the San Juans or Olympic NP which - might - be a tad crowded.

Just a thought, anyway.

PS - round trip flights from Seattle to Anchorage in late May are around $290. Google Kenai Fjords National Park, Whittier 26 Glacier Cruise, and Hatcher Pass/Independence Mine. Just sayin'.
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Jan 17th, 2019, 11:27 PM
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I like Gardyloo’s BC idea. It’s less driving, more gorgeous scenery and most likely better food. I took a look at the Olympic Peninsula’s site, to see if anything had radically changed in the last few years and nope. I love the scenery and hiking. But it’s still definitely not a food and “cute town” destination.
PT is the only town I would probably call cute.


of course, I also like Gardyloo’s Alaska suggestion. And if she keeps posting awesome photos of Alaska, I may have to do that myself this year. Bad Gardyloo! (Alaskan tourism should hire you,to promote them, seriously.)

suze—when people talk about the peninsula loop, they usually mean they’re cutting across towards Olympia around Aberdeen. It’s possible to drive all the way to the gorge and up 5, of course, but I’d think it’d be a long and dull drive for most tourists.
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Jan 18th, 2019, 05:17 AM
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mms
 
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Suze--My mistake, sorry I just remembered the thread where you mentioned going there only once.

marvelousmouse--I agree, I like gardyloo's suggestion of Alaska. We have been several times, and are going again this year, but not to the touristy areas which I still want to go to, lol. We are headed to the bush again, but no complaints! Just wish we had the time to do more. Yes, PT is the only decent town on the peninsula. Gardyloo's description of Forks is spot on and made me giggle as he didn't sugar coat it
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