Northwest from Illinois Roadtrip

Old Jan 14th, 2021, 02:14 PM
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Northwest from Illinois Roadtrip

We do a 4-5 week road trip every summer with our kids ages 10-16. It will be from July 12-August 15 this year. We went to the Northwest four years ago and did a lot of the big name locations (Badlands and Rapid City Area, Yellowstone, quick trip to Craters of the Moon, Portland and the Columbia River Gorge, Northern Oregon & Southern Washington Coast, Mt. St. Helens, Olympic National Park, Seattle, a one day trip to Mt. Rainier, Glacier, Theodore Roosevelt). We had originally planned to do the Northeast this summer, but with Covid questions, we are trying to do things that are more outdoors and the NE has lots of museums and indoor locations in what we wanted to do.

So we are thinking about doing a repeat trip out to the Northwest for 5 weeks. I am looking for ideas of things we might have missed that you would recommend. We will still do some of the biggies from our last trip (Yellowstone & Grand Teton, Olympic, Glacier, etc.), but we definitely want to add in North Cascades, San Juan Islands, and more time in Idaho to see Craters of the Moon and other National Monuments or State Parks. We will also revisit Mt. Rainier to give it more time and Theodore Roosevelt to visit the other section.

Are there suggestions for State Parks or great things to see or do in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, or Montana? I was looking at the Bend area. Anything there? Other places I should focus on? We have a goal to see all the National Park sites. We like to hike and can handle moderate to difficult hikes (but not looking to backpack). Our son also loves geocaching. I am just starting to work on our schedule and booking some nights in the hard to book spots (Yellowstone, Olympic, Glacier). We don't camp, so we stay in hotels or in park lodging. Thank you so much for your help - I have so appreciated your help in the past!
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Old Jan 15th, 2021, 12:38 AM
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Smith Rock State Park in Oregon is worth a stop. Warning: parking is metered and heavily patrolled.


The lava fields between Bend and Eugene are impressive in their size:


I liked our drive through arid eastern Oregon (US 20 & US395):


Last edited by Michael; Jan 15th, 2021 at 01:19 AM.
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Old Jan 15th, 2021, 08:05 AM
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Even for second-time visits, your list of destinations sounds a little crowded, depending on your travel style. Do you prefer short visits while remaining quite mobile, or longer periods in order to have a more in-depth experience?

Anyway, I'll mention a couple of places that fall under the radar for many visitors, but which merit some real attention. How you work them into an overall plan is for you to figure out, but it shouldn't be too hard.

1. First with a star is the area around the Wallowa mountains in northeastern Oregon. Centered on the town of Joseph, this area is sometimes called "America's Switzerland" because of its mountains-and-lakes scenery. The town itself is marvelous, with public art - including a lot of terrific sculpture - everywhere, plus galleries, cafes, the works. Here are a couple of pictures (not mine) to illustrate -

Joseph and Wallowa Lake



Downtown Joseph



Wallowa Valley scene (this ranch belonged to the Hollywood star Walter Brennan)



From Wallowa Lake you can take an aerial tram up into the mountains and on into the Eagle Cap Wilderness, a huge area with trails, hidden lakes, the whole deal.



One thing to note (if interested, or to work around if not) is that there's a big festival in Joseph - Chief Joseph Days - held annually (obviously not last year) at the end of July, which features parades, a Native American encampment, and a major rodeo. Might be a lot of fun for the family, but book lodging early.


2. Second would be the John Day Fossil Beds and painted hills in central Oregon followed by Smith Rock (mentioned above.) These are two stunning landscapes easily visited en route west or east, educational as well as beautiful.





3. There are a couple of terrific destinations on the east side of the Cascades in Washington State. First is the quirky copy of Stonehenge overlooking the Columbia River at Maryhill, close to the remarkable Maryhill Museum, for a little blast of culture in the sagebrush.



Then farther north, you might consider Lake Chelan and Stehekin. Lake Chelan is a fjord-like lake that extends from the dry and orchard country in the town of Chelan, all the way into the North Cascades. At the top of the lake is the little village of Stehekin, reached by the Lady of the Lake ferry from Chelan. From Stehekin you can hike, backpack or take trail horses up into the eastern part of North Cascades National Park.



4. Finally I'd suggest you look at the Dry Falls/Grand Coulee country between Chelan and Winthrop, WA (which is located on WA 20, the North Cascades Highway.) This area of scablands and coulees was formed during the greatest floods in the world's history, and it presents a remarkable landscape, well worth a day (or two) spent exploring. Here's a video shot by a Canadian couple who were unaware of this remarkable area.


These are just some of the possible stops along your route - I'd highly recommend any or all of them.

Edit - meant to add a map showing the relative locations of these places. https://goo.gl/maps/J1RPtrBD4zHgiahB8

The map also shows the location of Bruneau Canyon, not too far from Boise. This is a sensational and not well-known stopping point out in the middle of nowhere. Bruneau Canyon is something else.



Last edited by Gardyloo; Jan 15th, 2021 at 08:13 AM.
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Old Jan 16th, 2021, 04:09 AM
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WELL, just a big WOW!!! Thanks for the tour!!
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Old Jan 16th, 2021, 07:28 AM
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Yes, the areas that Garydloo mentioned are great. Do keep in mind though that with Covid you need to make sure to book early and things that you can cancel. I am highly doubting that our area here will be back to normal by this summer, unfortunately. BTW, there is another ferry service now to Stehekin, so Lady of the Lake has competition, which is a good thing! If we are still in the pandemic though, you could not pay me to take one of those ferries, just speaking from experience
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Old Jan 16th, 2021, 12:56 PM
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Since you mentioned Bend, be sure to visit the High Desert Museum and the Lava Lands Visitor center (if open). Drive out past Mt. Bachelor and go south on the Cascade lakes Highway. There are endless hiking opportunities near some of the nice lakes. If you are coming to Oregon you might want to rent a yurt in one of the Oregon State Parks near the ocean. My favorites near the coast are William Tugman and Sunset Cove State Parks. Tugman is close to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
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Old Jan 16th, 2021, 10:22 PM
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Michael - Thanks for the suggestions. I am adding Smith Rock State Park to our itinerary, and we will look into the other options!

Gardyloo - I would say our travel style is to stay more mobile and see as much as we can. We prefer 2-3 night stays, but don't mind one night stays if they are moving us to see the things we want without having to backtrack too much. We are trying to prioritize our itinerary right now. We are debating cutting some time from Yellowstone since we have been twice before. We also aren't sure if we should do Glacier at all if they don't open up the East side this year. Last year sounded like it was totally crazy. If we cut or limit Glacier, we can add more time to other places.
Your suggestions are very helpful! I love the Joseph and Wallowa area. We added that to the list. John Day was already on our list, so I am glad to hear it is beautiful. I also added Bruneau Canyon Overlook on our way from Twin Falls to Joseph.
We are going to incorporate Grand Coulee / Dry Falls in our drive from the West side of North Cascades National Park to Lake Chelan. My questions is, is it worth the trip to Stehekin if we are only going to do it as a day trip and not spend the night? There is a 1.5 hour layover and you can do a bus trip to Rainbow Falls. I could look into staying a night, but not sure if we will have time. Is Lake Chelan worth it without Stehekin?

MMS - We will definitely book things that are refundable. We travelled throughout California last year and only did things that were outside and felt very safe. We will do the same thing this year. We are avoiding cities and doing mostly outside activities. We will keep that in mind about the Stehekin ferry. Same question, is Stehekin worth as a day trip with just the 1.5 hour layover?

tomfuller - Thanks for the suggestions. I don't think we will go South of Bend this time. We did Oregon Dunes last year based on your suggestion and had a great time!

Thanks for all of your suggestions so far! If anyone has suggestions for Idaho I would love them. And possibly other things in Montana if we skip Glacier. I am working on a tentative itinerary, and I might ask suggestions when I have it finalized.
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Old Jan 17th, 2021, 05:52 AM
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janmarkolson--Right now both OR and WA are asking people to quarantine for 14 days, so keep that in mind and keep an eye on that. I am sure things will change many times before your trip, but this is how it is here right now Also, do be aware that popular trails are totally overused right now, and people are not distancing as they should. Most of that is because the trails are so narrow, but also there are a ton of newbies to hiking that do not adhere to hikers etiquette, so there again you will encounter people on narrow trails with no masks. So plan ahead and have your masks on, or attached to your packs so you can mask up as soon as you see another person. Honestly, if you go to John Day, I would just keep going and head to The Steens. Amazing area, VERY few people, and a place that even a lot of locals never make it to. Tons of great hiking there. We spent a week backpacking there last summer since there was no contact that way with others. As for Stehekin, I would never go for just a day. Not worth it. You would not be able to see a fraction of what it has to offer. The people who go for a day use the bus and go to the bakery, turn around and get back on the ferry. Absolutely stay over for even one night, more if you can spare it. We rent a cabin where the owner gives us a vehicle to use, so we explore on our own and can park at trailheads and spend as much time as we please.
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Old Jan 17th, 2021, 08:05 AM
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The north entrance of Crater Lake NP is 90 miles from the south end of Bend (slightly under 2 hours). The High Desert Museum is only 7 miles south of Bend and the Lava Lands Visitor Center is at the foot of Lava Butte about 11 miles south of Bend. The Sunriver Resort or one of many rentals in Sunriver is a good choice if you don't want to stay "in Bend". Check soon about what the status of Crater Lake lodge will be for this summer. Right now it is closed with 3 or 4 feet of snow around it
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Old Jan 17th, 2021, 08:32 AM
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I would agree on passing on Stehekin if it's just a day trip. To answer the question, the south end of Lake Chelan is something of a lake resort town - jet skis, stuff like that, in much more arid surroundings compared to farther up the lake.

It might be interesting for you to describe a bit more what you're thinking about for the part of the trip west of the Cascades. For example, you mentioned the San Juans and more time in Olympic NP as well as places like the Theodore Roosevelt NP in North Dakota, then you indicated you'd be visiting the Chelan/Coulee country on the way east, so can we assume this trip is going to be some kind of clockwise loop - westbound to the coast, then north and back east via the North Cascades? We might be able to supply some suggestions or input on the staging of things.
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Old Jan 17th, 2021, 11:29 PM
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mms - Thanks for the info about Oregon and Washington! We skipped New Mexico and diverted our return home route last year because we didn't want to break their quarantine guidelines. I will keep an eye on it. We are teachers, so we will be getting the vaccine soon and I hope we are all doing better by summer. We are also from Illinois, so we have pretty strong stay at home guidelines in place right now too. We kept our masks close when hiking to put them on when needed last year. If WA & OR are not available, I suppose we could divert and spend more time in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. You could definitely tell which states took the virus seriously last summer. I was able to figure out how to give a night to Stehekin, but the night I want to do doesn't have any availability. I am trying to see if we can do the night before. I would love to stay in a house for two nights with access to a car, but they seem like a large portion of the deposit is non-refundable (and I'm nervous we will have to cancel if Covid guidelines are still an issue). I can get a room at the Lodge at Stehekin that is refundable if I cancel at least 30 days in advance (that gives us enough time to figure out if we can go). I'll keep that in mind for John Day too!

tomfuller - We did Crater Lake last year with all of the California National Parks. We absolutely loved it! We did stay at the lodge for the night and loved being in the park at night (saw the comet) and in the morning for Sunrise. I will keep those museums in mind, but if Covid is still rampant, we will avoid indoor activities.

Gardyloo - I am finalizing my initial itinerary and I will post it for suggestions in the next day or two. I would appreciate suggestions! You helped us so much on our last trip. My daughter still talks about the fruit loop tour you suggested and we will try to stop outside Portland again for that (and a few other things).
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Old Jan 18th, 2021, 06:08 AM
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jenmarkolson--I personally would avoid Idaho. I don't know about the other two states, but Idaho is a sh*tshow with Covid and has been all year. I would avoid the lodge at Stehekin, mostly due to Covid. Being able to cook your own meals in a cabin is a much better option than relying on the restaurant for everything. Also with the lodge, you are stuck with riding the bus to get around, and again with Covid, that isn't a smart thing to do. I can see why the cabin deposits are steep etc since their tourism season is very short and of course last summer it was pretty much entirely wiped out. It is such a unique area though, and it is hard to truly describe, but so worth it! Read up on The Steens. It is a perfect Covid vacation, IMO. The wild horses are fascinating to watch. Hike down to Wildhorse Lake. Stop in Frenchglen for a moment at the Mercantile. The two gas pumps in town are at the mercantile, and are only open when the store is open, and you take a pictures before/after you pump, and they go in the store and pay for the amount you pumped. It's definitely a throw back! There is even an old phone booth across the road, which I be your kids haven't seen those before Anyway, just a really interesting area and there are a handful of campgrounds along the way.
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Old Jan 19th, 2021, 12:04 AM
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So here is my tentative itinerary. So much is up in the air with quarantines. My husband is advocating that we skip Yellowstone. We have been twice before, but I love it. He also suggested skipping Mt. Rainier. We only had one day there last time on our drive between Seattle and Glacier. If the Glacier East side is not available, we will likely cut that and add time in other places. My ideal day to visit Stehekin would be Friday night, August 6, but there was no availability, so I changed my plan somewhat to allow an overnight on Thursday. I am going to book the lodge with a refundable rate for now (we can either do take out or eat outside for meals) and if we get closer and know we can travel there for sure, I will see if a house is available for two nights and do Wednesday and Thursday night, cutting one night in Winthrop.
I know you are going to say we are moving around too much, but this is our style. I would love to have a few more 3 night stays, but to fit everything in, this is what seems to work. We don't camp - just stay in inexpensive hotels usually.

Monday, July 12 - Drive 8.5 hours to Minnesota - Visit Pipestone National Monument Drive 2 hours - Overnight in Mitchell, SD (or farther)


Tuesday, July 13 - Drive 3 hours to Badlands - Hike there - Drive 1 hour to Rapid City - Maybe Mt. Rushmore at night - Overnight Rapid City Area

Wednesday, July 14 - Drive 6 hours to Bighorn Recreation Area Go on 14 through Bighorn Mountains (Shell Falls might be out of the way) - Lovell, Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracks Site, Sleep in Cody - Maybe Rodeo

Thursday, July 15 - Visit Yellowstone Lake and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Sleep In Roosevelt or Mammoth

Friday, July 16 - Sleep at Old Faithful or West Yellowstone

Saturday, July 17 - Sleep at Old Faithful or West Yellowstone

Sunday, July 18 - Sleep in Jackson Hole or Colter Bay - Grand Teton NP

Monday, July 19 - Tetons Day, Steak Dinner Rafting Trip, Drive 2 hours to Idaho Falls

Tuesday, July 20 - Drive 1.5 hours to Craters of the Moon, Drive 2+ hours to Stanley, ID for Overnight

Wednesday, July 21 - Stanley, ID

Thursday, July 22 - Drive 3 hours to Twin Falls, Idaho

Friday, July 23 - Minadoka, Shoshone Falls, Possibly City of Rocks Twin Falls Overnight

Saturday, July 24 - Drive 45 minutes to Hagerman Fossil Beds, Drive 2 hours to Bruneau Canyon Overlook, Drive 5.5 hours to Overnight in Joseph, Oregon

Sunday, July 25 - Joseph, OR

Monday, July 26 - Drive 4.5 hours to John Day Fossil Beds NM - Sheep Rock & Drive 1 hour to Painted Hills Units, Drive 1.5 hours Smith Rock State Park Drive 2+ hours - Overnight Portland Area

Tuesday, July 27 - Fruit Loop Tour - Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, McLoughlin House National Historic Site??? - Overnight Portland Area

Wednesday, July 28 - Drive 3.5 hours to Mt. Rainier

Thursday, July 29 - Drive 2.5 hours to Washington Coast? Sleep Aberdeen

Friday, July 30 - Olympic NP Rainforest Area - 2.5 hours total - Overnight in Forks

Saturday, July 31 - Olympic NP Coastal Area - Overnight Forks

Sunday, August 1 - Drive 5.5 hours to San Juan Islands

Monday, August 2 - San Juan Islands

Tuesday, August 3 - Drive 4 hours to North Cascades NP - Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Blue Lake Hike - Drive 2 hours through park - Overnight in Winthrop

Wednesday, August 4 - Dry Falls / Coulee Country Sleep in Winthrop (or add night to Stehekin)

Thursday, August 5 - Drive 1+ hour to Chelan Boat to Stehekin Overnight in Stehekin

Friday, August 6 - Boat back from Stehekin - Chelan, Drive 3.5 hours toward Whitman Mission

Saturday, August 7 - Whitman Mission, Drive 2+ hours to Nez Perce, Drive 5 hours to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs?, Drive 2 hours to Overnight Sula, MT

Sunday, August 8 - Visit Salmon and Goldbug Hotsprings Overnight Sula, MT

Monday, August 9 - Drive 45 minutes Big Hole National Battlefield, Drive 1.5 hours to Grant-Kohrs, Drive 3.5 hours - Sleep in West Glacier or Whitefish

Tuesday, August 10 - Glacier

Wednesday, August 11 - Glacier

Thursday, August 12 - Glacier

Friday, August 13 - Drive 8 hours Stay Outside Fort Union Trading Post

Saturday, August 14 - Fort Union Trading Post, Drive 1.5 hours to Theodore Roosevelt North Unit - Drive 5.5 hours to Fargo

Sunday, August 15 - Drive 10 hours Home
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Old Jan 19th, 2021, 05:55 AM
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On Tuesday, July 27, I would skip Fort Vancouver and McLoughlin House. Take your time around Mt Hood as there is so much to see.

On the 29th, do NOT sleep in Aberdeen!!!! No, just No, lol. It is probably the most dreary town in our entire state. Westport is a great little coastal town, close to Aberdeen. Try that instead. Ocean Shores is an option too, but it is a zoo in the summer, so not my personal preference, but might be yours?

I would not stay in Forks for 2 nights. Stay one night there and one night in Port Angeles and that will not have you backtracking to see things, and wasting time on the road.

For Stehekin, do pay attention that the only food there is either at the lodge or at the bakery. There is a teeny area of snack foods in the gift store at the dock, but otherwise there is no grocery store and no other restaurants for take out etc. There is no ATM, no cell service, etc so you really need to plan ahead on this.
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Old Jan 19th, 2021, 07:51 AM
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After Smith Rock 7/26 Stay in Redmond or Madras instead of driving past Mt. Hood in the dark. Take Rt. 35 down off US 26 into Hood River for a great view of the Columbia Gorge above Hood River.
For the Glacier area, I like the Meadow Lake Resort at the edge of Columbia Falls MT. I loved the small condo with an in room hot tub.
The gas station near the split of US 97 and US 26 is a great place to fill up in Madras. It is next to the Safeway grocery store so you can get what you need for a long day.
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Old Jan 19th, 2021, 10:27 AM
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Saturday August 7th: Highway 12 is beautiful, but it's a slow and winding river road. Speed limit is 50 mph for a long stretch of it, and there are always a lot of campers in the summer. Jerry Johnson is a fun stop. But you have a lot of driving that day, and while it's pretty driving, it's tedious. I would maybe think about staying in Missoula to cut out a couple hours of driving that day or look at the Lochsa Lodge. It's just on the Idaho side of Lolo Pass. If you stay in Missoula, I'd recommend staying at the Mercantile downtown or the Holiday Inn downtown. Missoula has a wonderful downtown and it's a fun place in the summer. You can watch the surfers on Brennan's Wave. Eat ice cream at Big Dipper. And don't miss Biga Pizza.

Whitefish: we like the Firebrand and the Lake Lodge. The Firebrand is nice because it's downtown. The Lake Lodge is nice because, well, you're on the lake. They're owned by the same company. Great food at Latitude 48, Tupelo, and Wasabi. We like Cafe Loula for breakfast. And you have to get Sweet Peaks for ice cream.
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