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Pacific Northwest - Help first-timer plan itinerary pls

Pacific Northwest - Help first-timer plan itinerary pls

Old Jul 29th, 2009, 09:47 PM
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Pacific Northwest - Help first-timer plan itinerary pls

I'm an American who has traveled internationally extensively but no so much domestically. Need help in planning my first trip to pacific northwest before I go overseas again in a few weeks. See parameters below:

Duration - 5-10 days
When - 2nd week in August ( give or take a week)
Where - You tell me. Should I do only Washington, or Oregon, or both? What about Vancouver? What's the "best" of the northwest? Things one "must" do/see.

About me:
-- Solo female traveler
-- 39 y.o
-- Would like to do a combination of city/urban life and nature stuff -- maybe 4-6 days doing city stuff and 2-4 days for nature?
-- For the urban part, I like - live music, festivals, quirky neighborhoods, good food, boutique hotels or B &Bs
-- For the nature part, I like to hike, not so big on sea kayakking because i get seasick, but i like to be near bodies of water; mountains are also good; love big trees too. Don't want to be with big crowds for the nature part of the trip. But do like lively atmospheres for the urban part. Can bring my tent if necessary or stay in a state/nat'l forest park cabin? Looking for spectacular scenery.

Appreciate the help!
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Old Jul 29th, 2009, 10:08 PM
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There are tons of past posts about Portland, Seattle, the Oregon Coast, the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and the Olympic National Forest. I suggest you spend some time reading them using the Fodor's search function.

I live in Portland. There is plenty of both city and natural stuff to see out here. The Oregon Coast is amazing, and you can sample it from Portland in a day if need be but it's best to spend at least a night there. The Columbia River Gorge east of Portland is one of the best scenic sites on the west coast - lots of lush forest and waterfalls - and can be done in a long afternoon if need be.

I'm less familiar with Seattle; I'll let suze or someone else from up there chime in with their suggestions...but one suggestion that is Oregon-centric might be to limit your city stuff to Portland, see the Gorge (about 1/2 hour east of Portland), and then drive west to the Oregon Coast and down the the coast. You can easily drive the entire coast (without tons of stopping) in two days though three might be better. You might even drive a few hours south on US 101 into California and see the amazing Redwood National Forest, then head back north on US 199 and then I-5 back to Portland. (Bring up a map.) That could easily fill up 10 days and is probably doable with a few less.
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Old Jul 30th, 2009, 09:26 AM
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If this is to happen within the next couple weeks, I suggest the "nature part" be day trips, as you'll have trouble finding places to stay (or even pitch a tent) along the Oregon coast. And I agree with Andrew; day trips to the Columbia River Gorge and the coast would both be great. Mt. St. Helens would also be worthwhile, maybe on the drive up to Seattle.

I live in the Portland area, and love it here, but think Seattle offers more of what I think you're looking for in terms of the urban scene. So, maybe 3-4 nights in Portland, including 2 nature day trips, then head to Seattle.

With your short time frame, Vancouver is probably not in the cards. But, maybe a day trip to Victoria?
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Old Jul 30th, 2009, 10:07 AM
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Frankly given your time and priorities, if your time allotment is on the short end of your scale (5 days) I'd make a bee-line to Vancouver and skip both Washington and Oregon. The reason is that Vancouver is probably closer to the kind of outdoor activities you're interested in, and for city life, as attractive as Portland and Seattle might be, Vancouver offers as much or more appeal, so it makes for a twofer.

From Vancouver you can travel up the beautiful "Sea to Sky" highway to Whistler, which has great accommodation plus plenty of mountain activities; or if you have more time, then you can go over to the Gulf Islands or to Vancouver Island/Victoria, or up the Sunshine Coast... plenty of out of town attractions to match the in-city ones.

In the city, Vancouver has a music festival going on in the first half of August, or a great club scene, or the cool Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival... If you want to get the forest/big trees experience without traveling too far, Stanley Park in the city is one of the great urban parks of the world. Vancouver is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in N. America, with a huge and fun Chinatown, Punjabi market, one of the best aquariums in the world, great restaurants, Granville Island market, beaches (yes, even in the Pacific NW) and scenery to knock your eyeballs into the back of your head.

If you have more time, then you could combine Vancouver and Seattle easily enough; there's a scenic train between the two cities that saves time and money over driving. From Seattle you could take a day trip to Mt. Rainier NP, or with one or two nights for overnights, you could travel to the Olympic Peninsula and see Olympic National Park, which offers huge trees (Hoh and Quinault valleys on the west side) as well as great mountain scenery (Hurricane Ridge, just outside Port Angeles on the north coast) or fabulous rocky beaches (on the NW coastal strip.)

Or with more time, start in Portland, visit the city and the Gorge, then travel to Seattle, stopping at Mt. St. Helens en route, then again do Mt. Rainier as a day trip and/or Olympic NP as an overnight. I don't think you could fit Vancouver into a Portland + Seattle itinerary and give it justice with your maximum time (10 days) unless you're a real "seagull" visitor (swoop, squat, squawk, ****, and fly away again.)
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Old Jul 30th, 2009, 12:21 PM
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My wife and I just got back from a two-week trip to exactly the area you're planning to visit. We share your love for the outdoors, but we've never needed any urban excitement (for us, "late night life" means watching Dave Letterman).

I agree that your time constraints will force you to see AT MOST two of the cities you'd like: Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver. Since Seattle is in the middle (and also has the urban vibe I THINK you're looking for), choose it and one other -- either would be fine.

Since isolation is important for you while in nature, either Olympic NP or North Cascades NP may be what you're looking for. The Oregon Coast, Mount Rainier, and Columbia Gorge are all spectacular -- but hardly a place for solitude.

I again emphasize that any combination of Seattle, Portland, or Vancouver will meet your needs. Just don't imitate us and try to see everything in ten days. We tried to see it all in fourteen days and wished we had a week more.
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Old Jul 30th, 2009, 11:13 PM
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Olympic, which was the fifth most visited national park last year, gets more visitors than Rainer. But in either park, it's just a matter of staying away from the visitor centers and most popular trails to find solitude. North Cascades NP is gorgeous and less visited because there are no roads into the park (though there are campgrounds just outside, and many trails in).

Yes, you can bring your tent--there are plenty of places to camp in the national parks and national forests (there are state parks too, but those are always quite crowded and not the place for the solitude seeker). If you're a AAA member those little campbooks are great--they even have the small, primitive forest service campgrounds. I doubt any cabins/yurts have availability for August on such short notice.
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Old Jul 31st, 2009, 11:58 PM
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wow thanks all - really great advice.
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