Pacific Northwest National Parks

Old Aug 21st, 2007, 08:02 AM
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Pacific Northwest National Parks

In July 2008, my wife and I along with our 11 year old grandson will be taking our first trip to the Pacific Northwest. We plan to spend 10-12 days. The must sees on our agenda are the National Parks, Crater Lake, Olympic, Mt. Rainier and North Cascades. We plan on beginning in Portland and ending in Seattle. We would like to drive along the Oregan and Washington coasts as much as possible. We have no idea about how much time we should spend in each place. Any suggestions on an itinerary would be most helpful. Also tips on where to stay and dine would also be welcome. Thanks for the help.
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 08:13 AM
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I have many suggestions but will get back to you later when I have more time. Your park list is great. Hwy.101 follows the Oregon coast the entire length of the state and offers tremendous views of the ocean. Driving the coast in Washington is difficult. It is very broken up. If you are planning to go to Olympic National Park-you could see that part of Washington's coast.
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 09:44 AM
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That is not a lot of time to cover that much ground. In your scenario, I might drop the North Cascades to give a little more time the rest. The Oregon coast is beautiful, and worth allowing time for more than a "drive-by". Seattle is also worth giving at least a day.

If you start from Portland, you can head over Mt Hood highway; staying at Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood is worth considering. Whitewater rafting on the Dechutes River at Maupin is popular and fun, a half-day trip is fine to get the highlights.

Heading down US97 to Bend and the High Desert Museum are nice if you have the time. Crater Lake lodge was very completely renovated from foundation up a few years ago - it's still in the old style, but everything works and isn't worn out; highly recommended.

Various routes to the coast, including going over to Oregon Caves (another interesting lodge, but a bit creaky) and the redwoods, or taking one of the more direct routes. US101 in Oregon is a bit slow, but scenic. Lots of state parks and some nice towns. I would plan at least one night along the way here; weekends are likely to be crowded.

Olympic NP area has a couple of nice, but low-key lodges at Lake Quineault and Lake Crescent. You definitely want to get up to Hurricane Ridge.

Taking one of the ferries on the way to Seattle is entertaining for an 11-yr old.

Mt Ranier can be done as a day trip from Seattle; it also has Paradise Lodge. I haven't been up there in many years, so I don't have much perspective. I would definitely consider going down to Mt St Helens as well; the visitor centers are quite well done, and the sight is impressive.

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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 09:57 AM
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Mt. Rainier is worth more than a "day trip" from Seattle. Paradise Inn has been closed for renovations and will re-open in May, 2008. Mid-July is a wonderful time to visit there; the wildflowers are at their peak and the sight is amazing (that is why the place is called Paradise). There are paved paths (but steep) that will take you through the flower meadows with great views of the mountain.

North Cascades NP is hard to grasp unless you are a hiker---it is mostly wilderness. But if you have the time, you and your grandson might enjoy the experience of an overnight visit to Stehikin, reached by boat from Chelan:
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 10:02 AM
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My trip to the Pacific NW was a 10-day loop to/from Seattle. With a wedding in the middle, we didn't get much time to hike around in the parks. It was so gorgeous, I'd love to go back!

For frame of reference, here's what we did: 2 days Seattle (visited the interesting Museum of Flight on way from airport to city), ferry to Bainbridge Island then Olympic Peninsula; overnight in Port Angeles, then drove all the way to the tip of the peninsula to visit the Makah Nation and museum there; back down the southwestern coast of the peninsula to take in the beaches and rainforest (don't remember where we slept that night!); 1 day in Portland; historic Route 30 to Hood River and overnight there; wedding across the Columbia River at Maryhill Museum, WA; back along the northern shore of the Columbia (stopped to watch windsurfers), then inland to Mt. Saint Helens before returning to Seattle.

The Columbia Gorge was really stunning, especially from the historic roadway which was built with sightseers in mind. We also really enjoyed visiting Mt. St. Helens - such a stark landscape, and eery too with the steam continually rising from the crater!

My suggestion would be that you could head east on Route 30, then cross the river and backtrack, either heading inland to Mt. St. Helens and then up to Rainier, or follow the river all the way to Cape Disappointment, where Lewis & Clark ended their westward journey. From there, you could head up to the Olympic Peninsula before heading to Seattle.
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 04:28 PM
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i would second the stehekin suggestion the boat ride on Chelan will be fun for your grandson and there are easily walked to water falls to see and play at upon your arrival. there are small hotels in town where you catch the boat...

I am a hiker and loved north cascades but thats because i am a hiker, sadly i would have to agree that going to mt. st. helens' might be more interesting . north cascades would be a spectacular drive but if you aren't getting out and hiking i'd say you could skip it.
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 05:50 PM
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Agree with others, this is a lot of ground to cover. There is a lot to do. It's nice to mix the mountains, the desert, and the coast. The Grandson would like Lake Chelan, Mt. St. Helens (with all the visitor's centers), the Lava tube, Oregon Cave, and funcycling on the Oregon Coast. Mt. Rainier, a rain forest. I love the idea of white water rafting from Maupin. You'd all love it.

I see it as two loops, in a way. You have the Portland loop south and the Washington loop north.

Here goes:

Day 1. Portland.
Day 2. Drive the Columbia Gorge Scenic Hwy and visit some water falls. Picnic at Lower Horsetail Falls. Go white water rafting at Maupin and drive to Bend for the night. (I have you skip Mt. Hood, as you are going to Mt. Rainier, which is even more impressive.)
Day 3. Drive to Crater Lake. On the way, stop at the lava tube (bring very powerful flashlights or lanterns and warm clothes); Lava Butte (where there is shiny black obsidian like in Hawaii); the High Desert Museum. Stay at Crater Lake.
Day 4. Go on the boat trip at Crater Lake. Visit the Oregon Cave and enjoy the largest marble cave in the world with lots of stalactites and stalagmites. Then head for the Oregon Coast
Day 5. I'm not familiar with the southern Oregon Coast. Gold Beach comes to mind as a popular spot. I believe you can take some sort of boat up the river. Visit the sand dunes near Florence. Stay near Yachats.
Day 6. Drive up to Newport. Visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Stay in Newport.
Day 7. Drive to Canon Beach and Stay there. Go funcycling on the beach. Picnic at Ecola State Park.
Day 8. Get up early and drive to Mt. St. Helens and spend the day going to the visitorís centers that are off of I-5. (Itíll be about a 2 Ĺ hour drive from Canon Beach.) Itís a long way to Mt. Rainier from there, but if you time it right, you can go from there. Stay at Paradise Lodge or Longmire.
Day 9. Mt. Rainier. Stay another night. Visit Ohanapakosh and see the rain forest. Stay again at Mt. Rainier.
Day 10. Olympic National Park. Drive to Hurricane Ridge. Stay at Lake Quinalt.
Day 11. Hang out on the Olympic Peninsula.
Day 12. Seattle

Another option would be to go from Portland on a counterclockwise loop:

1. Portland.
2. Columbia R. Gorge and up to Lake Chelan. Do the boat thing. Stay at Lake Chelan for two nights.
3. Lake Chelan
4. Drive through the NW Cascades Nat. Pk, which are beautiful. Stay in Anacortes.
5. Visit the San Juan Islands.
6. San Juan Islands.
7. Back through Seattle to Mt. Rainier
8. Mt. Rainier.
9. Olympic Peninsula
And so on.

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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 05:54 PM
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I didn't read all the replies; however, on a 10-12 day itinerary, I would go for a routing such as this: North Cascades, Olympic NP, Rainier NP, Mt. Saint Helens, Columbia River Gorge, and the Oregon Coast.

Unfortunately, Crater Lake is so located that it would eat up about two of your ten days driving to and from it (and, the drives are not very scenic).
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