Pacific NW in Sept 23

Old Dec 22nd, 2022, 11:20 AM
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Pacific NW in Sept 23

Starting to plan a trip for my wife and I for September. We really enjoy nature but are limited by our age (early 70s) and small physical limits. We can hike short distances of a couple of miles. We are often guilty of trying "to fit 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound sack." So, trip input will help us lessen the desire to try to visit and do everything along the way. We want to fly into Seattle and work our way to Olympic NP and then down to Mt Rainer and Mt St. Hellens before we head to Portland and then east to Boise and into Idaho and Montana and back to Seattle via Route 90.
We can set 1 to 2 weeks time for this.

My questions involve recommendations on what to see and do, what to not miss and what to avoid or skip.

Thanks for any help.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2022, 02:26 PM
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Moved to US board and tagged for Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho,
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Old Dec 22nd, 2022, 02:39 PM
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One week isn't enough to cover all that ground, IMO. I will say that I went to Mt. Rainier mid-September this year and (a) it was cold and (b) many things had already closed for the season. Not to mention the road was closed just east of Paradise mid week for construction. So Labor Day kind of ends the main season for that park. We did manage short walks and had peek-a-boo views of the mountain. We had friends who went to Olympic a couple weeks later and Hurricane Ridge was closed for the season already. But the coastal parts of the park were open. So pay attention to seasons. Both are very nice parks with easy walks when all is operating, although if you don't take long hikes you can probably see the highlights of Mount Rainier in a day or a bit longer. Olympic merits longer with the coast and rainforests, I'd say three days, although less if the Hurricane Ridge is closed.

Also not sure what you plan to see in Boise or Montana, but there is plenty to see in Washington and Oregon, and I certainly wouldn't go to both Idaho and Montana if you have two weeks or less. I personally thing the best things in Idaho are the mountains and lakes, not the cities.

Finally, I am not sure where you are from, but wildfires and smoke are a real problem late summer and fall in this region. We had a couple very bad days in the San Juan Islands in September, and our friends who traveled later had even worse smoke when they were there, with AQI 150-200 in the Olympics and even higher in Seattle and Portland. So be aware and be flexible. Be able to check the conditions on your phone (there are many apps) daily.

Best of luck.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2022, 02:43 PM
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This sounds more like 20 pounds for potatoes in that 5 pound sack. Have you plotted the mileage & drive time for the long legs? For instance, Portland to (throwing a dart at Montana) Bozeman is 750 miles/12-13+ hours drive with no stops, each way. That sounds to me like 4 days driving without seeing a thing.

I suggest confining this trip to Washinton with 1 week or Washington & Oregon if you have 2 weeks & fly into Seattle, home from Portland.

PS: Did I mention the possibility of snow in late Sept. in the mountains?
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Old Dec 22nd, 2022, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by MmePerdu
. . . I suggest confining this trip to Washinton with 1 week or Washington & Oregon if you have 2 weeks & fly into Seattle, home from Portland.

PS: Did I mention the possibility of snow in late Sept. in the mountains?

I totally agree -- IMO even two full weeks would not be nearly enough time for all the territory in your OP. And if you choose 'just' Wash+Ore over a two week timespan, you'd have to be pretty selective what to include/omit.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2022, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by MmePerdu
This sounds more like 20 pounds for potatoes in that 5 pound sack. Have you plotted the mileage & drive time for the long legs? For instance, Portland to (throwing a dart at Montana) Bozeman is 750 miles/12-13+ hours drive with no stops, each way. That sounds to me like 4 days driving without seeing a thing.

I suggest confining this trip to Washinton with 1 week or Washington & Oregon if you have 2 weeks & fly into Seattle, home from Portland.

PS: Did I mention the possibility of snow in late Sept. in the mountains?
Agreed. If you do both Washington and Oregon, I would not go any farther east than Bend Oregon. If you spend a few days in Washington first - Rainier or Olympic -not both then take the train from Seattle to Portland and then drive a car that you rent in Oregon to see either the coast of Oregon or the Cascades. If you have the extra time, try to visit Crater Lake NP before returning to Portland for your flight home.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2022, 08:58 PM
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You need to cut your list or add a lot more time, truly you have outlined what is more like a 4-week itinerary! The states are BIG out here.

Seattle, ONP, Rainier, and Mt St Helen could easily take two weeks for only those.

Portland, Boise, Idaho, Montana, back to Seattle would add another two weeks.

More time or less places Welcome! suze, in seattle
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Old Dec 23rd, 2022, 09:24 AM
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Pac NW

Thanks for your insight and informative responses. Now that you have confirmed that I need to see a trip psychologist, I will piece together a trip centered around Washington and Oregon. Before I jump back on this Thread I need to read and research more about timeframes and limitations and plan appropriately.

Any additional comments about ways to see Olympic NP, Mt St Helens, Crater and Rainer would be greatly appreciated.

Happy holiday season.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2022, 09:59 AM
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Unless you can double the time available, including Crater Lake in the same itinerary as Olympic NP and Mt. Rainier NP is probably off the table. It's just too far and difficult to access without at least two days' transit between Puget Sound country and Crater Lake.

I'll also mention that September is now the peak period for forest and wildfires, and the Cascade slopes (both eastern and western) are prime territory for these. Planning to visit the mountains in the Pacific NW at that time of year really calls for having a Plan B in your pocket.

The main tourist attractions in Olympic NP are spread out around the periphery of the park, often requiring hours of (boring, un-scenic) driving between them, You really need at least 3 full days to see the highlights, and even that is pushing it. I would look at a loop that includes the Olympic Peninsula, Mount Rainier and Mt. St. Helens, maybe something like this. Google the places on the map. https://tinyurl.com/seamshloop

Note too that accommodation close to the national park highlights, particularly along the Olympic NP coastal strip, is very limited and books up early, so it behooves you to come up with a plan and make some (cancelable) reservations sooner rather than later.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2022, 12:45 PM
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Gardyloo beat me to it -- Crater Lake is an outlier for sure. It isn't an easy jaunt from anyplace else on your list. Basically CL is a minimum 4 day excursion from those sites in Washington State. It would be a 1.5 to 2 day drive each way from any of them. Then you'd need 2 nights at CL to recover from all that driving and give time to explore the lake.
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Old Dec 24th, 2022, 07:32 AM
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Not sure why you want to go to Mt. St. Helens. The 1980 eruption left a "vast, gray landscape lay where once the forested slopes of Mount St. Helens grew." You might want to add North Casades National Park. The park rangers at the national park visitor centers can give you maps of the trails and sights and recommend trails fitting your needs.
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Old Dec 24th, 2022, 12:29 PM
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Pacific NW

Thanks again for information. I'm getting a quick education on the Pac NW area and our limitations. I'll pass on Crater.
Questions:
Would the early summer be a better time to visit?
Any recommendations for places to stay?

Thanks again for all of your help.
Bob

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Old Dec 24th, 2022, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by shraid
Thanks again for information. I'm getting a quick education on the Pac NW area and our limitations. I'll pass on Crater.
Questions:
Would the early summer be a better time to visit? . . .
Bob
In general - yes. While 'normally' fire season doesn't start til late summer, there can be fires really any time. But there is the issue of snow still being at high elevations in June or even later. (To give you an idea - I know you've eliminated Crater Lake but just to give you an example, most years the west rim road opens for the season between mid May and mid June, and the east rim -- not until early to mid July - because of snow)

But depending on where exactly you finally decide to visit -- IMO early to mid summer would be better than September.
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Old Dec 25th, 2022, 08:31 AM
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...and Janis beat me to it too. "Early" summer would be my preference (actually, late spring) but one will have to accept limitations, just as you would in late summer.

As Janis says, in early summer snow will be a limiting factor at higher elevations. At the (main) Paradise visitor center at Mount Rainier, it's common for there still to be six feet or more of snow on the ground (not the roads or parking areas) on the first of July. A few stretches of some trails may be snow-free, but others may be covered or muddy. And visibility is also a major factor - it's common for the high country to be socked in in June, making for something of a pointless drive. I know, it sounds like Catch 22, doesn't it?

As we've pointed out already, the region is much too big and spread out to allow seeing "all of it" (or even a sizeable fraction of it) in a week or two. More like a lifetime or two. So you'll have to accept an edited plan. But the good news is that these are relatively easy to arrange. I'm going to propose a couple of alternate plans for you to research and see what appeals. Both are driving "loops," one based from Seattle and the other from Portland, and both encompass some very distinctive and enjoyable parts of our region. Google the places on these maps to see what appeals. And of course, these are just a couple out of hundreds of alternatives.

1. Portland to Portland - https://goo.gl/maps/xDBzogW3AQLqdiYa6 .

This starts with a tour of the Columbia River Gorge, which in late spring (May onward) is superb, with the many waterfalls in full flow from melting mountain snow. It includes a stop at the eclectic Maryhill Museum of Art for some high culture in the sagebrush, then a stop in Hood River, a lovely little town full of wineries and breweries at the foot of the Hood River Valley. The valley is glorious in the spring with orchards and vineyards in bloom, with Mount Hood looming over everything.

You'd visit historic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood (where they'll still be skiing) then head west out to the Pacific coast. Explore the northern Oregon coast, from several pleasant towns on the central coast like Yachats ("ya-hots") and Depoe Bay up to artsy Cannon Beach in the north. Cross the (awesome) mouth of the Columbia River to Cape Disappointment with its lighthouses and waves-crashing-against-the-rocks scenery, then follow the Columbia's north bank eastward to I-5. If the weather forecast is for clear skies, drive up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory overlooking the Mount St. Helens caldera before returning to Portland.

This route offers a terrific "sampler" of Pacific northwest scenery: the incomparable Gorge, high desert, a stratovolcano, deep forest, vineyards and orchards, beautiful coastline, historic towns... what's not to love? I would allocate 10 days for this loop if possible.

2. Seattle to Seattle - https://goo.gl/maps/r1eYMxAWrmpnzHbUA

This starts with a loop of the Olympic Peninsula with stops at Lake Quinault, at Ruby Beach on the Olympic NP coastal strip, and the stunning Hoh Valley rainforest. You'd then visit Hurricane Ridge (there may still be some snow around, but not as much as in the Cascades) then visit picturesque and historic Port Townsend, then two other charming waterfront villages, Coupeville and Langley, on Whidbey Island, returning to the mainland by the ferry to Mukilteo.

From there you'd cross the Cascades on scenic US 2, visiting the faux Bavarian town of Leavenworth, then traveling south through orchard and springtime mountain country to I-90. You'd re-cross the Cascades, stopping at stunning Snoqualmie Falls, before ending up back in Seattle. Again, if the weather is agreeable, you could travel westbound across the Cascades via Mount Rainier NP (US 12 from Yakima) but note the comments on clouds and snow at that time of year.

As I said, these are just a couple of many, many alternatives that would provide you with superb scenery and a wide variety of landscapes, but you'll still be seeing just a tiny fraction of what our region has to offer. Gotta start someplace, of course.
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Old Dec 26th, 2022, 12:37 PM
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THANK YOU!
Thanks, janisj for getting providing the weather info and time of year to consider. Much appreciated.

AND Thanks to Gardyloo for the 2 great trip suggestions. I really like the second option and after sharing with my better half tomorrow, we can begin more detailed plans for the time of year and the actual trip.

You both are very special to have shared your insight and expertise.

Bob
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Old Dec 26th, 2022, 10:15 PM
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I live in Seattle, if you need help with the city. Happy planning!
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