Pacific NW Itinerary

Old Jun 7th, 2021, 08:32 AM
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Pacific NW Itinerary

Hi! My husband, son (9yo) and I want to go to Oregon and Washington early August for up to 2 weeks. We love beautiful lakes (fav trips so far were Banff and Glacier Natl Parks) and can do easy hikes. We all love to eat and hubby and I love red wine.

From what Ive read these places look like must-haves for a Pacific NW itinerary:

Rainier, Olympic, North Cascades, Crater Lake

My questions:

1. Are they all doable within 2 weeks?

2. How many nights in each place?

3. What else do you recommend we include?

Thank you!
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 09:49 AM
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If you're not planning to see Portland or Seattle, and sticking just to the National Parks then it sounds doable to me. I'm not from the PNW though, maybe a local can weigh in.

Last edited by SirhanTheStrong; Jun 7th, 2021 at 09:49 AM. Reason: typos
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 10:01 AM
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Thanks! I've already explored Seattle but have not been to Portland and would like to include it in our trip.
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 10:33 AM
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Where are you coming from and would you be flying or driving? At present there's a big shortage of rental cars and those that are available are very expensive.

Some basics:

North Cascades National Park is mainly wilderness with next to no lodging or visitor services, aside from some campgrounds, located within the national park. Accommodations are generally located on the edges of the national park, especially on the eastern edge.

Crater Lake is in southcentral Oregon and is a great distance from the Washington national parks. Depending on how you pace yourselves, including Crater Lake in an itinerary that includes Olympic NP can mean for an awful lot of driving.

Accommodations within the national parks (nationwide) are at a premium this year, so job one would be to get some reservations in hand asap. Lodging within Mount Rainier and Crater Lake NPs is very limited and likely already fully booked. In the case of Olympic NP, accommodation is generally on the park's periphery (the middle of the park is wilderness) in locations like Port Angeles, Forks, and a couple of small locations on the Pacific coast. The scenic highlights in Olympic NP (including Hurricane Ridge, Crescent Lake, the Hoh and Quinault valley rain forests, and the wild Pacific beaches) are all great distances from one another.

Given your priorities I find myself wondering if an all-Oregon (or mostly so) itinerary might not be more to your liking. With two weeks and flying in and out of Portland, you could include the Columbia River Gorge, the Hood River Valley (look up the "fruit loop") and Mount Hood area, some excellent wines in the Hood River area and farther east along the Columbia, a couple of idyllic lakes near Mount Hood, "old west" scenery with the likes of Smith Rock State Park, maybe a day trip to Mount St. Helens, and even possibly a couple of days out on the coast. For starters, google the places on this map to see what appeals. https://goo.gl/maps/KmmBfFTihfERVMtA7

Last edited by Gardyloo; Jun 7th, 2021 at 10:37 AM.
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 11:06 AM
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-Portland is worth 2-3 days depending on your interests (3-4 nights).
-Olympic Peninsula, I'd say 4 nights if you want to take your time and stop at places and go on hikes (1 at the start in Olympia/Tacoma, 2 in the middle at port angeles, 1 at the end in Hoquiam).
-Rainier I'd say 2 Nights (one of those nights at Rainier could be combined with the night in Olympia/Tacoma) Normally people just do this as a daytrip from Seattle.
-Crater Lake I'd say 2 Nights.
-Haven't been to North Cascades, so can't say.

If you want to see Portland as well, this might be a little bit too much for 2 weeks. I would cut out either Crater Lake or North Cascades (or possibly both) since each of them are about full day drive away from everything else you want to see.

If you want to do both the Olympic peninsula and Portland, then I'd highly recommend driving down the coast at least as far as Cannon Beach and spending at least one night in Astoria. Also a night in the Columbia Gorge might be recommended as well.

An example itinerary I drew up for y'all:

Portland - 3 Nights
Crater Lake - 2 Nights
Columbia Gorge - 1 Night
Mt. Rainier - 1 Night
Olympia/Tacoma - 1 Night
Port Angeles - 2 Nights
Hoquiam - 1 Night
Astoria - 1 Night (or you could cut the night from Hoquiam and spend 2 nights here instead)
Portland - 1 Night

(13 Nights total)

Last edited by SirhanTheStrong; Jun 7th, 2021 at 11:21 AM.
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 11:34 AM
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Another recommendation:
If you're okay cutting out Crater Lake, instead you could take Highway 101 all the way from Astoria to Newport and spend a night there at the end of the trip before heading back up to Portland. The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport tends to be a big hit amongst kids.
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 11:41 AM
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Hi! We're coming from Chicago and we're very flexible with flying one way into Washington or Oregon and one way out of another if that's easier.
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by dtph View Post
Hi! We're coming from Chicago and we're very flexible with flying one way into Washington or Oregon and one way out of another if that's easier.
In addition to high base prices, one-way rental cars can cost an arm and a leg more than those that you drop where you got them.
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 12:36 PM
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You didn't mention the Oregon coast, Washington coast, or San Juan islands... no interest in any of those areas?

Sorry not sure the reasoning for some of the suggestions made above... Hoquim? Tacoma? Olympia? for a night???
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 02:08 PM
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There's nothing to see in Olympia/Tacoma as far as I know, but the way I see it, the drive from Olympia to Port Angeles is worth a entire day, with all the stopping and sight-seeing along the way. And the drive from Port Angeles along the Western side of the peninsula to Hoquiam/Astoria is also worth an entire day. Add in another day in Port Angeles for driving to the top Hurricane Ridge/hiking etc. As long as you're splitting up the drive over two days, where you stay the night at the beginning/end doesn't really matter.

Of course, Suze is a PNW local, and gives very good advice on these forums, I would listen to their advice over my own.
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 11:11 PM
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Originally Posted by dtph View Post
We love beautiful lakes (fav trips so far were Banff and Glacier Natl Parks) and can do easy hikes. We all love to eat and hubby and I love red wine.
Lake Chelan could be a good bet for you! It's about a 2.5-3 hour drive east from Seattle, a beautiful drive through the Cascades to get there with some fun little towns to stop in along your way. Absolutely beautiful lake, lots of beaches and some of the clearest water you will ever see. If you want hiking, there are some trails in the hills around town or you can take a day trip on a ferry up lake to reach a town called Stehekin that has some great hikes, the local schools send their 6th graders on campouts up there (or at least they were still doing that when I graduated ten years ago). The Chelan valley has a big winery scene, lots of great local wines and wineries you could tour. It is a smaller town, but they have several great restaurants. If you decide to go, I'd be happy to give you more local recommendations 😊
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Old Jun 8th, 2021, 09:46 AM
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I totally forgot Lake Chelan was on my top list!! Thank you! Yes definitely send me more details on this. So if I want to include Lake Chelan, what else from Oregon and/or Washington (Olympic, Rainier, Crater and anything above posters recommended) could I also include in a 10-14 day trip? How many days would you recommend in Lake Chelan area and any accommodation recommendations (we like to stay at pretty nice hotels). Diablo Lake was also on my list - would that be feasible to include?
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Old Jun 8th, 2021, 09:48 AM
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Thank you both! Suze please give any sage advice I know nothing about this area I just want to see and experience beautiful nature.
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Old Jun 8th, 2021, 10:29 AM
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Some additional comments...

You really need to take into account the distances between many Washington destinations like Olympic National Park or Chelan, and those in Oregon like Crater Lake. With only ten days you run a real risk of spending so much time in the car that you're forced to rush some places that really merit more time. I think you're probably going to have to drop some of the areas from the wish list.

Chelan might well be a good destination, but be aware that the south end of the lake, around the town of Chelan, is in a fairly arid and (usually) very warm/hot part of Washington in the summer, and also (and this applies to everything east of the Cascade range) prone to forest fires, with the peak fire season starting right about when you'd be here. Now that's not to say that Chelan shouldn't be pursued; in addition to all the activities at the south end of the lake, you can take the Lady of the Lake ferry up the lake (which is like a fjord - narrow, deep and long) to the little village of Stehekin, from which you can access the east side of North Cascades National Park.


Chelan could also be a decent base to explore some of the other sights on the east side of the Cascades, including the Grand Coulee Dam, the fabulous Dry Falls area (site of the greatest flood in history) and, if interested, the Omak Stampede, a very big rodeo and Native American encampment which takes place in early August.


I wouldn't put Diablo Lake too high on the wish list - it's a reservoir behind Diablo Dam on the Upper Skagit River. You can, however, take a boat tour on the lake, sponsored by the City of Seattle, who operates the hydroelectric generation plant in the dam. Skagit Tours - City Light | seattle.gov
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Old Jun 8th, 2021, 10:47 AM
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Thanks for that insight! I personally don't like to be in the car too long with the kiddo lol. Ideally we'd fly in somewhere, stay at a nice hotel that's within 1 hour of everywhere we'd want to explore in the area and then fly home. I definitely have to drop things from my wish list if I want this ideal scenario. So question is - should I just pick Portland or Seattle as our base and if so, would that give us access to enough lakes/hikes/scenery/wineries to keep us busy for about 10 days? I don't mind taking up to a 2-3 hr road trip to stay somewhere else for a couple/few nights as part of the trip and then returning back to base.
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Old Jun 8th, 2021, 10:48 AM
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I should also mention an area that's often below visitors' radar, the Wallowa Mountains and the town of Joseph, in northeastern Oregon. This is an area of remarkable beauty, including the charming town of Joseph with all its public art (some terrific sculpture) and adjacent Wallowa Lake, one of the prettiest in the region. There's an aerial tram that will take you up into the mountains over the lake, lots of ways to learn about the Native American heritage of the region, and plenty of nice places to stay and eat.



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Old Jun 8th, 2021, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by dtph View Post
Thanks for that insight! I personally don't like to be in the car too long with the kiddo lol. Ideally we'd fly in somewhere, stay at a nice hotel that's within 1 hour of everywhere we'd want to explore in the area and then fly home. I definitely have to drop things from my wish list if I want this ideal scenario. So question is - should I just pick Portland or Seattle as our base and if so, would that give us access to enough lakes/hikes/scenery/wineries to keep us busy for about 10 days? I don't mind taking up to a 2-3 hr road trip to stay somewhere else for a couple/few nights as part of the trip and then returning back to base.
Sorry I was posting when you wrote this.

I tend to be something of a broken record on this, so take it for just one person's opinion, but given the above, if it was me (ha ha, it isn't) I'd fly into Portland and spend most of the time along the Columbia River and some nearby side trips. I'd probably base in Hood River, which is roughly an hour east of the airport, because it can be a terrific base for the kind of exploring and activities you seem to be seeking. There are numerous destinations and activities that are easily reached as day outings from Hood River, with tremendous variety. I'll list some.

Hood River itself is the (self proclaimed) windsurfing capital of the country. This also includes kite boarding and parasailing, but it's also a great place to sit on a riverside beach while enjoying the sun. The town is east of the Cascade crest, so the weather is drier and warmer than the west side of the mountains, but not nearly as hot and dry as farther east - it's right on the cusp more or less.

The Hood River Valley extends south from the town, with the road through it (OR 35) eventually climbing onto the slopes of Mount Hood. The valley is full of orchards and vineyards, and is home to the terrific "Hood River fruit loop" - Hood River Fruit Loop, Hood River, Oregon - which features "U-pick" farms, numerous wineries, and other places to enjoy the region's bounty. For wine lovers, it's a terrific location, as are other wine areas to the west and east of Hood River. Here's a view of the valley and mountain from Panorama Point park in Hood River -



Mount Hood, with iconic Timberline Lodge (used in The Shining) on its side, is an hour from Hood River. You can take a chairlift up to the permanent ice fields on the side of the big volcano, where there's usually summer skiing. There are also several lovely lakes with views of Mount Hood, such as Lake Trillium -



In White Salmon, across the Columbia from Hood River, there's white water rafting (all classes from kid-friendly to OMG) and farther north lies the pretty village of Trout Lake (WA) which gives access to the Mount Adams wilderness, with more views of another of the Northwest's iconic volcanoes.

An hour east of Hood River on the Washington side of the Columbia is the Maryhill Museum of Art, a remarkable little museum with some world-class exhibits, sitting on the clifftops above the great river. A mile or so farther east is a fascinating "replica" of Stonehenge, built as a World War I memorial. A note that stargazing at night from this site is extraordinary.



And of course, to the west of Hood River is the main part of the Columbia River Gorge's waterfall belt, with numerous beautiful falls like Multnomah Falls and Latourell Falls. The area has mainly recovered from devastating forest fires a few years ago, and while some trails are still closed, the Gorge's many hikes and vista points will still take your breath away.





As for accommodations, there are various options in the area. Our preference is for the Hood River Inn, located right on the banks of the Columbia. There are some higher-end properties in the area as well, such as the Columbia Gorge Hotel or the Skamania Lodge on the Washington side of the river. There are also B&Bs, historic hotels, or, in Troutdale, between the airport and Hood River, the wonderful Edgefield, a spa/resort/golf/brewery/winery/distillery/movie.... place run by McMenamin's, It's quite a hoot.
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Old Jun 8th, 2021, 12:54 PM
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This looks and sounds gorgeous! How many days for what you suggested? The hiking kayaking parasailing chairlift vineyards all sound perfect for us.
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Old Jun 8th, 2021, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
In addition to high base prices, one-way rental cars can cost an arm and a leg more than those that you drop where you got them.
Yes, we are paying an arm and two legs for a one-way rental from PDX to SFO in early August. Prices were increasing by the day as we were deciding on our itinerary.
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Old Jun 8th, 2021, 01:56 PM
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Apologies in advance for the long post 😅

gardyloo brought up a good point about Chelan- it does get pretty hot in August, it’s regularly in the 90’s and wildfires are a very real possibility. My parents had to evacuate a couple of years ago and my aunt’s house was heavily damaged in a fire a few years before that.

The nice thing about the trip to Chelan is even though it’s a bit of a drive, it’s a beautiful drive and there’s places you can stop along the way. If you take highway 2 over, you could stretch your legs in Leavenworth, a little Bavarian town in the Cascades on the Wenatchee river. Whistle Punk Ice Cream would make for a good snack. Anjou Bakery in Cashmere could be a good stop if you need a more substantial meal.

If you take I-90, you could stop at Snoqualmie Falls or take a break to go hiking at Tiger Mountain State forest- when I lived in Renton we would regularly hike here.

If you decide to include Chelan, these are my recommendations:

Accommodations: Chelan is a pretty casual small town, so there aren’t many really fancy hotels. There is a worldmark that’s 4 stars right in town, or if you want to support local, Campbell’s has been run by the nicest family for a very long time. It’s 3 stars, but it’s right on the lake and hotel guests have access to a private beach. I spent my summers in college working at their restaurant and I have nothing but good things to say about the owners. There are more hotels around, but I’ve always just stayed with my parents so I can’t speak to them beyond their reputation and what I think of the owners. There are several Airbnb’s around as well, but many only accept 5+ day reservations.

Food: most of the restaurants are more casual, but I highly recommend Sorrento’s Ristorante for a nice dinner. The location is gorgeous, food is delicious, and it’s part of Tsillan wineries, so you are able to try their wines, either in their tasting room or with dinner. Breakfast recs are kave roaster and bakery for am coffee runs (better than the Starbucks in town), goldie’s for aa bowls, or blueberry hills (located about a 15/20 min drive away, you get to drive through a small orchard town and eat on a balcony overlooking a blueberry farm). Lunch/ dinner recs are lakeview drive in (Chelan classic, I dream of their fresh banana shakes), bear foods creperie (tucked into a natural foods shop), local myth pizza (some of my favorite pizza ever, although coming from chicago you might say different &#128522, or la brisa (my friends dad owns the restaurant). Restaurants you should skip include BC McDonald’s, and the teriyaki place in town (you can get more, better teriyaki for cheaper on the west side).

Wineries: There are so many options and unfortunately I am not as well versed in them all; I personally like Tsillan Cellars, Chelan Ridge Winery, Cairdeas Winery, and Benson Vineyards, but there really are so many great options with new wineries and tasting cellars popping up all the time.

Sights: Chelan Butte hike, Willow Point for swimming (popular with the locals, very off the beaten path), Don Morse Park for a sandy beach, taking a drive through the local apple orchards around Wapato and Roses Lakes, Ruby Theatre (a vintage 100 year old movie theater that still shows a couple movies a night), renting kayaks/ paddle boards to use on the lake, and taking the Lady of the Lake to Stehekin.

There is so much more to do here, but with everything else you want to do, this should be more than enough to fill up 2-3 days. This would be my itinerary in Chelan:

DAY ONE
hike Chelan butte
clean up and drive to blueberry hills for breakfast
Sightsee local orchards
hit willow point for some lake time
grab some cherries from a roadside produce stand on way back
lunch at lakeview drive in or bear foods creperie
either head to don morse for more lake time, or go wine tasting
sorrento’s for dinner

DAY TWO
kave roaster or goldie’s for breakfast
take the lady of the lake to stehekin for a day of hiking & beautiful scenery
return on the lady of the lake and have dinner at another winery

Of course I am a little biased haha, but it could be a fun change of landscape from the western side of Washington if you wanted some variety.

As for the rest of your trip, it looks like everything on your list is in Washington except for Crater Lake, which is pretty far south into Oregon. It is beautiful for sure, and if it’s a bucket list item you could make it work, but you might have to sacrifice time at the other places to do so. Same concern with Diablo lake- it would be a lot of car time to get up there and back. That said, if you really want to see all those places, I think you could make it work. If I was going, this would be my itinerary:

Day One: Fly into Seattle
Day Two: Seattle to Diablo Lake (2.5 hours)
Day Three: Diablo Lake
Day Four: Diablo lake to Chelan (2.5 hours)
Day Five: Chelan
Day Six: Chelan to Mt. Rainier (4.5 hours, a little longer than what you’d like)
Day Seven: Mt. Rainier
Day Eight: Mt. Rainier to Olympic Peninsula (3.75 hrs to Port Angeles)
Days Nine and Ten: Olympic Peninsula
Day Eleven: Peninsula to Portland (4 hours)
Day Twelve: Portland to Crater Lake (4 hours)
Day Thirteen: return to Portland/ Seattle for flight


It would be a lot of driving, but if you really want to see everywhere, it could be worth it. On the flip side, you could cut out Crater Lake and focus entirely on Washington, and that would open up at least 3 more days, or 5 days if you cut out Chelan as well.

I’ve never been to Hood River, but if you are wanting to stay in one place, it looks like a great option to see a lot of the PNW experience without all the driving! gardyloo I might have to add that to my list too!

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