PNW and National Parks

Old Jun 24th, 2019, 07:36 AM
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PNW and National Parks

Hello,
Please help with logistics in getting this itinerary started. I have been reading the posts but I am still not sure of the best way to make this happen. We are a group of 5 adults (ages 60+) coming from Ohio, all retired so timeframe is not an issue although probably no longer than three weeks.

We definitely want to visit Redwood, Crater Lake, Ranier, Olympic and North Cascade National Parks and John Day Fossil Bed (Painted Hills). Our hiking ability is 2-3 miles.

We will need to rent a car so should we pay the drop off fee or should we make it a round trip venture, ie., going up Rt 101 and returning on I-5? We can fly in/out of any airport.

If you could please give me your suggestions on how to tackle this venture I will be able to continue to do my research.

Also, this trip is not until September 2020 but we like to stay in National Parks for lodging (when available) and I know they book out one year and fill up fast. Thank You!!
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Old Jun 24th, 2019, 07:49 AM
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These are fantastic places to explore. I would do a round trip for the car. For Crater Lake, the boat tour is a must and those stop for the season in mid September so do that early do you donít miss out. The North Cascades can get snow early so be aware. Last year we were backpacking and ended up in the tent for the night by 2 pm due to snow. The larches are stunning in the early fall. Mt Rainier can also get snow, but most likely not at an elevation you would be at with just 2-3 mile hikes. The foliage is gorgeous at Rainier in late September. Also the blueberries and huckleberries will be plentiful in the NC as well as at Rainier.
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Old Jun 24th, 2019, 08:32 AM
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Let's talk about the choices and the logistics.

First, due to industry and political resistance, Redwood National Park wasn't created until well after the State of California had "cherry picked" the best redwood groves and included them in state parks. In particular, Humboldt Redwoods State Park (in Humboldt County, south of the Humboldt Bay/Eureka area) and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, on US 199 north of Crescent City, have groves that are the equal of, or frankly probably superior to, anything in Redwood National Park. Redwood National Park is a bit of a patchwork and is nothing like the contiguous national parks like Yellowstone or Yosemite. Half the time you won't even know you're driving through the national park.

North Cascades National Park is principally a mountain wilderness area. Apart from some viewpoints, trailheads and campgrounds, there are basically no visitor facilities within the national park; accommodations, restaurants etc. are located on the park's periphery, principally on the east side of the park in places like Winthrop. WA Hwy 20, which bisects the park, is very scenic, but, again, North Cascades NP is not like other national parks in terms of visitor centers, major attractions etc. There are some excellent hikes available of course, but they need to be taken in the context of spending nights elsewhere.

Olympic National Park offers a stunning collection of environments and sights, but they're spread out around the park's periphery, requiring lengthy drives (often hours, and often boring) to get from one to another. One needs a minimum of three days and nights in order to see the highlights; more if one wants to go on hikes along the wild beaches, in the alpine meadows around Hurricane Ridge, or through the stunning Hoh or Quinault valley rain forests. Lodging is slightly more plentiful than in other parks but generally scarce on the Pacific side of the park, and often heavily booked, so advance planning is essential.

Mount Rainier NP is very large and more of a "conventional" park in that there are well developed visitor centers, some (but not a lot) places to stay in the park or on the edges, and a lot of trails and facilities. However, because it's in day trip range of Seattle/Tacoma, it also can get quite crowded, especially on weekends, so midweek visits are best.

Crater Lake is very far from a lot of other regional attractions, and again, has very limited visitor accommodations. Advance booking for lodging in or near the national park is essential.

Now, that covers the national parks, but, as with the redwoods, the national parks aren't the whole story, and in fact focusing on national parks can lead one to overlook some of the state parks or national scenic areas in the region that offer fantastic experiences. Let me cite some examples.

- Deception Pass State Park, on both sides of the narrow gap between Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands in north Puget Sound, is stunning, especially at tide change.

- The Columbia River Gorge, stretching from just outside Portland to the sagebrush and cliffs at Maryhill and The Dalles, is an unbroken string of vista points, waterfalls, orchards, wineries, charming and historic towns, even a remarkable art museum and a copy of Stonehenge, overlooked by a couple of enormous volcanoes.

- Smith Rock State Park, just north of Bend, Oregon, offers incredible scenery.

- Cape Disappointment State Park, at the (awesome) mouth of the Columbia River, offers waves-on-rocks scenery, a couple of lighthouses, a terrific Lewis and Clark interpretive center, and even its own Waikiki Beach.

- A string of Oregon state parks covers the amazing Oregon coast all the way from the Columbia to the California redwoods.

- - -

So what does this mean in terms of trip planning for you and your group? Put simply, it means you can burn yourselves out trying to cover too many areas, even with three weeks. Oh, you can see all of these places, but some of them will be whistle stops. And by focusing on national parks, you might run the risk of bypassing whole areas, like the islands in Puget Sound, or the amazing "scablands" - leftovers from incredible ice age floods - in north-central Washington. In September you could find yourselves in harvest mode in places like the wonderful Hood River Valley, an hour east of Portland, or you could be touring vineyards in the Willamette Valley of Oregon or around Walla Walla in eastern Washington. Not far down the road from Walla Walla is the picturesque town of Joseph, Oregon, set against a stunning lake and surrounded by the Wallowa Mountains, "America's Alps."

So since you have plenty of time to plan and plot, let me suggest you have some discussions with your group and think about some reduced-scope alternatives. Treat these as "thought experiments" for the time being. Here are some loops to consider; google the places shown.

1. Seattle, Olympic Peninsula, Victoria, Vancouver, Whistler, the Salish Sea, Canadian Gulf or US San Juan Islands, Mt. Rainier. Map - https://goo.gl/maps/V4fEFqGkMjnsFWHV7 .

2. Columbia Gorge, Wallowa Mountains, red rocks, Crater Lake, central Oregon coast, Cape Disappointment, Mt. St. Helens. Map - https://goo.gl/maps/9isvBDBrrq7B5AKG9 .

3. Mt. St. Helens, Oregon coast, redwoods, Crater Lake, red rocks, Columbia Gorge - https://goo.gl/maps/D2mR9KLmvDAwXzG4A .

Any of these, or combinations, could provide a wealth of experiences and could easily fill three weeks. Remember that autumn comes early in the high country, and the rains can come on the Pacific coast, but in general September is an ideal time to visit most of these areas.

Like I say, worth some discussions.
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Old Jun 25th, 2019, 07:34 AM
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PNW and National Parks

Thank you both for your tips and advice. I agree there is a lot to see and the National Parks are the main points we want to do but also visit places in between. I just was interested in a general idea how to do the drive and then I would figure our stopping points.
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Old Jun 28th, 2019, 12:18 AM
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I am actually thinking that the thing that makes sense is for you to fly into Portland. Take the historic Columbia River Highway to Multnomah Falls. From there take I-84 further up the Gorge.

Stay in Cascade Locks or Hood River or The Dalles. You could spend about 3-4days here doing hikes on both sides of the river, going to Mount Hood for the day, or doing the gorgeous fall apple and pear festivals and weekends. The Maryhill Museum is also really an incredible, eclectic mix of items, plus a sweeping view and a full sized replica of Stonehenge.

Since you want to see the Fossil Beds and the painted hills, probably drive to Arlington on I-84 and go down Highway 19. It's fun to do this route and stop at the high school in Fossil where you can pay to dig your own fossils.We camped when we've visited this area, but there's a historic hotel in Condon that's been re-done. You would probably only want one night there or you will be backtracking. Or there are B&Bs in Fossil. Note that the John Day Fossil Beds have actual three locations. All are interesting and the visitor center is well done.
From there you can drive over to Bend and down to Crater Lake. If you have time in your schedule, there's a lot to do in Bend. One of many Oregonians' favorite places as well.
Then Crater Lake, which has a really pretty lodge. I have not stayed in it, but eaten there.

By the way there is a National Monument at the Oregon Caves. Compared to other national monuments, I'm not sure it's worth your attention. But the lodge is actually really cool with a small stream running through it. You could potentially go down 199 to see some of the redwoods. I haven't driven that whole route and can't advise. But it is a possibility.

Definitely I would advise you to see at least part of the Oregon Coast. It is beautiful.

I also think you should see Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens both. Very different.... Rainier does have a lodge. I believe it was being renovated so I'm not sure the status for next year.
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Old Jun 28th, 2019, 07:50 AM
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5alive--I agree, both Mt St Helens and Mt Rainier are musts. I include Crater Lake in that as well. Yes, Rainier has two lodges, Paradise Inn (and yes it has been renovated already) and then the National Park Inn further down the mountain at Longmire.
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