PNW loop...critique my itinerary

Jun 4th, 2014, 01:35 PM
  #1  
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PNW loop...critique my itinerary

DH & I visited the PNW in September 2010. Other travels have kept us away but we must get back! We were inexperienced and mistakenly based ourselves in Seattle. We actually drove several times over the course of a week to the Olympic peninsula. We have now learned our lesson and are returning to do things right!

Here is my itinerary:
Fri May 29: Fly to Seattle

Sat May 30: Seattle for 1 day- Ballard Locks, Pioneer Square, Museum of Flight, and Space Needle

Sun May 31: drive to Lake Crescent (I know, 3 hrs); stay at Lake Crescent Lodge; hike to Marymere Falls; perhaps kayak on Lake Crescent

Mon & Tues June 1-2: drive to Forks area; stay at Quillayute River Resort; explore area including: Hoh Rainforest and beaches

Wed June 3: drive to Lake Quinault Lodge; rainforest hike

Thurs-Sat June 4-6: drive to Mt Rainier NP (I know, 3 hrs from Lake Quinault); stay at Stormking Cabins; explore the area; eat blackberry pie at Copper Creek Inn! Saturday evening drive back to Seattle

Sun June 7- fly home

My question is: should I extend our trip by an extra day and add it on to Lake Crescent?

If we left Seattle before/around 10am which puts us at Lake Crescent at 1pm, we then would only have until the next day there. I began looking more into it and would love to do the Spruce Railroad trail. Also what about Hurricane Ridge in that area?

Thanks in advance!
louistraveler5 is offline  
Jun 4th, 2014, 01:49 PM
  #2  
mms
 
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Three hours is a bit optimistic because of the ferry, just in case you were not aware

Hurricane Ridge is about an hour or so from Lake Crescent. It is stunning up there! I would just stop there on your way to Lake Crescent, instead of backtracking.
mms is offline  
Jun 4th, 2014, 04:11 PM
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I would add a day at Lake Crescent, if you can. That way you can take your time arriving at the Lodge, and do the Hurricane Ridge hike along the way as mms suggests.

The Edmonds-Kingston ferry, as someone suggested elsewhere, routes you onto SR 104, which takes you through the cute town of Port Gamble before joining 101 across the Hood Canal Bridge.

The Sleep Inn, near Seatac, is where I always stay if I have an early flight out. Nothing fancy, but inexpensive and clean.
azzure is offline  
Jun 4th, 2014, 04:36 PM
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Hurricane Ridge I think is spectacular! The trail to the top is a bit steep but worth every step in my opinion!

Kayaking on Lake Crescent was great too- like glass the 2 times we did it. I vote for an extra night at Lake Crescent.
sunbum1944 is offline  
Jun 4th, 2014, 04:59 PM
  #5  
mms
 
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The trail that sunbum mentions is called Hurricane Hill. It does get steep, but it is paved so is not difficult at all. I agree though, very much worth it! Lots of marmots up near the top
mms is offline  
Jun 4th, 2014, 05:09 PM
  #6  
 
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Just be aware that some of Mt. Rainier's highlights will probably be inaccessible in early June. Today, for example, there's still 12+ feet of snow on the ground at Paradise, and while the Stevens Canyon road is open (Sunrise Road still closed) some of the scenes, such as from the reflection lakes, will be very snowy. Plus, May/June can easily be cloudy/rainy, especially at elevation, making much of the national park a bit of a bust if things are socked in.

I probably would add a day on the Olympic Peninsula and take one away from Mt. Rainier.

But actually, at that time of year, I'd happily swap the Mt. Rainier days for the Columbia Gorge outside of Portland. In addition to the many waterfalls (full of water in May/June) you'll also have spring blooms in the Hood River Valley orchards, and if you want spectacular mountain/snow, Mount Hood and Timberline Lodge is a hop skip from Hood River. Hood River is about a half hour farther from Lake Quinault than Mount Rainier. You could also fly out of Portland instead of Seattle; Hood River is an hour or so from the airport.
Gardyloo is online now  
Jun 5th, 2014, 07:07 AM
  #7  
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Thanks everyone for your suggestions! I will add the extra night to Lake Crescent.

Gardyloo: I didn't even think about the snow at Mt Rainier. I am really excited about my plan and that disappoints me. I really like your idea of the Hood River Valley but I really wanted to stay at Mt Rainier. It is an absolute must to have the blackberry pie at Copper Creek Inn! I do want to get to Oregon sometime, I'm just not sure about this trip but I will think about it.

Before I picked the May dates, I was considering July 31-August 9. I am locked in on either week because the May/June week will include DH's bday or the week in August will include our anniversary. I thought May because it would be a little cooler and less crowded. Since we are staying at two park lodges I was thinking both would be really busy during that week in August. If we go in August, I would have the better weather at Mt Rainier. Now I don't know which to do!

Opinions on which week?
louistraveler5 is offline  
Jun 5th, 2014, 07:29 AM
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If you could switch to the August dates, that would make for a much more enjoyable trip, both in Olympic NP (outside the rainiest season) and at Mt. Rainier, when you'd probably still have a lot of wildflowers at elevation.

The Gorge and Mt. Hood in May/June can be pretty spectacular, e.g.

http://gardyloo.us/20100509_5a.JPG
http://gardyloo.us/latourellefallshdr1.jpg
http://gardyloo.us/20100509_85a.JPG
Gardyloo is online now  
Jun 5th, 2014, 07:48 AM
  #9  
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Gardyloo: Those pictures are beautiful! What would you suggest I do with 2 1/2 days in Mt Hood/ Columbia River Gorge.

When I emailed with the owner of the Quillayute River Resort she said: "I’d come for end of May/early June. That’s when a lot of plants have just come into full bloom. It’s the end of the grey whale migration. The spring king salmon are in the rivers. There are fewer people. The rain forests are at their best. It’ll be cooler and wetter than in August, but not bad".

This is true for my loop aside from Mt Rainier. I checked nps.com and all the Mt Rainier roads are closed until June 20 and July 3! I can't believe I didn't realize that! If I go in May it seems that I will have to give up Mt Rainier.

Gardyloo: How busy will the places in my loop be in August? I have been to Rocky Mtn NP in August and it was so crowded!
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Jun 5th, 2014, 08:37 AM
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What would you suggest I do with 2 1/2 days in Mt Hood/ Columbia River Gorge.

I'd drive from Lake Quinault to Troutdale, just east of the Portland airport, and recover with some beer and food, maybe a movie at McMenamin's Edgefield - http://www.mcmenamins.com/54-edgefield-home - then spend the next day driving the "Historic Columbia Gorge Highway" which runs along the top of the gorge walls from Troutdale to roughly Cascade Locks/Multnomah Falls. You'd want to stop at a couple of the many waterfalls along the roadside, most reached by short paved paths, a couple by more strenuous hikes. Maybe visit "Herman the Sturgeon," a giant and very old fish at the Bonneville hatchery. Overnight in Hood River.

Next day, drive up the beautiful Hood River Valley to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood - http://www.timberlinelodge.com/ - a real national treasure. There will undoubtedly still be snow around in late May/June, but less crowded because skiing will probably have been discontinued. Drive back down for a second night in Hood River, or if you want to get a head start on the return to Seattle, head east along the Columbia and spend the night somewhere near The Dalles OR or Maryhill WA. Then the last few hours drive will be via US 97 over Satus Pass and marvelous "old west" country, through the Yakama reservation to US 97's junction with I-82, then to I-90 and over Snoqualmie Pass back into the Seattle area, around 4 - 4 1/2 hours through marvelous scenery, much nicer than I-5 north from Portland to Seattle.

How busy will the places in my loop be in August? I have been to Rocky Mtn NP in August and it was so crowded!

Busier than in May, for sure, particularly places like Paradise Inn on Mt. Rainier, so for that reason Mt. Rainier is best visited during the week rather than weekends.

I've never found Olympic NP to be "crowded" at all, but obviously there will be people around. ONP is big enough and spread out enough that people will be thinner on the ground.

Trying to capture good weather in the mountains and empty national parks is pretty much an impossible task; you need to compromise at some point.
Gardyloo is online now  
Jun 5th, 2014, 09:31 AM
  #11  
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Thank you so much Gardyloo...I really appreciate it! I have given me plenty to think about.

I really like the idea of Mt Hood/Columbia River Gorge. I will add that and subtract Mt Rainier if I chose May. I am leaning towards changing to August so I can continue with my original loop.

It is true, that ONP is more spread out unlike my experience in RMNP. When thinking of Lake Crescent Lodge and Lake Quinault Lodge I want space to enjoy the peace and quiet and not overcrowded when you think everyone will be there because of good weather and school is about to start.

We did just return from another trip to RMNP; we went May 22-27. The trails were snow packed and Trail Ridge Road just opened. I really like the advice from the Quillayute Resort about May but our recent trip to Colorado makes me realize that I don't want snow runoff on this trip. End of May/early June is too much of a transition period.

Two more questions Gardyloo:
1) It has been almost 4 years since our trip to the PNW, Lake Crescent wouldn't have snow on the ground at then end of May or June if ever? I want to do the Spruce Railroad trail and don't want it snow packed. Have you done this hike? Have you stayed at Lake Crescent or Lake Quinault lodges?

2) How long do the wildflowers stick around? If we were willing to give up our anniversary date in August, would you suggest later in August? How late?

Thanks again Gardyloo!
louistraveler5 is offline  
Jun 5th, 2014, 10:50 AM
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We like the fireplace rooms at Lake Quinault Lodge.

The rooms at Lake Crescent are simpler, but we like the Marymere building because of the grassy lawn that leads right down to the lake--a delightful place to sit in the evening.

HTtY

PS I would not pass on the chance to visit Mt. Rainier up close and personal. It is the #1 and never-fails-to-please destination for those who visit us from afar.
happytrailstoyou is offline  
Jun 5th, 2014, 11:38 AM
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I have not done that hike, and there won't be any snow on the ground at Lake Crescent.

No idea how long the wildflowers last, and I'm sure it varies greatly by elevation. I was up there around Labor Day a year or two ago and there were still some wildflowers around Paradise.

The NPS webcams at both Mt. Rainier and Olympic NP can be quite useful.

http://www.nps.gov/mora/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm
http://www.nps.gov/olym/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm

Also

http://www.timberlinelodge.com/webcams/
Gardyloo is online now  
Jun 5th, 2014, 12:12 PM
  #14  
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Happytrailstoyou: I was planning on the fireplace room, thanks! I really don't want to give up Mt Rainier.

Thanks Gardyloo!

One more suggestion open for your opinions. After this I need to stop! I am starting to make this too difficult!

Okay here goes:
My favorite season of the year is autumn which we do not get here in Texas! Our first trip to the PNW was in late Sept but Mt Rainier was completely fogged both days we went. I know you can never predict that though. Just because autumn is my favorite season does not mean I need to go then.

1)Should I now consider Sept/Oct? October too late?
2)When do roads typically close in Mt Rainier?

I have pros/cons for every season:
Spring: pro- rainforest is wetter, cool temps, fewer people
cons-transition period, Mt Rainier snowed in

Summer: pro-snow is gone, wildflowers
cons-more people, drier weather means drier rainforest, also if temps get too warm we get enough of that in Texas

Fall: pro-beautiful fall colors, cool temps, fewer people
cons- snow could come in, fog, less daylight

What to do???
louistraveler5 is offline  
Jun 5th, 2014, 01:12 PM
  #15  
 
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Our weather is likely to be agreeable in September. If you come in September and the weather isn't as good as you hoped, you can be at peace knowing you didn't chose the wrong time to travel here.

Were I you, I would leave my schedule flexible so that I could rush up to Mt. Rainier in case it emerges in all its glory or dash off to Hood River to explore the Columbia River Gorge if the great mountain remains shrouded.

HTtY
happytrailstoyou is offline  
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