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Road trip: Oregon, Washington, Montana: Please review and comment

Road trip: Oregon, Washington, Montana: Please review and comment

Jul 22nd, 2011, 10:30 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 117
Road trip: Oregon, Washington, Montana: Please review and comment

My husband just decided he wants to take us on a road trip for 10 days in August. The tentative plan below moves pretty quickly. If it were just me, I’d go to fewer places and spend more time in each one, but he loves road trips (i.e. driving) and wants to cover as much ground as we can in the time we have. We are a family of five (kids 20, 18, and 14).

Please comment on our tentative itinerary. If it really is too ambitious, let me know what we should skip (taking into account drive time, if you can). For the record, we’ve been to Yellowstone already. Thanks very much.

8/13 Drive from So. Cal. to Sacramento
Overnight in Sacramento
8/14 Do stuff in Sacto (Capitol Bldg., Railroad Museum?), drive to Klamath Falls
Overnight in Klamath Falls
8/15 Drive to Crater Lake and spend a few hours there (boat trip?), drive to Salem
Overnight in Salem
8/16 Mt. St. Helens: How far from Visitor Center to Volcano? Food available or shall we pack lunch? Drive to Seattle
8/16 Overnight in Seattle
8/17 Do stuff in Seattle (I’ll start separate posts for things to do in each city, but feel free to comment here if you want).
Overnight again in Seattle
8/18 See more of Seattle in a.m., drive to Spokane (my daughter wants to tour the Moody campus)
Overnight in Spokane
8/19 Tour Moody and check out MAF program, drive to Coeur d’Alene, ID
Overnight in Coeur d’Alene
8/20 Do stuff in and around Coeur d’Alene, drive to Flathead Lake, MT
Overnight in Kalispell
8/21 Glacier National Park during the day, evening drive to Missoula
Overnight in Missoula
8/22 Craters of the Moon?, drive to Twin Falls
Overnight in Twin Falls, ID
8/23 Drive to Tahoe (free lodging in our family cabin, but won’t have time to enjoy the area)
8/24 Drive home (about 9 hours)
fischerl is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2011, 02:21 PM
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I guess you could do this if it is what your husband has his heart set on; however, I'm sure there are better ways to spend your ten days.

First, I wonder why you are staying in Klamath Falls and Salem when there are more fun places for your family to spend time.

Then I'm curious why you want to go way off the beaten track to go to Crater Lake and then spend very little time there. (My choice would be to spend some time enjoying Oregon's two major attractions: The Pacific Coast and the Columbia River Gorge.)

In Washington, you may find Mt Rainier a much more spectacular attraction than Mt Saint Helens.

I don't think there would be much interest in Craters of the Moon if it were named something other than Craters of the Moon; however, your children may find it interesting. It's not Yellowstone of Grand Teton NP--let's put it that way.

It is a long drive from Twin Falls to Lake Tahoe.

happytrailstoyou is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2011, 02:33 PM
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I'm a road trip junky myself, but this is a little too much.
It's about 400 miles (a very scenic drive) Missoula to Twin Falls, the Craters of the Moon are really out of your way.
I don't recall a nearby restaurant at Mt. St. Helens.
It's a slow drive from Crater Lake across the Cascades into Salem.
The biggest change I'd make if I were driving is to get a really early start on the 13th and push all the way to Klamath Falls, save the extra time for a stop or more time somewhere else when you an urge to do so.
boom_boom is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2011, 02:54 PM
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Even though I live in Klamath County north of Crater Lake, I'd say stay on I-5 and stay in the Medford area instead of K-Falls.
Just because Mt. St Helens blew up 25 years ago, does not mean you have to hike many miles to see it. http://www.mountsthelens.com/
See Sacramento at the end of your trip on the day you leave the Tahoe cabin.
Do take the time to see the California capitol building (and grounds) and the Railroad Museum and the rest of Old Town.
tomfuller is online now  
Jul 22nd, 2011, 03:39 PM
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I would skip Sac,or hit it on the way back, as Tom says. If you left early enough with several driving, you could make it into the mountains to Dunsmuir/Mt. Shasta area and take that in. Then head North to either Ashland or Grants Pass and enjoy the sights.
Theatre, hiking, river rafting food, in ashland.Jet boat dinner runif you stayed in GP?
next day head up to Crater Lake, then maybe stay at Diamond Lake or Lake of the Woods. Head towards Bend and then up 97. I'll let others take over from there.
bbqboy is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2011, 03:52 PM
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you know, I just reread you stops.
You need to either skip east of Spokane or west of Spokane, I'd say.
Is this a sort of potential college tour too?
bbqboy is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2011, 05:02 PM
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From Sacto it is about 750 miles to Seattle, and you have two nights allocated between the pair. (Klamath Falls and Salem are indeed not hot spots)

As somebody mentioned the Oregon coast, and the Columbia Gorge... AND as you are from Southern California, I'm guessing you have all the coast you usually need not too far away.

SO, what if one got an early start from Sacto, took the eastern path up through Oregon (Hwy #97)... stopped at Crater Lake for a smaller visit, and then pressed on for a night at Bend, Oregon.

Next day, it's 370-miles from Bend to Seattle VIA Hood River... and you can see some of the Columbia Gorge on that path.

Time out to suggest reading glaciallakemissoula.org NOW... so that the Gorge and Montana, and things in central Washington will fit together in your understanding.

If things fall together nicely you could break-up the trip with a visit to Mount St. Helens OR Mount Rainier. (Rainier might be more awesome... merely SEEING St. Helens from the road could be enough to get the highest sense of the impact of the blast 31 years ago)

Rainier stands out like few other mountains do, and it isn't THAT costly time-wise to circle around it to the east, first exiting at Exit #68 from Interstate #5 (cough: "THE five").

Then that night in Seattle... a second night in Seattle... and even plenty of the NEXT day in Seattle before the 4 1/2-hour drive to Spokane. (maybe stop up in the mountains, and pooooooooossibly at gorge/water/flood-related spots along the rest of the path - there really isn't MUCH to see between the mountains 55 miles east of Seattle, and Spokane, 280 miles east of Seattle).

The roads are bare all the way, and nothing slows you down.

Spokane is a pleasant town of just the right size. Guess you can do it in a day. If you're lucky, you'll hear Madonna's "Crazy For You" on the radio there somewhere... from the movie "Vision Quest", which was shot in Spokane in the mid 1980's.

I think the next day I'd breakfast in Spokane, and then drive to do things in Coeur D'Alene, before LEAVING TOWN to the east.

It is 220 miles from CDA to Kalispell, but I would gun for "West Glacier", which is another 35 miles. A cute little town in a tree-filled valley, and you wake up right across from the entrance to Glacier National Park.

Next day, tour the park, and drive to Missoula as mentioned.

(IN MISSOULA, look up at the "M"... and then notice the odd 'ridges' on the valley wall, which were once SHORELINES during the repeated formations of "Glacial Lake Missoula")

... you can likely figure out the rest of your trip on your own.

Good luck!
NorthwestMale is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2011, 05:28 PM
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Thanks, all, for taking the time to respond. We're going to try to finalize an itinerary tonight or tomorrow so I really appreciate the feedback. Bbqboy, not really a college tour, it's just the one college we're going to check out. I'm thinking, along with you, that perhaps we should make Spokane our easternmost point this time.

So, sounds like Craters of the Moon is nothing special, and I'll check out Mt. Rainier as an alternate to Mt. St. Helens. And I'll look into stopping in Grants Pass or Ashland.

Tom and Bbqboy, I'm curious as to why we should do Sacramento at the end of the trip instead of at the beginning. What difference would it make?

Thank you!
fischerl is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2011, 05:35 PM
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NorthwestMale, I responded before your post appeared; just saw it. Thanks so much! Lots to consider, and it all sounds great. If we decide to go all the way to Glacier NP, we'll probably do as you suggest and stay in West Glacier.
fischerl is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2011, 05:42 PM
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Because if you are doing a PNW trip from the southern climes, you want to get into the mountains as soon as possible. As soon as you get north of Redding, you'll understand.
Believe me, we used to journey up here from Phoenix.
bbqboy is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2011, 06:22 PM
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With an early start from home and two or three drivers, southern Oregon is in reach. Ashland and Medford have a better selection of hotels than K-Falls. Get the Annual Pass when you enter Crater Lake so that you won't have to pay again at Mt Rainier and Glacier and any others you may visit. Exit Crater Lake NP by the north entrance and take Rt. 138 14 miles east to US 97 north. You should enjoy Bend more than Salem.
For a town east of Seattle to check for lunch, I like Leavenworth (US 2) which looks like it belongs in the Alps.
If looking for colleges in Spokane, don't forget Gonzaga.
The stop at Sacramento for 2-3 hours makes more sense at the end of the trip before heading for home with at least 2 drivers.
tomfuller is online now  
Jul 23rd, 2011, 08:40 PM
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Great idea about the NP pass. So we've cut out Craters of the Moon, and we're not going to go all the way to Glacier NP this time , which will allow us a slightly slower pace on the way home. We'll stay in Bend instead of Salem on the way up. The route suggestions are great!

Now I need to know: how long shall we allow at Mt. Rainier? I assume our time there would be spent hiking and enjoying the scenery (anything else we should do there?). And where is the best place to stay overnight, if we decide to do that?
fischerl is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2011, 09:57 PM
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OK, if you want to do hiking @ Mt. Rainier... then you have to devote more time to it than just a pass-by... Though technically it is nearer as a target for nighttime than would be "Seattle" (when heading from Bend, OR)

Whoa, wow, I just mapped the path from Bend, OR to "Randle, WA"... for that being a south-of-Rainier spot near enough to be significant AND to which you could gauge various online map alternatives easily. Upon making that path I discovered it suggests a seldom-used path through Washington's Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Because you've said nothing which requires going west to Portland or to "THE five", it is perfectly sensible to consider the option through the Forest.

Mount St. Helens is MUCH closer in passing than you get when going up "THE five" and who knows what eruption remnants might be visible in the backwoods there.

Anyway, so the night after "Bend" would be ideal if strategically plotted near the south side of Mount Rainier.

You really should go to "Paradise" at some point (I just went there a few weeks ago), and should probably approach Seattle from the east side of Mount Rainier. Leave it to others to suggest ideal hiking in the area.

Note that Paradise is reportedly "the snowiest place on earth" in that there is no spot on the planet at which regular measurements are taken, which receives more snow during an average year. (they had officially 10 1/2 FEET there in late June when I went... and drifts/piles twice that high) (the roads are all bare and dry, and easily navigable, FYI)

Deep breath, as to your question... why not plan to get as near as possible to Mount Rainier for that overnight stay (the night after "Bend")... and then make just a single, FULL DAY of Mount Rainier hiking and sightseeing, perhaps begun with a trip to "Paradise".

Trudge into Seattle whenever you get around to it, and be content at finally staying in the same spot on consecutive nights.

IF you cut out the eastern-most spots on your trip, then you'll have a bit more time, and can maaaaaaaaaybe add a Seattle day to what you already envisioned.

Dunno what to say about traveling home to California going due south from Spokane. The main Washington path going south from Spokane is all wheat fields and countryside, which is pleasant enough, but could get boring.

IF the school in Spokane receives approval, you might do well to stop in PULLMAN, WA... to just see the area of Washington State University... as any college student at Spokane might evolve to take interest in heading to Pullman with friends at some point.

I drove down the parallel-ish path in Idaho... and wouldn't say it was memorable. Maybe from Moscow, ID to Lewiston is worth seeing...

(so maybe Spokane-Pullman-Moscow-Lewiston... and then ad-lib your way from there)

You could go to Hell's Canyon further down there... but few roads get you there, so prepare with maps and data if inclined to select one of them. Hell's Canyon is 2000 feet deeper than is The Grand Canyon, but if you can't find many roads to take you there then what good might it be?

(it is nowhere near the spectacle that is The Grand Canyon)

I don't get the sense that Oregon is ideally laid-out for those wanting a diagonal trip from Northeast to Southwest or the like... so I guess your path shall result from picking some important destination and getting yourself there.
NorthwestMale is offline  
Jul 24th, 2011, 02:43 PM
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Posts: 576
Just a couple of comments. Couer d Alene and Spokane are only 1/2 away from each other and Cda is far prettier. Stay in Cda for 2 nights (it will be a nice non repacking stay) and then drive back to the collage.

We live by Craters of the Moon and unless you are very interested in geology then just skip this.
jnjfraz is offline  
Jul 24th, 2011, 03:38 PM
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Thank you! You people are so generous with your help. You make last-minute planning much more bearable.
fischerl is offline  

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