Seattle/ONP/Orcas or the other way around?

Old Mar 29th, 2005, 10:07 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 86
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Seattle/ONP/Orcas or the other way around?

hi to all Seattle & Pacific NW Experts --

My husband and I are planning a June trip to the Seattle area. We pretty much know where we’d like to go – Seattle for a night or 2, Orcas Island, and ONP – but the logistics are killing me. Since we’re from Chicago, this trip is not so much about the city and culture (we get that here), but about spectacular scenery, hiking, kayaking, whale watching, bike riding, beach combing (um…that’s what we don’t get here!). We’d like to get in at least 2 moderate to fairly strenuous hikes somewhere (Hoh Rainforest? Mt. Constitution?) and then for the other activities (kayaking, whale watching) we’ll do a couple of organized day trips. Remainder of the time is just for exploring, relaxing, beachcombing.

Could someone advise me the best order to do this in (Seattle/Orcas/ONP/Seattle or Seattle/ONP/Orcas/Seattle) and which are the best routes and/or ferries to take? We will have 8 or 9 nights – 10 at the most.

Also, one final question – we prefer playing-it-by-ear travel. So would it be fairly easy for us to just show up at a hotel that we like and get a room on the spot in early- to mid- June? We do like the looks of places like Lake Crescent Lodge, Kaloch (sp?) Lodge, etc, but are certainly not wedded to stay at any particular place.

Thanks in advance for any help!
Sevastopol is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2005, 01:40 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 95,121
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Although I'm in Seattle I can't answer a single one of your questions! But will top this post for you...
suze is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2005, 02:01 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 18,487
Received 77 Likes on 7 Posts
First, logistics.

Orcas Island can only really be accessed off the Anacortes ferry. Anacortes is connected by road to Seattle, and in the other direction to another ferry dock at Keystone on Whidbey Island, the ferry from which goes to Port Townsend, on the Olympic Peninsula. So all roads lead to Anacortes and Keystone, or v.v.

Generally in the summer the Anacortes ferry traffic is a limiting factor on weekends - long lineups at both the Anacortes and Orcas ends at morning/evening departures, so if you want to maximize your time on the island weekdays are your best bet; you don't want to spend hours in a parking lot, which is entirely possible at peak sailings.

Lake Crescent, Kalaloch, or even the Quinault Lodge can be heavily booked all summer, so if you want to stay in one or more of these places best try for bookings asap. The problem with the Pacific Coastal strip of ONP is that there are next to no park concessionaires, thus the lodging tends to be at the north and south ends of the coastal strip, and, IMO, for the most part rather unappealing.

I think one of your walks definitely needs to be made up one or more of the Hoh trails. In early summer it can be amazing country under the rainforest canopy - the overwintering elk (the size of small SUVs) have eaten all the underbrush in areas, leaving a misty vista of ground moss, tree trunks vanishing into the fog, hanging moss, and nothing much else - quite eerie.

The other walk - well, take your pick. It's been a dry and rather snowless winter in the hills (raining and snowing now but probably too little too late) so the walking around Hurricane Ridge might be appealing - wonderful mountain scenery, some wildlife, and great alpine trails. Or, beach walks at Ruby Beach or La Push out on the coast - nothing like that around Chicago either.

There's currently a brewing controversy regarding whale watching in the Puget Sound/Georgia Strait area, with some of the advocacy groups (with evidently more compelling science on their side than before) saying that boat-bourne whale watching is out of control and that even the "best practices" are threatening the creatures. Use your own judgement, but FYI there is often excellent shore-based whale watching from Lime Kiln State Park on San Juan Island, a short ferry hop from Orcas.

Happy planning.
Gardyloo is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2005, 02:16 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 7,090
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'll have a little go at it. First, time of year. Check the hotels to see if you need reservations. It's before public school gets out here, so you might be able to squeek by without reservations, but I wouldn't bet on it. There aren't a lot of hotels in the OP.
The Hoh Rainforest is a great walk, but not a hike.
There are spectacular hikes on Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Peninsula. I don't know about conditions in June. This is a very non-snowy year, so the trails at the top will probably be clear. http://www.nps.gov/olym/hurr.htm
Do not miss this, if the roads are open.
There is a nice hike on San Juan Island from the English Camp to the top of Mt. Young. We've only driven up Mt.Constitution, but I have a hiking book that recommends two trails in Moran State Park. My book says they are both in the brochure for the park. One is called "Mountain Lake to Cascade Lake" and goes through deep old forests and by waterfalls. It's 3 miles one way and you need a drop off and pick up, which you could do with a cab service. The other is called "Twin Lakes," that starts on one lake and climbs to two others. both hikes are considered "moderate." Here's a website:
http://www.orcasisle.com/~elc/trailmap.htm
On the San Juans, the preferred bike riding island is Lopez, as it is flatter. You see bikes on all the islands, though.
As for the order, you've got the wild side - the OP, and the calm side, the San Juans. I think I'd go wild to calm on my vacation, but it really doesn't matter.
How about going to the OP first from Seattle, on the Bainbridge Island ferry. Visit the Dungeness Spit near Sequim, which is a national wildlife refuge for birds, with lots of driftwood and a remote lighthouse. Stay in Port Angeles (1). Go to Hurricane Ridge the next day, if it is clear, and stay at L. Crescent Lodge that night (2). Kalaloch the next night (3). Hoh Rain forest next day, then to Port Townsend, where you stay the night (4)and take the ferry to Whidbey Island. Drive up to Anacortes and take the ferry to Orcas. (probably stay in Anacortes or LaConner that night- 5. Maybe have time for kayaking here). Then to Orcas. I think you have to catch your whale watching boats out of Anacortes or Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island. Hang out in the San Juans the rest of the time, visiting all the islands. They are close by and you can walk on the ferries, so you won't have to wait in lines.
So how's that for starters? Others?
Orcas is offline  
Old Mar 30th, 2005, 05:58 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,299
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Here are the hikes I'd recommend in ONP:
1. Grand Ridge, which runs 7 miles from Obstruction Point, near Hurricane Ridge, to Deer Park-this is one way, but if you only went halfway, making it a 7 mile rt hike-it would still be terrific. There are some easy trails right around the visitors center at Hurricane Ridge that still offer lovely views if you choose not to do a longer hike this day.

2. Hoh River Trail-the paved nature trails at the visitors center lead to a 18 mile trail along the river through the rainforest. You can go as far as you like. There's barely any elevation gain so it's not strenuous.

3. Cape Alava-Sand Point loop-Start at Lake Ozette, hike an easy 3 1/2 miles down to the wilderness beach (fabulous beachcombing!) at Cape Alava. You can either turn around, or hike 3 miles south on the beach to Sand Point, where the trail leads back to Lake Ozette.
More info:
http://www.nps.gov/olym/wic/trailinfo.htm

On Orcas, the trails around and up Mt. Constitution are nice, but not as spectacular as ONP. The view at the top, of course, is the spectacular part, but you can drive to the top. If you do want to hike there, one hike I really like is the Little Summit to Mt. Constitution to Twin Lakes trail. Park at the Little Summit trailhead (you might want to look at Moran State Park's website for maps) and follow the trail up to the real summit. You get a lot of great views along this trail, and hardly anyone is on it. You could just do this part for a 2 mile rt little hike. Or, after enjoying the real summit views, find the trail down to Twin Lakes (near the bathrooms) and head down to the lakes. There won't be many people down at the lakes. It's fairly steep down and back up, so you get a bit of a workout. That'll make it 7 or so miles rt.

I'd absolutely recommend whale watching by kayak, and from Orcas, you can walk aboard the ferry and be picked up at the San Juan Island dock by a number of companies-no need to bring the car. Pay attention to the tip already given to NOT head up there on a weekend. Ferry lines can be terrible.
Be sure to stay at someplace on Orcas that has beach access-it's my favorite island, but lacks a decent amount of public shoreline. Think about making reservations asap. Showing up in the islands without reservations in the summer, even on weekdays, is a really bad idea. You'd even need reservations at the campgrounds. There is a neat, lesser known public beach at Obstruction Pass, a half mile down a forested trail on the island's southeastern side, if you are caught without beach access.
christy1 is offline  
Old Apr 3rd, 2005, 08:35 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 86
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the tips on our itinerary….the hiking trails and websites you’ve mentioned are great. I had started looking at Cape Alava/Ozette area as well, and thought it looked like a place we might like. Though we haven’t yet decided which order we’ll take, it’s great to know that either way is do-able (even if slightly rushed?). The suggestion for doing whale kayak or shore as you’ve suggested is right up our alley!

I was also just thinking…if we cut out trying to get to Lake Quinault area, would that be more beneficial, considering our time restraints? Does this area offer anything unique that we won’t get at the Lake Crescent, Cape Alava and Kalaloch areas?
Sevastopol is offline  
Old Apr 3rd, 2005, 09:10 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 18,487
Received 77 Likes on 7 Posts
Skip Quinault only if you're going to spend time around Hoh and the coastal strip around Kalaloch. The Quinault Lodge is a fairly picturesque (i.e., old) lodge in a beautiful setting, and close to the Quniault turnoff is the world's largest cedar tree (the size of a largish Redwood), but the drive from Hoh to Quinault can be a wee bit tedious (but not overly long.)

The coastal strip of ONP is quite varied, so seeing any or all of the Ozette, La Push and the Kalaloch/Ruby Beach areas can be a different experience, depending on tides, winds, etc. You can play it by ear a little. The distances are not that great. However, comparing the coastal areas to the northern areas, like Hurricane or Lake Crescent, is truly an apples-oranges deal. Totally different.

For laid-back island time, you might also have a look at Lopez, which is our (and many others') favorite among the San Juan islands. Less tourist-oriented, more pastoral, with some excellent hidden beaches and great walking/cycling opportunities. Just a thought.

Gardyloo is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2005, 09:51 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 86
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Gardyloo ~ I had a really difficult time deciding between Orcas and Lopez. I've read all the comments on the board and sounds like both are great, but for different reasons. We may attempt to see both if we have time and don't fee too rushed.

However, just last night my husband threw a little kink in the plan...we haven't done any real nature stuff in so long he'd actually prefer to do an overnight kayaking trip while in the San Juan islands (even 1 night of camping.)

So it appears to me that this means we would need to stay by Friday Harbor 1 night, then do an overnight with a kayak outfitter, and then spend another night in Friday Harbor...

Do you know of any recommended outfitters? Or have you ever done the kayak to Stuart Island? This seems to be the route most outfitters take for an overnighter...

If we do this, is there a different ferry from Friday Harbor that we would take to get over to the ONP area -- like to Port Townsend? Or would we still need to get back to Anacortes?

Thanks for all your help!!
Sevastopol is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2005, 04:38 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,299
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
It's possible to take the ferry from San Juan Island to Sydney, BC, then drive to Victoria, where you could take another ferry to Port Angeles, on the Olympic Penisula, but I don't know that this is a better idea unless you already wanted to go to Victoria. You'd have to compare times and prices on both the Wa St. ferries and BC ferries websites.

I never gone with a commercial outfitter, but I think an overnight to Stuart would be fabulous. San Juan Island is the most commercial and developed of the islands, but it has the most public beach (at American Camp at the National Historical Park) and best chances for whale sightings. There are lovely (short) walks at the English Camp site as well.
http://www.nps.gov/sajh/home_new.htm
christy1 is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2005, 10:50 AM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 86
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Christy - Thanks for your comments...Stuart Island sure sounds like a pretty place...but, boy, is this getting more complicated by the minute.

We can't do the overnight kayaking because the outfitters do this only on the weekends (Sat. departures). Kinda bummed about this because that actually sounded pretty fun to me, but we're going to take the sage advice given here and avoid the islands on the weekends.

So we went back to Plan A (Orcas or Lopez for a few nights) and loved your idea of taking the ferry over to Victoria island, driving south and ferrying over to Port Angeles (no backtracking to Anacortes). But THEN I realized DH would need to get a visa for Canada (he's not a U.S. citizen), and we don't have enough time for that...so it's back to the drawing board....

Does anyone have any recs for hotels on Lopez or Orcas or San Juan that we could check out...we're not particularly into B&Bs...cabins or lodges are what we're looking for on this trip...Lonesome Cove is sold out for our dates....
Sevastopol is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2005, 04:40 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,299
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
There are still lots of nice day kayaking trips! Especially if you go whale watching.
All on Orcas: I'm not sure how much you want to spend, but Cabins on the Point and North Shore Cottages are quite nice. North Beach Inn is less expensive, quite secluded and has a big fabulous beach (complete with adirondack chairs and bbq areas, and they let you have beach fires, too) but the cabins themselves are a bit rustic (linoleum floors, dated kitchenettes, etc, though I've heard the 2 bdr cabins have been remodeled). I know a number of people who are regulars at West Beach Resort but I've never been, so I can't vouch for it firsthand.
I usually camp on the other islands so I can't be of help there. If you stay on San Juan, get a place with a kitchen. I used to go up there for work quite frequently and most of the restaurants there, with the exception of a couple pricier places, are bad and overpriced.
christy1 is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2005, 04:46 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,299
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I should add: if you leave friday morning on the Anacortes ferry, and don't plan to come back until Monday morning, the ferry lines will be fine. It's friday afternoon and evening and saturday morning (to the islands) and sunday afternoon and evening (back to the mainland) that they will be terrible. So if you had that much time to spend on the islands, that would be a way to do the overnight kayak.
christy1 is offline  
Old Apr 20th, 2005, 11:05 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 86
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Christy ~
Thanks so much for the recommendations on Orcas..all those look exactly like what we are looking for...now it's time to start looking for space everywhere...fingers are crossed.

We are arriving late on Friday night, so your suggestion about how we could do the overnight kayaking will not really work...I'm still seeing if there's some way we could do it mid-week....

I think we've finally settled on a tentative itinerary and have switched things up a bit (from reading info on this post as well as doing searches)

Fri: Seattle (arriving late)
Saturday: Seattle
Sunday: Kalaloch
Monday: Kalaloch
Tuesday: Lake Crescent
Wednesday: Whidbey Island (or can we make it to Orcas or Lopez in 1 day?)
Thursday: Orcas or Lopez
Friday: Orcas or Lopez
Saturday: Overnight Seattle
Sunday: Return to Chicago 3pm

Any comments on this...traveling too much???
Sevastopol is offline  
Old Apr 20th, 2005, 03:58 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,299
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I think your itinerary looks good! Really, you aren't covering vast distances between any of those places.

You could go from Lake Crescent to the islands without spending a night on Whidbey-just work out the ferry times beforehand. It's not THAT much driving. But, if you wanted to spend part of that day at Lake Crescent or somewhere in the area, I can see how staying on Whidbey or Anacortes would make sense-then could could catch a morning ferry to the islands.
christy1 is offline  
Old Apr 23rd, 2005, 06:45 AM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 86
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Christy - Thanks for the comments on the itinerary...looks like we're close to getting something worked out here...

You sound like a woman after my own heart..I saw your post about backpacking/camping as being romantic....I agree 100%...

So that brings me to my next question...I found a company that may be willing to do an overnight kayak trip for us mid-week in the San Juan Islands....however, he suggested that we spend a bit more time on the islands and not rush around a lot, and that if we're into hiking, we should go to the Northern Cascades after the islands instead of ONP.

He says that the hiking is better, the scenery is more spectacular, and it's easier to get there from the San Juans.

What do you think of this idea? Is the hiking much better in the Cascades? We would really like to get in a day or two of fairly strenuous hiking...how is Stehekin compared to Manzana/Winthrop area for hiking, scenery, etc?

And one final question -- we are now thinking of going to whichever island we choose without a car and renting bikes for transporation. If we do this, do you know if it's possible to rent a car in Anacortes and return it to the airport, as we would definitely need one for either ONP or Cascades.

Thanks so much for answering my many questions... ifit is so difficult to decide where to go...looks as if you lucky Seattle folks have a lot of outdoor beauty right at your doorstep...something that is severely lacking for us!
Sevastopol is offline  
Old Apr 23rd, 2005, 09:47 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,299
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I don't know about bike rentals, but I'd say stay on Lopez if you are counting on bike transportation. Orcas is quite hilly and has more car traffic. Many people go to Lopez just to ride bikes as it is flatter, smaller and less touristed. I do think being without a car limits you up there.

The North Cascades are my favorite place to hike in the PNW. The nice thing about ONP is the diversity-the ocean, rainforest, AND mountains. But, the North Cascades have more spectacular mountain scenery, and you just don't see the type of tourist crowds there that you have at ONP-it's mostly NW hikers and backpackers. Both Stehekin and the Methow Valley are fabulous, beautiful destinations but quite different-Stehekin is VERY remote (it takes some time getting there), while the Methow Valley has lots of tourist facilities. Stehekin may still have significant trail damage from storms last year-I'd call NC National Park and ask if that area interests you. I'd spend some time looking at www.nps.gov/noca-there's lots of info about the North Cascades there.

So I'd absolutely recommend the NC if you love hiking, but...
You are coming in June, and it's uncertain how much the snow will have melted by then, allowing access to the best hikes. We've had a lower than usual snowpack this year, but we just can't know for sure how much hiking will be snow free in the NC. There will certainly be some accessible hikes near the Methow Valley but I hate to say, oh, you MUST come to the NC, knowing that you might not get to experience all the area has to offer.
christy1 is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2005, 02:36 PM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 86
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Christy -- Thanks so much for your insight and your patience with my questions....we have decided on Cascades instead of ONP (we can do that next time). I believe the Cascades will offer the type of hiking we're looking for and hopefully we'll be able to get on some decent trails in June...

If you ever need any help with Costa Rica...I've been there a few times.... so I'd be happy to help you out!

Looking forward to our visit to your beautiful state...
Sevastopol is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2005, 04:29 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,299
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Oooh, I'd love to go to Costa Rica...it's Italy this year, though.

In terms of finding snow free hikes, these sites will be useful-as people start hiking in the area, they'll post trip reports:
You can sort trip reports on this site by area, ie North Cascades:
http://www.wta.org/~wta/cgi-bin/wtaweb.pl?7+tr

You can ask questions or search trip reports on this site:
http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/index.php
Of course, you can call the park hq as well, but they actually never have the most updated info-they just don't have the manpower to check out every trail on a regular basis.
You might also look at my post in this thread-if the Slate Peak road is open it is a must do (as is the hike on the Pacific CrestTrail to Windy Pass): http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=1

christy1 is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2005, 04:32 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,299
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
That link doesn't work-try searching for the thread "Washington route with Coulee Dam."
christy1 is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
atregg
United States
9
Jan 6th, 2016 10:05 AM
kcapuani
United States
6
Feb 20th, 2015 05:13 PM
rickandpat
United States
16
Oct 14th, 2006 08:18 AM
lflaster
United States
6
Jul 31st, 2006 08:49 AM
anneryan
United States
13
Mar 8th, 2006 08:43 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:33 AM.