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Two weeks to see Olympic NP and North Cascades

Two weeks to see Olympic NP and North Cascades

Old Feb 22nd, 2021, 06:54 PM
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Two weeks to see Olympic NP and North Cascades

Hi friends,

Just working on a two-week trip to the State of Washington to do some hiking in Olympic National Park and in the Cascades. Some background: my wife and I like to go on 3-4 hour day hikes (roundtrip) and we値l be toting a 3 and 2 year old in our hiking backpacks. I知 coming from Florida, and would love some thoughts on my itinerary. It will be in the second half of June.

Fly into Seattle. Drive 2.5 hours in rental car to Port Angeles. That seems like a good base camp for exploring Olympic National Park. Nip over 25 minutes West to see Crescent Bay and the tide pools there. I知 about 40min from Hurricane Ridge and Mount Storm King and Marymere Falls and there are a few other good day hikes in that area. I was thinking I would stay a week or so there (but maybe that's too long, see below).

Then, I can continue on to the North Cascades. I can stay in Glacier, Washington, and seemingly do a handful of day hikes there around Mt. Baker. I realize this is on the West side of the North Cascades National Park. I know there are epic hikes on the East side of the National Park if I stay at somewhere like Mazama, but that痴 6.5 hours away from Glacier, Washington by car (which seems ridiculous but is true), and seems like maybe I shouldn稚 try to do it this trip. Or maybe I should? My option is to stay about a week in Glacier, Washington, or stay a few days in Glacier and then a few days in Mazama so I can see the East side of the North Cascades. Or, maybe I should shoot for 4-5 nights in Port Angeles to check out that area and Olympic National, 4-5 nights in Glacier, and 4-5 nights in Mazama. But maybe that is too much running around. Being from Florida and being able to get out to the state of Washington is a rare thing. We致e hiked all over the East coast of the US, and have done nothing on the West coast because long flights with the kiddos is rough. But we're going to try to make it happen this year!

At the end of my trip, I値l have to drive back to Seattle to fly home, which is 2 hours from Glacier, Washington, and 4.5 hours from Mazama (which would be rough).

I welcome your thoughts, and also recommendations for any specific must-see or must-do hikes/adventures/sights.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know your time is valuable.

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Old Feb 23rd, 2021, 08:35 AM
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Okay, first thing, your drive time estimates are way off. I presume you're using something like Google maps for your planning, but be advised that those estimates are seldom within 25% of the actual times needed, especially when ferries are involved or where the route has you transiting urban areas. For example, depending on your chosen route (either via Seattle and the Bainbridge Island ferry or via Tacoma and the Narrows bridge) getting from Seattle or Seatac airport to Port Angeles usually takes 3+ hours, I don't know what sort of flexibility you have, but I'd ballpark another 1/3 of the estimated time to your drives and see how that feels. 33% might be a bit low in some cases, and 50% might be more realistic.

Second, Port Angeles is not a good base for exploring Olympic National Park. It's fine for visiting Hurricane Ridge (an hour each way) but nobody "nips" anywhere on the Olympic Peninsula. The park's main attractions are set on the periphery of the peninsula, reached by un-scenic and slow-going US 101 which generally offers views of the backs of log trucks for much of the way. I would strongly suggest you take at least one night, two preferable, to stay in Forks, Kalaloch or Quileute out closer to the Pacific, and use that base to explore the glorious coastline and the Hoh and or Quinault rain forest valleys. (The Hoh valley in spring is like another planet.) Visit Rialto, First or Ruby Beaches for some of the best waves-and-rocks scenery (and hikes) on earth.

In fact, if you're starting at Seatac, give consideration to making your visit to Olympic National Park a clockwise loop like this: https://goo.gl/maps/q3CjkZcScTnWcj3Y6 . Again, add a good 30% buffer to the drive times shown. This would give you the opportunity to see some of the iconic coastal sites before hitting the north coast and continuing on back to the mainland, in this case via lovely Port Townsend and picturesque Coupeville on Whidbey Island, reached by ferry from Port Townsend.

This clockwise loop around the peninsula would also afford you more time for the snow and wintry conditions to abate in the mountains, but this is the third concern I have with your plans: Snow.

Many parts of the North Cascades (or the whole range in general) are still snowbound in late June; for example it's fairly typical that there's still five or six feet of snow on the ground (not the roads, parking areas or some of the lowest trails) at Paradise on Mount Rainier on the first of July. While the North Cascades Highway (WA SR 20) will be open, you're likely to be driving past snowbanks near the summit, and most if not all the main trails will still be subject to snow or spring-like conditions. Now it may not be this bad, but it could be, so my recommendation would be to monitor conditions like a hawk between now and June, and to have one or more backup plans in case it's a late spring in the mountains.

It's probably presumptuous on my part (which sadly has never been much of an impediment) to offer alternatives, but you might do some "what if" thought experiments with a couple of optional scenarios.

(a) head south to Mt. St. Helens, Portland, the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River and Mount Hood, maybe down to Smith Rock, then back to Seattle via US 97 and US 2 over Stevens Pass. In this case you could do a counter-clockwise loop of the Olympic Peninsula, then south to Cape Disappointment at the (awesome) mouth of the Columbia River, then east along the river to Mt. St. Helens, then to the Gorge, Hood River and back north, something like this (starting at Lake Quinault) - https://goo.gl/maps/4jR2WAyS7VaKCCgH8 . (Weather and road conditions permitting, you could also return via Mount Rainier, using roads that are currently closed hence not shown by Google.)

Google the places on both those maps.

Like I say, this might be moot because it might be an early summer, but in playing the odds I'd either delay the trip until closer to August, or come prepared with some "plan b" alternatives. Good luck!
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Old Feb 23rd, 2021, 10:54 AM
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Thanks for the very realistic perspective, Gardyloo. As you presumed, I used Google Maps for my trip estimates and so I will multiply them by 1.5 to be on the safe side. I am happy to stay a few nights over in Forks, Kalaloch or Quileute...Forks was strongly suggested to me, but I thought it could just be a day trip from Port Angeles. I'm learning that I should spend multiple days exploring that coastline. If I'm coming all the way out there from FL, I need to see the iconic sites - so thank you sincerely. I understand about the possibility of a late spring. Everything would be easy if I just had an RV, because then I wouldn't have to worry about lodging reservations. I could just play it by ear. Maybe I should just look into renting a Winnebago But maybe the safest bet is delaying until mid-July (when I fear that everything will be even more laden with tourists like me) (and the weather will be hotter). I'll continue to research and plan! Thank you!
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Old Feb 23rd, 2021, 12:40 PM
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It also occurred to me that maybe I should forego the Cascades and spend that week exploring San Juan Islands instead. I welcome your thoughts about that as well. If I'm on that side of Washington, I feel like I might as well see those islands, the whales, etc. Thanks again.
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Old Feb 24th, 2021, 08:00 AM
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My thought is to delay this trip for a year (maybe 2) when the kids are older. We have a great stretch of the Cascades here in Oregon. Flying into PDX and renting a car, you can be in Hood River (see Gardyloo's map) in about an hour. On the way going east on I-84, you will be able to stop and see Multnomah Falls. Currently the 2 ski resorts on Mt, Hood have over 10 feet of snow on the slopes (Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows). Most of it will be melted by mid June. There are some great hikes to do off the old Columbia Gorge highway (uphill to start and then back down).
You can also go west from Government Camp (near Timberline) on US 26 and be at US 101 between Cannon Beach and Seaside in less than 3 hours. I've been told that Haystack Rock is the most photographed spot in Oregon. Car rentals from PDX are easy without having to go into the city of Portland. If you do hit a rainy day you can go into Portland and visit Powell's City of Books which covers a whole block.
If you do stick with going to Port Townsend, make sure to bring your passports and take the ferry over to Victoria BC and see the capitol of British Columbia. I'm hoping that someday soon Canada will let us back in.
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