Washington National Parks

Nov 9th, 2019, 04:27 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2019
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Washington National Parks

My daughter and I have visited many national parks in the west, but not North Cascades or Olympic. We have been to Seattle an toured the Boeing factory, but nothing else in northern Washington. We have been to Glacier NP and the Canadain Rockies and loved it. Therefore, we are interested in seeing North Cascades. It doesn't appear there would be enough to do to plan an entire vacation. Is it feasible to also visit Olympic NP? If it is to far, should we consider Vancouver, or some of the other islands? We will be going the last week of August. Any advice is appreciated.
myram is offline  
Nov 9th, 2019, 09:25 PM
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Distance and time are intertwined. Olympic is not necessarily too far depending on how much time you have for your trip. Olympic will require several days if you want to include its "center"--Hurricane Ridge-- and the rain forest in the western part of the park. Neah Bay and its access to the western most point in the 48 states is also worth a visit.

Michael is offline  
Nov 9th, 2019, 11:11 PM
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As yet other options, you could also consider Mount Rainier or the San Juan Islands. Mount Rainier is a national park.
5alive is offline  
Nov 10th, 2019, 05:41 AM
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Plan on two bases for ONP: Port Angeles for access to Hurricane Ridge and Victoria, BC (if so inclined), Forks/aPush/Quinault for attractions on the west side of the peninsula. Distances are too great to have only one base.

Plan your visit | Visit Olympic National Park
Bobmrg is online now  
Nov 10th, 2019, 06:57 AM
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OMG, yes, there is so much to do to explore our national parks here! How much time do you have? I Agree that Mt Rainier is a must if you have not been. The North Cascades are gorgeous and the best views are only available to those willing to work for it, but that means hiking and you haven't mentioned that. ONP is beautiful but takes a lot of time as the driving is a bit unique as there are no roads that link everything, so it is like a bicycle wheel with spokes, so a lot of backtracking. Well worth it though and again if willing to hike it has a much better payoff, but still a lot of things can be seen with minimal effort. What about Mt St Helens? Totally unique and so fascinating. It just comes down to how much time you have.
mms is offline  
Nov 10th, 2019, 07:01 AM
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How many days/nights will you have?

The issue with North Cascades NP is that it's mostly a wilderness area, accessible by foot. The only road traveling through the park, WA 20, is quite scenic in parts, but there are next to no lodging resources IN the park; they're located outside the park boundary, mainly on the east side in the Methow Valley ("met-how.")

Late August can also be fire season (God forbid) further restricting back country access. So it sort of comes down to your priorities. NCNP is not a drive-and-look sort of place, so if that's your approach anything more than a day or two (tops) is likely to be unsatisfying.

As Bobmrg says, the main visitor destinations in Olympic NP are around the edges; the center of the Olympic Peninsula is maintained as wilderness by the National Park Service. Because of this peripheral layout, drive times between destinations such as Hurricane Ridge or the Hoh Valley rain forest, can amount to hours, mainly through uninspiring country. So seeing the park comfortably requires moving around the peninsula, either clockwise or counter-clockwise, something like this: https://goo.gl/maps/mmNuFpUVfc5b33WS6 . (And I'll emphasize that Google's time estimates are often wildly optimistic, especially where metro areas are involved.)

Now, if you want to visit both parks (which is certainly a rewarding thing to do) you'll need to plan your trip pretty carefully, because accommodations are scarce and booked quickly on both the Pacific coast near the Olympic NP coastal strip, and in areas easily accessible to North Cascades NP. Here's a possible map showing a loop through both - https://goo.gl/maps/qQj9Khi3qvKYU6Wf9

Some of the places on the map are in neither national park, but are well worth stopping (or even a lengthy detour.) For example, the town of Chelan is a summer holiday destination for the water ski and jet ski crowd, but from the town you can take a ferry up stunning Lake Chelan - basically a fjord into the mountains - to the little village of Stehekin, from which trails lead into the east side of North Cascades NP. https://ladyofthelake.com/

Or, a little east of Chelan, you can visit the stunning Grand Coulee country, with its unexpected red rocks and "old west" scenery. Here's a video that includes a stop at Sun Lakes - Dry Falls State Park, scene of the largest floods in history -

Then on the way back to Seattle, you could visit the orchard country along the east slopes of the Cascades, and maybe stop at the faux Bavarian village of Leavenworth. Note that this whole area - from the Olympic Peninsula to North Cascades to Chelan - is jammed around Labor Day, making advance accommodation bookings even more critical.

I'm going to offer one other suggestion, just for your consideration. Given that North Cascades NP is fairly remote and has limited facilities, a different trip plan might include more of the coast, followed by the marvelous Columbia Gorge, in lieu of the North Cascades. Google the places on this map - https://goo.gl/maps/RuH6JTwL453hUdnV7

This would include a loop of the Olympic Peninsula, then south to the (awesome) mouth of the Columbia River at Cape Disappointment, with its waves-on-rocks scenery, lighthouses, Lewis and Clark interpretive center, hidden coves, etc. You'd then follow the historic and scenic north bank of the Columbia back to Interstate 5, then drive up to the Johnston Ridge visitor center overlooking the Mt. St. Helens caldera. (Note it isn't shown on the map because Google doesn't permit showing places that are inaccessible during the winter months, but by next August the road will be open.)

You'd then travel to the Columbia River Gorge with its vista points and waterfalls, possibly with the pretty town of Hood River as your base. The orchards and vineyards in the Hood River Valley will be in full harvest model; you can visit iconic Timberline Lodge, or go huckleberry picking in the Mount Adams wilderness area north of the Columbia. Return to Seattle via the "old west" country along US 97, through the Yakama Indian reservation and finally over the Cascades to Seattle. Stop en route at the eclectic Maryhill Museum and nearby copy of Stonehenge, set on the clifftops overlooking the great river. The Columbia Gorge isn't a national park (could be) but is a National Scenic area instead. The advantage is that there's much more in the way of accommodations and activities in the area, making for easier logistics.

Cape Disappointment

Mount Hood from Hood River Valley

Gardyloo is offline  
Nov 10th, 2019, 07:59 AM
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Stehekin is a great suggestion. You would need to start booking very soon for that though. Last year we booked in January for a late July visit and were late to the game. Granted we were booking a cabin vs staying at one of the lodges, but you also need to book the boat ride there and that fills up as well, especially the express boats.
mms is offline  
Nov 10th, 2019, 12:20 PM
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Thank you for a lot of ideas to explore. We have visited Oregon - Portland, the coast from Florence to Astoria, Cape Disappointment, Mount Hood, Columbia River Gorge, and Mt St Helens.

We plan to fly to Seattle on Friday, August 28. We will take an early flight and gain 3 hours arriving on the west coast. We will begin the 1st leg of our trip that day. Possibly to NCNP. I am not able to hike far. Maybe 2 miles round trip. I have looked at taking the boat across Lake Chelan to Stehekin. Not sure there will be a lot to do without being able to hike far. I think we might be happy just to see what we can from the highway and spend a couple of nights in the area. We would also like to visit Mt Ranier, but I presume that will be a day trip considering my limited hiking ability. It would be great to stay at the lodge, if we can book a room.

I hope that will give us time to visit ONP. Will check for lodging in Port Angeles and Forks/Quinault. I think we will have 4 nights to spend in that area. We will need to return to Seattle on Friday. We will fly home on Saturday, Sept 5.

Given this plan, what is our best plan to tour ONP and how long to stay in each place?

myram is offline  
Nov 10th, 2019, 12:57 PM
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The NCNP isn got really for you with limited hiking, BUT Stehekin would be great. There are a lot of very short trails, such as Rainbow Falls. There is a red bus that takes you around to some trailheads/sights, and you can rent electric bikes to get around or use the scheduled bus/van through Stehekin Valley Ranch. The Garden and the bakery are musts. I would seriously look into this as an option for part of your trip.

As for Mt Rainier, there is plenty to do again with limited hiking. Paradise Inn is very popular, but down at Longmire there is another lodge, and then plenty of options in Ashford at the entrance to the park. There are so many great walks/sights to see with limited walking so I would try for two days vs just a day trip.

For PA, the best place in town is the Olympic Lodge. That has been our go to spot for many years, and we strayed from it once. Big mistake!!! We did the Red Lion only because I was doing a marathon and it was the race headquarters. Total, complete dump, do not waste your time on it even considering it. The OL does book up as it is the best place in town, so book early. I say nicest place, and it is, but it is not 5 star, just very nice and very well kept. Think more along the lines of a Holiday Inn Express but with a lot of local PNW charm.
mms is offline  
Nov 10th, 2019, 04:44 PM
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Thank you so much mms for all of the information. I will gather more details and talk with my daughter when I see her next weekend. I realize many places require reservations months in advance, that's why I'm inquiring now.

NCNP was recommended by one of my daughter's work associates. He said if we liked Banff and Glacier, we should see NCNP. That's why she asked me to consider a vacation with that as part of our itinerary. Perhaps she can get some suggestions from him as to how to plan a trip in the area if she definitely wants to go there.
myram is offline  
Nov 10th, 2019, 05:33 PM
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I can help with NCNP suggestions as well as we do a lot of backpacking in the area so know it well. There are places for great views, but the best ones involve hiking. There are a few though that are very short walks so if you include this area let me know and I can fill you in on more.
mms is offline  
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