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  1. Default Kiwi couple hitting the northwest in April/May

    Hi everybody,

    My wife and I are from New Zealand and we're coming to the US in April/May next year to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary.

    We lived in the US (Northeast) for a few years and during that time did a lot of travelling within the country, seeing 38 states in all. Now we've decided to come back for a holiday and knock off a few more states in an area we haven't been to (the Northwest).

    We're going to be spending a few nights in LA seeing a friend, then a couple of nights in Las Vegas (renewing our vows), but then it's roadtrip time. We're flying from Vegas to Denver and then driving for the next two and a half weeks.

    We won't be booking accommodation ahead of time, so there's some fluidity to the route and stop off points, but here's the basic route:

    * From Denver, take a few days driving up through Montana, taking in Cheyenne, the Wind River Indian Reservation and Yellowstone National Park.

    * Travel through Montana to Kalispell or somewhere up around there.

    * Drive through Idaho to somewhere around Spokane, Washington. Then travel down through Washington to the Portland Oregon area.

    * From there, head straight to the coast and spend 5-6 days driving down to San Francisco along the coast (US101 etc), staying in small coastal towns.

    We fly home from San Francisco.

    We're keen to stay away from the cities between Denver and San Fran, sticking instead to small towns. We both enjoy small town America more than the big cities.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for must-see attractions in those general areas? My research shows that Montana is mostly wide open spaces, so I've calculated to do a lot of driving in a short period of time across there, then using the extra time to meander our way down the coast. Is that wise?

    I'd really appreciate any input from people with experience in the areas we'll be visiting. Thanks in advance.

    Clint

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default I Love It

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    This is an area of our country that I passed through all too quickly trying to "knock off a few more states" on my way to having driven in all 50. In the past 5-10 years I've started to explore this region in more detail and at a more relaxed pace. Your timing sounds right for a chance to see some of things in depth. What to see is, of course, up to you two, but here are some of the things that I have enjoyed or think are worth looking into. Just north of Denver be sure to spend some time in Rocky Mountain National Park, and on your way into Yellowstone, don't overlook Grand Teton National Park just south of there. Also note that not all roads in Yellowstone will be open in May. But I have found that on my visits there, that just means fewer tourists and a greater chance to experience the real natural wonder of the park. If you are going to Kalispell, do take the time to visit Glacier National Park, and in particular drive the aptly named Going To The Sun Road. I recently got to spend some time in the Coeur d'Alene and Spokane area and while it's no means an exhaustive list of things to do, check out my RoadTrip Report if for no other reason than to get an idea of the many small gems that will be sprinkled all along your journey. By the same token, my wife and I are beginning to plan a visit to the Oregon coast next fall, and the towns that have caught our eye so far include Astoria, Tillamook and Newport, but the greatest attribute of the Oregon coast is the number of state parks that give access to some of the very best shoreline and natural areas.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Welcome to my backyard

    Quote Originally Posted by fletcha13 View Post
    Hi everybody,

    My wife and I are from New Zealand and we're coming to the US in April/May next year to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary.

    We lived in the US (Northeast) for a few years and during that time did a lot of travelling within the country, seeing 38 states in all. Now we've decided to come back for a holiday and knock off a few more states in an area we haven't been to (the Northwest).
    It's a beautiful time of year with weather that we sometimes call schizophrenic. Probably not the nicest term but it fits. You might see fog in the morning, rain at noon, and sunshine all afternoon. You will want to have some good light-weight raingear and plan to dress in layers.

    We're going to be spending a few nights in LA seeing a friend, then a couple of nights in Las Vegas (renewing our vows), but then it's roadtrip time. We're flying from Vegas to Denver and then driving for the next two and a half weeks.
    Congrats on the vow renewal....is Elvis helping you out? :)

    We won't be booking accommodation ahead of time, so there's some fluidity to the route and stop off points, but here's the basic route:

    * From Denver, take a few days driving up through Montana, taking in Cheyenne, the Wind River Indian Reservation and Yellowstone National Park.
    You might want to stop in Cody as well. Lots of "old west" flavor there and some good museums.

    * Travel through Montana to Kalispell or somewhere up around there.

    * Drive through Idaho to somewhere around Spokane, Washington. Then travel down through Washington to the Portland Oregon area.
    If you enjoy rides, you might enjoy the wooden roller-coaster and other rides at Silverwood, just north of Couer D'Alene.

    Let me put in a plug here for the rest of Washington state. I know you will have to make choices with the time you have, but you might consider spending a bit more time in Washington. Just a few of the highlights you might consider:
    * Grand Coulee Dam and the general vicinity that includes Dry Falls (geologists say this is the largest waterfall that the world has ever experienced) and the surrounding coulees. Very interesting geology.

    * Mt. St. Helen's. The blast area and nature's recovery is always fascinating and worth a look.

    * San Juan Islands: a lovely archipelago in Puget Sound

    * Olympic National Park and the surrounding peninsula: temperate rainforest with trees, moss, ferns of a size that makes you feel like you've gone back to some pre-historic era; amazing rugged beaches; great hiking

    There's more but I think these are some of the best that the state has to offer. Unfortunately, my favorite drive, the North Cascades Highway, won't be open until after you've returned home.

    * From there, head straight to the coast and spend 5-6 days driving down to San Francisco along the coast (US101 etc), staying in small coastal towns.
    Astoria: Astoria Column, Flavel House, Fort Clatsop, and the maritime museum
    Cannon Beach: hang-gliders onto the beach, beautiful town with interesting shops and restaurants
    Tillamook: Tillamook Cheese Factory...and yummy ice cream
    Depoe Bay: the smallest harbor in the world
    Newport: great aquarium
    Sea Lion Caves: it might seem like a tacky tourist trap but the sea lions in the cave are really quite amazing to watch; worth it, imho
    Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area: enjoy a ride in a dune buggy on these amazing sand "mountains"

    When you get into California, enjoy the Redwoods, Eureka, and more.


    Hope this gives you some more ideas. Ask if you have some more specific questions.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    The Netherlands
    Posts
    219

    Default

    Hi
    Visting RMNP is great idea but keep in mind TRR (Trail Ridge Road) only opens by Memorial Day. Coming from Cheyenne you could visit South Dakota and see Badlands NP and the Black Hills area for a couple of days.
    For Yellowstone see www.nps.gov/yell for openning times. Best way to drive from Cheyenne, if you don''t want to visit South Dakota is I80 to Rock Springs and to Jackson. That brings you to the south entrance of GTNP. You'll need at least 3 days to see a bit of GTNP and Yellowstone. Another scenic route is I80 to Rawlings, 287 to Lander and the awesome drive through Dubois and to Moran Junction at the northern part of GTNP. You can make the 8 loops through Yellowstone and leave through Gardiner on your way to Kalispell. Also Glacier NP has been mentioned but GTTS road generally opens not before mid june. This year even not untill july 1. If GTNP is not on your list you also can drive Casper-Thermopolis-Cody. My advice is to stay at least one day in Cody and visit the Buffalo Bill Museums.
    Its an easy 2 days drive between Las Vegas and Jackson (stop in SLC) and maybe faster then to fly Denver first and drive from there.
    It will be hard to see it all in 2.5 weeks, if not impossible.
    yeehaw

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Central California
    Posts
    378

    Default excellent suggestions

    Hi, and welcome back.

    The other folks gobbled up all the good suggestions I was going to make. It is too bad you aren't scheduling a May/June trip. Just that one additional month makes a big difference when it comes to having access in many Northwest areas.

    One spot no one has mentioned...at the end of your trip, you could hardly do better than Yosemite National Park in May. The waterfalls are breathtaking and the weather is usually glorious.

    A day or two in San Francisco before flying home, and you'll have had a wonderful trip.

    Craig Sheumaker
    co-author of the travel guide: America's Living History-The Early Years

  6. Default Thanks everyone

    Thank you to everyone who responded with advice and tips.

    I agree that our timing isn't perfect in terms of weather, but well, it is for our wedding anniversary, and my wife is a teacher, so we need to take time off when school's on a break.

    As a result of the responses on this thread, we've decided to drive from Las Vegas to Yellowstone via Utah (visiting Zion NP on the way) rather than fly from Vegas to Denver.

    We've also allowed ourselves a contingency plan in case Yellowstone NP isn't open (which it probably won't be from what I've heard). It seems to me that there's a road through Grand Teton NP that'll be open in April, so we'll go through there instead if Yellowstone is closed.

    Again, thanks for your tips, they're much appreciated.

    Clint

  7. #7

    Default

    Clint & wife,

    Welcome to America (again).

    Here some ideas...
    from Spokane/Couer d'Alene area head south on Hwy95 to Lewiston/Clarkston to see an amazing view of the Snake River. Then find your way to Plymouth, Washington and head west on Hwy 14 almost to North Bonneville, Washington. This drive down the Columbia River Gorge is absolutely awe-inspiring. Stay on the Washington side for a more relaxed and leisurely drive. The Oregon side I-84 is just as beautiful but at a much faster pace.
    Just before North Bonneville, cross over the mighty Columbia River to Cascade Locks and follow I-84 to exit 35 and take the Historic Columbia River Hwy to Multnomah Falls Park then into Portland from there. The old hwy is narrow and high and a beautiful drive. Multnomah Falls is, well... high. And the Vista House at Crown Point provides miles-long views of the Columbia River.

    Hope you have fun!

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