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  1. Default Pacific NW Mini-Loop/Olympic Peninsula

    Dear all,

    My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Seattle in late July. We'll be out there for 8 days. We plan to chill in Seattle for the first 2, then rent a car and hit the road. First stop is Mt. Rainier. Looking at the map, I'm intrigued by the possibility of taking 167 South to 410 East, which eventually turns into National Forest Development Rd (according to Google maps) and makes a loop of the mountain from the north. Just wondering if anyone has taken this route, if so what it's like--is it suitable for a cheap rental car and is it terribly slow? Does it make more sense to head down I-5 and cut over on 12. Seems like the more "efficient" way but probably also more boring. Any thoughts?

    After visiting Rainier, we're headed down to Vancouver, WA to stay with relatives and check out Portland for a day. Next question is...heading back up from Portland, I'd like to take Hwy 4 along the Columbia to 101 and then up along 101 onto the Olympic Pen maybe as far as Forks. Thoughts on this route? Cool places to stop? Secluded beaches? Time estimates? Finally, we plan to spend about three days in all on the Olympic Pen, probably staying around Port Angeles. I'd be interested on folks' thoughts about what to do/what not to miss in that area.

    Any feedback would be appreciated.

    Thanks much!

    --Dan

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

    Default Take a Good Look

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    I couldn't find the "National Forest Development Rd" that you spoke of on Google Maps, nor could I find any significant road that circled Mt. Ranier closer than state highways 410, 123, 706, 7, 161, and 162. Before you head off on such roads, you should do two things. Before you go, have a very hard, good look at those roads on Google Maps. Don't just look at the maps with nice lines, but look long and hard at the satellite view. Make sure that there's a road there, not just the line overlaid on the image (you can tell by how straight the line is, whereas a real road would be much more twisty. If you don't see a real paved road with some sort of lane line painted down the middle, you are at best looking at a forest service road which might require a high ground clearance vehicle. Second, stop at a ranger station before heading down any questionable road. Make sure it's passable (this often changes with the current weather) and if there are any activities (logging, fires, etc.) that might make it wiser to choose another route.

    My own preference for the drive down the Columbia would be to stay on the Oregon side for a couple of reasons. As a student of history, I would love to see the sites associated with Lewis and Clark such as Astoria, Fort Clatsop and the like. Then just for the fun of it, I'd double back to Marshland and take the ferry over to Cathlamet. Such anachronistic water crossings are disappearing and make a great break in any RoadTrip.

    AZBuck

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

    Default Welcome to my neck of the woods!

    Quote Originally Posted by dcpancho677 View Post
    Dear all,

    My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Seattle in late July. We'll be out there for 8 days.
    Check out this post for ideas of what to do in Seattle.

    We plan to chill in Seattle for the first 2, then rent a car and hit the road. First stop is Mt. Rainier. Looking at the map, I'm intrigued by the possibility of taking 167 South to 410 East, which eventually turns into National Forest Development Rd (according to Google maps) and makes a loop of the mountain from the north. Just wondering if anyone has taken this route, if so what it's like--is it suitable for a cheap rental car and is it terribly slow? Does it make more sense to head down I-5 and cut over on 12. Seems like the more "efficient" way but probably also more boring. Any thoughts?
    You should visit the park's road status at its website. It lists the status of the major roads through the park. Of course, you will want to check this again shortly before leaving home as National Forest Development Road isn't listed. I think what you're talking about are the backroads in the national park that are numbered, i.e. NFD 7140 Road. To see what I mean, check out this page that lists the specific roads that make up Mather Memorial Parkway. You'll see what I mean in the column titled "Road Item".

    The severe storms of the last few years have really played havoc with due to extensive flooding. So really pay attention to the road status as listed on that first page, see above. And it wouldn't hurt to call a ranger station a few days prior to get input on your intended route.

    There are many ways to get to Mt. Rainier. You're not limited to just the two options you listed. In fact, here's some information on routes on the park service website.

    Please note that the road status report says that Stevens Pass Road needs repairs due to winter storm damage before opening. While it's likely that it will be open by July, it is the only way to get from one side of the mountain to the other without having to leave the park.

    Anyway, enough rambling...

    I've done this drive and it's lovely. You really need two days to do it. I would suggest camping in the park for the night. Ohanapecosh Campground is about half-way and would make a good stop. Sites fill up quickly so follow the link on the camping page to make a reservation.

    I have found that none of the online mapping programs are very good for rural travel in Washington state. I think you'd do better to use one of the maps provided by the the state park, like this one. Google or one of the other maps will be great help getting to/from the park but not as accurate inside the park. But their general distance information should be close enough to give you a general idea of the length of your trip.

    If you only have one day, I suggest you stay in Enumclaw the night before and get a a very early start. Then plan to spend the night in Elbe. If you don't like to camp, another option would be the Paradise Lodge at the Paradise Visitor Center area, or the National Park Inn at the Longmire entrance (SW corner). Make reservations now.

    If you don't spend the night in the park, you won't have too much hiking time during a one-day trip. A few spectacular short hikes are: the Emmons Vista overlook at Sunrise, Grove of the Patriarchs near Opanepocosh, Nisqually Vista trail at Paradise, and Trail of the Shadows at Longmire (which focuses more on the geologic history and early settlers).

    After visiting Rainier, we're headed down to Vancouver, WA to stay with relatives and check out Portland for a day.
    On the way, after leaving Elbe, please visit Mt. St. Helens. As beautiful as Mt. Rainier is, Mt. St. Helens is more awesome due to the blast zone from the 1980 eruption. From Elbe, go south on 7, east on 12 to Randle, south on 131, then follow signs to Windy Ridge. Go back to 131 and continue south, go west at the reservoir, drive through Cougar and you'll be on 503 which will take you out to I-5, then go south to Vancouver. Make sure to visit the NPS website about Mt. St. Helens for more details. Really, don't miss it. If I had to choose between Rainier and MSH, I'd go to MSH.

    Next question is...heading back up from Portland, I'd like to take Hwy 4 along the Columbia to 101 and then up along 101 onto the Olympic Pen maybe as far as Forks. Thoughts on this route? Cool places to stop? Secluded beaches? Time estimates? Finally, we plan to spend about three days in all on the Olympic Pen, probably staying around Port Angeles. I'd be interested on folks' thoughts about what to do/what not to miss in that area.
    This is an excellent idea. This is a map of how I'd do the whole trip.

    Important Note: GoogleMaps would not let me push you through the Paradise to Longmire section of Mt. Rainier. But that's what you should do. Unless the roads are closed, and they shouldn't be by July, there is no reason to leave the park and go around on Hwy 12 at that point. So ignore that part of the map.

    We've already discussed Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens areas abit so here are some other suggestions:
    * Highway 4 is a very pretty drive. Note that it has you going into Cathlamet and then crossing over on the ferry there to the Oregon side.
    * Astoria has a great maritime museum, the Astoria Column, and a few miles west you'll find Fort Clatsop, the place where Lewis & Clark camped over the winter. And driving over the almost 5-mile long bridge to the Washington side is pretty amazing.
    * Once on the Washington side, you might enjoy stopping at Fort Columbia and the Lewis & Clark museum near there. It's where they first saw the Pacific Ocean.
    * If you have time, visit the Long Beach Peninsula (see that link). If not, continue north through South Bend/Raymond and veer off 101 to follow the northern shore of Willapa Harbor to the coast. At Tokeland, you might want to veer off the main road to see the Tokeland Hotel and drive around the Shoalwater Indian Reservation. It's quite beautiful. Just after you get back onto 101, just a few miles north of the small casino, is an amazing stretch of beach. Weather permitting, stop here for a walk and maybe even a picnic. It's quite lovely.
    * Continue north to Grayland, Once in Grayland, you migth want to turn right (east) on one of the roads in order to drive among the cranberry bogs.
    * If you have time, veer into Westport, a nice little fishing village and enjoy a walk along the marina and/or Horseshoe Bay where you can often watch the surfers. There are great views into the Pacific and Grays Harbor just a bit west of the marina along the rock jetty.
    * If you have time and like history, you might want to stop at the Polson Museum in Hoquiam. And, if she's in port, stop and see the Lady Washington in Aberdeen.
    * About 45 minutes north of Hoquiam is Lake Quinault. This area is gorgeous. Lots of good trails, including some short ones, into the rain forest.
    * Kalaloch Beach/Ruby Beach are worth stopping at. Ruby Beach, in particular, is one of my favorites with tidepools, haystacks, etc.
    * Forks is a cute little town with a nice, little logging museum
    * Port Angeles has a nice marina, the drive to Hurricane Ridge is good.
    * In Sequim, you'll find one of the world's longest spits (Dungeness Spit).
    * Port Townsend is a great town with lots of Victorian era buildings. Worth a stop if you have time.
    * Poulsbo is a lovely Scandinavian village.
    * The Winslow-Seattle ferry gives you a great view of the Seattle skyline and Mt. Rainier. Awesome views.

    It's a bit hard for me to tell you where to stop for the night as there are numerous great choices but it depends on where you decide to spend your time exploring.

    Here's some more info on ferry options from the peninsula to Seattle.

    Post 5 here provides a bit more info, particularly about the Long Beach Peninsula. My map doesn't have you going there because you might be rushed for time if you do it, but it's really worth a stop if you can find time for it.

    This is a lot of info. I'll be glad to answer more questions. Happy planning!

  4. Default Thanks so much!

    Dear AZBuck & PNW Judy,

    Thanks for all the information. I've been traveling for work and so it's taken me a while to read your postings, but they are extremely thorough and helpful. If I think of more questions I will post again. At the moment, the one concern of mine that springs to mind is this: We will almost certainly have to leave from Seattle to go to Mt. Rainier, as opposed to driving close to the park the night before (because we are likely to have plans in Seattle Wednesday night). Can we realistically do Seattle to Rainier by 410/123, which is what I think I was looking at on Google maps originally, hike a bit, camp at Ohanapecosh Campground, and then drive out of the Southwest exit of the park, have time to visit Mt. St. Helen's, and make it down to Vancouver in a span of 2 days? I guess this will restrict us to short hikes in Rainier, which is fine, but the question is how long does it take to visit St. Helen's?

    I, of course, want to see everything possible, but I don't want this to become a taxing, scavenger hunt, checklist kind of trip.

    Thanks again!

    Cheers,

    Dan

  5. #5
    Tony J Case, Super Genius Guest

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by dcpancho677 View Post
    Can we realistically do Seattle to Rainier by 410/123, which is what I think I was looking at on Google maps originally, hike a bit, camp at Ohanapecosh Campground, and then drive out of the Southwest exit of the park, have time to visit Mt. St. Helen's, and make it down to Vancouver in a span of 2 days? I guess this will restrict us to short hikes in Rainier, which is fine, but the question is how long does it take to visit St. Helen's?
    I do day jaunts down to Rainier from Seattle all the time, it's two hours drive from here (give or take a bit, depending on traffic), so you'd have plenty of wandering around time there.

    I've also done day trips to Mount St Helen's, but that's about a 3 hour trip (roughly) so I have to be a bit more focused there. But Rainier is about half way - more or less - between Seattle and MSH, so if you had a stopover somewhere around Rainier, yeah, with some planning and strategy you could do both in two days.

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