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  1. Default Advice for roadtrip from LA to Seattle in a week

    Hi all,

    We are thinking about taking a road trip during kids' spring break to Seattle, which is from 4/7 (Sat) - 4/14 (Sat). Like to save one day for a break before work ;-)

    But I don't know if this is too ambitious. We like to spend more time in major natural attraction but also like to spend sometime explore Seattle.
    Short stop on San Francisco sounds ok, since we've been there too many times.
    Any suggestion is welcome


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Long drive

    2200 miles in a week is pretty ambitious, especially if you plan on spending a good amount of time in the natural areas along the way. That averages out to over 300 miles a day - 6 hours on the road every day, roughly.

    Have you considered limiting your distance to any of the great natural attractions in California?

  3. Default Doable, but Gonzo...

    Hi Neuron --

    Its a long 2 days drive from LA to Seattle via the fastest route (up I-5). And it'll be the same heading back. Assuming you're going to take 8 days for a trip, that leave you 4 days max in Seattle. So its doable, but a bit gonzo since you'll have a minimum of 4 long days just getting there and back. I usually stay somewhere between Redding and Yreka coming and going.

    There's a bit of alternative or two you can do toss in here and still leave a day or so in Seattle.

    On your way north, cut over at the bay area towards the coast. You can make it to somewhere between Santa Rosa and Ukiah the first day, and then head up 101 to Redwoods National Park and Crescent City. From there you can head back over to 5 at Ashland, and then back north to Seattle. It's a real whirlwind tour through that area, though. That may take 2 days out of your time in Seattle though.

    Another detour is to make it to Chico California the first night, and then go up to Lassen National Park and Burney (Burney Falls), and pick back up on the I-5 near Mt Shasta. That'll probably add only one day to the trip north or south.

    Another longer detour is to stop in Sacramento, and the next day do some of the musuems and sites to visit there, and then duck east to Reno/ Tahoe for a night. From Reno you can head back up towards Seattle, either coming out through Lassen to Mt Shasta area, or more easterly through Alturas and Kalmath Falls before getting back on the I-5.

    You can side trip to Crater lake in a day.

    Or you can bomb through Portland, and head west to Astoria, and then go up around the Olympic Pennisula. My estimate is that will be about 2 days in addition to the shortest time on I-5. Figure another night somewhere around Aberdeen, then a full day of sightseeing through Olympic National Park (hoh rain forest, hurricane ridge etc). You might push it to catch an evening ferry into Seattle from Kingston or Bremerton, but that would be a long busy driving day. You might stay somewhere like Port Angeles, relax a bit, and then head into Seattle mid morning the next day.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 03-29-2007 at 11:43 PM. Reason: Added link to RTA field report

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Sounds like a jam-packed week!

    Larrison has given you several great alternative recommendations. I live in Washington state and I've done several speed runs to go to Disneyland. Like Larrison, we usually stay around the Redding area and figure 2 long days of driving on I-5 to make the trip.

    Is there something specific you want to see in Seattle? In other words, is that destination firm for some reason? Or do you just want to see the great Pacific NW? Personally, I think your time would better be spent seeing Mt. St. Helens (a must, imho!), possibly Mt. Rainier, and the Olympic Peninsula. You might do this:

    Drive up I-5 and then plan a stop for the night in Castle Rock, WA. You can go from Castle Rock up to see Mt. St. Helens either that same day if you get there early enough or the next morning. It's about an hour to the viewpoint and major visitor center. I would plan at least an hour there, minimum, depending on how much hiking and exploring the visitor center you'll do. (It can be a quick look-see or an all day trip depending on your interest level.) From Castle Rock, it's about 2-3 hours to Seattle depending on traffic.

    Note: Seattle traffic is horrid. Rush hour is roughly 6am-10am in the morning and 3pm-7pm at night. Of course, it's worse going into the city in the morning and worse leaving the city at night. But traffic is thick both ways. So plan your arrival/leaving Seattle accordingly.

    If you want to see Mt. St. Helens and then go to Mt. Rainier, there are back roads you can take that are quite beautiful drives. If you want to do that let me know and I can give you better details.

    If, after enjoying Seattle, you decide to enjoy the Olympic Peninsula, then I would take the ferry across. I'd suggest taking the one from the Seattle waterfront to Winslow on Bainbridge Island. From there, you can drive to-and-around the Olympic Peninsula, and then continue south towards home along the Washington and Oregon coasts.

    You won't have time to do the whole coastal trip if you do this. I'm guessing you'd need to consider leaving the coast around Newport, OR, going east to Albany, OR, and then meeting up with I-5 to get home.

    If you really want to spend most of your time in Seattle, then I-5 up-and-back is really your best bet.

    If Seattle is not a must, I would recommend only going as far as Portland (a beautiful city, too!) and then going west through Astoria to the coast, and then coming home down the coast. It's gorgeous. And you'll have time to go much farther south along the coast this way. In fact, you might be able to get all the way to San Francisco before heading home on I-5.

    Please feel free to ask more specific questions. And if you give us ideas of what your really want to see and do up this way, it will be easier to give you good, specific recommendations.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    The Olympic peninsula of WA State

    Default Park roads

    Anyone headed up this way my want to check on road conditions in the national parks.

    They just announced that the Nisqually entrance of Mt. Rainier will reopen May 1st. I would assume that means the road will be clear to Paradise.
    I believe the Carbon River road in the NE corner of the park is washed out but I have no idea when of even if it will be reopened.

    In the Olympic NP the Hoh River road is washed out but last I heard it was supposed to open May 1st. The Dosewallips road is still closed indefinitely. Last I heard the Staircase road is still closed but local scuttlebut has it opening any day now.

    Hope this helps

  6. Default Thanks for all

    Thanks all for the warm welcome and excellent recommendation.
    Looks like 4 days is minimum for just straight driving. We probably will just focus on Seattle Area, such as Mt St. Helen, Mt. Rainer, Olympic National park and some downtown scouting.

    Original thinking about this trip is to explore somewhere not near home ;-)
    And save the near home destination for some weekend get away. It is obvious that it is not going to get us too far in a week's time by road trip :-)

    So if weather or road condition is not quite as good as we expected, we'll just go for the pacific coastal cruising up to Eureka or Redwood National park that we always thinking about doing.

    As regard to the road condition for Mt. Helen/Mt. Rainer/Olympic, where can i get those day-to-day status on the web? Or any phone of information center i can call before we hit the road?

    Again, thanks for all, and the detailed stop-by-stop recommendation. This is really a great site to be with.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Washington road info

    Washington's DOT has a pretty good traveler's website with lots of video cams and other road condition information. You can also call 511 for up-to-date info.

    I've already mentioned the quickest way to see Mt. St. Helen's. It really is a muse-see and I hope you take the time for it.

    While the Nisqually entrance to Mt. Rainier is projected to open by May 1st, that is well after your visit here. And considering the destruction of roads due to flooding and washouts, even after the road is opened it's not expected to be open all the way to Paradise for quite some time. See here and here for more detail if you're interested. Unfortunately, I don't think a visit to Mt. Rainier itself is in the cards for your visit. I really think you will have the best views of Mt. Rainier from Seattle itself. On a clear day, it's really quite astounding.

    If you want to get into the mountains, your best bet would be to take I-90 from Seattle to Snoqualmie Pass and playing at one of the ski areas there. Here's the link to one of the parks so you can check out conditions, costs and activities. If you're not skiers, they have tubing. Or you might try Steven's Pass. It's a bit more rustic, rural, and has more beautiful scenery, imho.

    Visiting Olympic National Park:
    You really won't want to use Seattle as a base for doing this. You will need to cross Puget Sound by ferry to get there....which is really a lot of fun and worth doing just for the experience and awesome scenery...or drive south around the southern point of Puget Sound at Olympic and then back up the other side to the Peninsula. Either way, your best off spending a day or two enjoying Seattle and then heading over to the peninsula for the rest of your trip, then heading home from there. I might suggest the following:
    * take the Seattle-Winslow ferry over to Bainbridge Island. The ferry ride itself takes about 30 minutes but you need to plan time to get there to board prior to sailing. Info here. You can also take the longer, 1-hour ferry to Bremerton from here but I think the drive is prettier if you go to Winslow. But, either way, gets you across The Sound to where you wanna go.
    * If you enjoy cute little towns with a lot of character, spend some time in the main downtown area in Poulsbo, a Scandinavian town
    * If you enjoy great Victorian architecture, a swing up to Port Townsend can't be beat. You can also enjoy a quick kayak trip on The Sound there, or take a boating excursion to see Orcas and other sights
    * Continue west along the northern section of the peninsula to Sequim and enjoy a stop at Dungeness Spit
    * Then continue on to Port Angeles. If it's getting later in the day, this would be a good place to stop for the night. Here you can enjoy the waterfront or take a drive up to Hurricane Ridge. If you opt to not stop here for the night, lodgings are scattered and hard to find until Forks, which is another 56 miles. And Forks has limited lodging. Although a good mid-way stop would be at the Lake Crescent Lodge. It's a lovely place.
    * Continuing south on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, worthy stops are at Lake Ozette, Kalaloch, Ruby Beach, and Lake Quinault. If you think you'll have time for this, let me know and I'll provide more detail. (It's a nice day and I want to get out and enjoy it so I'm going to stop now.)

    Anyway, hope this helps a bit!

  8. Default


    Thanks for the advice for the Mt. Rainer. We'll pass that this time.

    One question about the Olympic route: we are thinking about getting in by the Aberdeen (stay one night) after visiting Mt. St Helen. Do we have enough time to visit most of the stops between Aberdeen and port Angeles in one day?

    Beside the Olympic route, we are curious about the ferry trip among Port Angeles - Victoria, and Sidney - San Juan Islands - Anacortes) Is the scenery worth the try?
    If we choose to do that route, we might need to skip the Dungeness Spit, Poulsbo or Townsend and go straight down to Seattle. And stay there for 2 nights, then heading home. Will we miss a lot by doing that?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Islands or Rainforest?

    If you don't plan on stopping and exploring much, you could easily see MSH in the morning and drive to Port Angeles via Aberdeen. It's about 4.5 hours to drive that. However, if you want to stop and explore, I'd encourage you to spend the night in the Lake Quinault area. Then you'd have all day to explore things on the way to Port Angeles. If you stay in Lake Quinault, see below for suggestions on what to do along the way.

    You might want to visit the Mt. St. Helens website, It says that only the Coldwater Ridge visitor center is open. It's nice, but not as nice as the Johnston Ridge one that doesn't open until May. This webpage has info of the various visitor centers. You can see in the photo that Coldwater Ridge has a good view of MSH so it's still worth going to. But it's too bad Johnston Ridge isn't open yet as it is closer and is higher than MSH so you are looking more down into the crater. Also, note that Coldwater Ridge VC is only open right now from Thursday-Monday so it might be closed on the day you're planning on stopping there? Even so, it's worth it to see MSH itself.

    Since it sounds like snow/winter driving conditions are still a possibility when you might be here, you will just need to get updated info the day before or day of your planned visit and determine whether or not you're comfortable with driving in the conditions they describe to you. I can't answer that for you. Personally, unless they warn you away, I'd go for it. It's just too cool to miss. Enough of that.

    Route Tip 1: It's about 1.5 hours from Mt. St. Helens to Aberdeen. When you're coming back down Spirit Lake Hwy, a/k/a 504, about half-way back to Castle Rock, you'll see a turn-off going north that is Hwy 505. If you take that, you'll eliminate having to go all the way back to I-5 and you will come out onto I-5 about 15 miles north of Castle Rock. It's not a huge time-savings, just a bit, but it will take you through some different countryside.

    Route Tip 2: About 5-7 miles north of Centralia, WA, go west on Hwy 12 at Exit 88. This will take you through some nice farm country and will come out at Elma, WA. From there, continue west on Hwy 8 into Aberdeen. You don't need to go all the way to Olympia. This will save you about 30 minutes.

    I really don't think you'll have time to do Victoria,, too. Taking the ferries can be time-consuming. You need to get to the ferry well ahead of time to secure a space for your vehicle. At this time of year, I'm not sure how much time you'll need. You'll need to visit the Washington State Ferry website for more information on each specific ferry you're thinking of taking to get an idea of what to expect. Of course, you can make reservations on the website. But you still need to get there early enough to get in-line and board. Even if the ferry boarding times are relatively quick this early in the season, I still think the Port Angeles - Victoria, and Sidney - San Juan Islands - Anacortes run will take up way too much time. If I was to do it, I would plan a minimum of 4 days for a trip like that. In fact, if you check the connections, I'm pretty sure you'll see that you will really need 2 days just to make the different ferries. I just don't see how you have time for this.

    There are other ferries you can take to get great views of Puget Sound. Don't worry. More on that later.

    Here's what I suggest (things I consider must-sees are in bold)
    * Since weather might be a factor during your visit, I'd plan to hit MSH in the afternoon. This would give time for more traffic and sun to clear the road. Then drive the 2.5 hours to lake Quinault.
    * You can't go wrong by staying at Lake Quinault. I'm familiar with the first three lodging choices under "Where to Stay" and would recommend any of them. The Lake Quinault Lodge is on the National Register and it's worth a stop to look at even if you don't stay there.
    * Lake Quinault South Shore: A nice hike for your first view of the rain forest is right across the road from the Lake Quinault Lodge. Even if you only have 15-20 minutes, you can get a nice walk into this beautiful forest. Also, check out the World's Largest Spruce at the Rainforest Resort.
    * Lake Quinault North Shore: From 101, go right (east) on the North Shore Road for about 8-10 miles and you'll come to a ranger station. Right next to it is an awesome interpretive trail. It's only about 1/2 mile but it takes you through the most primordial forest you have probably ever seen. Huge ferns, nurse logs, huge trees covered in moss, large mosses draped over tree limbs. If you only have time for one hike in the Lake Quinault area, this is it! The drive and the walk can be done in about 30-60 minutes depending on how long you linger. And watch out for Roosevelt Elk. It's not unusual to see them along this stretch of road.
    * Go north on 101 from Lake Quinault to Kalaloch. The Kalaloch Inn is also an historic building and is worth a look at. The beach there is lovely to walk on. But my favorite beach along this stretch is a few miles north of the lodge. It's on your left right where the road veers away from the ocean and starts going downhill. It's called Ruby Beach. It's worth the walk down the trail to get to the beach here. Lots of tidal pools. Very rough and rocky with several haystacks (islands that were once parts of the coastline but the water has eroded away to make them look like islands), and other neat things to see. I'd plan for an hour here.
    * Forks has a nice logging museum just as you enter town. It's small and will only take a few minutes but it should give you a good appreciation for how important logging was to this area.
    * About 15 miles north of Forks, take Hwy 113 out to Neah Bay on the Makah Reservation. They have the most amazing museum of Native American artifacts dug up from the ancient Makah village of Ozette. Do the short drive out to Cape Flattery and take the short trail to see the Pacific at the most northwest point in the continental US. Beautiful and worth it, imho.
    * To get to Port Angeles, you have a choice of two routes. (1) Drive back to 101 the way you came. You will then drive past the lovely Lake Crescent. It's a beautiful drive and takes about 2 hours. (2) Or you can take the less-traveled 112. You will come to the intersection for this road just a few miles south of Clallam Bay. This will take you along the Strait of Juan de Fuca for awhile and then go through some nice forests. I like both roads so the choice is yours.

    If you do all of this, and spend some time enjoying these places, I estimate it would be about a 12 hour day. Half driving/half exploring. So get up early and enjoy!

    In Port Angeles, iyou might enjoy the short drive up to Hurricane Ridge. I'd really only consider this a must-see if the sky is clear. If it is, you can see all the way over to Vancouver Island, some amazing views into the park itself, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Wonderful views. But, if it's fogged in, it's probably not worth your limited time. Port Angeles also has a nice boardwalk on the harbor.

    From Port Angeles:
    * Go east on 101 and take the time to do the Dungeness Spit. I can't recommend this place enough. A must-see, imho.
    * Then continue onto Port Townsend. It rivals Eureka's Victorian architecture.

    From Port Townsend, you have several choices. They're all good choices so it's hard for me to recommend one over the other. You can:
    (1) Take the Port Townsend-Keystone ferry over to Whidbey Island. Enjoy the quaint towns of Coupeville and Langley. And then drive to Clinton to take the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry over to the mainland. Mukilteo is just south of Everett. And then drive south into Seattle.
    (2) Drive south from Port Townsend to Poulsbo; I LOVE this town! Then take the bridge to Bainbridge Island and drive to Winslow. From there, take the Bainbridge Island-Seattle ferry to Seattle's waterfront.
    (3) After visiting Port Townsend and Poulsbo, continue south to Bremerton. You can visit the USS Turner Joy. From there, you can take the water-tour of various naval ships. I'm not really all that keen on war stuff, but I really enjoyed this tour. You can't appreciate the size of these ships...when I was there they had some aircraft carriers...until you're in a little boat in the water looking up at them. Wow! From Bremerton, you can also take the ferry to Seattle's waterfront.

    It's hard for me to recommend one of these over the other. But, since you've never been to Seattle, I'd suggest options 2 or 3. While option 1 takes you through some lovely country-side and towns, the drive from Everett to Seattle can be aggravating. Remember, rush-hour traffic if from about 6am-10pm and 3pm-7pm. It's NOT a fun drive.

    If you take the ferry from either Winslow or Bremerton, you'll be seeing Seattle's famous skyline and, if the sky is clear, you'll see Mt. Rainier looking down on Seattle, and you'll be taken to Seattle's Waterfront area where there is a lot to see. In fact, I'd suggest staying here for the night. The best time to visit Seattle's famous Public Market (with the flying fish) is in the early morning so this is right where you'd want to be.

    So, in a nutshell:
    * Do MSH in the mid-afternoon and then drive to Lake Quinault
    * Spend 1 day exploring the Lake Quianult-Port Angeles area
    * Spend 1 day exploring the Port Angeles-Seattle areas
    * Stay near the waterfront and enjoy Farmer's Market in the early morning hours the next day, and the other treats Seattle has to offer as the day goes on.

    Hopes this helps!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default I want to do it all!

    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    Here's what I suggest (things I consider must-sees are in bold)
    Wow! What a line-up!


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