northern national parks
Hello everyone, my girlfriend and I are leaving on a month long roadtrip in 10 days with no constraints except ourselves. The theme of the trip is national parks as we will hit between 10 to 15 encompassing the whole country top to bottom and back and forth. With much research I realize the northern parks (Mt. Rainier, Northern Cascades, Glacier) will not be 100% open. Is it worth it to travel to these parks only to be denied many of the roads within the parks? We will be traveling in a Chevy s-10 with 4-wheel drive. Should I purchase chains? Thanx for the help.
Yes, I would suggest chains. There are roads that may require them at this time of year.
The North Cascades Highway will still be closed this time of year but you will be able to reach parts of it with your 4WD and chains. Same for Mt. Rainier. These are beautiful parks with a lot of amazing things to see. While you will definitely be limited in what you can explore, it should still be worth a trip.
FWIW, I highly suggest checking out Mt. St. Helens while you're up this way.
Thanx for the insight Judy, don't worry, Mt. St. Helens is on the list, any tips for good viewing areas, closed roads or scenic drives to get there. We will be coming from Columbia river gorge area. Thanx
Mt. St. Helens
I don't know about road closures there as I usually go in the summer. I think you should be fine.
When you get to Woodland, WA (about 20 miles north of Vancouver, WA), go east on Route 503 towards Cougar, WA. If you haven't picked up maps and information on the park prior to this, you can get all the information you need in Cougar. Near Cougar are the Ape Caves which were formed long ago by lava. They're fun to explore....takes maybe an hour or two...but be sure you have good flashlights and/or lanterns.
From Cougar you can drive up into the park. You won't want to miss Windy Pass (?I think that's the name?) where you can see into what's left of the mountain and the new dome that's rebuilding. You will also see Spirit Lake that was totally decimated by the blast but is now starting to renew itself. Quite fascinating.
I would suggest stopping at each and every viewpoint, trail, and marker. Most of the trails are short but take you to an interesting site, like the Miner's Car.
At the north end of the park, you will come out at Hwy. 12. Go west towards Morton. That's a good place to spend the night. If you continue west, you hook back up with I-5. I would suggest going south back to Castle Rock. It's only about 20 miles south. At Castle Rock there is a great theater that plays an "Eruption of Mt. St. Helens" movie. It's very good and worth the time and money to see.
From this theater, you can drive back into the park to Johnstone Ridge. This is the ridge where the young geologist (named Johnstone) was viewing the mountain and said his last words "this is it" over the radio when the mountain blew. There is a nice visitor center there and good viewpoints.
From there you have to backtrack to I-5 to continue north to Seattle. It's a beautiful drive each way.
Hope this gives you some ideas. Have a great trip.
That is some good info and will come in handy. Thanx for spending the time to explain. Exactly 1 week till we leave!!!!!
You might also consider Badlands National Park in South Dakota. If you get National Geographic Magazine, they just did an article on that park. Are you going to dip down into Utah? There's quite a few parks there. Like Bryce Canyon, Zion, Capitol Reef Park. You might want to consider Death Valley before it becomes too hot. I understand the wildflowers there are blooming.
Anyway, have a great trip.
Hold onto your hat!
I really like Badlands NP too. Awesome, wild place. Just be sure to hang onto your hat -- I have never seen such a powerful (everyday-type) wind area. When you go, be sure to turn on your AM radio and tune in one of the Navajo radio stations. Navajo is a very pretty language to listen to (even if you can't figure out what is being said).
We are definitely going to hit up the Badlands and southern Utah, as well as Death Valley. Thanx for the tip in National Geograhic, great magazine. Can we purchase the golden eagle pass at our first park? ( Smoky Mts. National Park ) Any tips on Yellowstone? Thanx you. 5 days!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanx Mark for the info on the Navajo. Took an American Indian class in H.S. and find it interesting. Can you tell me anything about Smash Head in Buffalo Jump? Not sure if it's in the American or Canadian part of Glacier N.P. 5 DAYS AND COUNTING, WOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!