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3wk roadtrip-starting and ending in Seattle (Aug 23-Sep 13)

Den Haag
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3wk roadtrip-starting and ending in Seattle (Aug 23-Sep 13)

Hi everybody!

We (my girlfriend and I) are planning a trip to Seattle in Aug-Sept 2014. Our plan is to rent a car for 3 weeks, and stay in motels/hotels (approx $ 140,- a night).

We do not want to stay in Seattle too long, 1 day at arrival, and 1 when we leave. All other days we want to use to see the highlights in the area.

We always wanted to visit Yellowstone, so our first idea is to head there and visit some places along the road. But I also really would like to see Glaciers Nat. Park and possibly even Banff and Jasper up in Canada...

So my question to you all is the following: What would you recommend to us? Make a round-trip to Yellowstone and back? Or do both Yellowstone and then up to Canada? Or maybe even skip Yellowstone and go north directly?

Please keep in mind that we do not want to spend every day driving hundreds of miles. We would prefer to have a couple driving-dedicated days, and more time to relax and sight-see on all other days. So maybe 5 destinations at max?

We are mostly interested in the national parks etc, but I would like a nice city for a change here and there.

I really hope you can help me out here! It's a bit hard to choose a route etc since there is so much, and the distances are so big!

Thank you all very much for your input!

Kind regards,

Mark

N. Idaho
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1. Re: 3wk roadtrip-starting and ending in Seattle (Aug 23-Sep 13)

Oh, I definitely think you should see Yellowstone! I am biased, though. I would plan for at least 4 nights in the Yellowstone area, and 5 if you can work it out. You might want to do 2 or 3 nights in Grand Tetons which are just south of Yellowstone as well.

Your budget of $140/night may be low for the Yellowstone area altho there is some park lodging available for just under that price. Once you figure out your schedule, check the Xanterra site (they are the Yellowstone concessionaire for lodging) at http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/ Everything will show full when you look at it, but if you check it frequently you will see there are lots of vacancies that come up. You need to be ready to grab them when they show up though!

Pam

Atlanta, Georgia
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2. Re: 3wk roadtrip-starting and ending in Seattle (Aug 23-Sep 13)

I agree with Pam. A great time to visit Yellowstone and Glacier. Get your trip plan in place then book lodging ASAP for the parks.

Uden, The...
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3. Re: 3wk roadtrip-starting and ending in Seattle (Aug 23-Sep 13)

Hi

Maybe try something like this:

1. Arr Seattle

2. Seattle-Coeur d' Alene

3. Coeur d'Alene-Glacier

4,5: Glacier

6. Glacier on way to Yell. Maybe stay Red Lodge.

7. Beartooth and Chief Joseph to Cody

8. Buffalo Bill museum and to Yell

9,10,11: Yell

12. Yelll-GTNP

13. GTNP

14. GTNP via Craters of the Moon to Twin Falls

15. Twin Falls to Columbia Rivergorge

16. Columbia River Gorge/Portland

17: To Olympic NP via mt. St. Helens

18.19: olympic

20. To Seattle

21. Seattle.

Don't think you'll have to time to add SW Canada now.

Tet

Seattle, Washington
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4. Re: 3wk roadtrip-starting and ending in Seattle (Aug 23-Sep 13)

While I'm a big fan of the Columbia Gorge, at the time of year you're traveling, the main attractions - the waterfalls - will have comparatively little water flowing over them, so I'd be inclined to give the Gorge a pass. Put it on your list for late spring destinations, however.

I think combining Yellowstone and Glacier parks with the Canadian Rockies is quite doable, and I'd throw in a third US national park, North Cascades, into the mix, along with a taste of the Kootenays in eastern BC.

Here's a possible outline for a 21-day trip:

Day Overnight

1 Seattle

2 Seattle

3 Missoula MT

4 Yellowstone

5 Yellowstone

6 Yellowstone

7 Yellowstone

8 Yellowstone

9 Glacier Park

10 Glacier Park

11 Glacier Park

12 Banff

13 Banff

14 Banff

15 Banff

16 Nelson BC

17 Nelson BC

18 Chelan WA

19 Chelan WA

20 Seattle

21 Seattle

I've thrown in a couple of long driving days (Seattle to Missoula, Glacier to Banff) just to get them out of the way. The drive to Missoula is fast and easy; the drive to Banff from Glacier NP is slow at first but then not too bad.

I've added the Kootenays (between Revelstoke and Nelson) as a beautiful way to return to the US. Nelson BC is a lovely little town full of galleries and shops, with interesting things to see nearby (like the little ghost town of Sandon with its Vancouver city bus boneyard.) There are many beautiful lakes, interesting little towns, and several hot springs in the area.

Cross the US border at Metaline Falls (a curious place with a rather surprising art nouveau apartment building in the middle of nowhere) then make your way across Washington to Chelan. Take a day to ride the Lady of the Lake up Lake Chelan into North Cascades National Park; Lake Chelan is almost a fjord running into the mountains. http://www.ladyofthelake.com/ Return from Chelan to Seattle over US 2, past the faux Bavarian "village" of Leavenworth. The area around Leavenworth, Cashmere and Wenatchee is an important apple growing region; you'll be there right around the harvest - lovely.

This itinerary has you moving, but not at a frenzied pace. Four or five nights in Yellowstone or Banff ought to be sufficient to see many of the highlights; be advised of course that Yellowstone and Glacier are at high altitude, and winter comes early. I've been snowed on in August in Yellowstone more than once.

A note that if you wanted even more time in the Rockies, you could fly from Seattle return to Missoula for around $250, or Spokane for $175, probably resulting in much lower rental car costs and saving 1-2 days' driving, time that could be allocated to other activities.

Map - http://goo.gl/maps/Ftljd

Edited: 13 March 2014, 18:19
Tacoma, Washington
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5. Re: 3wk roadtrip-starting and ending in Seattle (Aug 23-Sep 13)

My suggestions:

The weekend of October 30-Sept 1 is a holiday weekend in the USA. it will be a busy travel weekend.

The last week of August you need to do Glacier NP before they close going to the sun road for road repair.

23 arrive in Seattle

24 Seattle (need to adjust body clock)

25 Mt rianier...drive thru to Yakima for night.

26 drive Yakima to a place in Idaho (Sandpoint) or in wetern montana(Nuissoula, St Regis)

27 to Glacier, stay in Columbia Falls, Kalispell.

28 Going to the sun road..stay in Browning/East Glacier area for 2 nights

29 Many glacier area

30 Two Medicine area, drive to Great Falls or Billings, MT or Red Lodge, MT

31 Beartooth highway into Yellowstone---night in Gardiner

1 Mamouth hot springs area...night in gardiner

2 Old faithful area...stay in Cody

3 day in cody

4 Lake Yellowstone area, night in Jackson

5 Grand Teton National Park...night in Jackson

6 Grand Teton in AM, drive to Boise, ID via craters of the moon

7 drive to Portland thru Columbia Gorge

8 Portland

9 Cannon Beach/Astoria

10-12 drive north from Astoria to Aberdeen and the nto Forks and around 101 seeing Olympic National Park...evening of 12 drive back to Seattle

13 fly home

the other option is to go into Canada and not do Portland

23 arrive

24 long driving day to West Yelowstone or Jackson

25-29 Grand Teton & Yellowstone...evening of 29 leave park and drive part way to Glacier

30 west glacier area

31 going to the sun road

1-2 east glacier area

3 drive to Banff

4-6 banff

7 drive to Vancouver

8-10 Vancouver

11 Mt Baker/North Cascades area

12 Seattle

13 return home

Atlanta, Georgia
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6. Re: 3wk roadtrip-starting and ending in Seattle (Aug 23-Sep 13)

Glacier GTTSR is scheduled to close around June 20.

Uden, The...
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7. Re: 3wk roadtrip-starting and ending in Seattle (Aug 23-Sep 13)

Think it will open june 20th Peach...

Atlanta, Georgia
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8. Re: 3wk roadtrip-starting and ending in Seattle (Aug 23-Sep 13)

You are correct Tet. And it will close around September 22, 2014.

Den Haag
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9. Re: 3wk roadtrip-starting and ending in Seattle (Aug 23-Sep 13)

Dear Pam, Peach, Tet, Ibgardyloo and Dan, thanks a lot for your valuable responses!

You have given me some clear choices to make!

Each of the routes provided by you make me very enthusiastic.

For now I am leaning towards visiting Glacier as one of the first destinations due to the arrival of winter, and then head south towards Yellowstone and Grand Tetons.. But all is still open for changes. I need to look in detail to your ideas first.

I have visited the states very often, but this area is completely new to me. (I did visit Vancouver and surroundings, not further than Whistler, last june) I am very much looking forward to these parks.

I might come back to you with some more detailed questions soon, I will first process your ideas, and set up a first draft of our trip.

Thanks a lot everybody! :)

Seattle, Washington
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10. Re: 3wk roadtrip-starting and ending in Seattle (Aug 23-Sep 13)

(I'm bouncing back and forth between your threads.)

One thing to note is that the first Monday in September is a national holiday (Labor/Labour Day) in both the US and Canada, and traditionally schools re-start a day or two following the holiday (in some places before, others a week after.) However the result is that pressure for accommodations in the national parks fall off dramatically once you're past that date; on the other hand "Labor Day Weekend" is a VERY busy travel period - people trying to squeeze in the last few days of "summer." And it's not just national parks, it's anywhere that tourists - especially families with kids - will visit. If you can avoid the big-name parks for that period, you might find prices lower and roads emptier.

(In Seattle that weekend a giant music festival - Bumbershoot - is held on the grounds of Seattle Center. If you're music fans - all genres - it's quite a show. http://www.bumbershoot.org )

I did have an off-the-wall thought however. Of course we know nothing about you, so this might be a terrible idea, but one that I'll just throw out.

With a shortened tour of the national parks (say just two weeks to visit Glacier and Yellowstone) what if you DIDN'T get a car right away, but instead spent a couple of days visiting Seattle, then flew to... Juneau, Alaska. Spend a couple of days in Juneau - lots to see and do - then board the Alaska State Ferry for a trip through the gorgeous Inside Passage back to Bellingham, WA.

The trip is very beautiful, the ferry is not terribly expensive, and if you want to camp instead of renting a cabin, many people set up tents or just unroll sleeping bags on the (covered) top deck of the ferries. The trip from Juneau to Bellingham takes 2 days, and the ferry arrives in Bellingham in time to walk 100m from the dock to the Bellingham train station for the morning train to Seattle. http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/

In cost terms, the flight to Juneau is around $200, but overall you wouldn't need a car for that week, and you'd see landscape that can only be viewed from the water - it's a roadless area. Lodging costs should be comparable, so I suspect the overall budget impact would be relatively small.

Anyway, just a thought.

Edited: 14 March 2014, 17:15