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US National Parks Roadtrip - west and northwest

Prague, Czech...
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US National Parks Roadtrip - west and northwest

Hi to TA community!

We are heading for a honeymoon 3 weeks roadtrip to West Coast and North western part of the US. We have approximate itinerary, but I would really appreciate your help on how long we should dedicate to each place: The plan is:

From San Francisco (already been there, so just from airport immediately leave the city) to Redwood (2) - along the coast heading north - (then option 1 - Lassen NP) - detour to Crater Lake (1) NP - return to coast - Portland (2) - Mt. Rainier (1) - Seattle (2) - Olympic NP (2) - Vancouver (2), Canada - North Cascades NP (2) - Glacier NP (3) - Yellowstone NP (3) - Denver (we have friends there so that is the final destination). In brackets is the number of days for each place.

As you have guessed, we are mostly interested in hiking in the National Parks, doing day hikes, camping. But want to see some cities as well, just for change :-) We have plenty to see for so little time. We already had to sacrifice Mt. St. Helens, probably not enough time for Lassen NP nor Crater Lake NP. Or are they really worth visiting?

Any of your comments and advice would really help us, thank you very much in advance!

Wednesbury, UK
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1. Re: US National Parks Roadtrip - west and northwest

Hi and welcome to the forum.

Can you confirm when your planning on taking this trip? Have to say its ambitious, you are packing a lot in,shorting a number of locations, and the order looks strange in WA? I think I would drop Vancouver for a start and I don't recommend a drive to the Redwoods straight off a transatlantic flight.

Congratulations for your forthcoming wedding btw : ).

Edited: 10 August 2014, 15:57
Santa Fe, New Mexico
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2. Re: US National Parks Roadtrip - west and northwest

I'll suggest following the coast North from San Francisco, on the 1/101 ... Starting the drive inland, from Crescent City on the 199/62 to Crater Lake NP. Then, continue on the 97 over nighting in Bend ... In the AM. one van visit Mt. Hood & drop down to Hood River in the 35 & enjoy the Columbia Gorge into Portland... Were I to drop any else, it would be Olympic NP., In favor of more time in the Cascades & Rockies ... Happy trails ... carracar

Wednesbury, UK
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3. Re: US National Parks Roadtrip - west and northwest

The reason why when is important is several of those locations have a visitation small window, at best mid June through mid September, to be sure of no weather issues. So if your trip is outside that window, you may have to have a rethink on a few location ( Glacier and N Cascades especially)

Edited: 10 August 2014, 16:18
Prague, Czech...
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4. Re: US National Parks Roadtrip - west and northwest

Thank you for your super quick respond!

Sorry I did not specify the time - we are going this September. It is a good comment on the transatlantic flight, I did not think about the jet lag, thank you for that! And thank you for the congratulation :-)

Prague, Czech...
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5. Re: US National Parks Roadtrip - west and northwest

carracar - thank you for your route suggestion. It does look nice and smooth, no zigzaging as we were planning before. Just one question - isn't it a pity to miss the Oregon coast highway? We were told it's amazing.

Atlanta, Georgia
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6. Re: US National Parks Roadtrip - west and northwest

We did the Pacific NW last July.

Some comments/suggestions-

Really enjoyed Redwoods NP and Jedidiah Smith SP- walking thru Stout grove was amazing.

Crater Lake was beautiful and so glad we included it.

Really enjoyed staying in Hood River and doing the Columbia River Gorge scenic hwy on our way to Portland.

Did not have time to do Olympic NP because it takes a good 3 or more days.

Mt. Rainier NP and Mt. St. Helens were well worth the drive- beware that not a lot around Mt. St. Helens so get food and gas at the interstate.

Skip the Canada part of your trip- you do not have the time.

It is a full day drive between Glacier NP and Yellowstone NP.

You are missing a beautiful NP just south of Yellowstone NP and should be included- Grand Tetons NP- beautiful mountains and some great hiking.

There are some scenic routes back to Denver so can give you recommendations.

Also missing a great NP just outside of Denver- Rocky Mt. NP.

Best to stay in the national parks to cut down on driving times- do you have lodging??

This is especially true in Yellowstone NP because it has over 300 miles of paved roads.

Wednesbury, UK
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7. Re: US National Parks Roadtrip - west and northwest

If it's early September, straight after Labor Day then you should be ok, although you can ever tell Yellowstone after mid September. Snow closed it for two days when I was there once third week in that month.

Anyway, as I said, I'd take the Vancouver days and put them into Yellowstone and at least a day for the Tetons.

Edited: 10 August 2014, 16:30
Prague, Czech...
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8. Re: US National Parks Roadtrip - west and northwest

Thank you all for great suggestions! It is amazing how quick and helpful your responds are!

We have lived some time in Colorado (Steamboat Springs to be specific), so we have already been to Rocky Mountains NP, Grand Teton NP as well as Yellowstone. But Yellowstone we want to visit again, because it is amazing :-)

We will have a tent, I assume it won't be necessary to book the campgrounds in advance, since the peak season will be over. But it is true we might be surprised by the weather, early snow is quite probable especially in Glacier and Cascades, I would guess...

We will reconsider Vancouver, since many people say to avoid it because of lack of time.

Thank you for your help again!

Atlanta, Georgia
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9. Re: US National Parks Roadtrip - west and northwest

Once you leave the Redwoods NP you can drive up the coast of Oregon on Hwy 101 to Bandon then continue north and cut across at Reedsport to Roseburg to Crater Lake NP. That way you can see some of the coast of OR. It is very scenic.

Post on the OR forum for more info- half-brit and others will be glad to help you.

Tacoma, Washington
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10. Re: US National Parks Roadtrip - west and northwest

I thnk you aren't taking into account drive times with this route

1 fly into SF

2 drive to Eureka

3 redwoods then drive to grants pass/ Medford

4 crater lake to bend ( alternate do southern Oregon coast to Bandon then up to Portland)

5 Columbia gorge to Portland

6 Portland...drive to Chehalis, Ashford or Packwood for night

7 Mt Rainier..drive to Port Angeles/Sequim for night

8-9 Olympic national Park

10-11 Seattle

12 north Cascades

13 drive to Glacier

14 west glacier to east glacier

15 east glacier

16 east glacier AM drive to Bozeman or Billings

17-19 Yellowstone

20 Grand Teton

21 drive to Denver

Snow isn't an issue in north Cascades in mid September, it is a risk in Glacier, Yellowstone, and grand Teton late in September.

In the national parks areas you can't wing it and get camping sites even in September.