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McMinnville to Mt. St. Helens to Vancouver B.C.

Phoenix, Arizona
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McMinnville to Mt. St. Helens to Vancouver B.C.

My husband and I, in our late 50s are visiting some friends in McMinnville in early June. Our tentative plan is to rent a car when we fly to Portland visit in McMinnville and then drive to Vancouver B.C. We aren't outdoorsy but would like to see Mt. St. Helens on the way up. I am assuming right now from things I have read that one day would be really pushing it. I have no real desire to spend time actually in Seattle (don't mind but not essential --been there done that and we may end up having to do a one way care rental and flying out of there anyway). I'd appreciate a sense of real drive times , ideas of where to overnight and and any other advice or recommendations. And although this isn't the correct forum, anyone got any ideas what the border wait times will be on friday or Saturday?

Longview, Washington
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for Mount Rainier National Park
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1. Re: McMinnville to Mt. St. Helens to Vancouver B.C.

It will take about 2--2.5 hours to drive from McMinnville to the Mt. St. Helens exit on I-5. It is about an hour drive from the exit to Johnston Ridge Observatory. Plan at least 3 hours for the round trip back to the exit. You will want to spend some time at both Johnston Ridge and the Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake. Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center (about halfway between the two)is a nice place to stop for lunch. Great views over the Toutle River valley. They also have helicopter tours of the crater from here. The Forest Learning Center, near Hoffstadt is also very interesting--if it is open. Last summer it opened only on weekends. Haven't heard what the schedule is for this summer.

Since you are not really interested in spending time in Seattle, I would plan to spend the night somewhere between Olympia and Renton.(Lacey, Lakewood, DuPont, Tacoma, Fife, Federal Way) Many good hotel chains close to the freeway in this area.

Olympia is about 1.5 hr from downtown Seattle, Renton to Seattle - 30 min.

As I recall, it is about a 4-5 hour drive from Seattle to Vancouver BC (depending on border crossing wait time). Suggest that you post to the Washington state forum re: border crossing times on weekends.

Be sure to tour Evergreen Aviation Museum (Spruce Goose) while you are in McMinnville.

Edited: 20 February 2010, 19:39
Oregon/Washington
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for Portland, Sunriver
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2. Re: McMinnville to Mt. St. Helens to Vancouver B.C.

Kitters gave you a great rundown on Mt. St. Helens. I think it is a must see.

Another place to stop for the night is a bit south of Olympia, in Centralia. The Olympic Club Hotel is a McMenamins property and would make for a good, but unique stay. It is hard to describe, as all McMenamins are unique. We stayed there once and it was perfect. Even though most rooms have shared baths, everything was spotless and we never had to wait for a bathroom, etc. We joked that the cleaning staff must have hid around the corners and whenever someone came out of the bathroom they were there to clean it;) They have a restaurant and movie theater on sight, and it is in the historical part of town, away from the outlets.

McMinnville, Oregon
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3. Re: McMinnville to Mt. St. Helens to Vancouver B.C.

You didn't say what time frame you had to make it to Vancouver, just that you had done Seattle. A alternate idea would be after St Helens is to turn at Olympia head up to Port Angeles and ferry across to Victoria. Then drive up to Nanaimo you can ferry to Vancouver. If you are on a schedule this is not the way, but you can see much more beautiful country this way.

I wonder if you have checked with rental company about driving out of USA? Most new cars have locators and will be able to tell you have crossed the border.

Phoenix, Arizona
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4. Re: McMinnville to Mt. St. Helens to Vancouver B.C.

Thanks to all of you - that's very helpful. Appreciated the detail from Kitters and lodging ideas. From what I have seen so far, we can take the car into Canada as long as we bring it back!. The idea of ferrying over to Victoria may be workable for us -- we were just trying to spend more time on the Canada side of the border than U.S. and juggling lots of competing issues. I'll confess this driving from the US started when I realized you can only fly turbo props from Portland to Vancouver, not 737s. I hate flying and the smaller the plane and more frequent the landings the more anxiety issues I have. So I was contemplating "works arounds" and I have wanted to see Mt. St. Helens.

Counting the day we leave McMinnville as day 1, we have 9, possibly 10 days, with last day being consumed by travel, and we assuming an overnight in Seattle near airport before return if we stick with this plan. I supose an altenative would be to drop off the car in Seattle on way up, fly to Vancouver, and pick up another ca there.

5. Re: McMinnville to Mt. St. Helens to Vancouver B.C.

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