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Itinerary suggestions + Mt Rainer, to visit or not?

Clemson, SC
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Itinerary suggestions + Mt Rainer, to visit or not?

Hi all, my wife and I are planning our first trip to the NW in mid Sept. I could use input on our itinerary as well as Mt. Rainer. The two main goals for this trip: Enjoy WA and OR wine regions and capture some incredible landscape photography.

Tuesday: Arrive SeaTac noon, pick up off site rental car and settle into downtown Seattle by 2pm. Chihuly house + Space Needle + Dinner and early to bed to try to get settled in to PST from EST.

Wed morning: Puget sound express whale watching tour from Edmonds. Afternoon Pikes Market, original Starbucks, Freemont Troll and anything else that seems interesting in Seattle proper. If there is anything must see I am missing please let me know. This is our only time in Seattle proper.

Thursday-Sat: Depart Seattle for Yakima Thursday morning. The big question is - do I spend most of Thursday with a detour to Mt Rainer driving loop 3 or 4 or head straight to yakima to get another day of wineries in?

Sun: Drive Yakima - Portland. Perhaps a few Yakima wineries in the AM, depart by 1 pm for a leisurely drive down 97 through the Indian reservation. Drive through the Columbia River Gorge stopping for waterfall photography and the shorter hikes.

Monday: Portland - have not planned what to see yet

Tuesday-Thursday: Drive to McMinnville early Tuesday to serve as home base for wine. Spend all day tues-thurs exploring various AVA's in the region.

Friday: Depart McMinnville and drive Oregon coast as we work our way back to Portland for a Saturday departure. Obviously, Cannon Beach an Astoria are on my must see/photograph list. My question is exactly where to cut over to the coast. I will either go direct from McMinnville up to Cannon, or perhaps south to Salem and then cut over picking up the 101 up the coast from ~Neskowin north. This may be better suited for the Oregon forum but anyone familiar with the coast feel free to chime in for most photogenic route.

The biggest question for me is Mt. Rainer. From a photography standpoint, is it worth dedicating a day to go drive one of the loops around the mountain with such limited time? I am torn between that, or trying to find some other spots more along the route to capture landscape with Rainer in the background. Hopefully I can find some gorgeous vineyards with views of Rainer? We are also a little torn on investing the time and money into the whale trip. It sounds like a blast, but it will kill a good 6 hours of the day most of which will be spent in route to/from the islands on the boat with limited time actually whale watching.

Help appreciated.

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1. Re: Itinerary suggestions + Mt Rainer, to visit or not?

If I had to choose between the ghetto Yakima and Mount Rainier, that would be the easiest decision I would have to make.

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Clemson, SC
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2. Re: Itinerary suggestions + Mt Rainer, to visit or not?

Not being familiar with the area, is Yakima ghetto? What is the best town to base in for visiting the wineries through out the Yakima valley? I have no attachment to the town of Yakima proper other than it looked like that is where most hotels are located.

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3. Re: Itinerary suggestions + Mt Rainer, to visit or not?

Probably because it's the largest city in that area. I don't know much about wineries, but I have heard about Walla Walla and it's definitely a nicer city than Yakima.

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4. Re: Itinerary suggestions + Mt Rainer, to visit or not?

Let me comment with just some personal views.

Yakima via Mt. Rainier vs. I-90/I-82: Traveling to the Yakima Valley via Mt. Rainier (US 12 over White Pass) is a full day, vs. around 2 - 2 1/2 hours via I-90 and Snoqualmie Pass. That full day will give you tremendous scenery, e.g. gardyloo.us/wp-content/…20120903_677s.jpg while the freeway ride will be scenic in parts but quite bleak in others. One thing to mention about the Yakima Valley is that it will be hot as hell in mid-September, while it's often the best time of year in the mountains.

Yakima Valley locations: The towns in the Yakima Valley aren't going to win any beauty contests, that's for sure. And it's not like the landscape is going to provide much relief; it's basically irrigated desert and sagebrush country; there are orchards in the foothills of the Cascades to the west, but much of the valley floor is pretty blah. Obviously the various wineries have tried to be as attractive as possible, but it's not like the Napa-Sonoma Valleys where the vineyards simply enhance an already-beautiful landscape.

Alternatives: Obviously you're on top of AVA designations and I presume you know what you're looking for in terms of wine tours, but just in case you've overlooked it, let me mention a terrific area to combine your passions for wine and landscape photography.

As you drive south on US 97 from Yakima you pass through a very arid part of the Yakama Indian Reservation - real "old west" stuff - then climb into dry pine forest before eventually passing through beautiful ranch land - with Mt. Adams often visible to the west - around Goldendale, then down to the Columbia River at Maryhill.

The Columbia Gorge AVA extends all the way from Maryhill to the eastern outskirts of Portland. This is an extraordinary part of the country, with landscapes that change (and therefore offer a lot of variety in grape habitat) from dry to wet as you progress to the west. Here's a video that talks about this diversity - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsyS5qN5Wmo .

In terms of scenery and things that would engage your photographic talents, it's hard to come up with a more compelling area. The eastern Gorge, around Maryhill is dry and rocky, with a couple of excellent wineries and an eclectic little museum (Rodin in the sagebrush) as well as a nearby replica of Stonehenge, set on cliffs overlooking the big river. http://www.maryhillmuseum.org/ As you travel west, the landscape gradually becomes greener, until you're in forest around the town of Hood River.

Both the Hood River Valley (Oregon side) and the White Salmon Valley (WA) have significant numbers of wineries, and apparently the area is gaining quite a reputation as a source of good vintages. See http://www.winesnw.com/gorgehome.html

But wine aside, the area is one of the most scenic regions in the country, with incredible opportunities for photography as well as wine tasting. The town of Hood River is charming and a center of craft brewing as well as wines. The Hood River Valley extending south from the river to Mount Hood looming over all, is clogged with orchards (which will also be in harvest mode) as well as vineyards; a day doing the "fruit loop" is fantastic. http://hoodriverfruitloop.com/ You can also drive (in an hour from Hood River) up to Timberline Lodge on the side of Mount Hood, even ride the gondola up to the permanent icefields on the mountain.

Then from Hood River west along the Columbia you enter the heart of the western Gorge, with its famous waterfalls and vista points, and even an odd winery or two. (Consider staying a night at McMenamins Edgefield - https://www.mcmenamins.com/edgefield - a funky hotel/winery/brewery/distillery/spa/movie complex built out of the old county poor farm.)

A couple of other notes: I'd look at Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach, but I'd definitely include Cape Disappointment State Park on the Washington side of the (awesome) mouth of the Columbia River. Cape Disappointment has it all - lighthouses, waves on rocks, Waikiki Beach (the other one) and a terrific Lewis and Clark interpretive center. The Long Beach peninsula to the north of Ilwaco (picturesque town) fronts on beautiful Willapa Bay, a wildlife refuge and home to some historic towns like Oysterville (named for... you guessed it.)

So what if you amended your route to something like this - https://goo.gl/maps/GbFqPP6J9bn ? Or even - and this would be a tremendous change - considered doing the whole trip as a loop out of Portland, and save Seattle and Mt. Rainier for another time, possibly one that could include Olympic National Park or possibly the up-and-coming wine regions in British Columbia?

A Portland - Portland loop would be a lot cheaper (no spectacularly expensive Seattle hotels and no awful one-way rental car pricing) and it would give you more time to experience things and less time on the road. Just speculating.

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5. Re: Itinerary suggestions + Mt Rainer, to visit or not?

There is nothing else on your itinerary that holds a candle to Rainier. It's a national park. If you were only interested in wine I wouldn't try to talk you in to it but to me given your interests it's a no brainer. The Gorge is nice; the Oregon Coast is beautiful; there is nothing like Rainer. I am not quite as enamoured of the drive down 97 as igardyloo is; it's nice, but there is so much burned forest along the route now.

That is, unless the weather is poor. Having no flexibility with the day of your Rainier visit is a bit iffy, though September is usually pretty nice. You should see a lot of good red color in the meadows there. Elk are pretty frequently seen and heard in September. Check the webcams and the recreational forecast linked on the park website. Weather can be different on the different sides.

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Clemson, SC
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6. Re: Itinerary suggestions + Mt Rainer, to visit or not?

ibgardyloo and Christy1, thank you!

ibgardyloo, you have opened my eyes to the Columbia Gorge AVA. For some reason, I was under the impression that Mary Hill was the only winery in that are based on my initial glance at yakimavalleywinecountry.com. After watching the video that you posted, and researching the area I think we will shift focus to the Hood River/White salmon area. I had wanted to spend more time in the gorge than a quick drive through so that will help as well. We had planned to spend 3 nights somewhere between Yakima and Prosser but I think we will make that one night now with 2 in Hood River. Cabs and Zins are my favorites, looks like I will find good offerings there.

You are also correct that I should have broken this into two trips. We looked seriously at doing Oregon one trip and Seattle/BC (Kelowna) separately. In the end, I ended up with a steal on airfare and rental car into SeaTac and out of PDX. Somehow less expensive that PDX R/T. I guess that gives me a reason to focus solely on BC next adventure.

Christy, you are spot on about the weather. Fingers crossed for some good luck weather wise.

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7. Re: Itinerary suggestions + Mt Rainer, to visit or not?

To echo what Christy has said Rainier is a no brainer. Anyone visiting this area and not taking n a day at this gorgeous National Park will never know what they are missing. There S nothing on the East Coast that compare.

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8. Re: Itinerary suggestions + Mt Rainer, to visit or not?

I have lived in WA all my life...so know the area well. Personally, I would skip Seattle entirely. It has become a disgusting, filthy mess. They have a huge issue with homeless there...problem has increased ten fold in the last 5 years or so.

I would get a hotel near one of the wineries you are visiting or further out in the country. Avoid Seattle and Tacoma...and if traveling from those locations...ha, the traffic is a nightmare. You would spend all day just driving to Rainier....looking at the tires on a fright truck.

I completely agree with the other suggestion to change up your itinerary....hit the wine locations you have chosen and try to plan your route around those locations. She mentioned Olympic National Forest...yes! Very beautiful. We also love Longview beach, Ruby Beach and the Hoh Rain Forest along the coast. Beautiful and relaxing. As far as photographing Rainier...your best shots are in my opinion from lower elevations, but driving the loop is gorgeous (White Pass) and traffic is good.

Snoqualmie Falls is a nice stop if you are in that area. I pretty much agree with the person who suggested you change your route. She has listed the best locations. I love Oysterville...it is so quaint and beautiful. You feel like you stepped back in time. The coastline stops she mentioned are fabulous. I would just add Ruby Beach and Hoh Rain Forest. On coast drive between Forks and Port Angeles....beautiful drive as well. The moss is amazing to photograph at Hoh Rain forest! Look them up on line and see what you think.

SKIP SEATTLE....just another big, filthy pit anymore. You will spend your entire time here trying to get in or out of that mess of a city. Space Needle is way over rated.

Hope you enjoy your time in WA. Come back and share your thoughts....

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9. Re: Itinerary suggestions + Mt Rainer, to visit or not?

Don't trust 541woody's post; there's the sound of a grinding axe there. First of all, it's Olympic national PARK, not Olympic National Forest, and Longview Beach is in Indiana. The writer may mean Long Beach. Second, you don't have the time to drive to the Hoh Rain Forest, lovely as it is, or to Ruby Beach. By the way, the drive between Forks and Port Angeles, which is where I live, is anything but scenic. It has one beautiful stretch along Lake Crescent, and the entire drive is inland; nowhere near the coast! Third, even if you were unlucky enough to meet bad traffic, you would not spend "all day" on route to Mt. Rainier. And finally, yes Seattle has bad traffic during its long rush hours, and there are many homeless people there. They are unsightly, and they can disturb some people, but they are not dangerous, and their presence does not prevent thousands of visitors from enjoying Seattle's many attractions.

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10. Re: Itinerary suggestions + Mt Rainer, to visit or not?

The Hoh Rain forest is in the Olympic atonal Forest by the way. Just google photos of it and you will be drooling to photograph it! Here is the website. https:/…visiting-the-hoh.htm

There is a lodge not too far from there and Pretty much at Ruby Beach, which is so pretty and the whole area is less traveled....secluded most days. We always camp, so I can't comment on the lodge personally, other than saying we know a number of people who went there and they loved it. Here is their website...has .photo of Ruby Beach too. https:/…ruby-beach

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