Outdoor focused Pacific Northwest road trip
June 16, 2019 7:18 AM   Subscribe

We're planning a roadtrip! Roughly, Bend OR --> Columbia River Gorge --> Olympic National Park -->Squamish, BC --> Seattle. If you're familiar with that part of the world, please pick apart/augment my plans within.

Hi everyone, we're taking a trip from June 22-July 4 (13 days) through OR, WA and BC. We're a couple, both 30ish years old, and we're okay with long drives. We'll be on East Coast time, so we're also okay with getting up Very Very Early. We're mostly camping and doing outdoor focused activities and we'll be spending a fair amount of time climbing on the trip. We like food and beer.

We have already spent a fair amount of time in Portland and have visited Crater National Park, so we're going to give both of those a pass this time around.

Here's our plan:

Sat, June 22-- Fly into Portland at 11:00am, pick up our rental car and drive to Smith Rock State Park (3 hrs)

Sun thru Tues, June 23-25-- Smith State Park/Bend (for climbing, primarily, will also do some hiking and looking around Bend)

Wed, June 26- Drive to Quinault RF in Olympic National Park and camp at Graves Creek (I'm just assuming we'll be able to get a spot on a Wednesday evening, if not we'll figure something out).

I was thinking to drive via the Columbia River Gorge, it's going to be a long day so we won't have a ton of time to stop and see things but it seems like it's pretty scenic even just for a drive and would add less than an hour to our total ltime. I'm not sure if it makes sense to stay on the southern side of the river or the northern side (Hwy 84 or 18?)

I'm planning that this would take 7.5 hours without stops, realistically I'm assuming we'll be on the road for 11 hours or so if we take our time, stop for groceries, etc. Long day, but we would get an early start.

Thur, June 27-- Olympic National Park. Hike in Quinault RF (Pony Bridge), then go to Rialto beach to camp there (we have a permit). I really wanted to see the Hoh RF but I don't know if we can make it work on this trip because my understanding is that we need to time the hike on Rialto Beach to a fairly low tide, which means we need to be to Rialto Beach by 3pm at the latest.

Fri, June 28-- ONP. Hike out of Rialto Beach midday and drive to Port Angeles. I'm anticipating this may be a long drive with the Hwy 101 construction. Stay in a hotel there, do laundry, shower, etc.

Sat, June 29-- ONP. Spend the morning on Hurricane Ridge hiking Klannane Ridge, then catch the 2pm ferry from Port Townsend to Coupeville (I have a reservation). Drive to Squamish, BC. I'm anticipating with stops and the border crossing this will take around 5 hours-- is there anything we should be sure to hop out of the car and check out on the way? I'm tempted to check out Vancouver but I feel like it's probably too much.

Sun, June 30-- Squamish area (climbing and hiking)

Mon, July 1-- Squamish area (climbing and hiking)

Tues, July 2-- Squamish area (climbing and hiking)

Wed, July 3-- Drive to Seattle and spend rest of the day there, probably mostly wandering around and grabbing dinner with friends.

Thurs, July 4-- Fly out of Seattle at 2pm
posted by geegollygosh to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds great to me. You will indeed get to see Vancouver because the 99 goes right though the city, as a city street. Enjoy Howe Sound Brewery in Squamish.
posted by Dashy at 8:21 AM on June 16, 2019

I think it might be more than 3 hours from PDX to Smith Rock because of all the traffic around the mountain, which is horrendous at times. It's usually OK during the week, it's the weekends that can be bad.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:42 AM on June 16, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks Dashy. I think google maps had us going through Barnaby, but it looks like going up Hwy 99 wouldn't take too much longer. So unless there's a compelling reason not to drive through Vancouver at 5pm on a Saturday, it looks like fun to wander around a little, grab food, and maybe check out Granville market to do some restocking on fancy snacks.

Basically, I'm open to Vancouver recommendations.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:48 AM on June 16, 2019

Sisters, Oregon is a quaint 1880s western themed town with tons of biking and lakes nearby; it’s about 20 miles from Bend. I recommend spending an afternoon there for sure!
posted by girlalex at 8:51 AM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Between Coupeville and Fidalgo Island, it's worth a few minutes to stop at the Deception Pass bridge; the tidal flow beneath the bridge can be amazing.

Once you hit the mainland, you might consider heading due north to Edison to hop on Chuckanut Drive, a winding, cliff-hugging road to Bellingham. It's a lovely way to delay getting on I-5, and if you have time to walk down to the water, look for Clayton Beach or Larrabee State Park.

As an alternative to all of this: take ferries from Port Angeles to Victoria, then from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay, which is 45 minutes south of Squamish.
posted by baseballpajamas at 9:57 AM on June 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Yup, came to suggest the Victoria route too, you'll skip a lot of boring driving and border. If you do go the I5 to Vancouver route, Chuckanut and Edison are a must, as is Deception Pass en-route.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:22 AM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

A couple of notes:

make certain you know the tide tables when you are hiking on the beach, and lower your mileage expectations considerably, hiking with packs on sand against a headwind is NOT as easy at is sounds and will take more time. camping on the coast is amazing and you will wish you had planned more time, especially considering the effort to get there.

it is probably unreasonable to leave Pt Angeles, drive to hurricane ridge (on a saturday), hike, drive out AND make a 2pm ferry. having a reservation does not erase the traffic along the way. this is the weekend before the 4th and will be one of the busiest on washington roads. just expect that saturday to be a very long day.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:04 AM on June 16, 2019

You should make time to eat at Waterfront Pizza in Port Townsend.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 2:38 PM on June 16, 2019

That drive from Smith Rocks/Bend to the Olympics is going to be an epic day, so you'd best with an early start (but you'll still hit PDX during morning rush, so who knows how that will effect your drive time). I can't speak to the driving in other parts of Washington, but be aware that Seattle traffic can be epic even on a normal weekday. And as others have pointed out, this is going into the holiday weekend.

Also, I find Sisters to be too twee for my liking (former Bend resident), but YMMV. Just drive up to Mackenzie Pass and walk around the lava rocks. Marvel at the fire damage and hopefully there won't be too much smoke.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:04 PM on June 16, 2019

As for the Gorge, you're missing out on one heck of a lot if you don't spend at least a little time here. Or, make a plan to come back - and spend a week just visiting sites in the Gorge. But maybe in a few years... after the fire damage has healed some more, because some of the best locations are still closed. :(

The options are I-84 (OR) and SR 14 (WA), not 18. If time ends up mattering, I-84 is significantly faster. I-84 is a wide, two-lane each direction interstate highway. SR 14 is two lanes total, a tad on the narrow side, and honestly, it's a gorgeous drive - but BE CAREFUL if you take it. Especially during high-tourism-traffic time periods. Too many travelers do not obey the DO NOT PASS markings, or think they have plenty of time in passing areas, and I promise you, I've seen and heard of way too many wrecks, often deadly, due to just that issue. (My son was on a fire department that covered a stretch of it - just don't pass people on it, is the local's recommendation, unless there's little to no traffic.) If you end up needing to cross the river, the bridges at Biggs and The Dalles are free, while the bridges at Hood River and Cascade Locks are toll. I-205 and I-5 crossings (in the Portland area) are free.

If at all possible, stop and have lunch or dinner in Hood River, and take a half an hour and stretch your legs and wander through downtown.

For road conditions, on the Oregon side, use Tripcheck. And here is WA Travel Alerts.

You're going to be driving the Gorge during a time of year when we tend to have a lot of wildfires. These often impact driving conditions. I have two Facebook groups that I also want to recommend you check - you don't need to join the groups, posts are public, but you always could just for the duration of your trip. Both will have information more quickly than the state-provided road condition sites, simply because that's the way it is. Both cover both sides of the Gorge, they just have different focus, with occasional overlap. They are Road Conditions & Accident Reports for The Columbia River Gorge Area and Columbia Gorge Wildland & Fire Information Page. If a situation (be it accident, fire, whatever) is active, it's going to be obvious and at the top of the page.

Have a safe and fun trip!
posted by stormyteal at 10:27 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Just to note that Smith Rocks in June is beastly hot, so plan to get up REALLY early if you're doing any of the south-facing climbs. Seriously, it's climbing in front of an open oven door on that side.
posted by dbmcd at 7:54 AM on June 17, 2019

Just a SeaTac note: see if you can drop off your rental car in the U-District or as close to Downtown Seattle as you can get, so you can take the light rail to SeaTac. It's going to be a madhouse on July 3-4, guaranteed.

Other than that, have a safe trip! Really enjoying the recommendations from other fellow PNW's!
posted by theseventhstranger at 11:35 AM on June 17, 2019

I just want to note that you're going in and out of Canada on a big holiday weekend. Expect extra traffic for Canada day.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:44 PM on June 17, 2019

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