Advice? Ask A Local!
Planning a visit to Washington but need a little help planning the best route and things to do? Never fear, our staff of local experts (like Marcus pictured here in his 1962 Nash Metropolitan) have traveled nearly every back road in the state can either help you from personal experience of point you in the direction of someone who can.
Q: We are looking into visiting Washington in November, spending about a week before catching a train to LA. We are interested in touring a bit of Seattle for a couple days, and off to Olympic NP (forest & seashore), any ideas to help us with our itinerary, which route to take (we will be driving), where to stay and what to see during our short adventure. Here is what we have.
Tentative Itinerary 1 – We would like to spend a couple of days in Seattle (11/5 – 11/8). What to see and do? Safe hotels to stay? Leave for trip around peninsula (11/8 – 11/13)… We are wanting to see forest & beaches, thinking that the mountains would be too snowy and difficult at that time, what do you think? (but we really don’t know that…coming from Hawai’I and never been in or touched snow…experience only through magazines and television). Maybe staying in 2-3 lodges around the peninsula. What to see and do? Returning to Seattle sometime on the Wednesday, 13th…We would need a hotel close to both the rail and King train station. We would like to check in, return the car to airport, catch rail back to hotel, and leave the next morning on the Amtrak Coast Starlight to LA. Don’t know if we need to catch shuttle or cab or walk to train station. This will be our first experience on rail and train…should be quite interesting. Do we need some type of chain on the tires?
Tentative Itinerary 2 – We get in late on 11/5, start our adventure around the peninsula and end up back in Seattle on the 11/10. Spend a couple days in Seattle and leave on morning of 11/14 with the train. My fiance suggested itinerary 2…..I suggested itinerary 1, because I thought the hotel would be more expensive and places more crowded due to the Veteran’s Day holiday when we get back to Seattle. Anyway, like I said anything is of great appreciation! Mahalo!
Tammy, Lihu'e, HI
A: I think doing the Peninsula at the beginning makes sense and as long as you book your Seattle hotel in advance, doubt there will be much of a Veterans Day bump but not 100% sure about that.
From Seattle, to Victorian Port Townsend Take the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry (about 20 miles north of Seattle) and follow WA-104 to cross the Hood Canal Bridge and connect with US-101 on the Olympic Peninsula. Stop at the little cafe/bakery in Port Gamble just before you cross the bridge. A pretty cute and historic “Company” town from a bygone era of the timber barons.
From US-101, take the WA-20 cutoff to Port Townsend. Port Townsend is a seaport village from the 1890s; the entire downtown district is on the National Historic Register. I like the Swan or Bishop hotels there, but there are plenty of options and several good restaurants. I like the Alchemy Bistro and Wine Bar but there are a lot of good choices so ask around. If you’re into history, there is a pre-WWI fort called Fort Worden that is worth a visit; it was part of the “Triangle of Fire” built to protect Puget Sound from foreign invasion. Guns were never fired except for drills but still a great history.
Spend the first night there.
From Port Townsend, get back out on US-101 and go north to Port Angeles; take the drive up to Hurricane Ridge for a great view of Mount Olympus and you might even get to touch some snow! From Port Angeles, continue west on US-101 and if you’re into a pretty easy hike, stop at Storm King Ranger Station and take the hike to Marymere Falls; it takes a little over an hour round trip through some thick forest and is quite a nice and pretty easy walk until you get to the falls; even then if you want to stand at the base, it’s easy; if you decide to scramble up the trail to the top; a little harder.
From Marymere, continue west and take WA-113 north then west again on WA-112. This will take you to the most northwestern point of the lower 48 states at Cape Flattery; again a pretty easy hike to a beautiful point where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the Pacific Ocean.
From here, you’ll need to backtrack and go south on US-101 to Forks. Find someplace to stay there; it will have already been a long day. I have stayed in a beach cabin at Oceanside Resort on the Quileute Tribal land at LaPush. If you get one of the new cabins, you’re literally sitting right on the beach; I loved it there. Otherwise, there are a lot of less expensive but clean options in Forks. There are some beautiful beach trails near LaPush… ask about First and Second Beach hikes. Sea stack rocks and lots of wildlife… beautiful regardless of the weather.
From Forks, drive a bit south to the entrance to the Hoh Rainforest; this is so thick with moss and oxygen that it literally takes your breath away. A very much must do. There are some very short loop trails from the ranger station that will get you some great photo ops. Bring a rain slicker… this time of year it could be wet… by hey… you’re in a rainforest, right?
From Hoh, get back to US-101 and go south along the coastline, the road will turn away from the ocean for a few miles and I always like to cut across the Mockups Highway to get back to the waterfront on WA-109. There is a cute little seaside village right out of Sunset Magazine called Seabeck that you might want to check out if you’re getting tired; if not, find a place to stay on the ocean in Ocean Shores… kind of a throwback to the old ocean front communities of the 60s. Lots of funky places to visit like “Sharky’s”
From Ocean Shores, you can go into Aberdeen and take US-12 east and follow the signs to Olympia, our state’s capital city. It’s got a great downtown and lots of good energy. If you guys are into locally brewed beer, go to Fish Tale Ale House. Good food and home crafted beer. I usually stay at the Governor House halfway between the Capital Campus (which is kind of a neat stroll) and the historic downtown district. Not fancy but clean and convenient.
From Olympia, it’s about a two hour drive up I-5 back to Seattle. If you or your fiancee are into vintage cars, a must see is the LeMay: America’s car museum in Tacoma. This guy LeMay bought one of every single car ever made in America; added a few foreign jobs and has a selection of them on display at the museum. The rest of his collection is at a place called Marymount but may be overkill unless you’re totally into it.
There are a couple hotels right near Safeco and Century Link fields (where the Mariners and Seahawks play) that are very close to King Street Station. Silver Cloud is literally across the street from Safeco but look at anything in or near Pioneer Square. It will probably require a cab or Uber ride depending on how light you pack; but a quick commute to the station.
In Seattle, you’ll want to go to Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, ride the monorail to the Seattle Center, ride to the top of the Space Needle and visit the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly Experience Music Project). It is great. Some local and quickly neighborhoods include Broadway on Capitol Hill; Fremont and Ballard on the north end of town. You can google those neighborhoods… Fremont is one of my favorites but Ballard is growing on me.
That’s all I’ve got for now… probably a lot more than you wanted, yes? Let me know if you have any follow up questions and be sure to let us know how it goes.
I hope you have a great visit and enjoy our great state as much as I have enjoyed yours!
Q. Hi! I have a question about visiting along the U.S./Canadian border. What other locations/or points of are of interest along the international border? I am already planning on visiting the International Peace Arch in Blaine and the international peace park in Glacier National Park, MT.
A. While in Blaine, you might want to go over the Resort Semiahmoo for lunch or a drink on the patio; a really nice and relaxing spot. At the crossing near Osoyoos onto US-97, a fun road trip would be to take the road from Oroville to visit the old ghost town of Molson; continue west to Chesaw and Washington’s smallest state park, the grave site of Ranald McDonald (a really fascinating story there) then the Curlew where you can cross back into Canada on WA-21 if you want, or go south to Republic, an old gold mining town with a lot of charm and history. There is a cool fossil dig site there to check out and a dandy brewpub if you’re into that sort of thing.
If you choose this route (which I would recommend), continue east on WA-20 over Sherman Pass through Kettle Falls (an interpretive center at the entrance to town is a good way to get a sense of the place) and Colville. An easy hike through the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Area is recommended to stretch your legs then continue until WA-20 intersects with WA-31 north where you can cross back into Canada. Right near the border crossing, go see the Gardner Cave nd the tour of Boundary Dam Hydroelectric Facility
There is a nice loop tour called the International Selkirk Loop hat you might consider for a “two nation vacation” that includes that stretch then crosses back into the US in Idaho.
That’s all I’ve got to offer for the Washington portion of your journey.
I am in the midst of planning a trip to you for the fall of 2018. I would like some advice on length of stay at certain points. I am looking at 3 days in Seattle; 2-3 days on the Cascade Loop; 4 days in the Olympia Peninsula; 1 day on the Columbia River Gorge; 1 day at Mt. St Helen's; 1 day at Mt. Ranier; 1 day back at Seattle airport & then return home to MI.
Does this make sense or do you have other suggestions?
A. Yes…. your plan is feasible in terms of timeline but I might make a couple of recommendations. The trip up to Mount St. Helens’ Johnston Ridge Observatory is one way in and one way out; about a full day of driving including stops at the visitor center and observatory at the top. This is a great trip and hanging out in downtown Longview has a lot of benefits. However, if time is an issue, one way to maximize it would be to connect Rainier, St. Helens and the Gorge on a big loop of sorts.If you have a Washington State map, you can trace this plan.
From Seattle, head south to Tacoma and catch WA-7 south to Elbe where it intersects with WA-706. Go east on WA-706 to Paradise (the absolute “must” place to stand at the base of Mount Rainier); then follow the road south that takes you past Reflection Lake to Ohanepecosh State Park. (Be sure to stop when you see the signs and take the short hike to see the Grove of the Patriarchs—a stand of massive old growth forest). From Ohanepecosh, go south on WA-103 to US-12 then go west toward Packwood. This might be a good place to spend the night. From Packwood, continue west to Randle and take WA-131 south toward the Windy Ridge Observatory. This is a really excellent view of Mount St. Helens, Spirit Lake and a standing dead forest.
From here, continue south on a forest service road (paved, good condition) and follow the signs to Trout Lake, White Salmon and Bingen. Bingen is on the banks of the Columbia so you can turn east or west on WA-14. I’d turn east as far as Maryhill Museum and a replica of Stonehenge and a visit to Maryhill Winery; swing into Columbia Hills State Park to see a bunch of native petroglyphs that were rescued from inundation by the John Day Dam—some can be seen from the parking lot but others require a reservation and guided tour with a park ranger. From there, backtrack to Stevenson to spend the night… check out the Skamania Lodge for lodging.
There is a great Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center in Stevenson to visit; a recommended stop. If you take the guided tour, one of the petroglyphs you’ll see at Columbia Hills is the basis for their logo (She Who Watches). I think the hike to the top of Beacon Rock is worth the time (a little over an hour). The trail is a series of switchbacks to the very top; not extremely difficult but it is not super easy either depending on what kind of shape you’re in; the view of the river from the top is stunning.
From there, continue west to Vancouver( Fort Vancouver is a pretty neat Hudson’s Bay fur trading post with reenactors who are “stuck in time” and can explain the workings of the fort back in its heyday.) From Vancouver, you can gead north on I-5 back to Seattle or better yet, follow the Lewis & Clark trail through Longview and on to the Pacific Coast at Long Beach to begin your exploration up the Olympic Peninsula.
I’m pretty jealous… your itinerary includes a lot of my favorite road trips. Let me know how it goes and if you have any specific questions about any of the other legs, don’t hesitate to ask.
Thanks for the inquiry,