Traveling the Northwest in fall - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-20-2019, 12:04 PM   #1
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Traveling the Northwest in fall

I need some advice. A friend and I will be roughly following the Lewis and Clark trail, planning to leave mid-Sept for 3 weeks. This will be only my second long trip. The first trip I had sites booked months in advance each night I was on the road.

I will be mostly in commercial campgrounds. Do I need to book each night months in advance or can we be spontaneous this time of year and just book the night before as the trip evolves? Summer vacation would be over so I'm hoping for lighter traffic. Am I dreaming?
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Old 01-20-2019, 01:06 PM   #2
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Book ahead?

We usually travel after school starts back but it also depends on where we are headed. We also rarely make reservations. Have said that, I will say that there are a lot more people on the road with their new camper these days. We are always open to different campsite options. We like state and national park, free campsites, town campgrounds. Not a big fan of Walmart, rest areas and Cracker Barrel but they will work if no other option when traveling. I guess my suggestion is to be flexible. Also keep in mind that the Northwest could be affected by forest fires in September.
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Old 01-20-2019, 01:20 PM   #3
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Thank you!
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Old 01-20-2019, 01:44 PM   #4
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Wow! You have the opportunity for a wonderful trip. The best time to visit the Pacific Northwest would be a few weeks earlier. The last 2 weeks of August, and the first 2 weeks of September are USUALLY the best weather. Rain, overcast, and fires and smoke are always a possibility. Your 3 week timetable is a little tight too. There is so much to see here so you probably will want to come back!


One of our favorite camping destinations is Cape Disappointment State Park which has a fantastic Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center nearby. I suggest you make a reservation here. The best spots get booked way ahead, but you can usually find a spot where someone has cancelled. Just a little way south in Oregon is Fort Clatsop where Lewis and Clark choose to spend the winter after they reached the Pacific. It also has a wonderful history of Lewis and Clark. Hope this helps.
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Old 01-20-2019, 01:58 PM   #5
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We have made 2 trips to the PNW and only one time did not having reservations become a problem ( On a weekend ). Three weeks is a rather short time . I know for us 3 months would not be enough time to see all the glory / beauty that is Oregon .
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Old 01-20-2019, 02:06 PM   #6
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ooooh, maybe you can squeeze us in!

2019, Oct. 3-6: Fall NOG - 2019 Northern Oregon Gathering
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Old 01-21-2019, 12:51 AM   #7
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I would actually say later in September is the best time to travel these parts. I love the fall in the PNW. I would also do what I could to stay away from commercial campgrounds and favour the state and national parks. Especially in Oregon, they take a lot of well deserved pride in them.

Cape Disappointment is lovely but I couldn't be at the mouth of the Columbia River and not spend a few nights at Fort Stevens.
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Old 01-21-2019, 08:25 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by elvisglazier View Post
I would actually say later in September is the best time to travel these parts. I love the fall in the PNW. I would also do what I could to stay away from commercial campgrounds and favour the state and national parks. Especially in Oregon, they take a lot of well deserved pride in them.

Cape Disappointment is lovely but I couldn't be at the mouth of the Columbia River and not spend a few nights at Fort Stevens.

Huge thumbs up to the OR State Parks! Love 'em. Spending over a month at them early this spring and did so last fall as well.


If you're at Fort Stevens, there's a really good rubber stamping & scrapbooking store in Astoria, Young at Heart, 1254 Commercial St (503-741-3500). She got wads of my money last fall.
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Old 01-21-2019, 10:49 AM   #9
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I know of no Cracker Barrels out here.

For Cape Disappointment, you probably should spring for a reservation...sigh. Just a fact of life nowdays. Ft Stevens, across the Columbia, has more spaces but also can fill up on a sunny fall day. I got one of the last spaces available in October!

Years ago, I traveled through Northern Idaho. It seemed like Lewis and Clark were very busy along that stretch. There were interpretive signs all along it. I'm thinking you may be able to boondock or at least stay at primitive, cheap campgrounds if they are still open. I had no trailer and was moving half way across the country so only spent one night in Orofino at a motel. I did stop at the Lewis and Clark Were Here signs when I felt like it. I like history. There is a show produced in Idaho Outdoor Idaho (Idaho Public Television) that you might find and they had a segment about the trail that goes through the woods on Forest Service roads.

Along the Columbia, you might get a space during the week at the Maryhill area state park, but there is another one across in Oregon at the mouth of the Deschutes River. I've been meaning to stay there sometime. Oregon State Parks seem nicer to me than Warshington parks. Maybe it is because they don't charge for showers? There is a nice city park with a few spaces and hookups at Cascade Locks. That's right on The River. Be advised that there are busy railroad tracks on both sides of the river and the campsites at Cascade Locks are close enough to wake you with the shaking of the ground.


Beacon Rock is on the Warshington side in the gorge. I've only camped in the group area there. It is more on the wet side of the Cascades, as is Cascade Locks.


The closer you are to Portland, the busier the campgrounds get. My "sekrit" place, and I'll tell about it since I now live farther away, is on the Warshington side of the river, between Longview and the Astoria bridge. It is a county park in Skamokawa, WA. No railroad, and you are very near the shipping channel where you can see the big ships going up and down the river. It is usually foggy and damp in the morning, but may burn off if not raining. I'm not sure if Lewis and Clark stopped there, but they probably floated by it twice. They have sites with varying degrees of hookups, showers, a nice sandy beach, etc. There is a tiny store nearby--very tiny. I bet you could get a place there during the week without a reservation. Vista Park Camping


Skamokawa, is hard to spell and is pronounced Scam awk away. I think..., 'cept you run it all together.
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Old 01-21-2019, 11:39 AM   #10
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Oh yeah, I forgot. I stayed at Hells Gate State Park in August for a few days. It was hot but is a nicely kept Idaho State Park on the Snake River on the outskirts of Lewiston. You can restock your provisions there. Costco is across the Snake in Clarkston, WA. Note the names Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Warshington. Seriously, I will be returning there with bicycle and swimming attire. There is a paved bike trail for going into Lewiston. I'm thinking it is about 5 miles. I had no reservations and snagged a site for three nights, including a Friday night. The campground was filled up when I left on Saturday morning. It was less smoky there than at home. One night I did wake up feeling suffocated. Apparently the paper mill smell had settled in good. I also saw a skunk wandering around in the morning. There is a little visitor's center with info on Lewis and Clark and local tribal history in the park. I give this park two thumbs up, despite the paper mill smell. Hope you have your bikes along. Ft Stevens, previously mentioned, also has mass quantities of bike trails.
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Old 01-21-2019, 01:20 PM   #11
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Lewis & Clarke Trail Trip

You have great suggestions from others...reservations at Ft Stevens St Park and especially at Cape Disappointment are suggested Be sure to save time to visit the Columbia River Museum in Astoria and dine at one of the restaurants on the river walkway for halibut or salmon.

Visit Fort Clatsop daytime visits only, no camping....it's near Ft. Stevens.
Also the Discovery Museum of the Gorge just west of The Dalles, OR is definitely worth the stop. https://www.gorgediscovery.org/,

There are a several small campgrounds in the Columbia River Gorge, but some may still be closed (Ainsworth St Pk) due to the fire damage. Best to check before you leave...these are usually on a first come basis. Columbia River Gorge Camping - Historic Columbia River Highway

Enjoy your trip.
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Old 01-21-2019, 02:33 PM   #12
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I think if you want to follow the most challenging section of the Lewis and Clark journey, you should visit Idaho. There are many FS campgrounds along Rt. 12 in the Lochsa country. You could park your 5th wheel and drive a section of the Lolo Motorway. This would give you a good idea of the hardships that the Corp of Discovery faced and how close they came to perishing. Bring a guide book. Live the history in an area that is little changed over time.



However, late September in the Bitterroots is risky. You could get stuck up there.


I think late June and early July are prime time for the mountains. If there's going to be widespread smoke, it'll be August and September. Check inciweb when the time comes.


Whatever you do, Have Fun!


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Old 01-21-2019, 04:42 PM   #13
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Great info

Slopat, that was outstanding info. You even gave up your “sekrit place” !
Thanks
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Old 01-21-2019, 07:30 PM   #14
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Fires are indeed a wide spread problem in the Pacific NW in the late summer and in the fall in recent years. It ruined the travel plans of many campers.

Spring might be a better option but of course there is more rain. The trip would need to start after May 1st as many parks and camps are closed for the season before that calendar date.

There will be no win/win sweet spot with perfect conditions, chance of fire resulting in very poor breathing conditions or chance of rain. Part of the decision depends on your health but if you have respiratory problems do not go in the fall.
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