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Old 05-29-2017, 10:02 AM   #1
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Pacific Northwest Tour Advice

My wife, who is generally not interested in longer trips, raised the subject of a PNW tour while we were camping at Carlsbad last week. I've wanted to try a longer trip for a while, so this was my green light to start planning! We are a homeschooling family, so we have flexibility in when we travel. The soonest we might go is fall 2017, but sometime in 2018 is probably more realistic. I'm thinking 2-3 weeks, and we would like to go as far as lower BC.

My parents both grew up in Portland, so I have childhood memories of camping in the region, but the last of my PNW family has long since passed on, and I haven't been back for over 30 years. We love the ocean, so I am thinking of hugging the coast on the way north and taking an inland route home.

Three questions for starters:
(1) What is the best time of year to visit? We prefer to avoid peak tourist crowds and continuous rain. Moderate temperatures that allow for lots of outside time are good. I totally understand the PNW is not AZ, but if it turns into 2 weeks of miserable chilly rain, I will probably never convince my wife to do this again!
(2) Camping/destination suggestions? We are not self-contained, so bathrooms are essential (flush toilets for my wife's sake when possible). Our preference is for developed public campgrounds- county, state, national parks- but we would be open to other suggestions. We do not normally require hookups and will likely reserve most of our stays in advance.
(3) We have our passports, but are there any RV-related issues I should anticipate in Canada?
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Old 05-29-2017, 10:40 AM   #2
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We look forward to hearing more about your trip as planning progresses.

1. I think fall is an ideal time. We usually have pretty good weather through mid-october. We have two local trips planned for September.

2. There are too many camping options to list but a couple of options to consider are:
- Widbey Island, stay at Deception Pass and explore the park and Anacortes. Take a ferry to the San Juan Islands or continue to Victoria BC. Taking your trailer the the islands or Vancouver Island is pricey but worth it if you want to spend avfewcdays.
- Also Whidbey, stay at Fort Casey. Explore the fort and the lighthouse. Spend some time in historic Coupeville. Watch the ferries come and go and hop one to Port Townsend.
- Olympic Penninsula, stay at Salt Creek County Park. From there, visit Hurricane Ridge, the Ho Rain Forest and Sol Due Hot Springs in Olympic National Park. Also, take the 5 mile hike out to the New Dungeonous Lighthous. You can also take a ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria.

The list goes on including Mr Rainer, Mt Saint Helens, the North Cascades NP, the Washington and Oregon coasts.........

3. We have had no issues taking our Casita or our recently sold class A into Canada. They will ask about weapons, gifts, and fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have pets, make sure their vacines are current and bring the certificates.

Have fun
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Old 05-29-2017, 11:49 AM   #3
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In 2015 we made a short tour of the PNW ( Approx 8 weeks & 7500 miles . We visited N Dakota , Montana , Idaho , Washington ,Oregon, Northern California , Nevada , Utah , Colorado , Nebraska ,Iowa and Illinois.. Of all the states we visited Oregon would be Number 1.
Great State Parks and scenery both along the coast and in the interior. California and Washington State Parks were too expensive for our budget while Oregon's Parks were reasonably priced . Oregon evidently wants people to visit their state and we will definitely be returning in the future. We stayed a couple days at Joseph P Stewart SR near Crater Lake and it was a great place to camp plus to see the sights.
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Old 05-29-2017, 12:11 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Fish View Post
...There are too many camping options to list...
That's a fair answer! I guess what I was really looking for are personal favorites and often-overlooked treasures. I appreciate the time you took to make your list. It gives me some names to research.

Fall is what I was thinking, too. As I reflect, maybe we should reverse our route- take the quicker inland route up and the slower coastal route home. Lots to think about...

Steve, thanks for the Crater Lake camping suggestion. That's definitely on our list of places to visit.
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Old 05-29-2017, 02:23 PM   #5
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There's a Oregon NOG (not organized gathering) at our favorite - Silver Falls State Park near Salem Oregon the first week of October. Many different brands of glass trailers will be there:

https://www.casitaforum.com/invboard...gon-gathering/
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Old 05-29-2017, 03:35 PM   #6
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I'd try to stick to fall but be forewarned- it can be rainy. Generally not all day, never stopping, cold rain, but the later you go into fall the more likely that is. If you go up the coast and return east of the Cascades you'd be fine, though. Get reservations if you plan to hit anything at all popular on a weekend in September (if they take reservations- some stop September 15).

Many, many great campgrounds in Washington and Oregon. If you get to Canada you might head for Point Roberts- fun because it is in the US although you have to go to Canada and back out to get to it, and it sticks right out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca so great water views. We saw orcas from there. It's a Whatcom county park.

With kids along you might explore some of the Lewis and Clark trail. Maybe do an explorers theme and follow some of Lewis and Clark's adventure as well as some of Captain Vancouver's into Puget sound.
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Old 05-30-2017, 01:31 AM   #7
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I live on Whidbey Island, WA and think it's a great place to be.

Travel during June thru Sept should get you lots of very sunny and mild days and cool nights. Perfect weather. Be aware that it gets hot as blazes east of the Cascades during the summer. West of the Cascades it's always mild.

If you like riding bikes, stay at Fort Casey campground and ride from there - lots of gently rolling back roads with little traffic and stupendous views of Puget Sound, the Cascade Mtn's and the Olympic Mtns. I ride this area almost daily.

There is a ferry dock right beside Fort Casey campground that can take you to Port Townsend for a day trip, or take your rig on the ferry to access the Olympic Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean.

Consider traveling south along the coast as it keeps the ocean and water-side attractions easy to access - just turn right.
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Old 05-30-2017, 01:52 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
My wife, who is generally not interested in longer trips, raised the subject of a PNW tour while we were camping at Carlsbad last week. I've wanted to try a longer trip for a while, so this was my green light to start planning! We are a homeschooling family, so we have flexibility in when we travel. The soonest we might go is fall 2017, but sometime in 2018 is probably more realistic. I'm thinking 2-3 weeks, and we would like to go as far as lower BC.

My parents both grew up in Portland, so I have childhood memories of camping in the region, but the last of my PNW family has long since passed on, and I haven't been back for over 30 years. We love the ocean, so I am thinking of hugging the coast on the way north and taking an inland route home.

Three questions for starters:
(1) What is the best time of year to visit? We prefer to avoid peak tourist crowds and continuous rain. Moderate temperatures that allow for lots of outside time are good. I totally understand the PNW is not AZ, but if it turns into 2 weeks of miserable chilly rain, I will probably never convince my wife to do this again!
(2) Camping/destination suggestions? We are not self-contained, so bathrooms are essential (flush toilets for my wife's sake when possible). Our preference is for developed public campgrounds- county, state, national parks- but we would be open to other suggestions. We do not normally require hookups and will likely reserve most of our stays in advance.
(3) We have our passports, but are there any RV-related issues I should anticipate in Canada?
There will never be any way to predict that you will have perfect weather in the Pacific NW. However in Western Wa out at the Pacific Coast there is approximately one months time that over the years has statistically been the most likely to be dry. That time period is the last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August. So if you want the driest weather and the warmest then that is the time to go. Truthfully there is no real way to avoid the summer crowds and also get the best weather. Just make your reservations and get out there and enjoy the sunshine while it last

Often we do get some nice weather in September and then on through October but that did not happen in 2016, in fact it was a record breaking year for rain, rain and more rain. What you do need to look at for planning your trip is what part of the La Nina and El Nino cycle is the current weather pattern for your trip. But that alone is not the only factor in recent years. We have also had "The Blog" controlling our weather patterns. The Blog is a large area of warm water that is out in the Pacific and it has had significant impact.

So really your best bet is come spring time to take a look at the long range forecast for the summer and fall that is being discussed by the meterologist in the Pacific NW region and then see if the coming summer and fall months for the current year look like a good bet or if you should hold off for another year. You will find a lot of that information on this blog: Cliff Mass Weather Blog
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Old 05-30-2017, 06:00 AM   #9
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Thanks for the detailed answer, KC. The late July/early August window is exactly when we made our visits as a family due to school and summer camp schedules. For us now, anytime from late July to the end of September could work. I'll check out your link when we're ready to start making reservations.
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Old 05-30-2017, 09:42 AM   #10
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Hope you have a wonderful trip! I'm taking notes from your thread, for an eventual trip we will take in the PNW.
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Old 05-30-2017, 11:35 AM   #11
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Jon,

I will second that the Oregon State parks are sometimes better than those in Washington. They seem to more commonly offer things like warm water at the sinks, paper towels instead of blowers, free showers, stuff like that. But, Washington's are OK. We also rely on their showers and facilities heavily, and they are fine overall.

My first trip up the coast was from the California Bay Area to the Olympic National Park in the mid-70's. We mainly car-camped, and then backpacked up the Hoh River to Mount Olympus. On that trip, we took the coast route (slow) driving north and came back south on the interstate as the money dwindled. I liked that approach as things sometimes tend to get a bit hurried when headed home.

My oh my, where to begin? There are Redwoods and more starting around where Highway 36 hits the coast just south of Eureka Ca. Fair warning, Highway 36 is a narrow winding "goat path" from Interstate 5 to the coast, so you can likely find much better routing to get you started on the coastal stretch!

Although the Washington drive has some positives, I'd say that day-to-day the Oregon stretch of coastline highway and the very southern portion of the Washington stretch are more charming, with the highway routed much closer to the coast than further north in Washington, and with many more small and interesting towns and places of potential interest sprinkled about.

Oregon has many-many parks along the coast. Newport has the Hatfield Marine Center. I like the old airplanes in Tillamook. We loved the Maritime Museum in Astoria, but then we are admittedly museum people. There is also a Lewis and Clark Museum to the southwest of Astoria.

From south to north through Washington along Highway 101, a few places come immediately to mind. The Long Beach area can be engaging for family strolling or bike riding; there's some paved trail. (Try www.traillink.com for rail-to-trail conversions nationwide.) Cape Disappointment is a popular State Park with a historic lighthouse. Willapa Bay KOA is run by some of the nicest people on the planet and they generally have some activities that are kid-focused.

Further north, some long stretches of Highway 101 in Washington are what I refer to as the green tunnel, stands of mainly Douglas Firs and Hemlocks interspersed by logged areas. They can be rather monotonous, particularly in the rain. On the other hand, there are some gems to be found here on the Olympic Peninsula. They are just more widely dispersed than the little parks that dot the Oregon coast.

Places such as the rain forests in the west of Olympic National Park require some commitment to get to as they are located a bit off the main highway. Kalaloch is nice but is very popular and tends to be very crowded in peak season. The Makah museum in Neah Bay was significant to us. The Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles is small but I thought it quite wonderful. Port Townsend is a charming Victorian town with various attractions.

That begs everything inland, which would be a long list too. The Cascade mountains are truly spectacular. Incidentally, I may be wrong but it sounds like you are more focused on western Washington, so I haven't even mentioned things on the other side of the Cascades.

One thought that you may not see featured elsewhere but which I really enjoyed was swimming in the lakes run by the power company PacifiCorp south of Mount St. Helens. They have camps located on Merwin, Yale and Swift Reservoirs. If you consider this area, you might look up the Ape Cave too.

Two or three weeks is a briefest time to sample a very large area and it all really depends on what you and the family will enjoy. PM me and we can connect on the phone if you like. Then we could talk about what type of trip and places you have in mind and hopefully I could offer some help. Maybe if we do a good job on the planning side, you'll find that somebody there is willing to try it again.

Regards,
Mike
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Old 05-30-2017, 12:02 PM   #12
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NW trip

- Columbia River Gorge between Portland & The Dalles w. stops at many waterfalls, campgrounds, and the Discovery Museum (The Dalles).
- Port Townsend, WA for the Sept 8-10 Wooden Boat Festival ( http://nwmaritime.org/wooden-boat-festival/); camp at Ft. Worden S.P.
- Fort Stevens State Park, Ft. Clatsop NP
- Tillamook Air Museum
-North Cascades National Park
-Olympic National Park
-Crater Lake
- Oregon Coast state parks on way north - awesome scenery, things to do, best designed campgrounds in U.S.
- Central Oregon route on way south. (Lava Beds NM).
- Portland's the brewery/food city now, love our beer and food cart food
Best travel time is September after school starts - less crowded, better chance for campsites on the Oregon Coast.

Don't forget Sequoia/Kings Canyon as you head to PNW.
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Old 06-01-2017, 09:35 AM   #13
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I'll agree that September, after school starts, is probably your best bet overall to avoid summer crowds and still hope for decent weather. I grew up on Oregon and Washington and like them both--but we do think the Oregon camping prices/amenities are somewhat better. We love the Oregon coast; if you wanted possibly the best beach ever, IMHO the Bandon area has it over everything else. But you have to work hard to GET down to the beach; once there, the rocks and formations are super, and sometimes the "circle-drawing" guy is out making his patterns on the beach--which you can walk on. That would be Bandon town with Bullard's Beach State Park a couple miles north. Nice park, very large, drive right up to the restrooms, good, hot, free showers.
We love Seaside, with its multiple little shops and the cute old houses, the "turnaround" in the middle and the long walk along the beach...


Lots of good ideas here, the PNW has everything from volcanic craters to deserts, from miles-long sandy beaches to mountains--oh, circle Mount Rainier if you can take the edge-of-the-road-drop-offs visually...I hate them, myself, but it is a thrill! It took us two days once to circle the mountain...you could do it faster but if you want to stop and have a look at things then it takes longer. It's amazing. Go "all the way up" and if there are no wildfires (July, August, who knows) you can see "forever" from up there. Your ears will pop, and you may feel a little breathless in the altitude! If you hate heights, then don't go up. But the drive around is interesting, anyway.


Snoqualmie Falls, nice (fab restaurant, but pricey), Cascade Locks, The Dalles Dam Tram Tour interesting...(ask about the truck driver--what happened to HIM?) the formations of the Columbia River cliffs--sheet lava, volcanic fissures hundres of miles long pouring out layer after layer of thin lava that hardened and then eroded by the mighty Columbia...


Be sure to see Stonehenge by Goldendale, The Dalles, Dallesport...it's a WWI memorial, the names of the soldiers from Klickitat County who died are on the central stones...the view is broad and watching the trains go by is interesting from both sides of the water. The cloud formations are so visible there. The observatory at Goldendale makes a specialty of "low-light" viewing of the entire Milky Way Galaxy--the town has an ordinance to limit night lights so the view is unmarred. Call or e-mail for better observatory information.


The Maryhill State Park campground (about 125-150 inland from Portland) has some fabulous huge sites along the river, pull-thru; but even cheaper would be across the bridge at Maryhill to the Deschutes State Park, but the view there isn't as broad.


Do let us know about your planning and eventual trip! Wishing you a very good one; it's a wonderful area!


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Old 06-01-2017, 10:12 AM   #14
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I like Washington State parks better, in general. The sites I've used have been more level, easier by far to back into, and there are garbage cans located at many spots instead of just one or two. Granted, I haven't been to all or even a large number in either state, so maybe I just hit the better ones in Washington. They are more expensive, though, and the reservation system is more restrictive.
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Old 06-01-2017, 10:32 AM   #15
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One more place

Mt. St. Helens - it's a drive to the top lookout points; the visitor center has a great film of the eruption. Suggest leave FRG at camp at Seaquest State Park, 1-888 226-7688, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission | Official Website.

I was living on a houseboat the afternoon of the eruption; sudden rocking so went outside to see what huge boat was kicking up such a wave...falling ash like a heavy snowstorm, no visibility...left window open in car...oops.
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Old 06-01-2017, 12:31 PM   #16
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Hi, Bobbie, have to agree that level sites are pretty important!
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Old 06-01-2017, 01:48 PM   #17
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Following along so I don't lose this thread. What fantastic information!
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Old 06-01-2017, 02:20 PM   #18
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Following along so I don't lose this thread. What fantastic information!
I'd love to do a couple of "moving rallies" doing trips like the Cascade loop and around the Olympics. Washington is so diverse and it is hard to know all even of one's own corner of it. Put together favorite sites from a few people and meet up again at the next campsite the next night (or a couple at each, whatever was planned.)
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Old 06-01-2017, 02:36 PM   #19
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While a lot has been said about coastal Washington & Oregon, and I do enjoy the western parts of both states, don't do a complete pass on the eastern parts. Some links to some of my stops in the east -
Palouse Falls, WA
Dry Falls, WA
Steptoe Butte, WA

Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site, John Day, OR
John Day Fossil Beds, OR
Owyhee State Park, OR

It is amazing the climate change that takes place going a couple hundred miles inland.
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Old 06-01-2017, 06:39 PM   #20
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I keep wanting to give thumbs-up to posts...we have so many features and yet I miss that one.


A moving rally might be very interesting!


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