View Full Version : Advice needed for road trip to washington state

8-May-2007, 21:36
My wife and i are leaving soon for a road trip up the 5 towards seattle and down the 101 on the way back. We plan on about 10 days unless los angeles continues to burn to the ground which would give us no reason to return.
We'll be car camping for the most part; we prefer less-developed camping areas without generators and tv's.

I'm looking for less-frequented spots to FLY FISH, PHOTOGRAPH, and good places to EAT. We plan on visiting the Hoh rain forest and any national parks we come across. I'm not a big dry fly fisherman, more streamers and terrestrials and this'll be my wifes first fly fishing experience.


John Kasaian
9-May-2007, 07:59
Breakfast at the Samoa Cook House, across the harbor from Eureka.

The Dalls in Oregon would be beautiful in the Spring (well, anytime probably) so maybe that might be a photographic target of opportunity while North bound. Crater Lake, too.

Good voyage!

Brian Ellis
9-May-2007, 10:24
FWIW I was very disappointed in the Hoh Rain Forest when I went there about nine months ago. Unless I missed some part of it, it's basically a bunch of tourists walking around on sidewalks that wind their way through the forest. The sidewalks were so crowded that setting up a tripod was out of the question. I got fed up after driving for many hours to get there and left shortly after arrival so it's possible I missed some parts of it where there were fewer people and fewer sidewalks but if such places existed they weren't obvious from the maps or anything I saw. I actually thought the drive on the road that leads into Hoh was more interesting than the rainforest itself. If it isn't out of your way you might want to give it a try but I wouldn't recomend doing as I did and wasting almost a full day getting there.

Matthew Runkel
9-May-2007, 11:38
The paved trails at the Hoh are only right around the Visitors' Center, as I recall--an "interpretive trail" and the very beginning of the Hoh Valley trail are paved, but after no more than half a mile the paving ends and the crowds thin out greatly. As Brian's report shows, you need to get past the area right around the Visitor Center in order to experience the Hoh that people talk about. However, there are quite a few lesser-know rainforest hikes on par with the Hoh, including the Bogachiel and North Fork Quinault rivers. It would be worth buying the Mountaineers' (hiking club) guide 101 Hikes in Washington's South Cascades and Olympics by Spring and Manning. Rialto Beach near Forks is a popular photo location, and Mora Campground on the road to that beach would be a good base of operations for the rainforests and beaches generally. It is popular but, I think, fairly rustic for a car campground.

An interesting route on the way up would be to leave I-5 (calling it "the 5" up here marks you as a Californian) at Kelso/Longview and take Highway 4 over to 101. This will be a picturesque route with less traffic than most alternatives, and the stretch of 101 along Willapa Bay is exceptionally scenic.

It will be worth checking with an appropriate ranger station before committing to a particular hike you may read about. Winter storms damaged a number of trails and access roads, and Mount Rainier N.P. has only just reopened as a result. Also, I would expect that most of the notable view hikes in the Cascades are still snowed in right now.

The Dalles is a significant detour from I-5, several hours of freeway driving east from Portland on I-84. However, the most picturesque areas of the Columbia River Gorge are significantly closer to Portland along I-84.

A great hike off of 101 in Oregon is Cascade Head, a Nature Conservancy site north of Lincoln City. A fairly easy hike takes you to a grassy headland with a tremendous view down the coast.

Glenn Thoreson
9-May-2007, 11:57
If steam locomotives interest you, there is a great opportunity to photograph one in action, up around Portland through the Tacoma area.
Go to: http://www.uprr.com/aboutup/excurs/schedule.shtml for the schedule. I'm going to catch it on it's return trip to Cheyenne. It comes right by the house.

Kerry L. Thalmann
9-May-2007, 13:43
Wow, I have to say my experiences at the Hoh Rain Forest are the exact opposite of Brian's. It probably has a lot to do with the timing. 9 months ago would have been August - the absolute worst time to go. Not only are you there at the height of the summer tourist season, but it is also the driest month of the year. The rain forest is at it's best when it is wet and lush (and uncrowded). I've always found the month of May to be the best time to visit and photograph the Olympic rain forests. Early June should be nice, too.

There is a campground right by the visitor center. It's not in the rain forest, it's more out in the open along a bend in the river. It's a nice place to camp and you can walk over and photograph along the Hall of Mosses Trail in the morning before the tourists show up. When I've done that, I've practically had the place to myself for the first few hours in the morning. And if it does get crowded later in the day, as Matthew mentioned, if you get more than 1/2 mile from the visitor you will leave > 95% of the people behind. You can hike up the Hoh River trail as far as you like and turn around and head back to the trailhead. The first 9 miles are very level and easy hiking. The trail actually goes all the way to the Blue Glacier on Mt. Olympus, and I've hiked all the way from low elevation rain forest to glacier in a day. However, that's more of a backpacking trip and the higher elevations will likely still be buried in snow in early June.

There are some nice short trails in the Lake Quinault area, and the Queets is probably the least visited of the Olympic rain forests. On the way up the coast, Ruby Beach is a short easy stroll. Further north, Rialto Beach and Hole In the Wall are also nice.

On the way up, if you have a chance, I recommend a visit to the Columbia River Gorge - at least as far as Multnomah Falls. If you have a little more time and like to hike, the Eagle Creek Trail as far as Punch Bowl Falls is a classic (exit 41 off I-84). It's a short (2.2 mile each way) hike up a spectacular canyon with beautiful waterfalls. Early June is a great time for this hike. I'd avoid the weekends though. It's an insanely popular hike (very scenic and very easy compared to many other Gorge trails) and the trailhead parking is limited. Be sure and get a Trail Park Pass (or whatever they're calling it this year) for parking at the trailhead. You can buy a one day pass at the Multnomah Falls gift shop.

Normally, I'd recommend a side trip off I-5 up Hwy. 504 to see Mt. St. Helens up close from the Coldwater Ridge and Johnston Ridge visitor centers. However, there was a lot of flood damage last November and the road is currently closed at mile post 45. I'm not sure when it will re-open. Best to check the Mt. St. Helens National Monument web site (http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/mshnvm/) and call head for current road conditions.

The roads and trails at Mt. Rainier were also badly damaged by the November floods. However, they already have the road from the Nisqually entrance to Paradise open. So, it would be worth a quick visit while you're in the area. Again, check the official Mt. Rainier National Park web site (http://www.nps.gov/mora/) for current road and trail conditions before heading over.

Further south, the entire Oregon Coast is spectacular. Cannon Beach and Bandon are my two favorite areas to visit and photograph. Cannon Beach can get a bit crowded on summer weekends due to it's proximity to Portland. If you're there midweek, it shouldn't be bad in early June. Be sure to drive the Three Capes Scenic Route that heads west from Tillamook (101 goes inland for a stretch between Tillamook and Lincoln City).

Lots of great Oregon State Parks along the coast. Other than possibly the weekends, they shouldn't be too crowded in early June. I suggest you visit the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department web site (http://www.oregon.gov/OPRD/PARKS/) for more info. You can even reserve your camp sites if you know where you'll be on a give night. We like camping at the state parks a LOT better than the private campgrounds along the coast. The private campgrounds usually have more amenities (like cable TV and high speed internet), but the state parks have bigger sites with more privacy and are generally in more scenic areas. If you want to splurge, you might even be able to spend the night in a yurt or cabin at one of the state parks (although these usually book up well in advance). If you're interested, ask if there have been any cancellations when you check in. Of course, if you have a big RV, you won't be interested in a yurt, but they make a nice alternative to tent camping and only costs about $10/night more than a tent site. Again, more info on the OPRD web site.

It's not a state park, but there is a forest service campground at Cape Perpetua, along with a nice visitor center and some good short hikes. Further south, I recommend a detour off 101 at Coos Bay to visit Sunset Bay, Cape Arago and Shore Acres State Parks. This is a group of three unique state parks. Since they are off 101 and along a dead end road, they don't get as much traffic. Sunset Bay has a campground and yurts.

I could give you more, but you won't have time to see and do everything in this one trip. So, best to focus on the highlights.


Kerry L. Thalmann
9-May-2007, 13:59
There is a nice map of the Hoh Rain Forest area at:


It shows the trails, the campground, visitor center, etc.


Robert Ruderman
9-May-2007, 14:03
One place a lot of folks miss for terrific landscape/mountain photography is a visit to Artist Point at the Mount Baker Ski Area. The vistas of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan are tremendous. Drive I-5 to the SR542, towards Mount Baker (just north of Bellingham). Stay on SR542 to the bitter end; it is well worth the drive (but only if the skies are clear).

At the end of the road is a parking lot (you'll need to get a parking permit - available near the end of the road).

Walk as much or as little as you like. Even at the peak time of year, the scenery is unparalleled and the crowds are not much of an issue. The road is subject to snow closures, so check before going.

Kerry L. Thalmann
9-May-2007, 14:22
One place a lot of folks miss for terrific landscape/mountain photography is a visit to Artist Point at the Mount Baker Ski Area. The vistas of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan are tremendous. Drive I-5 to the SR542, towards Mount Baker (just north of Bellingham). Stay on SR542 to the bitter end; it is well worth the drive (but only if the skies are clear).

At the end of the road is a parking lot (you'll need to get a parking permit - available near the end of the road).

Walk as much or as little as you like. Even at the peak time of year, the scenery is unparalleled and the crowds are not much of an issue. The road is subject to snow closures, so check before going.

Definitely a classic view from Artist Point. However, in early June, the last couple miles of road will probably still be buried under snow. If you have boots (or better yet, snow shoes) and don't mind trudging uphill about 1000 ft. over packed snow, it's worth the effort. Even if you can't make it to Artist Point, the view of Mt. Shuksan reflecting in Picture Lake is a nice consolation prize.

The Mt. Baker web site (http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/recreation/special/byways/mtbaker_byway.shtml) says the road is currently open to Heather Meadows, but give no indication when the last couple miles to the Artist Point parking lot will be open. Definitely call for current conditions before heading up.


Matthew Runkel
9-May-2007, 15:10
Great suggestions from Kerry. I didn't mention the Queets because there is a significant stream crossing (the Queets River) right at the beginning. I also just noticed on the trail conditions page that the access road is washed out six miles before the trailhead. Definitely check Olympic N.P trail conditions on this page: http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/wilderness-trail-conditions.htm There are a number of washout reports and a number of trails with many down trees (e.g., Bogachiel, 20 in the first 6 miles).

On the way up, Silver Falls State Park, a short detour from I-5 near Salem, Oregon, has a number of lovely, accessible (and much photographed) waterfalls. http://www.oregon.com/hiking/silver_falls.cfm

Brian Ellis
9-May-2007, 15:23
" . . . but after no more than half a mile the paving ends and the crowds thin out greatly."

Oh hell, I was afraid that was the case. I should have kept going but on the map I got at the visitor's center I don't remember seeing anything that indicated there was anything more than paved sidewalks.

Kerry L. Thalmann
9-May-2007, 15:32
I should have kept going but on the map I got at the visitor's center I don't remember seeing anything that indicated there was anything more than paved sidewalks.


If you head up that way again, the Hoh River trail (all 18 miles of it) starts right between the Hall of Mosses and Spruce Nature Trails. And, even those shorter, paved trails will be much less crowded (deserted even, on occasion) if you're there midweek in May early in the morning. As the area isn't close to any major town, it doesn't generally start to get crowded until late morning. The only folks around before that are the campers - and last time I was there in mid-May, the campground was only about half full. Seems like most people like to visit the nice lush rain forest, but they don't like to camp in the rain. The last time I camped there in May, it rained every afternoon, but the mornings were great for photography. Solid high overcast and no wind for a couple hours every morning.


Matthew Runkel
9-May-2007, 15:35

You're just close enough, perhaps, to take advantage of windows of nice weather that occasionally present themselves during the off season. I was up there the first weekend in November a few years ago. It was clear with high temperatures in the upper 50s. I literally had the whole valley to myself--the driver of the only other car in the lot was hiking out just as I arrived. Matt

9-May-2007, 16:58
Breakfast at the Samoa Cook House, across the harbor from Eureka.

We eat there (breakfast) whenever my sister and BIL come to visit us. Food is so-so, but lots of it (all you can eat). My kids love it. Lots of great old logging-related photos on the walls.

Stop by the Arcata Artisans Cooperative Art Gallery on the Arcata ("Where the Sixties Meet the Sea") Plaza and look at my photos....always several up...also at the Meridian Fine Art Gallery around the corner.


Colin Graham
9-May-2007, 17:22
Rialto Beach is not far off the 101 corridor outside Forks, and there's Ruby Beach and Kalaloch which are very close to the Hoh Rainforest. A little farther off 101 and north up 112 near Neah Bay is Cape Flattery and the north end of the shipwreck coast trails, Shi-Shi and Point of the Arches- this is flat out spectacular. Closer to Port Angeles is Hurricane Ridge with some pretty grand alpine trails and panoramas and also the Elwha and Sol Duc Valleys, which also have hundreds of miles of great Olympic NP trails, with Lake Crescent in between them. Lots to choose from if you get to the north end of the Olympic Peninsula.

9-May-2007, 18:18
Thanks for the tips so far. We like the small town stuff and out of the way sites that take some hiking. We're heading out monday morning. Today was my last day of work until july. I've worked nearly 1,000 hours so far this year so i've never been so anxious to get outdoors. I've got a fresh box of 8x10 efke 25, classic pan 400, and a not so fresh box of 8x10 velvia, plenty of flies, and my wife ready to go.

Paul Metcalf
10-May-2007, 10:05
Well, I guess I'll throw in the fishing advice. The Yakima River in the Yakima Canyon is probably one of Wash States best fly fising, and being spring, you'll probably be relagated to nymph/streamer fishing anyhow (due to water levels). You can google Yakima River, look for Red's link as they usual post water levels. They also provide guided float trips, might be a good idea with being the wife-unit's first time 10-2ing. You'll be passing lots of great river fishing coming through Oregon, too. Deschutes, Metolius, Crooked, Wallowa (northeast Oregon). I'm not much of steelhead fisherman, so not sure if there are late spring/early summer runs. In any case, check regulations, we tend to have a fair number of those and it gets quite expensive not too heed them.

John Schneider
10-May-2007, 16:28
This is a bit out of your way, but the John Day SP in eastern Oregon is fabulous, especially of you shoot color. Sculpted rolling hills of blue, yellow, and red volcanic ash. As I recall, the rivers to the south of the park were stocked with fly fisherman the last time I drove that way.

If you like beer, the Rogue River Public House in Newport is not to be missed.

Eric James
10-May-2007, 16:52
You won't be pulling keeper trout out of the Ho, but the further you walk the trail the finer the views - all the way to the summit of Mt. Olympus. I feel bad for Brian - my first trip was less than enjoyable (also in August) because of the bugs and slugs. Years back, Backpacker Magazine listed the Ho Rainforest Trail as one of the finest in the US - up their with Yosemite's Mist Trail.

There might be good fishing in the alpine lakes above Sol Duc Hot Springs - the rangers would know. From there you can drop down to the Ho and join it at the ~6 mile point (from the visitor center's paved trail).

Alan Davenport
11-May-2007, 08:51
If you're going all the way to the Olympics, 10 days may not be enough to do justice to the coast highway trip, much less anything else along the way.

In Oregon, see Oceanside -- 9 miles west of Tillamook. (No, Virginia, Tillamook is NOT on the beach...) At Oceanside you'll find Tunnel Beach, an amazing narrow strip of boulder-strewn beach with sheer cliffs along its entire length. Tunnel Beach is only accessible via s pedestrian tunnel through a basalt headland; the local residents dynamited the tunnel in the 1920's. Oregon State Parks keeps putting up signs telling people not to enter the tunnel, and everyone does anyway, at least at low tide.

Also at Oceanside -- you said you want good food -- is Roseanna's Oceanside Cafe. Unimposing in appearance (the cafe, that is,) the food will clear any doubts. You'll probably have to wait for a table; when you get one try the bacon-wrapped scallops appetizer.

Down at the south end of the Oregon coast, the beach at Bandon is a photographer's paradise. About a million sea stacks (OK, I exagerate but you get the idea) and many of them are on the beach at really low tides. There is at least one cave that is accessible during low water also.

Lots and lots of great stuff all along the way. Take lotsa film.

Paul Metcalf
11-May-2007, 13:52
You won't be pulling keeper trout out of the Ho...

I completey forgot about the Ho. Great fishing (at least it was the last time I fished it, probably 10 years ago), but Eric's correct, not big fish. But lot's of them, and I recall an evening hatch that was very fun. Might be a bit early for alpine lake fishing, though (ice fishing maybe:D )

Turner Reich
12-May-2007, 12:45
The fires out, stay home and save gas.