Roadtrip - Denver Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Seattle?
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Nov 20, 2012 6:15 AM Last Post By: CascadeBob
Nov 18, 2012 8:52 AM
My husband and I are looking to go to undertake a road trip Aug/September 2013, covering Aug 26th and have 14 to 21 days to spend. Previous trips have been San Francisco to Las Vegas, via Yosemite, Death Valley Grand Canyon, Mesa Verse, Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion NP's. Last year was Vancouver round trip including Vancouver Island, Wells Gray, Jasper, Banff and Kelowna.
this time we want to see Grand Teton and Yellowstone with Rockie Mountain, Glacier, Olympic, Mount Rainier, North Cascades potentially but realise sacrifices may be required. We would look to fly in and out of Denver and/or Seattle (BA direct flights).
- Primary activity is hiking, quite happy doing 8-10hour hike but not overnight.
- Geology (ie, visited Walcott quarry Fossil beds)
- Aviation museums
- Nice relaxed hotels and b&b's with good breakfast
- good local tasty food with local beer / wine (gastropub)
- We don't like very crowded tourist places
- Chain restaurants
- Very fancy restaurants on holiday to relax
Budget is flexible, although happy to stay at a nice B&B will to pay up to $250 per night if need be, with some of the best places I've stayed were $110 B&B's.
After last years trip realise hiking in some places will be limited due to bears (4person minimum on certain trails).
Having searched I'm struggling to find itineraries for Seattle to Denver via Yellowstone so was looking for advice, such as best locations to stay at park and is this even sensible?
Rocky Mountain NP 3nights - Estes Park?
Grand Teton 3 nights - Teton Village?
Yellow stone 3nights
A NP near Seattle 3 nights - not sure which one is most suited, or whether to split time
Seattle 1/2 nights - Museum of Flight (it has a M-21 blackbird)
19 nights total
Other places to consider, Fossil butte NM, Dinasaur NM. Also the idea of skipping Glacier and going via Crater of the Moon NM, John day Fossil Beds to Seattle.
Any thoughts greatly received.
Nov 18, 2012 11:45 AM
Nov 18, 2012 2:31 PM
Yellow stone 3nights
Don't forget to account for drive times in the route. xYellowstone to xGlacier is about 8 hours on the road, plus stops. What this means is that some of your nights will really just be the night. (Your time in xGlacier will be just one day, for example).
Oh, and you miscounted. You only have 17/18 nights listed, not 19.
With 2 extra nights, you could add one to xGlacier, and one to break the journey on your way to Olympic NP. That would be 19/20 nights.
Also in Seattle.
Nov 19, 2012 4:59 AM
3I'll focus on the Seattle leg since I live near there.
First of all, Washington State has three National Parks: Mt. Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, and North Cacades National Park. All are easily accessible within a couple hour drive of Seattle.
My favorite is North Cascades, but I'm a backpacker (in the American sense of the word) and this park is primarily a backpacker's wilderness park with no tourist facilities other than a visitors' center and not many small towns or private resort areas to stay nearby. It is however traversed by one of the most spectacular drives in North America, highway 20 from Mt. Vernon to Winthrop over the glaciated north cascades mountains.
Mt. Rainier has abundant hiking opportunities with tourist facilities at Paradise Lodge, Sunrise Lodge and the Longmire entrance. I've seen more wildlife in one day in Mt. Rainier than anywhere outside of Alaska. Great day hikes inlcude Spray Park, Glacier Basin, and the short loops out of Sunrise Lodge. The mountain and park are magnificent.
Olympic National Park has the only designated wilderness coastline in the western U.S. Besides the visitors' centers at Port angeles and the Hoh River there are a number of small towns and rustic resort areas around the park to base out of. The beaches and cliffs at La Push are spectacular and you can walk on open almost empty beaches along the Pacific while inland are the glaciated Olympic mountains and huge old growth trees along the Hoh River.
Overall, considering your interests, it sounds like the Olympic park would best suit your desires. In August the weather should be good and you can do a nice three-day driving loop around the park from Seattle.
Next - Aviation: You apear to already be aware of th eBoeing museum of flight in Renton (just south of downtown Seattle). For aviation enthusiasts this is a must see. parts of the original Boeing plant are preserved where woodn propellers were made while the museum itself has a very large selection of aircraft from WW I through space flight.
But, equally impressive, is the Boeing assembly plant in Everett, a 25-minute drive north of Seattle. Here you can tour the massive assembly plant and watch first hand as 787s, 747s and 777s are being assembled before you. Next door is the history of flight museum at Paine Field which includes a vintage aircraft restoration center as well as many, operational and flying aircraft from all pariticpants of WW II (Russian, Japanese, British, American and German). On weekends you often see these airdraft flying around the area, the roar of their piston motors unmistakable.
Not enough airplanes yet? Outside of Portland Oregon consider stopping at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum where Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose is displayed along with many air and space vehicles.
Nov 19, 2012 5:10 AM
Nov 19, 2012 5:28 AM
Nov 19, 2012 9:00 AM
6A bit more on the National Parks near Seattle, from the standpoint of day-hiking.
Mt. Rainier: Famous for meadows, views of the largest mountain (though a few feet short of being the highest above sea level) in the lower 48 states (a huge but no longer very active stratovolcano) as well as more distant views, magnificent forests (though not quite as amazing as the Olympic rainforest valleys) and easy access to tundra conditions. Enough good day hikes to keep you busy for 2 weeks, and representing all levels of difficulty. Except in the immediate vicinity of Paradise and Sunrise, trails not especially busy during the week. Busier on nice weekends, given proximity to the cities of Puget Sound.
North Cascades: The actual area of the National Park is the result of a series of political compromises, the details of which likely don't interest you. Anyway, the result was that, with one spectacular exception, just about all the good day hikes in that area were left out of the Park. There are quite a few in the area - just not in the Park (with that one exception - Cascade Pass / Sahale Arm). So, it's mostly a backpackers Park (for which it is world class). Thus, I wouldn't go there for more than one day for day-hiking, unless you did some of the fine hikes outside the Park. Fairly quiet on weekdays, though Cascade Pass can get busier on weekends (it is so good that it is worth the drive from Seattle for a day outing). Geology is a combination of relatively recent volcanics and Late Mesozoic (or a bit younger) metamorphics, some rather unusual.
Olympic: The most varied of the three Parks. Crudely speaking, it has a high-mountain ("alpine") part, a rainforest-valley part, and a coastal part. Each part (especially the alpine part) is mostly backpacker rather than day-hiker country, but the three together would offer enough great day hikes for the amount of time you would have. The only road access to the alpine part is on the north side of the Park, at (and near) Hurricane Ridge; thus the relatively few excellent "alpine" day hiking possibilities are limited to that area. There are several great day-hikes farther east in the high Olympic Mountains, but they are not in the Park. The rainforest valleys (Hoh, Quinault, etc.) have forests of a magnificence rivaled only (in the 48 states) by the somewhat different Redwood forests of (mainly) northern California, and the Olympic rainforest is less fragmented. The coastal strip has long stretches of wilderness (and cold-water) beaches with forests, seastacks, and projecting headlands, much of it not day-hike accessible, but some of it is. All of Olympic, especially the rainforest valleys is fairly quiet, though again there is an uptick on nice weekends. Geology, crudely speaking, is scrapings from the bottom of the Pacific (as North America overrides the Juan de Fuca Plate). Some rocks you don't find on continents all that often.
A couple of other notes:
Washington does not have much of a history of bad human/bear encounters, so there are typically no minimum party size policies.
None of your major Parks are particularly notable fossil areas. I'm always reluctant to recommend against Glacier, but since you have been to Jasper and Banff (and therefore have seen some good overthrust geology), would probably just as soon not have to deal with bear restrictions on trails (which can certainly apply in Glacier during the berry season, when you would be there) and seem to have a particular interest in fossiliferous areas, I think I'd recommend skipping Glacier in favor of John Day, and maybe squeeze out a little more time in Washington.
Yellowstone is vast and varied, but (personal opinion here) I find less interesting for hiking than Grand Teton.
Once your plans jell, we can probably help with some particular trail suggestions.
Nov 19, 2012 12:47 PM
Nov 19, 2012 1:12 PM
8I've driven through Rocky Mtn. N.P. a couple times. Maybe it's just me, but I've never felt much of a connection. If this was my trip, I'd be more inclined to fly into Salt Lake and skip Colorado. I think the northern Rockies, i.e., central Idaho and Glacier, and the Tetons, are more spectacular while being part of the same geology. In a similar vein, I'd also point out that Seattle is far afield, being about 500 miles west of Glacier. It's a long way to drive for the museum of flight and a look at Puget Sound.
You really don't have that much time, relative to the vastness of the West. It sounds to me like you're not quick-hit travelers, but I fear your itinerary might force that perspective unless you reconsider. If this were my trip, I'd focus on the northern Rockies, and intermountain areas between. There's a good deal more than you might imagine.
Before I get too invested in giving you further suggestions, it'd be worthwhile to know just how important Denver and/or Seattle are in your plans. This is your trip and not mine, so I want to be sure to have a firm grasp on what's really important to you. There are phenomenal wide-open spaces in the region you've got in mind, but they'll take time to see. Also important: Are you planning to pick up and drop off the vehicle in the same place, or do you have the means to rent one-way and swallow the drop-off charge? It is a critical issue, logistically.
Nov 19, 2012 1:45 PM
9Firstly, Many thanks for all the useful comments.
bzookaj love your footer as made me think before I posted. I definitely don't want to be a local as you often miss the best things in your own backyard.
Realised I'd miscounted as coming from London Heathrow, hence flight back is overnight. This is also why picked Denver and Seattle to stop in and why two nights on arrival to give us a chance to get over jet lag. Previous trips this has worked well with spending the day in the arrival city walking rather than jumping in a car.
Also realised we are visiting over labour day, looking to book accommodation over Christmas break, hopefully this should be enough time but did notice Yellowstone accommodation appears to being booked up.
I have debated not going to Seattle, its more to do with the Parks there than just the aircraft museum. The museum is a good way to spend the day we fly out as its an evening flight. However we do have a habit of deciding to fit in a hike on the way to the airport. Also I hadn't realised about Boeing or the Flying Heritage Collection, I have a thing for SR-71 Blackbirds which is why I came across the Seattle Museum of flight.
Oh, also father-in-law recommended seeing Olympic NP, his recommendation about Lake Louise was good (once you get away from the hotel).
Loved Jasper and Banff hence not ready to rule out Glacier. Quite frankly I would happily move to Jasper tomorrow if I could.
Re Rental, happy to do one way and swallow charge. Will do a loop if it adds things to see but not just to get car back. The number of days we have for the holiday are very precious.
I think more research is in order now I have some good pointers in the right direction hopefully. Also probably should discuss with hubby, although given previous two trips he prefers enjoying to planning.
Nov 19, 2012 11:52 PM
10I have nothing but good things to say about the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan islands. However, all told, that's probably another 500 miles, and a week to do it right. Travel is about choices. You can't do it all. Are you trying to hit the high-point sights, or immerse yourself in a region? They're not mutually exclusive, but one tends to be faster paced than the other.
The Western U.S. is more than the sum of its sights, but to see it from that angle you have to be willing to depart from checklist-style tourism. Pick a sub-region rather than thinking you can "do" Denver-Tetons-Yellowstone-Glacier-Seattle-Olympics in three weeks. I'm sure my world-weariness is showing, but I'm getting less enamored of travel as a collection of postcards. But it's something of a risk to cut that tether.
p.s.: I like my neighborhood gastropub here in Seattle, but a lot of the best places in the West worth traveling 5,000 miles to visit don't have a gastropub within 50 or 100 miles. An example .
Nov 20, 2012 6:15 AM
11A last word about all the Boeing aircraft stuff in Seattle - it gets confusing:
Boeing has its own airfield at its manufacturing plant in Renton just south of downtown Seattle between downtown and SEATAC airport. This is where the large and extensive museum of flight is located http://www.museumofflight.org/ 737s are made at the Renton plant, but you cannot tour the plant.
Twenty miles north of Seattle in Everett is another major Boeing manufacturing facility. This one you CAN tour with tours leaving every hour all week long. Here the new carbon-fiber 787s are assembled, as well as 747s and 777s in what is called the largest indoor space in the world. Adjacent to this plant is the county airport which is leased by Boeing and called Paine Field. The tour of the plant starts at the Future of Flight museum on Paine Field which bjookaj lambasts with some basis, but, the tour itself is well worth the effort. http://www.boeing.com/commercial/tours/index.html
Also on Paine Field (at the southern end of it) is the Flying Heritage Collection and museum. The museum is small (currently being expanded), but the displays are incredible with many one-of-a-kind WWII aircraft there, all in flying condition and they fly some of them too. https://www.facebook.com/flyingheritagecollection
All of the Everett Boeing facilities and Paine Field are two miles away from the Mukilteo ferry that takes you over to Whidbey Island. Whidbey Island is a major tourist destination and from Whidbey you can either take another ferry over to Port Townsend making for a very nice loop trip out of Seattle. Or, you can drive off of Whidbey to the north over dramatic Deception Pass and back to I-5 and south back to Seattle (catching a casino or two on the way if you like).
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