15 Days/14 Nights – Gateway: Seattle, WA

1, 2 & 3: Seattle

A lively modern city, Seattle is located on Puget Sound nestled between snow-capped Mount Rainier, Elliot Bay and Lake Washington. With some of the World’s most stunning wilderness and waterways surrounding Seattle it is amazing how much wildness survives within the city limits! Explore the “Emerald Necklace” of city parks, woodlands, neighborhoods, locks, college campuses and shorelines.

Take in the historical Pioneer Square area of old Seattle with memories of the Great Seattle Fire and the Klondike Gold Rush. Glimpse the Space Needle, Smith Tower and visit Pike Place Market. Take in iconic views of the city at Kerry Park and drive along Magnolia bluff spying stunning homes and the majestic Pacific Madrones on the way to the 534-acre Discovery Park, the largest park in Seattle! The site is one of breathtaking majesty overlooking Puget Sound and offering spectacular views of both the Cascade and the Olympic Mountain ranges.

If you wish take a day trip to Mount Rainier National Park just over two hours drive from the city. The park was created to preserve the dormant volcano located in this spectacular part of the Cascade Mountains.

4: North Cascades National Park, WA

Less than three hours from Seattle lies the North Cascades National Park, an alpine landscape of jagged peaks crowned by more than 300 glaciers. Explore the park by taking the Cascades Loop, one of America’s grandest, most spectacular drives. Beginning just 28 miles north of Seattle the route will show you stunning mountain scenery, quaint villages and Early American towns as you circle through the Cascades mountains, along the semi-arid Columbia River Valley, past glacier-fed Lake Chelan and through the wildlife-filled Methow Valley.

5: The Dalles, WA

Journey south today (Mount Rainier National Park is to the west), heading for the Washington/Oregon border and the town of The Dalles on the mighty Columbia River. This was a major Native American trading center for at least 10,000 years and the general area is one of the continent’s most significant archaeological regions.

Explorers Lewis and Clark camped near here in 1805 and the area is known as the end of the Oregon Trail. The rapids of the Columbia River at The Dalles were the largest and longest of the four “great portages”, where fur trading boats had to unload and transship their cargoes. Pioneers loaded their wagons onto rafts or barges and floated down the Columbia to the mouth of the Willamette River, then upriver to Oregon City

6 & 7: Bend and the John Day Fossil Beds, OR

We spend the next two nights in Bend located on the eastern edge of the Cascade Range along the Deschutes River. Here the Ponderosa Pine forest transitions into the high desert, characterized by arid land, junipers, sagebrush, and bitter-brush. The name Bend was derived from “Farewell Bend”, the designation used by early pioneers to refer to the location along the Deschutes River and one of the few fordable points along the river.

Here we have a day to visit the John Day Fossil Beds where remains of dinosaurs are still being unearthed. This astounding area of spectacular scenery and active science attracts tourists from around the world. The colorful rock formations preserve a world class record of plant and animal evolution, changing climate, and past ecosystems that span over 40 million years.

There are three areas to visit, the Clarno Unit (remains of an ancient rain forest), Painted Hills Unit (best known for its colorful geology) and Sheep Rock Unit where the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center is the best place to see fossils from all three units of the park, as well as those from other federal lands in the area. Scenic drives and hikes at all three units allow visitors to explore the prehistoric past of Oregon and see science in action.

8: Crater Lake National Park, OR

Crater Lake has inspired people for thousands of years. No place else on earth combines a deep, pure lake, so blue in color; sheer surrounding cliffs, almost two thousand feet high; two picturesque islands; and a violent volcanic past. It is a place of immeasurable beauty, and at 1,943 feet (592 meters) it is the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest in the world. Its fresh water is some of the clearest found anywhere in the world and the interaction of people with this place is traceable at least as far back as the eruption of Mount Mazama. During the summer one magnificent day typically follows another and viewing a dormant volcano with a magnificent blue lake within its crater is an experience not to be missed.

The park is open to travel from late June or July 1, for as long as snow does not block the roads, and the popular “Rim Drive”, which is generally completely open from July to October, and partially open in some other months, such as May, June, and November generally until October. Many interpretive programs are offered which encourage a deeper understanding of the lake and the park.

9: Redwoods National Park

Westwards towards the Californian coast passing through Grants Pass located along the banks of the wild
and scenic Rogue River. At Caves Junction there’s an opportunity to make a 20 mile side trip to the Oregon Caves National Monument located in the Siskiyou Mountains, a coastal range that is part of the Klamath Mountains of northwestern California and southwestern Oregon. Oregon Caves is unusual in that it was formed in marble. Most caves created by dissolving of rocks are formed in limestone or dolomite, Crossing the border into California travel through the Siskiyou National Forest and descend to the beautiful Californian coast and Crescent City, base for exploring Redwood National Park. Established in 1968 the park is home to some of the world’s tallest trees: old-growth coast redwoods. These magnificent trees can live to be 2,000 years old and grow to over 300 feet tall. Spruce, hemlock, Douglas-fir, berry bushes, and sword ferns create a multiple-canopied understory. Redwood Park’s mosaic of habitats includes prairie and oak woodlands, mighty rivers and streams, and 37 miles of pristine Pacific coastline

10: Southern Oregon Coast

A day to explore Oregon’s spectacular south coast where the forests and mountains meet the crashing seas, passing places such as Gold Beach where the legendary Rogue River meets the Pacific Ocean. Port Orford the oldest town on the Oregon Coast, and the most westerly in the 48 states, offers amazing natural beauty and vistas as far as you can see. The overnight stop of Bandon, where the Coquille River meets the ocean, is sure to delight you with its charm and scenic beauty.

11 & 12: Portland, OR

Portland, the beautiful “Rose City”, a city of contrasts surrounded by natural beauty, from Washington Park and the West Hills to the Willamette River and Waterfront Park. Portland is Oregon’s most populous city, and the third most populous city in the Pacific Northwest. Whether in the Cultural District downtown or a transfigured warehouse in the trendy Pearl District, it is easy to see why Money magazine has called Portland the “Best Big City” in North America.

Portland is known for its large number of microbreweries and micro-distilleries, as well as its enthusiasm for coffee. Take in the iconic views of Portland and surrounding volcanic peaks at the historic Pittock Mansion and City Park and also visit the Pearl District, Nob Hill and Hawthorne.

The city has many attractions including art galleries, boutiques, cafes, restaurants and performance spaces while it is also proud of its parks and its legacy of preserving open spaces. Parks and green space planning date back to John Charles Olmsted, and today more than 8,100 acres of ecologically valuable natural areas have been purchased and permanently protected from development. Highlights include Washington Park, Mt Tabor Park, McCall Waterfront Park and when the season is right, the International Rose Test Garden.

13 & 14: Olympic Peninsula

Founded in 1938 the Olympic National Park presents a combination of spectacular snow-capped peaks, lush rain forests and a rugged Pacific coast line. Within the center of the park rise the Olympic Mountains whose sides and ridgelines are topped with massive, ancient glaciers while the western half is dominated by the peak of Mount Olympus with a height of 7,965 feet (2,428 meters).

Along the coast deserted, windswept beaches are piled with driftwood logs and the fog-shrouded forests of Douglas Firs and Sitka spruces offer an entirely different aspect. The park is host to a wide variety of wildlife including the rare Roosevelt elk, golden eagles, beaver, deer, cougars and bears.

Spectacular views of the Olympic National Park can be seen from the Hurricane Ridge viewpoint and the road leading west from the Hurricane Ridge visitor center is dotted with picnic areas and trail heads.

15: To Seattle/Home

It’s a short drive to Seattle and the airport allowing ample time to connect with your flight home at the end of a wonderful journey.

Photo: Rick Bergstrom
Photo: Case Yee
Photo: Chase N.
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