Updated: Aug 2
I was worried I may have over planned this trip. I was determined to get 3 states in and still see everything the area had to offer. Every time I researched I found more that I didn't want to miss.
I mentioned in The Plan post, this trip had to be altered several times. March is apparently still the heart of winter in the mountain regions of the Pacific Northwest and those areas that don't see snow, see rain more often than not. To prepare for our trip we purchased winter weather gear such as snow pants, gloves, snowshoes and boots. Rain gear including boots, jackets and pants. We bought an America the Beautiful park pass - which we used at 4 sites on this trip and will use again later this year when we take our camping road trip. I also picked up items recommended by travel bloggers such as a headlamp for the Lava Bed's National Monument caves, flashlights, battery packs and binoculars.
We flew from Minneapolis to Seattle on Friday March 10th. Our flight was originally scheduled to arrive late afternoon, but the airline changed the schedule about a month prior to us leaving, which meant us arriving later. The benefit of this is I didn't burn a vacation day for our travel day, the downside is we had less time to see anything on day one. I am not the best traveler and flying wipes me out. So, having a low key arrival with very little to do after we land is not the worst idea. This trip included myself, Matthew and my niece Alexis who lives in Seattle.
Day 1: Travel Day
We arrived in Seattle and picked up our rental car. I used points from my credit card and reserved an Equinox through Fox Rentals. I realize they try to upsell you every time, but in this case, I took the bait and changed to a Toyota 4Runner, and also added the full coverage insurance. Since we were driving into the mountains with unknown weather conditions, I decided the extra cost was worth it, and I am glad for the last minute change. We did not pack light for this trip so we definitely benefitted from the extra room.
Once we had our vehicle we went to grab Lexi's bags from her apartment. This made it easier to meet up with her and leave our car in the lot Saturday. We then checked in at our hotel, The State Inn, which was located downtown right by Pike's Place Market. The hotel was nice and had great views of the Ferris Wheel and Pike's Place. There was a restaurant right on site called Ben Paris, which has the most amazing butternut squash risotto. We basically ate and went to bed.
Day 2: Seattle
We started our day by walking to Biscuit Bitch for breakfast, however the line was down the sidewalk, so we ate at Bocca Cafe right down the block. Our food and service here were great. We had a 10am timeslot to visit Chihuly Garden and Glass, so after breakfast we walked toward this area. We were early which gave us plenty of time to walk and see other attractions in the area such as The Space Needle and MoPOP, attractions that we chose not to go into on this trip.
The Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibits were stunning. We really enjoyed all of the different sculptures and because of the time of year we were here it wasn't overly crowded.
After we had our fill of abstract glass artwork, we walked to Kerry Park. I read in another blog that this walk was a little difficult but well worth it for the views. I would say this walk about killed us. It was extremely steep uphill walking, both sidewalks and stairs. The views were definitely beautiful with both the skyline and the bay in view, but if I could plan it again, I would drive to the park.
After Kerry Park, and a little time to rest, we walked back down the hill and through the Sculpture Park on our way to the Waterfront. This was a nice walk, though downhill is also difficult to navigate. We walked along looking at shops and the different piers.
Next, we decided to check out the gum wall. It was pretty gross. We snapped a couple pictures and walked up to Pike's Place Market. We spent awhile here just walking through and looking at everything the vendors had set out for sale. We grabbed lunch but I don't remember what the restaurant was called, all I cared about was finding a place that had tables to sit down at and eat.
By this time we were tired and our legs were pissed at us. Lexi was planning to meet up with us relatively soon, and we had a tour booked for 5pm at Bill Spiedels Underground Tours. We sat down and people watched, while listening to street performers for awhile. Once Lexi found us, she suggested we go to a park, which we drove to. Bhy-Krach Park is one of her favorites, and the view is absolutely gorgeous. After, we drove to see Seattle Pacific University, where Lexi went to college.
Our last stop in Seattle was an underground street tour. It was entertaining and really interesting. There were some definite political points made in the narration, but that aside, it was a great way to hear the history of Seattle and how they built and rebuilt the city.
After the tour we left Seattle and drove to Sequim, WA, grabbing fast food on the way. We stayed at the Olympic View Inn in Sequim so we would be closer to the park in the morning and not have too long of a drive from Seattle. The hotel was clean but run down and there is no one at the lobby after 9pm. We arrived late so they ended up leaving the keys hidden for us.
Day 3: Olympic National Park
We had breakfast at the Oak Table Cafe, which was a super cute restaurant with great breakfast. After we ate, we headed in the wrong direction for about 30 miles, then figured it out and made our way to the Olympic National Park. When we arrived at the visitor center we didn't have snow chains yet which were needed to go to Hurricane Ridge. They have cameras set up so you can see the view from the top, and it was a cloudy drizzly day, so you couldn't see much of anything. Due to our unexpected detour in the morning and getting a later start than planned, paired with the limited views from the top, we chose to skip Hurricane Ridge rather than go back to Port Angeles to buy chains.
Our first stop into the park was Lake Crescent. This lake is huge and crystal clear. We could see reflections perfectly in the water and the rocky bottom many feet out from shore. We decided to walk the trail to Marymere Falls which was approximately 2 miles total there and back. It was not a difficult trail but I wouldn't call it super easy either. Partly due to the fact that our legs were still burning from the previous day in Seattle, and the last stretch was pretty steep walking to view the falls. The walk itself was really pretty and the falls were fun to see.
After Marymere Falls we tried to see Sol Duk Falls but the road was closed so we continued on to Forks. Forks was a big letdown. I don't know why, but I expected a cute little mountain town with shops and cafes. We found a rundown town with two souvenir shops that were very cliche, and a Chinese Restaurant that reminded me of reheated mall food.
Our last stop of the day was The Hoh Rainforest. At this time it started raining pretty steadily so we threw on our rain gear and walked two trails - the Spruce Nature Trail and the Hall of Mosses. The Spruce Nature Trail is slightly longer, so we chose to do this one first in case we couldn't do both. At this point I found a walking stick and was walking like I was 50 years older than I am. The trail was level and an easy walk. It was gorgeous with trees draped in moss and ferns blanketing the ground everywhere you look, with some snow sprinkled here and there. Part of the trail loops by the Hoh River, which was more like a creek at this time, but I can imagine it looks much different as more snow melts. The trail of Mosses is less than a mile, but more strenuous than the Spruce Nature Trail. Again, I wouldn't say it is difficult, but being as sore as we were it felt like we were climbing a wall. This trail was also beautiful with huge trees, bright green moss and ferns everywhere. You felt like you were walking through an enchanted forest with all the foliage draped around you. The pictures we were able to take don't capture half of the wonder you feel seeing this area in person.
By the end of day 3 we were sore, cold and a little tired. I failed to mention that this was day one of day light savings, paired with the 2 hour time difference our bodies were a little out of whack. We stayed at the Kalaloch Lodge in an adorable cabin looking out to the Pacific Ocean. It was raining, but the view here would have been hard to beat on a clear day.
Our cabin had two king beds - with almost two rooms, but no door separating - a bathroom, kitchen and a wood burning stove with a bundle of wood for us to burn. We ordered takeout from the restaurant at the lodge - which was expensive and not the best we had on this trip - and ate at our kitchen table next to a real wood burning fire. The only complaint we had here was the water never got hot. It got warm but not for long, and with 3 of us craving a hot shower after a cold rainy day it was a little bit of a letdown.
Day 4: Cape Disappointment and Astoria
We left the Kalaloch Lodge and drove down the coast of Washington, stopping at Our Place Restaurant in Ocean Shore for breakfast. We went to Cape Disappointment but didn't spend a ton of time here, walking a trail and viewing the lighthouse. After Cape Disappointment we crossed the Astoria-Megler Bridge and entered Astoria.
I booked a room at the Astoria Riverwalk Inn. This was Lexi's favorite room on the trip. The rooms overlooked the marina, with balconies that actually hung over the water. None of our accommodations were fancy, but it was clean, cute and reasonably priced enough that I got two rooms, so Lexi got a little break from us. My only complaint was that the bed was extremely hard. It was a memory foam bed so maybe it is something you have to get used to, but I was pretty sore the next morning, and not the same sore that I had been from all the walking.
Being in our 40s, obviously we decided to see the Goonies Movie points of interest. It's funny both of us seeing this moving many times, it was hard to remember what happened at each spot until we physically saw them. We found the actual Goonies House, The Oregon Film Museum (the jail), Flavel House and the Lower Columbus Bowl. We also found Sea Lions down by a dock and sat admiring them for awhile. We finished our day with dinner at Astoria Brewery, which had great food, enjoyed a couple beers and purchased really nice sweatshirts and some local beer to bring home as souvenirs.
Day 5: The Oregon Coast
This was an incredible day. The weather was warming up a little for us and the rain had stopped. Our first stop on our drive was Cannon Beach to see Haystack Rocks. The town here was so cute with little shops and beautiful houses lining the hills surrounding the beach. Haystack Rocks was really cool to see in person and we saw many more jagged rocks spiking out of the ocean throughout our day.
We decided to make a stop at Tillamook Creamery. This is a popular brand for yogurt and cheese in the area from what we learned. The creamery was really interesting to visit. They have viewing rooms that overlook the entire process of making cheese, as well as free samples of cheese. We purchased some socks for our girls and cheese and crackers. The cheese and crackers seemed like a good idea, but road tripping with cheese that you don't plan to eat immediately turned out to be a waste of money and we tossed it all out having no way to keep it cold.
Along our route through Oregon we stopped at The Devil's Punchbowl and Thor's Well before stopping for lunch in the town of Newport. We ate at Mo's Seafood and Chowder, then stopped in at several of the shops in the town.
Next we hit up Haceta Head Lighthouse and bought a ticket to the Sea Lion Caves. Going into the caves was easy. You take an elevator down 200 feet and walk right up to the sea lion viewing area. These are wild sea lions they aren't caged. The smell of fish is overwhelming when you are down here but you also get a great view of the Haceta Lighthouse from this area.
Our last stop on our drive was to the Oregon Dunes. By this time we were basically recovered from our two days of hiking but walking up these dunes was not easy. It wasn't far up but extremely steep and walking through sand makes it that much harder. The views were nice but we had no desire to walk any more dunes. Luckily going down was easier and you could basically ski down the sand!
We ended our day by eating at the Wheelhouse in Bandon, OR and stayed at the Bandon Inn. The Inn was nice with large rooms, comfortable beds and the staff was great.
Day 6: The Redwood National Forest
After fueling up we stopped for Breakfast at Double D's Cafe, then drove to California. We only had around 2 hours of driving before we reached Jedidiah State Park. We started by walking the Simpson-Reed Trail. I was overwhelmed with how beautiful this area is. It doesn't matter if you are driving or walking trails, pictures can't properly capture the magnificence of this forest. The trees are enormous and grow right on top of fallen trees of the past. Ferns and shrubs line the entire ground.
We had planned to go to Fern Canyon and Golden Bluffs beach, but as we drove to the area we soon realized that roads were closed off and we couldn't access the trails. We stopped at Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center and the ranger was so courteous as he helped us find alternatives to do. I wasn't sure if this was normal closures because of the time of the year or due to recent weather events in the area. He did confirm that many areas of the park were closed because of the rain and snow they had gotten recently. He recommended we go to the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, where you could access trails to The Big Tree, one of the trails we had attempted to find but couldn't due to the direction we were traveling apparently, where the access was closed.
We took the Karl Knapp trail which was lined with many "big trees" on our way to "The Big Tree". This trail was so secluded and beautiful to walk. It crossed several bridges over the river, and even though it was nearly 60 degrees the day we visited, we only saw a handful of others during our walk. On our way back to the Visitor Center we took Prairie Creek Foothill Trail.
This night we stayed at The Lighthouse Inn in Crescent City. I do not recommend this hotel. I actually don't recommend Crescent City as a city to stay in at all (I think I would try Hiouchi if I ever return to the Redwoods). The staff at the hotel did not seem especially happy to talk to guests. Both when we checked in and when we checked out they barely acknowledged us. The first thing said to us when we arrived at the counter was "I highly recommend you take everything out of your vehicle and lock it". So that made us feel extra safe. The room itself was very large, with a separate bedroom. The decor of the entire hotel was almost creepy, with lots of doll houses, old worn wallpaper and carpet. The beds were in need of upgrading. You could feel every spring. When Matthew went to buy a drink from the lobby the attendant was packing a bowl and making a video of himself playing with a switch blade. Super weird to be doing at work in front of customers.
Day 7: Lava Beds National Monument
We left Crescent City around 9am, so we would have a few hours to visit the park. It was just over 4 hours to get to the park and we wanted to make sure we were there before 3, because the visitor center closed at 4. We stopped for breakfast at The Historic Hiouchi Cafe, on a scenic road that was like driving through a tree canopy the entire time. The food here was really good, and they had an extremely sassy waitress, who made us laugh when she called us chicken shits for declining mimosas and bloody marys. As we were wrapping up our breakfast I got a call from the hotel and Lexi had forgotten her glasses. So we had to drive back and grab them, which meant we lost about 30 minutes.
We had to stop for bathroom breaks and fuel, as well as lunch, but we did make it to the Lava Beds National Monument around 3pm. The checkpoint was closed, so you had to go to the visitor center to get cave passes and check in. That was approximately 25 minutes into the park. When we arrived it looked closed, so we started to search for information on what we could do at the outdoor kiosks and bulletin boards. We saw a couple of cars and ranger trucks on our way, but very few people around at all, and no one from what it looked like at the center. Luckily, they were still open for another 30 minutes, which we finally realized when we peeked into the window on the door, so we did get our cave passes.
We chose to do the easiest cave Mushpot Cave, which was right by the visitor center. This cave had lights lining a walkway, making it an easy first cave. There was some ice getting to the cave but overall it was easy and really fun to walk through. There were some low spots where you had to crouch, but nothing that we weren't able to handle.
Next we attempted to do Skull Cave which we were told is a fan favorite ice cave. We started the trek down the path and soon realized it was extremely icy and difficult to navigate. Parts of the trail were packed down snow and others glare ice. There was a railing for part of the trail but it was really low so hard to use to support. Once we reached the entrance of the cave it was almost complete ice and steps down into the cave. This is where we called it quits and decided to skip the cave.
We stopped at a few lookout points and admired the fields of lava rock. We also saw a group of mule deer on the side of the road. After a few lookouts we drove to Petroglyph Point. This is a huge rock formation with actual indigenous petroglyph carvings. There is also a ton of vandalism so it is kind of difficult to know what is real, but the park does a decent job of marking the actual authentic carvings.
When we were done at the park we drove to Klamath Falls, OR to eat dinner. We found an Italian restaurant and it had decent food. Then we stopped at Wal-Mart to buy snow chains and drove to our hotel The Eagle Crater Lake Inn. This was by far the worst hotel we stayed in. It wasn't dirty, but very run down. The doors had no lock on them, only the electronic keycard locks. The beds weren't comfortable and you could hear rodents in the walls. There were weird notes posted all over in the room with warnings about being charged for literally everything. If towels were dirty, a list of prices for breaking items (listed separately, like so much for the TV, so much for the lamps, etc.). They had a TV and advertise cable but the only option was pay-per-view. On pay-per-view there was a handful of movies to choose from, a handful of porn, and a handful of sports options. We ended up watching Netflix on our phones.
Day 8: Crater Lake
Crater Lake gets a lot of snow. Over 40 feet each year in fact. Crater Lake had received a lot of steady snow in the weeks leading up to our vacation. So much snow that the access road was closed down for almost a month. The day we planned to visit was the first day it opened and the weather was perfect. A bright sun shining in the sky, temperatures around 50 degrees, and 3 very happy travelers experiencing this amazing park because they lucked out on the day they showed up. There was so much snow around the lake that the visitor center was almost covered. They have a snow tunnel so you can access the building from the parking lot and walk up stairs to the gift shop and information desk.
We snowshoed up on the top of these giant snowbanks, and had amazing views of the lake. We could have continued on trails to different lookout points, but we were actually very warm and enjoyed seeing the lake from the areas just by the visitor center. In the summers you can drive all the way around the entire lake, but I am not sure that I would have changed a thing. Viewing the water surrounded by snow was magical. The pictures almost look like we have a backdrop which is testament to how amazing this was in person.
Once we had our fill of Crater Lake we drove to Salem, where we spent the night at a Holiday Inn. This isn't a fancy hotel chain but was a nice break from some of the 2 star motels we had encountered. While none of our accommodations were terrible (some were definitely borderline terrible), this night felt a little better. The staff was wonderful and the hotel was clean and comfortable, and not outdated or rundown.
We had dinner at Gilgamesh Brewing. The food was ok here but the service could have been better. It was a nice establishment overall and had a great atmosphere.
Day 9: Mt. Ranier
We decided to get up early and head to Mt. Ranier. Our plan was to be on the road by 7am, and we were close, leaving the hotel around 7:30. When I planned this vacation I had assumed we would need Saturday and Sunday to explore Ranier. This was before I realized that very little of Mt. Ranier National Park is open in March. By leaving early, we hoped to be able to explore the areas that we could and then leave early to Seattle the next morning.
We arrived at the park around 11:30. The road to Longmire is open year round, but the road to Paradise only opens on weekends in winter. This beautiful March day drew a lot of people to Paradise. The parking lot at the Paradise Visitor Center was packed. There is a trail that appeared to be straight up the mountain right at the parking area and we all agreed that wasn't likely going to end well for our group. Since we weren't exactly sure what we would be able to do, we started by going into the visitor center and asking for advice on easy snowshoe trails.
The ranger let us know that there is a trail that starts at a second parking area with a short walk on a sidewalk to access. The trail is relatively flat and has great views of the mountain. They also have ranger led snowshoe groups, but we just missed a group, so we opted to do this trail on our own.
Even wearing only a sweatshirt and foregoing hat and gloves, we were warm very quickly. The temps were close to 50 degrees and the sun was shining bright. The trail was not strenuous but it did have enough up and down hills that we felt our legs burning again. The views of the mountains were amazing.
After our snowshoeing trail was completed, we went to find lunch. Along the road on the way down, we stopped to view a waterfall, and frozen falls down the side of cliffs. This is right off the main road, with no trail required, and I believe it is Christine Falls, but I am not 100% sure on this.
We found the National Park Inn in Longmire and stopped for lunch. The restaurant here was so fun. The waitress had the most amazing laugh and was so wonderful. She literally did a little hop/skip each time she walked away from our table. Our food was great, and around the restaurant there were different pictures of the Longmire family with the history of the inn written by each photo.
When we finished lunch we decided to head back to Seattle. We had planned to stay at an inn just outside the park, but with nothing else open to explore we were done at Ranier. Lexi was eager to get back home so she could sleep in her own bed and was likely tired of hanging out with her old aunt and uncle, and I was ok staying in modern accommodations again.
I booked a night at the Mariott on Alaskan Way. Once we dropped Lexi off, Matthew and I checked into our hotel, then walked the boardwalk to Premier Meat Pies for dinner.
Our Meat Pies were so good. I had never heard of this restaurant but we both loved our dinner and the staff was really great.
We enjoyed our evening watching the sunset over Elliott Bay, looking at the Ferris Wheel lit up bright, and just walking the piers.
Day 10: Seattle
We had a redeye flight booked for 12:30am Monday. Because we stayed in Seattle our last night, we now had all day to explore more of the city. We chose to sleep in and wait to leave until as close to 11 as possible. We walked to Cafe Opla, which was right across the parking lot of our hotel, for breakfast and coffee. Their caramel mocha latte was such a needed treat. Our breakfast was good as well.
Our first destination after we fueled ourselves with coffee and food was the Japanese Garden. This was something I had wanted to do when I planned the trip, but we didn't have enough time our first day, so I was excited to add it to our last day. We were just a little too early to see everything in bloom. There were some really pretty flowers, but most of the plants had buds just begging to open up, not quite ready. It was still a beautiful garden, and after we walked the trails in the arboretum.
Next up was Gas Works Park. This was a really interesting park with outstanding views of the city. Because it was a gorgeous sunny day in March in Seattle, the park was pretty busy, especially by the playground area. There was what appeared to be a school band playing under one of the pavilions. We walked for a bit enjoying the scenery then headed to Alki Beach.
At Alki Beach we walked the shoreline. This is a nice area on the west side of Seattle and again was pretty busy with the weather being so nice. We ate lunch at El Chupacarra, which was decent Mexican food, and the atmosphere was pretty fun. We decided to continue walking, just enjoying looking at the different houses and shops lining the road.
Matthew really wanted to ride the scooters that they have laying out everywhere, so we finally decided to go for it for our last little stretch of our walk and then back to our car. However, this was not as easy as you would assume. First of all, in order to ride the scooters you have to download an app so you can pay. Secondly, we assumed you could leave the scooters wherever you wanted, as you see them literally laying everywhere. This is not actually the case though. We got to our vehicle, and parked the scooters to the side of the sidewalk and attempted to end our rides on the app. It would not let us because we weren't at an approved parking spot. So, we ended up having to ride the scooters to the approved parking area, which was forever away, and ended up not saving us any time. At this point the skies were cloudy and a few sprinkles fell, so we were also cold. The actual riding of the scooters was fun, especially for Matthew, so I'm glad we did it, but at the time I was irritated walking 1/2 a mile back to our car after parking them.
Next up was Lincoln Park and Driftwood Sculptures Trail. This was a decent park which had trails that went down to the shoreline. The Driftwood Sculptures Trail did not have actual Driftwood Sculptures which I assumed they would, but it did have a shoreline completely filled with driftwood and a few that looked like they were made into forts or something. It was a nice walk, though going back up from the shoreline was a workout for our already abused legs.
At this point we weren't really sure what to do. It was close to 6pm and we still had several hours before we had to be to the airport. We weren't overly ambitious after the week of adventures we had. Lexi mentioned Fremont as a good place to go so I looked online for what to do in the Fremont neighborhood.
We decided to drive and see the Troll Bridge, then find a place to eat dinner. The Toll Bridge is located on a regular street. The giant sculpture of a troll is just right under the overpass bridge. It is something you wouldn't expect to see and we wouldn't have if we didn't seek it out.
We found a Tai restaurant but when we arrived it was closed. We walked up the block and were lucky enough to find another Tai restaurant - Jai Thai - and had a delicious meal. After dinner we went to the airport, our incredible vacation concluded.
Day One: Travel Day
Day Two: Seattle
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Pike Place Market
Bill Speidels Underground Tour
Olympic View Inn-Sequim
Day Three: Olympic National Park
Day Four: Astoria
Oregon Film Museum
Lower Columbus Bowl
Astoria Pier 11 Brewery
Astoria Riverwalk Inn
Day Five: Oregon Coast
Cannon Beach - Haystack Rocks
Newport - Mo's Seafood & Chowder
Sea Lion Caves
Day Six: Redwood National Forest
Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center
Prairie Creek Visitor Center
Karl Knapp Trail
The Big Tree Wayside
Prairie Creek Foothill Trail Loop
The Lighthouse Inn
Day Seven: Lava Beds National Monument
Historic Hiouchi Cafe
Eagle Crater Lake Inn
Day Eight: Crater Lake/Salem
Crater Lake National Park
Salem Holiday Inn
Day Nine: Mt. Ranier/Seattle
Mt. Ranier National Park
Paradise Visitor Center
National Park Inn
Premier Meat Pies
Day Ten: Seattle
Japanese Botanical Gardens
Gas Works Park
Driftwood Sculpture Trail