Monday, September 29, 2014

PNW Week: Seattle to Portland on the 101

One final post for the Pacific NorthWest,
... a road trip between the Emerald City and the City of Roses!

I am a huge fan of epic road trips, it's my preferred method of traveling... I even enjoy road trips by myself, I love driving and having the freedom to stop wherever I want. I enjoy having time to listen to my music and podcasts, if I could get to Europe by car I would never have to step foot in an airport again.

This road trip is one of the best I have ever been on. The 101 between Seattle and Portland has some of the most amazing and breathtaking views in the country... and it's a fantastic way to really experience the Pacific Northwest. Every proper mountain woman needs to take the time to see this beautiful landscape. 

So, a normal direct route from Seattle to Portland might take you about 3 hours of driving, but when you take the 101 along the coast it stretches the driving to about 11 hours. We took our time stopping and exploring the area, spending a total of three nights and about three days along the drive.

Here's what we did:

We left Seattle in the afternoon and hopped on the (1) Kingston Edmund Ferry just north of the city. I love ferry rides, I feel like you can't really rush anywhere when you have to take a ferry to get there... so it's a nice way to start a road trip, you just relax and enjoy the Puget Sound from the railing as the ferry does the work.
After the ferry ride it's a little over an hour before you get to your first destination, and where you'll spend the night, (2) Port Angeles. Port Angeles is a decent sized city nestled right next to the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the foot of the Olympic Mountains. It's a sleepy little city, but it should be easy enough to find a place to stay, they have B&Bs and hotels, when we went we had a reservation at a hostel on the outside of town... which ended up being one of the craziest hostels I've ever slept at, so you definitely have options. Find a fun place to eat, walk along the harbor, then hit the hay.

(make sure you pack lunch and snacks to take with you today)
The first thing on our to-do list today was drive up to (3) Hurricane Ridge. It's a 17 mile drive from Port Angeles up into the stunning Olympic Mountains... it's BEAUTIFUL up there! The jewel of the of the Olympic National Park. No matter the weather, the view here will take your breath away. 
While you can hike around Hurricane Ridge, I would suggest hopping back in your car and heading to the next great stop. Two hours past Port Angeles is the (4) Hoh River Trail... oh goodness, you are going to want to spend some time in this exotic place. Grab your sneakers and start your trek in this gorgeous rain forest. I know what you are thinking... a rain forest in the Amazon? Yes, it was hard for me to imagine myself till I went there and saw with my own eyes the giant trees, overturned logs, green moss, and big banana slugs crawling around... the whole place is green and lush and smells divine. It's like being in a mountain forest jungle. 

The hike is very mild, there isn't a whole lot of elevation gain as you follow the Hoh River, so anyone can get out and enjoy. We trekked along and were lucky enough to see some Roosevelt Elk cross the river from the trail. 

When you can finally tear yourself away from the rain forest your next stop is close by, (5) Ruby Beach. This beach is named after the ruby-like crystals that get washed up on shore, the gorgeous driftwood along the shore, and awesome rock formations. Here you can catch a glimpse of Destruction Rock Lighthouse and explore the tide pools.

From Ruby Beach it is a fifty minute drive to (6) Lake Quinault Lodge... Lake Quinault is an old resort destination located in the Quinault Valley. It's a great place to grab some good dinner and spend the night. We stayed in a little cabin in one of the old resorts and got some fancy dinner at the restaurant in the Lake Quinault Lodge. It was a fancy dinner, and since we weren't dressed properly they had us sit on the outside patio overlooking the grounds and the lake. For you proper mountain woman out there, you may want to have some nicer clothes to fit in better here... but I wouldn't have wanted to be seated anywhere differently. This place was too pretty to be inside:

On this morning you will have three hours of beautiful Pacific Northwest to take in before you get to drive over the huge awesome bridge (over the columbia river) to your first major pit stop of the day... (7) Astoria, Oregon! The oldest settlement west of the rocky mountains... there is plenty to see and do here, the goonies house, the astoria column, the maritime museum, and eating fish and chips to name a few. If you plan it right you may be here the same time as the astoria farmers market is going on, which would definitely be a farmers market worth going to. (click here for audio tours of Astoria)

Back on the road.... some of my favorite beaches I have ever been to on the Pacific Coast, (8) Cannon Beach and (9) Rockaway Beach. Both are less than an hour away from Astoria. I love both of these beaches, my parents took us on a family vacation to Rockaway Beach when we were younger, and to me this area and these small little coastal towns are magical. My brother and I walked down the beach from where we were staying to an abandoned hotel and dreamed about buying it and running it together. I remember finding some mood rings at one of the little shops and felt like they were the real deal... I was convinced a wicca practicing sea hippie had put an actual spell on them. I loved the misty sea air and the clouds in the sky. If I were to ever leave my mountains to live by the sea, it would be in a funky beach house in Oregon. And my new hobbies would be hunting for sea glass and digging for clams.
haystack rock - cannon beach
rockaway beach

(10) Tillamook and the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Twenties minutes away from Rockaway Beach, and our last stop before Portland is Tillamook Bay. I would choose somewhere between Tillamook and Cannon Beach to spend the night, there are plenty of little hotels and vrbo's in the area. Buy some ice cream at the cheese factory for a treat later that night, and visit the Cape Meares Lighthouse. Try and get a place close to the beach and go for a evening stroll, or have a campfire on the shore.

I also think it would be fun to stay somewhere with a kitchen and arrive in Tillamook early enough to go clamming, and then try and make dinner that night. 

From Tillamook it is 90 minute drive to Portland... and your road trip is complete!

And with October right around the corner, you should probably visit the Japanese Gardens in Portland.
For more ideas on visiting the Oregon Coast, CLICK HERE.

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