West Coast suggestions

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West Coast suggestions

Postby zephyr_pelicante » Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:23 am

I'm graduating college and have a bunch of money saved up and 2 months of free time before I start full time at my job.

I'm making a trip out to the west coast, I want to see Montana and Idaho and Seattle and California and the Pacific ocean and then go through the desert to the grand canyon then back.

I can't do any insane mountain climbing but I do want to at least go visit Rainer and Hood, and maybe some of the California 14ers.

What other cool stuff should I see? I've literally never seen and ocean or gone any farther west than Grand Canyon or Moab.

I know this is a TON of stuff to do and this is a hopelessly broad question, but if you had to pick just a few places to hike around or things to see what would they be?

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Re: West Coast suggestions

Postby Dave B » Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:40 am

I did a similar trip a couple years ago after spending the summer in Idaho working for the Forest Service. My trip was basically ID->WA->OR->CA->AZ and then back to Florida.

The things I most highly recommend are

1. HWY 20 over Stevens Pass and through North Cascades NP. That park is beautiful and amazing, do at least a hike there.
2. Alpine visitor center at Olympic NP - several awesome trails from there with great views of the Olympics
3. Take I85 east from Portland into the Columbia River gorge and hike the trails past Multnomah Falls then take HWY 35 south to see the E and S sides of Mt Hood
4. Canon Beach and/or Yachats (and adjacent Cape Perpetua) on the OR coast
5. Drive through Bend, OR on your way to Crater Lake NP
6. Mt Lassen NP
7. The stretch of CA coast that includes Redwood NP and Eureka (although Eureka is a hole).
8. Of course Yosemite and Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Having a National Parks pass would be a very good idea.

Should be a fun trip, I had a blast on mine!

Also, going through Idaho you should take the HWY north out of Boise and go through Stanley Valley and see the Sawtooths, great hiking/scrambling to be had there.
Last edited by Dave B on Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: West Coast suggestions

Postby screeman57 » Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:54 am

Dave's suggestions are great. On your way West, the Sawtooth Wilderness Northeast of Boise is definitely worth a few days. It's a bit out-of-the-way but an absolutely stunning alpine area. PM me if you want some suggestions--I've done several long backpacking trips there. The high country is very accessible from most trailheads.
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Re: West Coast suggestions

Postby Presto » Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:59 am

Great suggestions so far! I would also add for the Oregon portion: Crater Lake National Park, many many natural hot springs (check the internet), McKenzie Pass (amazing place), and also several very tasty breweries (some near Mt. Hood). Have a great time! Sounds like an awesome trip.
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Re: West Coast suggestions

Postby Scott P » Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:10 am

If you want to see the ocean, the coastline within Olympic NP is the most scenic in the lower 48.
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Re: West Coast suggestions

Postby Steve Climber » Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:16 am

Do yourself a favor and schedule out a few days to spend some time in and around Lake Tahoe. Tons of easy / moderate hikes out there. Mt. Tallac will give you unbelievable views of Emerald Bay and Tahoe, Cascade, Fallen Leaf, and a ton of other mountain lakes. If not wanting to hike, I would at least suggest driving the loop around Tahoe and maybe walking out to Eagle Falls near Emerald Bay. Breakfast at Fire Sign Cafe in Tahoe City or The Beacon at Camp Richardson won't suck either (I like food at Fire Sign better, but view from beach side at Beacon is tough to beat :mrgreen:
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Re: West Coast suggestions

Postby lordhelmut » Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:49 am

Ah, the infamous 2 month long trip after college. Enjoy it, cause its all downhill after that. (Just kidding)

+1 on most everything DaveB and Fletch said. Check out Aubrey's TR's from this site on the North Cascades region, good reference and beautiful areas. Some other points :

A cool loop could go something like this -

Utah - climb a couple La Sal 12ers and then move north and hit some Uinta 13ers
Wyoming - Climb Gannett and then do some hikes around Grand Tetons
Idaho - Climb Borah Peak
Montana - spend a couple days doing long scenic day hikes in Glacier
Washington - +1 on North Cascades National Park. DC Route on Rainier, hike Mount Adams in a day
Oregon - +1 on Columbia River Gorge and the various waterfall hikes. Climb Mount Hood. Check out Bend, do a day hike of South Sister Peak. Crater Lake National Park.
California - Redwood NP, Mount Shasta. Do 50% of the Muir Trail, starting at Florence Lake east of Fresno and end at Whitney. Should take anywhere from 7-10 days, hitch/bus back to your car. Drive the 101 from Astoria all the way down to Cali.
Nevada - Great Basin NP
Utah (again, thinking in big loop terms) - Zion, Lake Powell, finish off with a 12er in the La Sals bringing you full circle to where you started your journey.

Thats cool you are focusing on North America. There is enough to do in this country for 10 lifetimes alone and the money you would spend on an international flight, could be put towards enhancing your North American adventures. You don't have to worry about currency, language barriers, getting shot or stabbed and the trip can start right out your front door. Enjoy whatever you do!

edit : +1 on Presto's brewery suggestions (PNW is full of great beer), as well as the Olympic NP in WA.
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Re: West Coast suggestions

Postby ChicagoMike » Fri Apr 19, 2013 10:23 am

Camp on the beach outside of Forks, WA.
Hoh national forest
Go see Phish at the Gorge on July 26 & 27th
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Re: West Coast suggestions

Postby nyker » Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:14 pm

TWO months to travel??? Ahhh...I've thought about this many a time...
OK. here goes.
Not sure your planned direction or mode of travel, so I'll just include recommended destination highlights:

Visit Yosemite:
Spend a day in the valley exploring and seeing the vistor center.
Spend a day in the Giant Sequioa groves
Spend a day at Tuolumne Meadows and the High Country
Climb Half Dome and Clouds Rest

Eastern Sierra and the White Mountains

Then...travel south to the Eastern Sierra
Visit Mono Lake and stay in Bishop for a night or two.
For a remote experience and Nevada highpoint, climb Boundary Peak.
Climb White Mountain peak (15mi r/t +3000ft gain all class 1 on standard route)
Explore the Ancient Bristlecones on the way back to Bishop
Do a day hike into Kearsarge pass from R395 near Independence.
Drive south to Lone Pine, stay a night
Climb Mt Whitney (all class 1 on Main Trail, 22.5mi, +6500ft gain)
Spend a day in Sequioa NP - exploring the trees and meadows. Awesome place.
climb Alta peak

Plan to drive up the coast north, passing Redwood NP and see the coast along the way at many points.
As you drive north, visit Lassen Volcano and Mount Shasta


Driving north, Crater lakes NP
Mount Hood

Then, into Washington:
Mt Saint Helens,
Olympic NP - both parts including the wonderful coastline
Mount Rainier and the NP
North Cascades NP
Mt Baker, Adams areas
Buy some Rainier cherries!

Moving east, across Washington into Montana, target Glacier NP and Waterton Lakes NP in Canada
spend a few days here to take it all in and watch Grizzlies and all the wildlife.

Then, move southeast to Yellowstone, spend at least four full days here exploring the park and wildlife.
Look for wolves in Lamar valley.
Move to Grand Teton and spend a couple days here.
If you can get off the beaten track, visit the Wind River Range and Sawtooths - bring a camera!
Drive south into Utah to see all the national parks and red rock places here. spend at least a week doing this.
Explore options for Trout fishing

Visit Great Basin and climb Wheeler Peak
If you find yourself in Vegas, after spending time on the strip (you should check it out if you've never seen it)
head into the Mount Charleston area to climb of Griffith Peak and Mt. Charleston.

Heck, take a week and fly to Hawaii if you can spend the time!
Have fun man!
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Re: West Coast suggestions

Postby Tory Wells » Fri Apr 19, 2013 1:03 pm

National Geographic's Guide to the National Parks is a great tool for such a trip. It's small but loaded with good info on where to hike, what to see and when to go.

You can't go wrong with the National Parks. Several years ago I did a 17 day roadtrip of NP's starting in CO>>Wyoming>>Montana>>Washington>>Oregon>>Cali>>Nevada>>Utah and then back home.

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Re: West Coast suggestions

Postby plantmandan » Fri Apr 19, 2013 1:23 pm

Good for you.

I lived in California the first 30 years of my life, and I always tell people the one thing you have to see there is the Giant Sequoias.

Here are my other favorites there:

Redwoods National Park
Napa Valley/San Francisco/Muir Woods
Hwy 1 through Big Sur.
Anywhere in the Tahoe area.
Hwy 395 from Topaz Lake to Lone Pine (go find a primitive hot spring along the way!).
Joshua Tree National Park (beautiful but can be hot during summer).
Torrey Pines State Reserve (San Diego area).
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Re: West Coast suggestions

Postby Vermont Mike » Sat Apr 20, 2013 2:58 am

I think if you've never been to these areas before then you may want to do a "whirlwind" type tour to a.) see a ton of cool stuff and b.) find places you'd like to revisit someday . . .

Anyway, I took a six month road trip back in '08 to try and see as many places in the lower 48 that I hadn't seen before, so I'll try to give my 25 cents . . .


Glacier, Glacier, Glacier (hey it's more accessible than most places in MT). The Going-to-the-Sun road is enough to make your jaw drop. Make the quick jaunt out to Hidden Lake from Logan Pass, hike some of the Highline trail, but my favorite section is Many Glacier on the northeast side of the park. Like North Cascades, the full scope and beauty of this park only comes from backpacking, which you may not have time for, but simply driving Going-to-the-Sun and doing some quick day hikes is more than worth it. I'm going to assume you've already been to Yellowstone/Tetons, but if not, only go there if you feel you'll never get the chance again. Ideally you'll need at least 10 days in that area to feel like you've seen a bit more than just the "tourist" spots.


Not much experience but I've heard nothing but good things about the Sawtooths, and can tell first hand that the Couer d'Alene River and the northern panhandle are gorgeous.


North Cascades are beautiful, but others have better info here. I enjoyed the hike to Blue Lake there; quick and easy and stunning. Definitely hit up the Olympic Peninsula. Rialto Beach and Ruby Beach are easily accessible classics, but I'd highly recommend making the hike down to Third Beach and then traversing over to the next beach south. A little bit of heaven. I personally enjoyed Quinault more than Hoh. Explore a bit of Rainier NP if weather makes it worthwhile.


Silver Falls State Park if the falls in the Columbia River Gorge pique your interest (arguably even better), Three Cape Loop, if you come down through Bend there's a nice road in the southern part of the state that first parallels the Rogue River and then cuts through the Klamath Mountains back to the coast. (Also if you haven't figured it out by now you pretty much can't go wrong with the coastline from Big Sur in California north all the way to wherever-the-hell B.C.) Crater Lake is ridiculously awesome.


If you only want to go to one place to see Redwoods, go to Humboldt State Park, you won't be disappointed. Fern Canyon in Redwood NP. If there's still water when you're in Yosemite, hit up Hetch Hetchy and avoid the crowds of the Valley (although obviously you'll want to spend a day there). Half Dome if the cables are down, not sure I'd want to do the conga line -- although maybe there isn't a conga line any more with the permit system. Cloud's Rest would be a great alternative. I also enjoyed the quick hike to Gaylord Lakes up near Tioga Pass. Rae Lakes Loop is a classic backpack in Kings Canyon NP, but you may not have time for that. Same goes for Black Canyon of the Tuolomne in Yosemite. Mineral King for mountain fun in Sequoia (again, some time would be nice there), but definitely check out the big groves in the main part of the park if short on time. The Lost Coast is cool, even if you only drive that road that loops west from 101. You can lose yourself and kill the rest of your time in the Sierras. Magical. I'd say explore a little of the east side, a little of the west side. You'll recognize the Alabama Hills on the east side of Mt. Whitney/Lone Pine from many movies. The bristlecone forest in the White Mountains is cool, but skip it if you're short on time unless old trees is really your thing. Death Valley is magical as well (though probably overbearingly hot in the summer). Drive as much of it as you and your car are willing. Golden Canyon (i think?) is great, Fall Canyon (i think? -- these are all off the top of my head) is fun. That's all I got on California, haven't been to the southern parts, unless you count Bakersfield, which I don't think should count towards anything at all.


Not much experience here. Enjoyed Valley of Fire State Park northeast of Vegas. You may be taking a more southern route anyway. I guess same goes for Utah, but if you end up on the North Rim of the Grand, it'd be a shame not to visit at least Zion or Buckskin/Paria.

I think the main thing is choosing between quantity and quality on the trip. Quantity worked out well for me, but now and then I sometimes kick myself for not backpacking at one place for a week, or not skipping that not-as-amazing place that ate up a couple days. The key is to enjoy the trip for what it is, and just have fun living the road trip lifestyle! Also, don't forget to stop in at some local watering holes for some micro-brews :iluvbeer:

This ended up being more long-winded than I was hoping for but it was kind of fun to reminisce.

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