TUG Review Crew: Rookie
- Feb 23, 2009
- Reaction score
- Resorts Owned
- Worldmark and VI
The St Helens visitor Center closest to I-5 isn't much. It was the first one opened after the blast as a chamber of commerce effort. There's an entrance fee and you won't see much. The best visitor center is Johnston Ridge which is right on the edge looking at the Mountain and the blast zone for full impact. The movie is a must do as is the hike. The other Visitor center further down the road is the Forest Learning Center which is ok and second choice and I wouldn't bother with the one down by the freeway. I'd save Mt St Helens for another trip. In fact, June is a great time for both Leavenworth and St Helens so maybe that is next year's trip? There's a whole 'nother thread on that one. The road over Chinook Pass (west of Yakima) and then through the south end of Mt Rainier NP usually open by Memorial Day. In early June, there will still be lots of snow, but the scenery is spectacular. Stay in Packwood or Randle on Highway 12 for both parks.Thank you for all the time and consideration you've given to my plans. I used Trip Advisors Top Ten things to see and do in Central Oregon but I like many of your suggestions and have revised the game plan. I especially liked Dave's recommendation to take the ferry in order to avoid Seattle traffic. The Mount St. Helens Visitor Centre I was planning to see is at Castle Rock just 5 miles off of I-5, not the Johnston Ridge Observatory which is an extra 50 miles. I'm the only driver so if I'm finding the driving too stressful and exhausting we might just relax when we get to Sunriver and do local activities as recommended by Sue. Easyrider, we were planning to drive from Sunriver to the Dalles, overnighting there, and then driving to Oliver the next day. I own with VI so it's good to know about Leavenworth for a future, shorter trip from BC. So much to see and do...so little time!
Deception Pass is lovely, but they are painting the bridge. The work is mostly at night but they have machinery parked on both sides of the bridge so parking will be limited and walking across the bridge is limited to one side only. The 'free' parking on the far side now has a Discover pass required sign in it plus limitations from the painting. Discover Pass is the day use fee for Washington state parks and they have 2 free days in June; June 8 and 9th. If you are there on one of those days, continue past the bridge to the light and turn right into the park. At the 3 way stop, go straight ahead to North Beach. Find the trail on your right and hike up along the trail that goes underneath the bridge. It's a beautiful walk. If you can park in the lot at the far end of the bridge, find the stairs down to the trail on the bridge side of the parking lot.As you're transiting on Hwy 20 down to Whidbey Island, take a few minutes to stop at the Deception Pass Bridge. It's a pretty amazing view, and worth the (free) stop. There are two bridges, one after the other, and there is parking on the right before the first one, on the left between the two, and on the right after the second one. That last parking lot has restrooms. Great historical website: https://whidbeycamanoislands.com/history-of-deception-pass-bridge/
If it's a sunny day, the ride on the Port Townsend ferry is a great "mini-cruise" experience.
Enjoy the drive. It's gorgeous at this time of year. And plan to be back - you're going to find things you'll want to come and see again, when you have more time.
The ferry to Port Townsend is a small one and you will want reservations in advance. You can do this online. In addition, that ferry is frequently impacted i.e. runs cancelled, by low tides so make sure you check in advance. It's a beautiful drive, but it also has it's own traffic issues. Weekends can be stop and go through Oak Harbor and the drive down from Port Townsend is mostly narrow and windy two lane roads. It will take 2 hours more than going through Seattle. Seattle traffic just requires some planning. Leave Vancouver (or better Birch Bay as was suggested earlier to get the border crossing out of the way) around 9am and get through Seattle and down to Olympia by noon and you should miss most of the traffic issues.
The ferry route is a pretty one and there are plenty of places to stop along the way. If you go that way, I'd bag St Helens and stay west towards the coast for a prettier drive. Just watch for the speed traps through Elma/Montesano/Raymond.