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I used this forum last year when I took the family around the great lakes. All the ideas and suggestions were invaluable. It made for a wonderful family vacation.

This summer I am planning another family road trip in our 2008 Bounder. It will be my wife and I, along with our boys (11 and 9). We will leave in Mid July from Denver and travel to the Northwest part of the States for three weeks. As of now we are planning on visiting Yellowstone, courde'lane, Portland, the Oregon and California Coast to San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, then cross Nevada on "the loneliest road in America back to Denver.

I am just looking for any ideas, suggestions on where to go, things to do that we shouldn't miss and places to stay. We have no real solid route at this time and our wiling to deviate from the plan a bit if there is something that we shouldn't miss or do.

Thanks in advance


John Blue

I will add a little information on Hwy 50 or the "the loneliest road"in the USA. It was a lot of fun to stop in all the little towns that make up American. The roads were excellence to drive on, you may be the only one on the road at times. Stop at all the little towns and see all the very old places. In Eureka you have the opera house and a museum. In Ely Northern Railway museum plus RV parks, casino, and places to eat and restock up. You will find the road flat for miles on end and them travel up or down to the next mesa then roads will be flat again. A fun road to travel on.

Other RV people can add more information to help you.
Jerry S
Hi seekos,

As I usually do with requests like yours, I start by saying that the itinerary you outlined in your post is quite a bit to do in three weeks considering the spectacular areas of the country you will be travelling through. It has got to be well over 3,000 miles by the most efficient routes and probably well over 4,000.

The first advice I have is to take 2 days to get to Yellowstone from Denver. It is a long 600+ miles and the the last 200+ miles is not interstate. Depending on which route you take to get to YNP, I would stop someplace 100 to 200 miles from the park. Check towns like Lander, Dubois, Buffalo, Rock Springs among others for a places to stay your first night. Again, the direction (south, southeast, or east) from which you approach the park will determine where you will look for your first night's stay.

As far as Yellowstone is concerned: I always advise first fime visitors to allow at least 5 days to see the park. In addition to varied number of must see sights (Old Faithfull, Yellowtone Canyon and Falls, Mammoth Hots Springs, etc. and don't forget the Grand Tetons an hour or so south of Yellowstone), the miles and hours of driving you have to do every day to see these sights make a long stay necessary. The best reviewed RV park in the area is Grizzly in West Yellowstone, MT. In mid-July, you will probably want to make reservations wherever you decide to stay.

Once you're done with Yellowstone, it is another long (500 miles) drive to Couer d' Alene, ID. You can do it in a day but will see nothing of southwestern MT except what you see out the RV window. Blackwell RV park in Couer d' Alene is probably your best bet with 2 boys along. By my count, you are now almoist half way throuh your 3 week trip and you are still 2 days away from the Pacific Ocean. There are plenty of things to see and do between ID and Portand and Portland and SF and between SF and Denver, but I don't see how you are going to have the time to stop and see and/or do much.

I hate to be such a downer, but this is my view of your plans. Good luck with your trip.

I stayed in Yellowstone for 3 weeks last year. I think you need at least 2 weeks to do justice to Yellowstone and the Tetons.
When you travel between Coeur d'Alene and Portland, I'd recommend taking 90 west to Ellensburg, 82 south to Yakima, Wa St 12, the Wa St 410 to Mt Rainier National park. This is THE most spectacular way to approach Mt Rainier (and it's on the way tongue.gif ).

I'm not sure if there are vehicle restrictions on size (you can ask 1-877-617-9950), but I think the single most spectacular place that you can drive to in the park is Sunrise. You will begin to wonder if you aren't going to the top in your bounder wink.gif

You'll see some CCC work that was done in the park on this road, if you stop on the last hairpin before the top (only large parking area before top), and usually if you arrive before 10 AM you will have no trouble finding parking at the top (don't laugh, it happens.) sad.gif

If you plan to overnight in the park, as I'm assuming you don't want to drive all day - make reservations here, SOON ! (877) 444-6777 - stay at Ohanapeckosh (I'd say White river, but I don't think they can handle a bounder - Make sure you ask about vehicle length for both - there are some out of the park places that can handle the length outside the SE entrance see )

The following day, head south out of the Park, pick up WA St route 12 towards Packwood/ Randle. At Randle take 131 south.

Take State road 99 to Windy Ridge to overlook Spirit Lake and look down the throat of Mt Saint Helens. If your vehicle were smaller, I'd say take route 26 for a more spectacular approach, but it is so small that it almost turns into a one way at points. In days past, tens of thousands of huge trees (four feet in diameter) were blown down by the blast when MSH blew her top. The pyroplastic wind swirled around the near by mountain tops, making 'hair' like patterns out of these timber. ohmy.gif Before it was logged out, you could drive thru here and get the distinct feeling your vehicle was a flea on a dog's back and the trees were the hairs.

If you have the time, the 'Ape Caves' are WELL worth doing (see above map). You can rent a Coleman lantern at the location (but make sure you take at least two flashlights too, as without light - the dark is absolute) and you can walk one of two ways into a long since cold 'lava tube' cave (something your boys won't soon forget.) The way that goes down the stairs never gets very narrow. If you could get a 4X4 down there you could drive to the end (about a half mile). It has no exit other than the way you came in.

The other way is not for the claustrophobic. Ok, it's not all that bad, I've done it twice, and while you do have to squeeze thru one spot, and climb over a cave-in that caused a huge amount of rubble in a domed area so that you have four feet of clearance, it is very manageable. You will see re-melt, lava that cooled to rock, then melted again from the lava flowing down the tube. It is frozen in time as it dripped from the ceiling. And you'll have the opportunity to climb one small frozen lava fall in the middle (6 feet tall and very doable) which is sure to stick in the boy's minds as a highlight. It is pretty much impossible to get lost, as the very few arms in the cave rarely last longer than 20 feet. The north route ends with a climb on a short ladder to daylight. I can promise that if you do the north side, you will be the 'coolest dad' for the rest of the trip. cool.gif At 50, I STILL enjoyed it.

Don't worry about cave-ins.....I'm told the last one happened thousands of years ago, and if it didn't happen with this last eruption, it AIN'T gonna happen in our lifetime. smile.gif

After Mt St Helens, you are a hop, skip, and a jump from I5 and Portland.
Jerry S

Your post contained some great advice on visiting Rainier and St. Helens coming from the east. Since the trip from CdA, ID to Yakima appears to be about 250 miles via the interstates and the final 70 miles from Yakima to Ranier isn't, the traveler will be getting to Ranier fairly late in the day. Personally, I like allow at least 4-5 middle of the day hours to tour a park like Ranier - that allows for stops at numerous pullouts and vistas as well as some time at visitor centers and some short hikes. I'd stop at one of the RV parks in the Yakima area and then allow the entire next day to see Ranier. If you have been able to get a campsite in Ranier, you can leave the next day and head to Mt. St. helens. Again, I would allow for 4-5 hours in the park. That gives you plenty of time to get over to the I-5 corridor north of Portland to one of the many RV parks in the area. This way you will have taken 3 days (1 day of driving and 2 days or sightseeing) to get from CdA, ID to Portland.

As I indicated in my previous post, I know that "seekos" is on a tight schedule. Even if he doesn't follow my prior advice (2 days to YNP from Denver and 5 days at YNP), by the time he reaches Portland he is still half way through his trip timewise and still hasn't reached the Oregon coast. Then there is the 700 (non-interstate) miles trip down US 101 to San Francisco and the 1300 (almost 600 of which is on non-interstate US 50 across NV and part of Utah) or so miles back to Denver.

Seekos: If you have your heart set on doing the OR/CA coast drive, I'd skip Yellowstone this trip. If you live in Denver, you can always do YNP in a week another time - you can leave Saturday, get there Monday, stay 5 days, and be back in Denver on the following Sunday.

Again, good luck.
I stayed at yellowstone for 1 month!! such a nice place!!!:D
Traveling man
You mentioned Portland and Coeur d'Alene. Having given field trips for newspaper carriers for many years (10-15 year olds) in the Northwest two of the most popular destinations based on feedback have been 1) OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science & Industry) in Portland (real hands on- the boys will enjoy it) and 2) Silverwood- (Largest amusement park in the Northwest, has a large water park, magicians, ice shows, steam train that gets robbed etc). Silverwood is just North of Coeur d'Alene. There is a nice RV park directly across the highway from the amusement park, with a walking tunnel under the highway.

Everyone will enjoy the coast. Most of the beaches are public, and there are interesting lighthouses, old shipwrecks etc. If you get inland a bit in Southern Oregon there are jet boat trips, Oregon Caves etc. In San Francisco the Alcatraz tour is a great way to get a cheap Bay ride, as it's included in the tour price. The Wharf has a cool old sailing ship that would be interesting to the kids.
If you gamble you might want to stop at the Circus Circus Casino when you go through NV. It has circus acts and things for the family on the upper level, and gambling on the main floor.

If your group likes Sea Food, by all means stop at one of the independent Oregon restaurants on the coast. Stay away from the chains, and ask locals for suggestions. When you go through Tillamook take a few minutes to pull off the highway and tour the cheese factory.
Jerry, I can appreciate (and agree with) your opinion that Seekos is trying to do too much for a three week trip. But with 11 & 15 YO boys, I guessing he's 40. At that age, maybe he does travel a little more aggressively than you or I would at 60+. Only he knows that.

It is suspect that he has friends/relatives in Coeur d'Alene and Portland.....While they certainly are worthy destinations in and of themselves, I believe that is why he specifically mentioned them instead of Spokane (more well known & easier to spell) and the Oregon Coast (not mentioning Portland at all.) It sounds like he's going to cover that ground, one way or another. I believe I have given him a good basis for seeing a fair representation of Mt Rainier and St Helens while doing so.

You are right about the distance he's looking at - (he's gonna feel like he's growin wheels on his derriere) - BUT, he'll need to make that decision for himself. Quite possibly he'll reach that conclusion by seeing too many things he'd like to do from all the suggestions. wink.gif

Seekos' third paragraph indicates he's looking for "where to go, things to do that we shouldn't miss and places to stay. We have no real solid route at this time and our (sic) wiling to deviate from the plan a bit....."

I am extremely familiar with the Northwest's sights, things to do, fun places to go, and how long it takes... I like to share that knowledge. He specifically asked for that kind of information. We all want to be helpful on this site... Respectfully, I suggest we give Seekos our opinions, the benefit of knowledge in our respective areas of expertise, then allow him to make his own choices. smile.gif
It's hard to beat the state park campgrounds along the Oregon coast. In addition, the drive on 101 is breathtaking. I understand that the state parks in WA are also very nice. I've been to the places you are looking at and enjoyed them all, but, to me, nothing compares with the coast.
I highly recommend the Columbia River Gorge. Just driving in on I-84 West to Portland the scenery is outstanding. And Multnomah Falls in that area is spectacular, and there are several other waterfalls (Horsetail Falls, and others), that are nice paved hikes.

We stayed about ten days at RV Park of Portland, and really liked it. It's actually in a Portland suburd, Tualatin, and it's very convenient to a number of good restaurants. The RV park is within a block of a 7-11 convenience store, and there are supermarkets and other stores within a short drive.
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