Bucket List updates: N. California, Pacific Northwest and Western states!

Update your travel Bucket List: Suggestions for N. California, Pacific Northwest and Western states…

View of the rugged Oregon coast, looking north.

Last week, we urged updating your travel bucket list for 2017, with suggestions for S. California and the US Southwest; this week we present N. California, Pacific Northwest and Western States ideas.

Plan now for a coastal tour of California, Oregon and Washington. Each state offers marvelous scenery and quaint towns, complete with unique lodging options and campgrounds aplenty.  To cruise all the way up N. California to the Washington coast, a minimum week-plus would be wise.  With options including additional time exploring the Olympic Peninsula, Seattle and Vancouver or Victoria in British Columbia, two weeks would is advisable.

Two falls ago, we toured north up the California coast, and spent several extra days in Redwoods National Park. On the way north, admire the well preserved company logging town of Scotia, CA, on Hwy. 101, another company mill town, Samoa, further north and the quaint town of Ferndale (preserving scores of Victorian homes, making the town a favorite of shutterbugs!), three miles west off Hwy. 101.  Stop for a meal at the Samoa Cookhouse, which has been continuously serving meals, first to resident mill workers, then to the public, for over 120 years!

Coast redwoods on foggy morning, Redwoods National Park.

As you approach Redwood National Park and California’s “Lost Coast”, keep your eyes open for Roosevelt elk, deer, skunks and coyotes!  While the park offers no lodging services (hotels or motels) nor food service, you’ll find plenty of each in nearby towns.  Within the park are four campgrounds and many backcountry camps.

We headed for the legendary Oregon coast; Oregon had the wisdom to set aside most of its coast in public trust, so access is unbeatable. Our first stop was Harris Beach State Park on the northern edge of Brookings, OR (a town with an active fishing harbor, tourist amenities and great seafood).  Harris Beach was the first of many Oregon state campgrounds to receive an A rating from us, with electric, water, cable, free showers, and, right on the ocean (also, motels a-plenty).

Travelers will see Umpqua Lighthouse State Park (the historic lighthouse now part of a Coast Guard station), where gray whales, up to 53 feet in length, migrate 10,000 miles just off-shore each year, from December to January, returning February through March.

View of Haceta Head Lighthouse, perched high above the Oregon Pacific coast.

Headed north, admire scenic Haceta Head Lighthouse, high on a bluff above the Pacific, and stop at Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, which explains the history of the coast and provides telescopes from the deck – popular with whale watchers.

Newport is, arguably, the quintessential Oregon coastal town, with a dynamic fishing fleet, scores of shops and restaurants, and, home to the original Mo’s and Mo’s Annex Restaurants (on the harbor). Entering town, you cross the graceful Newport Harbor Bridge and turn right to the active fishing harbor.

We crossed the Columbia River into Washington on Hwy. 101 at Astoria, and soon passed Fort Columbia State Park, home of the Chinook nation and their chief Concomly.  Captain Robert Gray dropped anchor nearby in 1792 after his discovery of the mighty Columbia. Nearby is the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, offering insights into the camp where Lewis and Clark’s expeditionary force wintered after their cross-country expedition.

Touring north we skirted Willapa Bay, where the quaint town of Oysterville preserves the area’s past as supplier of Washington oysters to the state and all the way south to San Francisco. Our final coastal destination was the Olympic Peninsula, where we had tent-camped numerous times when our kids were much younger.

Clouds lie low over Klalock Beach in Olympic National Park.

Our first day dawned hazy, becoming bright, and we reached Klalock Lodge on the ocean for a delicious lunch.  It’s just a few miles south of Klalock Campground, with 170 camp sites right on the ocean. With nearby Seattle, Victoria and/or Vancouver, Canada, you have fun-filled options!

Another tour of the three states can be had by following the “Pacific Ring of fire”: Mt. Lassen National park and Mount Shasta, CA, Crater Lake Park, OR, and Mount St. Helens National Monument, WA. These destinations tell the story of the earth’s sometimes violent volcanic activity; though, again, you’ll need some time to travel a route about 2,000 miles long for all four destinations.

Montana and Wyoming national parks have to be on your list: Yellowstone and adjoining Teton National Parks, and Glacier Park offer some of the west’s most jaw-dropping scenery and wildlife-viewing.  A trip to Glacier can include an extension into Canada to Waterton Glacier National Park, up to Jasper National Park. For those not into long drives, fly into West Yellowstone or Whitefish, MT, and rent a car to see these parks.

Wildflowers frame a receding glacier a mile off Logan Pass, Glacier National Park.

A few other ideas: Follow the trail of explorers Lewis and Clark; from Montana through Idaho by way of beautiful Lolo Pass, west to the Columbia Gorge and end at Fort Clatsop in Oregon, south of Astoria. Or, bicycle portions of seven rail-trails in Oregon, Idaho and Washington (adventurecyling.org).

Tour the famed Inland Empire: centered on Spokane, WA, with side trips into either the “scenic, channeled scablands” to the west, including Grand Cooley Dam and Dry Falls State Park, or, east into the Idaho Panhandle, taking in Lake Coeur d’Alene and north up to Priest Lake, ID.

Bison graze in meadow below the Tetons, in Grand Teton National Park.

So, update that list; next week, we’ll offer more distant US suggestions! For more information: our national parks, nps.gov; California, visitcalifornia.com; Montana, visitmt.com; Oregon, traveloregon.com; Washington, experiencewa.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the west!

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