I'm coming from the UK to spend 3 weeks in US. I will be starting & finishing at my uncle's (Camas WA, nr Portland).
I'm having difficulty deciding exactly what to do though !
I have some vague ideas at the moment, all of which probably involve several days at the beginnning staying in Camas & exploring WA from there.
Here are my (vague) thoughts:
- drive to Las Vegas from Portland, taking in at least some of the Pacific coast (hopefully including some of the most impressive/interesing bits) and maybe other places of interest... ?San Francisco, ? North California Redwoods etc.. I would then use Las Vegas as a base to see Grand Canyon & other "local" places (Death Valley, ? others). Then finish by driving to LA to meet up with a friend for a day or two there. Finally fly back to Portland / Camas for a day or 2 & then home. Presumably a one-way car hire would be (? a lot) more expensive than RTB ...
- fly to Las Vegas and explore that area of States in more detail than could be done in first option. Also go to LA as above
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
If you give me your dates, I will inquire about auto rental, both returning to Portland area or drop off in LA. There is a drop off fee and it can be substantial. Also if you are under 25, the fees to rent can go up. Your age is not on your profile, so you may want to add that if you continue to use the TP forum.
I used to live in Portland OR and did a lot of car travel from there. You are going to have a fantastic time, it's an amazing part of the world with lots of natural beauty.
Here are the places I'd go if I had three weeks:
- Portland, for a day and a half. Go see Powell's bookstore, have a beer on Hawthorne, go to the Chinese Garden and/or the Japanese Garden, and the Rose Garden. Bam! You're pretty much done.
- Mt. Hood is one of the most accessible fantastic mountains in the country. An amazing daytrip from Portland involves driving through the Columbia Gorge (stop at Multnomah Falls and take a hike), then through the Hood River Valley (have lunch at a fruit stand in the valley, where you'll have views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams) and around the mountain to Timberline Lodge, one of the most impressive WPA-era lodges in the country, and walk around the lodge and maybe take the skilift up to get higher up the mountain. On a clear day you'll have fantastic views out to the desert and even down as far as Mt. Shasta sometimes. It's awesome! Then drive back to Portland. It's a long day, but an amazing one.
- Mt. St. Helen's is also an easy daytrip from the Portland area and the visitor's center near the crater gives you some safe but great views of an active volcano -- that's cool.
- Up north to Seattle, Vancouver, and the Olympic Peninsula, all of which are stunning Northwest views. If I had the time I'd go all the way around the Olympic Peninsula, stopping in the park at a couple of places and staying at Lake Quinault, but that could be a three-day trip on its own; you can also just take the ferry from Seattle and go to Port Townsend and drive into the park from there for one view, that would be faster.
- down south into the Cascades, I might go to Bagby Hot Springs, the town of Sisters, Crater Lake, and the Oregon Coast around Yachats and and the Oregon Dunes.
- continuing down into California, I'd go to the Redwood Forest, Lassen Volcanic Park -- and Yosemite!!!! Yosemite is incredible, it would be a shame to miss it. I think you need three days (and an advance reservation for a hotel room, or a campsite, in the valley) to even begin to see Yosemite, and I highly recommend trying, it is stunning and worth the time.
- then, Lake Tahoe and out across the desert to Las Vegas.
- if time allowed at this point, in addition to the Grand Canyon I'd also get up to Zion National Monument, Bryce Canyon and Arches National Park in southern Utah. I haven't been to Joshua Tree but that gets incredibly high marks from people I know, so try to get there too. Zion is my favorite place anywhere, and the town of Springdale is pretty much in the Canyon, which makes for wonderful sunset views at dinner.
There is so much incredible stuff to see in the Pacific Northwest and the west. Buy an annual national parks parking pass if you are going to see more than three or four national parks on your trip, it will pay for itself as day-parking rates are quite steep.
Have a great trip!
[ Edit: Edited on May 13, 2008, at 7:38 AM by scormeny ]
If you've looked at a map I guess you know you're talking about a lot of driving. Personally I think its pretty cool to do it that way.. the amount of ground you cover is probably a matter of how much driving you want to do.
I'm unfamiliar with Oregon other than I know I love wine from there and I hear the vineyards are less commercialized... so the wine tours might be more interesting and less expensive than California.
I love San Francisco if you make it that far south... awesome city for a tourist because you don't need to drive to see most of the sights. Here's a map of all the hotel prices and restaurants with reviews in San Francisco. Last time I was there I stayed near Emabrkadero and using public transit a lot (we didn't rent a car)... so if you ended up flying this would be an easy city to hit.
I live in Portland, and just want to worn that it's a hell of a long drive from here to LV or LA! It's much more practical these days to fly into regional airports and then rent a car for a RT thing. Yes, the drop charge on a one-way rental is SKY HIGH! Right now airlines like Alaska and Southwest are having great summer sales ($59. one way Portland to San Francisco I believe) - suggest you have your Camas relative check it out for you. Gas is currently selling @ $4.00 a gallon here on average and expected to go up. Many rental agencies also restrict their cars to surrounding states (more than one agency here in Portland will not let you take a car into California/points south, and they do check with electronics!)
Another thing, your plan to drive south from Camas - you're ignoring the fact that the Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful/natural areas in the US - certainly a lot less crowded and polluted than Southern California. LA is just freeways, malls and endless housing development (I kid you not!)