Pacific Northwest Vacation

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fishmonger
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Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by fishmonger » Tue Mar 08, 2016 11:44 am

So DW and our two kids (age 6 and 5) are thinking about taking a vacation to the Pacific NW this summer (early July). Tentative plan is to fly to Seattle, bang around there for 5-6 days, hit up some of the national parks and maybe spend a day or two in the city. After that, we'll drive to Whitefish, MT to hang out with friends and explore Glacier NP for a couple of days. Our original plans were to add Yellowstone into the mix, but we thought this would be enough for kids that age.

In both spots we have friends to visit, but neither has enough room for a family of 4. I'm wondering if anyone on this board has a good "homebase" for us to try and find lodging in Washington? We do a lot of camping as a family, but are not going to be dragging our camping gear 3000 miles. Can be areas, cabins, cottages, etc.

We've been to most of the NPs on the East Coast, but neither of us has ever been to the Pacific Northwest.

Any tips would be appreciated!

jebmke
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by jebmke » Tue Mar 08, 2016 11:50 am

I'd be careful how much you try to cover in 5-6 days or you will end up spending a lot of time in the car. We spent a week just doing Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula and barely scratched the surface.
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fishmonger
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by fishmonger » Tue Mar 08, 2016 12:10 pm

jebmke wrote:I'd be careful how much you try to cover in 5-6 days or you will end up spending a lot of time in the car. We spent a week just doing Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula and barely scratched the surface.
Thanks jebmke. That was another question I had, since being from New England we can tend to lose the scale of the West (from where I live in NH Montreal, New York City, Providence, and Portland, ME are all less than 4 hours away).

Just figured I would start to research good spots to set up "camp" and start from there in terms of what we would try to accomplish

Van
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by Van » Tue Mar 08, 2016 12:16 pm

Although a bit of a diversion in not being between Seattle and Whitefish, the Oregon coast has some spectacular scenery. Check it out, if you can.

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mhc
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by mhc » Tue Mar 08, 2016 12:54 pm

If you are driving from Seattle to Whitefish, consider a stop a Coeur d'Alene.

We did Glacier/Yellowstone/Waterton 2 years ago (kids 6/8/10). 2.5 weeks was not too long for us. We spent 5 nights in Whitefish. We stayed at the Pine Lodge and was quite happy with it. We were able to get a suite at a reasonable price. Go up to Waterton Canada if you have the time. It is the Canadian side of Glacier. It forms one large international park.

The west is big and spread out, but we like that. We don't mind driving. There is always something interesting to see along the way. Also, you can drive pretty fast in Montana. We stop frequently to let the kids run around, throw rocks in the water, jump in the water, .... My kids are never ready for trips to end. We have been to lots of National Parks and National Monuments (40+).

If you have the time to go to Yellowstone do it. Everyone should go at least once. It is the most amazing park. If you have the time, your kids should be able to manage it. National Parks are the best places for kids. Lots of physical activity and adventure. You need at least 5 days to see Yellowstone. It is a huge park with a lot of diversity. You can't just see one part and assume you have seen everything. It is extremely diverse.

Soon2BXProgrammer
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by Soon2BXProgrammer » Tue Mar 08, 2016 12:56 pm

Last edited by Soon2BXProgrammer on Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

bubbadog
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by bubbadog » Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:03 pm

We did Seattle, Olympic NP, Columbia River Gorge, and Mt. St. Helens last summer with our two chidren. Took about 11-12 days. I would not want to do more driving than that. Great area of the country to visit.

Rupert
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by Rupert » Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:08 pm

I'll speak to the Glacier part of your trip (which, btw, you do realize how far of a drive it is from Seattle to Glacier NP, right?): Spend a day driving the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier and, yes, do make time for a day in Waterton. Do the hike at Logan Pass while on the Going to the Sun Road. As for Waterton, it's worth the trip to Canada just to see the Prince of Wales Hotel. (Note that you will need passports for all of you though; so get that in order pretty quickly if you, and especially your kids, don't have them). There's a short, steep hike near the hotel overlooking Waterton that has the most amazing view. (Sorry, I can't remember what the trail is called). It's probably too late for you to book a hotel room in one of the historic national park hotels, but there still may be time for you to book something in one of the historic railway hotels outside the park, such as the Belton Chalet or the Izaak Walton Inn. There's not much in the way of modern accommodations near Glacier, which is fairly isolated as far as national parks go and doesn't have the infrastructure of Yellowstone, etc. There is (or used to be) a great pie restaurant in St. Mary, MT, on the east side of Glacier. I recommend the strawberry rhubarb.

DSInvestor
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by DSInvestor » Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:14 pm

There are some really beautiful places north of Seattle.

1. Artist Point Washington near Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan. Do a google image search for "artist point washington".

I-5 North to Bellingham, WA. Take 542 east to the end and take the road past the ski area up to artist point parking lot. Northwest Pass or National Park Pass accepted for parking.
There are many incredibly beautiful hikes at Artist Point/Heather Meadows and also along 542.
1. Chain Lakes (camping spots for backpacking)
2. Lake Ann (camping spots for backpacking - popular with folks climbing Mt. Shuksan).
3. Ptarmigan ridge
4. If kids are not up for long hike, Artist Ridge Trail is short, easy with spectacular views of Mt Shuksan and Mt Baker.

Off WA-542 on the way to Artist point:
5. Skyline Divide (13 mile unpaved road to access trail head)
6. Yellow Astor Butte (several miles of unpaved roads to access trail head).

The hikes listed above are dog friendly.

After a day hiking at Artist point, try some wood fire pizza at La Fiamma in Bellingham (200 Chestnut St).

North Cascades NP is also north of Seattle along highway 20.
Last edited by DSInvestor on Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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JoinToday
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by JoinToday » Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:24 pm

This is a little off topic, but I was surprised by the car rental tax & hotel room fees (tax) the first time I went to Seattle. Something like 15% or 20% if I recall correctly, and I am not sure if sales tax is on top of that or not. But it kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

Having said that, I enjoyed Seattle.
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barnaclebob
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by barnaclebob » Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:37 pm

Paradise at Mt Rainier gets crowded on sunny weekends but its absolutely worth it for the views vs ease of access ratio. If you want a few less crowds but equally good views then Artist point near the Mt Baker Ski area is a good alternative. If you just want a day drive then Highway 20 up to the liberty bell group can't be beat. Many places to stop on the way to take pictures or eat a packed lunch.

For 5 or 6 days Don't bother with the Olympic Peninsula, it takes 6-8 hours each way to get there including ferry waits.

If I were bringing a family to Seattle I'd want to stay in an AirBnB near green lake. Mt baker lodging is where to look for cabins near Mt. Baker, very reasonable prices. I've also stayed in some cabins about 100 yards outside the paradise entrance to Mt. Rainier but I don't know the price of them.

quantAndHold
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by quantAndHold » Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:56 pm

barnaclebob wrote: For 5 or 6 days Don't bother with the Olympic Peninsula, it takes 6-8 hours each way to get there including ferry waits.
Olympic Peninsula is more like 3-4 hours, if you have ferry reservations. Don't try to go there in the summer without reservations.

We spent an entire week on the Olympic Peninsula last summer, and only got halfway around the peninsula. It was a great trip.

Unless you're really into cities, I wouldn't spend more than a day in Seattle. I would just pick up the rental car and head out of town. There are 3 national parks within a half day's drive of Seattle, and plenty of beautiful country within a half day in any direction. Heading farther than that is a lot of driving with little additional benefit over what you'd get by just staying in Western Washington.

DTR102363
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by DTR102363 » Tue Mar 08, 2016 2:22 pm

Lived in North Bend, WA 30 miles east of Seattle, my 3 kids were young. Know the drill well. Traveled the NW. It took me 8-9 hours to drive from Big Mountain in Whitefish to North Bend, fairly straight thru drive.

Too many options really. If I knew a little more about what you want to do or see, I would be happy to provide some direction. I'm back east now and love showing people the PNW, it's a phenomenal place despite the recent growth in Seattle.

barnaclebob
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by barnaclebob » Tue Mar 08, 2016 2:33 pm

quantAndHold wrote:
barnaclebob wrote: For 5 or 6 days Don't bother with the Olympic Peninsula, it takes 6-8 hours each way to get there including ferry waits.
Olympic Peninsula is more like 3-4 hours, if you have ferry reservations. Don't try to go there in the summer without reservations.
I wasn't aware ferry reservations were possible on the big ferries. Are you talking about one of the smaller ones?

DTR102363
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by DTR102363 » Tue Mar 08, 2016 2:39 pm

Lived in North Bend, WA 30 miles east of Seattle, my 3 kids were young. Know the drill well. Traveled the NW. It took me 8-9 hours to drive from Big Mountain in Whitefish to North Bend, fairly straight thru drive.

Too many options really. If I knew a little more about what you want to do or see, I would be happy to provide some direction. I'm back east now and love showing people the PNW, it's a phenomenal place despite the recent growth in Seattle.

Pdxnative
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by Pdxnative » Tue Mar 08, 2016 2:52 pm

If you want to camp, you might check out gear rental at the Seattle REI.

Seattle is a beautiful city. South Lake Union area, near the Space Needle, can be a good spot to stay. (Seattle is not cheap, though). If you want to consider suburbs, just keep in mind that Seattle traffic is a nightmare during rush hour. To see the city, we have found staying in the city is best.

Personally, I would not include Yellowstone. That could be a future trip with a flight to SLC. With so many places to enjoy in the true PNW--North Cascades NP, Mt Rainier, St Helens, Columbia River Gorge, OR and WA coast, PDX, Olympic Peninsula--that it would be a shame to spend that time driving in Montana. Nothing against Montana, but if that is the goal, why not fly into a closer airport and do Glacier, Yellowstone, Tetons?

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fishmonger
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by fishmonger » Tue Mar 08, 2016 2:58 pm

mhc wrote:
If you have the time to go to Yellowstone do it. Everyone should go at least once. It is the most amazing park. If you have the time, your kids should be able to manage it. National Parks are the best places for kids. Lots of physical activity and adventure. You need at least 5 days to see Yellowstone. It is a huge park with a lot of diversity. You can't just see one part and assume you have seen everything. It is extremely diverse.
We absolutely will do Yellowstone, just not on this trip. Too late to plan, and there's a good chance that 2 kindergartners will be exhausted by that point. Looking to do a Yellowstone/Grand Tetons trip in 5 years or so

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fishmonger
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by fishmonger » Tue Mar 08, 2016 3:04 pm

barnaclebob wrote:Paradise at Mt Rainier gets crowded on sunny weekends but its absolutely worth it for the views vs ease of access ratio. If you want a few less crowds but equally good views then Artist point near the Mt Baker Ski area is a good alternative. If you just want a day drive then Highway 20 up to the liberty bell group can't be beat. Many places to stop on the way to take pictures or eat a packed lunch.

For 5 or 6 days Don't bother with the Olympic Peninsula, it takes 6-8 hours each way to get there including ferry waits.

If I were bringing a family to Seattle I'd want to stay in an AirBnB near green lake. Mt baker lodging is where to look for cabins near Mt. Baker, very reasonable prices. I've also stayed in some cabins about 100 yards outside the paradise entrance to Mt. Rainier but I don't know the price of them.
Thanks for the lodging recommendations, highly appreciated!!

We don't have set plans as to what we want to do. A couple of very good friends live in Seattle, and another lives in Whitefish. We're outdoors oriented people, but also want to explore Seattle a bit but like I said probably a day or two at most. Our kids are young enough that they love the outdoors, but can get worn out/bored easily after a few days of doing "the same thing". Switching things up will help in that regard.

The reason we're doing Seattle/Whitefish is due to the fact that we live on the East Coast. We're being realistic that a cross country trip like this is only doable once every 3-4 years. Maybe not even that often once the kids really get into sports, summer camps, etc.

leonard
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by leonard » Tue Mar 08, 2016 3:43 pm

If you want something uniquely Washington - head to the San Juan Islands. Lot's to do - check out mount constitution on Orcas for the view. If you go to the San Juans - plan ahead as summer ferry trips can have big back ups. Alternatively, you could go to Victoria and the Gulf Islands for a similar experience.
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Watty
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by Watty » Tue Mar 08, 2016 5:23 pm

jebmke wrote:I'd be careful how much you try to cover in 5-6 days or you will end up spending a lot of time in the car. We spent a week just doing Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula and barely scratched the surface.
+1

The states are big in the west so it can take a long time to get somewhere.

I have not taken it but there is a AMTRAK train that goes from Seattle to Glacier that you might look into if you can get a rental car in Glacier or a nearby town where the train stops.

Some of the state and national parks are very popular so it would be good to make reservations as soon as possible. Any cabins or Yurts(tent cabins) in the parks will fill up real fast and to find commercial accommodations around the parks you may need to drive a long way to get out of the park.

I think tents would be a better way to see the national park. If you don't want to ship your camping gear then I would look at just stopping at a Costco in Seattle and buying a basic tent and sleeping bags to use. You don't meed much cooking gear if you mostly eat diners out. You could just drop it off a Goodwill or ship it back when you are done. If you use the tent for just a couple of nights it will have paid for itself.

Renting an RV in Montana there would also be an option.

Some of the areas you will be going through were affected by the Missoula Floods at the end of the last ice age so they have a lot of unique geology so it would be good to read up on that more so that you can appreciate what is going on. There are likely some documentaries that you can find about this.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missoula_Floods

One thing I like doing when I am out west is just laying out and looking at the stars on a clear moonless night. You can lookup the moon-rise and moon set times and also what satellites will be passing overhead.

Bir48die
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by Bir48die » Tue Mar 08, 2016 5:43 pm

Wow. I can't believe you're not considering Oregon. Why? Weather is better. Beaches are better. Seattle traffic is worse. Portland food scene is better. You can drive 1-84 through Idaho and get to Montana easier than driving through the middle of Wash state. That being said a couple days in Seattle (stay downtown). Pike's Market, Space Needle, Rock & Roll Museum. The usual haunts.

petiejoe
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by petiejoe » Tue Mar 08, 2016 5:53 pm

Since you like camping, you may really like renting cabins in one of the state parks: http://parks.state.wa.us/403/Cabins-Rus ... ters-Yurts . Depending on which one you go to, the calendar may fill up fast so definitely get a reservation in quickly. Several people have discouraged from visiting the peninsula because it's a long drive, but if you are outdoorsy, I can't give a strong enough recommendation for visiting the Hoh rainforest - it's incredible and unlike anything you'll see anywhere else. When I go to the peninsula I usually just drive - I don't think the expense and hassle of taking a car on the ferry is worth it. On the other hand, I definitely do recommend walking on the ferry - it's fairly inexpensive and extremely scenic. Most of the ferry destinations have at least a few shops to visit, but I'd probably recommend the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry as a good one to take - 35 minute ferry ride and a cute little walkable town (assuming that you like walking - check the distances for yourself).

My in-laws have a condo in Snoqualmie Pass and I love staying there during the summer because it's off season for skiing, which means lots of great hiking with relatively low traffic. I'm not going to volunteer their condo (sorry, not mine to offer), but you might check for lodging in the area via airbnb (or there are a few hotels in the area). http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/iron-horse-tunnel is fun - I've been through there several times with different people and everybody I've brought has enjoyed it. It's about an hour from Seattle, but it might be a good starting point for your eastward trek.

Northern Flicker
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by Northern Flicker » Tue Mar 08, 2016 7:02 pm

fishmonger wrote:So DW and our two kids (age 6 and 5) are thinking about taking a vacation to the Pacific NW this summer (early July). Tentative plan is to fly to Seattle, bang around there for 5-6 days, hit up some of the national parks and maybe spend a day or two in the city. After that, we'll drive to Whitefish, MT to hang out with friends and explore Glacier NP for a couple of days. Our original plans were to add Yellowstone into the mix, but we thought this would be enough for kids that age.

In both spots we have friends to visit, but neither has enough room for a family of 4. I'm wondering if anyone on this board has a good "homebase" for us to try and find lodging in Washington? We do a lot of camping as a family, but are not going to be dragging our camping gear 3000 miles. Can be areas, cabins, cottages, etc.

We've been to most of the NPs on the East Coast, but neither of us has ever been to the Pacific Northwest.

Any tips would be appreciated!
Why not take advantage of the strong dollar, and fly into Vancouver, BC instead? I think the Canadian Rockies are a significantly shorter drive from Vancouver than Glacier Park is from Seattle, and Vancouver is a great city for kids (Stanley Park, Capilano suspension bridge, UBC anthropologic museum (totem poles and other native art), aquabus rides.

Return from Calgary or Edmonton and you just need a 1-way car rental.

orca91
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by orca91 » Tue Mar 08, 2016 7:30 pm

Snoqualmie (area) might be a good spot to look at. There are mountain cabins there you can rent right near the freeway, but it still feels very outdoorsy. It's not too far from Seattle, Leavenworth (national forest around there), and whatever else is around there.

In Seattle with a couple little ones, there's the zoo, Golden Gardens, Alki, Green Lake, and the Ballard Locks are all fun and outside.

quantAndHold
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by quantAndHold » Tue Mar 08, 2016 7:52 pm

barnaclebob wrote:
quantAndHold wrote:
barnaclebob wrote: For 5 or 6 days Don't bother with the Olympic Peninsula, it takes 6-8 hours each way to get there including ferry waits.
Olympic Peninsula is more like 3-4 hours, if you have ferry reservations. Don't try to go there in the summer without reservations.
I wasn't aware ferry reservations were possible on the big ferries. Are you talking about one of the smaller ones?
Yes. Specifically, the ones that you'd take to go to the Olympic peninsula. Most of the other ferries don't take reservations. I don't remember the names of the boats or the routes, but we had reservations when we went to the OP last summer. We pretty much just showed up 20 minutes before the departure time and drove straight onto the boat.

Or...wait. Maybe it was the ferries we took to and from the San Juans. I can't remember. Anyway, I remember it only taking half a day to get from Seattle to wherever we were camping.

barnaclebob
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by barnaclebob » Thu Mar 10, 2016 11:19 am

quantAndHold wrote:
barnaclebob wrote:
quantAndHold wrote:
barnaclebob wrote: For 5 or 6 days Don't bother with the Olympic Peninsula, it takes 6-8 hours each way to get there including ferry waits.
Olympic Peninsula is more like 3-4 hours, if you have ferry reservations. Don't try to go there in the summer without reservations.
I wasn't aware ferry reservations were possible on the big ferries. Are you talking about one of the smaller ones?
Yes. Specifically, the ones that you'd take to go to the Olympic peninsula. Most of the other ferries don't take reservations. I don't remember the names of the boats or the routes, but we had reservations when we went to the OP last summer. We pretty much just showed up 20 minutes before the departure time and drove straight onto the boat.

Or...wait. Maybe it was the ferries we took to and from the San Juans. I can't remember. Anyway, I remember it only taking half a day to get from Seattle to wherever we were camping.
Pretty sure that is the San Juan ferries. The only reasonable options to the peninsula are the Edmonds or maybe Seattle ferry.

Angrypuppy
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Re: Pacific Northwest Vacation

Post by Angrypuppy » Thu Mar 10, 2016 1:40 pm

quantAndHold wrote:
barnaclebob wrote: For 5 or 6 days Don't bother with the Olympic Peninsula, it takes 6-8 hours each way to get there including ferry waits.
Olympic Peninsula is more like 3-4 hours, if you have ferry reservations. Don't try to go there in the summer without reservations.

We spent an entire week on the Olympic Peninsula last summer, and only got halfway around the peninsula. It was a great trip.

Unless you're really into cities, I wouldn't spend more than a day in Seattle. I would just pick up the rental car and head out of town. There are 3 national parks within a half day's drive of Seattle, and plenty of beautiful country within a half day in any direction. Heading farther than that is a lot of driving with little additional benefit over what you'd get by just staying in Western Washington.
I live on the Olympic peninsula. I can get from the airport to where I live in one hour and fifteen minutes. That's very close to the hood canal bridge. I can get from my house to Port Angeles in an hour.

The only ferry in the state the had a reservation system is up in the San Juans. The Bainbridge ferry can be busy in the afternoon but you shouldn't have to watch more than one leave without getting on.

If it were me I'd pick up a rental car in Seattle and head straight for the peninsula then work your way east to MT from there.

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