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North Cascades - Sandpoint -Joseph - Columbia River -Mt St Helens

North Cascades - Sandpoint -Joseph - Columbia River -Mt St Helens

Old Jul 24th, 2022, 10:48 PM
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North Cascades - Sandpoint -Joseph - Columbia River -Mt St Helens

Just back from a ten-day scenic tour of Wa St with a bit of Idaho and Oregon. We had a small bushwacker trailer and stayed at campgrounds. The weather was glorious and all of our experiences were positive. I loved our chosen destinations and hope this trip report might give you encouragement to discover a wide variety of scenery and even cultures.

We rented a UHaul pick-up for $800 which included 1500 miles and a small Bushwacker trailer thru a RV website that works like air bnb. The trailer was small and dark but comfortable, easy to pull and had all the basic things we needed.

Day 1: Olympia -Darrington
we started off late but drove through some spectacular scenery between Arlington -Oso and Darrington. The drive took us off the congested I5 and brought us quickly into small towns, lush farming countryside and a feeling of how life was 50 years ago. I highly recommend this route to get your mind off the hectic, congested I5 freeway and quickly into scenery that includes older white farm houses, rambling brooks and grassy fields that end at the first mountains still dotted with snow. What a change from urban Seattle!
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Old Jul 25th, 2022, 06:05 AM
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Looking forward to reading more! Yes, you were in our area and it is vastly different than Seattle! Did you stop at the Oso landslide area?
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Old Jul 25th, 2022, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by mms View Post
Looking forward to reading more! Yes, you were in our area and it is vastly different than Seattle! Did you stop at the Oso landslide area?
Unfortunately not. My family told me about it when we returned. What a tragedy.
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Old Jul 25th, 2022, 08:13 AM
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Searching for available campgrounds in July without reserving proved to be a daunting task but luck was on our side.

Day 1 Campground: Squire Creek Campground before Darrington

Review: many available sites in a quiet wooded area. Lovely creek running alongside the campground.

Day 2: Darrington -North Cascades
Campground : Lone Fir (located after Washington Pass). Quiet and clean campground with vault toilets and water. Known for its mosquitoes so bring repellent. Sites are spacious and mostly shady. friendly hosts.


I live in Switzerland and am surrounded by beautiful mountains but the North Cascades blew me away. The Highway is well-maintained and the natural beauty is staggering. We had perfect clear weather and the skies were still clear of smoke from forest fires. Washington had a very long and rainy spring which was why the vegetation was so lush and green everywhere. The mountains greet you with their majestic forms still covered with patches of snow. No wonder it was very difficult to find a campground.

We tried all four campgrounds around the visitor center but they were hopelessly full. People were even following the rangers as they opened sites last minute due to cancellations. Within minutes, those sites were gone.

We continued on to Washington Pass Overlook where we stopped and walked to the view site. WOW! If you ever plan on driving over the Highway, make sure you stop here. The stunning views of mountains and the twisting highway made the trip worthwhile right there.

we continued a few miles farther where we found a campsite in Lone Fir campground. We stayed Friday and Saturday night and we’re glad we did.
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Old Jul 26th, 2022, 06:09 AM
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Yes, our North Cascades are stunning! Our wildfire season does not typically start until August, and of course fingers crossed that we escape it entirely. This area is one of our favorites for backpacking. Our favorite trail looks down over Washington Pass, so you can imagine the views. In October, during larch season, this area is even better. So you need to come back
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Old Jul 26th, 2022, 11:00 AM
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Thanks mms. What’s the name of your favorite trail? It sounds marvelous.

Day 3: Today involved two lovely hikes from Rainy Pass.

Hike 1: An easy and level 15-20 minute paved trail back to Rainy Lake. Rainy Lake is a gorgeous glacial lake surrounded by high mountains, patches of snow and waterfalls. Highly recommended!

Hike 2: Anne Ross Loop starting also at Rainy Lake Rest Area

A four hour long hike through forests and ledges back to Anne Ross Lake. The trail takes you above and past the lake into the heart of the Cascades. Because of large patches of snow on top, we stopped at the top of the ridge behind the lake and then turned back but the trail goes up and around the back part of the lake with views of Rainy Lake. All in all, Glorious panoramas of majestic mountains unmarked by civilization.

Just as a reminder, in this part of the Cascades, there are no nearby shops so make sure you have enough provisions during your time in the area.

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Old Jul 26th, 2022, 11:06 AM
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kleeblat--It is Cutthroat Pass, which intersects with the PCT. The views from the top are just stunning. There are so many good ones up in this area, but this is one that we have enjoyed many times. You are right, there is not much up in this area so you need to be prepared! I
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Old Jul 27th, 2022, 11:58 AM
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Tagging along.... this is a tremendously beautiful part of the country. I remember trying to swim in the shady St Joe River in St Maries, ID.... but shady means cold upon cold, so we could do no more than dip our toes in. Later, we managed to swim in the very, very cold Pend Oreille River just west of Sandpoint. The kind of cold where you have to keep swimming so as not to freeze. But since the river is so wide and sunny, we could manage it. Cascades are awesome as well. Plus all the waterfalls on the Columbia River Gorge. Yes, it brings back memories.

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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 03:37 PM
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Day 4: Winthrop - Twisp, Loup Loup Ski Resort, Okanogan, Tonasket, Republic and Sherman Pass (before Kettle Falls)

Today was a day about driving, exploring, buying groceries and being mesmerized by the scenery

1) Lone Fire Campground to Winthrop: the scenery changes to pastures, hay fields and trees in the hills. There are amazing wooden second homes that dot the hills and pastures as you come closer to Winthrop.

Winthrop is a quaint small "Western" town that offers cafes, restaurants, clothes and many art galleries. The town decided to reinvent itself before the North Cascades Highway was opened so they hired an architect who transformed the sidewalks and shop fronts to reflect a frontier style. Not to miss in Winthrop is the Shafer museum. LOVED it. That's where one can travel back to time and see the old school house, the doctor's office, the post office, a clothing shop, the "castle" and many more relics of the past. Highly recommended and a highlight of Winthrop.

Hank's at Twisp is THE grocery store to load up food staples and just enjoy walking through their aisles being highly impressed by the large selection of items. Hank's is also where the cheapest gas in the area was.

Being Swiss, we had to visit the Loup Loup Ski Bowl. The small ski resort with one chairlift (bought from Crystal Mountain) is open both summer and winter. We had a lovely conversation with the manager who explained how they want to be able offer skiing at affordable prices to the locals. He was quite dedicated and passionate about the lift, its history and future. We left highly impressed with the dedication behind Loup Loup.

It was then downhill to Okanagon and up to Tonasket. Not much to say here expect it was dry and not that picturesque. But it brought into a stretch that we adored. The road going towards Republic includes an area called Wauconda, where life stands still a bit and the roads wind through narrow canyons leading into gorgeous alpine fields.

The drive continues to Republic where we sadly had no time to stop. Similar to Winthrop, it's another Western town with various businesses. I would have loved to explore it a bit more but we needed to make headway today.

The scenic drive continued not to disappoint and we decided to stop at Sherman's Pass to check out the lookout. So glad we did because we discovered some campsites for a reasonable amount of $6. The campground offered one water pump (which literally needed to be pumped by hand) and vault toilets. It was quiet and nestled in the lower mountains. The views were of mountains of trees everywhere. Now this was camping in the wilderness. Two more campers joined us at the campground that night.

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Old Aug 3rd, 2022, 09:48 AM
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Love this! You got to an are of our state that many residents on the west side never even go to! Tonasket is a gem. There is a taco truck there that is killer! We bring things home from there in a cooler We have done road trips over that direction for camping and it is such a great area. Conconully Lake is really nice lake there.The bakery in Twisp is a wonderful for sandwiches and the best milk shakes made from real ice cream. Our sons gf is from Tonasket and learned to ski at Loup Loup. I am so glad that you are still posting!
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Old Aug 4th, 2022, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by mms View Post
Love this! You got to an are of our state that many residents on the west side never even go to! Tonasket is a gem. There is a taco truck there that is killer! We bring things home from there in a cooler We have done road trips over that direction for camping and it is such a great area. Conconully Lake is really nice lake there.The bakery in Twisp is a wonderful for sandwiches and the best milk shakes made from real ice cream. Our sons gf is from Tonasket and learned to ski at Loup Loup. I am so glad that you are still posting!
Thank you so much for your kind comments. I would have liked to explore Tonasket a bit but we needed to head on. I hope your suggestions can encourage others to invest some time in that area.
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Old Aug 4th, 2022, 01:04 PM
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Day 5: Sherman Pass - Colville

Campground: Douglas Falls (no charge for camping but gates close at 9) Vault toilets and water available. Three sites up front and 5 large sites in the back. https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/...ure-loop-trail

We've been told the area around Colville was similar to Montana's White Fish/Kalispell area so we decided to settle down for a day and explore.

Colville is a bustling, liveable Western town with industrial areas that include large chain stores including Walmart and a downtown that still offers parking right in front of the shops. There's a fairground behind the old town and a lovely lady that works at the Chamber of Commerce/Tourist office, where we got maps and info. For free wifi, we also used the tourist office and the library.

We wanted to take showers at the Colville Inn at their pool but was sadly advised someone had stolen all the five shower heads out of the men's bathroom so we found a secret alternative instead. Life in a smaller town doesn't mean there's no crime.

We enjoyed getting to know Colville and life in a large Northeastern town. The area around Colville is indeed like Montana but seemingly more affordable and far fewer "second" homes of the rich. We enjoyed driving around the area back at the campground and seeing the smaller farms nestled in the valley. We also did a Kettle Falls / Marcus / Evans loop tour back to Douglas Falls. We did some major shopping and just enjoyed a slower day.

Last edited by kleeblatt; Aug 4th, 2022 at 01:37 PM.
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Old Aug 4th, 2022, 01:24 PM
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Day 6: Colville, Park Rapids (Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge), Tiger, Calispell, Usk, Sandpoint, East Hope

Campground: Sam Owens in East Hope ($26/night) flush toilets, water and some sites have hookups. Right on Pend Oreille lake and lots of space between sites. Quietest sites: the back sites on Dancing Shadow. This was our favourite campsite. They have a nice pebble beach for bathing.

One of our favourite drives was definitely between Colville and Tiger. The wilderness, the lakes, the remoteness, the colours, the good road and basically everything about it made it feel like a drive through paradise.

Tiger is a one building town (from our perspective) and the drive along the Pend Oreille River to Sandpoint, Idaho, was nice but longish. We stopped at the Calispell Indian Reservation in Usk to see the buffalo but all but one of these mighty creatures were grazing far in the forests. We managed to take a photo of one buffalo and drove on to Sandpoint.

Sandpoint in summer is about water sports. The campgrounds are full and water sport toys are abundant. We wanted to to stay at Springy Point but without a reservation, we were turned away due to no vacancy. They did offer suggests which eventually took us to Sam Owen Campground to try our luck. We indeed get extremely lucky and got a quiet, shady and all around perfect site in an immaculate campground right on the lake. We could take evening dips in the lake and cook superb meals over the campfire. Highly recommended despite being farther away from Sandpoint.

Last edited by kleeblatt; Aug 4th, 2022 at 01:38 PM.
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Old Aug 4th, 2022, 01:38 PM
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Day 7: Sandpoint Idaho / Schweitzer Mountain

What does a good Swiss do in Sandpoint? Head for the Schweitzer ski resort, of course! This larger resort had one lift open for $25 return or free of charge for those who hike up. It was another glorious day so we hiked up the hiker's trail for about 2.5 - 3 hours and enjoyed the stunning views while analyzing the different runs. Schweitzer looks like a top rate ski resort that offers a great deal of runs for various levels. A day ski ticket will be around $120/day, which made us realize ski passes are much cheaper in Switzerland. Davos is about $80/day.

After our long hike, we bought some excellent salmon and headed back to our dear campground for a quick jump in the lake and a relaxing evening around the fire.
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Old Aug 5th, 2022, 03:05 PM
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I am still really enjoying reading all about your trip! I haven to been to Colville in years, so it is nice to hear about it. I really like Sandpoint. Yes, our ski tickets are insanely priced! We used to ski for cheap with military rates, but just in the last year even those doubled and the mountains are so busy that it just isn't enjoyable. So we have given up on our annual passes starting last year. Our son and his gf though still go every weekend and most nights after work in the winter. Plus they travel to ski, and Schweitzer is one they have been to quite a bit. They have been ski action models for a line of skis, so they are pretty serious about it.

Salmon in a campground by a lake, it sure doesn't get much better than that! You really have done a great job at seeing the real WA, IMO!
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Old Aug 5th, 2022, 03:23 PM
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Signing on for ideas for a future trip!
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Old Aug 7th, 2022, 07:36 PM
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Day 8: Sandpoint - Moscow - Lewiston/Clarkston - Highway 129 to Enterprise, Or - Joseph -Wallowa Lake

Camground: Wallowa Lake State Park, Oregon
This is a large campground that’s full in summer and offers some hook ups. We got lucky and got a site due to a cancellation. It was a hookup site so we paid $40 a nite. Clean bathrooms with showers. Loud hand dryers in the bathrooms so try to get a site farther in the back.

Road trip! What a day for scenery! Lovely green alfalfa fields, sparse wilderness, hills, valleys and good roads. The highlight of today was driving down to Lewiston and then taking Highway 3 through lonely back country with small towns that lists the population of people, cats and dogs to our favourite part of all: the inverted pass down to the Grande Ronde/ Rattlesnake Creek and back up. What a canyon, what a windy road, what scenery! There was no traffic, a well-maintained road and this part of Wa/Or is a hidden gem. It also takes you into Nez Perce country with markers and lookouts pointing out the history and trails of the tribe.

https://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2019/...stern.html?m=1

Joseph, Oregon: a Western town with many art galleries and bronze statues. Quite nice to walk through.

Continue on and you’ll drive by the burial place if Chief Joseph at the tip of Wallowa Lake with alpine mountains rising behind.

After settling in at the campground, we walked around the “Little Switzerland” village, which was promoted by a Swiss gentleman who grew up in a town near my home in Switzerland. You’ll see Heidi’s gift shop and the Little Matterhorn put put golf course. The real magic though, is taking the gondola up to Howard’s mountain, which we did the next day.

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Old Aug 8th, 2022, 05:02 AM
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This trip is on my bucket list. Thanks for the report.
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Old Aug 8th, 2022, 06:49 AM
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I adore the Wallowas! We have not camped at that campground, but did leave our SUV there to go backpacking for a few days. If you get the chance, head up to Aneroid Lake. There is an old mining camp up there at one end that is privately owned now. We had set up camp and were wandering around when we got to the sign for private land. The caretaker happened to be right there and invited us in. He showed us everything, offered us showers even, and it was just a really nice time chatting with him and learning the history of it. Over where we camped, the lake itself was beautiful. Horses are on the trail as well, bringing supplies up to the private camp.

I remember Joseph before all the art galleries/bronze statues. Again, some of our family is from there.

How was the gondola? We have never taken it as we just backpack in the area. We should do that sometime though out of curiosity.
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Old Aug 9th, 2022, 10:18 AM
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We also loved discovering the eastern part of Oregon as our last vacation before Covid hit. The scenery around the Wallowas was beautiful and only wished that we had been able to hike them. We rented a house right on the lake and explored from there. I didn't realize that Joseph was so well known for the bronzes it produces. Turing the factory was quite interesting. Yes, you'll see them on most street corners, but unlike many places where they are just set on concrete, almost every one had a garden or naturalized setting around it. Also did the peddle buggies on the abandoned train tracks. This was a first for us, but now I see them many places. Old fashion soda fountain...lots of fun things to explore in town. Sorry we didn't get to take the gondola as it was too windy the day we planned to go. Sure the views were outstanding. We definitely enjoyed the area
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