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Pacific Northwest: The Rough Guide (Rough Guide Travel Guides) Paperback – 22 Feb 2001
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ROUTES AND ITINERARIES
Any one of the regions many wilderness areas could easily occupy a two- or three-week trip and frankly its hard not to be seduced by the legendary beauty of the Canadian Rockies or the stunning diversity of the Olympic Peninsula. That said, if youre planning to tour, the best idea is to combine a city or two with a mixture of land and sea routes, getting acquainted with some of the gorgeous scenery en route. Permutations, of course, are endless: you might visit Seattle before heading to the mountains of the Cascades; spend time in Calgary before visiting the Canadian Rockies; hole up in Vancouver before tackling southern British Columbia or Vancouver Island; base yourself in Portland as a preliminary to exploring the Oregon Coast; or stay in Bend to root around the southern portion of the Cascade range including Crater Lake. In all this, youll be facilitated by roads that probe even the most remote areas, a reasonable public transport system (better in the Canadian parts of the region), and a network of ferries that cobwebs most of the coast though its important to remember that the further north you go, the further youll have to drive between places of interest.
Certain itineraries do, however, suggest themselves, starting with Oregon where the coast offers lovely scenery and a sequence of appealing little towns just an hour or twos drive from the southern reaches of the Cascade Mountains, which you should dip into at least once or twice on any visit. Coming to Oregon from the east, on the other hand, your best bet is to follow the route of the old Oregon Trail, across the plains and down the Columbia River Gorge. Further north, Washington State offers more stunning Cascade scenery again you should try to sample at least a couple of the mountain roads as well as the Olympic Peninsula, which you can either drive round or visit from a nearby base like Port Townsend or Sequim. Further north again, in British Columbia, Vancouver Island and at least a part of the Canadian Rockies should be high up on anyones itinerary. To undertake the long overland journeys in the far north youll need plenty of time, a spirit of adventure and patience to cope with the featureless stretches: choose from the wild Cassiar Highway through northern BC; the Klondike Highway to Dawson City, site of the Klondike gold rush; and the Yukons Dempster Highway over the arctic tundra to Inuvik. Theres also the 1500-mile Alaska Highway which slices up through Alberta and British Columbia to Alaskas Fairbanks, though a nautical alternative is available here with ferry boats leaving Bellingham (and other ports) to sail up along the so-called Inside Passage, one of the worlds great sea journeys stretching all the way north to Alaska.
The vastness of the region, and the resultant climatic variations, make it difficult to generalize about the best time to go, although you should bear in mind that during winter many areas such as the higher peaks and passes of the mountain ranges are altogether inaccessible, while many more are simply unbearably cold. For more guidance on when to plan a visit, together with details of average temperatures and rainfall.