The sun sets over Chimney Rock on a summer evening in Western Nebraska.

RealImaginaryWest 2016 – The Oregon Trail & Pacific Northwest Road Trip

We’re headed out West again in July 2016! We’ll drive I-80 from Cleveland, Ohio to Western Nebraska and follow the Oregon Trail route all the way to Portland, Oregon. After a few days in the Pacific Northwest, we’ll spend a few days at Glacier National Park.

We’ve been planning this for a few months now and have our itinerary ready to share below. Watch for our posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with the hashtag #RealImaginaryWest.


Our route along the Oregon Trail to the Pacific Northwest and Glacier National Park for RealImaginaryWest 2016
  • 17 days
  • 14 states
    OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, WY, UT, ID, OR, WA, MT, ND, MN, WI
  • The Oregon Trail
  • 4 national parks:
    • Olympic National Park
    • Mount Ranier National Park
    • Glacier National Park
    • Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • 3 cities:
    • Portland, Oregon
    • Seattle
    • Minneapolis


Day 1 Fri Leave after picking Becky up from work in Middleburg Heights, Ohio (suburban Cleveland) and drive to Davenport, Iowa where we’ll stay in a motel.
Day 2 Sat Drive across Iowa and most of Nebraska along I-80, and then up to Scotts Bluff National Monument by 6pm and back to Chimney Rock, where we’ll make camp at Chimney Rock Pioneer Crossing Campground near Bayard, Nebraska. Starting at about Kearney, Nebraska, I-80 follows very close to the old Oregon Trail route. We’ll continue to follow very near it on various highways all the way to the Columbia River in Oregon.
Day 3 Sun Get an early start from Chimney Rock and drive across all of Wyoming, loosely following the Oregon Trail route, with likely stops at Fort Laramie, Ayers Natural Bridge, Independence Rock, Devils Gate, and Farson Mercantile, where we’ll actually cross our route from Wyoming to Colorado from last year. For the sake of time, we’ll take a cutoff route from Farson to Kemmerer, rather than going as far south as Fort Bridger before we diverge slightly from the old trail route to Cottonwood Campground at Bear Lake State Park in Utah for the night.
Day 4 Mon Get another early start and rejoin the Oregon Trail route all the way across Idaho and Eastern Oregon to The Dalles on the Columbia River. The Dalles is where emigrants either built rafts to float down the Columbia, or they took the Barlow Road around Mount Hood to the Willamette Valley. Along the way we’ll stop in Soda Springs and at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker City, Oregon. We’ll get a motel in The Dalles since we’ll be on the road until about 8 or 9pm.
Day 5 Tue Get an early start and drive the Historic Columbia River Highway all the way to Troutdale, a suburb of Portland. The Historic Columbia River Highway was one of the very first scenic highways built in the United States during the early automobile era. There are many waterfalls along the route, including Multnomah Falls, the second-highest waterfall in the United States, as well as scenic vistas of the Columbia River Gorge. From the highway, we will spend a few hours in Portland and meet up with Becky’s sister, Rachel, and her husband, Tim,  who will join us camping on the Olympic Peninsula. From Portland, we drive up to Willaby Campground, just across Lake Quinault from Olympic National Park in Olympic National Forest in Washington.
Day 6 Wed Pack up from Willaby Campground and move to Sol Duc Campground, which is nestled in the mountain part of Olympic National Park. Along the way we’ll likely hike at Hoh Rain Forest and stop at Ruby Beach.
Day 7 Thu We’ll have the entire day at Olympic National Park without having to move our camp from Sol Duc Campground. There are tons of hiking trails to hit in this area.
Day 8 Fri Pack up from Sol Duc Campground and leave Olympic National Park, taking a ferry across Puget Sound to Seattle, where we’ll spend a little time and drop Rachel and Tim off so they can fly home. Then we drive two hours to our site at Cougar Rock Campground in Mount Rainier National Park.
Day 9 Sat We don’t have a reservation for our second night in Mount Rainier National Park, but we should be able to grab a campsite early at Cougar Rock, Ohanapecosh, or White River Campgrounds, since they all have walk-in campsites on a first-come, first-served basis. Otherwise, we plan to do some hiking and sightseeing in the park.
Day 10 Sun Leave Mount Ranier National Park and head to Fish Creek Campground, in Glacier National Park in Montana.
Day 11 Mon Find a place to camp at Glacier National Park in one of the many first-come, first served campgrounds and then hike and see stuff!
Day 12 Tue Spend the whole day at Glacier National Park.
Day 13 Wed Spend yet another whole day at Glacier National Park…perhaps we’ll have an opportunity somewhere in here to also visit Waterton Lakes National Park, which is just over the border in Canada.
Day 14 Thu We will probably leave Glacier National Park and head East across Montana to Theodore Roosevelt National Park…but since we don’t have reservations already, maybe we’ll decide to stay one more day at Glacier…? If we do head to Theodore Roosevelt, we intend to stay in Cottonwood Campground for two nights.
Day 15 Fri Definitely leave Glacier if we’re still there, and go to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. If we’re already there, then we’ll have plenty of time to check out both the South and North Units of the park.
Day 16 Sat Pack up camp in Theodore Roosevelt National Park and head East across the prairie to Minneapolis or Western Wisconsin, depending on what we feel like doing.
Day 17 Sun Depart wherever we stop in Minnesota or Wisconsin and head back to Cleveland via Chicagoland.


How We Planned This Trip

If you’re looking for some insight on how we came up with this year’s itinerary, we have a few notes on our process. Obviously, this is not an exact science, seeing as weather is almost always a factor, and then there are other things that just happen (like dehydrating from altitude or having a rodent move into your car). Either way, you can get a few ideas of what we did to figure out what to see and why, so that hopefully you too can plan your very own trip!

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