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Old 01-10-2012, 12:08 AM   #1
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Yellowstone or Pacific Northwest April-May?

Our annual 3-4 week vacation is coming up in April-May which is a little bit earlier than I wanted in order to confidently travel from Sacramento to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and back. I don't mind cold weather but don't want to hit heavy snow. From searching these forums and reading past trips to Yellowstone area from "Moosetags" I see that most facilities and roads in Yellowstone don't open until May 15 depending on the weather. Last year we vacationed this same time of year in Utah and Arizona and had a lot of cold weather and some snow at Grand Canyon on May 10. Of course, last year was a unusually long and wet winter.

My plan B itinerary is to take I5 up to Port Angeles WA stopping at Lassen, Crater Lake and Mt. Rainier NPs along the way. Take a day ferry to Victoria BC, tour Olympic NP and then return home via US 101 coastal route. I could encounter some wintery weather in this itinerary also, especially in the volcanic NPs. This winter has been nonexistent so far. No rain in Sacramento in over a month. If this below average precipitation trend continues, I'll have no problem in OR and WA.

I'd like to hear from those of you who live or have traveled in the Yellowstone area, OR or WA and are familiar with the "usual" weather from April 15-May15.

If all else fails we could always head south and go to southern AZ and New Mexico.

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Old 01-10-2012, 01:01 AM   #2
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It's hard to say what the weather is going to do this spring, given the past year.

We got frozen out of our reservation at Crater Lake last July (campground was under 10 feet of ice) and moved to Rainier instead. Many trails were closed there due to snow.

For those higher elevation spots troubled by late snows last July, normal snow conditions in the spring might produce the same sort of results. Coastal stuff will most likely be safe that time of year.

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Old 01-10-2012, 07:47 AM   #3
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I'm from Portland and can tell you that the northwest can be pretty wet that time of year. The Oregon and Washington coast and valleys receive a lot of rain during those months. It has been a dry winter here too this year, but typically our springs are very wet.

Both Crater Lake and Mt. Rainer are spectacular places to camp, but be sure to check out when the campgrounds open. The area can still be under a lot of snow in the spring. We camped at both places this September and the weather was beautiful but that's the very end of the season.

We've been to Yellowstone many times in the spring and you can get any kind of weather. Typically it's better than the NW though!

Have fun planning your trip! They're all beautiful places to visit...just be prepared to get wet

PS: Here are a couple of photos: First two of Crater Lake, and the second of the campgrounds below Paradise at Mt. Rainer
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Old 01-10-2012, 08:07 AM   #4
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We did the Tetons/Yellowstone in late may/early june a few years back. Cold, snow and lots of services were not yet open. The southern entrance into Yellowstone had only been open a few days, some of the park routes were opening/snowed/closing/plow/open while we were there.
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Old 01-10-2012, 08:30 AM   #5
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Heavy snow months in the Rockies are March, April and even the first half of May. December, January and February are colder but drier.
If you stay along the Pacific coast, the big winter storm you will get in the Rockies will be mostly rain.
I don't know about you, but heavy snow in my Airstream is no fun at all.
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:30 AM   #6
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I live in Eastern Washington and have found that your April/May window will be on the cold side, regardless of where you go. I wouldn't try Yellowstone because of the real chance of snow and the fact that there will be a lot of it closed.

Stick to the coast and you will be better off as long as you don't mind the rain. I use this time of year to get out into the central parts of Washington. Not as scenic but the fishing is good.

The Olympic Peninsula has some breath taking scenery and is worth the trip for sure.
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:49 AM   #7
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At Olympic National Park, you can park the Airstream near sea level and drive your TV up to the nearby views and/or snow. There is an amazing amount of spectacular scenery packed into a relatively small space.
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Old 01-10-2012, 11:13 AM   #8
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We have lived in Oregon for over 20 years and previously lived in Wyoming for 12 years. The best camping "weather" during your specified time frame will be in the NW, not Wyoming, which usually doesn't "thaw out" until June! (gardening season in Wyoming is 120 days in a good year!) The best time to visit Yellowstone is August thru early Oct.

The NW can be really "fickle" regarding weather. We usually don't count on reasonably dry weather until late June or early July. This current spate of dry weather can turn to a real "rainy season" in March thru June-July. However, our reward is that the summers here are absolutely glorious-July thru Oct.

If you don't mind a little rain, have fun on the coast and along the central Oregon valleys. East of the Cascades at that time of the year, or in the higher elevations, there most likely will be snow or wintry type weather. Crater NP may not open until the late May or June timeframe. (There is a paucity of snow at this time, but that situation can drastically change--or it may remain dry as it did in 76-77 with very little precip. Odds are that it will snow later this year. )

There are lots of hiking trails throughout the NW; all you need is a little rain gear! The forests are deep and inviting for hikers. Fishing, hiking, photography, etc are great in the NW.

Have fun and welcome to our little corner of heaven! Zigi

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