We booked a trip to Seattle and then started researching surrounding areas to check what was worth seeing. Right away Olympic Peninsula came on our radar and the more we looked into it, the more we wanted to explore it. So, our city trip to Seattle turned into a nature trip to the Olympic Peninsula – that happens a lot to us :-). We flew into Seattle in the afternoon and drove 2.5 hours to Quinault Valley area for our first night. We decided to stay on the south side of the peninsula, so that we could start our roadtrip there and go around the entire peninsula.
Couple of general notes about Olympic Peninsula:
- The weather is unpredictable even in July, so layer, layer, layer and make sure you have waterproof shoes and jacket.
- Watch out for wildlife while driving, there are a lot of deer that could jump in front of your car especially in the mornings and evenings.
- There is not a lot of hotels in the area, so book early.
Day 1 – Southwest Olympic Peninsula
Total driving time: 4 hours
We started our adventure on Quinault Rain Forest Loop Drive, a 31-mile loop around Lake Quinault, along the Quinault River into the Olympic National Park, and then back around the other side. There are many majestic stops along the way, including waterfalls, hikes, rainforest, and lake and river vistas. Just driving, it will take you an hour to go around, with stops, reserve a couple of hours. Learn more here.
Hoh National Forest
Designated as one of the wonders of Washington State, Hoh National Forest is also one of the only protected temperate rain forests in the Northern Hemisphere. The area gets 140 to 170 inches of rain annually in addition to the condensed mist that adds another 30 inches. The rain forest is mostly populated with Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock, which can reach 300 feet high and seven feet in diameter. Most of the trees are covered in hanging moss and ferns adding to the uniqueness of this area.
In peak season arrive early to avoid long lines at the entrance, by afternoon the park fills up and you have to wait for people to leave in order to be let in. The best place to start inside the park is the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, there are two short trails from there: the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles) and Hall of Mosses Trail (0.8 miles). As you walk, find small side trails that will take you down to the river for some great views.
Located just north of the famed La Push beach (from the Twilight movies), is known for its smooth-pebble shoreline, views of James Island complex, and massive driftwood along the shore. This is also the start place for the 1.5-mile hiking trail leading to Hole-in-the-Wall, where you can find one of the best tidal pools in the park.
As with all ocean beaches, especially ones with rocky shores, check out tide time schedule, to make sure you don’t get stranded anywhere in high tide.
Kalaloch Beach is a scenic pebble beach with high surf and tidal pools with beautiful marine wildlife. In addition, if you’d like to eat some good food and watch a sunset over Kalaloch Beach, check out Kalaloch Lodge.
Ruby Beach offers very dramatic views, with sea stacks, driftwood, meandering creek and garnet-colored sand.
City of Forks
The City of Forks, Port Angeles and the entire Olympic Peninsula struck fame when the Twilight book and movie series’ were based in Forks. The surrounding scenery in the movie became famous and many people across the world wanted to see this unique place. Even though parts of the movie were filmed somewhere else, the scenery is really similar. If you’re a fan of the movie, there are multiple Vampire signs throughout the Peninsula and you can take Twilight tours of the area. We looked for our Edwards, but no luck :-).
Day 2 – Northwest Olympic Peninsula
Total driving time: 4.5 hours
Cape Flattery is the furthest north-western point of CONUS. You can get there using Cape Flattery Trail, which is a 1.2 mile roundtrip trail that offers a chance to see wildlife. With dramatic headlands, sea stacks, coves this is a perfect place for beautiful sunsets. As you hike, make sure to check out Cape Flattery lighthouse on Tatoosh Island. You can also see sea lions, seals, puffins and whales in the ocean.
The clear blue deep Lake Crescent is nestled in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains. It’s a beautiful lake and there are multiple vistas and trails around the lake. This was one of our favorite spots in the Olympic Peninsula, the blue of the water contracted with the lush green of vegetation makes this a must see.
The 90-foot Marymere Falls are located along Lake Crescent drive and requires a short flat hike through old-grove forest (1.5-mile roundtrip). This is definitely worth the short hike.
Hurricane Ridge is the most easily accessed mountain area in the park. The road is open daily during the summer and on weekends/holiday Mondays outside of summer. The mountainous area stands at 5,242 feet and is named for its intense winds and unpredictable weather. This was a great hike for wildlife sightings and snow capped mountain views, even in July.
We stopped in Port Angeles to walk around and grab dinner. It’s a quick small town with a lot of walking areas. It was pretty windy and cold when we were there, so come prepared.
We spent the night in Port Angeles and then headed to Seattle to meet some friends for a 4th of July celebration at the Gas Works Park. Even though we have explored much more of Washington since then, we always remember Olympic National Park as a unique and picturesque place to go back to sometime in the future.
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