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Olympic National Park

First Beach Sunset Where?  Olympic National Park is located on the peninsula opposite Seattle Washington in the Pacific Northwest. Highlights:  Second Beach and Hurricane Ridge’s Hurricane Hill Trail When?  There’s really no bad time to visit Olympic National Park.  There are amazing scapes any time of year.  Our preference is summer for warmer weather and fewer rain days on the peninsula and in nearby Seattle. Who?  The entire family.  This is one great location with something for everyone. What?  The park bills itself as three parks in one, but to us it’s much more.  Beaches with sand, shells, rocks, driftwood, and surreal sea stacks (offshore land formations).  Mountains with miles of hiking, biking, and skiing.  Forests and rain forest of lush green.  Mountain lakes and streams of crystal clear waters.

Hurricane Ridge - Hill Trail

From the northeast corner of the peninsula and traveling counter clockwise, the parks includes (but aren’t limited to):

  • Deer ParkSol Duc falls
  • Heart O’ The Hills
  • Hurricane Ridge
  • Elwha
  • Storm King
  • Lake Crescent
  • Sol Duc
  • Mora and First, Second, and Third Beaches
  • Hoh Rain Forest
  • Kalaloch beach area
  • Quinalt Rain Forest

Getting There:  Most people will fly into Seattle, rent a car, and take a ferry across to the peninsula. Accommodations:  Like many national parks, there are few accommodations within the park itself.  The surrounding towns offer plenty of rental properties, but if you don’t know the area it may be hard to find a place that meets your expectations. Olympic National Park is massive.  The drive between parks can easily be an hour if there’s traffic or inclement weather.  Our recommendation is to stay in one of a couple central locations, the La Push/Mora/Forks area provides access to the western most parks and Port Angeles or Sequim (pronounced like swim but with a “k”, Skwim) for the northern parks.  If you only have a week, you won’t likely have time for the southeastern parks. In La Push, The Quileute Oceanside Resort is especially nice featuring cottages directly on First Beach within the Quileute Indian reservation.  Up the street from the resort is the trailhead to Second Beach, one of the most beautiful spots in the world.  A short drive away is Third Beach where we were blessed to watch feeding whales.  Quileute Oceanside is near the infamous city of Forks (made famous by the Twilight book series).  Forks offer is a small town with few restaurants.  If staying in this area, we suggest a trip to the grocery store and dining in. Port Angeles or Sequim provide access to the northern parks and fine dining.  There’s an abundance of lodging if you are accustomed to renting through VRBO.  If you’re looking for standard accommodations, consider the Sequim Holiday Inn Express.  This fairly new facility has suites available and features a rooftop garden with great mountain and lavender field views.

Hoh Rain Forest parkour

Recommendations:  Below is a sample itinerary to maximize exploration of Olympic National Park.

  • Day 1:  Arrive in Seattle and head to the Seattle Space Needle for a 360° view of the surrounding area and dinner at one of several nearby Queen Anne restaurants.  Stay overnight at any one of several Seattle hotels.
  • Day 2:  Visit Pike Place Market for morning coffee at the original Starbucks and fresh donuts at Daily Dozen.  Consider picking up fruits, vegetables, and fish from the market.  Depart Seattle for lunch in Port Townsend via the Bainbridge Island ferry.  The drive is a little less than an hour, but to arrive in Port Townsend before most restaurants stop serving lunch, you’ll want to arrive early enough to make a ferry departure prior to 11am.  From Port Townsend, drive to La Push via Forks with plans to stay 3 nights at Quileute Oceanside Resort.  This is a long, often scenic drive, but you’ll want to save the stops for the return trip (along the same road) so that you can reach Forks for grocery staples (there’s a small store in La Push if you don’t opt to go Forks).  You should have time for an afternoon stroll on the beach and to watch the sun set.
  • Day 3:  Check your weather to determine when you’ll have the sunniest days to spend along the coast.  Assuming sunshine, relax and enjoy the sunrise at First Beach.  After lunch, make your way up the street to the trail head of Second Beach.  The hike to the beach is fairly mild, but check the national park service for details in the event of trail changes.  Once at Second Beach, you’ll have hours of beach to explore.  At the north end is a famous archway and near shore sea stacks that can be climbed (watch out for starfish and anenomies).  It’s a long way to the south end of Second Beach but worth the stroll toward a different section of sea stacks and a shallow cave.  If you’ve packed a snack or dinner, stick around for sunset.
  • Day 4:  Drive south through Forks toward Hoh Rain Forest.  The terrain is fairly flat along the short trails winding through rain forest and along the Hoh River.  If you’ve gotten an early start to your day, you may be able to drive south toward Kalaloch Lodge.  If the Hoh hikes wear you out, it may be time to head back to La Push.  Consider dinner in Forks.  Choices are slim, but service is friendly.  Back on the road to La Push, consider stopping at Third Beach and or Mora.  Our trip to Third Beach was on an overcast day so the scenery itself wasn’t as spectacular, but we were blessed with the opportunity to see several whales feeding off shore.
  • Day 5:  Depart La Push for Port Angeles via Sol Duc.  Once in the Sol Duc park, you’ll want to stop at the designated areas along the right side of the road for views of the Sol Duc River. During salmon season, you’ll see the fish miraculously making their way up stream.  During the rest of the year, you’ll have to settle for pristine waters and falls.  Up the road, is the trail head leading to Sol Duc Falls. Wind your day up in Port Angeles with accommodations for a couple nights and a plethora of dining options.  We ate two dinners in Port Angeles and would rank Kokopelli Grill high among our all-time favorite meals
  • Day 6:  Spend the day in Hurricane Ridge park.  There are miles of worthwhile hiking with breathtaking mountain vistas still etched in our minds.  The park store closes fairly early, so if staying for sunset, remember to pack a late day snack before returning to Port Angeles for dinner.
  • Day 7:  Return to Seattle and see anything there you didn’t see before.   If you’re stay is longer, consider a whale watching tour out of Anacortes north of Seattle or a trip to Friday Harbor in heart of whale country.

 

Olympic National Park - Third Beach

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