Olympic National Park is a dream. After four days in the park, it was immediately bumped very high on my list of favorite national parks for its diversity and natural beauty. From snowy mountain peaks and ancient forests to waterfalls and rainforests to rocky beaches and tide pools, Olympic NP has it all.
We rode the Bainbridge Ferry from Seattle through Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. The ferry has fantastic views of the coastline and some of the San Jan Islands in Puget Sound. We drove a counter-clockwise route through Olympic National Park, which worked perfectly until we got to the Hoh Rainforest and found out it had been closed for a month from Labor Day to October 5 for repairs. Fortunately, it opened the next day so we were able to return, but it did add significant driving time to our itinerary.
We drove to Hurricane Ridge to begin our loop through the park. The weather was wild – hail and heavy snow and then clear sunshine and quickly back to overcast freezing weather. We hid out in the Visitor Center until it seemed to clear up. From the Visitor Center, you can enjoy great views of Mount Olympus and the Hubert Glacier, which was named after Anna Hubert, the only female member of the first ascent up the mountain.
Once the weather cleared up, we did one of the several hikes from the Visitor Center. Unfortunately, we got caught in another sudden snow/hail storm and had to run back to the car. After we warmed up, we walked back up to one of the viewpoints, but didn’t continue the hike out of concern we could get caught in more bad weather with a one-year-old.
After driving back to base, we pulled over at a turnoff for Madison Falls. We took the short walk from the parking lot to see the falls and spent some time enjoying the fresh mountain air together.
Our first evening in the park, we checked into the Red Lion in Port Angeles. It’s not a fancy hotel, but it’s right on the water of the Strait of Juan De Fuca and is close to several restaurants. It’s a great launching point for Olympic National Park (only two miles from the Visitor Center). There is an onsite restaurant, the Port Angeles Crab House and Lounge, but we opted to eat dinner at H20 Bistro. Alex had the “What Up” burger and shared some of it with our son, while I opted for a poke bowl. Everything was delicious and the staff was very family friendly.
The next morning, we woke up and had the most delicious breakfast at La Belle Creperie before setting out for the day. The crepes and coffee were fantastic. Alex and I shared one savory and one sweet crepe, the best of both worlds!
Our first stop was to Sol Duc Falls, where we did a 1.6 mile hike through a magical, mystical forest of tall, old growth trees before arriving at Sol Duc Falls, a nearly 50 foot cascade. There are several viewpoints with benches to relax and admire the falls or have a snack. You can also stop at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort to visit its mineral-spring pools or for the restrooms, gift shop, and convenience store.
A short drive from the falls is the Ancient Forest. The walk is only 0.6 miles, but it is worthwhile to see the old growth trees. Along the walk, we stopped at the Salmon Cascade (you can park near Sol Duc Road and 101) for this stop.
Next we drove to Rialto Beach. It’s a rocky beach filled with gray pebbles and giant driftwood logs. We saw several “seastacks,” or offshore islands, in the distance, which looked particularly beautiful at sunset. We sat on the beach together watching the sunset and enjoying a relaxing evening.
Rialto Beach is in Forks, which fair or not, is now famous for its connection to the Twilight movie series. Though I wouldn’t call myself a superfan, I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies. Imagine my surprise when we checked into our room for the night at the Pacific Inn Motel and I opened the door to the special Twilight Room! The room is completely decorated in red and black and is filled with several movie posters, as well as sparkly black curtains. The light switch covers even have Twilight characters. It was certainly a memorable stay! Thanks to my husband for the fun surprise! The motel is conveniently located down the street from the Thriftway grocery store, where we got dinner and for the next day, supplies for breakfast and lunch.
The next morning, we drove to the Hoh Rainforest, which we were really looking forward to. Unfortunately, when we arrived we found out the rainforest was closed from Labor Day to October 5. We were there on October 4! We had to quickly rearrange our itinerary but things worked out in the end. We stopped to do the Hoh Rainforest Riverwalk, a short hike with views of Mt. Olympus. The views were obscured by the clouds, but it was still a nice walk and good way to stretch our legs.
Our next stop was to Ruby Beach to see the tide pools. This was one of the stops I was most excited about. While we weren’t at the beach during the optimal time for low tide, it was still enjoyable to walk around on the beach and search for little critters. We saw a lot of the Giant Green Anemones. It’s worth checking the tides before your trip but if you’re coming from across the country like we were, you really just have to hope for the best. Unfortunately, the low tide during our entire visit was during the middle of the night!
We spent the afternoon hiking the nature trail in the Quinault Rainforest, visiting the world’s largest Sitka spruce, and relaxing by Lake Quinault.
We ended the day by checking into our room at the Kalaloch Lodge. I had stayed there with my parents when I was just a baby, so it was really special to return with my husband and our baby! The Lodge is a fantastic place to stay. The rooms are comfortable and the views are unbelievable. It’s a short walk from the Lodge down Kalaloch Beach to see the Tree of Life. The roots of the Tree of Life are completely visible due to erosion, yet the tree is still growing and thriving. It’s incomprehensible how it doesn’t fall over but stands strong!
We had a fantastic dinner at the Creekside Restaurant at the Lodge where we shared salmon and dungeness crab mac and cheese while watching the sun set over the beach outside.
The Lodge also has a Mercantile where you can buy various sundries, including snacks, drinks, firewood, and coffee. In the morning, we picked up breakfast and lunch for the day before an early start to see the Hoh Rainforest, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our last day was very rainy, but it actually made the rainforest seem even greener and more beautiful. The loop through the rainforest from the Visitor Center is less than a mile and is almost completely flat. My favorite part was the Hall of Mosses which is a lush, green section of trees with low hanging branches and heavy moss. It is truly a wonderland!
I was still hoping to see more tide pools so we made one more rainy stop at Beach 4. I got to see a few tide pools with Giant Green Anemones and starfish. The best part was, I had the entire beach to myself!
We had an early flight home from Seattle the next day, so we started the long drive in the afternoon. We stopped in Olympia to see the very grand Capitol (it has lighting from Tiffany and Alaskan marble throughout) and picked up a delicious dinner at 5th Avenue Sandwich Shop.
Our adventure in the Pacific Northwest was fantastic and I highly recommend a trip to the region, with or without children! Thanks for reading – I love sharing our travels. If you have any questions or need help making a trip itinerary, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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