How many people fall in love with Olympic National Park and the Pacific Northwest when they visit the area? Surely, it’s nearly everyone who goes there.
Olympic National Park was the destination that shaped our entire road trip for 2016. A massive park established in 1938 that encompasses the largest old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest, as well as mountains, glaciers, and coastal areas, Olympic has a little of everything. There are no roads through the middle of the park’s wilderness. The hiking trails we went on were well-marked and we stuck to the ones that did not require us to have a lot of survival skills. There are plenty of campsites, but we opted to stay at the Port Angeles Inn on the north side of the park for two nights, followed by two nights at the Kalaloch Lodge on the Pacific coast near the Hoh Rain Forest.
Port Angeles is a town of about 19,000 that provides a great base for Olympic National Park visitors. The Port Angeles Inn, where we had a room on the second floor, offers views of the harbor where ferries take people to and from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, which is just across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The harbor area has a nice little park with some interesting public art. My favorite was the Rock-topus, shown in the slide show below.
After dinner at Bella Italia, the Italian restaurant that gained fame as the place Edward took Bella on a date in Twilight, we slept well and woke ready for the trails the next morning. Port Angeles was having what they considered a heat wave with temps in the 70s and 80s, but up in the mountains that was not the case. It started out cool and wet, but got warmer and drier as the day went on. We took our time getting to Hurricane Ridge, with a little hike at Switchback Trail along with way. The Olympic Mountains are rugged and breathtaking, with deer, marmots, mountain goats, ground squirrels, and many many birds. Occasionally, there is a bear or a big cat, but we didn’t run into any.
Though we could have gone right back to the mountains the next day, we knew there was so much more to see. So we left Port Angeles after our second night at the Inn, and headed to the coast and our room at Kalaloch Lodge. On the way, we hiked to Marymere Falls, which gave us our first taste of the rain forest.
After Marymere, we headed toward La Push and visited Rialto Beach and First Beach before heading toward Ruby Beach which was our last stop before Kalaloch Lodge. Rugged beaches with wild waves and logs pushed up on to the shore, these are not places for laying on a beach blanket. They’re more about respecting the power of the ocean.
The final piece of our Olympic National Park adventure was still to come: the Hoh Rain Forest. An eerie sort of place with moss-draped everything, we felt like we were in a fairy tale as we hiked. We went slowly, stopping often to stare at the enormous old trees and listen to the birds. There are trees growing on top of old trees that have fallen; the old trees become what are called “nurse trees” as they provide nutrients to the young ones. I felt like if I stood still long enough, the forest would grow right over me. It wouldn’t take long.
Four days in Olympic National Park felt like a speed tour. We could have hiked further, stayed longer, and loved every minute. But, perhaps it’s good to leave with a desire to come back someday.