Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: April 2023
Olympic National Park is situated in the Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington. It contains three different ecosystems, including glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rainforests and the rugged Pacific shoreline. There are several trails, viewpoints and other activities in the park to enjoy the scenery.
Day 1: Waterfalls and Moss
After spending the previous day in Seattle, it was time for us to head towards the Pacific coast. To get there we had to first drive through Olympic National Park. Except there is no road that cuts through the park as there’s a giant mountain in the middle. Instead we had to drive all the way around. This gave us a good excuse to check out a few of the sights in and around the park along the way.
We spent the previous night in Port Angeles and from there it’s a short drive to one of the visitor centres. We got there a few minutes before it opened so we hiked along the Living Forest Trail (0.8 loop, rated easy). The trailhead is located by the Beaumont Cabin which is located behind the visitor centre. The log cabin was built in 1887 about a mile south of here by the Beaumont family. The cabin was later donated to the park to be used as an exhibit of pioneer life on the Olympic Peninsula. It was moved from its original site and has been restored and furnished with period pieces from the 1850s to 1900s. While the door to the cabin was locked, we could peak in through the windows.
The trail loops through the forest, providing a preview of the lush landscape with tall trees, ferns and moss. There were also a few storyboards which featured some poetry about nature.
By the time we finished the visitor centre was just opening, so we went inside to check out the exhibits and to pick up a larger map of the park. We initially planned to hike Hurricane Ridge, but the trail and road were closed for a major rehabilitation of the Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge. No worries as there are plenty of other options to choose from.
We drove to Madison Falls (0.3km round trip, rated easy) where there’s a short path that’s paved that leads through the forest to an overlook of a waterfall. The only downside to it being so accessible was that we could hear the sounds of cars zooming by. But it’s a short trail, so we were back in the car in no time, adding to the noise.
We headed towards Crescent Lake and pulled over at an overlook. The lake was created as the glaciers receded about 13,000 years ago. From the lake we could really see just how overcast and gloomy it was. But at least it wasn’t raining. Yet. According to the weather forecast the rain was supposed to start later in the afternoon.
Our next stop was at the Storm King Ranger Station, which provides access to a few trails, many of which are interconnecting. We first hiked to Marymere Falls (2.7km round trip, rated easy). The trail passes the ranger station and meanders through the mossy forest. There was a turn-off for Mount Storm which is reputed to provide a lovely view of the surrounding area. But it’s a challenging trail with a lot of elevation gain, and we haven’t quite warmed up our hiking legs yet. After crossing a bridge, the path leads to an impressive waterfall.
It’s an out-and-back trail, but we made a detour to hike to Lake Crescent Lodge for a change of scenery and to ditch the crowds. We didn’t encounter a single hiker on the way. The path continues to weave through the lush forest with tall trees, gigantic ferns and moss hanging everywhere
The lodge is located along Crescent Lake. We strolled along the shoreline and found an access point to the Moments in Time Trail (1.1km loop, rated easy). The trail continues to follow the waterfront along Barnes Point before heading through the old-growth forest. Along the way there’s a series of storyboards that provide some fun facts about the lake and forest. It also provided more nice views of the lush landscape. The trail intersects with a connector path that leads to the King Storm Ranger Station, so we followed that back to where we parked.
After eating lunch, we drove towards Sol Duc Falls. Along the way, we stopped to hike the Ancient Groves Nature Trail (0.8km loop, rated easy). The path meanders through an old-growth forest filled with lots of towering trees, waist-high ferns and moss thickly covering the forest floor and everything else. You’d think we’d have gotten used to the lush scenery by now, but it continued to impress.
We hopped in the car and continued driving down Sol Duc Road until the very end where there’s a parking lot with access to the Sol Duc Falls Trail (2.6km round trip, rated easy). During the drive, we saw patches of snow along the side of the road, which progressively became larger and more frequent. So it was no surprise to see that some sections of the trail were still covered in snow. But the trail is well traveled and it wasn’t that big of a deal. If anything, it helped clean the mud and dirt off our hiking boots.
It’s an out-and-back trail that weaves through another lush forest. It was lightly misting outside which seemed fitting. The path leads to a waterfall. After crossing the bridge, there’s a few different viewing platforms that provided a different angle of the falls.
We turned around and walked back to the parking lot and continued our drive west towards the coastline. We planned to spend the night in Forks. Mid-way through the drive, it started to rain. Hard. So we decided to take the long way and make a detour to Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point of the lower 48 in the United States. It was a bit of a drive to get there, but we didn’t mind taking a break in the car while it continued to rain. We hoped that it would let up by the time we got there but it didn’t. If anything, it was getting worse.
There’s a short trail that leads to Cape Flattery (1.9km round trip). The sign at the trailhead said the hike should take 25 minutes. So we threw on our rain pants and rain jackets and got to it. Mid-way through I realized my rain pants were actually tucked inside by shoes, rather than around the outside, which meant the water was pooling inside my shoes. It was too late to fix things as the damage (or rather wetness) was already done.
The trail itself would have been quite nice in different conditions. The path is wide and contains a few boardwalk sections. But with all the rain, the water pretty much pooled along the trail, creating a small river that was often unavoidable to walk through. At this point my hiking boots were already wet, so it didn’t really matter. The trail leads to a point with a few different viewing platforms on either side overlooking the ocean and rugged shoreline. Despite the rain, the views were still beautiful.
We raced back to the car, eager to change out of our rain gear and wet hiking boots. We were done for the day and ready to head to our accommodations to take a hot shower. It continued to rain throughout the afternoon and evening.
Day 2: Rainforests and more Moss
The forecast was calling for more rain, but later in the morning. So we got an early start to the day. We started off at Rialto Beach where we planned to hike to the Hole-in-the-Wall (5.3km round trip, rated moderate). It’s an out-and-back trail that weaves along the beach to a sea stack with a hole through the middle. There is no defined trail as you’re mostly walking along the beach. The best time to hike it is during low tide, which was early this morning.
We were among some of the first people on the trail as there weren’t many footprints in the sand. Shortly after starting, we passed a couple of hikers who were returning from a multi-day backpacking trip and they gave us a heads up about the creek crossing and provided some advice on how to get across.
When we came across the creek, it was quite small and easy to hop over. But this wasn’t the one that the hikers had warned us about. After another hundred metres, there’s a much deeper creek with fast moving water that flows into the ocean. There was no way we could jump over to reach the other side. Instead we backtracked until we reached a jumble of driftwood, including some fallen logs that were scattered across the creek. We tested our balance on the driftwood and shimmied over to the other side. The logs were wet, but the sand on our shoes provided decent grip. We walked through the maze of driftwood until we passed the creek.
We then continued along the beach, passing a couple of haystack rocks, including the one with a hole in the middle. Since it was low tide, we could walk along the rocks to get a closer look and to check out some tide pools.
Once we circled back to the parking lot, we headed to the Hoh Rainforest area. It was a bit of a drive to get there, but it was very scenic with all the mossy trees. There’s a visitor centre at the end of the road, along with a few trails. We started with the Hall of Mosses (1.8km loop, rated easy) where the trail meanders through an older part of the forest. Many of the trees here, which include the Sitka spruce, Western hemlock, and Douglas fir, are over two hundred feet tall. And they were mainly covered in moss. Along the way there were a series of storyboards that provided some interesting information about the rainforest and the types of trees and other plants found here.
Afterwards we hiked the Spruce Nature Trail (2.3km loop, rated easy) to continue enjoying the rainforest scenery. The trail also passes the Hoh River and includes more storyboards with fun facts about the landscape. It started to lightly mist outside, which only added to the whole experience.
From there we headed back to the coastline and made a quick stop at Ruby Beach. From the parking lot, there’s a short, but steep path down to the shore where there’s a black pebbly beach with some interesting rock formations. We didn’t linger long as it started to rain.
Our next stop was at the Quinault Rainforest. We headed to the ranger station, located on the northern side of the lake where there are a couple of trails. It was still raining outside, so we put on our rain gear. We first hiked along the Maple Glade Trail (0.8km loop, rated easy), which leads through the temperate rainforest filled with even more moss (if that was possible). The trail was a bit rough from the rain, but we could easily maneuver around the puddles and muddy patches.
The trail connects with the Kestner Homestead Trail (2.1km loop, rated easy) to form a larger loop. This path continues to weave through the thick rainforest and follows along a creek where the water was crystal clear. The trail also passes a homestead, which includes a few old buildings that are remnants from the early settlers.
The trail loops back to the parking lot. We took off our rain gear as we were done hiking for the day. From here we still had a three hour drive south to get to Oregon where we planned to spend the next few days driving along the coastline.