Exploring Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is massive and filled with the most truly diverse nature you can find inclusive to one peninsula. If I am on a busy schedule I can usually dedicated one day to a park, however I would say you at least need 1.5-2 days to get to see some of the best aspects of this park, if you have more that is even better of course! Staying in the town of Port Angeles is a great option as it is very close to the park. Sequim is a few minutes further out with even cheaper accommodations.

Our first day was a half day and we started by getting a map from the visitors center [3002 Mount Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362] and heading up the road to Hurricane Ridge. We were finally blessed with gorgeous blue skies and along with the unbelievable views, we saw some black tailed deer on the ride up. We drove to the end of the line, the parking lot for the Hurricane Hill trail. It’s 3.2 miles round trip with 650 elevation gain, just absolutely incredible the entire way.

While the trail is very well marked and maintained, the actual summit wasn’t too advertised. Just climb your way up on a herd trail to the tallest part of course, and you’ll find a discrete block with a just barely recognizable ‘hurricane hill’ carved into it. From up here we could see out to the water, and for miles and miles.

The walk down is the same way, and just as pretty. Between the drive up to the ridge, the drive back down, and the hike the day was going fast. We had room for one more part of the park and decided to head to the coast to check out Rialto Beach. At first I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to visit this section out, so I figured with this time slot it’d be okay and I could dedicated more time to other sections of the park for my full day. I am so glad I got to experience the coast because it was so different from any other beach I’ve ever been to, actually one of my most cherished moments from our stay in Washington State! The drive is very long and removed from the rest of the park, but scenic. We finally got to the parking lot and the smell of the sea rolled over us. I felt so relaxed as if I was actually on vacation! The first things you’ll notice are the drift wood and the islands scattered off shore.

They make the beach unique right from the start. The pebbly sand is very black after the waves saturate it and it was blissfully foamy making me want a milkshake. We decided to walk out to the right to find the arch. It’s farther than it looks, but well worth the hike. I love arches, but this one was very different from any I’d ever seen, just like a doorway to another world.

And it is. When you get to the other side of the arch the tide pools are otherworldly. I really mean that. Somehow the water and rock mix to make a PURPLE color and the little anemones are florescent green.

I have never seen anything like this in my entire life, these pictures are not altered in any way. The rocks have striations from glaciers that are so obscure.

This is no ordinary beach, as you can see. I wish I had more time to explore the coast, but I wasn’t sure which direction the tide was going and really didn’t want to drive back in the dark. So we set back the way we came, still feeling quite victorious. The next day we had big plans to visit the Hoh Rainforest. Another long drive to get there, but we were happy for the time to relax because there was a 10 mile hike ahead on the Hoh River Trail. We barely took off on the trail before we had our first elk sighting, a beautiful bull. We would have another sighting near the five mile mark of a bull and his harem, and even catch one tinkling!

The trail is pretty straight forward, never too much elevation gain and the environment stays pretty standard the entire time. Luckily, it looks like this.

And this.

You really get a feel for the flora of the rainforest and there is a pretty spectacular waterfall along the way.

At the five mile marker we cut out to see the majestic river valley and barely seeing a soul this far out on the trail had the whole place to ourselves.

Bobbing and diving along in the water was an interesting bird I’d never seen before and couldn’t classify! If anyone knows what it is, drop a line.

We walked back the way we came and had some time to head to another area of the park. As I’ve mentioned in a pervious post, one of the things I was most excited for in the Pacific North West was a chance to see the salmon run. There is a spot in the park called Salmon Cascade Overlook which at the right time of year can provide that service. Just a short walk from the parking lot leads to a cascade which was raging during the time of our visit due to all of that rain we had been encountering! After just a moment of watching with relaxed eyes we saw one jump, then another, then another!

Really they kept coming, we could have stayed there all day it was so entertaining. Sad too though, because none of them were making it up on this day, the water was just too strong. Some did make it up to little pools though and had a rest.

From the pool we were able to see some identifying qualities such as a white dot on the nose or vibrant belllies. Be sure to walk up the creek to see more rapids and the gorgeous hue of the water when it is still.

The day rainy weather was catching up to us again, and so was the time of day. We were quite close to the Soleduck Falls, a short 1.6 mile roundtrip trail in a part of the park called the Sol Duc Valley we hadn’t got to exploring yet. With just enough stamina to complete the hike, we went for it. Throughout life I have seen my fair share of waterfalls. Tall ones, wide ones, double ones, but never a triple! So that’s what you’ve got here. It’s a popular trail because it’s relatively easy, my feet were shot from the earlier hiking and a mild injury, so I was even able to do this in flip flops with no problems. The scenery is fantastic, there were some of the most photogenic mushrooms I have ever seen!

When we got to the triple falls it was glorious!

If you keep meandering a bit farther you can get all sorts of different perspectives.

I’m glad we put forth the extra effort to check it out. I can’t believe that all of these sights and environments are housed in one park, and we weren’t even able to see it all! There’s never enough time, but a day in a half among the Olympics made memories that will last a lifetime.

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2 Responses to Exploring Olympic National Park

  1. julieovaltrades says:

    Been out of the country the past few days, while catching up I’ll be looking out for that post!

  2. I enjoyed your article. I was in Olympic NP back in August during the fires. Oddly enough, our Sunday Hikes feature next weekend will be about a hike in the park.

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