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Pacific Northwest Road Trip ~ Olympic National Park

October 29, 2011

Our next stop after leaving Oregon was to head up the Washington coast to the Olympic Peninsula where we spent our nights in a great little inn along the river smack dab in the heart of the most amazing national park of our trip. Olympic NP seriously has it all, and perhaps that’s why Daniel was most excited about this stop over everything else on our two week trip. The park is huge and it’s sites include everything from rainforests and glacier fed lakes to ocean tide pools and snow topped peaks. Oh, and did I mention it’s green? As in every shade of green you could ever imagine. It’s impossible to describe, but hopefully our pictures help hint at the beauty. We’ve never seen anything like it and somehow I doubt many other places can compare.

On our first morning we awoke to an intense wall of misty rain and gray skies. It was our first day of “typical Pacific Northwest weather” and honestly I was a little bummed. Up until this point we’d been incredibly lucky and had enjoyed puffy white clouds and mostly clear blue skies. Of course, Daniel being the eternal optimist didn’t let it phase him and proceeded to give me a little pep talk before we headed out. We decided that we’d hit up one of the highest points in the park (accessible by car) and enjoy a little summer snow. The drive up to Hurricane Ridge was incredible, and I must admit that while it would have been great on a clear day (notably one of the best views in the park) it was quite the adventure driving up a winding road through thick white clouds. We were greeted at the top by freezing cold wind, ice and snow everywhere as well as a family of deer trying to figure out why summer seemed to be hiding. The contrast from the previous days spent doing sunny beach-side drives was great!

Olympic National Park takes up the majority of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington (just west of Seattle).  One main road circles around the park and it is actually highway 101… the same congested, ugly, beat up freeway all of us in Los Angeles would love to avoid during rush hour (or all hours really).  Lucky for us the route is much more scenic up north!  One of the nicest spots it runs through is Crescent Lake.  The water at the lake is amazing! It’s crystal clear due to the fact that it’s fed by the glacier snow of Olympic’s highest peaks.  We were lucky enough to get a few minutes of sunshine while were visiting and the water turned all shades of green, bright turquoise, and a brilliant blue.

Next up on our list of must-see places was the Hoh rain forest.  When we were planning our road trip and doing research on this park I was super excited to find out that it contained a rain forest.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in Southern California (aka: a dry brown desert) or perhaps it’s because as a kid rain forests were something you just read about in books  as super-fantastical far off places… but whatever it was I couldn’t wait to hike through one!  The drive in took us through the greenest scenery of the trip and the misty rain falling on the car set the mood perfectly.  Lucky for us (and Daniel’s camera) it stopped raining during out hike, so we were able to stroll along and enjoy every little detail!

So much of Olympic is defined by water.  There are tiny streams, misty rain forests, huge rivers, lakes, snow, and the ocean all within the park boundaries.  We both wanted to be sure to see a couple of water falls during our short stay and we decided to test out a hike in the Sol Duc Valley that we’d read great things about.  It was more than worth the hour drive and hour hike to see waterfalls that were just as breathtaking as anything either of us had ever seen in Hawaii!  Seriously, at some point I remember saying that the islands had nothing on Washington state, and I meant it!

On the final night of our stay we stopped by a ranger station to check on the ocean tide schedule.  Our hope was to catch low tide on our drive out of the park the next morning.  Once again luck was on our side and low tide was at 7am the next morning.  We woke bright at early to head out to Ruby Beach which is known as one of the best tide pool spots in the park.  Luckily it was also the closest beach to our inn. What we didn’t realize that the beach parking lot was a mile away from the actual tide pools!  No problem, we trekked along the cold damp sand and still made it in time for plenty of sea creature exploring!

If I could recommend visiting just one of the parks on our trip this would be it. Our 4 days here were just enough to scratch the surface of what we wanted to explore. The combination of sheer size of the park, distance between things (no roads traverse the center so you constantly drive long loops around the mountains), and of course the crazy Pacific Northwest weather means that you should give yourself plenty of time. We are hoping to make it back here soon(ish) to spend at least one week taking it all in.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 29, 2011 2:15 am

    i love the black and white photos. 🙂 im jealous of your road trips.

  2. October 30, 2011 2:34 pm


  3. January 23, 2012 7:53 pm

    These pictures are SOOOO beautiful! Amazing


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