Olympic National Park was awesome. I wish we could have stayed longer than a week! There was so much to do and such a huge variety. Mountains, seashores, rainforests, lakes, rivers, and more- I’d never been to somewhere with so many choices! We only scratched the surface.
Since it’s so diverse, it is more “spread out” than some other parks we have been to. The organization seemed to be loosely handed off between different organizations, so we could take Cheat more places (yay!) but needed some state-type recreation passes in a couple places. Only on the way to the hot spring did we actually have to drive through a gate and show our National Parks pass (and actually, it was closed when we went through).
Sol Duc River
The Sol Duc river was right beside our campsite. Where we visited was not technically in the National Park, though the river (including a waterfall) does run through the park.
The absolute coolest thing, which of course we couldn’t catch on camera, were the salmon. We were lucky enough to be there when the salmon were running (swimming upstream)! They were HUGE, like nearly as long as Nik’s arm, and you wouldn’t believe how strong these fish looked swimming into the current.
There was also a mile and a half long trail through the woods (dense forest, of course, because this is the Pacific Northwest) right from camp. It dipped down to the river at a couple points and we never saw another soul on it (except for frogs and spiders). It was very technical with lots of roots, rocks, and logs and made for some fun trail running and dog walking!
Port Angeles and the Peabody Creek Trail
Port Angeles is the main gateway town on the north end of the Olympic Peninsula. We didn’t explore much there, as it was an hour from our campsite, but I did go trail running in the area on the Peabody Creek Trail. It was a lovely (hilly) run through humid forest along a creek. I saw a couple blacktailed deer. I also fell down running for the first time because there were lots of stealthy roots. It was bound to happen sooner or later (I was sore but I’m fine!).
Sol Duc Hot Spring
It was dirty and gross. We don’t recommend it. 😛
Hole in the Wall, Rialto Beach
This was probably my favorite part of the park. The National Park includes a big section inland on the Olympic Peninsula with lots of forests and such, but it also includes a long strip of shore on the Pacific coast.
One of the highlights of this section is Hole in the Wall, a natural rock arch situated on the beach in La Push.
After a mile or so walk down the rocky beach, you come to Hole in the Wall. At low tide, you can walk right through it.
There are also lots of tidepools full of anemones at low tide. Most of them were bright neon green. The biggest were about as big as a softball.
We were also there to see sunset, which was beautiful. With all the crags and rocks around the shore, the light was really striking.
There were some giant driftwood trees that had washed up on shore.
We did a neat loop hike in the Quinault Rainforest that included Quinault Lake, a cedar bog, creeks and rivers, and of course, all the ferns, moss, and greenery that rainforests are known for.
Quinault is one of three temperate rainforests in Olympic. It was very old growth, with trees you wouldn’t believe. Many were 400 years old. The world’s oldest Sitka spruce tree is also nearby, but we didn’t get to see it.
You really got to see how the forest develops over time. You could see a few “nurse logs,” downed trees that were serving as compost for new growth. In some places, you could see fully grown trees coming out of old stumps.
Olympic NP was a really great experience, overall, and we haven’t even written about our beach/ocean exploration yet! The rain and humidity definitely threw us for a loop, but we were expecting that. I wish we could have spent more time exploring. It was so different from any of the parks we have visited so far. As always, seeing a place that outside of the norm for us always makes me eager to see more. 🙂