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Tour Olympic Peninsula

Travel Tips

Nature Beckons
A lush, serene world awaits you on the Olympic Peninsula

Rainforest in Olympic National Park
Rainforest in Olympic National Park


On your last day, you'll need to make a decision: Go hiking and spend the afternoon at nearby hot springs. Or visit the Hoh Rainforest. Not an easy choice (so perhaps you can add a fourth night!?). If you decided to stay at Lake Crescent, after breakfast walk the Moments in Time Natural Trail, a 1/2-mile loop that weaves its way through old homestead sites, along the banks of the lake to Marymere Falls. This deep blue body of water is a gem gleaming amid green mountains. Then take a lovely drive to Sol Duc Hot Springs and soak your cares away in three natural hot pools. If you still have time and energy, hike the 0.8 mile to Sol Duc Falls and cross the canyon for an up-close-and-personal view of crashing sheets of water. Sol Duc Falls is one of the only easily reachable falls in the park that you can view from above. Twilight fans will want to stop at Forks on your way home just to sniff the air and catch the vampire vibes.

Sol Duc Hot Springs
Sol Duc Hot Springs

If you decide to visit the Hoh Rainforest, leave Crescent Lodge early and continue on Highway 101 west, making a detour to Highway 113 for a quick visit to Beaver Falls. Stop at the first pull out on the right to hear and see the upper and lower falls. Spring runoff is spectacular and the pools of the lower falls are excellent places to cool off in the summer. Take care if you climb down the root ladders to get a closer look — it can be slippery.

Twilight fans get ready! Next stop on the itinerary is Forks. As all Twi-hards know, Forks is the setting of the popular Twilight books with their cast of youthful noir characters. Residents of Forks have embraced their literary and onscreen fame and play along with the idea that the Swans and Cullens really do live there. The hospital has a parking space designated for Dr. Cullen and a red truck in the Visitor Center parking lot resembling the one the main character, Bella, drives in the movie. However, there's much more to Forks than vampires. Visit the Forks Timber Museum and the Forks Loggers Memorial, with its 12-foot tall, carved wooden figure of a logger. On the south side of the river, First Beach is a mile-long crescent acclaimed for surfing-size waves and outstanding whale watching, especially from February through April. For family dining, the Forks Coffee Shop serves up giant pancakes and homemade pies. Or check out Sully's Drive-In for classic burgers.

Just 19 miles away, the highlight of your inland trip awaits: The Hoh Rainforest. Facing the Pacific Ocean, the spectacular Hoh Rainforest receives 150 inches of annual rainfall — compared with 16 inches on the eastern part of the peninsula. Moderate temperatures, summer fog, and plenty of moisture combine to create an amazing temperate rainforest. In the Hoh, you will see spectacular spruces and western Hemlocks towering 300 feet tall to form a dense green canopy overhead. The forest floor is carpeted with lush emerald-green plant species, while numerous mosses, lichen, ferns and sorrel thrive under the evergreen canopy. Keep an eye out for indigenous wildlife such as cougar, elk, and numerous bird species. Several loop trails offer an easy stroll and an excellent introduction to the forest: The three-quarter-mile-long Hall of Mosses trail features dramatic moss-draped maples, while the one-and-a-quarter mile Spruce Nature Trail takes you through verdant forests of red alder and cottonwood.

View from Kalaloch Lodge
View from Kalaloch Lodge

The rainforest will surely beckon you to return. On your way back to Seattle, consider stopping at places where you might want to stay or be tempted to add one more night to your trip. For example, Kalaloch Lodge offers rustic cabins on a bluff overlooking the wild shoreline. Or for a more elegant retreat, consider the grand Lake Quinault Lodge. Built in 1926, the Lodge has the same vintage style of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone and Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stayed here during a visit to the Olympic Peninsula when the idea of establishing a national park was discussed. It was only nine months later that he signed the bill creating Olympic National Park.

It would be easy to spend a week on the Olympic Peninsula and still not see everything, or have enough time to relax and appreciate the beauty and tranquility. No wonder many visitors find reasons to return again and again to explore this beautiful and magical natural wonderland.


(Updated: 10/12/12 SG)

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