August 30, 2019
Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula is home to some of the most impressive wilderness in the United States. Located along the pacific coast, the Olympic National Park and Hoh Rain Forest offer spectacular views, impressive hikes and fun for all ages.
The Hoh Rain Forest gets over 170 inches of rain annually and is home to the largest old-growth stands in the northern hemisphere. Head out along the almost 1 mile Hall of Mosses trail for views of draping club moss, lichen and Sitka spruce. The slightly longer 1.2 mile Spruce Nature Trail allows for views of the Hoh River. Both hikes are gentle enough for even the shortest legs.
The Olympic National Park encompasses nearly a million acres and hosts several distinctly different ecosystems from glacier-capped mountains to old-growth temperate rain forests and over 70 miles of wild coastline.
Make sure to stop at Lake Crescent, just off Highway 101 and enjoy picnicking, boating, swimming, hiking and fishing. Canoes and rowboats can also be rented for a quick float across the lake.
In the winter months, head to Hurricane Ridge for great winter fun. The typically snow-covered area offers snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing and more. The visitor’s center is a great place to warm up and has a snack bar for hungry kids. The ski area is small but has two rope tows, a puma lift and an amazing tubing area.
Dungeness Spit is one of the longest natural sand spits in the world and lies along the Olympic Peninsula.This is an area not to be missed. Adventures include beachcombing, bird watching and even whale spotting. Stop by the Dungeness Lighthouse for the opportunity to be a lighthouse keeper. The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for migrating shorebirds, fish, seals and many other creatures.
Just west of Forks is Second Beach which provides classic coastal hikes. The short 4 mile round-trip hike provides views of sea stacks, tide pools and wildlife sightings. Low tide allows visitors to walk for nearly a mile out into the surf.
Also make sure to stop by Rialto Beach for the giant piles of driftwood and the tide pools at Kalaloch. Shi Shi beach is one of the best beaches in Washington and is accessed by a 4 mile hike. The reward is the Point of Arches sea stack formation along with caverns, coves and tunnels for exploration.
Make sure not to skip over a visit to the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. The three natural thermal pools and a freshwater pool provide plenty of restoration after all the hiking and exploration the Olympic Peninsula has to offer. Each of the three natural thermal pools are a different temperature so find the one to your liking.
The windswept coastline of Cape Flattery in the northwesternmost point of the mainland US provides spectacular views and an easy .75 mile trail. While most of the trail has boardwalk planks there are muddy stretches which make it not stroller or wheelchair accessible.
Last but not least, stop by Fort Worden Historical State Park. The 19th century fort features military buildings with batteries, gun turrets and bunkers. There are 12 miles of hiking trails which are also great for mountain biking. Take the 2.5 mile easy trail to the Point WIlson Lighthouse for a nice view.
By Rebecca Mongrain
August 21, 2019
Seattle offers many scenic and accessible beaches to explore. From the tidepools of Golden Gardens to pocket beaches and the more family-friendly sandy shores, there is a beach for almost every season.
This 534 acre park located on the shores of Puget Sound is Seattle’s largest park. There are over 11.81 miles of walking trails and two miles of protected tidal beaches in Discovery Park with so much to explore. The hike to the beach provides views of dramatic sea cliffs, active sand dunes, thickets and streams. For those unable to make the hike to the beach, you can grab a beach parking permit at the Environmental Learning Center. The permit does require having kids under the age of 8 or seniors in your group. Discovery Park’s beach plays hosts to a world of marine animals, gorgeous driftwood and panoramic picture-perfect views. Make sure to stop by the Environmental Learning Center for an opportunity to learn about the sea animals and plants living within the park’s boundaries.
Carkeek Park is vast and like Discovery Park offers more than a beach for outside enjoyment. Getting to Carkeek’s beach takes a wee bit of effort but is totally worth it for glimpses of sea critters under barnacled rocks. Head over the pedestrian bridge just past the playground and over the BNSF Railway tracks. The small beach is packed with beach logs, shells and animals to discover. Carkeek beach is best at low tide with hidden sea creatures exposed. Beach Naturalists from the Seattle Aquarium are often on hand during low tides to provide education about the Puget Sound’s multitude of marine plants and animals.
Golden Gardens Park
Golden Gardens shines in the summer but is even better in the colder months. The long sandy beach is fun to explore and the nearby grassy area is great for impromptu picnics. The nearby play area is great for getting the wiggles out but make sure to head over to the duck ponds to catch a glimpse of beavers, ducks and other wildlife. Low tide provides the opportunity to walk for miles and for the truly dedicated, a chance to walk all the way to Carkeek Park. Starfish and other marine animals can also be seen during low tide.
Matthews Beach Park
Matthews Beach is the city of Seattle’s largest lakeside swimming beach with a gentle sloping lawn down to the sandy Lake Washington shore. This beach provides kids with an opportunity to explore a different kind of environment than the typical ocean beach. Located along the Burke Gilman Trail, this is a fun beach to ride bikes to and also offers a large playground. This beach is best suited for warmer months but offers great views in the winter.
Madison Beach is a favorite swimming beach and offers a large open shore, protected from large waves. The swim area is long and less choppy than other Lake Washington swimming points. Sunsets are gorgeous at Madison Beach and are not to be missed. The play area, swimming raft, diving board and lifeguards make this an ideal summer beach location. There isn’t much in the way of wildlife but there is a lot of fun to be found at this beach.
Denny Blaine Beach
This tiny park at only 0.19 acres also hosts a pocket beach. Denny Blaine Beach has just enough room for a volleyball net above the stone wall and sandplay on the beach below. There is also a small grassy area for picnics and fun. Not much wildlife can be spotted here but Denny Blaine provides a quick beach escape within the city.
West Seattle’s Lincoln Park has wide open rocky beaches and spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains. Seals and other wildlife are often spotted along the shore. During salmon season, fishermen line up with their poles to catch the magnificent fish. This quiet beach during the winter is quite popular in sunnier months and provides miles of hiking paths for forest adventurers.
Alki Beach Park
Beach goers will find a Californian beach vibe at West Seattle’s Alki beach. The 2.5 miles of paved sidewalks are full of walkers, bikers, runner and even rollerbladers. Summer months pack the beach with volleyball, SUP and kayakers along with the usual sunbathers and sand chasers. Visitors to Alki are often treated to seal lion sightings and great views of downtown Seattle. The community center, paved walkways and extensive restaurants, make this a beach to visit anytime of the year, rain or shine.
Located in South Seattle, Seward Park has it all from a swimming beach to extensive hiking trails and secluded, rocky beaches. The main swimming beach is nicely tucked into an inlet which provides a sandy shore and calmer water. Head down the paved walking trail to find secluded, rocky beaches with the potential to spot sealife. The park’s playground is not to be missed and for the more adventurous type, make sure to try out the zip-line ride. Head to the Seward Park Audubon and Environmental Center for nature classes and information on the park.
While not technically in Seattle, this beach is just a short ride from the city. The two sandy miles of pristine, rustic beach at Jetty Island in Everett make traveling north well-worth the effort. Only open in summer months, reservations are highly recommended for the short passenger only ferry. The ferry departs from the Port of Everett. This island’s miles of sand and dirt trails are best explored without time limits. This man-made island features juvenile salmon, waterfowl, bald eagles and sea lions to name a few of the island’s wildlife habitat.
By Rebecca Mongrain