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