If you could visit only one National Park in your lifetime, I would go out on a limb to suggest that it should be Olympic National Park. Located on the western peninsula of Washington State, the park encompasses nearly one million acres and a number of unique ecosystems. For the geeks in the crowd, you have to pass over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on your way to the park from Seattle. 🙂
We stayed in Port Angeles because it seemed like a good base of operations when we were mapping out the various things we wanted to see. In reality though, things are farther apart and we would have been better off staying inside the park itself. Options range from tent and RV camping to motel rooms to individual cabins. I highly recommend looking into these options even if they cost a little more than staying in one of the nearby cities/towns. The time it will save is well worth it.
Olympic National Park spans 73 miles of the Pacific coast and encompasses a number of beaches. We hoped to make it to Ruby Beach but that was too far south and we ran out of time. Instead we went to Rialto Beach which was pretty cool in it’s own right. The driftwood wasn’t just pieces here and there, but entire trees! The beach was very wide and when we were there it was fairly empty. The sand is on the gritty side, not very fine. I would probably take a mat to lay underneath my towel if I was going to spend an afternoon here relaxing…one of these days we will schedule some real relaxation into a trip!
We squeezed in the Rialto Beach visit after spending the afternoon in the Hoh Rainforest. The rainforest is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the US. When you think of a rainforest, you probably think about the large leafed trees, heat and steam, but this is not that kind of rainforest. Hoh holds a unique charm. I easily could have spent the entire day roaming around, sitting on the shore of the Hoh River that runs through the rainforest, and waiting for a glimpse of the resident Elk herd. The elk were nearby that day but sadly not close enough that we were able to see them on this particular visit.
My favorite part of Olympic National Park is Lake Crescent. The depth is so deep that it isn’t officially known. There have been a number of attempts to measure the depth by various entities but none of the results have been conclusive. Wandering around the lake provides different views of the various mountains in Olympic. We found a road and trail that took us to a nice large dock with a picnic table on it, where we spent some time relaxing. Once upon a time, the site was home to a sanitarium, but now all that remains is part of the stone foundation. Spending time around Lake Crescent is also a great place to spot a Bald Eagles.
When you visit Olympic National Park be sure to watch out for the pee licking goats! (see my photo if you don’t believe me)