Olympic is one of the most visited national parks in the country with over 3 million visitors per year. It’s close proximity to Seattle makes it an easy stop.
After Mt. Rainier National Park, we drove west to the Washington coast spending a night in Ocean Shores, WA. We loaded up on groceries and ordered delicious seafood from a nearby restaurant. We also gave the girls a bath and did laundry for the final time. We were lucky that each hotel had two cribs to keep them corralled so Mary and I could get a good nights rest. The sleep was needed because we had a long first day ahead of us to start our Olympic adventure.
We made the drive up the scenic Washington coast to explore the coastal side of Olympic National Park. The park is divided into two sections- a coastal strip and a larger inland section. There are no roads that run through the park so a lot of time is spent in the car getting around the perimeter of the park. This was a bit frustrating because of road construction and the long commute times between stops. It also means less time outside and more time in a car.
Our first stop was the Quinault Rainforest Nature Trail, a short loop through some lush forest, large trees and beautiful light breaking through the canopy. It was also nice because the girls could walk it on their own. It took us about 45 minutes to walk the 1 mile loop, but it was great to see Quincy and Leona pick up “hiking sticks” and walk around and explore the landscape.
After that we trekked north to the formal entrance of Olympic National Park, Kalaloch Lodge. Kalaloch is a hotel along the coast with very raw coastline. We were able to head down to the water and walk around, building a fort with driftwood.
The next stop north was Ruby Beach which was a short walk from the parking lot to another beautiful beach. Ruby had some great rock outcroppings, lots of tide pools for the girls to splash around, and an American Bald Eagle!! As we stood on the beach, Mary looked up and spotted a large bird circling over the cliff and treeline. It was beautiful to see it soar around. It only hung out for a few minutes, but had us both in awe. The girls loved splashing around and carrying sticks.
After that amazing experience, we piled back in the car for another drive to the Hoh Rainforest visitor center for another short hike. It was another experience in the rainforest that only exists a few miles from the coast of Washington. We saw some giant trees and the Hall of Mosses. The girls were in the carriers for this hike after Leona battled with us getting out of the car. She screamed for at least the first five minutes as we loaded them up and made our way onto the trail. To say we disrupted everyone’s serene experience is an understatement. It was pretty stressful walking around with a kid screaming right in your ear, but she settled down and enjoyed the rest of the hike.
The final stop of the day was our campsite, about two hours away. It was a smooth ride, but had us a bit tired as we wanted to get to the campground before it got too dark. We ended up rolling into Sol Duc Campground around 730p with some time to spare to set up the tent. At our final campground, we told the girls that the toilets were broken because we were tired of having them give us a “false alarm” making us stop what we were doing and walk to the bathrooms. So at Sol Duc, the bathrooms were broken and we used our small toilet the entire time. It saved us a lot of time and cut down on our frustrations. The camp site was also pretty sweet. We didnt have a lot of flat space to put our tent, but found a small spot. We then had a little gulley the girls could play in again and explore.
Sol Duc was also near the Sol Duc Hot Springs, which is a small resort with four thermal pools for lounging. They had a great general store and locker rooms for showers. The only bad thing about Sol Duc is that it is 18 miles from the main road. It’s already a long drive getting around the park so adding another 18 miles to get to the campsite got a bit annoying.
The next day was also spent near the coast at Rialto Beach. We made the drive back out to the coast and rolled into a thick fog. We got out of the car and it was windy and cold. We bundled everyone up and started hiking north toward Hole-In-The-Wall, a rock with a donut shaped hole in it. As we walked the fog started to burn off and slowly a new world started to emerge along the coast. Islands and rock outcroppings lined up along us covered in evergreens. Again, Mary did most of the research on Rialto so I had no real idea of what I was supposed to be seeing. As each minute passed, more and more beauty was visible through the fog.
As we hiked down the beach, we took a break for a snack and potty break and found a fallen log to sit down. An older couple wearing large packs came through and Mary recognized the woman. It was Vicki, a woman Mary met at our previous campground at Mt. Rainier. As they chatted, Vicki said her and her husband had just driven out from Florida for 2 months in their RV and were going to be backpacking along the coast in Olympic. The chances of crossing paths again were quite low, but it was cool to see how small the world can be. Mary took a quick picture of Vicki and her husband before they kept hiking to their designated site.
Our next day in Olympic had another water theme. Mary thought it was a good idea to explore Lake Crescent and see what trails it had to offer. As we pulled into the lot, we saw a beautiful lodge and lots of rentals equipment to take on the lake. We inquired about renting a canoe for the family and with the signing of a few waivers and $21.59 IN CASH, we had ourselves an hour on the lake. We weren’t sure how the girls would do in a boat, but they did amazing. We put Mary in the front and the girls sat on cushions just in front of the yoke. After having a family meeting to talk about water safety, we paddled out and had a blast. The water was crystal clear and the girls said calmly while sticking a hand out into the water. as we paddled around the lake. It was an incredible suggestion by Mary to visit the lake and a great way to not have to carry the girls around on the trail.
Our final day had us make the drive to Hurricane Ridge in the middle of the park. Our drive there had us see two deer up close to the car before making the slow, meandering drive up the mountain. From there, we had beautiful vistas of the Olympic Range and across the sound viewing Canada.
After a few hours in the car, we ended the trip with a short ferry ride to the a port near the airport. We didn’t see any orca whales, but did see some jellyfish and one last view of Mt. Rainier in the distance.
The quintessence according to…
Sean- The canoe trip on Lake Crescent was amazing. It was only 45 minutes long but it showed me how smart the girls can be. They paid attention to the safety issues, but then got right into their typical attentive selves, looking for birds and mountains, and anything else they could see. It was also so peaceful on the lake. After a week of moving around in a car or hiking, it was nice to sit around….and paddle.
Mary-This picture barely does it justice so words probably wont either, but the light. It was incomparable.
Pleasant and unpleasant surprises
-Leona likes picking things up. Rocks….feathers…sticks…..and keeping them. She would fill her jackets up with her treasures each night.
-Being such a large park with no roads running through it, a lot of time is spent in the car. We kept lots of snacks on hand for the girls so everyone stayed civilized for the most part.
-Being our last park on this road trip, we had already spent a week sleeping on our Exped camping mattress and our bodies settled into it. It’s often said that it takes a few nights to sleep well camping because your body is used to your home mattress. The Exped is pretty damn comfy and all three girls were sleeping past 8AM in the tent.
-The Sol Duc Hot Springs was a great spot to relax and splash around after a long week+ of hiking.