Twenty-one free things to do on the beautiful
Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Family List #100. If you are family travelers, start here to find 21 free things to do on the Olympic Peninsula. Have a great time planning what will intrigue, excite and stimulate your family. You can build your own itinerary at: OlympicPeninsula.org.
Sign up and then click on the Backpacker Icon to get started. You can make more than one itinerary. Have fun deciding what you are going to do on each trip.
- OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK. Several times a year, National Park entrance fees are waived. Consult http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm. These days usually are:
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January;
- five days in April for National Park Week;
- August National Park Service Birthday celebration;
- National Public Lands Day in September; and
- Veterans Day weekend in November.
With nearly one million acres of playground in rain forest valleys, alpine meadows and 60 miles of unmatched wilderness coastline you’ll find plenty to explore: Hurricane Ridge with vistas revealing glacier-covered peaks and steep river valleys; Lake Crescent with 12 miles of pristine, idyllic water; and the ocean beaches with rocky headlands and fascinating tide pools are three popular locations to entertain the whole family. http://www.nps.gov/olym/
- Take a Twilight tour in Forks to look for vampires. There are organized tours to see places from the popular Stephenie Meyer book series, or you can simply stop by the Forks Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center to pick up a free Twilight map to make your own self-guided tour. While you’re there, take a picture with a replica of Bella’s truck! http://www.forkswa.com/HomeofTwilighttheBook.html
Check out really BIG TREES. The Quinault Valley has some really big living trees. The largest in world of their species are Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce and Mountain Hemlock. The Yellow Cedar and Western Hemlock are the largest in the United States. The trails to get to these big trees offer something for everyone. The largest Hemlocks are in an area called Enchanted Valley, a 15-mile, one-way backpack trip. The Western Red Cedar is found after a short walk. You can climb inside the trunk of this largest tree in the world outside California. (They have Sequoias and Redwoods, after all.) On an easy, five minute walk you can see the Sitka Spruce that is estimated to be over 1,000 years old. http://rainforestgetaways.com/html/valley_of_rainforest_giants.html
- Travel the “Magical Misty Tour” on the Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail. A delightful way to explore the Olympic Peninsula, the Waterfall Trail offers year-round adventures and dramatic beauty. From the cliffs of Cape Flattery to the glacial fjord of the Hood Canal, waterfalls of all sizes and shapes abound. A sweet little summer trickle can be a thundering torrent during spring run off. There is a falls for every level of adventure. One waterfall can be seen from a paved, wheelchair accessible path, one can only be reached by kayak or raft, others require short hikes, some can be seen from the car, while others require route finding skills or a backpack trip. http://www.olympicpeninsulawaterfalltrail.com
- Walk the fragrant lavender fields in the Lavender Capital of North America™ Sequim, Washington. Visit the many colorful lavender farms in the Sequim Valley. With over 40 farms, lavender is one of the most fragrant and useful herbs. The weather conditions in Sequim are perfect for lavender. The U-pick season typically lasts from July to the first of October. America’s largest celebration of lavender is always held the third weekend in July with Lavender Weekend in Sequim activities throughout the valley. http://www.lavendergrowers.org/
- Explore World War II forts. Three forts offer history buffs in your family an opportunity to see where guns were located to protect Hood Canal, to check out the still-in-place bunkers or visit the museum at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. Hiking, camping, tide pooling and other activities are also in the areas of these historic reminders of our past.
- Speaking of tide pools! Check out mysterious critters in the tide pool areas around the Olympic Peninsula. Salt Creek with its stunning views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Victoria, British Columbia, is the perfect setting to explore some of the most exceptional tide pools in the Northwest. Come during low tide, and you’ll see starfish, sea cucumbers, crabs, sea anemones, and urchins among the plentiful sea life on display. Many of these tide pools are located at the Tongue Point Marine Life Sanctuary, which is under water at high tide. Slip Point near Clallam Bay and areas in Port Townsend also have great tide pools. http://www.visitolympicpeninsula.org/tidepools.html http://www.olympicpeninsula.org/things-to-do/salt-creek-recreation-area
- Take a hike to the ocean in search of petroglyphs. A nine-mile triangle hike (three miles into the beach, three miles along the beach, and three miles back to the trailhead) can be customized to your hiking level. Do the complete nine-plus mile triangle or opt to walk the northern trail to Cape Alava to see ancient petroglyphs of humans and whales.
- We have a 5-acre outdoor art gallery in Port Angeles. Part of the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, the Webster’s Woods Art Park features art in many mediums from metal sculptured ferns to a “shoe tree” to a large labyrinth to walk in the meadow. The Woods are open all daylight hours year round. http://www.pafac.org/websters-woods.html. Port Angeles also has a free Art on the Town self-guided sculpture walk through downtown with its award-winning Avenue of the People. http://portangelesdowntown.com/avenue_of_the_people.php
- Experience our wonderful native cultures. Each Tribal community offers places and/or activities for respectful visitors. In late winter and spring in La Push watch the migrating gray whales or join in traditional song with the Wednesday night drumming group. On the grounds of the Makah Cultural and Resource Center and Museum in Neah Bay there are several large totems. And, in Blyn, location of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Center, Longhouse Market and 7 Cedars Casino you can find many more totems. The Resort at Port Ludlow in Port Ludlow and the Cedars at Dungeness Golf Course in Sequim also have totems. To watch this ancient art being re-created with traditional tools and methods, check out the House of Myth on the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Center property. Take a walk on the Warrior Path to an estuary of the Elwha River near the Lower Elwha Tribal Center to see birds and maybe even some river otters. To learn more about the Olympic Peninsula’s native people and cultures visit the web site www.explorepacificnwtribes.com
- Watch for real “tweets” at the Dungeness River Audubon Center. Want to see the detail of Bald Eagle tail feathers or the webbed feet of a seagull? Here’s the place to get up close to native species. Or, you can join a group for a Wednesday morning bird walk to check out birds in the wild. The Dungeness River Audubon Center is located at the site of the historic railroad trestle that crosses the river north of Highway 101. The trestle has been converted to a planked section of the North Olympic Discovery Trail. Territorial views of woodlands, river vistas, local wildlife and native flora beckon from th nature trails. The Center offers interpretive programs, summer science day-camps, and river talks and classes in the River center building, as well as exhibits, displays and specimens.
- Sit in an old buggy at the Joyce Depot Museum. The original log train depot built in 1914 is home to the Joyce Museum. Housing historical memorabilia from the towns of Joyce, Lake Crescent, Twin Rivers and the former town of Port Crescent you will find yourself surrounded by the rich history of the area. The many displays of various artifacts are but a small part of what makes this museum stand out. On shelves casually housing many historical books, you can find nuggets of treasure that bring history to life. Don’t forget to visit the Joyce General Store across the street. If you can’t find it there, you probably don’t need it! Be sure to take a photo of the mailboxes on the wall. The bulletin board outside the store will give you a good idea of things going on in this rural community.
- Watch for whales on the Whale Trail. There are several locations on the OP designated good spots for seeing whales, if they are in the neighborhood. Bring your binoculars for scouting on the horizon, but don’t miss seeing ones that may be very close to shore. Keep your eyes peeled for other marine mammals, too.
- See how far you can skip a stone in the ocean. Ruby Beach with a meandering creek, dramatic sea stacks, and drift logs is named for its sometimes garnet-colored sand. Witness this phenomenon especially near sunset. A gold mining operation was located here in the early 1900s. Olympic National Park protects over 73 miles of the some of the most primitive natural coastline in the 48 contiguous United States. The views of ocean, cliffs, headlands, islands and sea stacks, coupled with the dramatic changing sea, provide a unique wilderness experience. Most of the coast can only be accessed by foot. Rialto Beach and Kalaloch beaches, including Ruby Beach, are accessible by road. You’ll find prefect skipping stones at Rialto Beach near La Push.
- Indulge in a section of the Olympic Peninsula Culinary Loop. Local farms and markets are a source of entertainment for young and old alike, to say nothing of tantalizing the taste buds. Check out the open-air markets during most of the year across the peninsula. Or, introduce yourself to a row of carrots, some bushes of blueberries or take some photos of salmon in a stream or on your plate.
- Pedal the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) or challenge yourself on the Adventure Route. There are many places to enter and exit the ODT that will eventually connect Port Townsend to LaPush with a 130 miles of paved, multi-user trail. This is a perfect place to bring the bikes and get out to see the area. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, take on the 25 miles of groomed, single-and double-track trails.
- Explore a Lighthouse. At 5.5 miles in length, the Dungeness Spit is the longest naturally occurring sand spit in North America and home to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is a sanctuary for over 250 species of birds, 41 species of land mammals and eight species of water mammals. Its trails and picnic areas offer breathtaking views of beaches, the Dungeness Harbor and the strait of Juan de Fuca. If you’re up to hiking the spit, you’ll find the old Dungeness Lighthouse, built in 1857 and now on the National Register of Historic Places. Access to the light Station is limited to hikers at low tide
Wildlife Refuge: http://www.fws.gov/washingtonmaritime/dungeness/
- Indulge your inner cowboy at John Wayne Marina. The great film legend, John Wayne, was a frequent visitor to Sequim Bay aboard the family yacht, the “Wild Goose.” John Wayne was struck by the pristine natural elegance of Sequim Bay and believed it was the perfect location for a marina. An ideal destination for water adventurers, the marina stands on land donated by the late film star in 1975. The main Marina building has a collection of John Wayne memorabilia on display. The facility is designed to be compatible with its surroundings, so barefoot mariners can look forward to a quiet cove and excellent amenities. Visitors seeking restful waterscapes as a backdrop for picnics and uncomplicated walks will find this picturesque setting ideal.
The Marina offers a restaurant, showers, laundry and banquet facilities, and provides boat launch ramps, fuel facilities, public beach access and picnic areas. Transient moorage is usually available for those who wish to boat up to Sequim Bay and enjoy the weekend.
- Get a history lesson at the Forks Timber Museum. Harvesting timber plays an historic and important role in the economy and development of the Olympic Peninsula. The museum displays exhibits depicting local history dating back to the 1870s. It is located next to the Visitor Information Center in Forks and is open May through October.
- Drive one of the newest Scenic Byways. Highway 112 from Joyce to Neah Bay is truly “scenic” – all 249 curves of it! Take the beautiful drive and count them yourselves! Make extra time to stop along the way at overlooks and at the easy-access beach turnouts! No telling what you’ll find.
- Explore the historic Dungeness Valley. Driving around the Dungeness Valley Scenic Loop and around the outskirts of Sequim, (pronounced skwim), you’ll find an abundance of things to do and see. The organic farms, lavender farms, Audubon Center, Olympic Discovery Trail, and Dungeness Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse (mentioned separately in this list!) are only the beginning of the story with this fertile valley. Steeped in history, this special place is located in the so-called “blue hole”. Contrasting to the 120 inches of rain in the rainforests to the west, Sequim is nestled in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains where the area only receives about 17 inches of rain per year. With the fertile valley and easy access to the Strait of Juan De Juca there is a rich history of this area. Some of these locations are geocache sites on the Geocaching.com website. To get more information about geocaching, check out https://www.geocaching.com/
Start your journey into history with the uncovering of bones from a 13,800 year old Mastadon by Emanuel Mannis in 1977. You can visit the field where he found the bones and then view them in the Sequim Museum and Arts Center. http://www.macsequim.org/exhibits/45-manis-mastodon.html
Pioneer Memorial Park has a spectacular view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. Many early settlers and their families were buried here, but have since been moved to other cemeteries. There are old tombstones and a lovely garden to see here. http://www.sequimwa.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/6
Stop to see where a double-hipped carriage house stands to signify the location of the Evergreen Farm off North 5th Avenue in Sequim. The original barn, which is no longer standing, was built in 1911, attesting to the long-standing agricultural record of the area. The second story of this building has a solid wood floor so the children of the family would have a place to roller skate!
Another stop along the Dungeness Scenic Loop is the Dungeness schoolhouse, which opened in 1893 with 73 students, aged five to 20, closing in 1955 with the Dungeness and Sequim school districts merged. http://www.dungeness.com/schoolhouse/history.htm
The Knutsen Family Farm house still stands. It was ordered from the Sears, Roebuck and Company’s mail-order Modern Homes program! It is private property, so please park at the edge of the property. http://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC41702_mac-9-knutsen-family-farm
You know we’re all about big trees! One of the largest cottonwood trees in the area can be viewed by traveling south on River Road, west of Sequim. If it’s spawning season, you’ll be treated to a miracle of nature watching the salmon return to the river. Good viewing is also at the Dungeness Railroad Bridge at the Audubon center.
NOT QUITE FREE!! Walk to the edge of the NW United States. OK. We realize that this is not exactly FREE because you need to purchase a parking permit for the Makah Reservation for $7.00 per car. But the price is worth the experience, view and bragging rights! You will have planted your feet at the most northwestern point in the contiguous US on Cape Flattery bluff overlooking views of the Tatoosh Island lighthouse, the Pacific Ocean and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Tatoosh Island is sacred place for the Makah. The trail to the overlook is a cedar plank boardwalk that takes you on a moderate hike. Likely you will see eagles, cormorants, sea otter and, if you’re lucky, one of the resident whales! Anticipating hearing the sound of the ocean as you walk through the trees is finally satisfied with the sound of constant wooshing waves when you.