Traveling around ‘loops’ seems to appeal to many people these days.
On the Olympic Peninsula, we have three loops to try out!
Loop #1. A natural way to explore the Olympic Peninsula is around the Highway 101 Scenic Byway Loop. Start in Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia, circle the OP and arrive back at your starting spot. This loop drive of about 329 miles will take you a minimum of about eight hours – with NO stops for anything! Not sure why anyone would want to do this, but they do! It’s way more pleasant to stop to take some photos, stop to enjoy some Olympic Coast Cuisine (like fresh oysters along Hood Canal), stop to do some geocaching along the way, stop to look for whales, stop to meet some locals or view other wild life! Taking only a few highlight stops along the way will probably make it a 15-hour trip. Why not make it two or three days? You’ll be able to get to places in Olympic National Park like Hurricane Ridge, the Hoh Rainforest and Rialto Beach. More information from earlier blog post.
Loop #2 is the Strait of Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway. Take Hwy. 112 from Port Angeles to Neah Bay and back. Yes, this is stretching the loop concept a little, but it’s a glorious drive on Hwy. 112 all the way to Neah Bay. For part of the trip, the road will hug the shore along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, providing you with possibilities to see whales and other marine mammals and birds. LOTS of birds!
Stops along the way would be in Joyce to visit the Joyce General Store and the Joyce Depot Museum. If you’re going through during the Wild Blackberry Festival in August, lucky you! All the blackberry pie you can eat. (August 1, 2015) Once in Neah Bay, the Makah Cultural and Resource Center and Museum is a must. World-class museum at the edge of the earth. You’ll need to retrace a little bit of Hwy. 112 and then return by Hwy. 113 to Hwy. 101 around Lake Crescent and back to Port Angeles. Enjoy the clear blue water of the lake or a hike to Marymere Falls, an hour hike to a lovely falls.
Loop #3. Travel the 31-mile loop around Lake Quinault in the heart of the Quinault Rainforest! Driving around takes about two hours, but it will give you the opportunity to see wildlife – Roosevelt elk, deer, bald eagles, just mention the most common. You might see a fisher, black bear, cougar or bobcat, but these are rare sightings in the area. So feel special if you run across one of these extraordinary animals.
Check out the waterfalls along the way. The Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail web site has detailed information about falls on the Olympic Peninsula. There are four falls mentioned specifically in the Quinault area, Willaby, Bunch Creek, Merriman and Gatton Creek Falls, as well as Enchanted Valley. Enchanted Valley requires a 12.9 mile-mile hike into the valley. The trail head is near Lake Quinault. At this moment, 5/18/15, Enchanted Valley is closed to camping after reports of bear-human interactions. Check with the Park for updates. 360-565-3130.