Get ready to overload your schedule with 10 + 3 special places on the Olympic Peninsula. There have been several lists compiled over the last few weeks, all with gorgeous photos and travel hints for the peninsula. Let’s start with ExOfficio’s 10 Totally Amazing Places to See on the Northern Olympic Peninsula. This list has amazing photos, as well as short descriptions of some of our favorite places.
We totally agree that the places on ExOfficio’s list shouldn’t be missed, but we think there are a couple missed opportunities to get into the flavor, history and fun.
Dungeness Spit is mentioned #1 in ExOfficio’s list and we are glad it made the list. Dungeness Spit is especially precious. It’s the longest natural sand spit in the USA. The 5.5-mile walk out to the New Dungeness Lighthouse is a test of endurance, since the walk is totally on sand. You can sign up to be a lighthouse keeper for a week. Lots of responsibility, but a once-in-a-lifetime experience, or as the lighthouse keepers website says, Stay a Week…Memories for a Lifetime!
Joyce Museum and Joyce General Store count as one stop. Summer hours for the museum are Thursday – Monday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Try to go when Margaret is there. She is the all-knowing docent of wisdom when it comes to the area. The log building, built in 1914, was once the train depot. Now it houses historic photographs, newspapers and examples of the days gone by. Lots of artifacts and info about the recent Elwha River dam removal project is housed here. Take a reality step back in time when you enter the General Store. It’s still got its brass mail boxes and absolutely everything you could possibly need – from motor oil to Wesson oil, from brushes to clean mushrooms to brushes to paint the house. Plus they have bumper stickers that say, “I ♥ Joyce”, a definite memento for anyone you know named “Joyce”.
John’s Beachcombing Museum
John’s Beachcombing Museum. A new must-do on the peninsula – near Forks. Here are some comments from visitors to this unique collection:
“Some very cool and very unusual stuff in there!”
“This place is amazing!!! I am an environmental science teacher and I learned an amazing amount of information about what washes up on our shores. Thanks John for a great and informational time.”
“Absolutely loved our trip through John’s museum. It was great listening to John’s stories and the kids were totally engaged from the drive in until we drove away… Thanks John, this is a must see and we will be back.”
Admission to tour the museum is $5. Prepare to spend some time there! It’s open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., or for group tours by appointment, for more information or questions call 360-640-0320.
Here are six travel tips from a native Olympic Peninsula-ite, who thinks that winter and spring are special times to enjoy the outdoors here. Yes, of course, it can rain, but good gear will negate any reasons to not get out there to enjoy the lush greens and fresh air. You can find exquisite glimpses of nature that only happen at this time of year. There is a quiet solitude on most trails and the beaches entertain the changing weather. Late winter, early spring are good times to come visit. Whether you storm watch or shred the ski slopes, you’ll find yourself renewed.
Marymere Falls near Lake Crescent in Winter
TRAVEL TIP #1. Do some research before you come. If you aren’t one to make reservations ahead, at least check to see if there are activities that may limit hotel availability so you will be prepared. Be sure places you want to go are open and accessible on the days you plan to come. For example, at this time, the Hurricane Ridge Road is open Friday – Sunday. And it depends on the weather. Have a back up plan to find snow if the ‘Ridge road is closed and that’s your destination. Don’t over plan. Give yourself time to enjoy being here. The Olympic Peninsula Travel Planner can help with ideas. OlympicPeninsula.org. PS. If you are bringing your dog, be sure check out the Dog-Friendly Map info from another blog.
TRAVEL TIP #2. Plan your visit by drive times, not by miles. Drive times and distance don’t always make sense. For example, if you are planning to drive directly to Neah Bay from Seattle it is only 154 miles, but it takes about 4-1/4 hours to get there. Magnificent scenery along the way, but no freeways. From Port Angeles to Forks, it is 56 miles and takes about 1-1/4 hours. These times are dependent on traffic and weather conditions. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the journey. Please obey the speed limit. There are multiple law enforcement agencies that will be watching!
TRAVEL TIP #3. Packfor wearing layers and bring some rain gear. That’s an all-season recommendation for the Olympic Peninsula. You can drive from a sunny Blue Hole in Sequim to the damp, wet rain forest. Some tennis shoes are good for hiking on slick boardwalks and sturdy hiking boots are good for trails if they are muddy. I’ve seen flip-flops on the beach in the winter and wondered if the people hadn’t packed correctly, if they were trying to be one with the Pacific Ocean, or if they were just teenagers. I’m pretty sure their feet were cold no matter their reasons!
TRAVEL TIP #5. Check out what the locals are doing. The communities around the peninsula are little jewels to explore. Take a look at the local papers, or bulletin boards at grocery stores or shop windows. Join the people who live here to see what they support in their communities. You can find everything from gem shows, to yoga retreats, to baking classes, to fly tying workshops, to “you-name-it” gatherings, to great local theater.
TRAVEL TIP #6. Be realistic. I guess this is the biggest tip – to be realistic. Have an idea what you’d like to do, but remember all the variables. Weather, distance being the two main ones. Don’t try to do too much. Come and visit multiple times. Enjoy what you can do while you are here. Maybe one trip is only to go to Sol Duc Hot Springs and see one waterfall there. Maybe the next time you’ll go to the beach and stay, checking out a couple nearby beaches. The next time, maybe you will only camp at the Hoh Rainforest and do the hikes from the campground and take a raft trip down the river. You couldn’t do all of those itineraries in one weekend. Well, I guess you could, but you’d need some R&R when you got home!
Enjoy your visit. Relax, play, and let the nature of the Olympic Peninsula soak into you.
Olympic National Park is the Olympic Peninsula’s largest natural attraction. Originally established as Olympic Forest Reserve in 1897 it was officially signed into the National Park Service in 1938. Today Olympic National Park is three parks in one. With temperate rainforests, towering mountains, and jagged coasts, there are adventures for every age within its boundaries. In honor of the park’s 75th anniversary, here are a few top attractions to see in the park.
Hurricane Ridge– A short 17 mile drive from Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge is one of Olympic National Park’s most awe-inspiring and popular destinations. Located in the Olympic Mountains, its snow-covered trails attract snowshoers and cross country skiers in the winter. During the brief summer season mountain meadows are covered in bright colored wildflowers. The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is a great place to start a tour of the park. Rangers can share information about current program schedules, road conditions, weather, and more. There are lots of ways to get kids and teens involved with the park, including internships, volunteer opportunities, the Junior Rangers and the Jr. Ocean Steward program. Junior Ranger Booklets can be picked up at visitor centers throughout Olympic National Park. Continue reading →
Located in Olympic National Park is one of the Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail‘s most spectacular destinations: the Enchanted Valley, also known as the Valley of 10,000 Waterfalls. Snowmelt and winter rains lead to cascading waterfalls along the cliffs. During the full moon in June, the waterfalls are often at their peak.
The trail head for the Enchanted Valley hike is about 6.5 miles from Lake Quinault Lodge along Graves Creek. The hike into the valley is about 13 miles one way through temperate rainforest and is usually done as a backpack trip. Camping here during the summer months is an awe-inspiring experience. Imagine falling asleep to the sounds of multiple rushing waterfalls. Check with the back country ranger at Olympic National Park to find out when the trail is open. 360-565-3102. Camping permits are available at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles and the South Shore Lake Quinault Ranger Station located next to Lake Quinault Lodge. No reservations necessary. Black bears also enjoy visiting the area. Please remember to use caution and bear canisters.
The Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail is a self-guided tour including more than two dozen waterfalls. Nicknamed the Magical Misty Tour, the Waterfall Trail covers rainforests, mountains, coastlines, and other landscapes.
A number of waterfalls are reached by short, easy hikes. Some are even handicap accessible. Marymere and Sol Duc Falls are popular cascades easily reached year-round. In contrast, to reach Striped Peak Falls requires a moderate hike. This waterfall is best viewed from November to May. The Enchanted Valley is a spectacular destination for backpackers. This area is also known as the Valley of 10,000 Waterfalls. At least one hidden gem, Maple Creek Falls, is visited by boat only. Continue reading →
The Olympic Peninsula offers the charms of small towns alongside natural wonders found few places. Couples can create romantic getaways strolling in Victorian seaports, hiking rainforests, camping on the coast, or sampling Olympic Coastal Cuisine. Here are a few ideas to get the romantic getaway planning started: Continue reading →
Watch Salmon Spawning, Hike to a Waterfall and Swim in a Hot Spring
Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc pools
The Sol Duc Valley offers outstanding beauty and recreation. Sol Duc Falls is one of the largest and most beautiful waterfalls in Olympic National Park. The Sol Duc Road passes through old-growth forest and parallels the river as it winds up the valley. The Sol Duc River is a lively, twisting salmon stream with many trails and abundant wildlife. After the first hard rains of early fall, you’ll find salmon hurling against the forces of the white water rapids to reach their spawning grounds up river. Easily accessed after a six-mile drive along the winding Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, the Sol Duc River spills over massive boulders to live up to the river’s tumultuous reputation. Walkers above and below the falls can view salmon preparing for their jump or resting afterwards. Scan the skies for low-flying bald eagles, swooping down for an easy meal. In spring there are early steelhead jumping the cascades.
During peak season, the Sol Duc Ranger Station provides maps and information about several hikes heading off into the Olympic Mountains. This is the site of the world-famous Sol Duc Springs, a resort built around naturally occurring hot springs, now housed in cement pools. At one time, Sol Duc Hot Springs was one of the most elaborate health resorts in the country. The Sol Duc Ranger Station and Hot Springs are 14 miles up the Sol Duc Road near the west end of Lake Crescent.