Hike through temperate rainforests – inland and coastal – plus wild beaches, lowland and alpine lakes, and snow-capped mountains. The Olympic Peninsula has it all! Home to the largest of the four North American species of elk, the Roosevelt Elk, and the Blue Glacier, the lowest glacier in the contiguous United States, Olympic National Park has become the 6th most-visited of our National Parks, attracting travelers from all over the world. In 1976, it was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and later a World Heritage Site. Not one single road, paved or unpaved, crosses this 1500 square-mile wilderness. Stay at two iconic National Park lodges along the way!
DAY 1: Lake Quinault Rainforest and Lodge
To the Northwest Coast natives, Quinault means “river with a lake in the middle.” It is the name of the land and lake as well as the tribe who have lived here. The Quinault River basin famously holds six different species of record-sized trees. While it’s a bit of a drive from Seattle this morning, don’t worry; once we reach the lake you will be in the Big Trees before you can get out of the van! Walk the network of trails around the lodge and the lake this afternoon to see some of the largest western red cedar, Sitka spruce, western hemlock and Douglas fir trees on the planet. Learn about the largest remaining temperate rainforest in the U.S. while you sample up to a dozen types of wild berries. Spend the night on the shores of the lake in historic Lake Quinault Lodge.
5 miles (or more), 100ft gain, 600ft elev.
Day 2: Kalaloch – Coastal Forests and Beaches
After breakfast in the Roosevelt Dining Room where FDR once had lunch, we will head to the coast. In the language of the local natives, Kalaloch means “a good place to land.” We think you will agree. In sharp contrast to the soaring inland forests, forbidding-looking tangles of gnarled spruce and wind-whipped shore pines line the coastal beaches. Keep an eye out for scurrying shore birds, surf-riding scoters, and soaring bald eagles as we wander across fine sands. With luck we will time our walk beneath these towering bluffs just right to reach the tide pools and rocky headlands of Brown’s Point at low tide. In the evening, the garnet-tinged sands and offshore haystacks of Ruby Beach form the perfect sunset backdrop. Spend the night along the ocean at Kalaloch National Park Lodge.
2 miles trail hiking plus 5 to 7 miles along the beach, sea level
Day 3: The Hoh Rainforest
Hike the most famous rainforest in the park. Hoh means “whitewater,” an apt description for this boulder-strewn, braided ribbon of a river formed from the glaciers on Mt Olympus. Begin at the Visitor’s Center on the Hall of Mosses Nature Trail. Continue up the Hoh River Trail to Mt Tom Creek for lunch by the river. Watch for an elk herd or the occasional deer. Colonnades of spruce stretch toward the sky high above the canopy. Bigleaf maples spread out over green meadows. Lichens and mosses run wall to wall and floor to ceiling. There is more biomass here per acre than anywhere else on the planet: you will inevitably run out of different ways to describe “green.” Fall asleep to the sound of the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean outside your window again tonight at the Quileute Oceanside Resort in La Push.
up to 11 miles, 300ft gain, 800-1000ft elev.
Day 4: Wild Beaches and Sea Stacks
In addition to vast rainforests and a mountain range, Olympic National Park features more miles of wild coastline than anywhere else in the lower-48 states. Take a short drive up the coast this morning to take a hike from Rialto Beach to Hole-in-the-Wall. Mountains of driftwood mark the high tide line along the shore. Dally amongst the colorful tide pools, spying on sea stars, sea anemones and tiny fish. Watch for whales, sea lion, otter and pelagic birds offshore amid the sea stacks. No need to move our camp today, so we will head back to Quileute Oceanside Resort and you can spend your afternoon as you wish. Relax on the porch of your cabin with the beach at your feet or explore more beautiful beaches and rock formations within walking distance of the resort.
4 miles along the beach with options for more exploring, sea level
Day 5: Sol Duc/Deer Lake
Famous for its wild salmon and steelhead runs – fish story, anyone? – Sol Duc means “sparkling water.” Visit Sol Duc Hot Springs, where according to legend two badly behaved dragons, Sol Duc and Elwha, were imprisoned in deep caverns high in the mountains. The hot tears they weep as a result of their confinement supply the waters for the hot springs along these rivers. Hike first to photogenic Sol Duc Falls, where beams of light filter through the emerald forest canopy to play on the waters. Beyond the falls, you can choose whether you want to return to the resort and bathe in hot dragon tears, or continue on up the trail (literally) to Deer Lake, a tiny mountain lake set amongst sub-alpine meadows and forest where wildflowers abound. After the hike, we head down to the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to sample some of the Northwest’s best “tavern-chic” cuisine and enjoy more water views from our rooms at the Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles.
Sol Duc Falls: 2 miles, 200ft gain, 2000ft elev.
Deer Lake: 8 miles, 1700ft gain, 2000-3600ft elev.
Day 6: Hurricane Ridge
Today we celebrate our last day with an ascent to the literal high-point of the tour – Hurricane Ridge. This land is truly shaped by wind – gusting to over 70 mph, with snows 30-35 feet deep. We climb up through alpine meadows and tree islands, dodging black-tailed deer, mountain goats and Olympic marmots (an endemic species of giant ground squirrel) until we reach Hurricane Hill. There we are met by sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains to the south and the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island to the north. Following our trip into the high-country, our return to Seattle concludes with a spectacular sunset ferry ride through the Puget Sound archipelago.
5 miles, 700ft, 5100-5800ft elev.