Forest or coast? At Olympic, you don't have to choose. Here's our list of must-see spots
Hoh Rain Forest
Always green, and almost always wet, Hoh Rain Forest is at the top of our must-see list. The rain―134 inches annually―goes on vacation in July, August, and September. See a rich spectrum of greens: thet deep emerald of licorice fern, the wan olive of hanging club moss, and the turqoise of Sitka spruce needles. One of the best ways to see this verdant brilliance is the Hall of Mosses Trail by the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. (See Best Olympic hiking.)
Sol Duc Falls
See the wild beauty of Sol Duc on the 0.8-mile hike to Sol Duc Falls. You’ll cross a canyon by bridge for an up-close view of three sheets of white water crashing down into a crevasse of black rock.
Quinault Rain Forest
Some of the world’s largest trees―Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, Western red cedar, and Western helock―are found here. Visit Quinault’s big Sitka spruce, which is 191 feet tall and 1,000 years old. The trails will take you through mossy forests to stunning, venerable arboreal giants. On the Rain Forest Loop Drive, keep your eyes open for Roosevelt elk.
Visit the southern end of the park’s 73 miles of coastline for wide, wave-battered beauty. There are numerous beach areas in the marine and wildlife sanctuary including Kalaloch, Beach 1-4 and Ruby Beach. Hike the coast for amazing sights or spend the afternoon bird watching for bald eagles and Western gulls. A good place to spend the night is Kalaloch Lodge, where bluff top cabins sit less than 100 feet from the Pacific.
This glacially-carved lake, hidden among the northern foothills of the Olympic Mountains, offers plenty of day activities and stunning natural beauty. Its waters present clear views almost 60 feet deep and are home to the Beardslee and Crescenti trout, two types of fish found nowhere else in the world. Nearby, the short hike to Marymere Falls shows off both the park’s old growth forest and a 90 foot waterfall.
One of the most popular and easily accessible Western beaches, Rialto Beach is a wonderfully wild and rugged counterpart to the forests of Olympic. The rocky shores boast giant drift logs, rough waves, and scenic views of ‘seastacks.’ Visit during low tide to hike to some of the best locations. Hole-in-the-Wall is a sea-carved arch about 1.5 mile north of Rialto Beach and offers camping.
From Port Angeles, drive south on Hurricane Ridge road for 17 miles. Named for the 75-mile-an-hour winds that can blow here in winter, in summer the Ridge is merely spectacular, offering amazing views of the Olympic Mountains and the Olympic Peninsula coastline.
Take a kayak or canoe out onto the lake in the “Valley of the Giants.” Or simply enjoy the view of blue water backed by mossy, green trees. Lake Quinault offers a central location for lodging, camping, and plenty of trails to explore the valley’s rain forest.