My travel bucket list is getting longer and longer and I’m falling woefully behind, woefully. Last week, I was able to play catch-up and put some overdue check marks on my “Must Do While Living in Washington” list. My husband and I took a five day vacation to Lake Crescent on the Olympic Peninsula, and we were lucky enough to see some incredible sights. In one day alone, we visited an ocean, a rainforest, and a mountain range. Washington, you are spectacular! (And to think — just five years ago, I knew next to nothing about this state and had no desire to ever set foot here.)
My trip inspired me to construct a list of 10 Things To See on Washington’s Northern Olympic Peninsula. Many of them I saw first hand. The others will have to wait until my next venture across Puget Sound. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another four years to get back there!
My list in no particular order:
1. Lake Crescent – The view from the shore of Lake Crescent is Stunning (with a capital “S”). The mountain ridges are laced across the blue-green water, and the scenery is equally as beautiful on clear days as on foggy days. Win-Win.
You can easily take in the view with a drive along Highway 101 on the way to Forks and the coast. If you prefer to live and breathe the beauty for a few days, there are several lodges and resorts on the lake where you can stay and play.
2. Hurricane Ridge -Just a 17 mile drive from Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge offers breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains. We spotted several blacktail deer along the steep and winding road to the visitor center, so take it slow! Once we got to the visitor center the deer were EVERYWHERE, and they were not phased by us humans! I got close enough to take some amazing photos.
The Visitor Center has a mountain lookout, a cafeteria, and picnic areas. There are also hiking paths to the wildflower meadows and other lookouts. Entry to Hurricane Ridge requires a National Parks Pass. You may want to budget a half day to explore and have lunch.
3. Hoh Rainforest – The Hoh Rainforest sits on the west side of the Olympic Mountains, about two hours from Port Angeles. It is, in a word, enchanting. I grew up around forests and trees and have never seen anything as lush as the Hoh. Moss blankets the forest and hangs off the trees like something out of a fairy tale.
Whether you want to explore for an hour or days, the visitor center is a good starting point for several trailheads. I recommend the Hall of Mosses Trail. It’s mostly flat and just .8 miles. Keep your smartphone cameras on panorama – you’ll want some wide views of the forest!
4. Forks – If you’re not a Twi-hard, chances are you know someone who is totally crushing on Edward and Bella. It’s worth a stop in Forks to take a picture of the Twilight sign – even if it’s just to rack up a few “likes” and funny comments on Facebook. If vampires and werewolves are your jam, consider taking a Twilight Tour. And if you’re just passing through on the way to the coast or the Hoh, make a game out of counting how many “Twilight” references you can spot along the road!
5. La Push, The Washington Coast – This is the Pacific Ocean in all her majesty. The rock formations off the coast are unreal, unmatched and unbelievable. I immediately wanted to go in search of One-Eyed Willy’s treasure. Ok, that was in Astoria, not La Push, but the atmosphere is pretty darn close. Take your camera, point it anywhere and you’re guaranteed a five-star picture.
6. Marymere Falls – This 90 foot waterfall is an easy .8 mile hike from the Storm King Visitor Center along Lake Crescent. It’s a popular stop for visitors to Olympic National Park and it’s open year-round.
7. Sol Duc Hot Springs – Ever want to soak in a hot springs? The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort offers three mineral pools that guarantee utter relaxation. Temperatures range from 99F to 104F. The pools are complementary for resort guests. Non-guests can enjoy the pools for a fee. A truly unique way to soak up the PNW.
8. Sequim Lavender Farms – Here’s a colorful way to enjoy the Olympic Peninsula. Fields of lavender are ready to welcome you in Sequim. Take a tour of one of the lavender farms around town, or celebrate this fragrant flower in all its glory at the Sequim Lavender Festival each July.
9. Port Angeles – Port Angeles is a popular gateway to Olympic National Park and all the recreation the Olympic Peninsula has to offer. Victoria, BC is just a ferry ride away from this lovely port town. Be sure to check out the harbor along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and you’ll see why Livability.com ranked it number five on the list of Top 10 Small Towns.
10. Port Gamble – Driving through Port Gamble, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “is this place real or are we in a movie set?” Technically, this town is on the Kitsap Peninsula, but I had to include it in my list of places to see. A trip through town is like a trip back in time. Idyllic New England style houses fill the tree-lined streets. Port Gamble was the longest continuously operating mill town in North America, and it’s now the only remaining company-owned mill town in Puget Sound. It’s billed as a dreamy setting for visiting unique shops, exploring trails, and even exchanging vows.