In the early hours of a cold spring morning, dark fog descends on Olympic National Park and shrouds western Washington’s soaring peaks in a smothering layer of gray.
As the day warms, the sun burns away the silver clouds, revealing an aquamarine pool glistening in the nadir of a snowy valley. These breathtaking views are just a few of the top things to see while visiting the rugged wilderness of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula.
Olympic National Park
Deep within the Olympic Peninsula’s verdant Hoh Rain Forest, a silky stream of whitewater rushes under an old wooden bridge and showers slick gray stones with satin spray. Lush ferns and green moss flourish here thanks to the 140 inches of rain the forest receives each year. Explore this temperate rainforest via the 0.8-mile Hall of Mosses loop through a stand of maple trees or venture down the 1.2-mile Spruce Nature Trail that runs alongside both the babbling Taft Creek and roaring Hoh River. For a longer trek, try the 17.4-mile Hoh River Trail and bring along an ice axe to navigate steep, snowy inclines.
During the winter months, head to Hurricane Ridge, an alpine haven where creamy snowdrifts surround the visitor center and white powder blankets the parking lot. Keep in mind that Hurricane Ridge Road is open to uphill traffic 9 a.m.-4 p.m. depending on weather conditions and winter blizzards can keep the road from opening. Bring tire chains, even if you are in a four-wheel drive vehicle, and head back down the mountain early to ensure you are below the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station by 5 p.m.
While at Hurricane Ridge, stop by the Visitor Center to learn more about the ridge’s history, then take the stairs to the Center’s lower level and buy a takeout meal at the Mountain View Café. Finish your day with a variety of activities on the slopes, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and tubing. Remember that you will encounter steep mountainsides with the possibility of avalanches, so be cautious when traversing the rugged terrain.
Gleaming white sailboats glide across Lake Crescent, a beautiful body of water whose broad expanse reaches from distant tree-lined hillsides to the lone wooden dock onshore. Far beyond the rippling turquoise waves, layers of puffy clouds obscure the tops of tree-lined hillsides and towering mountains.
Experience this tranquil beauty at the Lake Crescent Lodge, a historic resort whose lakeside views have enchanted visitors since 1915. The lodge offers a variety of accommodations, including the cozy Roosevelt Fireplace Cabins, two-bedroom Singer Tavern cottages and rustic Pyramid Mountain rooms overlooking lush green meadows.
During your stay, rent a kayak, canoe or paddleboard from the lodge between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. The cost for a four-hour stint is $45; eight hours on the water will come to $60. After exploring the water on your own, take advantage of Lake Crescent’s scenic 1.5 hour boat tour, during which you will learn about the lake’s history, geography and geology.
Continue your tour of the Olympic Peninsula with a hike to Marymere Falls, where a silky curtain of whitewater descends 90 feet to a mossy pool. This delicate cascade tumbles down a steep mountainside, saturating mossy boulders with spray. For the best view of the cataract, follow the Marymere Falls Nature Trail for an easy 1.8-mile roundtrip walk. You will gain 500 feet in elevation and hit a high point of 1100 feet along your trek. As you hike, look for dark green sword ferns and moss on both sides of the walkway. Follow the trail markings to the upper platform to look over the Falls, then check out the lower viewpoint to get a bird’s-eye view across from the cataract’s base.
Make the most of your memorable trip to the Olympic Peninsula when your visit these stunning attractions.