Often referred to as “three parks in one,” Olympic National Park boasts three different ecosystems: glacier-capped peaks, old-growth and temperate rain forests and wild Pacific coastline. Much of the park's interior is accessible only by trail, but several scenic drives lead to various key destinations.
At the southwest end of the park is the Quinault Valley, known as the “Valley of the Giants.” It’s home to the largest Sitka Spruce tree in the world. Within the valley is the Quinault Rain Forest, which receives an average of twelve feet of rain per year.
Hiking is plentiful in this area and dripping, moss-draped maples create a primordial scene. Keep your eye out for the stately Roosevelt Elk, as hundreds of these creatures make their home here.
If you are unable to stay at historic Lake Quinault Lodge, make sure to stop in for a peek or rent one of the boats to take out on the majestic lake.
To experience a different environment, head along the coast to Kalaloch Lodge. The property is perched on a bluff above the ocean, where you’ll go to bed at night lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves. In the morning, grab your cup of coffee and stroll down the path to the beach.
From Kalaloch, make your way to the Hoh Rainforest, but first stop at Ruby Beach to see the sea stacks. Known as "ghosts of former islands," these mammoth rocks are remnants of eroded cliffs.
At the Hoh, take the Hall of Mosses path into the older part of the forest, where the primeval spirit is strong. For more of this verdant paradise, hike the Hoh River Trail.
The Hoh Valley is one of the wettest places in the country, so you’re bound to get some liquid sunshine. Even if the rain gods are absent, it’s always misty, which adds to the mysterious quality of this distinctive setting.
Then journey to Sol Duc, where you can hike to the Sol Duc Falls overlook, climb to Mink Lake or do the Lover’s Lane loop. If you want to soak in the soothing mineral pools at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, however, you’ll need to be a lodge guest.
Another scenic spot is Lake Crescent. The waters of this glacially-carved lake are so clear you can see as far down as 60 feet in places. This clarity and reflecting light give Lake Crescent its stunning blue-green color. You can rent boats, take a swim or simply laze on the beach.
Lake Crescent Lodge makes an ideal base for enjoying this section of the park while experiencing the charm of a turn-of-the-century resort.
At the northeast corner of the park is Hurricane Ridge. Nearly a mile high, the ridge is accessed via a winding road. Once at the top, gaze at the dramatic views of jagged mountains and wilderness.
There is much to experience within Olympic National Park. Like fine chocolate, it’s best appreciated and savored in small pieces.
Debbie Stone is a former reporter and feature writer for The Woodinville Weekly