Olympic National Park, consisting of coast, forests, and
mountains, is internationally recognized as a Biosphere Reserve
and World Heritage Site. The Olympic Peninsula was set aside as a
national monument in 1909, and further protected as Olympic
National Park in 1938. The diversity and wilderness in Olympic
provide very special experience for all visitors.
Getting there ...
Woanyu and I first visited Olympic (and Mountain Rainier)
exactly 10 years ago when I just finished my degree. It's time to
go back there after we have visited almost all the national parks
in the west coast states. We had a morning flight to Seattle,
however, the flight (Alaska Airline) was delayed for almost an
hour, and it was already passed noon when we arrived in Sea-Tac
airport. We chose the route via 104 to Port Angeles, our first
base for exploring the high country of Olympic National Park.
- Hurricane Ridge
After a short break in Port Angeles, we headed to
Hurricane Ridge at about 4PM. The road to Hurricane Ridge
was often covered by thick fog and sometimes both Linus
and Iris were giving me the direction of the road ahead.
When we reached the visitor center at Hurricane Ridge,
the visibility was so poor that we could not even see any
When we drove down the mountain, I spotted a pair of
black bears, a mother bear and her baby. When I pulled
over, we were quite close to the mother bear on the
roadside, while the baby was climbing a tree further away
from the road. We stayed in the car and watched until
both bears walked away slowly, then I quickly got my long
lens from the trunk before they disappeared in the woods.
The Second Day ...
- Hurricane Ridge
Although the weather did not look any good, I decided to
head to Hurricane Ridge for sunrise at 4:50AM. The road
after the park entrance was even more foggy than
yesterday, and I was so disappointed that I almost wanted
to turn back to sleep. Suddenly, I was out of fog and I
saw the mountain ranges for the first time. The sun was
still behind the cloud that the light quality was still
poor, but I figured it's my best chance to glance at
these magnificent mountains.
After breakfast at a McDonald's, we went back to
Hurricane Ridge again (my third trip in less than 18
hours!). The fog (or cloud) had been picking up and the
view was blocked for most of the time. It was still too
early in the season that most of trails were still
covered by snow.
- Lake Crescent
After came down from Hurricane Ridge, we drove to Lake
Crescent for a late lunch. The lodge is right beside the
lake and we got a table with a nice view of the lake.
- Marymere Falls
Marymere Falls trailhead starts at the south shore of
Lake Crescent and goes under Highway 101 through a
tunnel. The trail is easy 1-mile (one way) to a
spectacular 90-foot waterfall. Linus complained that the
trail was too flat and too easy, so we decided to take a
more challenge Mount Storm King trail on the way back.
The Mount Storm King trail (1.7 miles) climbs steeply to
a point on the ridge with a view of Lake Crescent.
However, I was suffering from the cold and my ear
pressure was so unbalanced from previous airplane landing
and trips from Hurricane Ridge, and I began to have a
headache and feel tired that I had to call them to slow
down (Iris was particular energetic that she led all the
way up). Finally we stopped and turned back at a point
where we could see the lake through the trees, but still
not high enough to get a clear view.
The Third Day ...
- Sol Duc Falls
The trail goes through dense forest to beautiful Sol Duc
Falls, the most recognizable waterfalls in Olympic. I
tried to find a spot where I can get a full view of the
entire falls, but I failed to find such a place where I
dared to go down. After the hike, we went to the Sol Duc
Hot Springs Resort for lunch. It's a weird sight to see
many people in swimming suits (coming out of the hot
pool) in such kind of weather.
- Third Beach
We started to head west to explore the coastal part of
the Olympic Peninsula. The sky began to clear up and it
did look like a summer day now. I originally planned to
go to the Second Beach, but the trail was closed due to
some conflict between National Park and Quileute Indian
Tribe. We then changed the plan to go to the third beach,
which requires a 1.4-mile one-way hike to the beach.
Linus and Iris played "downhill" along the
trail that we made it to the beach in less than 30
minutes. It was a nice sandy beach with views of some sea
stacks. Linus and Iris were so excited to go to the beach
again (since our last trip to Hawaii), and Linus said it
was well worth the 2.8-mile round trip hike.
- Rialto Beach
I wanted to go to Rialto Beach because I remembered we
visited here 10 years ago. The good thing about Rialto
Beach is that no hiking is needed. Linus was reluctant to
go initially because he was already tired, but after a
while at Rialto Beach playing with waves (both Linus and
Iris were all wet), he did not want to leave.
I booked a log cabin at Kalaloch Lodge for the next 2
nights so we can explore the west side of Olympic
National Park. The cabin is right on the ocean front with
a short trail leading to the beach. After dinner, we all
went down to the beach and enjoyed the first nice sunset
in this trip. Linus and Iris found a new way to enjoy
themselves: long jump on the sandy beach.
The Fourth Day ...
- Beach 4
I timed our visit to Beach 4 at low tide (~9:50AM) so we
can have more fun at this tide pool beach. There were 2
groups of students also around the tide pools when we got
there, and it was quite crowded on those rocks.
Fortunately, they did not stay long, and we had the whole
beach to ourselves after they left. I liked this Beach 4
very much because it does not only have tide pools full
of starfish, it also has very nice and wide sandy
- Hoh Rain Forest
What defines a rain forest quite simply is rain--lots of
it. Precipitation here ranges from 140 to 167 inches
every year. The mountains to the east also protect the
coastal areas from severe weather extremes. Seldom does
the temperature drop below freezing in the rain forest
and summertime highs rarely exceed 80 F. The temperate
rain forest in the valleys of the Quinault, Queets, and
Hoh rivers are protected and contain some of the most
spectacular examples of the Sitka spruce community.
We took the easy 0.75-mile Hall of Mosses Trail starting
from the Hoh Rain Forest visitor center. The weather was
too good: this is the time when I actually wished it was
a cloudy day so I can have better contrast control in the
- Ruby Beach
On the way back from the Rain Forest, we stopped by Ruby
Beach, which has a lot of pebbles and we can feel them
being washed to the shore with each wave. There are a few
nice sea stack formations and I decided to come back here
The Last Day,
- Quinault Maple Glade Rain Forest
The north shore of Lake Quinault has another nice example
of temperate rain forests in the Maple Glade Rain Forest
Trail. It is an easy 1.0-mile loop with amazing green
surroundings. It was a perfect day for photographing in a
rain forest: overcast sky with sufficient light, calm air
and dry ground. It was much quieter in Quinault Rain
Forest than in Hoh, and it offers its unique
three-dimensional world of green.
- Lake Quinault South Shore
We then moved to the south shore of Lake Quinault, where
it is actually located in Olympic National Forest. We
took a short walk from the information station to take a
view of this glacier-carved lake. There is another short
loop hike which winds through a forest with a more uneven
Going Home ...
After the picnic at the Lake Quinault south shore rain forest
trailhead, we started our drive back to Sea-Tac airport by
We stopped by the Capital Buildings in Olympia and took a
short walk to stretch our legs after about 2 hours of
driving. It was a relaxed walk since there was still
plenty of time to catch our flight at 5PM.
Olympic National Park in the Pacific Northwest is so
diversified that we can find almost every interesting natural
component in the park: from coast to mountains, from lakes to
rain forests, and from glacier to wildlife. 10 years after our
first visit, we enjoyed more of Olympic with Linus and Iris (and
spent much more time in the coast area). I still have a good excuse
to come back here: to get a perfect picture of snow capped
mountains with blooming wild flowers in Hurricane Ridge.
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