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Trip Report - 14 nights in Olympic National Park in May

Miami Beach, Fl
Level Contributor
748 posts
202 reviews
Trip Report – 14 nights in Olympic National Park in May

My husband and I just returned from a 14 night trip to Olympic National Park. Since this forum was so helpful in our itinerary planning (especially the detailed & helpful information from GlacierMeadows and Kaleberg), I would like to share the highlights of our trip.

Our itinerary was as follows:

2 nights at Kalaloch Lodge

7 nights La Push, staying at home rental, The Orchard at Three Rivers

5 nights Lake Quinault area, staying at home rental, The Elk House

We were there May 10-24. We chose these dates for the spring water cascades and the quiet in the park. It turned out there was no rain during the entire period, which actually was a bit disappointing to me since I like “weather”.

Looking back, the key ingredient that really “made” this an exceptional experience was slowing things down. This meant in the itinerary planning phase, recognizing that it wasn’t important to SEE every section of this enormous park, but it was important to CHOOSE EXPERIENCES that would allow its natural beauty to reveal itself. I chose the wild Pacific coast beaches and the rainforests for our focus. Each day went at a leisurely pace and each activity had plenty of breathing room for serendipity to work its magic – time for conversations with others we met along the way, finding a log or bench and simply sitting and watching the waves, waterfall, or whatever and it gave us time with ourselves to talk, wonder and laugh. Here are some highlights, not in any particular priority order. Maybe there are some seeds for your itinerary.

BEACHES

• Walking among outstanding sculptural sea stacks at low tide – favorites were Ruby Beach near Kalaloch; Second Beach, First Beach, Rialto Beach in La Push area

• Tide pooling - amazing sea stars, sea anemones, kelp & more - best experiences were on Second Beach & Rialto Beach in La Push area on a minus tide, if you are fortunate to be in the area when these occur – you can arrive two hours before lowest tide and stay up to two hours after lowest tide (best is at lowest minus tide point).

• Exploring driftwood - beaches and near rivers, learn how they get to the beaches - visit to Forks Timber Museum to learn about logging and trees in the area & see old photos

• Scenic boat trip on ocean to see stack stacks from another perspective & whatever wildlife comes your way – we saw a grey whale, lots of sea lions, many eagles, puffins and other birds

• Kalaloch Tree Root Cave/Tree of Life – explore extraordinary tree and spend time sitting nearby

• Kalaloch Cedar/Western Red Cedar

• Sunsets on beach

• Outdoor crackling fire at night – Kalaloch Lodge near gazebo

HOH RAINFOREST

• Hoh Rainforest – There is a place in the Hoh Rainforest that is the quietest place in the United States. Gordon Hampton has vigorously worked to preserve this and has founded the One Square Inch Project.

Make it a special day and hike the Hoh Main River Trail in silence to the One Square Inch Project location, 3.2 miles from visitor center. Information and location details here: http://onesquareinch.org/map/

• River rafting down the Hoh River - with Rainforest Paddlers – very special experience going with the flow and learning about the river – saw elk along the river bank! Lots of fun.

http://www.rainforestpaddlers.com

QUINAULT RAINFOREST

• Quinault Rainforest is also called “Valley of the Rainforest Giants”- many are recognized as the largest living specimens of their species. Hiking among them is humbling and a wow experience. Highlights were the Maple Glades Rain Forest Loop including Kestner Homestead, Quinault Rainforest Nature Trail, Irely Lake. We didn’t have time to hike to Pony Bridge, but that looks so beautiful too.

• Cascades and intimate landscapes – really beautiful cascades surrounded by eye popping lush green of spring – a feast for the eyes and the ears

• Four hour guided tour of the area operated by the Lake Quinault Lodge – includes highlights around the loop – well worth it for the orientation to the area and learning about the temperate rainforest

• Drive the loop before dusk to spot wildlife

• The blooming rhododendron were so beautiful in May.

11 replies to this topic
Port Angeles, WA
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
11,779 posts
20 reviews
1. Re: Trip Report – 14 nights in Olympic National Park in May

What a wonderful trip report. I was worried that you would not find enough to do, but you really understood how to appreciate ONP: slow down, savor, and enjoy the park in its various moods. You really lucked out on the tides, too. Which boat tour did you take?

Miami Beach, Fl
Level Contributor
748 posts
202 reviews
2. Re: Trip Report – 14 nights in Olympic National Park in May

Hi Kaleberg! It was just chance that our dates on the coast coincided with minus tides. We had never seen star fish before and it took us awhile to figure out where they like to attach themselves. Once we figured that out, they were everywhere! The sea anemones and the kelp - everything was stunning. We felt like kids again with each new sighting! When we return, we'll plan for sure around those minus tides as we could definitely see the difference with positive low tides. If anyone else is interested in tide pooling, it helps to have good gripping rubber soles and shoes that can get wet. We had our light hikers on so we could safely navigate on the rocks & boulders, but we couldn't actually stand in the pools. Next time, we'll bring totally waterproof shoes with good hiking soles so we can get close to more tidal life.

The boat tour out of La Push was an introduction by the owner of The Orchard at Three Rivers to Gary Grahn. He has a clean well-maintained boat; fortunately the seas were calm. I have texted him to see if he is okay with me giving out his contact information.

Atlanta, GA
Level Contributor
40 posts
27 reviews
3. Re: Trip Report – 14 nights in Olympic National Park in May

Thank you for taking the time to write this! We are going in August and appreciate your feedback! Glad you had a great trip!

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
11,726 posts
8 reviews
4. Re: Trip Report – 14 nights in Olympic National Park in May

It is so satisfying to have someone really take the time to “experience” Olympic National Park rather than just a quick visit. It is so unique and some people get it and some don’t! You do. It is a treat for all five senses and I mean all. I was there last week, but I actually skipped the Hoh given it has been so unseasonably dry. I so miss the rain. I hope you do return and get to hear a light rain in the Hoh and Quinault Rainforests. It really adds to the experience. I think most visitors take the hundreds of small waterfalls for granted. Each one is unique and special. Return some day in late September and early October. Another great magic show and it will give you a chance to get into the mountains. I will be overseas this Fall, but if you get back next year perhaps we could walk to Pony Bridge together. I’ll Drive. Please let me know what you thought about the Elk House and the Orchard. That is relatively new or they changed the name. I will have to check it out. Thanks again and so glad you obviously enjoyed your time in Olympic. We are off to Brookings Oregon pet sitting on the Ocean for a week and a couple days among the Redwoods. Not bad Ancient Forests also.

Miami Beach, Fl
Level Contributor
748 posts
202 reviews
5. Re: Trip Report – 14 nights in Olympic National Park in May

Hi Glaciermeadows! I really do want to return to ONP and your suggestion for late September and early October are now written in my notes. None of us have a crystal ball for 2019, but if that is the year we return I will definitely be in touch so we can walk to Pony Bridge together! The Orchard at Three Rivers was named by the new owners who purchased the property last spring - I don't know its previous name. In speaking with the owner, Linda, they made a lot of improvements. My review of the property on VRBO is not posted yet - so I'll paste it here. Here is the link so you can see the picture of the property.

https://www.vrbo.com/4617861ha?unitId=5355922

We cannot say enough about this wonderful property. When we walked inside it felt like a home away from home; we immediately felt welcomed. The house itself is totally cared for - super clean, comfortably furnished, has a well-equipped kitchen and living room for hanging out and wifi. I loved how the light streamed in the morning. The new deck is just lovely. Perfect for sitting with morning coffee, and even better for a glass of wine after exploring the area for the day! The house itself is surrounded by forest and is very quiet and peaceful. There is no light pollution at night so that one night with clear skies we got up about 3AM and went outside - we felt like we could reach out and touch the stars!

From a location perspective, it was perfect. It is within 5-10 minutes of the La Push area beaches so it’s easy to get there for low tide or sunset. It is forty minutes from Rainforest Paddlers and 60 minutes to the Hoh Visitor Center.

The owner is terrific - responsive, helpful in any way possible. If there is something you are interested in doing like finding a local fishing guide, just ask. She introduced us to someone who could take us on a scenic cruise out of La Push Marina and it was so much fun.

Of all the rentals that we have stayed in, this is BY FAR one of my favorites. Anyone that chooses this home WILL NOT be disappointed! It is most definitely a well-managed premium property. Five nights was too short. We are hoping to return.

Port Angeles, WA
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
11,779 posts
20 reviews
6. Re: Trip Report – 14 nights in Olympic National Park in May

I know this place! I've driven by it on route to the beaches many times, and it looks lovely from the outside. It certainly has a great location. So good to hear it has been turned into a comfortable vacation rental. When you are staying out near Forks, which lacks amenities, having a beautiful, restful base is essential.

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
11,726 posts
8 reviews
7. Re: Trip Report – 14 nights in Olympic National Park in May

I do know it. I have been inside and loved the place! I forgot they are new owners and did change the name. It is very private and one of the nicest rentals that I have seen on the whole Peninsula.

Nashville, TN
Level Contributor
1,085 posts
1,028 reviews
8. Re: Trip Report – 14 nights in Olympic National Park in May

Journeyer, I enjoyed your TR -- sounds like a wonderful trip to a magical place. I am looking forward to a trip next year. Thank you for posting your observations and insights.

Miami Beach, Fl
Level Contributor
748 posts
202 reviews
9. Re: Trip Report – 14 nights in Olympic National Park in May

Hi Retired TravelerTN - hope you enjoy your trip next year - I still dream about our experiences!

Level Contributor
42 posts
5 reviews
10. Re: Trip Report – 14 nights in Olympic National Park in May

Very informative review, we are in the early stages of planning a similar trip and your report is great. We are also from Miami.

Thanks

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