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.
• 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 – 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.
• 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.