Remember that last month was my birthday? And that I promised to share more about where and how I celebrated turning another year older?
So here it is…
But first, let me tell you, for a long time now, celebrations & special occasions to me translates to
having incredible experiences with loved ones and creating cherishable memories than obsessing over grandiose gifts. No matter how expensive the gift is, it doesn’t even remotely compare to such everlasting memories, amiright or amiright???
Which is exactly why my darling hubs (who knows me just too well) planned a true pacific northwest kinda weekend getaway to celebrate my birthday and he drove me off to Olympic National Park, the 6th most visited (out of the 58) National Park in America. The over 900K acres of vast and varied landscape in Olympic National Park has something to offer every kind of nature lover – from majestic mountain ranges to temperate rainforests to refreshing waterfalls to beautiful rivers to sandy beaches to rugged coastlines, this one’s got it all. You can spend weeks exploring this dramatic beauty. But here’s what we did in the little time we had in Olympic National Park (and I already know that many many more trips await in the future).
Hurricane Ridge: If you only have enough time to do just one thing in Olympic National Park, better make it Hurricane Ridge. It is located 17 miles south of Port Angeles. The moment you drive up to the visitor center look outside, you will never want to leave this place! The snowy mountain ranges, the clear blue skies, and the lush green scenery will have you mesmerized. And the icing on the cake would be spotting a herd of deer just a few yards away going about their business without a care in the world. You can choose to hike one of the many trails that begin at the visitor center, from easy to difficult.
Lake Crescent: This beautiful glacial lake is 18 miles west of Port Angeles. The drive along the curvy road with views of the lake shore in the foreground and mountains in the background is breathtaking. You could stop at one of the many vista points to enjoy the beauty, have a picnic lunch by the lake, hike along one of the trails, or go kayaking, the options are endless. Though we wanted to do the Storm King hike near Lake Crescent, due to a lack of time we chose to hike to Marymere falls instead. The 1.5 miles round trip hike to the 90 foot waterfalls is through a picturesque rainforest.
Hoh Rainforest: This lush green canopy of coniferous and deciduous trees is a result of 140 to 170 inches of rainfall each year. It is a bit of a deviation to get to this rainforest but well worth the beautiful drive. There are two short loop hikes from the visitor center, the Hall of Mosses Trail which is 0.8 miles and the Spruce Nature Trail which is 1.2 miles. As you begin the hike you will notice that every inch of the trail is covered with moss-draped trees, which look amazing yet spooky. Regardless, be prepared to get lost in the greenery. The 18.5 mile Hoh river trail is supposed to provide stunning views of Mt. Olympus and Blue Glacier, or if that’s too much you could always make a u-turn once you reach the five mile island.
Rialto Beach: This beach is like no other that I have ever seen before, mostly because of the washed up and bleached giant driftwood logs which seem to guard the beach (and also makes it appear dramatic). The drive to the beach itself is beautiful with a view of the famous ‘seastacks’ aka offshore land formations in the water at a distance. And once you reach the beach, carefully climb over the pile of logs to get to the shore. The beach is beautiful, the sand super-soft and the waves powerful. If the weather is good, you could spend hours just laying on the beach or walking from one end to the other. Sunset over Rialto beach is supposed to be drop dead gorgeous.
La Push Beaches: First, Second and Third beaches are all about 10-15 minutes drive apart with quite a few things in common and yet each one offers a unique experience. All three of them are vast sandy beaches offering breathtaking views and housing seastacks and piles of driftwood. But each beach has its own charm. While you can see the First Beach from the parking lot, to view Second and Third beaches, you will have to hike before getting a glimpse of their mesmerizing beauty. The 0.7 mile hike through the lush green forest and the sound of crashing waves as you get closer to Second beach build the excitement and once you descent the last few stairs, a gorgeous opening to the beach awaits to welcome you. On the other hand, a 1.4 mile hike takes you down to Third beach.
There’s just so much to see and do in Olympic National Park that I have a running list for when we go back – Sol Duc Falls and Hot Springs, Quinault Rain Forest, Elwha Valley, Staircase Loop Trail, Dosewallips River Trail, Kalaloch Beach, Ruby Beach etc etc…
- Weather conditions change drastically in the park so be prepared to keep yourself warm and dry
- Certain roads and trails might be closed due to weather so double check beforehand
- You cannot drive through the park so allow ample amount of time to get from one point to another
- Permits are required for all overnight wilderness stays, so be sure to make reservations
- The lodges in the national park are booked out months in advance and a decent alternative is to stay at hotels in towns outside the park, which offer a comfortable and less expensive stay
- Carry enough food and water as you might spend hours inside the park and won’t have easy access to stores unless you drive back to nearby towns
- While many advise that you take a ferry from Seattle to go to ONP, after much research we decided to drive all the way instead and realized it was convenient to do so
Thanks to the love of my life I had one helluva birthday weekend in the woods, can you tell!? 😉
I am so thrilled that the weather is getting better to enjoy the outdoor. Are you going some place exciting this summer?
“The mountains are calling and I must go”.