Our three-day journey through the Olympic Peninsula proved to be just enough of an introduction for us to know we’d be back. Brian and I had never been to the Pacific Northwest, so we were excited to get on the road and explore!
Brian and I left Newport, Oregon and made our way up the coastline towards Washington State. Scenic and beautiful, we found ourselves immersed in lush greenery and rolling hills of foliage and sand alike.
Cannon Beach, OR
A quick pitstop in Cannon Beach gave us the opportunity to refuel on coffee and stretch our legs seaside.
While we weren’t able to visit Haystack Rock at low tide, this iconic monolith was a neat sight to see. Brian and I enjoyed the short half-mile hike on the beach, despite the cold and rain.
Quinault, WA: Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail
The first stop on our Olympic adventure was an easy half-mile nature trail loop through the Quinault Rain Forest. It was SPECTACULAR. Even though we traversed through vaguely similar terrain in Hawaii and Ireland, the Pacific Northwest invigorated us in a different way. Perhaps it was because of where we are in life, or the gradual release of pressure from the effects of quiet isolation, or even the distinct lack of crowds and noise. Maybe it was a combination of all of those reasons and more.
The natural landscape enveloped us in rich hues of mossy green and sage against a rugged backdrop. The enormity of nature and the scale of man present an undeniable contrast in this moment. As Brian and I walked alone together, we found ourselves excitably roaming in a rain-soaked wonder.
In fact, we were SO excited that we decided to venture onto a connecting trail that was part of a different loop. Captivated by the sights and sounds, Brian and I irresponsibly stumbled onto an unknown (to us) trail that ended up being part of a 4-mile loop. Oops. Thankfully, our offline map pointed us towards the main road. After 3 miles, we found ourselves back on pavement, which led us 1 mile up the road to our car.
Ruby Beach, WA: Ruby Beach Nature Trail
The next stop on our route was a wild beachfront of smooth, weathered rocks, pebbles, and stacks of driftwood. Ruby Beach offers plenty of beach exploration with hiking, kayaking, wildlife watching, and more. Sea stacks, the large rock formations along the beach, are home to all kinds of life – from birds to sea lions and starfish. Unfortunately, we visited during more of a high tide, so we couldn’t get too close to the rocks. Still, we came across a few tide pools and took in the sights.
After a short half-mile out and back walk, we hit the road towards Lake Crescent. Highway 101 guides us to the lake’s western border and hugs the lower half as we make our way to our next hike. Scenic vistas along the way provide moments of restful solitude and reflection.
Shrouded in misted fog, this view gave us plenty of pause and appreciation.
Port Angeles, WA: Marymere Falls Trail
The Marymere Falls Trail is a well-maintained 1.8-mile roundtrip pathway through intricate ferns and moss-covered old-growth forests. Natural stairs ascend up to 200 feet of elevation to a 90-foot waterfall. Brian and I really loved this hike; it was beautiful. Easy with minimal elevation, we enjoyed wandering down the trail and taking in the experience.
We closed out our day near the trailhead, by the water’s edge. Lake Crescent’s serene, blue water took us by surprise. It had been raining on and off all day, and though the dock was slick, it didn’t stop us from walking to the end for a little break.
Energized by coffee and eager anticipation, Day Two began at sunup with a 2.5-hour drive to the Hoh Rain Forest. Brian and I planned to visit this iconic site as early in the day as possible.
Incredibly stunning and lush, the Hoh Rain Forest is one of the most remarkable temperate rainforests in the country. It’s also one of the most popular and heavily trafficked destinations in Olympic National Park. Luckily, the crowds were sparse to begin with, and even more so as we entered early in the morning.
Forks, WA: Hoh Rain Forest – Hall of Mosses & Spruce Nature Trails
After our initial trek through the Quinault Rain Forest, we couldn’t wait to explore this part of the park. The Hoh Rain Forest receives as much as 140 inches of rain per year. Rain jackets on and ready to go, we started today’s outdoor adventure on the Hall of Mosses Trail, a 0.8-mile loop.
The dreary weather was fitting. Brian and I embraced the cloudy and rainy gloom. It felt organic. The canopy of plant life and wilderness emanated vibrant shades of green, which were even more pronounced beneath rainfall. We continued through the Hall of Mosses and eventually made our way to the Spruce Nature Trail.
Slightly longer than the Hall of Mosses, the 1.2-mile Spruce Nature Trail features both old and new growth forest with a brief section along the Hoh River. Equally picturesque and unique, these two loop trails provide fascinating glimpses into diverse ecosystems.
Next on our list was the Sol Doc Falls Trail. Situated just over an hour-and-a-half from the Hoh Rain Forest, this hike features one of the most impressive waterfalls in the park. Grateful for our quick-dry clothing, we hopped into the car dry and comfortable, snacked along the way, and enjoyed the drive.
Port Angeles, WA: Sol Duc Falls Trail
The 1.6-mile out and back trail was the busiest one we encountered. Sol Duc Falls is a fairly easy hike, although it requires a bit of navigating over roots and rocks. A moss-laden world awaited us as we explored a path through forest, rocks, and streams.
The final reward was magnificent. Brian and I heard the falls before we even saw them. As we rounded the curve and the falls came into view, we were greeted by thundering water that split into 4 channels and cascaded 50 feet into the canyon below.
Refreshed by the mist from the waterfall and occasional rain, we began our trek back to the car for our final stop.
Port Angeles, WA: Hurricane Hill Trail
Brian didn’t expect snow, but I did! Though it wasn’t actively falling, there was plenty of it on the ground. One thing both of us didn’t expect was a road closure…
From downtown Port Angeles, we drove 17 miles up Hurricane Ridge Road to the Visitor Center. The temperatures dropped, and the spring landscape morphed into winter. The remnants of snow slowly appeared and eventually turned winter white as we reached the top. Unfortunately, we discovered that the road to the Hurricane Hill Trailhead was closed at the Visitor Center parking lot.
We drove all the way up here, so we decided that we might as well go for a walk to see where we’d end up. Luckily for us, it turns out the road was cleared through to the trailhead itself, which was a 1.3-mile distance.
It was simply breathtaking. With the exception of our own voices and gentle footsteps, our walk was nearly silent. Every now and then, a slight breeze would rustle through loose branches and whisper through the trees. The minor worry of bears or cougars crept into our minds, but escaped as we found ourselves consumed by the cold, brisk air and beautiful mountainous views. As we approached the trailhead, we discovered that it was still completely snow-covered. We passed by a couple sporting snowshoes who let us know they weren’t necessary to walk the first part of the trail. With playful curiosity dancing in our spirits, Brian and I hiked up the snowy slope and carefully found our footing. From our vantage point, we could actually see Canada!
Though we didn’t hike the entire Hurricane Hill Trail, we loved the experience we had. We spent the majority of the hike alone, including the 2.6-mile roundtrip walk between the trailhead and parking lot. Quiet and secluded, this final hike was a great way to wrap up our time in Olympic National Park (especially as a couple of introverts). It gave us time to reflect and connect on where we want to visit next.
Our third and final full day on the Olympic Peninsula began as a casualty of the complications of work on the road. While remote schedules offer fantastic flexibility for the most part, sometimes they create stressors that seep into off-hours. Today was one of those days.
From meetings to team members who don’t uphold their roles, the day felt heavy with unfinished tasks and a terrible sense of being unaccomplished. These are the days we try to balance with a positive mindset and recognition of the things outside of our control. So, with that in mind, we put the work day behind us (albeit a little later than planned) and headed out.
Sequim, WA: Dungeness Spit Trail
Brian and I made the impromptu decision to attempt a 10-mile hike. What better way to deal with stress than to sweat it out? Long story short, our impromptu trip was both successful and unsuccessful. No, we didn’t manage to reach our 10-mile goal. However, we DID sweat out our stress!
The Dungeness Spit Trail is part of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. Featuring a lighthouse that is reachable by way of a 5-mile hike along the beach, the Dungeness Spit Trail seemed like a great idea to blow off some steam. We set out for a moderate hike, only to realize that we were in for a serious work out a few hours in. The Dungeness Spit is one of the world’s LONGEST sand spits. While low tide allows for a nice, leisurely stroll along the beach, high tide creates a challenging hike over driftwood. Too bad we didn’t double-check the tide table before we headed out…
We officially hiked 8 miles total and saw plenty of birds, crabs, and even a seal. However, Brian and I didn’t make it to the lighthouse. Unfortunately, we began to notice the tide climbing and made the decision to turn around. Though we began our walk on sandy shores, we returned via driftwood logs and rocky terrain! We had mistakenly looked over an old tide chart and failed to double-check the tide times for the day. Oops. It was a pretty tough walk back, but we made it.
As mentioned previously, Brian and I maintained east coast hours. We finally returned to our hotel around 10:30PM EST. Exhausted and happy, we turned in for the night.
Our three day trip on the Olympic Peninsula was well-worth the sleep deprivation. Brian and I enjoyed the adventure while it lasted! We were satisfied with what we did with the time we had. We will absolutely be back to explore more of the Olympic Peninsula, as well as the rest of Washington State. With more to see and do in Olympic National Park, as well as small towns to visit throughout the Peninsula, Brian and I hope to plan a more extensive itinerary down the road.
Do you have any Washington favorites on your list? Comment below and let us know what you think we should check out next time!!