With the days considerably cooler and falls colors popping up everywhere, there is no denying we are in Autumn! And no better time than now to reminisce about our summer travels, which were very local and subdued due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the good thing is, we added a fifth National Park in our list of US National Parks visited! With only 3 days to work with, we covered the highlights of Olympic National Park but left a lot to be seen for a future trip.
Olympic National Park is in the western part of Washington state and contains the western most point of continental United States. Like many US National Parks, it boasts of many different natural attractions – rugged mountains, alpine lakes, rain forest, waterfalls and beaches along the Pacific coast.
Best time of the year to go:
We ventured into the Park at the end of August, which could be a hit or miss weather-wise as the Olympic Peninsula gets a lot of rain annually. But we were lucky to get the perfect Pacific Northwest summer weather during our short trip. If you plan to go, whatever time of the year, carry rain jackets!
Here are the some highlights of the Olympic National Park, in the order in which we visited them (this route will take you from east to west of the Olympic peninsula):
If you want amazing mountain views without having to hike, then Hurricane Ridge is for you. Hurricane Ridge is right at the entrance of Olympic National Park and this is a natural first stop if you are driving from Seattle. When you reach the town of Port Angeles, a winding 17 mile drive takes you to beautiful views of the Olympic mountains, including Mount Olympus. This observation-deck is great for those who do not want to exert themselves and still see expansive vistas of snow covered peaks.
We even saw a marmot at Hurricane Ridge! Marmots are furry squirrel like animals, native to the Pacific Northwest. They are known to be feisty and quarrelsome but otherwise quite harmless.
From Hurricane Ridge, we drove along US-101 to Lake Crescent. Lake Crescent is a large, shimmering blue lake surrounded by verdant mountains. There are many lookout point along the highway to pull over and take in the beauty of the lake.
We stayed for one night at the Lake Cresent Lodge. The Lodge is an elegant white property on the shores of Lake Crescent. While the lodge’s activities were curtailed due to COVID-19, the boat rental was open and people had taken boats and kayaks to the lake. We spent our afternoon and evening enjoying the sun, playing on the pebble beach by the lake and splashing in the clear and surprisingly warm lake waters.
If you see any promotional posters of Olympic National Falls, you will see Marymere Falls proudly displayed. These graceful waterfalls fall 90 feet down to a pool and can be accessed by a relatively easy hike through a lush green fairy-tale forest. A short climb over rocks, boulders and make-shift stairs will take you to the 2 different viewing platforms (again makeshift) to get a closer view of the falls, which descend down like a graceful diaphanous veil.
The trail to Marymere Falls starts right at Lake Crescent Lodge and thus can be easily tagged on if you are staying at the Lodge.
Our time in the Eastern part of the Olympic Peninsula was memorable but altogether too short. I would love to go again and see Dungeness Spit, Salt Creek and Sol Duc Falls.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post where I will write about our adventures on the western side of the Olympic National Park.