Washington State vacation recommendations
April 17, 2010 9:35 AM   Subscribe

My family (7 adults/ spouses in our 20s/30s/40s and 2 parents in 60s) is taking a week vacation in Washington State in mid-August. We're thinking of flying into Seattle and staying somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula. To help figure out where we'll stay, we'd like recommendations for/ against destinations for day hikes, scenic drives, historic locations, etc. We're not backpackers or hard-core hikers, but would like to do some hiking/ outdoor activities.
posted by Gooly to Travel & Transportation around Washington (14 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoyed the Hoh Rainforest which is pretty far out there and totally great. Lots of beautiful big trees and not a lot of people a lot of the year. it is went, but I think you'll be expecting that. There is the amusing Hall of Mosses trail which is a quickie short trail (more of a path really) if anyone's not really feeling up to doing a lot of hiking, places make fun of it, but it's a nice way to take in a lot of rainforest stuff quicklike. The whole Olympic National Park area is wonderful generally. I'd try to make it out to the coast maybe out to Neah Bay.

Basically from Seattle you can drive the long away around south, or do the ferry + drive and tgo to the northern part directly. If you're on a short vacation, I'd suggest the latter. Here's a small map.

The Dungeness Spit is sort of neat to look at and you can see it if you drive over the top past of the peninsula. "the longest natural sand spit in the United States" Sequim WA is a good place for food and lodging near there, sort of a neat community and in a rain shadow, it gets sun while a lot of the OP is rainy. I stayed in Forks when I was on a trip out there once and don't really recommend it. It was fine, but not a lot going on there really though it is close to a lot of the coastal and forest stuff. Port Townshend is really nice and close to Seattle as well, might be a good stop-for-lunch sort of place.

I haven't been in the area for a long time, but I found that there were a lot of outdoorsy places to explore on the coast and it was easy to go walking in the woods without feeling like you were getting into a super hike situation.
posted by jessamyn at 9:57 AM on April 17, 2010

You could always take the Coho from Port Angeles over to Victoria for a day, too.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:01 AM on April 17, 2010

You may exceed their capacity, but this Bed and Breakfast is great and just a short drive from Port Angeles, the Dungeness Spit, and several entry points to the Olympic National Forrest. Here's a map. I like the Elwha trail near Port Angeles. There are some hot springs (interesting, but I wouldn't plan to swim in them).
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:09 AM on April 17, 2010

One of the most important archaeological sites in North America is on the Olympic Peninsula: the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ozette Village. This village of the Makah Tribe was buried by a mudslide about 1700 A.D. resulting in near-perfect preservation. The Makah have put the results of a decades-long archaeological project on view at a very well done, small cultural centre at Neah Bay. This is definitely worth a trip if you are at all interested in cultural things while on holiday.

You can go to Ozette itself by a fairly short, easy hike much of it on boardwalk through rainforest. Not much to see of the village there but there are some excellent petroglyphs out there and of course it is a spectacular beach.

The Makah have resumed their traditional practice of whaling and if you like to have discussions with your kids about local issues while on vacation, this would be a good one to haveL indigenous rights vs. cuddly whales.

Seconding the Hoh rainforest. Check for other rainforest river-level walks with boardwalks, these are usually just fine for your age range of people. There might be light hikes up in the Olympics especially below Hurricane Ridge but generally most of these involve a lot more up-down.
posted by Rumple at 10:28 AM on April 17, 2010

Mt Ranier is gorgeous, but might be more serious hiking than you want.

Bellingham is awesome. You could rent a house there and daytrip various places, including taking a ferry trip into the San Juans.

Or you could just rent a house in the San Juans.

Vacation house rental listings here

There are lots of sea kayaking companies -- not trivial, but not really all that hard, and you don't need to have ever done it before. Highly recommended.
posted by kestrel251 at 10:29 AM on April 17, 2010

I've stayed at the Lake Crescent Lodge and it was nice and affordable.
Rialto Beach is very pretty, you can walk out to seastacks and view sea life in the tidepools.
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 10:32 AM on April 17, 2010

First of all, congratulations on a great choice of a place to spend a week. The Olympic Peninsula is a wonderland.

Definitely seconding the Hoh rainforest, it is one of the most amazing places I've ever experienced, walking through a dream. August is a fine time to visit, and it shouldn't be particularly wet, but there will be a lot of visitors on the little 1/2 mile "Hall of Mosses" trail. No problem -- walk right by it to the trailhead of the Hoh River trail. This is a perfect dayhike, with a much more pristine rainforest experience. It's absolutely beautiful, and yet also flat and easy, so it shouldn't cause much trouble to any of your group. If you get 3 miles down it, there's an amazing waterfall, which also makes a good turnaround point for the dayhike.

I've heard good things about the Hoh Humm ranch, a bed and breakfast near the Hoh Rainforest park entrance.

Not far from the Hoh rainforest is Ruby Beach, one of the most spectacular ocean beaches on the West Coast of the US. It's a place that probably hasn't changed much in 10,000 years, primal and stunningly gorgeous, and yet easy to reach, just park in the parking lot and walk down.

Nearby is one of my favorite places to stay in the Olympic peninsula -- the little Quillayute town of La Push. You can rent a little cabin right on the beach that will house your whole group. The beach is amazing, with sea stacks, windswept pines, and millions of little colored stones rounded out by the ocean.

Less intense, but equally stunning in more of a Japanese-garden way is Lake Crescent ... there's a lovely trail along the North side of it that is highly recommended.

For a break, from all the hiking, stop in at the Sol Duc hot springs ... aah.

Port Angeles is a nice little town, that has much to recommend it. Go South and you can see the sweeping views of Hurricane Ridge, or hop on the MV Coho ferry and visit Victoria, BC -- very, very worthwhile. In Victoria, the Humboldt House is an excellent bed and breakfast, or if you're on a budget, the Hotel Douglas is pretty decent. If you're history/anthropology buffs, make sure to visit the Royal British Columbia museum, the finest museum of its kind I've ever seen.

Finally, there's Port Townsend, a charming town of Victorian houses, bed and breakfasts, and sailboats, and a great place to end your week. Ooh, you're going to have a great time.
posted by dacoit at 10:37 AM on April 17, 2010

Sequim itself, recommended by Jessamyn (and pronounced "Skwim", by the way) also has a nice small museum the centrepiece of which is a mastodon skeleton found nearby.

The Olympic Peninsula Community Museum is a mainly online exhibit which is a superb example of its type, great if you want to read up on an area beforehand. It might lead you to a logging museum, which is another cool way to spend some time if you like that sort of thing, I think there is one around Aberdeen to the south but not 100% sure.
posted by Rumple at 10:41 AM on April 17, 2010

Another nice place to stay near the Hoh Rainforest is the Lake Quinault Lodge (not sure if that's its official site) - it's a 1926 hotel in a beautiful setting, with convenient access to some very nice hikes.
posted by unsub at 11:04 AM on April 17, 2010

We stayed a few nights at the totally awesome Lochaerie Resort on Lake Quinault. Not super luxurious but charming and comfortable and full of character. And the guy who runs the place is really nice. It's across the lake from the Lodge and the setting can't be beat.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:37 PM on April 17, 2010

You will find lots of nature on the Olympic Peninsula but it isn't like you need to do hard core backpacking trips. You may want to stay in Pt Angeles then you can take day trips to visit the following places: Hurricane Ridge, take the ferry to Victoria BC, Pt Townsend, Makah Tribe/Neah Bay, Forks (the whole Twilight experience, a quick hike in the Hoh Rain Forest), LaPush beach, Lake Crescent (nice shorter hiking trails around here as well), Dungeness Spit, Olympic Game Farm, Sol Duc or Olympic Hotsprings (there is a nice two mile trail up the road from the Sol Duc springs). Depending on what weekend you are in the area, you may want to go on a 10k walk with the Olympic Peninsula Volksmarchers.
posted by MsKim at 1:40 PM on April 17, 2010

I assume you've already taken a look at the official travel guide?

Also, I second the suggestion to take a day trip to Victoria or at least for after-dinner drinks at the Fairmont Empress.
posted by halogen at 1:44 PM on April 17, 2010

Agreeing with dacoit about staying in La Push. My family often stays here, at the Oceanside Resort; there are accommodations for any budget there.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:03 PM on April 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the helpful answers! We're *really* looking forward to our vacation now!
posted by Gooly at 9:18 AM on April 18, 2010

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