Best 1.5 (Cheap) Days in Olympic National Park?
September 17, 2010 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Myself and two friends have decided to do our annual reunion in Olympic National park but since we’re all short on vacation, we only have Friday night through Sunday afternoon. Is there a way we could somehow combine a 4-10 mile day hike with a coastal experience in this amount of time? I've seen the and sites but I'm sort of overwhelmed by choice and looking for recommendations.

I’m flying in from the Midwest, so I’d like to do the “best” of the park. We need to bring/cook all our own food because of a severe gluten allergy in the group and because of an old sports injury, another person can’t carry enough gear to do overnight backpacking. We are all fit, outdoorsy and reasonably skilled hikers, however, so we can handle a fairly intense hike, and ideally we'd like to save money on accommodations by camping at the end of our day of hiking, although cabins could also work. Do we need to choose mountains or coast? Should we entirely forget about the coast because we’d be teaching ourselves to read tide tables between now and then using the internet? We’re intrigued by the hot springs—are they worth trying to fit in? General recommendations of trails, campgrounds/cabins and "you should know" anecdotes all welcome. We'll be driving from Seattle and Vancouver.
posted by neko75 to Travel & Transportation around Port Angeles, WA (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The hoh river trail is a pretty amazing hike, is about that distance and is relatively easy, until you reach the last couple of miles. You can camp along the way as well.
posted by TheBones at 10:36 AM on September 17, 2010

The best thing about the Olympic peninsula is that you don't have to choose between the mountains and the sea, they simply collide there.

I like camping at Kalaloch - you camp on the bluff rather than down on the beach. Plenty of hikes up into the rainforest within a relatively short drive of there. There's a lodge and cabins too if the weather is going to cross your blue tarp camping threshold. I'd also recommend driving the full Highway 101 loop, depending on your actual arrival/destination points and times and your level of enjoyment of driving on windy, scenic roads.

Is this happening in the near future? I'd also keep a gander on the Cliff Mass Weather Blog. He often will give some excellent detailed explanations for the incoming weather, which might influence your decision to camp rather than stay in a cabin. It is a rainforest, after all.
posted by lantius at 10:47 AM on September 17, 2010

I went to Ozette and took the trail to Cape Alava, south along the coast, and back from Sand Point. It's about ten miles all told, and there are backcountry campsites right on the coast. If your friend can't carry enough stuff, there is camping at Lake Ozette and you can just hike the trail and coast. There's a small ranger station at Ozette as well, and the rangers would be able to help you with the tides.
posted by Gneisskate at 11:14 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was just going to suggest hiking the hoh trail for a day or two and then heading off to second or third beach, which have pretty small walk ins but several side trails. While there last, we ran into people who went the entire way from the trailhead to blue glacier and back on one day (not recommended)!

You mention your friend can't carry enough weight, but for just a day in and back out it would be pretty trivial, especially if the rest of you carry the tent. There is abundant water. You could also go to Mt Tom creek campsite (only about 2.5-3 mi in), cache your gear, and hike either further up Hoh trail or along the nature trail. For such a short distance the rest of you could even carry all his stuff. I like the guard station and the sand bar next to lewis meadows campsites better, but they are further in.

My opinion is that the hot springs are all too crowded (with dirty hippies).
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:26 PM on September 17, 2010

The first thing that you should know is that it takes longer than you think to get there. If you are waiting until Saturday morning to get to the coast it will take you half a day at least with ferries and sight-seeing along the way.
I would do the coast because the weather (which has been unseasonably crappy even for us) won't make as much of a difference to your experience. There are ample places to pitch a tent just at the treeline as you hike north from Rialto, or as Gneisskate has suggested, south from Cape Alava. That being said, hiking on the beach is much slower going than hiking a forest trail. Sand and a headwind can suck the life right out of you, but then again you don't have to go far to see glorious things. Any point in the park along that coast will have standing rocks with crashing surf, tide pools to explore, giant driftwood piles, eagles soaring overhead, wind and likely rain. On the beach you can drag driftwood into a pile and have an epic campfire, listen to sea lions, and stare into the vast pacific for hours.
Hiking the rainforest is fantastic as well, as others have mentioned.
With the weather we've been having I wouldn't recommend a mountain thing, you risk getting just as wet as if you were in the rain forest in the valley or on the coast, but without being rewarded by the views you'll have worked so hard to try to get.
Skip the hot springs.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:48 PM on September 20, 2010

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