The Olympic Peninsula, from Seattle: how, where, etc...
July 18, 2005 3:48 PM   Subscribe

The Olympic Peninsula, from Seattle: how, where, etc...

I spent at least 2 days a week in the mountains of Big Sur when I lived in Monterey, and was amazed by the beauty I found there. Now I'm living in Seattle and want to experience the Olympic Peninsula. Any advice about driving, routes, towns, mountains, secrets? Looking to hike a little, but mostly drive (or fly to Port Angeles from Seattle? Is there a way to get up to Hurricane Ridge w/o a car?) Thanks!
posted by icetaco to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Bring rain gear...

It's easy to drive; take the ferry to Bainbridge Island and take the 305 North to Poulsbo, where you can catch the 3. Take the 3 North to the 104 and cross the Hood Canal bridge. That'll put you on the peninsula. From there, if you're most interested in driving, I'd head to the 101 and circumnavigate the peninsula. You'll see most of the coast, and have a chance to check out a good part of the park.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:05 PM on July 18, 2005

The classic route is to just follow 101 around, stopping where you want to. If you want to see much of the northern beaches (Shi Shi, Rialto, 2nd, 3rd beach) you're going to have to get out and walk some. You have to stop at 2nd beach at low tide. As you go farther south (past the entrance to the Hoh rainforest area) the highway is much closer to the coast. You'd probably want at least 2 days to do the whole thing and stop at a few places. If you want to cut some out (since you're less interested in hiking) you could skip the east side of the peninsula.

I stayed in Forks when I was there, and went around from there. It's a little run down, I mean up and coming, but it was (comparatively) cheap, and the people were friendly. The place I stayed was no resort, but it was fine for a place to sleep. Beware of staying somewhere too close to the highway. The logging trucks start up pretty early.

The River's Edge is a pretty good restaurant in La Push (on the reservation) right down on the waterfront. Good fish and chips.

On preview, yes bring rain gear whenever you go and be flexible about the weather, or it may be a very frustrating trip.
posted by sevenless at 4:28 PM on July 18, 2005

Forks is a speed trap, or at least the cops are super-vigilant there, so be careful.

Don't miss Ruby Beach at sunset.

And if you have the time, make it out to Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point of the continental US.
posted by kindall at 4:53 PM on July 18, 2005

I’ve spent a lot of time in Port Angeles. In general, just follow 101 and you can’t go wrong but be sure to visit the visitor centers at the Olympic National Park areas and cities along the way for great tips. Here are some things in the area that are worth checking out:

-Port Townsend is a nice town, with lots of Victorian architecture, and is worth walking around.
-Dungeness Recreation Area - A fun place to hike near the town of Sequim.
-Olympic National Park (ONP): definitely check out Hurricane Ridge near Port Angeles. You can pick up lots of long or short hikes at the visitor center at the top.
-Port Angeles – there’s a nice visitor info center next to the ferry terminal. The downtown has a lot of public art and cool old building worth exploring.
-Lake Crescent – If it’s hot out, this lake is one of the better places to go swimming on the Peninsula
-Lake Ozette – Part of the ONP There’s a great 9-mile hiking loop with three miles along the coast (Cape Alva to Sand Point Trails).
- La Push is a bit off the beaten trail, but well worth it. It’s on a Native American reserve (Quileute Tribe), and has a beautiful deserted beach, where supposedly you can camp with a permit from the reserve office.
-Hoh Rain Forest – Also part of the ONP. This is the true rain forest – lush and green
-Here are some good day hikes but if you have time, get into the backcountry.
posted by Staggering Jack at 4:59 PM on July 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

My wife and I went to the Olympic Peninsula also, for our honeymoon. We stayed at a B&B in Port Washington first. Went to Port Angeles and Victoria (not recommended) and then stayed a few days in Forks. We stayed at the Manitou Lodge in Forks (on the Web site linked above under availability/Bed & Breakfast). We just went to the coast or rainforest each day and hiked around. Had a terrific time!
posted by Slothrop at 5:06 PM on July 18, 2005

Oops, I think I meant Port Townsend... Whichever one is quite close to Seattle.
posted by Slothrop at 5:06 PM on July 18, 2005

For what it's worth, I do recommend Victoria also but it's not on the Peninsula.
posted by Staggering Jack at 5:10 PM on July 18, 2005

Response by poster: Actually, the inspiration for this post comes from a recent flight (yesterday) in a sea plane to Victoria and back, passing over the Olympic Peninsula. Victoria was amazing, but the mountains to the south looked so intriguing.

I'm thinking Lake Crescent would be the target; thanks for all the posts!
posted by icetaco at 6:45 PM on July 18, 2005

Staggering Jack above gives a great list of things to do on the Peninsula. For getting over there, I would recommend going up to Edmonds and taking the Kingston Ferry across, rather than the downtown ferries; there is usually a much smaller crowd for getting on the ferries up there than from downtown. Once over, just follow the signs to the Hood Canal Bridge and Hwy 101. The 101 loop is absolutely beautiful. If you've got the time, also head up to Neah Bay and Lake Ozette in the top left corner of the Peninsula. Lake Crescent is one of the nicest places to hike and swim around. I highly recommend Second Beach if you head out to the Forks/Pacific Beaches area. It is accessible at all times, not just low tide. To get to Second Beach you go through the Quilleauite Reservation, park and take a short hike through the Rain Forest. Also, hiking the Hoh River is a must out there. As has been mentioned, a true rainforest. If you've got the time and will, you can hike the river all the way up to the center of the Olympic Park -- about 30 miles in and not that steep, either. In general, though, if you're driving out, I must recommend that you take the time to pull off the main road onto any of the many small roads heading up valleys and notches into the mountains in various areas. Some of the most beautiful places I've found out on the peninsula I've come across just by taking a small road that looks interesting and following it until something tells me to turn around (usually the road ends). Good stuff. Have fun. Oh yeah, get the Mountaineers Olympic Peninsula hike book before heading out there.
posted by croctommy at 7:42 PM on July 18, 2005

The Makah Museum at Neah Bay is pretty cool. I mean, these people hunted whales from dug out canoes! More on the Makah here.
posted by LarryC at 8:04 PM on July 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

There's a really short walk around the Hoh Rainforest if you're not into serious hiking but would like to get into the woods some [the Hoh is worth the price of adminssion without question]. It's called the Hall of Mosses and has been called one of the most boring trails in America, but I thought it was pretty neat. Lots of big trees, short easy hike/walk. I also stayed in Forks at one of the one or two motels [they have a B&B or two out there two] and it was serviceable with a nice steakhouse down the street. Also outside of Port Nageles there are some hot springs that you can walk in to that are quite nice though a bit busy during high season.
posted by jessamyn at 9:12 PM on July 18, 2005

Here's a couple more thoughts based Jessamyn's comments. I agree, the Hall of Mosses is absolutely worth doing. It's pure rain forest, green and lush. Also, there are two hot springs on the peninsula - Olympic Hot Springs and Sol Duc Hot Springs. Olympic is undeveloped, while Sol Duc is a developed pool. I prefer Olympic, but would avoid it in the summer months when there's too many people and not enough rain and fresh water flowing through the springs creating a risk they might contain high levels of coliform bacteria (in the rainy/snowy low season it's an amazing and beautiful place). Sol Duc is definitely worth checking out. It's about $10 for a day.
posted by Staggering Jack at 10:20 PM on July 18, 2005

Lake Crescent has been known to harbor saponified mummies, and is really really beautiful. I watched the full moon rise over the shoulder of one of the vest-pocket mountains that surround the lake last summer.

My wife and I also really enjoy car camping at Kalaloch, one of the few compgrounds in the park which offers reservations.
posted by mwhybark at 10:39 PM on July 18, 2005

Lake Crescent is deep and cold and beautiful, and has more things in it than you might want to think about.

A motorcycle is a wonderful way to travel on the Olympic Peninsula. The trees meet each other over the top of your head, and they smell beautiful and filter green green light onto the road.
posted by Sallyfur at 10:54 PM on July 18, 2005

Oops, I meant you have to go to 2nd Beach at low tide because of how amazing it is then rather than that's the only time you can get there.
posted by sevenless at 9:19 AM on July 19, 2005

Yes, Olympic Hot Springs is really nice and some beautiful trails lead off from there (Happy Lake Ridge being one of them).

Since a road wash-out, you can't drive all the way to them anymore but it's an easy walk.

The Hoh is very worth the trip around the peninsula. Circumnavigating the Olympics, that is to say, going South from the Hoh on 101 to Olympia then back to Seattle, is a sample of infinity, the roads being so windy (also with bad wind).

Port Angeles is nice to hang out in and if you want to go over to Victoria (the Provicial Museum is tops) it's cheapest to park in PA and ferry over as a pedestrian.

Route 19, Beaver Valley Road, south of Port Townsend may be a teeny bit out of the way but VERY bucolic and beautiful.
posted by Danf at 12:02 PM on July 19, 2005

I'm a little late to the party here, but I'd just like to add my .02 cents:
- Be aware that the ferry on the Kingston/Edmonds run gets cancelled occasionally, so be sure to check before you head up there, same goes for the Port Townsend run, if you're tempted by that. You can see wait times (by terminal) here, this includes the low tide cancellations.
- Although the Bainbridge boat is faster, the wait is often more than one boat (in the summer) and Island traffic can be pretty slow. The Bremerton boat is about an hour, is a beautiful ride, and you can be in Port Angeles in about an hour from when you get off the ferry; the time spent is about the same, but the view on the boat is nicer than the one in traffic.
- In the summer (through Labor Day), a single word about accomodations - reservations (make them).
- You may well need reservations at Kalaloch even after high season, but it's a great spot.
posted by dbmcd at 12:15 PM on July 19, 2005

Be aware that the Hood Canal bridge will be closed for two periods in August. (and it isn't clear if there will be more closures in September and later).
posted by WestCoaster at 1:13 PM on July 19, 2005

Since a road wash-out, you can't drive all the way to [Olympic Hot Springs] anymore but it's an easy walk.

It is two and a half miles (one way) and uphill pretty much all the way to the springs. There are several places where the trail is washed out, and near the end, when you cross the river, there's a quite narrow split-log bridge and fairly steep banks to climb down and up. So it is "easy" only compared to other hikes you might take in the mountains. Being not in the best of shape, I found myself quite happy to soak my feet when I reached the actual springs. Of course, if you're in good shape you'll probably find it trivial, but if you're not, be warned. It's well worth it, though.
posted by kindall at 2:53 PM on July 19, 2005

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