Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Olympic National Park/Olympic Peninsula


Hoh Rain Forest

Olympic National Park is located in the state of Washington on the Olympic Peninsula. It was declared a National Monument in 1909 and later a National Park in 1938. In comparison to other National Parks, Olympic is quite diverse in that it offers visitors three completely different areas to explore including glacier-capped mountains, temperate rainforests, and Pacific coastline. The park is a massive 1,406 square miles so if you are a first time visitor, who wants to see as many of the major sights as possible, then you'll need to dedicate at least three full days, if not longer. Fortunately, the park has remained nearly untouched by humans so visitors will be able to experience trees that are more than 1000 years old, enjoy clear glacial lakes, and partake in limitless hiking opportunities. Outside of the park but within the Olympic Peninsula there are even more impressive things to do and see, several of which will be detailed further below.

I have visited Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula on countless occasions since my childhood. Even with all of those visits under my belt there are still a few areas of the park that I have yet to see including Ozette Lake, Kalaloch, Ruby Beach, and Staircase.

Below are descriptions of all of the areas that I have visited within and just outside the boundaries of Olympic National Park including:
  • Hurricane Ridge
  • Lake Crescent
  • Marymere Falls
  • Salt Creek County Park
  • Sol Duc Hot Springs
  • Makah Museum
  • Cape Flattery
  • Shi Shi Beach
  • Hoh Rain Forest
  • La Push
  • Rialto Beach
  • Lake Quinault
  • Sequim
  • Dungeness Spit
  • Olympic Game Farm
  • Lavender Festival
  • Port Townsend
  • Fort Worden State Park
  • Point Wilson Lighthouse


Hurricane Ridge:
Located within the Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge rises over 5,200 feet and provides amazing views of the park and, on a very clear day, a glimpse of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There are many hiking trails that visitors can enjoy in this area of the park. Unfortunately, all of my visits to date have occurred on cloudy days which have prohibited the aforementioned views. If it's a cloudy day I would recommend skipping this viewpoint.
Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge


Lake Crescent:
Located within Olympic National Park, beautifully brilliantly blue Lake Crescent is one of the deepest lakes in the country. It is well known for its clear water which is the result of a lack of nitrogen and helps to prohibit algae growth. The lake is quite large and there are various areas to stay around the lake including campgrounds, cabins, and lodges. My father camped here all the time as a child and has fond memories of the peaceful lake, which I remember him discussing when I was a child. Unfortunately I didn't get the opportunity to visit myself until my mid-twenties, but I was very impressed by the beauty of Lake Crescent, especially during the early morning hours and late evenings when gleaming reflections would cover the gorgeous lake.
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent
The clear waters of Lake Crescent.
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent
A rainbow sunset at Lake Crescent.
A rainbow sunset at Lake Crescent.
Sunset at Lake Crescent
Sunset at Lake Crescent
Sunset at Lake Crescent
Sunset at Lake Crescent
Moonlit Lake Crescent
Moonlit Lake Crescent


Marymere Falls:
Located close to Lake Crescent within Olympic National Park, this 90 foot waterfall is easily accessible to visitors via a well-maintained .75 mile trail. If you are staying in or near Lake Crescent this waterfall makes for a fun and easy visit.
Hike to Marymere Falls.
Hike to Marymere Falls.
Hike to Marymere Falls.
Marymere Falls
Marymere Falls
Hike to Marymere Falls.


Salt Creek County Park:
Located just outside the boundary of Olympic National Park and just north of Lake Crescent, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca this 196-acre park provides visitors with the chance to enjoy beaches, tide pools, rocky bluffs, and plenty of campsites and picnic areas. The beach is about a half mile walk from the parking lot. I was surprised at how soft the sand was; it reminded me of the sand I had seen in Oregon unlike the sand you would normally encounter on the rocky beaches of Washington State.
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park
Salt Creek County Park


Located on the grounds of the Sol Duct Hot Springs resort within the boundaries of the national park, these hot springs contain 99-105 degree mineral water that is piped into three large outdoor pools. Be forewarned that this is a built-up developed resort so do not come here expecting to see hot springs in their natural setting. If you are interested in visiting some undeveloped hot springs, then head to the nearby Olympic Hot Springs which requires walking along a 2.5 mile hike to reach.


Located in Neah Bay, this museum (also known as the Makah Cultural and Research Center) was created as a result of artifacts that were excavated from a Makah village in the early 1970's that had been partially buried by a mudslide nearly 500 years prior. A sampling of these artifacts and many other Makah tribal art pieces are housed in this well thought-out and designed museum, which was actually much larger than what I would have ever expected. Some of my favorite things at the museum included the cedar dug-out canoes and a replica of the traditional long house. If you are lucky your visit might coincide with a live demonstration, such as basket weaving which I was able to enjoy during my visit. Apparently, the woman I met had been working on her basket on and off for almost a year. There are many intricate steps and processes involved in making a basket and she was very proud to talk with me about her work.


Cape Flattery:
The most northwestern point in the contiguous United States, this beautiful area is located outside of the Olympic National Park boundary just outside of the town of Neah Bay. In order to view the cape, one must walk along a 3/4 mile downhill boardwalk path that will eventually lead to different viewpoints including views of Tatoosh Island and the Cape Flattery Lighthouse. It is from here where the Strait of Juan de Fuca joins the Pacific Ocean. The views were absolutely gorgeous with the crashing waves against the rocky shores and the sun shining down brightly.
Hike to Cape Flattery.
Cape Flattery
View from Cape Flattery.
Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery


Shi Shi Beach:
Located on the grounds of the Makah Indian reservation, Shi Shi Beach is a popular place for day hikers and campers to visit as it is not the most accessible of places. When I completed the hike it took me about 40 minutes to get from the trail head down to the beach. The majority of the trail is along fairly even terrain but towards the very end there the trail changed to a nearly vertical drop that would be very difficult to traverse without proper footwear  Unfortunately my visit occurred during a very cloudy and foggy summer day which is actually quite common. If you find it sunny on the day you visit consider yourself quite lucky. Shi Shi is well known for its Point of Arches, which the powerful ocean carved out of ancient rock.
Shi Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach


Located within Olympic National Park and one of its most popular sights, the Hoh Rain Forest is one of the few temperate rain forests in the world and receives approximately 12 to 14 feet of precipitation each year. What all this wet stuff equates to is lots and lots of densely green moss which covers nearly everything, including trees that are over 200 feet tall and up to 10 feet wide! I have visited the rain forest on three separate occasions and have always walked along the easy Hall of Mosses trail, which takes about 40 minutes to complete. 
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
My brother and sister at the Hoh Rain Forest.
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
My sister at the Hoh Rain Forest.
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Banana Slug at the Hoh Rain Forest.
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest


La Push:
This tiny town is home to the Quileute Indian Tribe. The town was featured in the popular Twilight series by Stephenie Meyers; one of the main characters named Jacob lives in this part of Washington. Notoriety aside, La Push is home to a very depressed looking town with gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. These two glaringly obvious aspects of La Push didn't seem to fit together and I found it to be quite a strange combination.
La Push
La Push
La Push
La Push


Rialto is one of the most popular beaches in the Olympic National Park and is filled with lots of driftwood, sea stacks, and offers visitors a very good walking trail. Unfortunately, as seemed to be the case for most of my visits to the Pacific Ocean on this trip, it was cloudy and gray at the beach with the thunderous ocean waves crashing in. Unlike some of the other beaches I have visited along the Olympic Peninsula, Rialto Beach has a very rocky sand, including many small and colorful pebble stones.
Rialto Beach


Lake Quinault:
I have described my visit to Lake Quinault in a separate entry, which you can find here.


Sequim:
This lovely town is located east of Port Angeles along the route to Olympic National Park. It is famous for its pleasant and unusual climate in Washington state, which boasts an average of 299 days of sunshine and about 17 inches of rain each year. This is because the town lies within the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, giving it the nickname "Sunny Sequim" and sometimes referred to as the blue hole of Sequim. Not surprising given its relatively dry climate, Sequim has become a popular place to retire. The town offers visitors several different sightseeing opportunities and things to do including the Dungeness Spit, the Olympic Game Farm, plus the famous fields of lavendar. The climate in Sequim is perfect for growing lavender and it is one of only two areas in the world where lavender oil is produced, the other being Provence, France.


Dungeness Spit:
A 5.5 mile long sand spit that juts out from the edge of the Olympic Peninsula, just north of downtown Sequim. All of the land is part of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge which features a lighthouse at the very end of the spit. Unfortunately, walking 5.5 miles on sand is not the quickest process, so allow at least 3-4 hours if you want to have enough time to go all the way to the lighthouse. The Dungeness Spit would be a great place for families to visit as there is lots to explore along its coastal waters and children will enjoy finding lots of treasures. 
Dungeness Spit
Dungeness Spit
Dungeness Spit
Dungeness Spit
Dungeness Spit
Dungeness Spit
Dungeness Spit
Dungeness Spit
Dungeness Spit
Dungeness Spit
Dungeness Spit


This so-called farm is home to dozens of species of wild animals, including elk, yak, bison, deer, cougars, and bears. Many of the Walt Disney nature specials were filmed at this 90 acre preserve during the 1960’s. Being a lover of animals, I was excited to visit the farm, assuming it was set-up as a sanctuary. Unfortunately, as soon as I saw the caged-in cats, I realized that it was not at all as I had imaged. While I had fun feeding the massive-sized animals through the windows of my car, I couldn’t help but feel terrible for the conditions the animals had to live in. The ones that made me feel the most sad were definitely the bears. They each had their own separate pen, which weren’t actually that big. These bears were the ones used in many of the Disney movies, and would stand on their two hind legs and roar (as if on cue) in order to have me throw them bread. It made me feel very sad and depressed that these bears had no idea what life was really like out in the wilderness and that they had to live in the never ending life of cars driving next to their pens each and every day. It’s unfortunate that the park has been set-up in such a way that that animals cannot roam free over at least a small portion of the 90 acres. I won’t ever go back and I wouldn’t recommend a visit here, especially to those who care about animal welfare and cruelty. 
Olympic Game Farm
Olympic Game Farm
Olympic Game Farm
Olympic Game Farm
Olympic Game Farm
Olympic Game Farm
Olympic Game Farm
Olympic Game Farm
Olympic Game Farm
Olympic Game Farm
Olympic Game Farm


I was most excited to visit the many lavender farms that have made Sequim known as “the Lavender Capital of North America”. Since my visit occurred during the annual festival, I was required to purchase a “farm tour” ticket, which enabled me to visit all of the farms. I thought the price was steep, but it was either pay up or not visit any of the farms. From what I understand, if you visit any of the farms outside of the festival dates, entrance is free. In hindsight, this would have been the wiser plan as I would have not only saved money, but would have been able to enjoy the farms without the hordes of tourists that were everywhere! I ended up visiting five of the farms and even bought a few small lavender plants to take back home with me which, to this day, are still thriving! In addition to visiting the farms, I also walked through the street fair. Interestingly enough, there were several food vendors selling lavender flavored foods, including ice cream and bratwurst (neither of which we were brave enough to try!). 
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.
Lavender fields in Sequim.


Located on the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend was founded in 1851, has 70 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and also has more authentic architecture from the Victorian era than any other town in the United States north of San Francisco. There is plenty to see and do within the city and it is a popular place for Seattleites to stay overnight in one of the many bed and breakfasts.

Port Townsend
Port Townsend
Port Townsend


Fort Worden State Park:
Located in Port Townsend on 434 acres, this site was originally used by the United States Army base from 1902 to 1953. In 1971 use of the facilities, including all of the former army barracks and Commanding Officers Quarters, was transferred to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Fort Worden was thrust into the spotlight after the film An Officer and a Gentlemen was filmed on-sight in 1982.
Fort Worden State Park
Fort Worden State Park
Fort Worden State Park


Point Wilson Lighthouse:
Located within Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, this lighthouse was built in 1914 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately no public tours of the lighthouse are offered.
Point Wilson Lighthouse
Point Wilson Lighthouse
Point Wilson Lighthouse
View from Point Wilson Lighthouse.
View from Point Wilson Lighthouse.
View from Point Wilson Lighthouse.

2 comments:

  1. Olympic Game Farm was once a hot bed for all the Disney Nature Films. (they filmed them all there) Like most places it has been hard by the recession and high cost of living. They have been raising money over the last two years to expand their big cat areas and improve the living conditions of all their animals. Instead of saying negative things about the game farm you could try donating money or sending more people to it. This way they can make more money to improve their situation. While most of us animal lovers might not like the cage situation the owner and all the keepers do have gigantic hearts. They are constantly being asked to take in mistreated animals or orphaned babies. The game farm needs a little tender loving care.

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  2. I visited the OP for the first time recently, as well, and took a myriad of photos myself of the beautiful mountains, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Lake Crescent, and Pacific beach sea stacks. I've planned to return for the Lavender Festival next week but after reading this, am having second thoughts about paying for the "farm tour," when the rest of the year, admission to the farms is free (is that true of ALL the farms?) and putting up with throngs of tourists.

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