Olympic National Park
Washington, USA

Olympic is one of three grand national parks in Washington and is about a 2.5 hour drive west from Seattle. As you approach the northeast side of the park, there is a Visitor's Center in Port Angeles and one inside the park at Hurricane Ridge. The road into Hurricane Ridge is open throughout the summer and, weather permitting, fantastic views can be enjoyed here. There are short trails here, such as the accessible Cirque Rim (one-mile loop) and Big Meadow (half-mile loop) trails, High Ridge trail (one-mile loop with 200' elevation change), and panaromic-view-giving Hurricane Hill trail (three-mile loop and 700' elevation change). I found all these trails to offer great views, although longer and steeper trails are available to take you to subalpine levels. The nearest campground here is Heart O' the Hills, about 12 miles north.

The beautiful Lake Crescent is in the upper middle of the park. It offers several hiking trails and water activities. There is a campground, a lodge, and the Log Cabin Resort, which has a variety of rooms and a small restaurant with a breakfast buffet and tasty dinners from a limited menu. We stayed at the Log Cabin Resort. It was definitely a no-frills place, but the room overlooked Lake Crescent and we were visited by ducks and geese aplenty. Not far from here is another lodge in Sol Duc Valley, the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. A fancier restaurant can be found here. The resort sits on hot springs which are split into pools of varying temperatures. It is wonderful to sit in the therapuetic heat even as a cold drizzle falls around you.

On the west side of the park, about a 90-minute drive from Lake Crescent, is the Hoh Rain Forest. There is also a Visitor's Center here. Receiving up to 14' of rain anually, the dense green lushness of the Hoh is one of the few examples of a U.S. temperate rainforest. The short trails that leave from the Visitor's Center are around a mile roundtrip, the Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Nature Trail. There are so many interesting trees with twisted branches and amazing root structures, including one in the shape of a heart. We took so many pictures here!

When you leave the Hoh, be sure to visit one of the famous nearby beaches. If you are continuing south toward the Quinault Rain Forest, check out Ruby Beach. If you are heading back to Lake Crescent or Sol Duc, check out Rialto Beach. Both feature a magnificent coastline with remnants of downed trees, smooth stones, and large rock outcroppings. There's lots to explore at either location. Olympic gives you such diversity of scenery.

Happy Travels!