A July 1999 trip
to Olympic National Park by lcampbell
Quote: These are the highlights from our way-too-short roadtrip to the Olympic Peninsula. We will definitely have to go back as there are many things we missed. We basically spent a long weekend – you could easily spend two weeks or more.
Port Angeles is a good place to spend some time – you can take a ferry trip to Victoria, Canada for the day (or longer). You can also eat some great seafood and shop.
Some things we missed on the peninsula that we wish we had seen are the Dungeness Recreation Area and Wildlife Refuge, La Push area, and Neah Bay area at the very farthest northwest corner of Washington. I definitely would like to do more hiking and some backpacking.
Whenever you visit a National Park or Forest, or any other natural area for that matter, make sure to "take only pictures, leave only footprints" so that we can preserve and protect these beautiful areas for the future. For more information, go to Leave No Trace.
The area that the park is on was originally used during WWII as a harbor defense military base called Fort Hayden. The only remnants of the old Fort are two cement bunkers facing the Straight. There are 90 campsites that are first come, first serve – no reservations. So it helps to arrive early to get a good site. There is an open area when you first drive in that seems more suited to trailers – we kept going past this area to a more wooded area in the back. These were nicer sites, in my opinion, although they could have been spaced out a little more. There are flush toilets and hot (coin) showers. The park is located on 196 acres and has some trail access to Department of Natural Resources trails which access Stipend Park. We did not try to hike there, but will try it out on our next visit.
We had a great time camping at Salt Creek. Our campsite was on a ledge overlooking the ocean with stairs and paths leading down to the water. Immediately after setting up camp, we headed down to the tidepools to explore (looking but not touching so as not to cause damage). We also found some nicely shaped rocks to sit on to enjoy the sunset and watch the boats going by. On the short hike back up to our campsite, we noticed a strange object hidden in the vegetation. It was one of the old military bunkers.
Back at camp, we cooked dinner on the campfire. I had picked some gigantic salmonberries that were growing in the campground – of course I ran into some stinging nettles (ouch!) in my greedy berry forage. Soon we were visited by some hungry raccoons – the were adorable, but they were definitely not shy. It is unfortunate that folks had fed these guys rather than keeping them wild. Even though we weren’t feeding them, they still tried to jump into the back of our truck and steal things off the picnic table. When we finally shooed them away for good, we settled in to sleep to the sound of the ocean. In the morning, we drank coffee next to our fence overlooking the water before heading out for the day.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 8, 2002
Salt Creek Recreation Area County Park
3506 Camp Hayden Road
Olympic Peninsula, Washington 98363
Attraction | "Ferry to Victoria, Canada"
From the main dock of Port Angeles (easy to find), there are two ferries that go to Victoria. One ferry takes cars and passengers, but the one we chose, Victoria Express, takes only passengers. The ferry leaves Port Angeles at 8:10am, 12:15pm, and 4:15pm. The cost is $25 per person, round trip, and the trip takes 45-60 minutes each way. US citizens need only a drivers license; others will need a passport. We missed the early ferry, so we shopped until the 12:15 ferry. Since the ferry returns to Port Angeles at 9:45am, 2pm, and 6:15pm, we didn’t have a lot of time.
The ferry ride was CHILLY, even though it was July. They say you can sometimes see whales during the crossing, but we didn’t have such luck. Upon landing, we were drawn immediately to a large dock area filled with street entertainers… a reggae musician, some guys playing only Beatles tunes, a folk singer, and a mariachi band. There were also artists and other entertainers. Great place! I could have stayed longer, but we figured we should actually venture beyond the water’s edge.
First we went to the Royal British Columbia Museum. It was a very small but nice museum. It didn’t take long to see (like I said, it’s small), so we decided to take a walk to Chinatown. This area is well known for authentic Chinese food. We randomly chose a restaurant and went in. Indeed, most of the patrons were Chinese. My husband had a fabulous spicy chicken dish. I ended up eating alot of his as I wasn’t very happy with my seafood dish (too bland).
Walking has always been our favorite way to see a city. When we walk, we tend to wander into neighborhoods and see spots that we normally wouldn’t in a vehicle. We had a general direction of a park shown on a map. We walked about 30 minutes through a residential area and ended up at Beacon Hill Park. Most city parks I’ve seen are small, so I wasn’t ready for the size and beauty of Beacon Hill Park. There was a sparkling river, lush lawns, woods, rocks and flower gardens, and gorgeous tranquil paths – I wished I had brought a book and blanket, and had many hours to spare.
After our green paradise, we had to hustle back to catch the ferry. Our time was way too short! We took a couple shortcuts, and finally emerged at the main square and could slow down a bit to enjoy the orchestra playing on the lawn of a government building. Then we made a mad dash for the ferry and ended my first, short visit to Canada.
Victoria - Port Angeles Vehicle & Passenger Ferry
101 East Railroad Avenue
Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Attraction | "Olympic National Park – Beaches"
The beaches that we visited are Klaloch and Ruby Beach. Klaloch was an area that we had heard about from friends. While we weren’t as impressed with it as our friends, we did enjoy a long walk on the beach – I even built a sand castle decorated with empty crab shells! There was a really interesting tree growing on the embankment at the back of the beach – part of the bank had washed away, so the tree was hanging on to the sides with roots hanging down into the cave below. The campground was nice, but the sites we very close together. The campground is very popular, so I recommend an early arrival. We did not get to the nearby Visitor Center, but I imagine it is worth a visit. I have always been impressed by the Ranger Programs that I’ve seen at other National Parks – you always get a wealth of information about what you are seeing or will see soon. I highly recommend Ranger Programs – and most of them are free!
We really liked Ruby Beach. From the parking area, there is a short walk down to the beach that winds through a berry patch. Needless to say, it took us longer than it should have to get down because we were berry-eatin’ fools! At the bottom of the trail we had to crawl over some washed up beach logs – not sure if they are washed up onto the beach as a result of natural causes or from the extensive logging industry in the area. The beach itself is made of rock and driftwood, and there are great view of the cliffs and seastacks. We spent a long time hanging out watching the waves and some sea lions swimming around near some rocks just off the shore.
There are some other beaches near Klaloch and Ruby Beach – Second Beach and Third Beach - that are only accessible by hiking at low tide. Backpacking permits are available at the Visitor Center at Klaloch – you can camp on these backcountry beaches, just make sure your tent is above high tide line! This is definitely on my To Do list for my next visit to the area.
Olympic National Park
600 East Park Avenue
Olympic Peninsula, Washington 98362
Attraction | "Olympic National Park – Hoh Rainforest"
It was a busy place the day we were there, so we were anxious to hit the trail and lose the crowds as soon as possible. We normally like to go to a Ranger program before hiking to learn about the area, but this time we got the minimum critical information from the rangers and went on our way. We decided to hike two different trails – the Spruce Nature Trail, which was 1.3 miles, and the Hall of Mosses, 0.8 miles. When we were done with those, we wanted to keep hiking, so we headed up the Hoh River Trail for a bit. This trail is 17.5 miles long altogether, and leads eventually to the summit of Mount Olympus. We just went until we found a nice lunch spot on the riverbank.
The thing that amazed me most about the Hoh Rainforest is that every surface of everything is covered with vegetation. Monster trees were covered in hanging vines and lush mosses. One old stump looked like a planter, filled with a wide variety of greenery growing from it and overflowing the edges of the "pot." In the rainforest, many young trees grow on top of decaying dead large trees called "nurse logs." There could be 20 seedlings or more growing on one log, and again, every inch also blanketed in moss, fungi, vines, and grasses.
Some of the trees in the rainforest were so huge, it would take five people to get their arms around. I felt as small as an ant looking up at these giants. I was astounded by what an overabundance of rain could do to plants. It’s just water, after all, but it created these majestic beauties. I bet you could easily look out to the ocean if you could get to the top of one of them!
Unfortunately, our rainforest adventure had to end way to soon. As with everything else we had seen on our long weekend on the peninsula, I wanted more time and knew that I had to return one day. What kind of impressive flowers and shy wildlife were waiting for me farther into the rainforest? There must be so many secrets hidden in the maze of vegetation and grandfatherly trees…
Hoh Rain Forest
Olympic National Park, Washington
Attraction | "Olympic National Park – Hike to Marymere Falls"
The hike is 1.8 miles roundtrip. Even though it is a fairly short hike, there is a big payoff – a 90 foot waterfall cascading in a shimmering ribbon down a rocky cliff. On the way to the falls, though, take note of the interpretive signs posted along the trail. The signs are very educational – they explain all different aspects of the rainforest. Also, watch underfoot for banana slugs, a rainforest resident that is easy to miss. I love the lush vegetation in the rainforest. The mosses soak up any noise and you are surrounded by a peacefulness that I haven’t found anywhere else. The plants also hang down around you and push toward you from outside the trail – fabulous!
When you get almost to the falls, the trail goes up a series of wooden steps to a viewing platform. The falls are great! The picture I have posted doesn’t do it justice because I couldn’t fit the whole falls in the picture. We had the whole place to ourselves, so it made the falls even more enjoyable. On the way back to the trailhead, I noticed a spur trail going off the main trail. The spur trail looked like it went up at a steep grade, and I wondered if it went to the top of a nearby peak. What a great view that would be, looking out over Crescent Lake, the rainforest, and probably even out to the Straight of Juan de Fuca.
While visiting the area, you may want to spend more time checking out Crescent Lake. We didn’t have time while on our whirlwind tour, but it would have been nice to find out if there is a trail that goes around the lake. It is on Forest Service land, so you could maybe even bike around the lake. Something else to add to my To Do list for my next visit to the Olympic Peninsula (it is a pretty long list by this point!)
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 8, 2002
Marymere Falls/Marymere Falls Trail
Olympic National Park, Washington
Port Angeles, Washington