In addition to Mt. Saint Helens, our other major draw to Washington was Olympic National Park. The Olympic Peninsula was known for being one of the densest areas and most difficult to explore in the United States. Well documented exploration did not occur until almost 1900, which is not so surprising when one considers that Washington did not become a state until 1889. Olympic is also known for its temperate rain forests. A temperate rain forest is a woodland in the temperate zone that is typically coniferous or broadleaf dominant and receives high annual rainfall. On the Olympic Peninsula, the saturated winds off of the Pacific ocean rise steeply up coastal slopes. The drastic change in altitude cools and condenses the air causing high amounts of rainfall on the western side, thus creating the rain forests. Having never experienced a temperate rain forest before, this was a real draw for us during our roadtrip.
We began our Olympic visit in the Hoh Rain Forest, on the West side of the park. With over 12 feet of annual rainfall, we expected to feel like ducks; but we actually had sunny days for our visit. Even with the sun, we were able to soak in our green, dense surroundings. We chose the Hoh River Trail, but only hiked in about 4 of its many offered miles. They have several shorter options available, but they were pretty crowded. Our trail was relatively flat and allowed views of the Hoh River along with plenty of thick rain forest to ramble.
What does the temperate rain forest feel like? It feels like walking through a deep sigh of contentment. It has all the energy of bright Spring life, but it is sustained. There is no competition to bloom the fastest or make the most of a short window. Instead, the Hoh Rain Forest shows strong, abundant life that is continually sustained. It does not face the extremes of life fighting to survive desert climates, winters, drought, fire and other forces that moderate life. Instead, it is continually green and continually content.
The west side of the park also contains Olympic’s beaches. We visited Ruby Beach, where we finally were able to witness a Pacific sunset! We were on the Pacific Coast for two months without seeing one, either it was too cloudy or we were in a cove facing south instead of west. We finally caught up with the sunset and enjoyed watching it over the sound of the waves rushing over the stone beach.
From there, we continued to Port Angeles to see the Olympic mountain range and visit Victoria, British Columbia. Just south of Port Angeles, is Hurricane Ridge. This part of the park is a 17 mile drive to the visitor center including many trailheads to explore the Olympics. We did have a few cloudy, grey days in Port Angeles; so we waited for a sunny day to be able to enjoy the views at Hurricane Ridge…and enjoy we did.
Here is a video to give you a better idea of our Olympic National Park trip…
Thank you, Lord, for the Olympics, for wild places and for sunshine when we expect rain.
Fun Facts & Tips:
- On the West side of the park, we stayed at the Hard Rain Cafe. They only provide electric and water. It was a really cute place with only maybe 10 spots. This is a good option for when you want a more private, remote stop. We paid $25 per night, plus tax. Also, we saw a motor home that was overnighting at one of the pulloffs along the Hoh River before the park entrance. We did not see any signs saying that overnight parking is not allowed, so we would have tried it if we did not already have our reservation.
- In Port Angeles, we stayed at the KOA. We knew that after a remote stay (no internet), we would need a place with more amenities for work. We paid $45 a night plus tax. We also had a view of the Olympics.
- Washington does not have income tax, so their tax on other things, including campgrounds, is expensive.