26 Jul

RVFTA #152 Greetings from Olympic National Park in Washington

Let’s get the important information out of the way first: Olympic National Park is knock-your-socks-off beautiful and has shot to the top of our list for favorite NPS sites. We still love you, Acadia…but you may have slipped to #2.

We visited Olympic National Park on the first stop of our 25-day Pacific Northwest adventure, and it was a pretty epic way to kick off the trip. On this RVFTA podcast episode, we devote the entire episode to sharing all the hiking, boating, and eating recommendations from our visit.

This is one of our paired podcast travel episodes, so to hear a complete review of the campground we stayed at during our visit, Elwah Dam RV Park, listen to Episode #91 of our Campground of the Week Podcast.

Segment One: Planning Your Stay

Olympic National Park is not one of the easiest NPS sites to visit mostly on account of its size. Many National Parks have ‘loop roads’ or ‘scenic drives’ that can give day visitor’s a quick glimpse of the park highlights. Not so with Olympic. The most popular areas of the park are quite dispersed, so planning your stay will involve a bit more research and strategy.

In the first segment of this episode, we give our tips for navigating the park including picking a location for your basecamp. We chose Port Angeles, but there are other spots that may be a better fit for you.

We also chat about…

  • Various Visitor Centers
  • Areas of the Park: Coast, Rainforest, and Alpine regions
  • Planning an itinerary

And we wrap up the segment by sharing the resources that ended up being our favorites, including…

  • Moon Guide Pacific Northwest Trip by Allison Williams
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Olympic National Park, Falcon Guides by Eric Molvar
  • Olympic National Park: A Natural History by Tim McNulty {Jeremy’s Nerd Pick}

Segment Two: Port Angeles and Hurricane Ridge

We decided to use the Port Angeles area as our basecamp and were very happy with the choice. It placed us in close proximity to Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Falls, Crescent Lake, and the Port Angeles downtown area, which offered fun eating and shopping options.

We highly recommend beginning at the main Visitor Center here and chatting with a ranger about your visit. Skip the movie, which unfortunately offers little to no useful or interesting information about the park. You can also stretch your legs by enjoying two short but lovely hikes that leave right from the center: Living Forest Trail (.4) and Peabody Creek Trail (.5).

The Hurricane Hill trail ended up being our favorite hike of the entire trip. About three miles round trip, this ridge hike offers magnificent views for the entire length of the trail. In our opinion, this is a must-do when visiting Olympic National Park.

Our favorite food and drink joints were…

  • Little Devil’s Lunchbox
  • Next Door Gastropub
  • Easy Street Coffee and Tea House
  • BADA NW Coffee Shop
  • Country Aire Natural Foods

And some fun shopping options include…

  • Swains General Store
  • Lefties Team Store

Segment Three: Lake Crescent and Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc Falls is one of the most popular destinations in the park. We did the Sol Duc Falls hike, and had a great time splashing in the smaller falls that you cross on the trail. We combined the hike with a visit to the Sol Duc Hot Springs, which was a HUGE hit with our kids. Beware…the hot springs really just look like pools/hot tubs and they do smell like sulfur. But nonetheless, it was a highlight for our boys who begged to go back every day during our visit.

Other great waterfalls nearby:

  • Marymere Falls
  • Madison Falls

There are a few places to rent boats on Crescent Lake. We felt the most scenic was at the Lake Crescent Log Cabin Resort, which has paddle boat, kayak, SUP, and canoe rentals at reasonable prices. There are lovely Adirondack chairs positioned along the waterfront, and you can buy ice cream and beer in the store to enjoy outside. Our boys took very quick dips in the chilly, but pristine, lake.

Our favorite food picks from nearby:

  • Blackberry Cafe
  • Granny’s Cafe

Segment Four: Ruby Beach and the Hoh Rainforest

Since we stayed near Port Angeles, both Ruby Beach and Hoh Rainforest were a long drive (1.5-2 hours). Based on local recommendations, we decided to combine the two stops and visited Ruby Beach in the morning and then headed out to Hoh Rainforest in the afternoon. You will want to check the tides before planning your day, as the coastal areas are best visited during low tide. Rangers at the visitor centers have tide charts for reference.

At the Hoh Rainforest, there are two loop trails with trail heads right at the Visitor Center: Hall of Moses (.8 miles) and Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles). These trails are an awesome way to experience the wonder of the temperate rain forest.

On the way back to basecamp, we ate dinner at Taqueria Santa Ana, a very authentic Mexico joint with delicious food and NO bells and whistles.

Our 5-day trip to Olympic National Park was truly phenomenal, and we are thrilled to share our best tips for visiting this natural treasure. Listen to the episode to hear complete details on all the above destinations, hikes, and restaurants! And don’t forget to check out Campground of the Week to hear our review of Elwah Dam RV Park in Port Angeles, Washington.

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