Olympic Peninsula circuit

I took time off this beautiful September week to get out from my Seattle base and explore the strange, wonderful Olympic Peninsula with my girlfriend, in town for a visit before embarking on an adventure of her own in the UK. I can’t believe that in the cumulative 6 months I’ve spent here that I never once ventured to the other side of the pond – Puget Sound that is.

Itinerary

The trip started off with a quick hop across the sound on one of Washington’s state-run ferries, which ply the Edmonds-Kingston route more than once an hour (~$25 one way for two people and a car). Why on earth would one drive south along Puget Sound when the scenic ferry ride is available? There are unparalleled Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker views looking out over the land.

Perfect day for a boat ride

From there, we made a sort of detour to Port Townsend, a beautiful little nautical town with a Wooden Boat Festival, some offbeat book shops, and a wonderful place to buy a shake and look out over the water.

The road then lead us to Port Angeles, the commercial hub of the northern peninsula. But we did not stay long: our lingering in Port Townsend burned up quite a bit of daylight so we picked up some free maps and continued along the highway to Sol Doc. Along the way, take a break and stretch your legs along beautiful Lake Crescent, bounded by mountains on all sides.

Lake Crescent from a gap in the trees along the highway

The Sol Duc road climbs into the hills above the lake, passing a salmon run which would be spectacular at the right time of year. The resort at the end offers accommodations, but more importantly, the famous Sol Duc Hot Springs. For a fee, even if you aren’t staying at the resort you can take a dip in the sulfurous, 101F water. I am not one for spa treatments, but I have to say my skin did feel extra soft after soaking in the mineral-rich water.

We also hiked to Sol Duc Falls. They’re  not huge but the lush green surroundings enhance their beauty.

Next stop: the famous Pacific beaches with towers of rock known as sea stacks. We chose one called Second Beach, located near the tribal area of La Push. Soft sand and salty spray combined for a wonderful walk.

Second Beach sea stacks
Natural arch

Our last stop before bolting for Seattle was at the most famous Olympic attraction of all: the Hoh rainforest. It was not quite the ambiance I expected (visiting during the rainy season would give it a more authentic feel). It was still spectacularly green, and the old growth trees were a sight to see.

The Hoh River at its lowest

What makes the Olympic Peninsula well preserved with greenery and weird character also makes it sort of a pain to access from the rest of the state: the drive home via Olympia is sort of a drag at 4.5 hours but we made it back without driving in the dark too long.

When I return, I’ll hit two places that we passed up on this trip: Hurricane Ridge, and Neah Bay (a tribal interpretive center located at the very northwestern tip of the peninsula).

 

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