People who don’t care for the outdoors have an easy answer for the question, “What’s so great about the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state?” Seattle is just a short ride away.
, rialto beachAnyone who likes camping, birdwatching, checking out nudibranches and starfish in tide pools, kayaking, fishing, whitewater rafting, hiking, or majestic scenery, though, will find the forests, mountains and beaches of the peninsula, and its World Heritage Site—Olympic National Park—an unforgettable experience. Here are a select few of the many great places to camp and things to see available in this remarkable spot.
Hoh Rain Forest – Hoh campground
Soaked in up to 150 inches of rainfall every year, Hoh Rain Forest is perhaps the wettest place in the continental United States, so those who plan to camp there are wise to pack waterproof everything. Despite the amazing views from the canopy, and the laissez-faire attitude of the juncos, ravens, and woodpeckers that inhabit the damp boughs, park rangers advise against climbing old-growth western hemlock, sitka spruce, maple, alder and other trees that commonly reach up to 300 feet. At ground level, diligent hikers can find as many as 200 different species of moss growing on nurse-logs, rocks, other hikers’ forgotten hats, and even on the river otters, Roosevelt elk, black bears and cougars.
Rialto Beach – Mora campground
Also quite wet, this strand surpasses most postcards with the sublime beauty of its sea-and-wind-sculpted sea stacks, rough surf, and diving pelicans. Dreamy types will find endless entertainment playing the “that one looks like a…” game with the rocks and driftwood. Watch out for hermit crabs, ochre sea stars, anemone and shrimp in the tide pools of this enchanting place.
Sol Duc Hot Springs and Falls – Sol Duc campground
Two dragons fought to a draw, crawled back to their caves to recover, and still cry hot tears of “mortification.” Either that, or these hot springs are the result of common and predictable geological conditions. Whichever is true, hikers’ and birdwatchers’ muscles can only benefit from a nice long soak in these sandy-bottomed pools. The furious rush and jumble of the Sol Duc is the soundtrack for a riparian hike through the forest, on the way to the falls. Hope to arrive in their mist coincident with a ray of sun, an experience one writer called “cosmic.”
The Makah Nation built this museum in 1979 to house a collection of 500-year-old artifacts uncovered by archaeologists at Ozette, at Cape Alava, the location of a Makah whaling village. On display are many objects that reveal how the first inhabitants of the Olympic Peninsula dressed, cooked, and hunted—in a word, “camped.”