Adventure Travel

Epic Olympic Peninsula Adventure

olympic peninsula, pnw, pacific northwest, upperleftusa, washington state, outdoors, nature, wanderlust, adventure

The Olympic Peninsula has been one of my favorite places to explore, or dream about exploring, since I moved to Seattle two and a half years ago. The second weekend after relocating, I spent a full day exploring the peninsula, which was my first true Pacific Northwest experience. I was able to cram in Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, and the Hoh Rainforest, all while making it back to Bainbridge Island in time for the last ferry back to Seattle that night. Although I covered a wide distance that day, I knew I had only seen a fraction of all there is to explore on the peninsula. It was always a goal of mine to make it to the coast, where I’ve only seen photos of the pacific ocean meeting the rocky, evergreen covered cliffs.

TL;DR…

 

A few weeks ago, a friend and I couldn’t get the idea of planning an Olympic Peninsula adventure out of our heads. We decided we would leave early on Saturday morning and spend the day near the edge of the forest, where we would minimize driving time and leave us a full day to explore. When we sat down with our coffee before catching the ferry that morning, we couldn’t shake the idea of going to the coast instead. We pulled onto the ferry, parked the car, and made a verbal pact, “we’re going to the coast!”

One of the biggest factors we had to take into consideration when changing our plans was the driving time. It takes about 3 hours to get from the ferry to the coast, but what I’ve learned from past experience is that driving along Washington’s scenic byways is an adventure in itself. Lucky for us, the entire route for this trip was along the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway.

The first stop was Lake Crescent. I’ve been to Lake Crescent several times and each time I still take a moment to stare off into the crystal clear, blue water of the lake that’s surrounded by rolling hills with fog weaving through the evergreens. This time, the highest layer of trees were dusted with snow.

 

We wandered into the woods. We decided to do the short hike to Marymere Falls. Along the way, we lost track of the trail and found ourselves on the river bank surrounded by forest that can only be described as a wonderland. I have never visited the peninsula in the winter, which is the “wet” season. The water fall was bigger than I have ever seen it. The trail leading to the waterfall was blocked off because of danger conditions, but look at this waterfall and tell me you wouldn’t try to get as close as humanly possible too…

To the coast!

Our next stop was La Push, which is the first stop, and as far north along the coast that we wanted to go. The drive to La Push was bizarre and confusing. We were surrounded by lush evergreen forest, but our map led us to believe we were only minutes to the beach. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I’ve never been so seemingly deep into the woods and yet be minutes from the ocean.

The road turned a corner which is where we got our first glimpse of the rough pacific ocean meeting the cliffs that lined the shore. We stopped at First Beach. At this point we realized how important the mountains are for stopping rain and wind from hitting Seattle. We didn’t see any signs of life which led us to contemplate whether the town had been evacuated because of a storm that we may be caught in. The view was too beautiful to care.

 

While in La Push, we also stopped at Second Beach which required about a 1.5 mile hike through the rainforest to get to the shore. Luckily, I was prepared for the weather but standing on the beach, completely soaked and trying to position my body to defend the angled rain sheets, was a surreal moment.

The last, and most anticipated, stop on the trip for me was Ruby Beach. After a quick lunch break in Forks, home of Twilight,we continued down the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, also known as highway 101. Driving down the 101 along the pacific coast in Washington is a much different experience than in California.


Ruby Beach was breathtaking. I have looked through countless photos of this beach, but being there in person is an experience that can’t be captured in a photograph. The shore is lined with “driftwood.” which is actually just entire trees washed up in a pile.

We finished the trip by looping around the peninsula, through Olympia and Tacoma, and back to Seattle. The full loop took about 13 hours to complete, but it was 13 hours full of the Pacific Northwest beauty that I set out to find, even while in the car. If you are looking for a day trip out of Seattle, I would recommend doing the full loop. Next time I go back, I plan to spend more time in Olympic National Park and make it an overnight adventure.

P.S. Snapchat has become one of my favorite places to document these adventures!

Add me: rcarre

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