Hey Y’all! You are about to dive into Part 3 of my National Parks Roadtrip series! In this post, I will cover my visit to Olympic National Park as well as a side trip to Ruby Beach and Forks, Wa. (yes I proudly admit the venture to Forks was to satisfy my inner Twilight fangirl obsession)
If you are just joining this mini-series, my husband and I set sail (ok we drove) on a 3 week camping adventure to 6 different national parks.
We started in Texas and hit some major parks along the western region of the country. Catch up on our adventure by reading Part 1 and 2! (see the links at the end of this post)
Washington itself was a pretty quick visit. We spent one night at Mt. Rainier and as far as Olympic we actually did not camp out. We have some really close family friends just south of the park, so we traded out tent for a real bed for a couple of nights.
It worked out perfectly since they had yet to visit the park, so this time around we had a couple more adventure buddies with us. Olympic Park is quite different from Rainier even though they reside within the same state.
Since there are only 6 entrances surrounding the park and no through roads, you really have to plan ahead to figure out what you want to see. There are two famous areas that have the most publicized pictures on the internet: the Hoh Rain Forest and the Sul Duc Falls.
If you have the time, I highly recommend you visit both! However, this time around we had to choose one over the other. After looking through online pictures and maps we chose the Hoh Rain Forest trails.
The Hoh park entrance was closest to Ruby beach and Forks, Wa, which made the layout of the day trip easier.
Hoh Rain forest Trails
You might have heard of this place or perhaps not, but it really is a rain forest! No, not like the amazons with jaguars and parrots. This region is known as a temperate rain forest. So think different plant life and animals, but just as humid as a jungle.
Once we arrived at the visitor center to get maps and recommendations, we headed out on two trails first. These two short nature trails actually loop right near the parking area of the visitor center. The Hall of Mosses trail is a super easy .8 miles and the Spruce trail is 1.2 miles.
Each trail is rated easy and is definitely kid friendly. So we carried nothing more than our day pack with water and bug spray. DO NOT FORGET BUG SPRAY!
With it being a rain forest and in the middle of July, mosquitoes were everywhere. I opt for a deet free spray and never have any issues.
Spruce with a dash of Moss
The Hall of Mosses is something that is very unique to Olympic Park. Along the trail, we found trees draped in vibrant green mosses. I’ve never seen so much moss in a small area.
It was almost eerie really how the moss hung off the branches, kinda reminded me of that scary forest scene from snow white. I can only imagine wandering around at night.
Spruce Trail was pretty similar, we chose to hike it since it was a very short distance. I would say about half way into this trail is when I hit the highlight of the day. I spotted and took probably way too many photos of a couple of Barred Owls resting on some tree branches.
This is exactly what I love about hiking. Sometimes you hike and just take in the sights and sounds of nature, other times you are lucky and come across the local residents of the area. The neat thing this time was the owls were fully awake which is not really typical since they are nocturnal animals.
So my advice, it can be worth it taking your time on hikes. Had it not been for me staring at the tall trees in amazement, I would have completely missed these feathered friends.
Other Trails Nearby
There is a major hiking trail within the Hoh area called the Hoh River Trail. As much as I would have loved to hike it, we simply did not have time this go around.
The Hoh River trail is 17.3 miles and takes you to Glacier Meadows which is right there at the base of Mount Olympus. If you are really gung-ho about this trail you can take it all the way to Sul Duc Valley to see the falls I mentioned earlier. Which is something I would absolutely do when I go back!
As we drove done Hoh Road, we did stop at a turnout along Hoh River just to do a little off trail exploring. I should say this is not recommended unless you absolutely know where you parked and keep track of the directions in which you are heading.
We didn’t venture far from the vehicle, but once you get down to the riverbeds to see the glacial runoff, it is easy to lose the vehicle behind the trees. In this case, we just backtracked our steps, and by doing so my husband was the only one to find our first snake on the entire trip. Of course, he was not nearly as excited as I was about that.
There are plenty of beaches to pull off and enjoy along the coastline. Many have nice sand to take a towel and lay out on. Others are more pebbles and rocks with lots of driftwood.
Ruby beach was a perfect combination of both. When we first arrived I saw this beautiful scenery of an ocean, unique mini islands formed from broken coastline, and rocks.
At first, I admit I was a tad bummed about the rocks because I badly wanted to walk around barefoot. I know I know, weird, but when your from a place that does not have a beach, you get where I am coming from.
If you walk about .5 of a mile the rocks just kind of stop and the coast is back to a soft sandy beach….now we are talking!
Unfortunately, we opted to not swim. Even though it was, in fact, July, the high of the day was only 65. Which meant for this Texan, the water was nowhere near enjoyable temperature! I did walk into the water up to my knees just to say I got in the ocean in the PNW.
As I was walking, it really felt surreal. One one side you have miles of ocean and on the other cliffs and very tall trees. It was like those movies with vikings, I half expected to see some charging out of the forest. (seriously, I can’t be the only one with this crazy imagination)
Ok so if you are not even remotely a fan of Twilight then perhaps your reading should stop here! I’m kidding, but honestly, this is the exact reason on why we made the detour to this town.
My review? If your a super hardcore fan then this place is for you! But if you’re like me who read the books, watched the movies, and wanted to see the Forks from TV, prepare to be very disappointed.
The town itself is great and seems very nice, but the only thing there from the movie was the “Welcome to Forks” sign and Bella’s truck. You can probably picture my face as we found Forks High School and it did not look even remotely close to the movie.
Silly me for thinking they would use more of the town for filming than they actually did. But good news “Twi-hards” or is it “Twi-nerds”…La Push beach is totally a real place. So there’s that…
All in all, I was very impressed with Olympic National Park, even if it was only for half the day. We did drive by a campground and it looked just as nice and spacious as the sites in Mt. Rainier.
If you are not a fan of really cold temperatures, then the summer months are the time to go. I would say July to August. It is still cool during the day, but only a light jacket was needed.
Next time I am in the PNW my goal is to go on a whale sighting tour, kayaking, and of course find more trails to hike. Perhaps some off the path of popularity.
Have you been to any awesome places in this region? OR maybe you live there? Drop me a line on some of your favorite places to escape in Washington. I am always looking for recommendations for future trips!