My family and I really enjoy visiting National Parks. To date, we have visited twelve national parks, and love each one of them for their unique and awesome splendor. We are avid hikers and enjoy hiking in these beautiful landscapes. I am so grateful to Teddy Roosevelt, whom had the vision to create a park system that sets aside and protects amazing wild land for all future generations to enjoy. But it was President Franklin Roosevelt who signed the 1938 Act that establishing Olympic National Park.
While in Washington, my husband and I visited Olympic National Park, our thirteenth national park, which is located on Washington’s Olympic peninsula. The park encompasses 922,650 amazing and diverse acres of land. Olympic National Park is a land of great beauty, size, and variety. It is so large that it encompasses four distinct geographical regions. A day’s exploration can take you from breathtaking alpine mountain vistas with meadows of wildflowers and lakes, to gazing at 60’ waterfalls as they tumble into cool azure blue pools, to colorful ocean tide pools along miles of sandy beaches, to hiking through a rainforest where you can stare up at ancient Spruces. The Olympic National Park is a true wonderland!
My husband and I had a copy of the Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail Map and were on a quest to see as many waterfalls as we could along our three-day journey around the peninsula. In total, we saw six magnificent waterfalls. In the Elwha Valley we saw Madison Creek Falls. At Lake Crescent we saw Marymere Falls. In the Sol Duc Valley we saw the Sol Duc Falls. And in the Quinault Lake area we saw Gatton Creek Falls, Merriman Falls, and Bunch Creek Falls.
But we awarded the Sol Duc Falls the “Most Beautiful” award. It possessed great velocity of water with the most drama as it roared down the valley, then under the footbridge that we were standing on, which rushed past us while cutting a deep crevasse in the land, as the water worked its way to the ocean. Awesome!!
The crowning jewel of Olympic National Park is Mount Olympus. At 7,980 feet, Mount Olympus is the highest peak in Olympic National Park and has the third largest glacial system in the contiguous U.S. The mountain receives over 200 inches of precipitation each year, which primarily comes from snow. It is this 200 inches of precipitation that feeds the hundreds of rivers that flow out of the mountains and down to the ocean. On the north end of the park Hurricane Ridge sits above Port Angeles, just a 45-minute drive up from the town. The Ridge is the best location to view the mountains and find one of the numerous hiking trail that begin from the ranger station that lead to alpine lakes and flowering meadows.
After leaving Sequim, our first stop was Crescent Lake where Marymere Falls was located. Located on the bank of the lake is the historic turn-of-the-century Crescent Lake Lodge. This charming lodge is nestled among giant fir and hemlock trees with wonderful views of the lake. The Lodge also has a wonderful restaurant, which overlooks the long and slender lake. The knotty pine lodge has a large stone fireplace with comfy sofas to sit and relax. The sun porch has wicker rocking chairs where you can sit and stare out over the lake while sipping a glass of wine.
We drove further west and out to Rialto Beach, which the open Pacific Ocean pounds upon. The western coastline of the peninsula has what are called “Sea Stacks” all along the water’s edge. They are vestiges of the land that have maintained a strong hold amongst the pounding surf and refused to erode away. They stand proudly in the surf and grow trees and moss on top of them as if a crown of glory.
Rialto Beach is a black sand, pebble, and rock beach; a bit difficult to walk on but we managed. Hundreds of dead tree trucks gather on the beach in a long line, which go for miles. We were fortunate to be at Rialto Beach during low tide and enjoyed exploring its tide pools. Thousands of mussels clung to the rocks all over the tide pools. I absolutely love steamed mussels. Wandering the tide pools made me hungry.
After Rialto Beach we headed to the Hoh Valley where we hiked amongst one of two rain forests in the Olympic National Park. The Hoh is one of the finest remaining examples of temperate rainforest in the United States. The Hoh Valley receives 12 to 14 feet of rain a year. We hiked amongst immense Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlocks, while water slowly trickled and flowed all around us. A multitude of mosses and ferns grew upon every surface imaginable. Trees grew upon fallen dead trees, which are called “Nursery Logs.” The gnarly roots of the new living tree wrap around the dead moss laden fallen tree and feeds from its decaying nutrients.
The rain forest left me in awe. I have never seen anything like it before. Its awesomeness made me think how small and insignificant our crazy busy lives actually are.
Late on our first day into the park, we finally pulled up to our lodge for the night exhausted and hungry. We stayed at Kalaloch Lodge on the Kalaloch Beach. The sun sets late in July on the Olympic peninsula since it is so far north; finally becoming dark at 10 PM. We were so happy to check in our room, take off our shoes, poor a glass of wine for ourselves, and relive the amazing day we just had, as we watched the sunset over the horizon. I was immensely grateful for such a glorious day!
Now what’s for dinner?!