About this time each year, we start planning our summer vacations. Since Joe’s family lives in Washington state, we frequently make our way there. It gives us not only a chance to see family, but Washington is one of the most beautiful places you could ever hope to visit. From the Seattle Harbor to the pristine Cascade Mountains, Washington is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
On one of our more recent trips, we spent four days driving through the diverse Olympic National Park. The park is located on the Olympic Peninsula encompassing over a million acres of protected wilderness. Our road trip gave us the experience of three different biomes in less than a week. The first day of our Olympic National Park involved driving 177 miles and involved stops at lavender farms, hiking along Hurricane Ridge and to beautiful waterfalls, and stopping for the night at the historic Lake Crescent Lodge.
This is how we broke up our road trip:
Day 1: Hurricane Ridge
Summary of all 3 days (read here)
Olympic National Park Road Trip:
Drive out early the first morning from just outside the state capital of Washington, Olympia. You will start out on fairly good highways, with lots of places for gas and/or food along the way.
About two hours outside of Olympia is Sequim, Washington, home to several different lavender farms. If you have never been to an lavender farm, then you’ll have to allow for thirty minutes to an hour to stretch your legs and soak in the fragrant air. We stopped at Sunshine Herb and Lavender Farm because it was right on the highway. This part of Washington is in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains and gets only about 15 inches of rain a year. Lavender thrives in these dry growing conditions. Lavender is so abundant in this valley that the town of Sequim holds a lavender festival every July.
Another thirty minutes west, is Port Angeles, Washington. This is a good place to gas up the car or get a bite to eat. From here to Hurricane Ridge is pretty remote. Cell phone service is spotty, too.
South of Port Angeles is Hurricane Ridge Road. Be sure to stop at the Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center. There are other visitor’s centers in the national park, but this is the main one. Check out the 1887 log cabin around the back of the center. It is easy to overlook it.
Hurricane Ridge Road is open from mid-May to October. The rest of the year, the snowy road is only open on the weekends. It winds seventeen miles with breathtaking vistas around every turn. Be careful to keep your eye on the road for cyclists and hikers. It’s very easy to get distracted by the views and wildlife!
At the top of the road you’ll find Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center (gift shop, cafe, and information), picnic tables, and starting points for miles and miles of different trails. We packed a picnic lunch and spent our time enjoying the sweeping vistas! We also could observe deer and could take selfies up close as they foraged nearby. The deer appear to be accustomed to visitors and do not shy away as you would expect.
Beautiful stops along the way!
Our stop for the night would be Crescent Lake Lodge. After we made our way back down Hurricane Ridge, we found ourselves back at Port Angeles. Twenty miles southeast of Port Angeles is Marymere Falls. It took us about two hours to travel that twenty miles because we kept on stopping to see all the majestic trees and changing landscape. West of the Olympic Mountains there is a dramatic change to lush rainforest. The trees are so tall, they seem to reach the sky, and the forest floor is covered with ferns and moss. Be sure to take your time and take frequent stops when you see a road sign that catches your eye!
As you get close to Lake Crescent, you’ll see signs for the Marymere Falls Trail. The trail is an easy, one-mile trek. At the end of the trail is Marymere Falls, a 90 foot (27.432 meters) waterfall. The water is beautiful, but what I really loved was the lush greenery along the trail. It is absolutely unreal how green every thing is!
Lake Crescent Lodge
Before arriving at our lodging for the night, we were treated to a drive along Crescent Lake. You don’t want to miss taking lots of pictures around the lakeside. At 12 miles long (19 km), there are several scenic stops along the route. The lake is one of the deepest in the state at 624 feet (190 m). It is one of those places that looks photoshopped in person! Really, I didn’t know a freshwater lake could be so blue!
Lake Crescent Lodge was our stop for the night. Opened in 1914 as Singer’s Tavern, the lodge has retained much of it’s 1920s flare. We arrived early enough for a swim in the lake (yes, it is super cold) and walk along one of the many trails. We ate a light supper at the bar. There is a lovely restaurant, too, but we wanted a cheaper, lighter meal. After sleeping in one of the restored cabins, we returned back to the lodge the next morning for a hearty breakfast overlooking the lake. The lodge is a bit pricey for the accommodations, but worth it for the experience alone.
Stayed tuned for our recaps of Day #2 & #3 in Olympic National Park. So have you been to Washington or want to visit? Please share by commenting below!
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