It’s hard to see all that Washington’s Olympic National Park has to offer. We only had four full days, three for driving around the park and one to make it back to Joe’s family’s house. Our first day was full of seeing snow covered mountain tops and the deep blue Crescent Lake (see Hurricane Ridge). Day two would involve heading west towards the wild, rugged Pacific Ocean coastline, and me getting really aggravated at my sweet Island Boy hubby, Joe.
This is how we broke up our road trip:
Day 1: Read about Hurricane Ridge
Day 2: Wild Coastline
Summary of all 3 days (read here)
Olympic National Park Road Trip: Wild Coastline
We started day two by enjoying a leisurely breakfast at Lake Crescent Lodge, our accommodations for the previous night. The lodge is a bit pricey, but well worth it for the experience of staying in an old logging lodge. Even if you don’t stay at the lodge, you can still enjoy the restaurant, bar, and lake beach. For warning–the water is COLD, especially for a southerner like me!
Sol Duc Falls
From Crescent Lake, there isn’t a straight path to Sol Duc Falls. You will need to head southwest along the lake for about seven miles, then turn left onto Sol Duc Falls Road. There are plenty of signs so you shouldn’t miss it, even if your GPS and cell phone can’t get a signal (be prepared for this, you’re in the mountains). Another fourteen miles and you’re at the parking area for the falls trail.
The trail is relatively simple, just .8 miles with a few inclines. Along the way you’ll be treated to tall, old growth trees and the cool, damp forest floor. Once you reach the falls, you’re in for a photographer’s treat! The falls themselves aren’t super big, but they certainly are unique! Three streams combine and then fall into a deep gorge. The bridge over the gorge make it an ideal spot for taking pictures.
If you’d like to stay longer, tent and RV camping is available at the nearby Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. At the resort you can set off on other hikes, watch salmon swimming upstream, or take advantage of the mineral pool for a soothing dip.
About 40 miles west of Sol Duc Falls is Forks, Washington. If you’re a fan of the Twilight book and film series, you should recognize the name. It is where the series is set. The movies were not filmed here, but there are some Twilight tours you can take if you are a fan.
For us, it was a good place to gas up our car and buy some groceries. If you want to build a campfire on the beach later on, pick up a bundle at the grocery store. There are a few restaurants in town, but we didn’t try any of the them.
Third, Second, and First Beach
Third Beach- Just west of Forks, you’ll arrive at the beautiful Pacific coastline and start seeing signs for the different beaches. All of this area is part of the Quileute Indian Reservation. You can’t see the beach from the road at Third and Second beaches. All of these beaches are pretty and offer rugged, wild coastline beauty. But here’s the skinny— to the untrained eye (like mine), they all kind of look alike. We first stopped at Third Beach. The hike didn’t seem too bad, just 1.5 miles to the beach. We had already hiked a lot the day before at Hurricane Ridge, so no big deal. Right?
Most of the hike is easy and relatively flat until you get towards the end, then it becomes steep with switchbacks. At the end, you’ll have to climb over some big piles of driftwood to get to the beach. The beach is gorgeous with black, smooth rocks. We saw several tent campers. For us, it was cold and windy, and there is no way I would ever want to swim in the water. The ocean water here flows from the Arctic Circle and averages between 48-59 F (7-15 C). Come at low tide and get a marine life treat!
Second Beach- North of Third Beach is Second Beach. The hike down to the beach is shorter than Third Beach, but a little steeper. Unfortunately, it must have rained the night before because the trail was pretty muddy, and I was sliding all over the place and fell down a couple of times.
Just like with the previous beach, at the trail end, you have to climb over big driftwood. Definitely wear good hiking sandals so you can climb over the driftwood and rock formations easily. We love our Tevas and have worn them everywhere!
People with mobility issues shouldn’t try it. However, once you reach Second Beach you’re rewarded with several rugged sea stacks. Plan to visit during low tide to take advantage of tidal pool treasures!
Don’t get me wrong, Second Beach is gorgeous. However, my middle aged knees were already crying out in pain from our activities the day before. AND– it didn’t look that much different than Third Beach. By this time, I was officially known as “grumpy wife”. Joe is very much a stop at every attraction sign kind of guy and a hundred times more in shape than me. If there’s a sign on the side of the road, we pull over. Maybe if we hadn’t stopped at so many “biggest tree” signs that resulted in 1-3 mile hikes to trees that all looked alike, my mood wouldn’t be so moody.
First Beach- Our final stop for the day was also where we would spend the night. This area is also called La Push Beach. Rialto Beach can be seen across the river. Yes, First Beach looks similar to the other two, but YOU CAN DRIVE RIGHT UP TO IT! When Joe realized that we could have saved time and wear on our knees by just driving straight to our final destination, he did his best “I’m sorry” look. Knowing we were done hiking for the day, turned my mood around drastically.
First Beach is very flat and the sunset is worth any kind of drive or walk. The large driftwood make for some fun pictures and climbing fun. For a fee of $5 you can buy a campfire permit. Having a campfire while the sun is setting makes for a very memorable experience!
Quilieute Oceanside Resort
Legends say that the Quileute Indian tribe have lived in this area for over 1,000 years. We knew we wanted to stay near the beach, and the Quilieute Ocean Resort (run by the tribe) seemed like the perfect place for us. They have a wide variety of accommodations to choose from. From RV sites, cabins and motel rooms. We chose a camper cabin that was small and similar to the tiny house, but only a short walk to the beach. Joe’s daughter loved her own little area in the loft. We were able to make our own meals from the groceries we had bought in the city of Forks.
Stayed tuned for our recaps of Day #3 in Olympic National Park. So have you been to Washington or want to visit? Please share by commenting below!
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