Highlights of the Olympic National Park: Port Angeles, WA

I recently returned from a week-long venture in Seattle with some of my ΑΦΩ friends. A handful us had already visited Seattle, so we decided on touring the Olympic National Park to take advantage of the scenic PNW. The hiking difficulty varied per trail on site and locations were often an hour or two apart – expect to be in the car for a good portion of the trip. The Olympic National Park is HUGE, encompassing nearly a million acres and home to a diversity of ecosystems including mountains, rain forests, coastlines, and more. We purchased a multi-day pass for $25 and decided to see the park over the span of three days, below are my favorite highlights from the trip:

1. Hoh Rainforest

Being one of the largest rainforests in North America, the Hoh Rainforest sees an average of 140 inches of annual rainfall, and our visit was no exception. Bring a longer rain jacket and waterproof backpack – it poured heavily for us the entire time. With lush greenery and mosses lined up on all the trees, the rainforest felt oddly reminiscent of the first Twilight movie (I was told later that scenes in the movie did get shot here…).

 

2. Cape Flattery

Located in the most northwestern point of the country’s mainland, Cape Flattery is situated within the Makah reservation. The actual hike was surprisingly easy (1.2 miles and 200 elevation), and the views were stunning. We often found ourselves going off path to get a better glimpse of the coastline; although it’s important to note there are several observation decks included on the main trail.

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3. Ruby Beach

On our second day, we took a small detour to visit Forks, WA. And yes, it’s the same Forks inspired by the Twilight saga (I’m sensing a pattern here). The actual city is wholly underwhelming – Forks is an extremely small town with a population less than 3500 and doesn’t offer a lot to see; however, the real gem of Forks is Ruby Beach – hands down my favorite part of the trip.

We came on a stormy day, and unlike most tourist beaches, it was untouched and unmanicured. A wall of driftwood separates its sandy shoreline from the tourist trails, and the sea stacks are even bigger in person. We nearly got caught in the tidal waves while attempting to venture out past the driftwood, but it was worth it – the driftwood coupled with the long tides made us feel like we were somewhere remote and special.

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4. Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge has a handful of trails to choose from, but some of them were blocked off for us because of the snow. With an elevation at 5242 feet, be sure to stop at some of the observation points along the drive up the mountain. We were lucky to come on a clear day, so we could see views of Mount Baker, the Olympic Mountain Range, and even parts of Canada (my cell phone really did think we were in Canada at some point). Originally hailing from Chicago, we weren’t accustomed to the beautiful green trees and snowcapped peaks. It made me envious of people that live along the coast and more appreciative of the views we were soaking in.

 

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