Adventures in Washington: Olympic National Park

‘I encourage everybody to hop on Google and type in ‘national park’ in whatever state they live in and see the beauty that lies in their own backyard. It’s that simple.’-Jordan Fisher

I used my campsite at Kalaloch Beach as the jumping off point to explore Olympic National Park and it is huge! I only had a day to explore and had predetermined that the coast would be my primary focus, particularly Rialto Beach to see the tide pools. I had read that before visiting the tide pools, stop by the park’s visitor’s center to get a print out of the tide schedule (very important!). So that is what I did. The drive was about 2 hours and you go through a bit of the rain forest (one of the three zones of the park), Forks, and Crescent Lake. As I knew I would be driving back through, I didn’t make any stops. I arrived and got the schedule and realized I would not be seeing the tide pools. Whomp, whomp. The times of the high tide when I was there corresponded to exactly when I wanted to go. Best laid plans!

I did drive up the road a bit to the entry point to the Olympic Mountains. The road was closed at the pay station so I just got a view from below. As I hadn’t planned on going and anticipated the closed road, it wasn’t a big deal. I was there the last week of March so this is something to keep in mind. You can backpack in the snow (or climb one of the peaks) and there are trails open at lower elevations but you definitely need to plan ahead of time and check to see if any permits are needed.

I decided to go to Rialto Beach even if I couldn’t check out the tide pools. I did have a brief window the following day, so wanted to scope things out. There is a reason there are so many warnings regarding visiting. It is dangerous! The beach is basically non-existent and zero sand, just pebbles and rocks. There are hundreds of tree trunks lying there. They are not secure and the reason you should not attempt to walk the mile up the beach to see the pools with unfavorable tides. When the tides are high, it will carry the trunks, which weigh hundreds if not thousands of pounds. You can easily fall through, get trapped, and drown. When I went the following day, the tide was lower and, in theory, I had an hour and a half to do the two miles round trip to where the pools are (near a rock you walk through…do not walk through if there is water within the rock). Even at low tide, the beach is not very wide, the waves are violent, and the rocky beach makes walking incredibly difficult (I was wearing my trusty Blundstone’s and was like, nope). I made it about a quarter of a mile and turned back. I did not feel safe in the time I had and knew I would be walking back as the tide was rising and would have no where to go. I love a sea creature but not at the expense of bodily harm.

I also checked out Ruby Beach, which was much less ‘OMG, I am going to die,’ so that was nice, ha! Sometimes there are sea critters in the area inland directly in front of you as you emerge from walking down the hill. There were none when I was there so clearly I was not meant to see a starfish on this trip, lol. Ruby Beach is incredibly popular so be aware there may be a lot of people. As I say frequently, traveling in the off season minimizes this. The rocky landscape rivals some of the most famous spots of the Oregon Coast, so I do highly recommend. I was really lucky to have a lot of sunshine which helped temper the wind and I was quite warm for being the Pacific Coast in March. Note: Ruby Beach will be closed Summer of 2022 due to construction.

One of the unexpected parts of the trip was traveling around Crescent Lake, a glacial lake. I drove passed a couple of times, one day it was very blue and sunny skies and the next, gave me a lot of New Zealand Fiordland National Park vibes. I met some cute ducks at one of the turnouts who just chilled and followed me around in the rain. There is something about me a birds when I travel, ha!

I also traveled through Forks multiple times. Prior to the mid-2000s, Forks was known as the gateway to the Pacific because the road literally forks to various coastal points. What it is now known for is Twilight and it varies as to how much the citizens of this teeny town appreciate this connection. It brings a lot of fans and the visitor’s center is decked out and has cars from the films out front (ironically, the movie was filmed in Oregon). The local tribe, Quileute, has embraced and when you enter the reservation (headed to Rialto Beach), there is a sign that this is the treaty line, no vampires allowed. Speaking of local tribes, several parts of Olympic National Park are part of a reservation and will close to tourists. Several coastal access points have been indefinitely closed by the tribes due to vandalism and disrespect by tourists. You should always respect the land you are on, whether public or not. Leave no trace.

I really loved my time in Olympic National Park, its so varied and really has something for everyone. May parts are easily accessible but make sure you read up on where you are going so you and yours can have a safe trip.

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