Olympic National Park is one of the most diverse landscapes in the lower 48. Glacial studded mountains, deep lush rainforest, and a pristine ocean environment. It’s a bit of a trip from the Bay Area or Tahoe, but an adventure that Californians simply must put on their “to do list”. Here’s a “Top 5” to get those creative wheels turning for your next out-of-town mission.
#1. Skiing and mountaineering in the heart of the park. It’s a long approach, and coupled with the precipitous weather, and multitude of landscapes to negotiate, an ascent/descent of Mt. Olympus or on the neighboring high peaks of the range is not a gimmy. Still, it’s these attributes that make the mission so sweet, and with a season that extends into summer, if you’ve got the skills, you should plan to spend some time in the Olympic Mountains as soon as possible. Ski touring or riding the lifts off Hurricane Ridge (when they’re open in winter) is also a worthy way to to lay some tracks in the park.
#2. Surfing the coastal reaches of the park. Washington state is riddled with difficult to access surf breaks. However, score a clean session in Olympic National Park and you won’t soon forget it. The water and air around the upper reaches of the coast are profoundly clean and pure. La Push is a good bet. A gorgeous backdrop and home to the Quileute Tribe, La Push can fire when it’s on, and double as a more mellow, mushy longboard wave in summer when the swell isn’t so strong. You can camp right on the beach and watch the waves break all day, and there’s a cool eclectic mix of people to mix and mingle with.
#3. Fishing. People travel from all over the world to fish for steelhead, salmon, and trout in Olympic National Park. I’m not privy to share much knowledge the locals shared with me, but if you’re looking for some trout or salmon up there in the summer, toss a line in at the Sol Duc River. Maybe you’ll be having fresh fish for dinner.
#4. Spend time in the rainforest. The deep, ancient, dank forests that surround Olympic National Park are a national treasure. The Hoh Rain forest is of particular interest, but there’s ample hiking trails, mellow nature walks, and quick pull-offs that will transcend you to another world in no time found all through the park. There are beautiful temperate rainforest ecosystems throughout the Coastal Range, from Nor-Cal to B.C., but the rainforest in and around the Hoh is the real deal. It will awe, inspire, and entertain all ages of travelers for hours on end.
#5. Camp. The easiest thing to do in the park is also one of the best things you can possibly do. Take your pick from ocean sites, to hike-in sites, to car-camping; you can’t go wrong. This is the kind of park where you can have the most unique camp spot you’ve ever had. While it’s just a matter of a night of sleep, being surrounded by old-growth Sitka Spruce, or listening to the waves gently rock you to sleep will be a night’s rest you’ll fondly remember. This one is a gimmy, so long as you aren’t trying to get a spot at sunset on a Saturday in summer, so plan accordingly, and rest those bones for whatever adventures you’ll be getting into the next day.
Photo Credit: toddyscheer.com