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Overview
Overview
Essentials
Attractions
Restaurants
Insider Information
Recreation
Places in the Vicinity
Frank Kovalchek / flickr

Introduction
In terms of sheer scenic grandeur Olympic National Park hits the jackpot. Quite simply, this is one of America’s finest collections of wondrous landscapes. Snowcapped mountains, jagged glaciers, majestic coniferous forests, jewel-like lakes, magically desolate beaches—they’re all here, and fortunately protected for all time.
iStockphoto.com / espiegle
The variety within the park's 922,650 acres is simply remarkable. Much of the interior is dominated by rugged mountains and active glaciers unusual for their formation at a relatively low elevation. The rain forests of the Hoh, Queets and Quinault river valleys—where some 140 inches of annual precipitation make rainy Seattle seem almost desertlike by comparison—are a tangle of towering Douglas fir, Sitka spruce and western red cedar lording over a patchwork emerald quilt of ferns, mosses and lichens. And the Pacific coastline is stunning isolation personified: crashing waves, craggy sea stacks, mist-shrouded cliffs and beaches strewn with driftwood.
A Klar / flickr
Coexisting with this formidable expanse of wilderness are outposts of civilization like Port Townsend, located just outside the park boundary. This seaport’s salty maritime atmosphere, bounty of good restaurants and thriving arts scene attracts throngs of visiting weekenders. But one of the best things about Olympic is just how far removed from modern civilization it seems. You come expecting to be awed by nature, and you don’t leave disappointed. So where does that place the park on a don’t-miss scale of 1 to 10? We’d rank it pretty high—but you really should go and decide for yourself.

In Depth
US 101 forms an inverted U shape encompassing Olympic National Park and the adjacent Olympic National Forest. Paved entrance roads include Hurricane Ridge Road, off Race Street/Mt. Angeles Road in Port Angeles; Olympic Hot Springs Road, 8 miles southwest of Port Angeles; Sol Duc Road, west of Lake Crescent; Hoh Road, 13 miles south of Forks; and North and South Shore roads, along Lake Quinault.
Unpaved roads off US 101 include Deer Park Road, east of Port Angeles, not for use by trailers or recreational vehicles; Queets Road, east of Queets; Staircase Road, west of Hoodsport; and Dosewallips Road (closed due to washout; accessible only on foot or bicycle), west of Brinnon. All of these roads end fewer than 20 miles into the park; due to rugged terrain and to preserve the wilderness, no roads pass through the park's interior.
Olympic National Park is a scenic wilderness of 922,650 acres extending from glacier-clad mountains to ocean shore. Ranging between these borders are coniferous rain forests, glaciers, lakes and streams as well as 73 miles of unspoiled coastline. The wilderness area encompasses the interior of the Olympic Peninsula, between Hood Canal on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west.
Mount Olympus, at 7,980 feet, is the highest of the park's mountains, which rise within 35 miles of the coast. The range is extremely rugged, with spectacular cliffs and crags and deep, forested valleys. On the upper slopes are glaciers unusual for their formation at such a relatively low elevation and latitude.
Magnificent stands of Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar cover the lower mountainsides. On the upper slopes near the timberline, Alaska cedar, mountain hemlock and subalpine fir intermingle with alpine meadows. More than 600 miles of trails run through virgin forests and along stream banks in narrow valleys to ridgetops and mountain passes.
Snowfall might make passage on some trails difficult; check with the visitor centers and ranger stations in the park. Only experienced mountain climbers should attempt to scale the park's challenging peaks. The Olympic high country can be reached by automobile only from the north side where roads lead to subalpine meadows at Deer Park and Hurricane Ridge.
Rainfall averaging some 140 inches annually nourishes a lush temperate rain forest in the western valleys of the park. The most interesting of these centuries-old forests are found in the valleys of the Hoh, Quinault, Bogachiel and Queets rivers.
The area teems with wildlife. Of the 6,500 elk estimated to inhabit the peninsula, 5,000 are in the park, chiefly on the western slope of the mountains. Blacktail deer and many smaller mammals are common throughout the park. Hunting is prohibited. Among the great variety of birds in the park is the bald eagle.

General Information
Though the park is open all year, parts of the high country are usually closed by snow from early fall until July. The streams of the Olympic Mountains offer fine fishing; salmon fishing is excellent in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the ocean. No license is required for fishing within the park boundaries, but steelhead trout and salmon punch cards are required in season; check with the visitor center regarding park fishing regulations. Sol Duc Hot Springs is in the Sol Duc Valley, 12 miles southeast of US 101.
A number of self-guiding nature trails have been developed throughout the park. Rangers/naturalists give interpretive talks late June through Labor Day; check with the visitor centers for schedules. Visitor centers are open all year at Port Angeles and the Hoh Rain Forest. The Kalaloch center is open daily late May-late September. The Storm King (Lake Crescent) ranger station is open mid-June to mid-September; phone for schedule. The Hurricane Ridge Center is open daily, mid-June to mid-September, and also the rest of the year when Hurricane Ridge Road is open. Road conditions prohibit the passage of trailers in some areas of the park.

ADMISSION
ADMISSION is $25 per vehicle, good for up to 7 consecutive days anywhere in the park. An entrance fee of $20 is charged for those arriving on motorcycle and $10 for those on foot or bicycle, except in winter. An Olympic Park Annual Pass costs $50. Camping fees range $15-$22. A permit fee of $8 per person per night is charged to camp overnight in the park's back-country wilderness; an annual wilderness pass is $45 per person.

PETS
PETS are permitted in developed areas only. Pets must be leashed and may not be left unattended or tied to a stationary object. Leashed pets are permitted only during daylight hours on beaches from Rialto Beach north to Ellen Creek and the beaches between the Hoh and Quinault Indian reservations.

ADDRESS
ADDRESS inquiries to the Park Superintendent's Office, Olympic National Park, 600 E. Park Ave., Port Angeles, WA 98362; phone (360) 565-3130, or (360) 565-3131 for recorded information.
GEM Description
Glacier-topped mountains, temperate rain forests and Pacific Ocean shores are the diverse elements that make up this national park, most of which is protected as wilderness.
Ralph Arvesen / flickr

Essentials
A winding path threads through an old forest of mossy trees to a waterfall tumbling gracefully down a rocky cliff. Picture-perfect and magically serene, the hike to Marymere Falls is Olympic National Park in one easy-to-do nutshell.
The beauty of Lake Crescent can change from moment to moment, based on the time of day and quality of light. This deep blue lake, created by glaciers and framed by forested mountain peaks, is one of the park's most dramatic sights.
Well-equipped adventurers willing to embark on a grueling hike are rewarded with eye-popping vistas of Olympic National Park's rugged interior. But a much easier alternative is to drive along the crest of lofty Hurricane Ridge , where a series of overlooks offers sweeping views across the upper Elwha Valley into the park's wilderness heart.
Sol Duc Hot Springs is one of Washington's few hot springs resorts. The mineral water bubbling up from the earth is said to cure all manner of aches and pains—and a leisurely dunk might be just the ticket after a bracing hike through the pristine Sol Duc River Valley.
Public Domain / Wikipedia
“Primeval” perfectly describes the Hoh Rain Forest , best known of the park's rain forest valleys. Massive Sitka spruces and western hemlocks tower above a jungle of dense undergrowth, lush ferns and tree branches coated with moss. Hike the Hoh and you'll see every conceivable shade of green.
Cape Alava, the westernmost mainland point in the lower 48, faces the vast open Pacific. It's definitely off the beaten path—first a drive to the remote town of Ozette, then a rugged, slippery hike to the ocean. But trekking the palpably remote and utterly beautiful beach is an unforgettable experience.
You don't have to drive or hike as far to get to Rialto Beach, but this is a similarly wild and wonderful place, strewn with driftwood and polished stones and edged by soaring conifers. Fittingly, it feels like the end of the earth.
Surrounded on three sides by water, the Olympic Peninsula doesn't lack for marine views. A really outstanding panorama is the drive to the tip of Ediz Hook, a long, skinny sandbar protecting Port Angeles Harbor. Look back across the harbor for a view of Port Angeles rising in a series of terraces against a backdrop of snowcapped mountain peaks.
It's not officially part of Olympic National Park, but Port Townsend is a park neighbor—and one of the Evergreen State's coolest little towns. Wander along the historic waterfront and soak up the maritime flavor of “Washington's Victorian seaport.”
Fine dining isn't the number one reason to visit Olympic National Park, but that doesn't mean the park lacks fine restaurants. Dinner at The Roosevelt Dining Room in the Lake Quinault Lodge is a gustatory delight—especially if you're lucky enough to be here for a breathtaking lake sunset.

Attractions
In a national park with dozens of points of interest, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”
By Greg Weekes
Whether it's from a car window or along a hiking trail, you'll probably spend most of your time in Olympic National Park marveling at the scenery. But before you hit the road, stop at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center near Port Angeles (on the road to Hurricane Ridge). This is the park's main information and orientation center. The exhibits will whet your appetite for exploring, and the Peabody Creek Nature Trail—a half-mile loop beginning at the center—is a tantalizing preview of the park's many outstanding hiking trails.
Hiking is the best way to see the glories of nature up close, and some of the park's grandest sights are in the Hoh Rain Forest, best known of Olympic's three temperate rain forest regions (the other two are located in the Queets and Quinault river valleys). Rising near Mount Olympus, the Hoh River reaches the Pacific Ocean in less than 70 miles, fed by snowmelt and rain along its descending path. Abundant precipitation and year-round mild temperatures create the incredibly verdant rain forest habitat.
Hoh River Road, the access route to the rain forest visitor center, offers glimpses of the river (an unusual milky shade of blue, the result of rock pulverized into powder from the grinding action of glaciers) as well as plenty of magnificent forest scenery. In addition to hiking, the Hoh—a AAA GEM attraction—offers opportunities for bicycling, kayaking and back-country camping.
Note: Upper Hoh Road and Queets River Road are subject to periodic closures due to washouts caused by heavy rains. Check current road conditions prior to visiting any of the park's rain forest areas; for recorded information phone (360) 565-3131. Elk in the wild should not be approached. Due to risky conditions, swimming and boating on the Hoh River are not recommended.
An Indian legend maintains that Sol Duc Hot Springs was created when two dragons met and fought each other for control of the Sol Duc and Elwha river valleys. Retreating to their caves after years of frustrating battle, the dragons wept bitter tears of defeat, forming the source of the springs. You can take a dip in the soothing waters at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, or hike a trail through majestic old-growth forest to cascading Sol Duc Falls. The Sol Duc river valley is one of the few places where chinook and coho salmon run in every season. A hike along Lover's Lane Trail may reveal a glimpse of a spawning pair.
Hurricane Ridge, a AAA GEM attraction, exemplifies the wilder side of Olympic National Park. Strong winds often buffet the ridge (hence the name), and up to 35 feet of snow falls annually, lingering on the ground for much of the year. Hurricane Ridge Road branches south off US 101 and makes a 20-mile ascent to the crest of the ridge, passing through three tunnels en route—your portal to this rugged section of the park. The road passes a number of scenic overlooks before reaching the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, but the most breathtaking is the Double Parking Overlook, about 2 miles beyond the third tunnel.
From a height of some 5,400 feet, the ridge offers sweeping views south across the Upper Elwha Valley to the heart of the Olympic range and north to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and distant Vancouver Island. Paved hiking trails, accessible from the visitor center, lead through sub-alpine meadows bright with wildflowers in early summer—and the views are fantastic. The visitor center has interpretive exhibits and an excellent topographical relief map of the park. You also can take advantage of numerous ranger-led activities during the summer months.
Hurricane Ridge Road continues as far as the trailhead for Hurricane Hill Trail. The last 1.3 miles are not for the faint of heart (or suitable for RVs); the very narrow road continues to the edge of the ridge, unprotected by a guardrail. Two designated picnic areas between the visitor center and the trailhead provide spots to stop and marvel at the views from this lofty vantage point.
The deep blue waters of glacier-fed Lake Quinault plunge to depths of more than 250 feet. The Quinault River Valley is known for its verdant rain forest: Giant Sitka spruces, Douglas firs and western red cedars, many wearing a green cloak of mosses and lichens, soar above a forest floor rife with sword ferns and mushrooms. Waterfalls and streams complete this lush picture. A network of hiking trails along the lake's south shore could keep nature lovers happily occupied for days. Camping, bicycling, swimming, canoeing, bird watching (bald eagles, ospreys and trumpeter swans, among other species) and fishing for steelhead and cutthroat trout are some of the other activities to be enjoyed.
Even in a park resplendent with natural beauty, Lake Crescent stands out. Stop at one of several pull-outs off US 101, which runs along the lake's southern shore, for gorgeous views of the water framed by tree-covered ridges. From the Storm King Ranger Station off 101 you have a choice of several hiking trails (the short hike to Marymere Falls is one of the park's best). Rising southeast of the lake is 4,534-foot Mount Storm King; a trail climbs part way up the mountain via a series of steep switchbacks and branches off the Marymere Falls trail.
Although nature's glory is Olympic National Park's calling card, there are other nearby attractions to visit as well. The fascinating exhibits at the Olympic Coast Discovery Center in Port Angeles focus on Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, a 3,300-square-mile swath of Pacific coastline and adjoining ocean waters. If you're planning a trip to Neah Bay, Cape Alava, Rialto Beach or other out-of-the-way locations along the park's coastal strip, stop here for handy tips regarding driving directions, recommended hikes, secluded beaches and the best spots to observe whales.
At the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center the multimedia works by Pacific Northwest artists have an appropriate display space in the semi-circular Webster House, which sits on the crest of a hill with grand views of the city, harbor and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Walking trails thread the 5 acres of Webster's Woods, where the often whimsical sculptures fit right into the outdoor setting.
Take a side trip to beautiful Victoria, B.C., 18 miles from Port Angeles across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, aboard the Black Ball Ferry Line passenger ferry. The ferry sails daily, year-round; crossing time is approximately 90 minutes. For schedule information and reservations phone (360) 457-4491. Note: All U.S. citizens traveling between the United States and Canada by land or sea (including ferries) must present a valid passport or other approved document.
Although Port Townsend is not within Olympic National Park, it does share a geographic bond due to its location on the Olympic Peninsula. It's also one of the coolest little towns in the state. On a picturesque harbor at the entrance to Puget Sound, this AAA GEM place has character to spare. Dozens of Victorian-style buildings and residences line the downtown streets, and there's an eclectic assortment of restaurants and shops. On a clear day you can see mountains in every direction: Mount Rainier to the south, the North Cascades to the east, Mount Baker to the northeast and the Olympics to the west. Expect to encounter big crowds during spring and summer weekend festivals.
While there's plenty to do in Port Townsend—from strolling the waterfront in the company of seagulls to whiling away a lazy hour in a coffee shop—a couple of attractions are worth your attention. The old fortress at Fort Worden State Park & Conference Center, a AAA GEM, was one of three built in the late 1890s to guard Admiralty Inlet, at the entrance to Puget Sound; collectively the fortifications were known as the “Triangle of Fire.” In addition to the fort's historic buildings and gun emplacements, the 433-acre site includes a dozen miles of hiking and biking trails and beaches fronting the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The restored and furnished Commanding Officer's Quarters was the residence of the fort's commander until 1953. The Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum has exhibits pertaining to the defense of the sound from the late 19th century until the end of World War II. Artillery fire from these coastal fortifications, guided by precise plotting and tracking, was as accurate as it was deadly. The Point Wilson Lighthouse, standing at the end of the point where Admiralty Inlet meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is a great place to watch the passing parade of ships entering and leaving the harbor. Long, skinny Whidbey Island lies some 6 miles across Admiralty Inlet.
The natural history displays at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center focus on conserving the Olympic Peninsula's coastal resources. In summer the center conducts guided beach walks and other interpretive programs, the highlight of which is a 3-hour narrated nature and birding trip around nearby Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Approximately 70 percent of Puget Sound's seabird population nests on the high, sandy bluffs of this 364-acre slip of an island near the mouth of Discovery Bay. Double-crested cormorants, loons, mergansers, oystercatchers and glaucous-winged gulls are among the island's inhabitants, along with one of the world's largest nesting colonies of rhinoceros auklets. A close relative of the tufted puffin, this medium-sized seabird's intriguing name refers to a hornlike beak extension that appears in breeding adults and is shed every winter. Harbor seals also gather on the island to bear their pups, and bald eagles nest in a small stand of trees on this barren, lonely outpost.
Protection Island is closed to the public; nature cruises to observe seabirds and other marine animals are offered by Puget Sound Express aboard the 65-foot motor yacht Glacier Spirit. The trip takes place in April, July and October and is timed to coincide with annual migrations; they depart from the fuel dock at the Port Townsend Boat Haven. Dedicated bird watchers should not miss this excursion.
Marrowstone Island makes a nice side trip from Port Townsend (take SR 20 and SR 19 south to SR 116 east). Some 7 miles long and averaging only half a mile wide, the island was discovered by British Capt. George Vancouver in 1792. Past the village of Nordland at Marrowstone's northern tip is Fort Flagler Historical State Park, another of the “Triangle of Fire” fortresses erected to protect Puget Sound (the third is Fort Casey on Whidbey Island). Once equipped with camouflaged concrete ramparts and rifled cannons mounted on disappearing carriages, Fort Flagler was deactivated in 1953 and became a state park in 1955.
There are hiking and biking trails and nearly 4 miles of beachfront to explore (you can dig for clams April through June). Marrowstone Point Light, the smallest lighthouse on Puget Sound, was built in 1918; the shallows off the island are a notorious ship navigation hazard. Port Townsend, a mere 2 miles across Port Townsend Bay as the crow flies, is an 18-mile drive back. From this vantage point, on a high bluff overlooking Puget Sound, there are sweeping views of both the Olympic and Cascade mountains.
See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.

Restaurants
Our favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.
By Greg Weekes
At Olympic National Park, you'll likely spend lots of time drinking in the stupendous views—eating won't be a high priority. Most of the Olympic Peninsula consists of unspoiled wilderness, and scattered towns and hamlets are spread out along US 101, the park's main roadway. Whether you're enjoying the scenery from the comfort of your car or taking advantage of Olympic's myriad opportunities for hiking and other outdoor activities, dining is more a matter of sustenance than special occasion. Some apples and cheese from the grocery store, granola or protein bars for energy and a supply of water, and you're good to go.
That's not to say you can't experience a memorable meal. But heed two words of advice when mapping out your park itinerary: Plan ahead. Full-service restaurants are limited, and dinner reservations should be made well in advance, as these small establishments fill up quickly during the busy summer season (roughly June through August). And as anyone can tell by looking at a map, it's a healthy drive from one dining option to the next.
Four restaurants in particular are essential dining destinations, even though not all are technically within park boundaries. These establishments don't just offer fine food—each is housed in a building associated with the park's history and boasts a jewel of a scenic setting to boot.
Creekside Dining Room at the Kalaloch Lodge —the only year-round park lodging available—looks out onto the crashing ocean and a driftwood-strewn beach. The dining room is long and fairly narrow, so most of the tables provide a view of the protected coastline, but of course the window seats are best. Although you can order a burger, broiled chicken breast, microbrew-marinated steak or a yummy wild mushroom strudel, the menu focuses on seafood: cedar-planked salmon, Dungeness crab cakes, sesame-seared Alaskan halibut, a sauté of scallops and tiger prawns. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but evening—when the sun slowly drops into the Pacific and seems to set it on fire—is the time to be here.
Lake Crescent is one of the park's most photogenic spots, making the dining room in the historic Lake Crescent Lodge a wonderful place for a splurge. Arrive early for a quiet cocktail while ensconced in a comfy Adirondack chair at the water's edge, or sit on the glassed-in porch for weather protection with a view. Given the rustic backdrop, you may be surprised to find a menu befitting one of Seattle's finer restaurants. Sustainable seafood and organic products are featured in such dishes as wild troll-caught salmon, pan-fried Quilcene oysters, Oregon rack of lamb and ahi tuna with plum wasabi sauce. For dessert, homemade éclairs topped with luscious fresh berries or a sticky toffee pudding cake drizzled with warm caramel syrup are big enough to share (but you won't want to). Twilight on the lake is breathtaking, so be sure to request a table close to the windows when making dinner reservations. This seasonal restaurant is closed from late October to early May.
Another lovely lake provides a backdrop for The Roosevelt Dining Room. The glass-lined restaurant at the Lake Quinault Lodge brings the beauty of lush green lawns, tall pines and a glimmering lake indoors. The dining room is open year-round, so the seasons offer a constantly changing panorama. Lunch is casual: deli, French dip and Monte Cristo sandwiches, soups and salads. Dinner is more of an adventure, with the likes of duck tostadas, pesto-seared Alaskan halibut, London broil and the house specialty, cedar-planked salmon for two—plus a selection of microbrew beers. While you're relaxing in front of the river-rock fireplace or strolling along the lakeshore, give thanks to Franklin D. Roosevelt. After a fact-finding trip to the lodge in 1937, the president signed a bill creating Olympic National Park.
Forested peaks surround the resort at Sol Duc Hot Springs, celebrated for its pure mineral pools. The Springs Restaurant at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort serves breakfast and dinner (or you can grab lunch at the resort's Poolside Deli). The large, sun-filled dining room sits right at the edge of the pools, so you have the option of watching bathers “take the waters” or admiring the mountain vistas. Begin the morning with an omelet, fresh fruit or pancakes hot off the griddle. The beef, poultry and seafood entrees at dinner are all dependable, accompanied by such side dishes as stuffed acorn squash. Note: Both restaurant and resort guests must pay the $20 park admittance fee at the entrance booth.
The largest town on the Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles, is the unofficial gateway to Olympic National Park. Several of the city's restaurants are good bets after a day spent hiking or sightseeing, and the downtown waterfront area is perfect for a window-shopping stroll after a meal. Here are five of our favorites:
The look is bellissimo at Bella Italia, with big glass windows revealing an interior softly lit and vibrant with rich colors. Start with steamed mussels or clams or a robust minestrone before moving on to homey favorites like chicken or veal parmigiana and smoked salmon fettuccine. We think the mushroom ravioli lives up to the hype, and the exemplary wine list is particularly strong in Washington and Oregon reds. The restaurant also has fun with its connection to the enormously popular “Twilight” films (for the uninitiated, Edward and Bella ate here). Expect to see lots of diehard fans reliving the moment.
The dishes at Michael's Seafood & Steakhouse have both a Northwest focus and Mediterranean influences. The downstairs dining room is warm and cozy. Appetizers like hummus and baba ghanoush or baked brie with walnuts and a brown sugar rum sauce are meant for sharing. You can get pizza or a steak, but since the restaurant supports local fishermen and organic farmers, go for the Northwest-style seafood stew or paella, and don't pass up the mac and cheese. Desserts range from light (boysenberry sorbet) to decadent (orange creamsicle cheesecake).
The homey dining room at Cafe Garden looks out on old-fashioned flowerbeds and stands of stately conifers. Local seafood specialties like Copper River salmon preside at dinner, but try the restaurant for breakfast, when the garden setting perfectly complements French toast, eggs Benedict, thick-cut bacon and waffles topped with fresh fruit and toasted almonds.
Port Townsend, a favorite weekend destination for Seattle residents, has all sorts of intriguing restaurants. If you're planning a trip to the park, include a stop in this artsy seaside town. Many eateries and local hangouts are on Water Street, which runs along Port Townsend Bay. The Belmont dates from 1885 and is the waterfront's only surviving historic structure. Begin your meal with a comforting bowl of creamy Northwest-style clam chowder. Main dishes include entree salads, pastas, chicken, steak, pork tenderloin and rack of lamb. You can't go wrong with seafood, however, and The Belmont's Marrowstone oysters, seafood fettucine or Dover sole stuffed with Dungeness crab are all satisfying.
Fountain Cafe is housed in a funky little clapboard building with about a dozen tables, a block from the waterfront on Washington Street. Local artwork and eclectic furnishings give this place an artsy vibe. Lunch offers a variety of freshly made sandwiches, salads and soups; the dinner menu changes seasonally and always includes several vegetarian choices. Instead of salt, the Fountain's clam chowder is redolent with fresh oregano. Aglio e olio—pasta with roasted garlic, olive oil and tomatoes—is simple but absolutely yummy, and chicken marsala has a sauce that incorporates cranberries as well as mushrooms. Many of the excellent wines are available by the glass.
Another casual spot with great food is The Silverwater Cafe. Potted plants, artwork and soothing New Age music all contribute to a laid-back setting that makes you want to linger. Appetizers are meant for sharing; try the wild mushroom strudel or the Mt. Townsend cheese plate, a selection of local Mt. Townsend Creamery cheeses served with amaretto cherries and spiced nuts. The Coho salmon fillet braised in white wine is outstanding. There are more substantial items, too, such as grilled New York pepper steak topped with a green peppercorn mushroom cream sauce. For dessert have a slice of slightly tart blackberry pie complete with a lattice crust.
See all the AAA Diamond Rated restaurants for this destination.
daveynin / flickr

Wet and Wild
By Greg Weekes
There’s no denying the rugged majesty of the Olympic Mountains, but perhaps the most primeval of Olympic National Park’s varied wilderness areas are the temperate rain forests of the Hoh, Queets and Quinault river valleys. Here time stands still—these forests look essentially the same as they did 5,000 years ago—even though the components of mountain, river, forest and ocean form a dynamically functioning and intricately interdependent ecosystem.
Rainfall, of course, makes a rain forest possible, and moisture-filled Pacific weather systems dump more than 140 inches of precipitation annually on the west-facing valleys of the Olympics. The other weather-related factor supporting a true rain forest is uniformity. In addition to fostering damp, humid conditions, the mountains to the east protect the Olympic Peninsula’s coastal areas from severe weather extremes: The temperature seldom falls below freezing or rises above 80 degrees.
The result is a riot of vegetation, although not the sort one associates with the equatorial rain forest of, say, the Amazon basin. The old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest exist in a narrow coastal strip extending from southern Alaska to northwestern California. Time passes very slowly in this ecosystem. Trees, therefore, live for centuries and grow to enormous sizes. In fact, the biomass—the total weight of all living organisms—of North America’s temperate rain forests exceeds that of their tropical equivalents.
Olympic National Park’s rain forests are dominated by two conifers, Sitka spruce and western hemlock. The world’s largest variety of spruce has a tall, straight trunk and a broad crown of horizontal branches covered with sharp-pointed, dark green needles. Western hemlock is one of the most frequently seen trees in the park; it favors flat areas and low slopes where the soil is moist. The coniferous mix also includes Douglas fir and western red cedar. A common rain forest deciduous tree is the bigleaf maple, known for its large leaves (6 to 10 inches long) and blazing yellow fall color. In contrast, the vine maple is a short, shrubby tree with twisting branches. A common under-story plant, its leaves turn bright orange or red in the fall.
The damp, humid environment also nurtures a rich growth of epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants without deriving nutrition from them) and saprophytes (plants lacking in chlorophyll that live on dead organic matter). The variety of mosses, lichens, liverworts, ferns, mushrooms and ground covers is amazing. This untouched wilderness has the look of an impeccably manicured park—as if Mother Nature had artfully placed each fern, mossy tree trunk and lichen-covered branch for maximum visual impact.
Mark Smith / flickr
Amid the dense masses of greenery, grazing Roosevelt elk create open, parklike areas. Olympic National Park’s largest land mammals—a full-grown bull elk can weigh 1,000 pounds—are year-round forest dwellers that mate in the fall. During rutting season the valleys resound with bellows as males challenge each other for control of harem females.
Plants face their own challenges. Because of the fierce competition for space, many seedlings germinate in the crevices of fallen or decaying trees, sending their roots down to the ground as they grow. Eventually the “nurse logs” rot away, leaving behind a row of healthy young trees. Fallen trees get swept into rivers, creating pools for salmon. The salmon in turn provide food for other animals. Constant scavenging helps keep the exuberant plant life in check. And on and on it goes in the rain forest's never-ending life cycle.

General Information
Though the park is open all year, parts of the high country are usually closed by snow from early fall until July. The streams of the Olympic Mountains offer fine fishing; salmon fishing is excellent in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the ocean. No license is required for fishing within the park boundaries, but steelhead trout and salmon punch cards are required in season; check with the visitor center regarding park fishing regulations. Sol Duc Hot Springs is in the Sol Duc Valley, 12 miles southeast of US 101.
A number of self-guiding nature trails have been developed throughout the park. Rangers/naturalists give interpretive talks late June through Labor Day; check with the visitor centers for schedules. Visitor centers are open all year at Port Angeles and the Hoh Rain Forest. The Kalaloch center is open daily late May-late September. The Storm King (Lake Crescent) ranger station is open mid-June to mid-September; phone for schedule. The Hurricane Ridge Center is open daily, mid-June to mid-September, and also the rest of the year when Hurricane Ridge Road is open. Road conditions prohibit the passage of trailers in some areas of the park.

ADMISSION
ADMISSION is $25 per vehicle, good for up to 7 consecutive days anywhere in the park. An entrance fee of $20 is charged for those arriving on motorcycle and $10 for those on foot or bicycle, except in winter. An Olympic Park Annual Pass costs $50. Camping fees range $15-$22. A permit fee of $8 per person per night is charged to camp overnight in the park's back-country wilderness; an annual wilderness pass is $45 per person.

PETS
PETS are permitted in developed areas only. Pets must be leashed and may not be left unattended or tied to a stationary object. Leashed pets are permitted only during daylight hours on beaches from Rialto Beach north to Ellen Creek and the beaches between the Hoh and Quinault Indian reservations.

ADDRESS
ADDRESS inquiries to the Park Superintendent's Office, Olympic National Park, 600 E. Park Ave., Port Angeles, WA 98362; phone (360) 565-3130, or (360) 565-3131 for recorded information.
Frank Kovalchek / flickr

Recreation
Biking, swimming, backpacking, fishing, hiking—whatever your interest, make sure you experience these recreational highlights, as chosen by AAA editors.
By Greg Weekes
Nickay3111 / flickr
What should you do at Olympic National Park? When in doubt, hike. The park’s most rewarding outdoor activity offers a rich variety of wilderness environments and enough magnificent scenery to provide a lifetime’s worth of memories. Following are some favorites; if you’re interested in a particular hike, stop at a visitor center or ranger station to pick up maps and trail guides or speak to a ranger for details.
Marymere Falls makes for a doable and rewarding hike (1.8 miles round trip). The trailhead begins at the Storm King ranger station parking lot on the south shore of Lake Crescent , just off US 101. The well-marked trail leads through a majestic old-growth forest of towering Douglas firs and mossy western hemlocks. The luxuriant vegetation creates a cathedral-like serenity. The trail becomes fairly steep close to the falls as it ascends a series of steps, but there are wooden handrails to hold onto and stumps where you can pause and catch your breath. The payoff for this exertion is an up-close view of a lovely 90-foot waterfall cascading down the side of a rocky cliff.
The Moments in Time Nature Trail can be reached from the same ranger station parking lot. This half-mile loop winds through the woods and offers frequent views of Lake Crescent. Best of all, there’s no elevation gain.
Hurricane Ridge is about as close as most folks get to the park’s untamed and largely inaccessible interior. Several hiking trails begin at the visitor center on Hurricane Ridge Road. Big Meadow and Cirque Rim are short paved trails crossing open sub-alpine meadows. You’ll frequently see deer grazing on the summer foliage, and wildflowers wash these emerald meadows in color during the early summer.
For really stupendous views, hike the paved High Ridge Trail to a dirt trail leading to Sunrise Point. The dirt portion is short (three-tenths of a mile) but steep; however, the 270-degree panorama is absolutely stunning even when visibility is less than ideal. Paved Hurricane Hill Trail, which begins at the end of Hurricane Ridge Road, is longer (3.2 miles round trip), ascending to 5,757 feet with a vista taking in mountains to the south and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north.
Note: Unless you want to go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, summer is the best time to visit Hurricane Ridge. Port Angeles (less than 20 miles to the north) remains green year-round, but winter comes early to the ridge, with cold wind-driven rain beginning in October and snow lasting well into April.
The Quinault Valley is a spectacularly scenic area of lush rain forests and monster trees. Various hiking trails branch off North Shore and South Shore roads along Lake Quinault . The Rain Forest Nature Trail, a half-mile loop with interpretive signs along the way, is a delightful stroll. There’s more woodsy grandeur along the Falls Creek Loop, which passes waterfalls and streams. If you crave solitude hike the Trail of the Giants and marvel at the size of the Douglas firs. The Lakeshore Trail follows the south shore for a meandering mile.
The Quinault Big Cedar Trail begins at the Lake Quinault Resort on North Shore Road. A procession of stairs and boardwalks leads to an enormous western red cedar with a hollow trunk. The Maple Glade Trail, beginning at the Quinault River ranger station on North Shore Road, is a half-mile loop winding through a forest of bigleaf maples dripping with moss. Mushrooms sprout from the forest floor in the fall.
The Hoh Rain Forest is another scenic highlight. The Hall of Mosses Trail and the Spruce Nature Trail both begin a short distance from the rain forest visitor center. These easy loop hikes take you into a realm of surreal beauty—dense stands of lofty trees and a plethora of plant species nurtured by mild winters, cool summers and up to 140 inches of precipitation annually. You might even spot an elusive elk or deer.
Although not technically within Olympic National Park, Mount Walker Viewpoint has great wilderness views. The signed turnoff (Forest Road 2730) is 5 miles south of Quilcene on US 101. You can either drive to the summit (an 8-mile round trip) or hike the Mount Walker Trail (a 4-mile round trip); the trailhead is about a quarter of a mile from the US 101 turnoff. This strenuous hike gains 2,000 feet in elevation.
Mount Walker is cloaked with a dense growth of century-old Douglas firs that arose in the aftermath of a fire. Growing beneath the conifer canopy are huckleberry, Oregon grape, vine maple and salal, a member of the heath family. This hardy shrub has glossy green leaves and purple berries. Pacific rhododendrons make the biggest splash, however; these native “rhodies” are ablaze with large pink flowers in May and June.
There are two viewpoints atop Mount Walker: the North Viewpoint (which you reach first if you’re hiking) and the South Viewpoint (reached first by car). From the North Viewpoint there is an unobstructed view of the spectacular rock faces of 7,743-foot Mount Constance, the third-highest peak in the Olympic range. You’ll also see Quilcene Bay, a sheltered arm of Hood Canal—itself an arm of Puget Sound gouged thousands of years ago by glaciers. The South Viewpoint offers a panoramic vista of Olympic peaks, Hood Canal and—on clear days—the Seattle skyline and distant Mount Rainier.
Note: The trail can be hiked all year; the road is closed during the winter. The gravel road is steep and narrow and has a couple of turnouts; drive with caution.
While the park’s mountain hikes are uniformly exhilarating, beach hiking has a mystique all its own. Kalaloch and Ruby Beaches are two of the most accessible; from parking lots along US 101 it’s a short walk to either beach (the trek from Ruby Beach back to US 101 is slightly uphill). At Kalaloch Beach, site of popular Kalaloch Lodge , you can observe all sorts of marine creatures that inhabit the shoreline tide pools. The offshore waters, part of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, encompass subtidal reefs, rocky intertidal zones and beds of waving kelp. The rocks poking above the surface provide gathering places for seabirds such as common murres and tufted puffins. The Kalaloch Nature Trail is an easy 1-mile loop hike through coastal forest.
Ruby Beach has a wilder look. Waves crash against sea stacks, columns of rock broken away from the headlands by the ocean’s constant assault. Fog frequently shrouds the driftwood-littered beach, but on clear days (most likely during the summer months) the sunsets are spectacular. Large swells can break unexpectedly, and the water is very cold; be vigilant when walking along the beach.
Somewhat more isolated, but still easy to get to, is Rialto Beach. From the town of Forks , take US 101 north about 1.5 miles to the SR 110 turnoff. Take SR 110 west to Mora Road (about 8 miles), following signs to the beach. This narrow paved road follows the Quillayute River before tunneling through a forest of tall conifers, emerging from the dense canopy at the Pacific coast. Piles of sun-bleached driftwood lie in twisted heaps, with huge logs at the extreme high tide line. Rialto Beach also is notable for sea stacks; the rock pinnacles—often with stunted trees growing from their tops—rise 50 feet or more above the water. Low tide reveals a wide swath of sand punctuated by rocks covered with starfish, anemones and barnacles.
Hardy souls desiring a really out-of-the-way beach hike should head for Cape Alava, the westernmost point in Washington (and the continental United States). From US 101 at Sappho, take state roads 113 and 112 north to the small fishing town of Clallam Bay. From Clallam Bay SR 112 heads west along the Strait of Juan de Fuca shoreline (Vancouver Island lies some 15 miles across the strait). Turn left at Hoko-Ozette Road and follow it southwest for about 21 miles to Ozette Lake, the third-largest natural lake in Washington.
The road ends at the little community of Ozette, where you can pick up hiking information at the ranger station. From the ranger station hike the Cape Alava Trail, a 3.3-mile wooden boardwalk ending at a hillside where you can clamber down to the beach. Explore the coastline tide pools and rocks and then head back the way you came, or continue hiking south along the beach to Sand Point. From here, a boardwalk trail leads back to the Ozette ranger station. The round trip is a formidable 9 miles, but the beaches are magnificently desolate and the fascinating hike passes through swampy meadows, fern-covered little valleys and dark, brooding rain forest.
Wear sturdy hiking shoes; the boardwalks can be slippery. Walking on the beach is easiest at low tide, when it’s wider and you don’t have to take the overland routes necessary at high tide. Bring food and water, as there are no facilities.
The weather anywhere in Olympic National Park can be changeable, even on short hikes and during the summer months; if possible carry food, water, a couple of layers of clothing and a raincoat. Bring out everything you bring in (including leftover food and garbage). Help preserve the wilderness by staying on trails to avoid trampling vegetation. If hiking along the coast pick up a tide chart at a park ranger station or visitor center, as high tide can come in quickly.
The park's single visit entrance fee (good for up to 7 consecutive days) is $20 per private vehicle, $10 per motorcycle, $7 per person entering on foot or bicycle. An annual pass costs $40. At most trailhead parking areas, a National Park Service Federal Recreation Pass or NW Forest Day or Annual Pass (available at U.S. Forest Service offices) must be displayed in each vehicle.
If you relish the idea of camping in the midst of unspoiled wilderness, the park offers plenty of opportunities. Kalaloch on US 101 at Kalaloch Beach is a stone’s throw from the Pacific. At Hoh and Sol Duc you can hike along trails through the rain forest. Elwha Dam RV Park is convenient to Port Angeles. In addition to RV hookups, Log Cabin Resort has chalets and rustic cabins, with a lakeside location taking full advantage of Lake Crescent’s scenic charms.
Most park campgrounds are open all year, although winter facilities may be limited. Hiking, fishing and beachcombing are the main activities.
Olympic is one national park where you don’t have to be out in nature to enjoy it—scenic drives abound for those who would rather admire the view from a car window. The 36-mile stretch of US 101 between Sappho and Elwha, a AAA Scenic Byway, runs along the park’s northern boundary, revealing a glorious vista with each twist and turn. Big conifers rise up almost from the roadside, and the cloak of green contrasts beautifully with deep blue lakes. US 101 runs along the southern shore of Lake Crescent; East Beach Road branches off US 101, following the lake’s northern shore for several additional miles of lovely views.
Another AAA Scenic Byway, the Hoh River Road, branches off US 101 on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula and heads east into the Hoh Rain Forest. Although you’ll have to backtrack to 101 once you reach the visitor center, it’s well worth taking this drive to see the lush forest setting. For more rain forest scenery take the Quinault Loop Drive (North Shore and South Shore roads), a 31-mile round trip encircling Lake Quinault, and head up the Quinault River Valley before doubling back. Allow 2 hours minimum to complete the loop, or more if you stop to view a waterfall or take a walk (and you will).
Along the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula US 101 is outside of the park proper, but you’d never know it as the highway negotiates looming mountain ridges blanketed with trees. The stretch of 101 from the junction with SR 20 south to Hoodsport is a delightful drive of alternating mountain, forest and water views—the road runs right next to Hood Canal most of the way.
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