You can find the Travel Vlog of my Road Trip on YouTube!
August 13-14, 2019
PNW Hiking: Olympic National Park
To hear about an adventure consisting of: my usual hiking buddy (aka one of my best friends, Lauren), 2 hikes in one day (9 miles, 3700 ft elevation gain), the Olympic Mountains, Twilight fandom, pacific northwest beaches, and the tree of life -- keep on reading!
Lauren and I decided to spend two days exploring the Olympic National Park. This would be National Park #2 that we visited out of the 3 NPs located in Washington, and my 10th National Park visited this year.
Lauren and I both have made it over to the Olympic Peninsula a time or two throughout our lives (given that we both grew up in Washington), but neither of us have hiked within the National Park. In addition, I had a couple book a photoshoot with me at Ruby Beach, so we decided to make the most out of the road trip to the coast and hike 2 trails on Day 1, and explore the sandy beaches on Day 2!
With coffee in hand and breakfast consumed, Lauren and I made the short road trip over to the Olympic Peninsula. From our homes, it was about a 3-hour drive -- and a beautiful drive too. We drove over the Narrows Bridge and took in the views of all the evergreen trees that lined the highways. After many songs and conversations later, we started to catch glimpses of the Pacific Ocean throughout our journey and before we knew it, we had arrived at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center.
We obtained our souvenirs, maps/guides, and refilled our water bottles before driving through the tunnels that led us to our first hiking location. Originally, Lauren and I both wanted to hike the very popular, Hurricane Hill via Hurricane Ridge Trail. This 3.1 mile out and back hike is typically heavily trafficked due to its popularity, with an elevation of only 797 ft. On a clear day, this paved trail reveals a panoramic view of the Olympic Range, Puget Sound, and even Vancouver Island.
Unfortunately, we were unable to make the trek to Hurricane Hill this time around due to a trail maintenance project that was occuring at the time we were there. We did some research to find a hike in its replacement and decided on hiking the Klahhane Ridge Trail.
With our backpacks packed and ready to go, Lauren and I parked off the side of the road by the Switchback Trail trailhead to begin our climb up to Klahhane Ridge. There are other routes that hikers can take to get up to the ridge, but the route we decided on was known to be the most direct (although steeper). The 5.0 mile out and back hike had an elevation gain of 1700 ft. Additionally, the highest point was 6050 ft, so you can imagine how much our lungs needed to adjust to the elevation gain of 1,500 ft. in 1.5 miles.
Nevertheless, we persevered onward. We climbed up the side of the mountain with wildflowers (e.g. Indian paintbrush, lupine, glacier lilies) and marmot burrows sprinkled around us. Although we saw plenty of chipmunks and even a soaring bald eagle, we were sadly unable to spot an Olympic marmot (maybe next time!).
Something I enjoyed about this hike in particular was the periodic shade that the trees were able to provide in certain parts of the switchbacks. They acted as great breaks from the exposed sun throughout most of the trail. You couldn’t find Lauren nor I complaining about the sunshine, however. The Olympics is known for its foggy, wet weather, so we were extremely grateful for the dry/clear day!
When we reached about 700 ft, we made a right at the sign leading us to Klahhane Ridge (a left would’ve led us to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center). We exchanged stories with fellow hikers also making the trek up the mountain, which made the time pass even quicker.
Once we arrived at Klahhane Ridge, we snapped our photos of the mountains surrounding us as well as the Strait of Juan de Fuca, ate the turkey and cheese sandwiches that we had brought for lunch, and decided to pass on the very tempting Lake Angeles Trail that we considered hiking too (a trail that is accessible from Klahhane Ridge but proceeded a little further). We thought it would be better to save our energy for the sunset hike we had planned later that day - Mount Storm King.
After hiking down to the parking lot, we made a quick stop at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center before heading back to Port Angeles for dinner at Gordy’s Pizza. With energies replenished, we hurried over to the Storm King Ranger Station found along Lake Crescent to start our second hike of the day.
Mount Storm King is also known to be a popular hike, but is a bit steeper than the Klahhane Ridge Trail that we hiked earlier in the day. As a 4.0 mile out and back trail, with an elevation gain of 2065 ft. (highest point: 2600 ft), you can only imagine how exhausted our bodies were as we trekked up the mountain. The trail started off flat along the Marymere Falls trail for about 0.5 miles, and once we reached the massive bolder on our left, we arrived at the trailhead for Mount Storm King.
With the sunset quickly approaching, we were motivated to keep moving despite the mosquitoes and humidity trying to tell us to turn around. Our minds were eased once we found another couple hiking up for sunset, and a family that passed us on their way down ensured us that the hike was worth the effort despite the unusual humidity that evening. Humidity was better than rain since the summit was known to be dangerous in bad weather, so we kept climbing.
At around 1.3 miles, we stumbled to the end of the maintained trail. Our mental states were seriously battling our fatigued muscles and we debated about whether we should continue with the sun setting so soon. Thankfully, we decided to put mind over matter, and used the ropes placed by hikers to guide us to the very top of Mount Storm King.
In all honesty, the ropes were a bit terrifying when it seemed like you were the only ones on the mountain so we took extra caution as we climbed our way up. Our courage was extremely rewarded with a STUNNING sunset waiting for us once we climbed to the very top. We enjoyed the sunset as it started to hide behind the mountains. At this point, I forgot how tired I was and the view made it 1000% worth the sore muscles the next day.
We didn’t want to hike in the dark for too long, so after taking a moment, we started the trek down the ropes and down the trail back to the parking lot. On the way to our hotel in Port Angeles, we decided to reward ourselves with smoothies from McDonald’s and called it a night.
Lauren and I love a good complimentary breakfast, so we woke up in time to grab some food before we hit the road once again. The agenda for Day 2 consisted of a photoshoot at Ruby Beach and a couple detours along the way. After filling up the gas tank and grabbing some snacks (the typical gummy worms… lol), we made our way to Ruby Beach.
About an hour away from Port Angeles, we emerged into Forks, WA. If you didn’t know, Forks, WA is known for their vampire population… The Twilight Saga was written to take place in Forks, WA and the Twilight Fandom has spiked the town’s tourism since the books and movies became popular. Lauren and I aren’t the biggest Twilight fans but know of the books and movies. I read them back in middle school, and Lauren has seen parts of the first movie, so we tried our best to be fans.
We only had time for one stop at Forks, WA. We decided to check out the Forks Visitor Center where Bella Swan’s truck could be found. I’m assuming it was the truck they used in the Twilight movies. While at the Visitor Center, we briefly spoke with the staff member at the information desk who informed us on cool facts about the Hoh Rain Forest. Since we were crunched on time, we decided to save the Hoh Rain Forest for another day, but she did recommend a short detour to Kalaloch to see the Tree of Life, which peaked our curiosity. We decided to make it our last stop before heading back home for the day.
We made it to Ruby Beach a little early to scope out some photoshoot spots away from the crowded entrance. Just in time too -- because we were able to soak up some sunshine while we walked along the beach. The sunshine didn’t stay long though and about 15 minutes later, the fog rolled in to coat the sandy coast. It made for some epic photo opportunities though!
By the time it was an hour or two past noon, we decided to maneuver our way through the fog to Kalaloch. A short 10-minute drive led us to the white gazebo that the woman from the visitor center spoke of. We made our way down the stairs to the sandy beach, where we had to cross a fallen tree to pass through the streams of ocean trickling into the sand to keep our toes dry. About a 15-20 minute walk later, we arrived at what was called the Tree of Life.
We found it fascinating that although its roots have become exposed due to years of erosion, the Sitka spruce tree continues to stand tall and alive. The soil that was once its life supply has been eroded to the point where people find it difficult to explain how the tree stays alive, and how it remains standing tall even when storms arise near the coast.
We intended to arrive at the Olympic National Park to wander, and left wondering too.
Annnd that's a wrap!
Another one checked off the list! We weren’t sure if we were going to fit all 3 of the National Parks in Washington this summer, but it’s likely now that we will! Next up are the North Cascades!
Olympic National Park stood out to me in particular because it’s known to pretty much be three “parks”/climates in one -- the pacific coast beaches, the rain forest, and the mountains. After spending two days in all its beauty, our experience was really only a taste of what it has to offer its visitors. Feeling extremely blessed to have been able to experience such a beautiful place within my own state! Can’t wait to visit again soon!
Cheers to mountain time!