Road trip season is upon us!
With the Pacific Northwest seeing *maybe* 3 months of reliable sunshine every year, we’re not surprised that camping, beach trips, and hikes have taken over our Instagram feed. Scrolling through Instagram, I see a lot of people exploring around the Olympic Peninsula! That makes us so happy because it’s one of our favorite National Parks.
So…we wanted to create an itinerary that lets you see everything.
Side Note: If you like exploring national parks and haven’t bought the America The Beautiful pass yet, we highly suggest that you do. Not only does it grant free admission to national parks, but it also works in National Forests, Seashores, and any Federal Recreation site. ALL of the proceeds go immediately back to preserving our forests! Berty and I bought one for our Pacific Coast road trip and we’ve already saved loads of money. Click here to get yours!
Now, back to road trips…
In This Post You Will Learn:
- The best route to see the Olympic Peninsula highlights
- Camping suggestions
- Insider scoop on hikes and activities in the area
- All-inclusive free camping checklist
The Ultimate Olympic Peninsula Road Trip
In order to get the most out of this loop, we suggest two days at least, a weekend is ideal. There is so much to see and explore – a weekend like this will only be covering the highlights!
Estimated time: 17 hours
Estimated Cost of Gas: $75.oo (+ Ferry ride $14.20)
Miles To Drive: 694 miles
Starting Point: Seattle Headed South
Before you leave, make sure you have everything you need for a road trip. This includes a full tank of gas, food, shelter, and road trip entertainment for the long journey ahead! We suggest heading out early to avoid Seattle traffic. It usually gets pretty heavy starting at 7:00am.
Read More: 30 Things You Need To Pack For A Road Trip
Stop 1: Olympia Coffee Roasters
Get your coffee to-go or soak in the cool, urban ambiance of Olympia Coffee Roasters. Originally a wholesale coffee roaster, they are now a thriving coffee shop focusing on innovative as well as original drinks. They have won countless awards for their delicious coffee and talented baristas. Hop in and grab a bag of fresh beans on your way!
Read More: How To Prepare Coffee On The Road
Stop 2: Vance Creek Bridge
A few years ago you were able to get onto Vance Creek Bridge and explore it by foot, but recent developments have deemed this feat extremely difficult, dangerous, and illegal. This bridge is on private property, but since determined foot traffic comes anyways, they took extra efforts to keep people off once and for all. Some wood panels have been removed to prevent people from climbing on the structure. We still recommend going to see it! But please don’t try to climb on the bridge itself.
Stop 3: Lake Cushman
This peaceful lake has “classic summer day” written all over it. If you care for a swim, stop at Skokomish Park Beach to get access to the water. You can find more information here on The Outdoor Project.
Read More: The Essential 2017 PNW Bucket List
Stop 4: Lake Quinault Ranger Station
If you are looking to camp on a Washington state beach, you MUST stop by this ranger station. There are two stations on either side of the lake, and it’s very important to know the difference between them. The Ranger Station on the north side of the lake (20 min. drive east of 101) is called The Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station. Don’t go here. We made this mistake and it was closed – no hours posted. You are NOT allowed to drop off bear cans here, either.
Instead, go to the Pacific Ranger Station – Quinault District, south of the lake. Here, you can be issued a wilderness pass to camp in the Olympic NP, and pick up a free (and required) bear can to store your food. Also note that it is only open until 4pm. Get your permits before it closes!
Stop 4: Ruby Beach
This beach is a short walk from the parking lot. Here, you will find towering rock formations, huge driftwood to climb, and tons of nooks and crannies to enjoy a picnic on the beach. Come during low tide to get access to most of this beach and get a closer look at the rocks!
Stop 5: La Push Beaches
This is where we suggest you stop and camp (with a pass! 😉 ). There are three beaches – respectively called First, Second, and Third Beach. Before bringing our camping stuff over to Second Beach, we parked and had dinner at First Beach. We wanted to bring minimal food and garbage, but that’s really up to you to pack it or not. We only stayed for one night.
The iconic Second Beach requires a 15-20 minute hike from the parking lot, but the views are worth every step.
Stop 6: Rialto Beach
Yet another gorgeous beach to explore on your way up the coast. This one is particularly beautiful and moody. If you feel a little adventurous, hike Hole-In-The-Wall trail (4 miles round trip) to a natural tunnel-like formation. From here, you get a fantastic perspective of the beach! Just make sure to go during low tide for the most access.
Stop 7: Back To Hoh Rain Forest (Lots of Camping)
This moss-covered forest has access to tons of backpacking trails, as well as a short 1 mile loop for gorgeous scenery. Here, you can hike, picnic, and learn more about the area. And just a quick google search provided tons of camping suggestions!
Stop 8: Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery is THE most northwest corner of the contiguous U.S. So basically you can’t get any more Pacific Northwest than this. 😉 Here, you can walk on several boardwalks, all with stunning vistas. We suggest bringing lunch or packing a picnic to spend the afternoon watching the waves crash against the shore and rocks.
See More: Our Most Recent Trip To Cape Flattery
Stop 9: Sol Duc Falls
Hike 2 miles round trip to a beautiful and extremely powerful falls in the middle of the Olympic National Park. Nearby is the Sol Duc Falls Resort, which has its own natural hot springs turned into regulated (and clean) pools if this is something you’re interested in. There is camping here too!
Read More: 8 Reasons Why You Should Travel With Friends
Stop 10: Lake Crescent + Mt. Storm King
The most beautiful and iconic stop, in our opinion. If you’re lucky, the water will be still and make a gorgeous reflection of the nearby mountains and sky. You can access the water via the Storm King Ranger Station boat launch, or on the opposite side of the lake at Fairholme.
We haven’t hiked Storm King yet, but we know that it’s a very challenging hike, with parts where you have to get on your hands and knees to scramble up a very steep section.
Stop 11: Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge is a 40 minute drive from Highway 101, going south into the park. Here is a great stop for sunrise or sunset. Either one will give you spectacular views of the sky and clouds that surround the area! We like to come up here to take shots of the valley below – the dense forest on the ridge is unlike anything else.
Stop 12: Olympic Game Farm
If you haven’t seen any wildlife in the actual wild yet, stop by Olympic Game Farm to see them up close! This is a drive-thru park, meaning you aren’t allowed to leave your car but the animals can get right up to your windows. You are allowed to feed the animals whole wheat bread only. You can bring your own, or they have loaves for purchase there. This was a fun, light-hearted stop! There is a resident bear here, trained to wave – give it a try!
Important Note: Hours: 9am – 6pm. 7 Days a week.
Final Stop: Ferry Ride Back To Seattle!
The most convenient ride is from Kingston to Edmonds, but you can also catch the Bremerton Ferry which delivers you directly to downtown Seattle. Check the ferry times at this link. If you choose to take the downtown Seattle ferry, make sure to go out on the deck to get gorgeous shots of Seattle as you come in!
Have you ever taken an Olympic Peninsula Road Trip? What was your favorite stop? Did we miss any must-see locations? Tell us in the comments below!
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