With the town of Forks as your West Side basecamp, experience unique small towns and communities while learning about centuries-old Native American traditions and culture. Marvel at dramatic waterfalls and a glacier-fed lake or soak in soothing hot springs. Traverse a lush rain forest, beach or wilderness trail. Or follow in the tracks of your favorite Twilight character. Keep reading to learn about five day trips on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula.
Day 1: HOH RAIN FOREST AND KALALOCH BEACHES
Hoh Rain Forest
The Hoh Rain Forest sits atop the list of must-dos on the Olympic Peninsula. One of only a handful of protected temperate rain forests in the Northern Hemisphere, this misty, moisture-laden area sees an average of 140 inches of annual rainfall.
Stop at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center for information. Outside the door, there are three easy loop trails worth exploring. The Hall of Mosses Trail (.8 miles), the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles) and a paved, quarter-mile nature path easily accommodating wheelchairs and strollers.
As you travel 15 miles west, you’ll find yourself on the scenic Pacific Ocean coast. Easy access is available in the Kalaloch (pronounced clay-lock) area along Highway 101. Pebble-strewn Beach Trail 4 offers dramatic surf and brimming tidepools at low tide. Check tides before you go.
Don’t miss Ruby Beach, aptly named for its ruby-like rocks in the beach sand. Wander among sea stacks and driftwood logs then imagine the long-ago gold mining operation that stood on this spot in the early 1900s.
Day 2: AROUND FORKS AND LA PUSH
The rural timber community of Forks offers restaurants, lodging and a variety of services. Make your first stop the Forks Visitor Information Center and the Forks Timber Museum, located right next door.
West of Forks, visit Rialto Beach. At low tide, follow the beach a mile and a half to Hole-in-the-Wall, a rock arch carved out by the surf. The ocean views, pounding waves, sea stacks and driftwood will leave you breathless.
Visit La Push, home to the Quileute tribe. This hospitable community offers lodging, restaurants, a marina, fishing charters and three outstanding beaches.
Day 3: EXPLORE THE NORTHWEST COAST
Follow Washington SR-112, the Strait of Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway, and take in jaw-dropping views of the Strait and Canada’s Vancouver Island. This dramatic stretch of highway is a birder’s paradise with the Great Washington State Birding Trail guide providing a comprehensive list of species and viewing sites.
Some of the best tidepools in Washington state can be found at Slip Point near Clallam Bay. You can access the county day-use park in town. Be sure to check the tides and allow plenty of time. In Sekiu, stroll the boat marinas and watch for halibut, lingcod or red snapper caught fresh from the water. Be on the lookout for gray whales that feed in the shallow reefs along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Explore the remote and historic town of Neah Bay, steeped in tribal tradition and culture as well as being a popular destination for sport fishing, kayaking, surfing, birding and scuba. Enjoy a breathtaking hike to Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point of the contiguous 48 states. A visit to the Makah Cultural and Research Center is a must. Learn about the Makah tribe’s centuries-old connection to the land and sea plus view a fascinating exhibit of tribal artifacts more than 500 years old. (Check the open status of Neah Bay before traveling.)
Day 4: OZETTE WILDERNESS HIKE
The northwest entrance to Olympic National Park is your gateway to 57 miles of coastal wilderness at Lake Ozette, your starting and stopping point for the nine-mile Cape Alava Loop (Ozette Loop Triangle).
Three miles of plank-and-stair trail lead through dense forest before opening onto the beach at Cape Alava. Take a moment to absorb that you’re near the site of an ancient Makah tribal village, partially buried in a mudslide, more than five centuries ago. (The closed site is marked by a memorial kiosk.) Explore the rocky shores and reefs at low tide. You’ll pass dozens of ancient Makah petroglyphs at Wedding Rocks, the first headland south of the trailhead. Sand Point, the southern tip of the triangle, is a prime spot for agate hunting and home to a sizable sea otter population. A large disk marks a trail near the woods that will take you inland. A level planked trail (2.8 miles) leads you back to Lake Ozette.
Hiking Note: Check tide tables to time your beach trek with outgoing tides.
Day 5: LAKE CRESCENT, WATERFALLS AND SOL DUC HOT SPRINGS
From Forks, travel north and east along Highway 101. The often photographed Sol Duc Falls can be reached on a short trail (.8 miles) from the end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road off Highway 101. The turquoise-colored waters of stunning Lake Crescent offer swimming, boating, fishing and diverse hiking trails. Take a nearby forested trail with waterfall rewards to Marymere Falls, an easy one-mile hike. East of the lake on Olympic Hot Springs Road you’ll find Madison Falls. Stroll the paved 600-foot path near the tollbooth to see the cascade in action. On the north shore of Lake Crescent, the spectacular, universally accessible ten-mile-long Spruce Rail Road Trail follows the old rail grade along the shoreline.
For more trip ideas and itineraries, check out our Road Trips page.