Road trip your way around the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park
Fall is the perfect time for a stress-relief visit to the Olympic Peninsula. The crowds are small, the days are short (but still long enough), the air is crisp, and the colors are vibrant. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your fall visit:
1. Wildlife Viewing
Viewing wildlife is often a matter of luck and diligence. But the “seeking” is half the fun!
BIRDING. Olympic Peninsula offers exceptional bird watching year-round, but the fall and spring migrations offer the greatest diversity in species. Notable locations for birdwatching include the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, Ediz Hook (Port Angeles), Clallam Bay, Neah Bay, La Push, the shoreline along Hood Canal and Olympic National Park.
Along Hood Canal at Dosewallips State Park is a family friendly wildlife viewing platform on the edge of a tidal marsh. The platform is a great place to view bald eagles, great blue herons, gulls, waterfowl, red-winged blackbirds, wrens and other feathered friends.
A healthy population of bald eagles resides beside the coastal estuaries along Highway 112. Follow Hwy 112 Scenic Byway to Cape Flattery at the most NW point of the contiguous United States, to find a great spot to see bald eagles, puffins, oystercatchers, phalaropes, marbled murrelets and several unique species of gulls. Migrating turkey vultures are of special interest in September and October. Scientists come to this area to count the vultures as they make their way south.
The Dungeness River Audubon Center offers a wealth of information to interested birders, as well as free weekly guided bird walks on Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m.
SALMON MIGRATION. Fall is prime time to view the dramatic upstream salmon migration. While the fall salmon runs take place in most rivers in the national park, one of the best viewing points is Salmon Cascades Overlook on the Sol Duc River, off Highway 101, about 5 miles up Sol Duc Road. Between late September and late October, determined coho salmon battle their way from the salty ocean to the fresh waters of the Sol Duc River, leaping up waterfalls as they head home to spawn. Prepare to be awed.
ROOSEVELT ELK. In the fall, listen carefully for the bugling elk. Members of the deer family, the Roosevelt elk are native to the Olympic Peninsula. Places you might see elk include the Sequim Dungeness Valley, the Hoh Rain Forest, the town of Forks and along the Dosewallips River near Brinnon. The best opportunities for sightings are early morning and at dusk. Remember, these are large, strong animals with sharp antlers and hooves. Use caution and maintain a safe distance.
2. The Olympic Discovery Trail
Head out on the trail system that connects Port Townsend to La Push using railroad right-of-way, public roads and trails. The trail is growing as sections are completed and is being constructed as a non-motorized corridor, including equestrian use in most areas. Whether you are looking for a long ride, a nice day ride or a short family friendly ride, the Olympic Discovery Trail offers something for everyone, and a great way to enjoy a sparkling fall day. The Olympic Adventure Route west of Port Angeles around the north shore of Lake Crescent is suitable for mountain bikes, equestrians and hikers and gets LOTS of use.
For more information on the trail, visit www.olympicdiscoverytrail.com
3. Beach Walking
In the fall it’s hard to resist the scenic ocean shores along Olympic National Park’s 73-mile rugged, puzzle-piece coastline. At Kalaloch (pronounced clay-lock), 15 miles south of the Rain Forest Road on Hwy 101, there is an easily accessed, exposed sandy beach where you can experience the full exposure to the Pacific Ocean. The pebble beach, dramatic surf (beware of the strong undertow) and tidal pools of Beach Trail 4 leave you chock full of memories of a beach vacation well spent. Picturesque Ruby Beach, with its meandering creek, dramatic sea stacks and drift logs, is named for its sometimes garnet-colored sandy beach. All winter long you can relive the memories of a warm fall day or brisk walk in the crisp air.
4. Festivals and Events
Join the locals in a wide array of fall festivals! Many events are reflective of the communities that host them: Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, Forever Twilight in Forks Festival in Forks, Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival in Port Angeles, and OysterFest in Shelton.
You’ll find numerous events celebrating the fall harvest, such as the Apple & Cider Festival in Chimacum, the Rain Forest Mushroom Festival at Lake Quinault, or the Harvest Wine Tour around the Olympic Peninsula. Races, farm tours, farmers markets, arts festivals and cultural events are planned. For a full calendar of events, go to https://olympicpeninsula.org/events/.
5. Just Chill
Whether your idea of stress relief is a full-service waterside resort, a charming B&B, a cozy fireplace at a national park lodge, or the perfect campsite with a sunset view, you’ll find it here on the Olympic Peninsula. Not only is lodging more available in the fall, but you will find packages and lower rates than during summer. Pair that with a great meal of locally sourced Olympic Coast cuisine and a local wine, and just feel the “ahhh” wash over you. You might even indulge in one last picnic before the winter snows fly!
To those in the know, autumn is the best season to explore the Olympic Peninsula. Come experience it for yourself. Relax, regroup and return home refreshed! You don’t want to miss this fall road trip.