How Accessible is the Olympic Peninsula?
An RVing amputee family finds out.
In Part 1, we met the St. Clair family, Anthony, Jodie, 11-yo Connor, and 8-yo Aster, on their travels across the eastern and northern portion of the Olympic Peninsula. They were on a quest to answer the question, How Accessible is the Olympic Peninsula? And as an RVing family traveling with an amputee, they’ve recounted their adventures. Now we’re headed to the rugged West End, the Pacific Ocean side of the Olympic Peninsula.
Forks Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center
The helpful folks here can clue you in on where to go in the area. Forks also gained renown as the setting of the Twilight series, and the center is a source for Twilight merch and a scavenger hunt about the series. If you’re a Twilight fan you won’t want to miss this historic timber town.
Forks Timber Museum
Full of quirk, history, and fun, the Forks Timber Museum was a highlight for our entire family. An all-ages scavenger hunt has you paying attention upstairs and downstairs for items to observe, count, and mark off. We loved this insight into the area’s logging and settler history. How many chainsaws do you think you’ll be able to find?
Hard Rain Café, Campground and Hard Rain Cabins
Just a few miles before the visitor center at the Hoh Rain Forest area of Olympic National Park, the Hard Rain Cafe bills itself as your last chance to stop for a meal. The cafe serves up comfort foods, and the small campground is quiet and can accommodate a range of RVs. For folks seeking non-camping lodging, check out the Hard Rain Cabins next door.
Hoh Rain Forest
With over 12 feet of rain per year, the Hoh is famous for being almost constantly cloudy and wet. With its large, level parking lot, the Visitor Center is the starting point for the Spruce Nature Trail and Hall of Mosses Trail. There’s also a short interpretative loop behind the center.
Access paths to reach the trailheads start here. The approach to the Hall of Mosses, and some parts of the trail, have elevation gain and rough ground, and are best suited for people with walking mobility. For Jodie, we took breaks—and sat at the occasional bench or log—to help her get the most out of our time on the trail.
The Hoh is famous for being almost constantly cloudy and wet. Yet our own visit coincided with a clear, sunny, warm afternoon. Golden sunlight brought out additional vibrancy from the greens of the long, thick trailing mosses that covered the trees—making every bit of the hike worthwhile to all four of us.
The stunning Ruby Beach overlook at the parking area offers excellent views of the sea stack rocks and dramatic surf. While the parking lot and overlook are accessible, walking mobility is best for the quarter-mile trail to the stone beach below. However, thick, maze-like rows of driftwood form a long, broad barrier, and getting around can be difficult beyond the end of the trail.
Kalaloch Beach and Tree of Life
Past Ruby Beach, Highway 101 is dotted with green signs for beach access to different parts of the overall Kalaloch Beach area. Steep, narrow trails lead down from roadside stop offs to the beach itself. We skipped these, and instead paused at the Creekside Restaurant at Kalaloch Lodge to inquire about trail access to the iconic Tree of Life, an old spruce where erosion has completely exposed its root system.
Normally it’s a short, easy walk. Unfortunately, seasonal washouts meant access wasn’t going to work this time around. It was a reminder that while a traveler can have many options for visiting attractions throughout the Olympic Peninsula, it helps to ask folks on the ground what the reality is for any given day.
Lake Quinault Lodge
The President was here. When we checked in for our stay at Lake Quinault Lodge, one of the first things we saw was a newspaper front page. The Oct. 3, 1937, edition of the Grays Harbor Washingtonian spoke of President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrapping up his extensive visit to the Olympic Peninsula, including the very lodge where we would stay the night.
One of the outcomes of FDR’s visit? He supported the idea of a national park being established on the Olympic Peninsula…except he decided the current proposed park was too small, hence the larger park we know today.
Trail maps help you decide which trails in the area are the right fit for your plans and hiking preferences. It’s home to eight miles of interconnected trails, not to mention habitats for over 300 species of birds.
The lodge itself commands attention while seeming to have grown out of the land itself. Turns out that’s not a surprise. Lake Quinault Lodge was designed by Robert Reamer. Also on his resume? The lodge at Yellowstone National Park.
World’s Largest Spruce Tree
Just a short hike from Lake Quinault Lodge, a broad trail takes you to the base of the World’s Largest Spruce Tree. The overall trail is easy to navigate. After the insular feeling of the small woods along the trail, the clear expanses in front of the tree surprised us with awe and joy, as we looked up, and up—and up some more, at a tree that’s over a thousand years old, and stands nearly 18 feet in diameter and 191 feet tall.
You can find your accessible trip to the Olympic Peninsula
Is the Olympic Peninsula accessible? Like many places, the answer is yes, and no. A car is needed, and some areas, such as the wilderness, were not areas we were looking to tackle. But from the towns to the trees, we found destinations and activities that suited not only our children, but Jodie and her mobility needs as an amputee.
Visitors with varying mobility impairments or considerations can make their own trip of a lifetime to this beautiful, rugged corner of the USA. We hope you make your trip a reality soon. Don’t be surprised if you leave ready to come back to the Olympic Peninsula as soon as you can.
These two blogs are abbreviated from the original story recounted by Anthony St. Clair which can be found on LearnersandMakers.com.
By guest blogger/influencer, Anthony St. Clair, LearnersandMakers.com