Situated between the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains is the only saltwater fjord in the lower 48 – Hood Canal. With an average depth of 177’ to a maximum of 600,’ this unique finger of Puget Sound is flanked by the Olympic Mountains to the north and pristine recreation areas on all sides. Here you can experience waterfalls, lakes, coastal shorelines, and plenty of unique activities like hiking, racing, scuba and skydiving – not to mention, enjoy arguably the tastiest, freshest shellfish at its source. Hood Canal is fondly dubbed Washington’s Wild Side, welcoming families and individuals wanting everything from a relaxing getaway – to extreme adventure in the wilderness.
1. Dive Deeper
The infamous Giant Pacific Octopus (GPO), friendly wolf eels, and swarms of ancient rock cod in this unique marine biome have put Hood Canal on the scuba bucket list for cold dive water enthusiasts. Head over to Sund Preserve and reserve their unique glamping retreat locate at this protected dive site. Air, training, rentals and charters aboard Saltwater Therapy are available at YSS Dive in Hoodsport.
2. Take the Leap
Get a whole new perspective on one of the country’s most coveted national parks as you soar 13,000 feet above the forest floor. For the ultimate adrenaline high, Shelton’s Skydive Kapowsin gets you above the Sound and Olympic peaks. No experience? No problem, the folks at Kapowsin are great at converting new jumpers into long term guests.
3. Ride the Rails
Pedal the rails on decommissioned Simpson Logging rail line for a scenic 12-mile work out with Vance Creek Railriders. This gentle, but vigorous unique ride is suitable for all ages. If you get tired there is a motorized railrider to give you a little extra push up the hills. The excursions run daily though the summer.
4. Have Summit to Talk About
Mount Ellinor in the Olympic National Forest is a 6.2-mile hike (3344’ elevation) that follows forested slopes to fantastic panoramic views of the Olympics, Hood Canal, Lake Cushman and even Mount Rainier. The south slopes of the Olympic range offer a variety of hikes with different skill levels – all with spectacular scenery. Ablaze with wildflowers in the spring, cool hidden swimming holes in the summer, a chance to see spawning salmon in the fall, and snow-capped peaks in the winter, there is never an inopportune time to hike Hood Canal.
5. Catch up on Current Affairs
Whether you seek tide-ripped saltwater passages, challenging whitewater, or lakes big and small – Hood Canal is a paddler’s paradise. Try riding the tides on Hammersley Inlet to Hope Island State Park and return with the flow of the incoming tide. Below Cushman, the lesser- known wake-free Lake Kokanee is a great place to practice paddling with a waterfall destination. Check out our Tours & Outfitters page to help get you started.
6. Aw shucks, Yes, Our Oysters are the Best!
Hood Canal and South Puget Sound’s saltwater bays and inlets are renowned for the tastiest and freshest bivalves. Why? Pristine waters, great farming practices, and beaches stocked for the public to enjoy!
7. Capture Memories at the Drive-in
Since 1964 the Skyline Drive-in south of Shelton has been providing family memories along with great flicks. The recent pandemic has solidified the need to keep these heritage sites open with an old school way to enjoy concerts, graduations, as well as movies! Experience outdoor tailgate nostalgia with a double feature under the stars – there are always plenty of “scary” films and family fare.
8. Do It for the Birds
With a majestic and varied landscape, the Hood Canal and South Puget Sound is a gorgeous area to spot over 250 avian species on the Olympic Peninsula. Bald eagles feeding on the returning salmon, nesting great blue herons, rhinoceros auklets and more call these premier birding trails home.
9. Race the Ridge
Do you crave the thrill of watching motorists rip around one of the Northwest’s most famous racing tracks or prefer off road wilds as you navigate 23,000 acres of the DNR Tahuya State Forest trails? Hood Canal has something for every motorsport adrenaline junkie. The Ridge is a national racing circuit and hosts MotoAmerica, the US premier motorcycle racing series along with numerous car club racing events that are open to the public to view. This facility also hosts a full karting facility open through the summer that hosts events with high speed as well as beginners level.
10. Know Your Limits
With over thirty pristine lowland lakes annually stocked with salmon and trout and hundreds of miles of saltwater shoreline, Hood Canal and South Puget Sound have opportunities for anglers all year long. In the summer, the chinook salmon season on the Skokomish River is “jumping” with Chinook King salmon ranging 20 lbs. plus as they move upriver. Visit wdfw.wa.gov for up-to-date license information, regional maps, fishing tips, identification and limits.
Written by guest blogger Rachel Hansen, ExploreHoodCanal.com