Do you feel it? There is a hint of spring in the air. The days are getting longer and the rain, well, it’s still here. But there is a beauty to all that rain, if you know where to look. It’s an especially vibrant time for waterfalls in Olympic Peninsula rain forests. Hidden in the spray of all that water, negative ion molecules are having a positive effect on your overall health. People often report feeling a boost of energy after being near waterfalls due to a biochemical reaction of negative ions increasing serotonin levels.
The official Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail is a great reference point to choose your own waterfall adventure. With seven distinct waterfall areas, pick a spot on the loop and let the good vibes take over.
Lake Quinault is an exceptional choice for ease of waterfall viewing. Located just a few miles off Highway 101, about an hour north of Hoquiam (or an hour and half south of Forks), there are up to five waterfalls you could see in one day. Bonus views include old growth forests, luscious ferns, the 95-year-old Lake Quinault Lodge and the world’s largest Spruce tree, estimated to be 1,000 years old.
Quinault Rain Forest Waterfalls
Willaby Creek Falls is a smaller waterfall that can be viewed while walking the Rain Forest Nature Trail. A half mile walk features interpretive signs, and mossy old growth trees. (Note: you can make a longer hike and connect to three waterfalls, so be sure to visit the ranger station or check out the Quinault National Recreational Trail System.)
Cascade Falls is a 20-foot waterfall that can be accessed via the trail across from the ranger station. You can hike the 1.5-mile loop, or you can view the falls and then turn back and trek toward Gatton Creek Falls.
Gatton Creek Falls is a tiered waterfall that can be viewed by hiking a three-mile loop, or for quicker access you can take the gravel road just past Gatton Creek Campground for half a mile and walk the 0.3 miles to the bridge and falls.
Merriman Falls is perhaps the most magnificent waterfall in the Lake Quinault area and so easy to get to. This 40-foot-tall waterfall can be viewed off South Shore Road just by pulling over! While you can view it from the comfort of your vehicle, I highly recommend getting out and walking closer to get the full benefit of those negative ions.
Bunch Creek Falls is another impressively tall waterfall that has easy access. Located after the road turns to gravel, pull over right before the bridge at Bunch Creek and look for the Olympic National Park sign. There should be lots of spray during the rainy season. (Note: from here you can continue onto the North Shore Drive which connects back to the 101. The entire loop is 34 miles, but the gravel/unpaved section is not recommended for RV’s or campers.)
If you decide that you’d like to spend a night or two, check for availability at the Lake Quinault Lodge or the Quinault River Inn. There are also many seasonal campgrounds in the area. For dining options, take-out is available at The Roosevelt Dining Room inside the Lodge or try the Quinault Internet Café. The Salmon House Restaurant is a mile away from the Lodge.
Hoh Rain Forest Waterfall
If you are en route from Lake Quinault to Forks, consider a detour to the Hoh Rain Forest and Mineral Creek Falls. A gorgeous 2.5-mile hike from the Hoh Visitor Center, Mineral Creek Falls plunges 60 feet through trees and ferns. With 14 feet of annual rainfall, Mineral Creek Falls is impressive for most of the year.
Written by Guest Blogger Anne Beasley