Washington: Lush Rainforests and Forbidden Deserts

The majestic snow-capped mountains, rugged coastline, and crystal clear lakes are beautiful, but what makes Olympic National Park in Washington truly special is the rainforest.

A totally different world from our home in Colorado. And the bonus? Gorgeous weather allowed us to explore at a leisurely pace without slogging through mud or trying to stay dry during downpours that add up to 12 feet of rain per year. That’s correct – 12 FEET!

Although the Olympic Peninsula is easily accessed from Seattle by a quick ferry ride, the national park is quite remote. Ninety-five percent (1 million acres) of the park is protected as wilderness area, and no roads go all the way through. The four main entrance points for vehicles are on the north and west sides of the park with a 1-2 hour drive from one to the next, and each offers a unique and worthwhile experience for visitors. The coastal areas of the park are detached from the main part, and many of the beaches have no road access. Long story short – allow a minimum of three full days for your visit to ONP!

Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park

Our favorite experience was learning about and walking two short trails in the Hoh Rain Forest, one of the largest temperate rain forests in North America. The hikes are flat and easy, but allow plenty of time to take in the amazing sights along the way.

Quinault Rain Forest

Quinault Rain Forest lies within the “Valley of the Rain Forest Giants,” so named because it’s home to the world’s largest examples of six different conifer trees: yellow cedar (129′ tall), mountain hemlock (152′), western hemlock (172′), western red cedar (174′), Sitka spruce (191′), and Douglas fir (a whopping 302′ tall).

The world record Sitka spruce is located on the grounds of the Rain Forest Resort Village, where we enjoyed a one night stay that included an excellent dinner of Chinook salmon freshly caught from Lake Quinault. In hindsight, I wish we had spent another day in this area.

Other Photos from ONP

Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center
Attractions on the Road from the Fairholme Park Entrance
Lake Crescent

Neah Bay

Neah Bay is a small community located in the northwest corner of Washington on the Makah Indian Reservation. It has two main visitor attractions – Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point in the contiguous U.S. where the Strait of Juan de Fuca joins the Pacific Ocean, and the Makah Museum. We spent an enjoyable half day in Neah Bay.

Cape Flattery was named by Captain James Cook in 1778: “… there appeared to be a small opening which flattered us with the hopes of finding an harbour … On this account I called the point of land to the north of it Cape Flattery.” It’s beautiful and easily accessible via a short hike.

A storm during the winter of 1969-70 in nearby Ozette Village exposed artifacts that had been buried (and preserved) by a mudslide that occurred some 500 years previously. The Makah tribe worked with archaeologists from Washington State University over a period of 11 years to excavate the area and recover the contents from six longhouses. The Museum now displays about 500 of the 55,000 artifacts that were found in Ozette, as well as other items that help to tell the story of the Makah history and culture.

It’s worth a visit and takes about two hours to tour the museum. Unfortunately, no photos allowed.

A Visit with Andrew and Gail

Our primary reason for being in Washington was to visit our son, Andrew, and daughter-in-law Gail, who live and work in the Seattle area. We spent the two weekends before and after our visit to the Olympic Peninsula with them and their two kitties, Raz and Zac.

Andrew and Gail are board game aficionados. More specifically, they love strategy games, and whenever we visit, they have acquired new ones for us to try. Some are complicated, like the absurdly difficult escape room game that the four of us working together couldn’t figure out. Others are more straightforward, but most of them make my brain hurt.

During this visit, Andrew and Gail introduced us to Forbidden Desert (reference the title to this post), Cover Your Assets, and Sparkle Kitty. In Forbidden Desert, players work together to recover a flying machine buried deep in the ruins of an ancient city so they can escape before perishing in the desert heat. We didn’t win that one either.

In Cover Your Assets, players compete to amass $1 million in various categories of assets, including cash under the mattress, jewels, baseball cards, and stamp collections. The strategy challenge is how to protect your assets along the way and when to try and steal from others.

Sparkle Kitty is a social party game for players of all ages that’s just plain fun and, at times, ridiculous. The object is to be the first to free your princess from the tower. It was my favorite.

I expect we’ll have more opportunities in the future to improve our skills in all of these games.

Another highlight of our visit with Andrew and Gail was sampling their single malt whisky souvenirs from a recent trip to Scotland.

We took advantage of the nice weather to take a day trip to nearby Maltby. After consuming a delicious breakfast at the Maltby Café and stocking up on interesting soaps and lotions at Running Wild Spirit, we drove to the nearby Paradise Valley Conservation Area for a not-very-difficult hike in the forest.

The 800-acre preserve offers miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails as part of its larger mission to restore and preserve the headwaters area of the Bear Creek watershed. It was a fun way to spend half a day with Andrew and Gail.

And that’s the end of our 1-1/2 week visit to Washington. Time to head move on to Portland!

Categories: Washington


  1. Loved the Olympic Peninsula . We spent about ten days driving around it about five years ago. I would go again in a minute!

    Sent from my iPhone


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  2. Fabulous photos … hopefully get there some day!

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