Hiking the Pacific Northwest: Olympic NP and Mt Rainier NP
Have you ever considered Washington’s National Parks for an outdoor adventure?
Once a year my buds and I embark on our annual "Guys Trip." This is a tradition that started a few years ago and it has led us to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, sleeping in a van in Iceland, riding bikes through small towns in Belgium, and completing the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu in Peru.
But 2017 was all about the Pacific Northwest and sandwiched between Seattle and our time in Glacier National Park was four splendid days in Olympic National Park and Mt Rainier National Park in Washington!
These were at the time two National Parks I had never been too but I can't wait to revisit and would highly recommend to anyone who loves getting outside. Washington State is full of beauty and adventure and these two parks lead the way for why so many people around the globe feel the same way as I do about the state.
Below are my highlights from these special four days! After all the hashtag says "#NorthwestIsBest" and I'm in agreement.
Take a visit with me to Olympic National Park and Mt Rainier National Park. Watermelon eating contests are optional!
En route to our first stop in Olympic National Park we ran straight into a craft beer fest and watermelon eating contest. A pit stop was a no brainer! The views of the nearby wilderness were enticing us and while we could have spent the whole day hanging out at the craft beer fest we knew we had more to go and experience.
The first stop in Olympic National Park was the Hurricane Ridge region.
From the Hurricane Hill trailhead a beautiful trail leads up to the top of the hill with sweeping mountain views of Olympic National Park! This trail starts 1.5 miles past the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and gains about 750 feet over 3.2 miles. A good workout but doable for many levels! What’s so amazing about Olympic National Park is we started our adventures there in pure “tundra esque” land and by the time we would be done we had visited rainforests and the beach. More on all of that in a minute.
After finishing the Hurricane Hill hike in the early evening we enjoyed tasty reward after this great hike! One item to note about the state of Washington is its insane amount of hops that are grown in the state. Needless to say as a result of that there is no shortage of craft beer options in the Pacific Northwest.
Do you like waterfalls and mossy trees? If so Olympic National Park is for you!
After spending the night in the charming town of Port Angeles (highly recommend staying here) we hit the road and very quickly the scenery changed! The above picture is when you begin to reach the Lake Crescent area. By entering the trailhead via the Lake Crescent parking lot you can take a short hike to Marymere Falls. Along the way we experienced the mossy trees that are most known in my eyes for someone who has not visited Olympic National Park but seen photos! It’s one of the few times where I believe the photos turned out about as good as the actual real life “in person capture” by my eyes.
After the Marymere Falls hike I highly recommend taking a stroll out to admire the beautifully tranquil Lake Crescent! The lake seems to change color every ten feet or so when walking around it. There is also lodging right by the lake that seemed to be a more than tranquil option to stay at. The combination of Marymere Falls and walking part of Lake Crescent is a great way to stretch the legs in some small mileage that gives you amazing views. En route to our next stop we did the short yet very rewarding trail to Sol Duc Falls. Pictured below, another dandy of a waterfall not to be missed in Washington State!
The One Square Inch of Silence is located inside of the Hoh Rainforest.
Our next major stop was the Hoh Rainforest River Trail! Which you can actually take 18 miles one way. We did about 5 miles one way and logged about 20 total miles for the day as we did several smaller trails en route from Lake Crescent. It's an incredible trail that twists and turns through this magnificent rainforest. You'll head about 20 miles down a two lane road to the trailhead. The road ends at the Hoh Visitor Center. From there you can go as far as you would like and you will hopefully feel as though you have landed in a magical world far from the rest of society. Don’t believe me in the tranquility here? The “One Square Inch of Silence” is located here!
We stayed overnight at the Kalaloch Lodge in Olympic NP prior to an early rise and four hour drive to Mt Rainier! We arrived just in time for sunset at the lodge. Sitting on the Pacific Ocean and just a close drive from the Hoh Rainforest this is a place I could live out a season at for sure.
Mt Rainier National Park can be seen from Seattle but should be mandatory to witness in person!
After a morning drive through rural and urban Washington we landed at the Summerland Trail in Rainier. We did about a 14 mile roundtrip hike on this beautiful trail, with the imposing Rainier always lurking around the corner for us to awwwwww over!
We had found the Summerland Trail within an article ranking the Top 20 Day Hikes in America’s National Parks. I would rank it within or near my top 20. The Hoh Rainforest Trail was also on the list as was the Highline Loop that we did at Glacier National Park the following week. 3/20 in less than two weeks. Wow, I really can’t believe we had the opportunity to do that.
The Summerland Trail gives you a bit of everything. Forests, wildlife, mountains, glaciers, rivers, open space, and beautiful wildflowers. It doesn’t get as much pub as the “Paradise” region of the park but it certainly has way less crowds and an equally amazing experience surrounding it.
How many waterfalls are there in Washington? 2,000 according to The Northwest Waterfall Survey!
From the Ohanapecosh Campground there is a nice trail leading to some hot springs and this waterfall pictured above. It was a sunrise stroll and only about 2 miles roundtrip. Give it a whirl to get an appetite for breakfast after waking!
Overall this was a great campsite to stay at and gave us great access to our final big hike during our time in these two amazing National Parks that we wanted to embark on!
When you stay in this part of Rainier you are only a five mile drive from the PCT Trail! It then weaves in and out of park boundaries and the neighboring National Forest. We spent the day starting at Chinook Pass and heading South towards Mexico on the trail! The other option on the trailhead was North to Canada. Keep in mind this is a 2,600 plus mile long trail. And the options from Washington were Canada or Mexico :). Choose wisely! We didn’t make it to Mexico but we had one heckuva a splendid day getting within 2,594 miles from it.
The above pic is one of thousands of enchanting views on the PCT! Our hike led us 2 miles up through the Rainier border before a long descent and flat grade to the Baker Lakes. It was about 10 miles roundtrip with lots of rises and falls of elevation. We ran into day hikers of the PCT and people who had been out there for days or weeks! Truly a special experience no matter how long you have to be on the trail. We weren’t Cheryl Strayed but we could definitely feel and understand the energy and why people enjoy being on it.
These four days involved unforgettable experiences, two amazing National Parks, over 45 miles of hiking, freezing nights sleeping outside without a sleeping bag (woops!), and tons of driving. If we had time to space it out you could easily spend one week in each park. But this hopefully gives you a glimpse of what's possible in these two amazing spots in Washington State.
Thanks for being a part of our community and reading this article. We appreciate YOU! Have you been to either of these parks and if so what’s your favorite activity there? Comment below!
Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Mike R and the Hashtag 59 Team