Tidepools, Waterfalls, Moody Beaches ~ Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park, encompassing 1441 square miles of the Olympic Peninsula, is known as “a gift from the sea” by its native residents.  It has three distinctly different ecosystems – jagged, glacier-capped mountains, more than 70 miles of rugged Pacific coastline, and majestic stands of old-growth trees and temperate rain forest.

Although we had carved out a month to visit the Olympic Peninsula, time became elusive.  The Pacific Northwest weather can be a fickle gal so staying put awaiting a clear day can quickly find you rushing to catch up to your fleeting schedule.

Leaving South Beach on a clear, cloudless day, we hoped for a clear view of one of the more scenic beaches, Ruby Beach. Beaches on this craggy coastline have as many moods as do we, sometimes bright and clear but other times dark and brooding, laden with fog.  Our initial visit to Ruby Beach was the latter, but I so love all the many moods of these coastal beaches.  Misty, foggy days, a freshness to the wind as if it had been infused with ozone…oh my!  The light mist seemed to heighten smells, enhancing the richness of the sea air.

Mora Campground, just north of La Push was our next stop in Olympic NP.  Like many other national park campgrounds, unless you are packing a tent or pulling a small RV, you may want to seek camping outside the park.  We had scoped out this campground to visit Rialto Beach and hike to the sea-carved arch, Hole-in-the Wall, at low tide.  Two trips to Rialto were needed as our first attempt brought us to an invisible beach of dense fog.  Later that evening she was still a brooding beach but with enough visibility to make our way up to Hole-in-the Wall.  Low tide revealed little interesting sea life but made for a nice three-mile out-and-back walk near sunset.

Bleached driftwood strewn along the beach reminded me of prehistoric bones picked clean by the sea, enhancing the eerie feeling.

Then it was on to the mystical land of vampires and werewolves, thanks to Stephanie Meyer’s successful “Twilight” series.

This sign did the trick. No vampire or werewolf sightings in the area.
This sign did the trick. No vampire or werewolf sightings in the area.

Many travel to the north Olympic Peninsula to retrace the footsteps of some of their favorite “Twilight” characters, the epicenter being Forks and La Push.   Although none of the movies were filmed in either of these small towns, tourists still flock to the area to visit sites such as the Forks High School, where Bella and Edward met, and La Push, where Bella visited her werewolf friend, Jacob.  Click here to see where the movies were filmed.

Forks is one of the region’s logging capitals and Washington’s wettest town, charting 100+ inches of rain per year.

We had read that Second and Third Beaches were both great for tide pooling. As our time was short we chose one, Second Beach, and hit the jackpot at low tide. The area was bursting with ochre sea stars, green sea anemones, and aggregating anemones.

Stepping away from the coast for a few days, we moved east to Sol Duc Hot Springs Campground, where we hiked the six-mile Sol Duc Falls/Lovers’ Lane Loop. The Sol Duc Falls is a segmented waterfall, quite the stunner, and the old-growth forest we hiked was lush.  The Sol Duc River that meanders through the forest serves as a key waterway for coho and chinook salmon.  It is one of the few places where salmon run in every season.  This area is also home to the Sol Duc Hot Springs, which has an interesting Native American legend tied to it.  You can read all about it here.

This forest, like others, had a smell reminiscent of cotton candy, transporting me back to my childhood. Images of sticky smiles, colored pink and blue, danced before me as I dodged tree roots in the path, while the smell of spun sugar teased my memory.

Smoke-filled Lake Crescent

After one night in Sol Duc Valley we were on the move again, stopping at Fairholme Campground on Lake Crescent.  This lovely lake is known for its brilliant teal-colored waters and extraordinary clarity, due to a lack of nitrogen in the lake that inhibits algae growth.  Instruments have recorded depths in excess of 1000′, although many records reflect a maximum depth of 625′ in this glacially carved lake.

Kayaking was on the agenda but two fires nearby caused smoke to settle over the lake.  Biking the Spruce Railroad Trail made the list instead for a nice 15-mile bike ride.

We then took to the forest and hiked 2 miles to little Marymere Falls, where a side trail ended at Historic Lake Crescent Lodge.  We both agreed this would be a great place to come back and stay.

This rounded out week two of our enchanting time in Olympic National Park.  It was time to  get back to civilization.

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48 thoughts on “Tidepools, Waterfalls, Moody Beaches ~ Olympic National Park

  • What lush and beautiful country. I was wondering if the wildfires were impacting the air near you. Shame. Love the moody feel of the fog photos and your header shot is lovely.

  • Wonderful, LuAnn. I felt like I was there. We have been to Ruby Beach several times, but have never explored it as intimately as you and John. I loved the slug picture! I could feel the fog and eeriness of the place and weather. Thank you.

    • Thanks Sara. We have tried to see as much as we could while on the peninsula but we have not covered everything we have had on our list. I love the wild coastline in the northwest.

  • What a fantastic second week! Wow! We must visit this area real soon. So much beauty:) Sorry you had some smoke from the fires but it looks like you managed just fine:) I loved your tide pool photos. The starfish look fake with their brilliant colors. Thanks so much for showing us this new area:) Sure sounds like lots of great hikes!

    • There is such diversity in this area Pam. One day we were hiking in the forest, the next on the beach. The tide pool life looks so healthy, which is great for the sea star population.

  • I really like how you set the stage and write about all of your adventures, you have such a gift of story telling talent (wishing I had some). I will add this to my bucket list for sure.

  • LuAnn, you definitely hit the jackpot with those jewel-like sea stars and anemones in the tide pools! You so beautifully captured the shifting moods of the beaches in that area. And that segmented waterfall at Sol Duc is gorgeous. Your photos brought back good memories of our day at Lake Crescent — we enjoyed a glass of wine and a delicious platter of Penn Cove mussels after hiking to Marymere Falls. 🙂

    • It is wonderful to see the sea stars so healthy again after the virus that hit them so hard. The Sol Doc waterfall was one of the prettiest we have seen in this part of the country. Next time we get to this area we will stay at Lake Crescent Lodge for happy hour. It is such a lovely setting.

  • Your “Olympic” posts are very timely. On Monday we are taking off and heading in that direction. We hope to be there in early September – we were there years ago but not in an RV. You have given us tons of great ideas for exploring the area. You captured both the beauty and mood of the area.

    • Glad to hear! I am behind on my writing a bit so I will try to pick up the pace. I have a few more posts to write about the Olympic Peninsula. Have a great time. We are now on Lopez Island. If you find yourselves over here before Labor Day, give us a shout.

  • Love the bee nest shot!

    Last summer was fairly dry on the Olympic Peninsula so it was kind of strange to visit a rain forest and not have it dripping wet! I love it with all it’s various moods!

    • Thanks Lisa! We found the rain forest to be very dry, which I’m sure speaks to the drought condition. There seems to be a burn ban throughout much of the state.

  • I have never watched Twilight…not a fan of that sort of thing.

    We loved looking at the tidal pools in Oregon. Isn’t the water life absolutely beautiful!

    Since we have never been there and probably won’t in the future, you did an outstanding job capturing the gorgeous area. Thanks so much for the outstanding waterfalls photos. I just love staring at a waterfall. Makes me feel so relaxed.

    • My pleasure Marsha. I was interested to learn that none of the Twilight movies had been filmed in either Forks or La Push. I guess that is probably true of many films.

  • LuAnn as I mentioned in the last post this takes me back to my hime on the West coast Trail. n fact I could be convinced some of the photos are fro mthe trail itself!

    • Sue, we have just sat down to look at our schedule as it has changed a bit. We are currently volunteering on Lopez Island and they have asked us to extend our stay as other camp hosts are not able to come to the island as originally planned. We have agreed as we are planning to come back next summer so sadly it looks like we will not make it north of the border this year. 😦 Next year is looking very promising however.

  • I watched all Twilight movies 🙂 and would love to see the area next year.
    Im sure that traveling with your Arctic Fox allows you to be mobile and agile in a short notice.
    Love all the photos, especially the colorful stars and anemonies and we should be there next year. I just need to convince my handsome driver 🙂

    • I watched all the Twilight movies as well MonaLiza, and read all the books. I have always romanticized vampires so I enjoyed them. We love the Olympic Peninsula and I suspect you could charm that handsome driver of yours. 😉

  • What fabulous blues and greens, LuAnn! You really did hit the jackpot with all those beautiful sea creatures in the rock pools. pity about those fires, but your legs must have gotten a good workout on the bike ride. 🙂

  • What an absolutely beautiful area, and thankyou for sharing and guiding us through the many wonders. I haven’t seen any of the Twilight movies so when I do get to watch them, I will be re-living your adventures 🙂

  • Great post LuAnn! Glad you took your time. You probably already know Olympic Peninsula is a favorite of mine too. It’s definitely worth return trips. Lake Crescent can be very atmospheric and photogenic. But the light is fickle throughout. Great pictures.

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