Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Into the Woods: Hiking in Olympic National Park

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December, the height of winter, may not seem the best time to put on your hiking boots and hit the trails. But the Pacific Coast is rife in outdoor opportunities, and seeing as it was too cold to take full advantage of our coastal perch—no swimming for these wussy travelers—we decided to head inland for the day instead.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

But first, we made a pit stop for lunch just five minutes down the road.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park
Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

The cutesy town of Seabrook could have easily been a stunt double for Pleasantville; true, the colorful shingled houses may be better fit in New England than the rugged Northwest, but it’s all so charming, you easily overlook that fact. Plus, we were just there for one reason: grub.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

And OK, a little bit of beer, too, as you can tell above!

The boys had never tried Mill 109 before, but seeing as it was open whereas many restaurants were still closed for the holidays, we decided to give it a whirl. This wound up being a brilliant plan, and I’m still dreaming over that juicy Reuben that quickly took up residence in my belly.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park
Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park
Unfortunately, once we fueled up, we didn’t have time to dawdle and explore Seabrook—OK, I’ll amend that statement: we didn’t have too much time to dawdle—as we were quickly losing light and we still had a 45-minute drive ahead of us to Olympic National Park.
Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

I haven’t actually told you about my resolution for this year, but it fit in well with our trip to the Washington coast. In honor of the National Park ‘s centennial, I aim to visit one national park—or one of Tennessee’s 56 state parks—every month for the next 12. Not a bad thing to aspire to, right?

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

And even though, we were technically in Olympic National Park at the tail end of 2015, our little sojourn into the woods set the tone for this year.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park
Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Once we reached the edge of the Hoh Rain Forest, we parked the car and hiked for an hour or so through the shaded canopy of Olympic. It was so peaceful and quiet, and we only passed two other hikers the entire time.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park
Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

That’s what I so love about this area of the country: It’s not as densely populated as the Eastern corridor, and you can find so many untouched spots where you can just go outdoors and be alone.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park
Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park
Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

There’s something to be said for Washington’s rainy side: Every last tree and plant was alive and thriving. This time of year in the parks around us in Middle Tennessee, everything dies and morphs into a monochromatic shade of brown. In Olympic National Park, the green was so bright, it was near-blinding.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Teenage girl that I am, though, I’m not going to lie: I was fully prepared for Edward Cullen to come leaping out of these trees in all his Bonne Belle body glitter glory at any moment.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Once we got just beyond the park’s Cascade Falls—there’s a whole trail of waterfalls for those of you who want to emulate this hike—the sinking sun signaled it was time for us to turn around and head back.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park
Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

We had parked at Lake Quinalt Lodge so when we got back to the car, we paused for a few minutes to stroll down to the lake and check out the park’s most popular accommodation.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park
Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Where I come from, at dusk, the sun lights up the horizon in the most brilliant blaze of fire; remnants of pinks and reds crisscrossing the sky with pops of orange melting into the mix. In Washington, once the sun goes down, the whole world glows blue. It’s a rather miraculous thing to witness.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park
Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

From Quinalt, it was time to drive back to Copalis Beach where a fresh batch of cocktails awaited us in the cabin. I do wish we’d had more time to explore the national park, but our brief afternoon jaunt was a great appetizer nonetheless.

Washington Road Trip: Exploring Olympic National Park

Now your turn. In honor of the national parks’ 100th birthday, what parks do you plan to visit this year?

COMMENTS
  • January 10, 2016

    I have a bucket list item to visit all of the US National Parks. I think I’ve been to 4. It’s not going spectacularly. But your hiking in Washington reminds me so much of hiking in the UK – same weather, same amazing trails, it’s one of the best things here. For your next trip…. 🙂

    • March 8, 2016

      For my next trip over the pond, I’m hitting YOU up as my tour guide. 😉

      But agreed, the weather in the PNW is very similar to the UK!

  • January 10, 2016
    manoj kumar

    hi friends

  • January 10, 2016
    Shawnna

    Oh I would love to go there! It looks so pretty!

  • January 10, 2016

    Your goal sounds really good and effective! It’ll also be a great way to live healthier which is a goal which most people (including myself) fail at every year. I’m going to take your example and say that I’d like to explore at least six National Parks in The Netherlands this year 🙂

    • March 8, 2016

      I’ve never been in a national park in Holland (to my knowledge) so I’ll have to follow along and get tips for the next time we come back to see our former classmates there =)

  • January 11, 2016

    Happy new Year Kristin!
    Wow! I love all that green and nature, and those photographs are brilliant! That’s one of the reasons that I’m not that big on islands and when we went to Thailand, I didn’t even go to the beach, I went to the mountains instead. Oops….! Anyway, I don’t live in the US as you know, but when we were there, we visited 4 lovely National Parks that however, when it comes to grass that is as green as an emerald, you honestly, can’t beat that of England, Ireland and the dark, dark forests of Germany so perhaps I’ll start there lol!

    • March 8, 2016

      I don’t think I’ve been to too many of the national parks in the UK or Germany, so I’ll have to hit you up for advice next time I’m in the neighborhood!

  • January 11, 2016

    Oh, I miss all the various hiking opportunities in the NorthWest! While Chicago has its attractions, hiking trails are not one of them!

    I also would love to visit every National Park, and have visited around 32, I think! This year, I’ll be hiking in Yosemite or Rainier, depending on what the hiking permit Gods bestow upon me 🙂

    • March 8, 2016

      Come down to Nashville and I’ll take you on some hikes in the area =)

  • January 11, 2016

    beautiful photos! if you need a hiking buddy for one of the TN parks, let me know 🙂

    • March 8, 2016

      I will, I will! Now that it’s warm, let’s do some spring hiking =)

  • January 12, 2016

    I love the Hoh Rainforest and your pics so perfectly capture why it’s such a stunning place to visit.

    • March 8, 2016

      Thank you so much! I regret that we only had a quick two hours to wander around as I know there’s so much more to see in those parts.

  • January 26, 2016
    Sejin

    I like your goal of visiting 12 National Parks. I think I’m going to steal that!

    • March 8, 2016

      I’m sticking to state parks this year simply as I’m not traveling out of state as much…that said, one year I would LOVE to do a national park a month. Have you made it to any so far in 2016?

  • January 28, 2016

    Very nice.. The place looks really great.. Worth trying indeed….

  • February 23, 2016

    Oh, I just love this! So peaceful and fun! I visited Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park last year but haven’t been to any of the rainforest. I hope to visit Lassen National Park in Northern CA and maybe some of the parks between here and Washington when we drive up there this summer.

    • February 23, 2016

      That sounds dreamy! I sadly haven’t seen nearly as much of the PNW as I would like. It’s such a vast, spread out area of the country!

  • March 5, 2016

    I’m actually not too far away from the Olympic Peninsula – down the coast a bit. I plan to head there in the next couple of months when the weather gets a bit better.

    You have some great photos in this article. Thanks for the advice on what to see!

    • March 8, 2016

      What a lovely area of the country you live in! The PNW, especially the coast, is so dreamy!

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