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 Washington perch—no swimming for these wussy travelers—we decided to head inland for a day of hiking in Olympic National Park.
But first, we made a pit stop for lunch just five minutes down the road.
This post was last updated in July 2022.
Where to go in 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.
And OK, a little bit of beer, too, as you can tell above!
Where to eat near Olympic National Park
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.
Our little sojourn into the woods set the tone going into the new year. It’s impossible to spend the day hiking in Olympic National Park and not feel zen.
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.
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.
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. Hiking in Olympic National Park introduced us to a tapestry of color: The green was so bright, it was near-blinding.
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.
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.
Where to stay to go hiking in the Hoh Rainforest
We had parked at Lake Quinault Lodge, which is where I want to stay next time I’m in Olympic National Park, 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.
If you’re looking for lodging near Hoh Rainforest, it’s fairly limited, but there are cabins and vacation rentals near Lake Quinault.
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.
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.