The Olympic Peninsula is home to three temperate rain forests—the Hoh, Queets and Quinault—some of the world’s largest trees, four ecosystems, artist havens, sandy beaches and Forks, the setting for Stephenie Meyer’s hugely popular Twilight series of vampire novels.
Here are some signature Olympic Peninsula sights you won’t want to miss on your journey.
Olympic National Park
The vast 922,650-acre Olympic National Park is located in the center of the Olympic Peninsula and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound and Hood Canal. Characterized by its unique variety of terrain, Olympic National Park has three major ecosystems: sub-alpine, coastal and forest (lowland forest and temperate rainforest).
The park is the only place in the U.S. where you can investigate sandy coastal beaches, rain forests and glacier-capped mountains—all in one park. To make the best of your trip, keep time and distance in mind when planning your activities and stop at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles for expert advice.
Olympic National Park Rain Forests
On the west side of Olympic National Park, you’ll find the Hoh Rain Forest (about two hours from Port Angeles and one hour from Forks). Hike a nature trail to explore an environment that receives more than 170 inches of annual rainfall, resulting in a thriving canopy of coniferous and deciduous species and mesmerizing blankets of emerald-colored mosses and ferns. Short trails near the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center include the Hall of Mosses Trail and the Spruce Nature Trail.
Meanwhile, Quinault Watershed, located in the southwestern portion of Olympic National Park, is a favorite among local rangers. Producing a biomass four times that of a tropical rain forest, the Quinault is home to many deep-forest inhabitants, including cougars, black bears, bobcats, and during the winter months, dozens of bald eagles drawn to the free-running river’s edge to feed on salmon.
Just one hour from Forks, Quinault Valley boasts two campgrounds, and short and long hiking trails that take visitors to alpine pastures, ice-engraved summits and gorgeous lakes.
The peninsula ecosystems aren’t the only environments worth exploring. The area in and around Forks is not only filled with inspiration for Meyer’s Twilight werewolves (fans can download a map outlining the town’s Twilight landmarks), but also provides access to fantastic fishing, kayaking, hiking and camping.
La Push, a tiny village near the tip of the peninsula (less than 30 minutes from Forks), is near trailheads leading to Rialto, Second and Third beaches. Each locale provides an excellent opportunity to wander upon a needle-strewn path beneath the cedar trees en route to an isolated beach full of driftwood and sea stacks. Read more about water walks along Washington beaches >>
Port Angeles, Washington
The dynamic town of Port Angeles is home to artists and artisans alike, and both arrive in October during the Dungeness Crab Festival. Artists’ installations remain on display year-round inside and outside at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center’s sculpture garden.
— Crai Bower
Photo Credit: Kevin Cole