Surrounded by steep mountains and dense rainforest, Lake Quinault is bordered on the northwest by Olympic National Park and on the southeast by Olympic National Forest; the lake itself and land to the southeast are part of the Quinault Reservation and subject to Quinault regulations.
Located at the southwestern edge of Olympic National Park, Lake Quinault is a hub of outdoor activity during the summer months. This very scenic tree-rimmed lake is surrounded by cozy lodges, and level hiking trails provide a chance for even total couch potatoes to get a taste of the rainforest that once covered vast stretches of the Olympic Peninsula.
The Quinault Rain Forest is one of three major rain forests that survive on the Peninsula; here the annual average rainfall is 167 inches, resulting in enormous trees, lush vegetation, and moss-carpeted buildings. If you arrive in the rainy winter months, bring your heavy rain gear and rubber boots, not just a nylon poncho and running shoes.
If you’re prepared, a hike in the rain provides a great chance to see this soggy and verdant place at its truest. July and August are the driest months, but even then it rains an average of three inches. Typical Decembers see 22 inches of precipitation.
Getting to Lake Quinault
A road circles Lake Quinault, with side routes up both the East and North Fork of the Quinault River for a total of 31 scenic miles. While most of the road is paved, the upper few miles are gravel. This makes a great bike ride. One of the nicest sections is up South Shore Road, which passes scenic Merriman Falls and continues through towering old-growth forests to Graves Creek Campground.
West Jefferson Transit (800/436-3950, www.jeffersontransit.com) provides free daily bus service between Forks and Amanda Park. Continue southward from Lake Quinault on Grays Harbor Transit (360/532-2770 or 800/562-9730, www.ghtransit.com) to Moclips, Ocean Shores, and Aberdeen.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition