One of the best parts about the Olympic Peninsula is that you don’t need to stray far from its main thoroughfare, Highway 101, to experience a good number of area highlights. Highway 101 travels around the perimeter of the peninsula and Olympic National Park, making it possible to see the best the area has to offer in a limited amount of time. This itinerary imagines that you’re arriving from Seattle or Tacoma, and takes you around the peninsula starting on the eastern side, going to the northern portion, and finishing on the coast.
Begin in the eastern portion of the peninsula, heading north from Shelton along Hood Canal. At Hoodsport, head west on Highway 119 for a trip along Lake Cushman to Staircase for a short day hike. Return to Hoodsport for a quick stop at Hoodsport Winery, then head to The Tides Restaurant for some of the region’s famous oysters or continue north to grab an excellent Eagle Burger at Eagle Creek Saloon north of Lilliwaup.
After lunch, take a hike at Mount Walker or Dosewallips State Park before heading on to Port Townsend to check out the town. Have dinner in town and spend the night at the Ann Starrett Mansion with its grand spiral staircase.
Put on your walking shoes and hit the road toward Fort Worden State Park, which used to be an active military fort. Once you’ve traversed some of the park’s 434 acres, get back on Highway 101. Drive to Sequim, and bask in the area’s rain shadow and visit its many lavender farms.
Bike riders should hop on the Olympic Discovery Trail at some point, and nature lovers definitely need to venture north to the Dungeness Spit for a bird-watching hike.
Head toward Port Angeles early enough to enjoy lunch at Chestnut Cottage, then stroll the Waterfront Trail. Meander through the Museum at the Carnegie or play a round of golf at Peninsula Golf Club. Have a glass of wine with dinner at Bella Italia, then tuck in for the night at the Port Angeles Inn.
You won’t be driving too far today, as you head south of Port Angeles to explore two of the most popular sections of Olympic National Park. First up is Hurricane Ridge and its outstanding visitors center, from which point you can take one of several scenic hikes or have a picnic lunch among the blooming wildflowers, subalpine meadows, and snowcapped mountains. When you’re finished, return to Highway 101 and head west to Lake Crescent to take a quick walk on the Marymere Falls Nature Trail, and admire 90-foot-high Marymere Falls or fish for some trout. Stop at Lake Crescent Lodge for a bite, then circle around to the lake’s north side and stay at Log Cabin Resort for the night.
The sulfuric waters at Sol Duc Hot Springs will be sure to help you relax. Whether you hike Sol Duc Falls Trail prior to or after soaking is up to you. Have a quick lunch at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort’s Poolside Deli before once again hitting the road.
For a worthy detour, take the Highway 113 junction north to connect with scenic Highway 112, then head west to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, if for no other reason than to say you’ve been to the northwesternmost point in the contiguous United States. Visit the Makah Indian Reservation and the tribe’s fascinating museum, the Makah Cultural and Research Center.
Retrace your path and return to Highway 101 to continue the loop south into the Twilight– and logging-centric town of Forks. Visit the Forks Timber Museum to shop for logging- and Twilight-related memorabilia. To end the day, jump on Highway 110 to La Push and hit Rialto Beach for a sunset stroll. Mora Campground, about two miles from Rialto Beach, is a great place to spend the night.
Return to Highway 101 and head south. Make a left at Upper Hoh Road, and travel along the Hoh River to the entrance to Olympic National Park. Spend some time exploring one, or several, of the trails in the Hoh Rain Forest, then visit the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center to learn about the natural forces that make the Hoh Rain Forest unique.
Stop at the Hard Rain Café for a half-pound Mount Olympus burger, then continue south to where Highway 101 will take you out to the Pacific Ocean. Stroll uniquely colored Ruby Beach to look at the sea stacks just offshore. Dine at the Kalaloch Lodge before heading south to Lake Quinault, home to the Quinault Rain Forest. Be sure to get there in time to catch a sunset over the water at Rain Forest Resort Village, where you’ll be spending the night.
Begin the day with a 31-mile drive around Lake Quinault. Stop to take photos at one of the many waterfalls here or the open meadows where Roosevelt elk graze. Trek down kid-friendly Quinault Big Cedar Trail to see one of the world’s largest western red cedar trees, then hop back on Highway 101 and drive south to the Moclips Highway, where a right turn will take you to Highway 109 and back out to the coast. Head to North Beach, where you’ll be able to explore a handful of small towns.
Swing by the Museum of the North Beach to learn about local history, then head a few minutes farther south for lunch and to sample some award-winning wines at Ocean Crest Resort. Head down 101 again to Pacific Beach and visit the picturesque, planned-development town of Seabrook. Grab some ice cream and take a stroll through town, which looks like a Hollywood movie set, and across the highway, down to an often-empty beach for a before-dinner walk. Eat dinner and grab a beer at Seabrook’s only place to eat, Mill 109 Restaurant & Pub, then spend the evening in one of the many cottages for rent here.
Drive south to Ocean Shores. Once there, visit Damon Point State Park for spectacular views of Grays Harbor and the Olympic Mountains, then stop at the Coastal Interpretive Center to learn the history of the relatively new city you’re in.
Grab lunch at one of the many local restaurants here, then rent mopeds for an hour and cruise through town and along the beach. Next, head east on Highway 109 out of town and stop at the Quinault Beach Resort & Casino for a little action at the blackjack tables. Head east to Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge in Hoquiam to walk the boardwalk and take photos of the many shorebirds that call the area home.
Drive to Aberdeen and tour the tall ships Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain. Exit town via Highway 12, and swing into Montesano for a quick walk at Lake Sylvia State Park.
For your last dinner on the peninsula, you should make your way back to the coast, to Westport. Take in the view of the marina and linger over drinks at Half Moon Bay Bar & Grill, then bid adieu to the Olympic Peninsula before tucking in for the night at the Chateau Westport.
Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Olympic Peninsula.