After I left Mount Rainier National Park, I wanted to see the Olympic Peninsula before heading down to Oregon. This unique part of the country takes only a few hours to drive around, and it has cool views on all sides. At the very top, in Port Angeles, you can see Victoria, Canada across the water. Olympic National Park also takes up a fair bit of the peninsula: it's nearly ONE MILLION ACRES and has everything from forest and mountains to beaches and lakes. I drove counterclockwise around Washington's Olympic Peninsula and hit up three different spots in Olympic National Park.
Seeing Lake Crescent in Washington's Olympic National Park
This beautiful lake is very easy to get to from Port Angeles. It's close by and right off the 101, and there are plenty of road-side parking spots along the length of Lake Crescent. The water was really blue, and it is always lovely to enjoy a view of a lake with mountains in the background. The color palette in the Pacific Northwest is so calming, and visiting in the summertime when the weather is clear is the best way to take in the beauty of this landscape.
The Drive into the Olympic Peninsula's Hoh Rainforest
I was so excited to see the moss-covered trees in the Hoh Rainforest. Unfortunately there was road construction leading to 2+ hour delays. I did not feel like waiting around and revised my planned hiking schedule. I took a short walk around the entrance to the Hoh Rainforest and had a longer hike in the coastal part of Olympic National Park. Although I didn't get to see what I was looking forward to most, I did see glimpses of it along the drive into the park (before I turned around). I love seeing moss draped over the branches of trees like this. They look like they are wearing sweaters!
Is Olympic National Park's Ruby Beach Worth a Visit?
My favorite park of Olympic National Park was actually, unexpectedly, the beach. I am not a big beach fan (too much sun, sand gets everywhere), but Ruby Beach was definitely worth it.
For one thing, it was way too foggy to be sunny at all. For another, I loved the aesthetic of the rocky shores and beached driftwood. It was a little eerie (in a good way!) having such limited visibility, and I really enjoyed seeing the seagull-filled rocks poking out of the Pacific Ocean.
The landscape was definitely unique, and visitors more it even more interesting with all the driftwood art and architecture. There were tons of haphazard lean-tos and rock towers (aka cairns) all over the beach. People were wading in the chilly tide pools, climbing over massive driftwood stumps, and picnicking in the shade of these "tents." I had a great hike down to the beach from the crowded parking lot above and walked along the shore. The weather was nice if not a little chilly, but I felt like I was "sweating" almost immediately from the fog. I could actually feel the air on the backs of my legs every time I took a step. It felt like I was wearing phantom pajama pants.
Olympic National Park has a ton of excellent beaches, and I opted for Ruby Beach because it was easily accessible and looked interesting. This stop gave me a great feel for what the entire strange and foggy coast of the Pacific Northwest is like. I really enjoyed my walk here, and I recommend anyone driving down the 101 plan to make the stop. The remaining beaches within Olympic National Park are harder to get to since the 101 turns inland for a while. Ruby Beach was a great way for me to see one of the Olympic Peninsula's best features without spending too much of my allotted driving time.