I’m not even close to being done with Olympic National Park just yet. It’s one of the oldest parks in the U.S. National Parks system (set aside by TR in 1909), and it’s temptingly located just a few hours away from Vancouver. The vast park (3,733.8 km2) is divided into four distinct regions – the temperate rainforest of the west side, the woods of the drier east side, long stretches of Pacific coast, and the mountains after which the park is named.
All four zones are accessible by vehicle, though the mountainous interior – designated as Olympic Wilderness since 1988 and looking especially daunting from the Hurricane Ridge lookout near Port Angeles – is trail only (and good luck to you). Attacking the park in just one trip is next to impossible. I’ve been before and tried. The ridiculousness of my first effort will keep me exploring it piecemeal, bit by bit and mostly around the easy peripheries.
Last week’s trip was five days at Kalaloch, a small dot halfway (as the crow flies) on the desolate, wind-swept, sea stack-dotted west coast between Cape Flattery (the northwestern-most point in the contiguous U.S.) and Aberdeen. There’s a charming, well-equipped lodge with cabins, a restaurant for non-campers, and a six-loop campground half a click up the road, three of which were open last week (it’s currently the off-season, and all sites are first come, first served).
Sites are $22 USD per night, and about a dozen of them are on the bluff facing the sunset right above the grey sand beach, which goes on as far as the eye can see. (Pro tip: the best site available is #D31, which is the one depicted in some of the shots and the short video below.) It’s a good base of operations for exploring the coast and places like Ruby Beach, Rialto Beach, La Push and Hoh Rainforest.
Note that there’s little to no cell phone reception at Kalaloch. If that’s an issue for you the town of Forks is about 40 minutes north. Forks is where you’ll want to stock up on supplies and gasoline, and where you’ll find a good old school burger joint called Sully’s, a recreational weed store or two (it’s legal, folks), a Thriftway supermarket that has its own espresso bar and too many businesses holding on to the fact that the Twilight movies were filmed here.
The town is beside the point. The point is that if you feel like getting away for a couple of nights, this is a sweet, isolated option that might just put a proper zap on your brain. Also, the tree (see below) with the roots hanging over the beach is real. Happy exploring, and don’t buy the Twilight firewood.