By VALERIE MELLEMA
One of the nation’s premiere recreational playgrounds, Olympic National Park has an incredible intensity that is empowering, invigorating and truly a piece of raw wilderness at its best.
Just count the ways you will experience Nature. You will marvel at the beautiful Pacific Ocean beating the shores and rocks. You get to enter into an amazing rain forest valley region that takes you into some of the most diverse eco systems in the country. And then you will visit the mountains with their glacier-covered tops that are surely the most stunning of sights.
One of the many reasons to visit Olympic National Park is for the outdoor recreation. It is one of the country’s wildest areas and that means there are plenty of challenges just about everywhere you turn. The park will play host to some 40,000 campers each year. Still more will come for hikes that take visitors deep into the wilderness. Yet, as each comes, it is important to consider just how fragile this area is. It is necessary to mind where you walk and what you do here, and the rangers are happy to make sure you do just that.
Hiking through the immense forest and mountains is an enjoyable activity, though you must be mindful of the laws that govern nearly 95 percent of the park — an area designated as wilderness. You can trek through much of the old growth forest that you find, if you like, which will allow you to step into some of the most amazing forests. You can also work your way to the summits of the mountains found here. Some of these will not allow you to get higher than the ridges but others will allow you to enjoy reaching the top. If you would like to, you can even spend some time swimming and enjoying the beaches with their intense waves pounding the shores.
What is there to do when you visit? Here are a few suggestions:
- Visit the Olympic National Park Visitors Center, which is located at Port Angeles. Here, you can view a number of exhibits as well as watch a short film about the area as well as the importance of being environmentally friendly. The staff here is more than willing to provide necessary information to you here, too.
- Visit Hurricane Ridge, an area of lowlands covered with amazing old growth forests. They move into open meadows that are peaceful and enchanting. From here, you can often see Olympic Mountains and even the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
- Visit Lake Crescent where you can walk along the shoreline and see just how incredibly powerful a glacier can be. The glaciers carved out this lake and evidence is easily found on the area’s walls.
- Visit Rialto Beach, about 20 miles from Forks. Here, you can truly capture the passion that is evident in the water as the waves come crashing onto the shore. While you may not be able to swim here, you can enjoy watching those waves. You may also get to see some amazing wildlife in this area including bald eagles.
- View the Pacific Ocean at sunset. You can do so on Rialto Beach if you like, or from any of the vantage points throughout the region.
- Some of the lesser-known areas also are well worth exploring. Great favorites include Deer Park and Quinault Valley. Many of these areas offer hiking trails that take a few days to explore thoroughly. Plan to visit them when you have the time to learn the diversity of this area.
There are exciting areas to enjoy throughout the region. One unique way to spend some time on your trip to Olympic National Park is through range-guided tours. A number of programs are available for all ages and experience levels. This is perhaps one of the best ways to actually get to know the park for all that it offers.
Another option to consider is fishing. Through most of Olympic National Park, you will find many great fishing locations. There are 3,000 miles of rivers and streams running through the park, in fact. There are hundreds of lakes of varying sizes as well as 73 miles of the Pacific Coast to enjoy. As you can see, this is plenty of room for some of the best fishing you will find. There are regulations in place in terms of what you can fish, where you can fish and how much you can fish.
The weather at Olympic National Park is quite variable so visitors are advised to bring rain gear and layered clothing. The area has a moderate marine climate that includes pleasant summers and mild, wet winters. In summer you can expect high temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, remember that parts of the Olympic Peninsula are designated rain forest, so there can be heavy participation during all but the summer months of July, August and September.
For those ready to enjoy at true blast of wilderness in one of the rarest forms in the country, then Olympic National Park is perhaps the best choice for you. From culture to the cool mountaintops, this location seemingly has it all.
Photo: Hurricane Ridge (Valerie Henschel, courtesy Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau)