Olympic National Park is situated on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. It is not only a national park but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was selected not only for its natural beauty but also for one of the world’s largest strands of old-growth temperate rainforest.
The park is an incredibly diverse ecosystem where visitors can enjoy alpine meadows and lakes surrounded by towering mountains. A portion of the park is rocky coastline, one of the longest undeveloped coasts in the United States, with pounding surf and stunning sunsets. With 11 major river systems, there are plenty of opportunities to view gushing waterfalls and seasonal salmon runs.
The park is very large and it is a 350-mile drive around the Olympic Peninsula. One of the best ways to experience all the park has to offer is to bed down at one of the lodges available within the park. There are four lodging options in the Olympic National Park.
Pro Tip: Weather is constantly changing within the park and even in the summer months it can get chilly. The rocky coastline is littered with large logs that can ebb and flow with the tides making it dangerous to swim. Plan your gear with waterproof, not water-resistant boots and jackets. This is one of the rainiest areas in the United States with almost 120 inches of rain a year.
Some of the information in this article was obtained during a press trip. All opinions are my own.
The Kalaloch Lodge is my favorite of all the lodges in the park. The property is just gorgeous sitting atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. On site is a lodge and restaurant with motel-type accommodations and two rows of cabins. I stayed in a Kalaloch Cabin, which is in the second row behind the Bluff Cabins, but I still had a nice view of the Pacific Ocean. The accommodations are rustic but comfortable. The main lodge offers a full-service restaurant and bar as well as a gift shop. On the property is the Kalaloch Mercantile which has a coffee shop and all the supplies you need for staying in a cabin or camping. There is a good selection of ready-to-eat food, groceries, and snacks which is nice if you want to pack a picnic.
West Coast Sunsets At Kalaloch Lodge
I find the sunsets at the Kalaloch Lodge some of the prettiest in the Pacific Northwest and the main reason I love staying here. Plop down in an Adirondack chair near the main lodge or dine al fresco on the deck for a relaxing way to enjoy nature’s nightly painting. The beach is accessible via a step staircase and at the bottom are logs you must scramble over. An evening stroll along the windswept beach is especially memorable at golden hour.
Tree Of Life
The Tree of Life is located near the Kalaloch Campground just north of the lodge. It is also known as the “Tree Root Cave.” This spunky spruce tree somehow managed to survive when erosion bared its roots leaving it suspended between two cliffs. The tree remains living with lush, green foliage while suspended in the air. It is magical, especially now with a small waterfall trickling behind it.
Lake Crescent Lodge
The Lake Crescent Lodge is on the southern shore of the lake nestled in a Douglas fir and hemlock forest. Built in 1915, this historic hotel overlooks the lake with a dramatic lobby and soaring stone fireplace. There is a variety of accommodations including cabins, cottages, and hotel rooms from contemporary to historic. The lakefront dining room offers Pacific Northwest cuisine and wine. Reservations are suggested. The Sun Porch is a cozy room with comfy furniture perfect for enjoying a good book. It is also a favorite spot for guests to enjoy sunsets over the lake.
The lake is so pristine and the property has a lovely beach. Step out on the dock and you can see the bottom of the lake; the water is so clear. Enjoying water activities is one of my favorite things about a stay here. Visitors can book a guided scenic kayak trip or a boat tour to explore the lake. If you prefer a self-paced activity, rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. There are plenty of opportunities to fish, but you will need to bring your own equipment. Water remains cold year-round, and although it gets warmer in the summer, it is a chilly dip if you choose to swim. Be aware of hyperthermia risks especially in early summer during the snowmelt.
Trails Near Lake Crescent Lodge
There are two easy hikes right near the lodge that offer lots to see for such short walks. The Moments in Time hiking trail is a self-guided adventure through an old-growth forest. It is only a 0.5-mile nature trail and is accessible with assistance. Enjoy breathtaking views of the lake and Pyramid Mountain with wildflowers abounding in the meadows. The Marymere Falls Hiking Trail is fairly flat for a waterfall trail and is just 0.75 miles one way. Stroll through the old-growth forest until you reach falls that drop into a small plunge pool.
For the ultimate strenuous hike, head to the Mount Storm King Trail which is 3.8 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 1,780 feet. It starts in an old-growth forest before climbing above Lake Crescent and the Barns Creek Valley. The best viewpoint is at 2,000 feet. For the super fit hikers, you can add a scramble up to the top of the ridgeline.
Sol Duc Hot Spring Resort
The Sol Duc Valley is a beautiful area of Olympic National Park and the best way to enjoy it is by staying at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort in a charming cabin near the Sol Duc River. Cabins are available with or without a kitchen. The main lodge holds the Springs Restaurant which serves meals with locally sourced ingredients. There is also a gift shop with souvenir options, and it has a mini market with snacks, soft drinks, beer, and wine. The resort is quiet in the evenings after the Hot Springs close. It is a beautiful property surrounded by towering evergreens and the sounds of rushing water from the Sol Duc River.
Sol Duc Hot Springs
The springs are the main reason people come to stay here. The property offers three mineral hot spring soaking pools at various temperatures and a freshwater pool that is not heated. During my visit, the water was close to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which was a little too chilly for most people. Fresh mountain spring water seeps into cracks in the sedimentary rocks where it is infused with minerals and heated by gasses from volcanic rocks. Soaring mountains surround the pools making for great views while you soak.
Pro Tip: You don’t have to stay at the resort to access the hot springs. Day passes and locker rooms are available.
The Sol Duc Valley
I frequently visit the Olympic National Park and I feel the drive into the Sol Duc Valley is one of the highlights of the park. The drive is just stunning as you drive further into the valley. The canopy of the old-growth forest makes it feel as if you are in a tunnel. Before you arrive at the resort, stop at the Salmon Cascades. It is just a short walk to the viewing platform. This is a great spot to see the Sol Duc River as it narrows into a small gorge. If you visit in late summer to early fall, visitors are enthralled by salmon leaping up the river as they return to spawn.
Further up the valley is the Sol Duc Falls. Plan to hike to it from the resort on the Lover’s Lane Loop which is 6 miles round-trip. Head through the lush forest following the Sol Duc River where you will cross at the falls. It’s well worth the effort.
Log Cabin Resort
The Log Cabin Resort sits on the northern shore of Lake Crescent. Accommodations are rustic with minimal amenities. On site is a small store and a restaurant that has a minimal menu of mostly sandwiches and burgers. “Resort” is not a good description for this lodging; I would describe it more as “camping inside.” So why stay here? Because of the stunning natural beauty of this location and the views for miles. It is much quieter on this side of the lake with minimal traffic.
Pro Tip: Double check the type of accommodation you booked and the amenities it includes. Recent reviews show that the lofts are no longer accessible in the chalets but photos on the website still show the staircase. Some of the cabins are newer than others. Also be aware that because the resort is in a national park, no pesticides are used to control bugs and large ants can be an issue at certain times of the year.
Hiking And Biking Near Lake Crescent
Not far from the resort, you can access the Spruce Railroad Trail, which is 4 miles one way on an old railroad bed and a nice bike ride. The trail hugs the north shore of Lake Crescent and is a lovely way to experience the peacefulness and beauty of the area. For those looking for a longer ride, the Olympic Discovery Trail runs from Port Townsend to the Pacific Ocean. Bikes are available to rent on site.
For an exhilarating challenge, take the Pyramid Peak to an old World War II spotting tower. It is 3.5 miles one way with an elevation change of 2,600 feet, so this is for experienced hikers. You will also cross a landslide or washout area with loose rock. All this effort is worth it when the trail leaves the forest and begins switchbacks up to the ridgeline and the lookout site. Hikers will be rewarded with views of Lake Crescent, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Mount Storm King. For a less challenging hike, head to the Devil’s Punch Bowl which is a shorter, less-elevated hike to a popular swimming spot.
Scenic Boat Tour Of Lake Crescent
One of the highlights of a stay at the Log Cabin Resort is taking a Scenic Boat Tour of Lake Crescent. Book at the front desk then meet at the resort dock. The cruise is 1.5 hours long. The licensed boat captain serves as your guide and will share tales of native lore and the history of the area as well as its geography. When you are on the water in a boat, the surrounding foothills and mountains loom above you. They seem to flow down almost to the water’s edge. The lake is relatively undeveloped and visibility is good in the crystal clear water, especially on a sunny, calm day. The resort also offers kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for rent.
Pro Tip: The Lake Quinault Lodge is another option situated in the rainforest of the Olympic National Forest and adjacent to Olympic National Park. Technically not a national park lodge, it certainly has the feel of one as it was modeled after the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park. Hike the rainforest, take a Quinault Rainforest tour, or enjoy the beautiful lake.