72 Hours Exploring the Olympic Peninsula

There is no better place to experience fairytale-like forests, thundering waterfalls, and scenic hikes than the Olympic Peninsula.

While one could spend an entire lifetime exploring all the peninsula has to offer, a long weekend will give you just enough of a glimpse to fall in love with it and inspire you to return again and again!

Arrive at the spectacular Lake Quinault Lodge in the early evening to enjoy a sunset on the lake. If you have time, there is an abundance of peaceful trails to hike in the area. After the last light has faded from the sky you can retire to the wooden lodge and read by the giant fireplace, enjoy a nightcap from the bar, or work on a puzzle before heading to bed early to get some sleep before your long day ahead.


Day 1

No adventure is complete without an energizing meal to kick start the day. The restaurant at the Quinault Lodge overlooks the lake and grounds area and is the perfect place to finalize your plans for the day while you fill up on delicious food. I recommend ordering the Olympic Omelet; it's a delicious option that will keep you full well into the afternoon.

Your first day can be spent winding your way up the peninsula towards the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. You can take one of two routes to get to the resort. First is the coastal option that allows you to explore the famous Ruby, Rialto, and Second beaches. However, if the rain is pouring down and the rivers are rushing you can take the longer but scenic option that heads east and offers the opportunity to explore more waterfalls than you could ever see in one day. On my visit I chose the latter.

The first stop of the day is Spoon Creek Falls. The forest road leading up to Spoon Creek Falls is rutted and full of potholes but with careful maneuvering and concentration my group was able to slowly wind our way to the falls in a 2WD sedan without any incidents. The hike to the falls is short but wildly sweet. Vividly green moss clings to the trunks of statuesque trees and fat rain drops dangle from their branches, reminiscent of twinkling diamonds. The forest is so beautiful you might not even realize how quickly you will come upon the overlook that lets you peer down at the waterfall thundering into the pool below. But don't stop here, the trail leads all the way to the shore of the creek and it is the perfect spot for a quick snack.


The second stop of the day is located two hours north at Murhut Falls. The final few miles of road leading to this falls are just as rough as the road to Spoon Creek Falls but the waterfall is even more spectacular. Once you park, cross the road and follow the sign that indicates "Murhut Falls". The trail follows an old logging road so the grade is nice and easy until the final ascent, but after a little effort you will be rewarded with a perfect view of the two tier Murhut Falls tumbling through trees into Murhut Creek before it drains into the Duckabush River. Definitely worth the short hike!


Finally, just up Highway 101 from Murhut Falls is Rocky Brook Falls. This one is the shortest hike of the day but that doesn't mean it's the least impressive. In a day full of low effort, high reward hikes this one lays claim to the lowest effort and quite possibly the highest reward of all three.  

After a full day of driving and waterfall chasing you will arrive at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and check into your quaint and comfortable cabin. There is no wifi or no cell service at this resort so it is the perfect place to disconnect and commune with nature. Who needs those distractions anyway?


Day 2

Begin day 2 with another energizing breakfast at the restaurant (perhaps you can try the french toast this morning), then it's time to lace up your hiking boots and fill up your day packs because the first hike of the day is a strenuous hike up Mount Storm King. The hike to the top is only about 2 miles but it racks up over 2000' in elevation gain and requires the use of a rope to haul you up to the top. The view of Lake Crescent from the top is more than worth the effort. 

Once you've enjoyed the panoramic view and recharged after the glute-burning hike, you can head back down the path knowing that it's smooth trailing ahead. However, once you're on level ground again don't head to the parking lot just yet. Instead, continue on to Marymere Falls which is just down the trail from the Mount Storm King junction. 


While you make your way back to Sol Duc Hot Springs make sure to stop at and hike the Ancient Groves Trail. This 0.6 mile loop leads you through a stunning old growth forest that is home to trees that are upwards of 650 years old. It will be tempting to crane your neck the entire time but make sure to look at the ground too. It is full of ponds, nurse trees, and other interesting flora.


Day 3

It's the final day of your trip but don't head back to civilization quite yet because there is one more hike that is not to be missed. Drive further up Sol Duc Road to its end (about 2 miles from Sol Duc Hot Springs) and hike to the picturesque Sol Duc Falls. I recommend hiking this one early so you can experience the magic of the forest in the morning. The light slicing through the canopy of trees illuminating the mist, the birds chirping as the forest wakes up, and the babbling brooks feel like a fairytale sprung to life and you'll likely find yourself wondering if one of the woodland creatures might just talk to you. There is also less of a chance to encounter more hikers the earlier you go too, so you will be able to experience all of this in solitude. 

Now it's time to depart the Olympic Peninsula but you can leave filled with a newfound appreciation of this beautiful place and memories that will bring you joy for years to come.

Published: June 24, 2018

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations.

Sonja SaxeExplorer

Seattle

Seattle, WA based, adventuring everywhere. I'm on an endless journey to explore and photograph the national parks' scenic backcountry!

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