Fall In Olympic Peninsula
Our summer plans for Washington got turned upside down when our original truck brakes failed. By the time we actually left the Seattle area, it was October 18 and summer was long gone. A lot of the places we wanted to go visit were off the table because of the weather. The continuous days of sunshine had turned into continuous days of clouds and rain. Since the Toaster is powered solely off solar panels, several cloudy days in a row doesn’t work for us. With our RV batteries charged to 100% we can live in the trailer for ~4 days with no sun. But that wasn't the main problem, the problem was that we had about a week and half of cloudy days with some sunny days tossed in before the forecast declared it would be a week of solid rain. It didn’t make sense to us to pay and stay in an RV park just to wait out the rain so we could visit places like Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens, even though they were on our original list of places to go. We’re mobile and we know we’ll be back in Washington again, and hopefully that trip will go more favorably. We decided that Olympic peninsula was our must-do before we headed out of Washington.
We made a quick detour trip to the North Cascades before going to the Olympics. Jerud’s friend Eli, whom he has been trying to meet up with for awhile, was heading up to their property right outside Marblemount for a few days and invited us to join them. We spent two days with them, chilling and catching up. The North Cascades National Park was actually less than 20 miles from where we boondocked, but the road into the park (in that particular section of the park) was being worked on and closed. We only got a glimpse into the national park from an overlook.
After Marblemount we turned south. Unfortunately I incorrectly remembered how to get over to the Olympic peninsula and for whatever stupid reason had Cabela’s stuck in my head – as in we had to go down past Cabela’s (located in Lacey, WA), around Olympia and up the east side of the Olympic peninsula – instead of driving through Tacoma, over the Narrows Bridge, and through Gig Harbor which would shorten our drive by an hour. It all worked out in the end because we had a free place to stay that evening, that’s right - Cabela’s. I didn’t have anywhere scouted out to stay if we had gone the “right” way. Our drive up Hwy 101, on the east side of Olympic peninsula, was really pretty; there were great views of the Hood River for a good portion of the drive.
- Review of our stay at Cabela's is on Campendium.
Hurricane Ridge – Olympic National Park
I have such fond memories of Olympic National Park from my previous visits – camping by Lake Crescent, camping on the beach, great hikes, and beautiful ferry rides over. I remember how blown away I was by the park on my first and every other following visit. And I was excited for Jerud to experience Olympic National Park for the first time.
Our first stop was Hurricane Ridge and to hike the 1.7-mile round trip up Hurricane Hill. It’s a 17-mile drive from the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, and the trailhead is less than a mile down the road from there. This hike is a must in my opinion. Along the trail are endless views of glacier-covered mountains.
The trail ends at Hurricane Hill, which sits at 5,757’ and offers panoramic views of the mountains and Strait of Juan de Fuca. Saltwater and mountains all in one scenery? Wow!
- It gets chilly that high up, especially when it’s October. It’s always a good idea to bring layers (even in the summer) – the top gets windy and your body temperature drops during the hike down. On our visit it was 36 degrees by 5 PM, and dropping, at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.
- There is no RV parking at the trailhead parking lot, but there are a few parallel RV parking spots at the far end of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center parking lot. From there you’ll have to hike less than a mile to get to the trailhead for Hurricane Hill.
- Since we were just staying the night in Port Angeles we left our RV at Walmart and just took the truck up.
- There are a couple of shorter hikes that start right outside the visitor center, along with one longer hike (Klahhane Ridge, 3.8 miles one-way).
Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park
Spruce Railroad trail by Lake Crescent is one of the few trails in the park that allows dogs. We were excited to learn about it and planned to bring the dogs for a hike. We asked a park ranger where we could park our RV by the lake. Storm King Ranger Station was one option. It was closed and wouldn’t be an issue for us to take up multiple parking spots. But the ranger station is at the south side of the lake and Spruce Railroad starts at the north end; the only way to get there from the ranger station is to walk down Hwy 101. The ranger suggested that we could park at the boat launch/dump station at Fairholme since it was also closed. That worked! Except then we couldn’t find the Spruce Railroad trail. We walked on Camp David Jr. Rd. for a while before getting aggravated and turning around. The ranger at the main visitor center made it sound like we could access the trail from Fairholme. But as we found out, it wasn’t true. Then we planned to head back, unhitch the truck and drive to the trailhead since we were short on time. But when we got back to the lake I changed my mind and decided we should just hang out by the lake (from the map it seemed like there wouldn’t be a lake view from Spruce Railroad trail). So we set up a picnic by the lake and just chilled. The dogs got to sniff around and stretch their legs. We felt like we had been on the run since leaving my aunt’s because we’d been moving around so much, trying to get as much done as possible while it wasn’t raining. This turned out to be the better choice.
- In addition to Spruce Railroad trail, campgrounds, picnic and parking area, pets are allowed at Rialto (to Ellen Creek) and Kalaloch beaches, Peabody Creek, and Madison Falls trails.
- There really isn’t any place for RV parking. There are a couple of pull-out spots off Hwy 101 by the lake but you would still have to walk down the highway to get to any of the trails. The boat launch is really still the best bet for parking.
Cape Flattery, Makah Indian Reservation
My initial plan was to drive from Lake Crescent to Cape Flattery, hike it and then drive back out to find somewhere to stay in either Sekiu or Clallam Bay. That was a stupid idea and I’m glad that didn’t work out because we would have totally missed out on Hobuck Beach Resort & RV Park.
But before I get into Hobuck Beach Resort, Cape Flattery trailhead is only 5 miles from the RV park and the main reason why we headed out that direction of the peninsula. We hurried over to Cape Flattery trailhead, leaving the Toaster behind. The weather forecast was rain the next day and we figured this was our only dry opportunity. What makes Cape Flattery special is that it’s the most northwestern point of the continental U.S. and the views from the platform at the end of the 1.5 round-trip hike are rugged, breath-taking and dreamy. Tatoosh Island is across from Cape Flattery and is where Cape Flattery lighthouse lives. Looking out across the crashing waves at the lighthouse I romanticize what it would be like to live on the island. Until horror movie music started playing in my head and I imagined being stuck on the island with a killer. There went dreamy.
Be sure to check out Cape Flattery, that’s probably why you’re headed out to the Neah Bay area, anyways - that, Shi Shi Beach (we opted to not check it out an hung out at Hobuck Beach instead), and perhaps surfing out at Hobuck Beach.
Hobuck Beach Resort & RV Park was recommended to us by another RV park in Sekiu because they were full. We didn’t know anything about the place except that they had available spots. We drove down Hobuck Road to their office (the road has potholes), paid for one night and drove ¼ mile further down (more potholes) to the RV park. Were we blown away by the scenery! The RV sites all had a view of the ocean! We could hear the waves crashing from inside the Toaster and the beach was only 50 ft. from our front door. Yes, I could stay for a long while.
The park itself wasn’t anything special, just a large gravel lot with hookups with a bunch of great looking cabins on the other side. The other reason why we liked the park so much, aside from its proximity to the ocean, was because we were there during the off-season. At first we were the only RV in the lot and eventually four other RVs showed up, which isn’t bad considering there are enough spaces for at least 12 RVs, and I bet they are all full during the summer. We ended up staying here for two nights; it’s rare for us to be willing to pay for a site and even more so for two nights of paid camping. In addition to knocking out urgent to-dos, and having RV battery issues (more on that in another post), we wanted another day to soak in the views.
Tybee always loves the water, no matter what season or body of water. She was thrilled to be able to just stand in the ocean. In her younger days she would have been swimming and jumping over the waves. But her arthritic hips now prefer the gentle waves and staying closer to shore. Tyki isn’t a water fanatic like Tybee. But he surprised us by how much he enjoyed being there – the vastness of the beach was like a huge playground for him. He ran full speed up and down, and in circles on the beach, tossing sand into the air behind himself. He sniffed and tried to eat everything on the beach. It was wonderful to see them so happy. We also got to explore and walk the beach from end to end.
There were a lot of firsts for us there: that was the furthest west the Toaster had ever been, it was the first time Jerud and I had been to the ocean together, the first time that Tybee had been in the Pacific Ocean, Tyki’s first trip to the beach, and our first RV camping spot right in front of the ocean. I love "firsts".
- A Makah Recreation Pass ($10, good for the calendar year) is required to park at the Cape Flattery trailhead since it’s on Makah Indian Reservation. Hobuck Beach Resort & RV Park sells the pass; visit here to see other places to purchase the pass.
- There is RV parking at Cape Flattery trailhead, but spots are only big enough for a medium size Class C.
- You can check out our review of Hobuck Beach Resort & RV Park on Campendium.
Rialto Beach & Second Beach, Olympic National Park
These two beaches, along with First and Third Beach are in the Mora area of Olympic National Park. The weather was dreary and misty when we arrived to Rialto Beach. We were slightly surprised to see that there were a decent number of cars in the parking lot, being that it was almost the end of October. The hike from the parking lot to the beach was almost non-existent it was so close. We walked up and over a large pile of driftwood. Tybee and Tyki came along since dogs are allowed. Instead of being made up of sand, the beach was covered in rocks and pebbles of all sizes and shapes. If you ever get the chance, stand by the water on a beach like this and listen to the rocks tumble against one another when the waves wash back out. The sound is astounding.
A hike was necessary to get to Second Beach, but a short one. Unlike Rialto, Second Beach felt very isolated. Like it had been abandoned and forgotten. The tide was extremely low, revealing long stretches of sand that seemed to continue on endlessly. The sea stacks were closer, mainly because of low tide. New stacks were revealed from behind one another as we walked down the beach. I wished the sun was out, but clouds and mist made it all so much more mysterious.
- Rialto Beach’s parking lot has an area for RVs. It’ll only fit 3 – 4 RVs max.
- There was no possible RV parking at Second Beach. Since we were there on a weekend we parked at the Quileute Health Center across the street from Second Beach trailhead.
Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park
Blue skies, sea spray, river otters, mists, sea stacks, driftwood, rocks – Ruby Beach has it all. A short hike in and dog friendly. Take a deep breath and enjoy sifting through rocks and listening to the waves.
- There’s not a dedicated RV parking area at this trailhead. We just took up a bunch of spots since it was the off-season and we weren’t there for long.
- There is a picnic table/area before the actual parking lot and the parallel space next to it could potentially be used for parking for one RV.
Quinault Beach, Ocean City, WA
Our last stop on the Olympic peninsula before heading into Oregon was Ocean City, more specifically Quinault Beach Resort & Casino. We didn’t stay there to gamble; rather I wanted to stay along the coastline for as long as possible and from what I had read on Campendium, the casino has a pretty sweet free overnight parking lot dedicated to RVers. And we needed a place to stay.
Quinault beach didn’t have the dramatic views like Ruby or Second Beach; instead it carried the gentleness of North Carolina beaches.
We parked at the furthest end of the overnight parking lot because I had read there was a trail at that end. The trail splits into multiple finger trails, which all led into different sections of the sandy grassland and onto the beach. The beach was pretty empty, aside from a few vehicles (beach driving is allowed). With the tide out, the walk from the grassland to the edge of the ocean was tiresome for Tybee. Sea foam was scattered along the beach and it left the dogs’ feet a mustard yellow color and fish smelling after they walked through it. But the beach itself was very serene and the scenery was surreal – sky and land melted together at the horizon.
For a casino parking lot, this was a nice place to stay. There were abundant birds (great for bird watching) and we watched deer bound through the grassland right behind the Toaster.
- The trail at the end of the RV parking lot connects to Ocean City State Park.
- Free wi-fi is available inside the casino, but despite their air ventilation, the smoke still bothered us after being there for an hour or so. The plus side, their ventilation system worked well enough that we didn’t walk out of there smelling like cigarettes.