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Exploring the Olympic Peninsula – part one

Washington State: day four

View Washington State 2017 on ToonSarah's travel map.

In the Olympic National Park

Our breakfast view, Port Townsend

Again we were awake early, our bodies still lost somewhere between UK and US West Coast time, a couple of hours out of sync. But breakfast was waiting for us just around the corner at a cool little waterfront coffee shop, Better Living Through Coffee. We enjoyed good muffins and an excellent cup of coffee at a table overlooking the water, where the morning sun provided great light for a few last photos of Port Townsend.

By eight we were on the road, heading west on Hwy 101 towards the Olympic National Park. We made a brief stop in Blyn (just east of Sequim) for photos, at a viewpoint beautifully maintained by the local tribe, the Jamestown S'Kallam, overlooking Sequim Bay.

Sequim Bay

Soon after this we turned off Hwy 101 in Port Angeles to enter the national park.

Hurricane Ridge

View from the parking area, Hurricane Ridge

We paid our $25 entrance fee (good for a week) and drove the winding road to Hurricane Ridge. This is one of the most popular stops in the park and we were glad we had arrived quite early, as the large parking lot was already filling up (although it was to get a lot fuller by the time we left!)

Hurricane Ridge sits 5,242 feet above sea level and offers sweeping panoramic views of the Olympic Mountain range. It is notorious for poor weather (hence the name) and snow can lie here well into the summer – we saw quite a bit, one week into July. We had come prepared with a Plan B, should the clouds be low, as we knew that if that were the case there would be no view and no point in coming here. As it turned out, however, we couldn’t have been luckier. The sky was blue, the sun warm, the air fresh and crisp – perfect weather in which to enjoy this stunning landscape.


There are several short trails here (and some longer ones). With my mobility issues making uphill walking a challenge, we opted for the level Big Meadow Loop trail, rather than the steeper High Ridge. We had planned to also include the Cirque Rim but could only do a short part of that as some was closed due to snow still lying on the path. But to be honest it would be hard to better the views we had, the foreground a riot of purple lupine, with fir trees beyond and then the distant mountains still splashed with snow.

On the Meadow Loop trail

And the bonus? Some Blacktail deer that wandered past and posed nicely for our cameras, including one very cute little Bambi.

Blacktail deer

After our walk, with its many photo stops, we headed for the Visitor Center to use the restrooms (I would say ‘loos’, but the Americans do love a euphemism!), have a cold drink and buy a sandwich for later. We took some more photos from the deck here, of the more distant mountains and more wildflowers.

View from the Visitor Center

Some final photos on Hurricane Ridge

The Elwha Valley

But with more cars arriving all the time we decided it was time for us to leave, so we drove back down to Port Angeles and then a little further west on Hwy 101 before turning off again to eat our lunch at a more tranquil spot in the Elwha valley, near Madison Falls, where we found a shady table with a wonderful view.

View from our picnic table

The falls are just a short easy walk from the parking area, and well worth seeing - a narrow cascade dropping around 100 feet into a green glade in the woods.

Madison Falls


The river Elwha itself is also worthy of a few photos and we were pleased to find a swallowtail butterfly flitting about nearby.

River Elwha

On the river bank

Lake Crescent

From here we drove on to Lake Crescent, where we had reserved a room in the historic lodge. Unlike the newer cabins these (cheaper) rooms are not en suite (though we did have a washbasin in the room) but the compensation, in addition to the lower price, was a beautiful view of the lake.

Lake Crescent Lodge

Our room at the Lodge

Through our window

We spent the remainder of the afternoon on the shore near the lodge - I had a paddle in the cool lake waters and we refreshed ourselves with cold drinks while enjoying the view. Lake Crescent was formed by glaciers and like most glacial lakes is deep (around 650 feet) and clear – in fact, the second deepest in the state (Lake Chelan, by some way the deepest, was on our itinerary for later in this trip, so watch this space!)

Lake Crescent views, near the Lodge

My salmon

We had booked a table for dinner in the restaurant on arrival, as we knew this could get busy and was the only option available. Prices reflect the latter fact, with most dishes costing around $5 more than we had seen elsewhere. But based on our experience the quality of the food does help to mitigate the higher cost. We shared an artichoke appetiser as we wanted something light - the accompaniments of "Brown Butter Aioli, Radicchio, Candied Lemons, Crushed Red Pepper and Parmesan Tuille" were tasty but I have to say, after this second experience of eating artichoke, that I believe it isn't worth the bother! But my main course certainly was - a very nicely cooked piece of salmon served with an interesting assortment of vegetables, of which the pickled fennel was particularly good. Chris also liked his burger and we managed to squeeze in a shared dessert of marionberry cobbler which was nicely tart.

After dinner we sat for a while in the lobby/bar area, enjoying the log fire and a second drink each - Washington Pinot Grigio for me and a local porter for Chris.

Drinks by the fire

A cosy end to a super day, and more of the Olympic National Park to be explored tomorrow …

Posted by ToonSarah 02:24 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes waterfalls mountains lakes road_trip seas olympic_peninsula washington_state

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Great photos!

by John

What a magical day Sarah. I love the wild lupins of the North American continent. Your pictures reminded me of a drive through the Canadian Rockies a few years back. My favourite photograph today is the one of the sun shining through the clouds and being reflected on the waters of Lake Crescent. Truly memorable.

by Yvonne Dumsday

Thanks both :)

We were only a few miles from Canada here Yvonne - in fact we could just see Vancouver Island from Hurricane Ridge!

by ToonSarah

Bambi is adorable and that is a great photo. I'm following this closely because it looks like a great trip for us. We can drive up to Washington to start . . . no jet lag on our trip. Looks wonderful so far and you are so lucky with weather.

by Beausoleil

Thanks Sally :-) Yes, we were very lucky with the weather overall on this trip - only a couple of showers and a few dull days. If you decide to do something similar I'll be happy to answer any questions not covered by the blogs, naturally!

by ToonSarah

What beautiful clear weather you had with the deer being a bonus. See the lupins brought me back to my childhood - my grandmother had a tonne of these in her garden.

by Wabat

The deer were lovely, Albert - and we were to see more from time to time during this trip, most disconcertingly at times on the road while driving

by ToonSarah

Yes our euphanisms - we say bathroom when there is no tub in the room and what we really want is a toilet room!!

by greatgrandmaR

We Brits are known for being coy and using euphemisms, but when it comes to bathroom functions I think you beat us!

by ToonSarah

WoW, I am also a big fan of the National Parks, but this part of the country needs certainly to be explored ... beautiful pictures as well!

by Ils1976

Thank you Ils, it is a wonderful area!

by ToonSarah

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