Two days on the Olympic Pennisula had us begging for more. Lake Crescent, Hoh Rainforest, and Ruby Beach offered beautiful, often breathtaking scenery, diverse terrain, and perfect hikes for our motley crew of five ranging from 5 to 70 years old. 

In the spirit of new adventures, Ken and I planned a quick trip to Olympic National Park while visiting our daughter’s cabin on Hood Canal. We had a fun visit to Mount Rainier National Park the week before and felt even a short trip to Olympic was worth squeezing in while in the vicinity. Spur-of-the-moment plans, however, did not result in a room at any national park lodge, so we felt very lucky to find a nice Airbnb in Forks, WA. And off we went!

The Olympic National Park includes three ecosystems within the boundaries of the nearly one hundred million acre park – glaciated mountains, lush temperate forests, and rugged Pacific coastlines. Our time was brief, but we visited areas illustrating all three.

We entered the park at Port Angeles, stopping at the Visitors Center to get maps and stamp our National Park Passports before heading on to our first park experience at glacier carved Lake Crescent.

Lake Crescent Lodge is located on the southern shore of the gorgeous clear blue lake. The charming lodge, built in 1915, is open late April through late November, and it’s easy to see why vacancies are scarce. It’s such a picturesque, inviting, and relaxed setting for a family getaway. 

For our trip’s first hike, we chose the 1/2 mile Moments in Time trail that began just east of the lodge and meandered through old-growth forest and along the lake’s edge. Interpretive signage was helpful in understanding and explaining the surrounding ecosystem. By the time we finished the short trail, we all gave the Crescent Lodge experience a 10. Some if not all of us will be back!

Highlights of our stay in the town of Forks were buying treats from the musical ice cream truck, watching the Twilight movie on dvd, and teaching Henry & Max to play Monopoly. Forks is known for excellent steelhead salmon fishing – and for the filming of the movie Twilight. Movie memorabilia and souvenirs abound!

After breakfast on day two (pancakes & bacon, thank you, Carrie), we drove to the Hoh Rainforest. Following along the Hoh River, we reached the ranger station. We were surprised to learn we didn’t need our Park Pass to enter because August 25th was the 105th birthday of the National Park Service. Happy Birthday – free entry for all!

Hoh River

After stamping our National Park Pass at the Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center, we set out on the short 3/4 mile Hall of Mosses trail. The trail loop enters a primeval forest of giant trees and trunks shaggy with moss. Dense and green, the rainforest averages 140 inches of rain annually. Truly another world, and in the “shades of green” category, we gave Hoh Rainforest a 10.

Our last Olympic National Park experience was exploring Ruby Beach. A short hike through coastal forest revealed the rocky beach and large stages of driftwood. The kids enjoyed stacking beach stones, climbing the huge rocks, and investigating the tidal pools. For the diverse coastal experience, we gave Ruby Beach a 10. 

Just eight miles south, we stopped at the Kalaloch Ranger Station for another National Park Passport stamp before leaving the park. You could see from the view at Kalaloch Lodge that the adjacent beach was a more sandy beach than Ruby Beach, but still a huge collecting spot for large driftwood logs.

As a parting gift for our Olympic National Park adventure, we purchased the Monopoly game National Parks Special Edition at the Kalaloch Mercantile before leaving the park. I guarantee there will be hours of armchair national park fun ahead until our next road trip!

Our diverse group of “judges” from the Midwest and the Northwest (ages 70, 69, 43, 7 and 5) gave all the ecosystem experiences a 10 and agreed the Olympic National Park earned a gold medal for its outstanding performance. As we drove along, Ken and I recalled our high school English Lit class and Longellow’s Evangeline:

“This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks…”

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One thing that makes my journey unique is that all of my interests are driven by a joyful and genuine curiosity. I delight in finding less expensive ways to make something or creative ways to enjoy something longer. Finding and creating joy - and sharing it - is core to who I am.