3. Paddle the Northwest

Olympic National Park, Washington; Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.

Apr 8, 2011
Outside Magazine
Olympic National Park

Olympic's Pacific coast, Washington    Photo: Photo by Woods Wheatcroft/Aurora

The best way to beat Olympic's crowds? Sea-kayak the park's remote Pacific coast. Go in July or August, when the swells are usually below six feet and the spectacular 64-mile out-and-back from Rialto Beach to Shi Shi Beach is manageable for novices. Pick up a boat from the Olympic Outdoor Center in Port Gamble ($230 per week; olympicoutdoorcenter.com) and drive 2.5 hours through the park to Rialto Beach, just north of La Push. From there, paddle three miles north to Hole-in-the-Wall, a 30-foot arch, and camp in the woods at the Norwegian Memorial, a log-strewn beach where 18 shipwrecked sailors were buried in 1903. Skip Cape Alava and Sand Point, which see backpacker traffic, and spend the night 2.5 miles north, at the mouth of the Ozette River. Then it's on to the turnaround point and the trip's highlight: the DalĂ­-like sea stacks and wind-lashed spruces at Point of the Arches and Shi Shi Beach. Get permits, book campsites, and pick up bear canisters (for raccoons, mostly) at the ranger station in Port Angeles ($5, plus $2 per person per night; nps.gov/olym).

BONUS: Trek Travel's new five-night road-bike tour skirts the slopes of Mount Mazama before hitting 8,744-foot Diamond Peak and Crater Lake, which guests lap on the 33-mile Rim Road. Sip Oregon pinots at night in lodges like the Oxford, an eco-friendly hotel in downtown Bend, and the Cabins at Mazama Village, near Crater Lake. From $2,795; departures July 10 and 17; trektravel.com

Alert: Demolition Derby
In September, Olympic National Park will begin knocking down a pair of 100-plus-foot dams choking the Elwha River—the biggest dam-removal project in American history. Event organizers expect thousands of whitewater and wild-salmon junkies to converge for the ceremony on September 17. Book a cabin at Sol Duc Hot Springs (cabins, $178; olympicnationalparks.com), 42 miles southwest of Port Angeles, and plan to party: the weekend is filled with art fairs, bands (rumors have Bon Jovi playing), and salmon feasts.