Road Trip Through Washington’s Splash Zone
This Olympic Peninsula loop in Washington is a water-lover's dream—take your pick of waterfalls, rivers, beaches, and lakes. And don't forget the seafood.
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Get soaked on this 550-mile journey past 73 miles of Pacific coastline, dozens of whitewater rivers, and a temperate rainforest in a million-acre national park.
Packing List: Kayak, surfboard, and wetsuit; every waterproof item you have
Highlights: From Olympia, warm up with a two-mile round-trip hike to the 130-foot froth of Murhut Falls near Quilcene, one of dozens of waterfalls on the peninsula. Then head to Port Townsend for fresh local clams at the Silverwater Café, a stop along the Olympic Culinary Loop—a collection of farmers’ markets, seafood spots, farms, and wineries.
As you continue west, stop at the former Elwha Dam site to pay homage to the free-flowing Elwha River. The 108-foot barrier was built in 1910 and removed in 2012, allowing five species of Pacific salmon to return to 70 miles of native habitat. Drive on to the Sol Duc Trailhead for a 3.4-mile hike to Deer Lake, followed by a soak in 104-degree hot springs ($13).
From there, veer off Highway 101 to Hobuck Beach Resort and book a beachside loft cabin with a kitchenette and fire ring ($200). Surf the easy break off the mile-long beach, kayak north to Cape Flattery, or drive three miles south to the trailhead for a two-mile hike to Shi Shi Beach, a long stretch of crescent-beach paradise.
Next, drive inland to the Hoh Rain Forest and the 18-mile hike through fern grottoes along the Hoh River to Mount Olympus’s Blue Glacier, a 2.2-square-mile behemoth where experienced mountaineers can rope up and navigate the cracks and crevasses.
Save a night or two for an end-of-trip splurge: a renovated room at Lake Quinault Lodge, a mighty, 1926-built national-park icon overlooking the lake and the mountains beyond (from $250).