Things to Do at Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Tucked away smack-dab in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula Loop, Lake Crescent is one of the most beautiful destinations in Washington—a state FULL of beautiful destinations. I visit Lake Crescent often (and often make a dual trip of Lakes Crescent and Quinault), so I figured I’d put together a list of things to do at Lake Crescent.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and people with boats will almost certainly come up with a radically different itinerary. This is just my perspective as a guy who prefers to keep the earth under his feet.

#1 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Storm King

For intrepid hikers, Storm King is a must when you visit Lake Crescent. It’s my favorite hike in that area, and one of my favorites in the entire state.

From the top of the trail you get an awe-inspiring view of Lake Crescent and the surrounding area. Be warned, though, my friends—with courage, endurance, and grit, you must EARN this particular view.

Mean, Mean Mount Storm King: Path to Stunning Views Littered With Bodies of the Broken and Dejected

#2 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Marymere Falls

It’s with great shame that I admit my inability to find any of my pictures of Marymere Falls, though I’ve visited the location more times than I can count. I’ll shoot out to this location every time I visit Lake Crescent.

My lack of falls-photographs does, however, give me an excuse of the tunnel on the trail to the falls. I call it the Hobbit Tunnel, though far as I know it has no official name.

Tunnel through stone wall leading to Marymere Falls.

I think the reason the tunnel always brings Lord of the Rings to my mind is because “Marymere Falls” sounds like something from the Shire to me, and because…well…this tunnel looks like a Hobbit tunnel.

Marymere Falls is a much easier hike than Storm King, and it really is a must-see for visitors to Lake Crescent. The Washington Trails Association covers it well here.

#3 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Jeez, Just Chill and Enjoy the Lake

Many of these sorts of blogs go for outrageous, death-defying adventures. That’s all fine and good, but sometimes I feel like people get too caught up in chasing what will look cool on Facebook, rather than doing something that’s simply relaxing and rejuvenating (what crazy concepts in this modern age).

Bird perched in a tree.
Just BE…like this bird I found in a tree on the shore of Lake Crescent.

Lake Crescent is beautiful. Period. You can just relax on the shore and look out over the water and enjoy the simple pleasure of being alive. It’s okay to just…BE.

I still remember the first time I drove around a bend on 101 and caught sight of Lake Crescent. It pops up out of nowhere after a long drive through thick woods and high mountains.

The glacial water’s got a stunning shade of blue you won’t find in many other places around the country.

Personally, it’s natural beauty was, and IS, enough for me. My favorite times of each trip usually end up being just sitting on the shore and contemplating the beauty.

#4 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Eat at Granny’s

Roughly 10 minutes east of Lake Crescent is one of the best-kept secrets of the Olympia Peninsula Loop: Granny’s Cafe.

Especially after a hard hike up Mount Storm King, Granny’s burgers and milk shakes are unbelievably good. This place is an absolute gem.

Granny’s Cafe near Port Angeles, Washington: One of the Best Places to Eat on the 101 Loop

Send Me Your Tips!

If you’ve got any more suggestions for things to do at Lake Crescent or just want to share your experience, please drop me a line or leave a comment. I’m always ready to learn something new!

Peace out, fellow travelers.

Enjoy the Northwest!

Your Very Own Hoh Rain Forest

If you’ve ever dreamed of having the entire Hoh Rain Forest to yourself, then go there in January. While it won’t legally be yours, there’ll be so few people there that you can pretend it is.

At least, that’s how it was when I went there last January.

A great blue heron in the Hoh Rain Forest.
A great blue heron in the Hoh Rain Forest.

The area was so quiet, in fact, that I nearly walked into a tern on the way back to the my car.

I was in the parking lot and had just entered a short trail that connects the two primary parking lots. The tern burst into flight no more than five feet away from me.

The bird flew a little ways and then settled back down by the water. Using my ninja-like stealth, I got close enough to take the glorious picture you see above.

The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the prettiest parts of Olympic National Park, which makes it one of the prettiest parts of Washington state. It’s also more difficult to access than any other part of the park simply because it’s on the far western side of the Olympic Peninsula. The closest town to it is Forks.

A great blue heron in the Hoh Rain Forest.

The Hoh Rain Forest is beautiful in January because the mountains in the distance are snowy while the lower ground is not, creating a nice aesthetic contrast.

I stood on that riverside you see to the left for a solid twenty minutes and only saw one pair of people other than myself. It was quiet and peaceful there, even though I was less than half a mile from the parking lot.

My favorite Hoh trail is the Hall of Mosses. Less than a mile long, it takes you on a walk through a forest of enormous trees blanketed in moss. The place feels ancient, as if you’ve stepped into a time machine and traveled back to a time  before human beings. This is doubly true in January.

But, the purpose of this post isn’t to go into specific hikes or sights; I’ll add those things in other posts later. For right now, I just wanted to pass on a little insider information.

Go to the Hoh in January (or presumably any time around that), and you’ll find lots of silence to roam in.

Your very own rain forest. Can’t beat that.

Things to Do at Lake Quinault

Quinault River in wintertime.
Quinault River in winter time. The river empties into Lake Quinault.

The list of “Places I’ve Been in Washington” is pretty extensive, but one place stands out above ALL the others. You’ll find it on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula, right off State Route 101. It doesn’t get the press that Mount Rainier or Seattle gets, but for my money there’s no place in Washington I’d rather be. Even beyond the rugged beauty of a glacially-carved lake (as if that weren’t enough in itself), there’s just no shortage of things to do at Lake Quinault.

It’s an ideal destination for solo excursions, family trips, romantic getaways, and for introducing visiting family and friends to what Washington has to offer. Lake Quinault and the Quinault Rain Forest are like a second home to me. So hop on in and let me show you what Lake Quinault has to offer.

Things to Do at Lake Quinault #1: Wildlife Viewing

Bring a pair of binoculars and keep your eyes peeled for the critters and creatures you’ll encounter at Lake Quinault. Every season of the year offers excellent bird watching for the avian-inclined visitor. A basic guide book on bird identification is helpful for identifying species, but for the casual viewer, a keen eye and couple of hours is all you need.

Caterpillar seen on a fallen tree on the Wolf Bar Trail.
Don’t forget the little guys, too. Fascinating, beautiful stuff is everywhere.

For bigger game, consider checking out the Roosevelt Elk, frequently found off of the northeast section of North Shore Road. They’re a pretty reliable sighting, and chances are you’ll be part of a very small crowd; the elk get few visitors, practically guaranteeing a few minutes alone with some big-time wildlife.

If you want to try your luck at other big game, Lake Quinault is home to black bears, black-tailed deer, bald eagles, and mountain lions. I’ve seen them all on the back trails.

Things to Do at Lake Quinault #2: Relaxing Beside the Lake or ON the Lake During a Boat Tour

Few things are more soothing than the sound of Lake Quinault’s great blue expanse lapping up on shore. For some visitors, a day sitting on the shore and soaking up the sun and fresh air is what it’s all about.

Visitors who want to head out onto the deep and cool waters, however, will also be happy to learn they can sign up for boat tours through Lake Quinault Lodge.

The tours are set up on morning, afternoon, and sunset schedules. The morning and afternoon tours are informative expeditions. You’ll learn about the history of the lake and the surrounding environment. For those who prefer a more quiet and reflective time on the lake, the sunset tour is your best option. It’s designed to help you wind down after your day exploring Lake Quinault.

Things to Do at Lake Quinault #3: Drive the Loop

After my brother visited Washington and returned home, I asked him what his favorite parts of the trip were. The first thing that came out of his mouth was, “Driving the loop!”

Merriman Falls after a hard rain, just off South Shore Road.
Merriman Falls, right off the side of South Shore Road, part of the Lake Quinault Loop.

A total distance of 31 miles, the Lake Quinault Forest Loop Drive is a nice jaunt for the viewer, and you can enjoy it from the comfort of your car. Venture into the depths of the park and take a gander at the waterfalls along the road. All of the wildlife that calls Lake Quinault home is viewable on this trip, and the road takes you by some great places to get out and stretch your legs.

Things to Do at Lake Quinault #4: See Giant Trees

The second favorite part of my brother’s trip was seeing the giant trees. Dwarfing every other tree in the nation, except the sequoias in California, the giant trees of Lake Quinault are a “you’ve gotta see it to believe it” kind of experience.

First on the list is the Quinault Big Spruce Tree. A clear and relatively flat trail leads to the base of this monster. There isn’t much that gives you a sense of scale like the Big Spruce Tree.

The Quinault Big Cedar Tree is next to check out. It collapsed during a wind storm in the last few months of 2017, but champions like this are astonishing even in defeat. It’s still a great, short hike to take, and you’ll see some huge standing trees along the way. Besides, it takes more than a little storm to take away the grandeur of a tree like this. They’re like gods fallen to Earth.

Don’t let the unassuming names for these trees trick you; they’re immense and majestic, Grand Canyons of the tree world.

Things to Do at Lake Quinault #5: Day Trip Hikes

Lake Quinault has hikes for every fitness and interest level. For a quick out-and-back journey, check out the 2.2 mile long Irely Lake Trail. Dead trees rise up from the water in this secluded section of hiking trail. It can get a little muddy and washed out early in the season, so make sure to wear good boots.

The Quinault River-Pony Bridge Day Hike is 2.5 miles long. Hikers typically turn around when they reach the bridge, but the walk goes on considerably farther for those interested. Sections of the trail can be a bit rocky. Hiking poles aren’t necessary, but they’ll make the going a little easier for those inclined.

Not for the faint of heart, the Colonel Bob Trail is a serious undertaking. It’s a 14-mile trip that climbs to a height of nearly 5,000 feet. At the apex of the trail you’ll get a stunning view of the mountains and forests of the Quinault region. Prepare for rocky sections of the trail with loose footing. Hikers are advised to bring plenty of water; the final uphill battle of this hike is taxing and demands hikers be prepared.

Ready for More?

This article was meant to be a launching point for things to do at Lake Quinault, and by no means exhaustive. Talking about it has me jonesing for a trip there myself.

If you want any custom insider guidance, shoot me a message here on the Nomad. This entails no sales pitch or product push. I’ll happily help you out with any information you need. I don’t get any money from any of the areas I write about, and this is all straight talk about the places I’m passionate about. Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll get back to you with the information if I have it, or I’ll point you towards someone who does.

Get out there and enjoy Quinault!

Mean, Mean Mount Storm King: Path to Stunning Views Littered With Bodies of the Broken and Dejected

Mount Storm King is a Cruel and Vengeful King

Cliffs seen from the top of Mount Storm King.There are few easily accessible hikes I’ve ever seen turn away more would-be climbers than Mount Storm King does. I met the victims, walking wounded, several times on my way down the mountain.

“Are we almost to the top?” these strangers asked between labored gasps. They tried to smile, but the desperate glint in their eyes indicated something other than humor.

I would answer with something like, “You’re pretty close,” but then, compelled by a humanistic urge to Truth, would add, “but the trail only gets harder. A lot harder.”

Sometimes they would laugh, thinking that surely I jested. How could the trail possibly continue to go straight upwards any longer without reaching the sun itself?

“It’s rough-going,” I would say. Then I would reach deep into my motivational bag of tricks. “But the view from the top is my favorite view in the state” (this statement is true, by the way).

Some of them would continue on, and some would even make it to the top. Others would simply sit there, waiting for me to pass out of sight so that they could shamefully surrender to Storm King’s cruelty. These I occasionally ran across in the parking lot below, shuffling along shamefacedly and trying to evade my harshly judgmental gaze (I assume this is what they’re doing, anyway).

The trail is not long, only 1.9 miles, but that brevity is deceptive. The trail starts steep and it stays that way. I don’t recall any stretches of the trail that give even a temporary level-graded respite.

Do I say any of this to deter anyone? Of course not. The kind of people who do the King are the kind of people who will be intrigued at the promise of cruelty and despair. These words are sweet talk to the breed of people who will make this climb. Are you feeling seduced right now? Feeling hot?

Step inside my office, then, my friend. The King awaits.

Where to Find the Storm King Trail Head

The Storm King trail head branches off of the very popular (and much easier than Storm King) Marymere Falls trail, which itself begins at the Storm King Ranger Station. I’ve pinned this location below for your convenience (I do strive to be a good guide…please, please tell me I’m good).

The Final Trial of Storm King, and Then Those Views

There are a couple places to stop off for nice views on the way to the top of Storm King. The views are striking enough that I personally think they make the climb worth it, even if a person doesn’t make it all the way to the top.

View of Lake Crescent from an outlook about a quarter mile down the trail from the top of Storm King.
View from one of the outlooks reached about a quarter of a mile from the top of Storm King. I say “quarter mile” with no little hesitance, because I’m estimating this purely off the feel of the hike and my own internal guesswork. If any readers have better intel on the actual distance of this point from the top, please do let me know.

In a way, there are two “ends” to the Storm King trail. The first provides stunning views and awards imaginary medals for toughness and courage to all who make it.

Trail to Mount Storm with Lake Crescent in the background.

The “second end” of Storm King takes another level of irrational persistence. To make this final run, you’ll have to climb up a very steep slope of loose dirt, pulling yourself up with a rope. Allow me to stress here that I’m not saying the rope is there as a novelty or as a convenience. The rope is necessary to get up the loose-footed rise, and you will be relying largely on upper body strength.

Beyond this is another such climb. When I hiked this a few years ago,there was a rope there as well, and I believe there should STILL be a rope there. As of the date of this writing, however, that second rope is gone.

Going up these two sections is a bit tough, but nothing too crazy. Where things get a slight bit hairy is when you have to go back down. Falling down either of these two steep sections carries a legitimate risk of serious injury, and possibly death (in some nightmare scenario where the momentum carries a person clear off the side of the mountain).

But, those brave adventurers who make it to the end shall be treated visually thusly:

There’s Birds in Them Thar Trees

Gray finch perched in a tree on Mount Storm King.Up at the top of the mountain, you’ll find plenty of these grey jays cruising around and looking for handouts.

They’re an athletic bunch of birds to watch…and to envy the ease with which they maneuver through the territory you just sacrificed a piece of your soul to reach.

Like All Things Worth Doing, the Suck is the Best Reward

Like a ruptured quadriceps or a torn calf muscle, Mount Storm King is an event you’ll never forget. The views are amazing; they are probably my favorite views in the state, in fact. But, what really makes Storm King terrific is how much suck it manages to pack into a mere 1.9 miles of trail.

It’s the kind of hike you laugh about years later, fondly recalling that time you asked your hiking partner to kill you so that you wouldn’t have to go on…that time your hiking partner responded, “Only if you kill me first.”

This is the good stuff. Take on the King. He is harsh and he is cruel, but he rewards those who persevere to the end.