Lake Quinault and the Quinault Rain Forest are Great for Wildlife Viewing
I’m a bit of a fanatic for the Lake Quinault area. It’s one of the best spots in the Pacific Northwest for finding solitude, hiking, fishing, and viewing wildlife. I’ve seen black bear, deer, bald eagle, and a mountain lion, all very close (the bear a little too close for comfort in fact) and in their natural environments.
Perhaps the best wildlife to see, though, is the herd of Roosevelt elk that inhabits the area and can be found quite regularly in the woods and fields just off northeast portion of North Shore Road. This area of Lake Quinault gets little visitation, especially in the off-season autumn/winter months. The road is rough and sometimes washed out, so even on days when Lake Quinault Lodge is full, you can find some solitary remove in this portion of the park.
The Roosevelt elk herd that frequents this area seems to feel at home there, so they won’t scatter if you set up shop to observe them (as long as you don’t get too close, of course). They’ll go about their social business at ease.
I watched them for nearly an hour once, and they just went about their routine as though I wasn’t there.
How to Find the Quinault Rain Forest’s Roosevelt Elk Herd
The elk congregate most often along a little stretch of North Shore Road. Google Maps won’t let me pin to the fields, so I had to pin the Lochaerie Resort in the interactive map below.
If you go east about 10 miles east of that resort, you’ll find some open fields. The Roosevelt elk herd often hangs out in those fields, which are pretty close to the road–I’m talking close enough to watch clearly with the naked eye.
With binoculars or a camera, you can see the sky reflected in their eyes.
You can also get to the spot by driving up Lake Quinault’s South Shore Road, which may be desirable if your car isn’t well suited to rough driving. The North Shore Road gets pretty tough in parts, particularly after heavy storm events. South Shore Road also has its hairy moments sometimes, but in my experience after years of visiting this area regularly, it’s generally kinder to vehicles than the North Shore Road.
If you’ve got the vehicle and the guts, though, drive the whole Lake Quinault North/South Shore Road loop. It’s a terrific drive through moss-laden trees and mountain views.
Close to the area with the elk is the North Forks Campground and the Irely Lake trail. I go camping and hiking in that area frequently. Once, in the winter, I found a black bear in one of the North Forks camping spots (I was the only person staying there). It was a spectacular encounter. The bear was no more than 10 yards from me when we first realized we weren’t alone. He watched me curiously as I walked to the outhouse and then lumbered off. I have to confess that I was a bit nervous camping that evening.
Also, if you go to this area during the salmon runs, you’ve got a good shot of seeing bald eagles picking off the fish.
The area is a terrific spot for wildlife enthusiasts. Obviously, you can never know for sure what you’ll run into, but the elk are about as safe a bet as I know of.
Go check them out. Maybe you’ll catch a sight of some bear or eagle, too.
If you decide to make a longer trip of it, consider staying at the Quinault River Inn. There are many great choices for lodging in the Lake Quinault area, but the Inn has always been my favorite. It’s run by terrific people and is set off on quiet spot by the riverside.
If any of you need more specific directions to the open fields I discussed, shoot me a message and I’ll walk you to the spot.