Next on my tour of the countries national parks is Olympic National Park. Like Mount Rainier, the bulk of the park is composed of mountainous regions — but once again, it’s a wet, jurassic-feeling mountain region. Walking through the park feels like an adventure through a Spielberg movie. The light drifts down between leaves and you can’t help but wonder if a dinosaur awaits you.
Located on the Olympic Peninsula, it’s most well-known for the rocky outcrops along the Pacific Shoreline, and for the famous Hurricane Ridge.
One of my biggest regrets from the time that I lived in Tacoma is the fact that I only visited the Olympic Peninsula once. It was a bit of a drive from my house, but it’s even further from a servicing airport. For those in Washington, it’s definitely worth the trip.
The most impressive part is the coast. Sandy beach in some areas, and then rocky outcropping it others, it’s an impressive feat of nature. The shoreline is dotted with a thousand little islands and outcropping, some seeming to rise directly from the shoreline.
It’s no easy walk to go along the shoreline. We headed down early in the morning, and just began doing a loop of a trail. We hadn’t planned in advance to actually talk to a park ranger, but eventually we came upon another group who had. They informed us that high tide will literally cut off the beach — you have to have finished your hike by about two in the afternoon, or no dice. Undeterred, we continued. . .but soon found that, sure enough, the tide came in and the beach disappeared. Fortunately, intrepid hikers (or park rangers, more likely) had rigged up arrows directing us on passages through rocky terrain, and even a few strategic ropes to help us up and over a few small cliffs.
After our beach walk, we headed back through the jungle (some may call it a temperature rainforest. . .I call it a jungle) and then headed up to hurricane ridge. It sometimes makes me a little sad, driving through National Prks, because you follow meandering roads to a lookout, and are suddenly met with what seems like a Target parking lot filled with cars and tourists. They hop out of the car, snap a quick picture,and then go back to driving. I understand that making the parks accessible is important. I also understand that much of the American public is either (a) fat; or (b) used to instant gratification, and don’t want to have to slog through mud or up mountains to reach a destination. Still, pulling a car over for a quick instagram moment isn’t nearly as satisfying as coming upon them after a rewarding hike, and I can’t help but be a little miffed at these photo-opportunity locations.
Rant aside, Hurricane Ridge may be the exception. There isn’t much hiking at the spot — a few paved roads that meander around the top to give views of both sides. Of course, it was also had to judge the hiking because of the amount of snow still on the mountain — and this was in mid-June. It only took a moment to get away from the crowds and gaze out at the harbor on the other side. And, pullover view spot or not, it’s hard to argue with the impressive peaks of Hurricane Ridge.