10 Amazing Places to See on the Northern Olympic Peninsula

Douglas Scott
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There are few stretches of land more beautiful than the northern edge of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. Within a 100 mile radius, you can explore beaches with sea stacks and hike in mountains full of marmots and snow. Along highway 101, you can get out and explore dense forests along glacial rivers, climb peaks to panoramic views, wander along fern-clad box canyons leading to waterfalls, or just sit back in the car and soak it all in along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The North Olympic Peninsula is where nature lovers go to make their daydreams a reality, and where wanderlust is both created and quenched. It is where you need to go next time you have a free weekend, and it is only a few hours from downtown Seattle.

While there are hundreds of possible destinations along the north Olympic Peninsula, here are ten locations that are not to be missed. From east to west, these locations will leave you wondering what is around every bend and turn in the road, fueling your desire to see every inch of the always beautiful, remote, and verdant peninsula. You haven’t experienced Washington State until you've explore this incredible region on the Olympic Peninsula.

1. Dungeness Spit

The walk along Dungeness Spit on the Strait of Juan De Fuca.
The walk along Dungeness Spit on the Strait of Juan De Fuca. Steve Voght

At 11 miles round trip, the hike to the lighthouse at the end of Dungeness Spit gets you out on the Strait of Juan De Fuca and along a sandy beach full of shells and driftwood. Considered the longest spit in the contiguous United States, Dungeness is also an amazing place to see eagles, shorebirds, and even a possible whale sighting. With stunning views of the Olympic Mountains to the south and Mount Baker to the northeast, you won’t want to leave this idillic strip of coastal goodness.

2. Deer Park

Walking west from Deer Park, enjoying the endless ridges of Olympic National Park
Walking west from Deer Park, enjoying the endless ridges of Olympic National Park Doug Scott

Located 6,007 feet above the sandy shores of Dungeness Spit just a few miles drive away, the Deer Park region of Olympic National Park is a less visited version of Hurricane Ridge . Along the windswept mountaintops of the Olympics, Deer Park gets you to the top of Blue Mountain where drool-worthy panoramas await. From the summit, you can see British Columbia, Mount Baker, Mount Olympus, and the Salish Sea; it is truly incredible. Numerous day hikes are possible from here, including the Maiden Peak trek . This region is only open during the snow free months.

3. Hurricane Ridge

The view of Hurricane Ridge and Mount Olympus from Sunrise Ridge
The view of Hurricane Ridge and Mount Olympus from Sunrise Ridge Doug Scott

Hurricane Ridge is one of the major destinations for all who visit Olympic National Park. Just 18 miles from downtown Port Angeles, the trails and vistas of Hurricane Ridge await you. The drive up is one of the prettiest roads in America, with scenery so stunning you’ll have to seriously focus on staying on the road . With sights of Mount Olympus and the Olympic interior, as well as numerous day hikes, you can—and should—spend a whole day here. Keep an eye out for the marmots, mountain goats, and deer that frequent the trails in the summer.

4. Salt Creek

Exploring tide pools and enjoying the sea stacks at Salt Creek on the Strait of Juan De Fuca
Exploring tide pools and enjoying the sea stacks at Salt Creek on the Strait of Juan De Fuca Doug Scott

Salt Creek is a local favorite and a less visited beach than other areas in the region. While the Salt Creek Recreation Area  is a bit off the main road, the views, sea stacks, tide pools, and short trails make for an incredibly fun day. Tongue Point is the most notable place to explore during low tide, as it is full of numerous tidal creatures and gives great views of the entire region. Once you are done, it is highly recommended you walk down Crescent Bay and take in the sights of the Olympic Mountains from Sand Beach. Don’t forget to explore the bluffs where WWII bunkers are hiding.

5. Mount Storm King

Looking down at Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park from Mount Storm King
Looking down at Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park from Mount Storm King Doug Scott

Once you stand on top of Mount Storm King , it is hard to figure out how you lived before you were there. Considered one of the classic mountains to climb in Olympic National Park, the trail is just 3.8 miles round trip, but gains a whopping 1,700 feet. It is steep, hard on the quads, and worth every ass-kicking step. Atop the rocky peak, Lake Crescent expands out in all its glory, showing off its otherworldly majesty and intense blue color. It also has the distinction of being Washington State's second deepest lake. All in all, it's a tough, but totally rewarding hike worthy of any adventurer's bucket list.

6. Marymere Falls

The old wooden bridge leading to Marymere Falls in Olympic National Park
The old wooden bridge leading to Marymere Falls in Olympic National Park Doug Scott

One of the classic, easy, day hikes in Olympic National Park, Marymere Falls  is worth the hype. At just 1.8 miles round trip, and gaining an easy 500 feet of elevation, the hike to the falls weaves through a pretty forest and crosses two stunning bridges before reaching the waterfall. The second bridge alone is worth the hike, as it is wooden and twisted and inviting. However, the falls are the real draw. Plunging 90 feet, the path to the falls is lined with brilliant green moss and is gorgeous year round.

7. Spruce Railroad

No matter what the season, crossing the Devils Punchbowl Bridge along the Spruce Railroad Trail gives incredible views.
No matter what the season, crossing the Devils Punchbowl Bridge along the Spruce Railroad Trail gives incredible views. Doug Scott

The Spruce Railroad Trail is another iconic hike in Olympic National Park, this time located on the shores of beautiful Lake Crescent. An eight mile round trip trek, this path is easy to follow and mostly flat. While many will enjoy the caves created when the region was going to become a railroad line, the main highlight of the trail is Devils Punchbowl and the bridge that spans it. Located just one mile from the eastern trailhead, Devils Punchbowl is a popular swimming destination and the scene of many Instagram pictures. This trail is awesome, easy, and incredibly scenic and needs to be hiked.

8. The Elwha

The Elwha River on an overcast winter day
The Elwha River on an overcast winter day Douglas Scott

The Elwha River once had two dams on it, stopping salmon from returning to their ancestral home.  The dams were removed in 2014, and the river has once again become wild. In late 2015, the heavy rains of winter storms closed the road and washed away a campground, but you can still hike into the area. The highlight for most is the stunning Goblin’s Gate and the old cabins along the river past the Whiskey Bend Road. There are Hot Springs you can hike to as well, but the condition of them is sketchy at best. Stick to the main trails and enjoy a wild, gorgeous river.

9. Sol Duc Falls

Douglas Scott

Many will scoff at the easiness of the Sol Duc Falls Trail . The path is just a little over one mile round trip, but leads to a triple-tiered waterfall that is mind-blowingly gorgeous. Even the short path is ridiculously picturesque, crossing over pretty creeks and passing a sturdy old wooden shelter. The falls is the main draw, and views from the bridge and the platforms will leave you inspired to venture further into Olympic’s wilderness. This is also the start to one of the best backpacking destinations in Olympic, the Seven Lakes Basin region . If you have time, do that trip. if you only have a day, enjoy the beauty of the falls and maybe swing into the hot springs resort for a dip.

10. Strait of Juan De Fuca Highway

Cape Flattery is the Northwestern-most point in the continental US and the end of the Northern Olympic Peninsula
Cape Flattery is the Northwestern-most point in the continental US and the end of the Northern Olympic Peninsula Douglas Scott

If hiking and adventuring outdoors is something you aren’t too keen on, the drive from Seattle to Neah Bay will get you along Highway 112, best known as the Strait of Juan De Fuca Highway . Along the 61 mile route, numerous pull-offs will entice you to stop and watch for whales or just gaze at the beauty of the coast. The road ends at Neah Bay, where a fantastic tribal museum awaits, letting you learn about the region and buy a day pass to see Cape Flattery and Shi Shi Beach of Olympic National Park. This is a long drive for a day, but makes for the perfect three day weekend destination.

For more information on these hikes, destinations, and all things Olympic, follow Douglas Scott on twitter and check out his definitive guide to the region.

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