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Pacific Northwest & Washington State: Trip Review (with Video!)

In the fall of 2019 we ventured to western Washington to see one of the most unique collection of ecosystems in the country. The Olympic Peninsula and surrounding areas of western Washington receive wildly different climates, all influenced by the arrival of storms from the Pacific Ocean and their interaction with the Olympic Mountains. We experienced this fascinating display firsthand as we hopped around Washington, making stops in Seattle, Poulsbo, and Olympic National Park.

When We Visited

We visited in October of 2019. October is the first month where consistent precipitation begins to fall in western Washington. October ushers in the “rainy season” that lasts until April, and as expected, it rained almost the entire time we were there. Truthfully, I was glad it rained. It’s how the Pacific Northwest is meant to be experienced this time of year! And as the saying goes, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing.” We came prepared with rain gear and the weather didn’t slow us down at all. Plus, the fall colors were spectacular!

Where We Stayed

Our 4-day trip involved some jumping around. Beginning with one night at a standard hotel in downtown Seattle, we moved across the Puget Sound to the Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympic National Park. This historic gem was built in 1915 on the shores of Lake Crescent, and was a convenient stopover for us between different areas of Olympic NP. It's one of those iconic lodges that define the national park system. We spent our final two nights in the charming waterfront town of Poulsbo, affectionately known as “little Norway”.

Lake Crescent Lodge
View from the tavern lounge at Lake Crescent Lodge

Where We Ate/Drank

  • Nextdoor Gastropub (Port Angeles): I could see myself becoming a regular at this kind of place. It’s everything you want out of a gastropub - numerous craft beers on tap, great burgers and other elevated pub fare, funky wall art, hip music, and outdoor seating. Take me back.

  • A Shot in the Dark (Forks): I need to give a shout out to this upbeat and unassuming roadside “shack” (for lack of a better word). They were the only place open at 5:30am when I needed a coffee for my sunrise hike on the beach!

  • Blueacre Seafood (Seattle): You can’t go to Seattle and not eat seafood. This was the closest upscale seafood place to our hotel, and the crab legs, lobster bisque, and seafood jambalaya were terrific. Sadly, it looks like they are now permanently closed - likely due to COVID-19.

Nextdoor Gastropub
Nextdoor Gastropub's cycling sasquatch

  • Poulsbohemian Coffee (Poulsbo): This might be my favorite coffee shop ever. It’s not fancy, but it’s friendly, homey, and perched on a bluff overlooking the harbor. The coffee is wonderful but the setting is what brings people back.

  • Sluys Bakery (Poulsbo): A local favorite for baked goods and all things sweet, Sluys is a small, family-owned bakery that hand-makes everything from scratch.

  • Sogno di Vino (Poulsbo): This quaint Italian spot cooks wood-fired pizzas and other Tuscan fare with all kinds of wine - we ordered some of the local varieties! It’s all served amid cozy brick walls, with a fireplace and patio. Very lovely, very romantic.

  • The Loft at Latitude Forty Seven Seven (Poulsbo): Deciding that we must eat dinner somewhere on the water, The Loft served up tasty seafood dishes (like the lobster mac and cheese) in a casual, nautical setting. The sunset views over the harbor were picturesque.

  • Slippery Pig Brewery (Poulsbo): Across the street from our dinner stop (The Loft), we enjoyed some craft beer, befriended a few locals, and spectated a hilariously fun "beer stein strength competition" on stage.

Harbor view at Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse

Where We Hiked

  • Talapus & Olallie Lakes (Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest): Our very first hike of the trip was a winner. At 6+ miles and uphill for much of it, this was the perfect challenge. Talapus Lake and Olallie Lake are two small, scenic lakes that seem to sit in bowls between mountain peaks. It was neat seeing zero development on the lakes; no boats, cabins, or docks to speak of. Just natural beauty.

  • Hurricane Hill (Hurricane Ridge area of Olympic National Park): A perfect example of embracing the moment, this hike climbs steeply up a ridge and was supposed to finish with jaw-dropping views of the Olympic mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Instead, a peaceful snow fell, obscuring any scenic views. But that also meant complete solitude (I didn’t see a single person) and a wintry experience I’ll never forget.

  • Sol Duc Salmon Cascades (Lake Crescent area of Olympic National Park): More of a viewpoint than a hike, the salmon cascades are nonetheless a fascinating experience. I saw countless salmon swimming upstream and leaping their way up the small waterfalls in hopes of spawning.

Hurricane Ridge Road
A view of the Olympic Mountains from Hurricane Ridge Road

  • Rialto Beach to Hole-In-The-Wall (La Push, coastal area of Olympic National Park): This is one of the most unique hikes I’ve ever taken. It’s really just a walk on the beach, but this is not your ordinary beach with sugary sand and palm trees. The rugged coastline near La Push is laden with massive dead trees ("driftwood") that have been washed ashore by the powerful Pacific Ocean. Tall evergreen trees line the beach beyond the sand, and giant rocky sea stacks jut out of the water offshore. The turnaround point is the namesake Hole-in-the-Wall; a rocky outcropping from the beach to the water where erosion has carved out a large arch.

  • Hall of Mosses Trail (Hoh Rainforest area of Olympic National Park): One of the more famous trails in all the national park system, the short Hall of Mosses Trail gives you the truest glimpse into the Hoh Rainforest’s ferngully-esque aura.

  • Spruce Nature Trail (Hoh Rainforest area of Olympic National Park): Similar to the Hall of Mosses but slightly longer, this trail winds its way over streams, through the rainforest, and out to the bank of the Hoh River.

  • Staircase Rapids Loop Trail (Staircase/Lake Cushman area of Olympic National Park): Beautiful stroll through lush undergrowth and groves of tall trees, never out of earshot of the North Fork of the Skokomish River. A convenient turnaround point is the suspension footbridge, where you cross the river and return to the trailhead on the opposite bank. The drive to the trailhead winds along the shore of Lake Cushman on a washed out dirt road, but it’s worth the trouble.

Spruce Nature Trail
Moss-draped trees and giant ferns along the Spruce Nature Trail

More Photos from the Trip

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