Road Trip: Highway 101 – The Olympic Peninsula

Highway 101 Lake Crescent

Highway 101

I love a road trip, and I love to drive or ride to see new places. I particularly like to get out into nature. I like to be around trees, flowers, grass, water, you know…stuff like that. 🙂

This is why on a recent stay in Seattle, I had to do Highway 101 around the Olympic Peninsula in Washington; which is also the location of Olympic National Park. It was summer, and the weather had been fantastic. So, I waited until the masses were at work, and on a sunny Monday I hit the road.

On this road trip, I was focused on what I would see along the route versus going to a specific destination.

I started my journey southbound from Seattle on Interstate 5 to the city of Olympia (Washington’s State Capitol). This is the best place to start from if you want to go the scenic route. Highway 101 is picked up just outside of Olympia.

Once you hit Potlatch State Park, approximately 30-minutes later, is when it starts to get really good.

Potlatch State Park

Potlatch State Park

Potlatch State Park

Potlatch State Park

The road hugs the Hood Canal’s edge for about the next hour and a half of driving. It really is hard to drive, and watch gorgeous scenery passing by. Another thing that’s great about this route is that there are several turnouts to stop and enjoy the view.

oadside Hwy 101 Hood Canal

View of the Hood Canal along Highway 101 North

Somewhere Along Hwy 101

Somewhere Along Highway 101 North

For a brief moment, the route treated me to a majestic view of the Olympic National Forest. It was a teaser of what was to come once I actually got into the park the next day.

Olympic National Forest Sign

Olympic National Forest Sign

 

Port Angeles was where I had decided to rest my head for the night. Its location is at about the halfway point for this road trip, so it was the perfect location. Port Angeles is located seaside, right along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The downtown area is lined with small locally owned restaurants, coffee shops, and clothing boutiques.

Port Angeles & Strait of Juan De Fuca

Port Angeles & Strait of Juan De Fuca as seen from 2nd Ave.

Port Angeles Downtown Sunset

Downtown Port Angeles Sunset

I had heard there was a light house just across from the port on Ediz Hook. The drive there was kind of crazy as I had to go through what on first sight appeared to be a cross between a military installation and a manufacturing plant. It turned out that the Light House had been demolished. But, the view of Port Angeles made the drive totally worth it.

Port Angeles from Ediz Hook

Port Angeles from Ediz Hook

 

Sun Setting from Ediz Hook

The sun setting as viewed from Ediz Hook

Olympic National Park, also an UNESCO World Heritage Site, did not disappoint.

Lake Crescent located 21 miles southwest of Port Angeles directly along Highway 101, is a shimmering jewel. A 624-foot deep lake carved by a huge glacier thousands of years ago. The shades of blue from clear to teal to turquoise blend together as only nature can.

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent

 

At this point I’d gone from the mountains, to the lakes, and my next stop was the rainforest. Hoh Rainforest, located an hour and a half drive away, was waiting for me.

The drive to Hoh Rainforest takes you through the town of Forks. In case you’re not a fan of the Twilight movies, I will share with you that this is the actual town where author Stephenie Meyer based her Twilight book series.

Welcome to Forks

Welcome to Forks

I’m not a Twilight fan, but I am a fan of clean rest stops and restrooms. And, that is what Forks has right along the highway. It was perfect timing. This was also a great time to make phone calls, check Facebook, and Twitter since there is hardly any phone reception in the mountains, and you can completely forget about 4G. But, in Forks I got 4G, so I hung out for a few minutes.

Hoh Rainforest is one of the largest rainforests in the United States. Drenched in over 12 feet of rain a year, the west side valleys are thick with giant western hemlock, Douglas-fir and Sitka spruce trees. The moss-draped big leaf maples create a magical scene that wipes out all sense of time.

Hoh River

Hoh River

The Road to Hoh Rain Forest

The Road to Hoh Rainforest; Upper Hoh Road

The drive to the rainforest took me off of Highway 101, and onto Upper Hoh Road, which ran along the Hoh River. There’s a ranger station on this route. It cost $15 for  private vehicles to enter the park; which is good for 7 days throughout the park.

Tree Arch in Hoh Rainforest

Tree Arch in Hoh Rainforest

Hall of Mosses Sign - Hoh Rainforest

Hall of Mosses Sign – Hoh Rainforest

Hall of Mosses - Hoh Rainforest

Hall of Mosses – Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest - Fallen Trees

Hoh Rainforest – Fallen Trees

The best truly was saved for last. It wasn’t a plan, I lucked up on this spot.

There is a 12 mile stretch along Highway 101 that runs right along the coast. When I saw the sign for Ruby Beach, I decided on impulse to take it. My original plan was to go to Kalaloch (also along the coast) which is located a little further south. I’ve written before about “embracing the detours,” and I’m so glad I decided to trust my instincts. A small trek downhill took me to an almost secluded, rocky beach, with 100 year old trees overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was gorgeous.

Relfections at Ruby Beach

Relfections at Ruby Beach

Rocky Ruby Beach

Rocky Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach

This road trip was about the journey, but I wished I had more time to stay in the park. Olympic National Park is like three parks in one; the mountain ranges, the coastal beaches, and the rain forests. I was not disappointed. How could I be? You just saw what I saw; mother nature at her best.

Do you have a favorite road trip or one you want to do?

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About Terri Lundberg

Terri Lundberg is an American expat currently residing with her husband in Saudi Arabia, but she calls Seattle and San Diego home. She’s a travel writer, an avid photographer and is a resource and cross cultural trainer to expats relocating to Saudi Arabia. She's been to 100 destinations, 26 countries, and counting.

Comments

  1. Roland Lundberg says:

    This seems like a perfect road trip with varying topography and scenic views. I am definitely doing this in the near future. As beautiful as these pictures are I know they do not do nature justice.

  2. Patricia Patton says:

    If I’d known you were going, I would have gone with you. Looks so lovely and the beaches aka ocean is so different in the east.

    • That would have been nice. This was my first time at the Pacific Ocean in Washington. The beach was so different than what I grew up with in San Diego. Ruby Beach was my favorite find along my way.

  3. AMAZING! Thank you for sharing. I came accross your site as I’m trying to figure out what to do when I get to Seattle this March. This is exactly what I am looking for. Now to locate a hotel…..

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