Leaf-Peeping on the Olympic Peninsula

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Great Gatsby. And I can’t say I disagree. I love when the when the air starts to get crisp, my wood burning stove becomes handy once again, and the unparalleled beauty of watching the leaves change colors.

The Olympic Peninsula is one of the best places to leaf peep whether it is by foot, by bike, or by car. The Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive, a 330-mile drive from Seattle to Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent, has been recognized as one of the most scenic autumn drives in the county. Native trees to the peninsula include various pines, Douglas-fir, Western hemlock, Western red cedar, Sitka spruce, Red alders, and many, many more. Here are a few of our favorite places & ways to leaf peep on the peninsula.


 Fort Worden | Photo Credit:  Peninsula Daily News

Fort Worden | Photo Credit: Peninsula Daily News

Walking

If you’re looking to leaf peep by foot, both the walking trails at Fort Worden (Port Townsend) and Gibbs Lake (Chimacum) are well-maintained and pet-friendly!

Fort Worden boasts 12 miles of trails throughout the state park taking you through woods and along the shoreline allowing you to take in the history of the Fort with the historic bunkers and barracks throughout the property.

Gibbs Lake, a 30-minute drive from the With These Rings studio, is a stunning 100 year old forest with a beautiful trail that takes you around a lake. The loop around the lake makes for a nice and stunning 2.5 mile hike.

As beautiful as Gibbs Lake is, and it is beautiful, please note that the lake can contain blue-green algae which is toxic for human and animals. If you bring your dog, it is important to make sure your dog does not go into or drink water from the lake.


 Olympic Discovery Trail | Photo Credit:  RootsRated.com

Olympic Discovery Trail | Photo Credit: RootsRated.com

Biking

Biking is great way to both leaf-peep and explore the Olympic Peninsula. If you didn’t bring a bike with you to town, you can rent a bike (including helmet & lock) at Port Townsend’s ReCyclery.

We recommend biking on the Olympic Discovery Trail. The 140-mile starts in Port Townsend and ends at the Pacific Ocean. Depending on your biking experience, do know that only parts of the the trail are paved, designated biking trails. Some of the trail stretches onto roads and highways. There are stretches of the trail like Sequim to Port Angeles that keeps you off the highway.


 Hurricane Ridge | Photo Credit:  National Geographic

Hurricane Ridge | Photo Credit: National Geographic

Driving

Like I said earlier, the Olympic Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places to just simply take a fall drive. I love watching the leaves fall against the backdrop of the pastoral Chimacum Valley with its apple orchards and dairy farms.

If you’re looking to stay local, the drive from Port Townsend through the Chimacum Valley to historic Port Gamble is a short 40-minute drive. There’s a delicious deli, Butcher & Baker, if you’ve worked up an appetite and the haunted (yes, really) little town is fun to walk around and soak in the views of Puget Sound.

If the national park is calling your name, a drive to Olympic National Park is in order. We recommend heading to Lake Crescent, a 90-minute drive from Port Townsend. This Port Angeles treasure is stunning year-round and after you’ve enjoyed your scenic drive you’ll enjoy stretching your legs on the less than 1-mile hike to Marymere Falls. If you’re looking to make your day trip last a little longer, Lake Crescent has a 100+ year old lodge for you to spend a cozy evening.