The Olympic Peninsula was made for adventure and for exploration. For obvious reasons, many people associate the Peninsula with Olympic National Park. It is frustrating that during these turbulent political times the government has made it impossible to visit a national treasure due to the shutdown. And of course we hope that everyone can get back to work and get paid soon! But have no fear, between our state, county, and volunteer-run parks & sites there is almost infinite options for excursions and day trips.
Here are just four of many, many places on the Olympic Peninsula to breathe in the allure of region’s mountains, water, untamed beauty.
Fort Worden - Port Townsend
Take a flashlight and explore the abandoned bunkers, stroll past the historic buildings and homes, hike or bike the 12 miles of wooded and coastal trails, or enjoy a craft cocktail in a former jail. Fort Worden is a great place to stay, explore, and dine.
The former military base now a 432-acre Washington State Park offers romantic cottages and even a castle(!) to slumber in with beautiful views of Puget Sound and two on-site restaurants. Fort Worden has many on-site partners like the Coast Artillery Museum providing guided tours of the bunkers and Centrum known for its jazz & blues music festival and many concerts hosted at the Fort throughout the year.
New Dungeness Lighthouse - Sequim
One of our favorite hikes on the Olympic Peninsula is trek to the New Dungeness Lighthouse located at the tip of Dungeness Spit.
The lighthouse has been operational since 1857 and was the first in the state! Before heading out to the lighthouse bring $3 for a permit fee (per 4 people) and review the safety tips. It is important to check the tide tables and weather before heading out and give yourself about five hours for your adventure. It is important to remember there is no transport back other than on foot and you must be back by sunset. If you’re looking for a shorter excursion, check out Sequim Bay State Park a marine campground with 2.5 miles of hiking trails and perfect for winter beach walks.
The lighthouse is kept operational by the Keeper Program, a program that allows you to be a lighthouse keeper for a week! Keeper duties including giving tours to hikers visiting the lighthouse, raising and lowering the flag, and mowing the lawn once a week. The New Dungeness Lighthouse does not receive government funding and relies on membership and keeper fees to maintain and restore the property.
Salt Creek Recreational Area - Port Angeles
Salt Creek is former military base from WWII that now is a 196-acre Clallam County park that is perfect for birders and beachcombers with breathtaking, panoramic views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Crescent Bay, and Vancouver Island.
The park is great for exploring tide pools and birdwatching. Look into the tide pools to find starfish, sea anemones crabs, barnacles, and more. Salt Creek is on the National Audubon's Olympic Loop of the Greater Washington Birding Trail. And if you're really, really lucky you may see a whale as the park is also on the Whale Trail! Since this is a county park, there is no parking pass required.
With These Rings had the pleasure of working with Angela, owner of Next Door GastroPub in Port Angeles, to surprise her fiancé with his wedding band! If you’re looking for elevated pub fare made with local, in-season ingredients this is the place! Or, Lake Crescent Lodge is open so enjoy winter views of the majestic lake over a hot toddy or hot chocolate!
Dosewallips State Park - Brinnon
Dosewallips State Park is a gem of the Olympic Peninsula. This 425-acre state park is comprised of river, forest, mountains, and beaches and has two different 2.5 mile loops for you to explore this magical place. And if you’ve made the drive out to Dosewallips, it is worth it to check to see if Rocky Brook Falls is raging. The off-the-beaten-path waterfall is close by but easy to miss, click here for information on the short hike and directions.
There are not a lot of restaurants around Brinnon so we recommend either packing a picnic from the deli at the Port Townsend Co-op or stopping at Gear Head Deli in Quilcene on your way to get some delicious sandwiches (including gluten-free options) on your way to Brinnon! And for seafood lovers, a stop at Hama Hama in nearby Lilliwaup (approx. 30 minutes south of Brinnon) is a must. Hama Hama’s Oyster Saloon with roasted oysters, oysters on the half shell, steamed clams, and other seafood delicacies is open during the winter on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from noon to 5:30pm.
A few more local hikes would be Mount Townsend or Mount Walker if you want a nice summit. Or Gibbs Lake is you want something close and mellow. If you were planing to go deep and explore the rain forest you can check out Lake Quinault as a beautiful option.
Many National Park trails are still open but keep in mind that there is no one maintaining them and no rangers to call if you need help. There is also no one to empty the garbage so it is helpful if you plan to take trash out with you. Have fun adventuring!
Written by: Kaitlin Chester