Home base for a week in the Olympic Peninsula

Apr 13th, 2011, 10:57 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2003
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Home base for a week in the Olympic Peninsula

Hi, US fodorites,

I rarely come to the US forum, but I hope I can get some advice here.
My family (husband and I, two kids with spouses or SOs) are going to spend a week in the Olympic Peninsula. We have just started to plan this and our first decision is where to base ourselves. I'd really appreciate some suggestions.

We want to spend the week hiking and in the outdoors. Restaurants at night are a plus.
We plan to rent a house or cabinon VRBO or another site if you can recommend another place to start looking.

And one final question -- do you suggest one base for 7 nights, or would it make sense to split it into 3 and 4?

Many thanks, I'm using the archives and starting to get some ideas but would appreciate any additional help you could give.

lreynold1 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 01:24 PM
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What month?
Gardyloo is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 02:31 PM
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The Olympic Peninsula is a large area. However, we love to stay in Port Townsend and old Victorian seaport filled with excellent dining choices. Look at www.chevychasecabins.com for your lodging. They have direct beach access.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Apr 13th, 2011, 02:55 PM
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Thanks for such quick responses. Here's some more information that might help narrow things down. We are not interested in a water-based vacation. We want to spend our time hiking in the park and nearby. But it looks like the park covers most of the hiking areas, so most of the housing is near the water. We don't mind staying near the water, but will not be kayaking, swimming, etc, for the most part. So good access to prime hiking areas is key to us.

Those cottages look nice HappyTrvlr, but we would prefer to be more "on our own" than in a place with cabins all around. And I don't want to have to rent two or three cabins, not sure my wallet can take that.

I also realize we will not be able to see the entire area in one week. That's ok, what's more important to us is glorious hiking (we are from the midwest and crave elevation gain!). So if one side of the park has better hiking, that'd be good information also.

We are planning to go late June-early July.

thanks again, Laurie
lreynold1 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 03:33 PM
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There are basically two major zones in the park for the majority of visitors - the Pacific coastal area and adjacent rain forest valleys (especially Hoh and Quinault) and the northern fringe of the park, running roughly from Port Angeles to, say, Forks. It's about a 2-hour drive from Quinault to PA; Forks is about half way.

The areas are very different, in terms of both landscape and climate. The north has Hurricane Ridge and access to the mountains (and note there will probably still be a lot of snow around in late June, maybe making some hiking trails messy or impassible) and Lake Crescent. The west has rugged coastline and the rain forest valleys. It's worth noting for intrepid hikers that the west is MUCH wetter than the north, owing to the north being in the "rain shadow" of the mountains. In June this can be a pronounced difference. Many of us happen to love the drippy, misty weather you can get in e.g. the Hoh valley in June or July; others will find it damp and bleak. By contrast, in July there's a lavender festival and harvest in Sequim ("Skwim") near Port Angeles - it's not Provence but that's the kind of climate that time of year.

The northern part contains the bulk of the population and settlements in the area; between national park lands and Indian lands, the coastal strip doesn't have the residential capacity for all that many vacation lodgings.

If you're looking for one place for the week, you'll need to recognize that you're likely to be very tied to a vehicle for most activities - either driving to one of the beaches, or up into the hills, or to one of the valleys - the only way to see the various areas of the park is to do a series of drives around the periphery - unless you want to do a 2-week wilderness walk through the heart of the park - a serious undertaking. So factor that into your investigations as you look for places to stay. Hope this doesn't confuse things for you, and good luck.
Gardyloo is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 08:54 PM
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Hi Laurie~

You helped us so much with our trip to Portugal exactly a year ago, that I want to help you out with your trip as much as I can.

Since you specifically mentioned hiking in the mountains, my suggestion would be to base yourselves in Port Angeles. That will give you the closest access to Hurricane Ridge. I can't comment on the possibility of snow as we have usually been there in August. Although it would be a ride up the mountains everyday, the views are spectacular. There are also other hikes on the way up, but again I haven't done those.

Within a short distance of Port Angeles, you could also head towards Crescent Lake where there are other trails that you can access with elevation gain such as Pyramid Mt and Mt Storm King trails. Imagine you have already checked sites such as this one http://www.olympic.national-park.com/hike.htm to get an idea of some of the trails in the park.

I know you mentioned mountains, but coming from the sandy shores of NJ, we just love the rugged coastal areas of the park for great walking and tide pool viewing. You would have access to some great ones around Forks, if you stayed in Port Angeles and wanted to take a break from the mountains.

Others may be able to give you more specific advice since they live in the area, but this is just my opinion and what we've enjoyed in the park.
Clousie is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 06:24 AM
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Wow, thanks so much to Gardylou and Clousie. I love the Fodors Karma, Clousie!

Based on these helpful comments, we are now focusing primarily on the Port Angeles area, but one thing I haven't seen are cabins south of town on the way into the park and the mountains. Everything does seem to be focused near the water, which is ok since the drive isn't bad, but I think in our heart of hearts we'd prefer a mountainous location.

I hope this isn't an abuse of fodorites, but here are the three places I've located so far. LOTS of places are full now, I realize it's getting late. To complicate things further, our dates are inflexible and span a Thursday to Thursday. With two adult children and spouses, you take what you can get, and all we can work out is June 30-July 7.

If you had any specific comments (or suggestions of other places), it'd be great.

a cottage in Sequim off the water: http://www.vrbo.com/3469492

a shorefront unit near Sequim: http://www.SequimVacation.com

a unit west of Port Angeles:

With much gratitude! Laurie
lreynold1 is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 07:16 AM
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Port Angeles sort of peters out as you head south toward the park - IIRC the Heart of the Hills Road (the access route toward Hurricane Ridge) actually is within a narrow strip of national park that extends most of the way into the city. There are some private homes in that area, but you're well inside the national park before you actually hit mountain landscape. No private homes inside the park, VRBO or otherwise.

Given your preferences, and being unable to link to one of the properties you listed (the Sequim VRBO) I'd probably tend to suggest the Freshwater Bay location, as it's a bit closer to Lake Crescent, Lake Mills, Olympic Hot Springs, the Elwha valley etc. - all of which have some good hiking areas. The beach area at Sequim is okay, a bit peppered with rather (IMO) unremarkable retirement and second homes (big retirement area owing to "banana belt" climate) and a little farther from PA, shopping, main roads etc.

As an aside, you might also look at spending a day or two on Vancouver Island - the road up the west side of the Island toward Pacific Rim National Park is very scenic, and not terribly crowded most of the time. Victoria itself is also a great destination for a day - very pretty (touristy) downtown area with the great BC provincial museum, Butchart Gardens, etc. It's a nice break from an all-nature holiday.
Gardyloo is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 11:28 AM
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I was going to give you a rental site we used when I needed 3 houses in Sequim for a group of 14. http://www.sequimvalley.com/ However, I also want to say that Sequim is further away from the ONP than PA.

Looking at the two sites, I agree with Gardyloo that Hart's Desire would put you closer to the activities you'd probably want to access. Plus the house looks very nice.

Also agree with Gardloo's suggestion of possibly taking a day trip to Victoria, if you haven't been there. We usually appreciate that type of break from our 2 week hiking trips, but realize you only have a week and there are many great areas to experience just in ONP.

Let us know what you decide and if we can offer any more help.
Clousie is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 04:10 PM
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We are spending three nights in late July at the Lake Crescent Lodge in one of the Marymere rooms. Lake Crescent is lovely. The Lodge is a typical National Park Lodge, but the location makes up for 70s decor in the motel style units and the food in the restaurant is a solid "B". You might take a look into this as an option.
iamq is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 08:55 PM
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Have you seen info on Quinault Lodge: http://www.olympicnationalparks.com/...ult-lodge.aspx.
RainyDay09 is offline  
Apr 16th, 2011, 06:20 AM
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Well, thanks so much everyone, with more searching and digging, we have come up with another possibility that seems to be even better than the others -- it's on Lake Crescent, in the borders of the national park. That takes us away from the coast scene, which is really what we were hoping for. Don't get me wrong, it looks beautiful up there, but we are just not beach people. I think we will have a day trip up to take a peek, but will focus our days in the park, so this seems like the best of all worlds (only drawback, it has only one shower, but we're used to camping with no showers so we will adjust!). http://www.lakecrescentcottage.com

And thanks for the suggestions about the park lodges, but with three separate rooms needed, it would go way over our budget.

Your comments have helped me put together a potential list of activities, and I know we will only scratch the surface, but I'm excited. Thanks again! Laurie
lreynold1 is offline  
Apr 17th, 2011, 12:17 PM
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Looks as though you found a convenient location. Their site contains a lot of helpful info. as I'm sure the owners can do also.

Still not exactly sure what you mean about "it looks beautiful up there, but we are not beach people." Where is "up there?" All of the coast line on the west is part of ONP. I really do hope you at least "take a peek" but go west (or maybe it's south) young girl instead of up or north. The coast is quite rugged and wild. We may be even less beach people than you, and we just love walking along the packed sand, poking in tidal pools, watching eagles, etc. Rialto is a good beach and was very close to where we stayed in Forks for 4 days. However, I think Second Beach was really our favorite. Of course, we did love being high on Hurricane Ridge, too.

You mentioned having restaurants nearby, Lake Crescent Lodge has decent food and is a pretty location. Unless it's changed a lot with all the Twilight hype, Forks restaurants left a lot to be desired.

Please post a trip report.

Clousie is offline  
Apr 18th, 2011, 05:12 AM
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Hi, Clousie,
Thanks again for the new info -- we will definitely take some hikes on the western coast. My "up there" comment was referring more to the towns and private development on the northern coast, in the Port Angeles and Sequim area.

Since the restaurant scene seems uninspiring, we'll probably do a lot of cooking at the cabin. I intend to provide great moral support to the younger generation while sitting on the deck and soaking up the view as they slave in the kitchen.

But if anyone has suggestions of good places nearby, I'm all ears.

I have found a great hiking website, thanks to your comment about Second Beach. The Washington Trails Association has a fabulous compiilation of trails all over the state:


I will post a trip report. Thanks again.
lreynold1 is offline  
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