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WarrenWST Feb 18th, 2018 03:15 PM

Olympic National Park and San Juan Islands?
Hi. My wife and I (late 50's) plan on visiting ONP this summer (July or August). We plan on staying a total of 7 or 8 nights. Not sure whether we will just go to ONP for 4 nights and then spend 3 nights in Seattle or 4 nights in ONP, 3 in the San Juan Islands and then 1 in Seattle before the flight home to Boston. We have been to Seattle two years ago and spent time at Mt. Ranier and Seattle. We love easy to moderate hikes with beautiful scenery. And of course we love to have local food and beers. Any advice would be helpful. For ONP we want to visit Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, HOH Rainforest, and Ruby Beach unless you suggest other. I am not sure if we could stay at one place and make day trips or are we better off staying at 2 different places. I really don't want to stay at 4 different places over 4 nights. Fro example, could we stay at Lake Crescent and go to all the places we want to or is too far? For the remaining nights we are undecided if we should go to San Juan Islands or just stay in Seattle. We are open to going to San Juan Islands first and then ONP if that makes more sense, We plan on flying in and out of Seattle. Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, W

mms Feb 18th, 2018 05:17 PM

I would do ONP and the San Juan’s, with one night for Seattle itself. For ONP you really need to stay at at least 2 different places so that you have time too experience things instead of sitting behind the wheel the whole time.

Gardyloo Feb 19th, 2018 06:57 AM

You can simplify the lodging issue on the Olympic Peninsula by substituting one or more of the La Push beaches (I'd recommend Rialto Beach) for Ruby Beach. That way you could have a "game plan" like this:

Day 1 - Seattle to Port Angeles, visit Hurricane Ridge.
Day 2 - PA to Forks via the Hoh Valley,
Day 3 - Forks to Port Townsend via Rialto Beach
Day 4 - Port Townsend to Anacortes via Coupeville ferry and Deception Pass
Day 5 - Anacortes to Friday Harbor
Day 6 - Friday Harbor
Day 7-(8) - Friday Harbor to Seattle

You'll pass Lake Crescent going in both directions between PA and Forks. While Forks isn't going to win any beauty contests (massive understatement, that) it's conveniently located for excursions to both La Push and the Hoh rainforest. Yes, you'll have to "double back" to Forks in both cases.

This only has two nights on San Juan Island; you could extend this by an additional night if you had eights nights in total.

Here's an alternative plan -

Days 1-2, same
Day 3 - Forks to Victoria BC via Port Angeles (Coho) ferry
Day 4 - Day in Victoria
Day 5 - Sidney BC - Friday Harbor via WA ferry
Days 6-7-8 as above.

This would involve less road time as you'd use the international service on the WA ferry from Sidney BC (a few miles from Victoria) to Friday Harbor.

Resources - and WSDOT - Ferries

I'd also mention that if your timing is right, the lavender fields around Sequim ("skwim") west of Port Angeles can be quite something during the lavender festival. 2018 Sequim Lavender Festival ? Sequim Lavender Festival ?

WarrenWST Feb 19th, 2018 09:39 AM

Hi. Thank you so much. I'm hearing that there is construction at Lake Crescent that could cause major delays.Not sure if this changes anything.

Yes, that would be my preference to visit both ONP and the San Juan Islands. Was originally thinking 3 nights at each and 1 in Seattle but it sounds like 4 in ONP, 2 in San Juan island (any particular one?) and 1 in Seattle, if I understood you correctly.

I'm open to substituting the beaches. I only mentioned Ruby beach based on what I read.

I like the first itinerary since it covers alot of ONP that we want to see. Any specific lodging recommendations for the locations in ONP and San Juan Islands? We prefer nice places with private baths. I assume this will cost $200 or more a night which is fine. I love animals but due to allergies it must not allow pets. Thanks, W

Gardyloo Feb 19th, 2018 10:22 AM

The delays at Lake Crescent will slow down access to the Pacific side of the peninsula no matter what. You'll just have to hope for the best.

The second itinerary doesn't reduce the time on the peninsula at all except it eliminates retracing your steps back to Port Townsend, but that's fine.

I would choose San Juan Island as it has the most lodging and dining opportunities. I don't have any recommendations for specific lodgings, except to say that choices in places like Forks are extremely limited, so I'd make that a priority.

volcanogirl Feb 19th, 2018 11:27 AM

We just did a similar trip in September. We stayed our first night in Seattle, then three in Friday Harbor which we loved, then two at Lake Crescent - very nice hiking at Marymere Falls. The lodge is really nice with a big fireplace; be aware that the rooms actually in the lodge don't have their own bathrooms. We stayed in a pyramid mountain room and liked it - no t.v., wifi, or phones. Food was good, better than I expected. It was very sleepy at night, nothing much to do after dark. During the day, you can canoe/kayak on the lake. We did our trip to Hurricane Ridge from there and loved it. The rangers offer free guided hikes at Hurricane Ridge if you time it right; we got lucky since one was starting right after we arrived. Saw lots of deer. There's a snack bar there if you need to grab lunch; chili was good. The view was gorgeous. In Friday Harbor, we stayed at Friday Harbor House - great spot. We did whale watching with Maya's Legacy - also fanastic, and we got to see seven orcas. Good burgers at Downrigger's. We stayed our last night at Crowne Plaza Seattle Airport location, and it was super comfortable, clean, modern, and very convenient to the airport.

volcanogirl Feb 19th, 2018 11:33 AM

Friday Harbor is on San Juan Island - guess I should have mentioned that. It has the most hotels and restaurant choices. We did some nice hiking at the British Camp and the American Camp. Also went to Lime Kiln State Park - sometimes you can see whales from shore there. Also drove around to Roche Harbor and ate outside at the Madrona Bar and Grill - liked it a lot. Bakery San Juan has great baked goods. We also went to the Pelindaba Lavender Farm - pretty and a good place to buy gifts. But like mentioned above, the whale watching was the highlight of our trip. The entire area is beautiful and charming.

WarrenWST Feb 19th, 2018 03:08 PM

Thank you all. First, I must mention to Volcanogirl that you may recall that you helped me recently regarding our trip to Costa Rica. I recently added a post about our trip. You should check it out. In short, you were right on. I'm happy to hear you just did a recent trip that we are planning.
I appreciate all of your responses. If we are willing to brave the traffic due to the construction, do you recommend going to San Juan island first, stay 2 or 3 nights and then head to Lake Crescent pr vice versa? I appreciate the advice on the rooms and will absolutely go for one with a private bath. Are we able to hit all the destinations from the Lake Crescent lodge, i.e., Hurricane Ridge (appears per Volcanogirl we can), enjoy a day at the Hoh Rainforest, and possibly head to either Lake Quinault and/or Sol Duc Falls.
Garyloo, does this change anything? It just appears there is no great place to stay in the Forks area. However, if it is highly advisable based on the distances between everything then of course we are open to it. I'm a little confused on how many nights and where. It appears that we will only have a total of 7 nights where one of which we would need to stay in Seattle before the flight home, We could possible take a late Friday night flight to Seattle but that will basically only give us an additional night in Seattle so that we could have an early start on Saturday to go to either ONP or San Juan. In terms of where to go where first (ONP or San Juan Island) it depends on what you recommend in terms of the easiest and quickest regarding the ferries. Thanks, W

volcanogirl Feb 19th, 2018 04:15 PM

Hi, Warren, yes I remember now! Thanks for reminding me! I'll go back and check it out.

We were confused as to which ferries to take from where and when, so we called the Washington Ferry phone number, and the woman walked us through everything - where to drive to, where to ferry to, what time, etc. They were very helpful. We flew into Seattle at night, and drove to Anacortes the next morning to catch the ferry to Friday Harbor. I just did a bunch of reviews of our trip on tripadvisor if you want to read them, lots of photos posted if you want to see. A heads up about the ferries, they can change the schedule so you need to make sure it's still leaving when it was scheduled to. We had to wait for one of our ferries because they decided to go later, and we still arrived at our pre-booked time. Everything else ran smoothly.

The construction traffic was there when we went to Lake Crescent; it wasn't terrible but I'm sure it would be worse during the summer months. We did San Juan Islands first and then Lake Crescent after that. If you stay at the lodge at Lake Crescent, you need to make reservations for dinner or they won't let you in. We ate at the bar our first night because we didn't reserve ahead, so I wish I had done that.

Gardyloo Feb 19th, 2018 05:17 PM

Originally Posted by WarrenWST (Post 16678811)
Are we able to hit all the destinations from the Lake Crescent lodge, i.e., Hurricane Ridge (appears per Volcanogirl we can), enjoy a day at the Hoh Rainforest, and possibly head to either Lake Quinault and/or Sol Duc Falls.
Garyloo, does this change anything? It just appears there is no great place to stay in the Forks area. However, if it is highly advisable based on the distances between everything then of course we are open to it. I'm a little confused on how many nights and where. It appears that we will only have a total of 7 nights where one of which we would need to stay in Seattle before the flight home, We could possible take a late Friday night flight to Seattle but that will basically only give us an additional night in Seattle so that we could have an early start on Saturday to go to either ONP or San Juan. In terms of where to go where first (ONP or San Juan Island) it depends on what you recommend in terms of the easiest and quickest regarding the ferries. Thanks, W

The time and distance factors needed to see some of the sights along the Pacific side of the national park are a matter of personal preference. This little map - - shows the distances involved in going from Lake Crescent out to the Hoh rainforest and/or Rialto Beach. The time estimates I'd take with a grain of salt (or a whole shaker) but it's entirely conceivable to do a day trip from Lake Crescent out to the Hoh valley and one of the La Push area beaches (Rialto shown on the map, or you could visit First Beach right at the Quileute Resort in La Push.) If you left fairly early you'd be at the Hoh visitor center in a couple of hours; spend an hour or two there and drive to Rialto Beach; another hour then back to Lake Crescent, probably around 90 - 100 minutes. All in, you're probably looking at five hours of driving, but it will kill two birds with one stone and potentially free up a full day that you could use elsewhere.

I'll just say this and be done with it, possibly risking derision from others: I'm not a huge fan of the San Juans in the middle of the summer. The islands are certainly lovely and the ferry ride is without peer, but - to me - the hype is a little too strong for my liking. Friday Harbor is a nice little town, although actually I prefer Lopez for a more laid-back experience (the islands are quite different from one another once you get to know them.) Friday Harbor on San Juan Island has the most accommodation and lodging options, and other places on the island, such as Roche Harbor, Lime Kiln Park, and English Camp, are fairly picturesque or scenic. But the price you pay for this is that getting to and from the island during the peak tourist season can be a pain, and ironically, things can be pretty crowded.

Maybe that's me letting my curmudgeon show, in which case so be it. But one alternative might be to experience the San Juans in a day trip - leave the car in Anacortes and take the ferry to Friday Harbor, spend the day on the island, but return to Anacortes in the evening and reassign the overnights to other places. For example, on the mainland near Anacortes is the waterfront village of La Conner. It's very picturesque, full of art galleries, pubs and cafes, and while it gets its share of day trippers, it empties out in the evening and can be quite charming. Same goes for the town of Coupeville on Whidbey Island, around 40 minutes from Anacortes (over marvelous Deception Pass.) Waterfront, galleries, seafood restaurants, little hotels or B&Bs.

Then on the Olympic peninsula (reached by ferry from a dock next to wonderful Fort Casey State Park a few miles from Coupeville) Port Townsend is a lovely little town full of Victorian buildings, nautical things (wooden boats etc.) and a real sense of history. Port Angeles is an hour or so down the road, and there you are in Olympic National Park.

Just throwing some thoughts out as possible methods of expediting your visit without risking having to rocket around at the last minute.

volcanogirl Feb 19th, 2018 07:36 PM

If I'm remembering from your Costa Rica posts, you enjoy upscale accommodations. Did you stay at the Springs Resort and Spa? I think you'd really love Friday Harbor House - if you stay there get a room with a harbor view. It's one of my favorite hotels we've ever stayed in. When we checked in, they asked if I liked coffee, and I said yes. That night they delivered a tiny glass bottle full of cream and some beautiful crystallized sugar on a little swizzle stick to go along with my morning coffee - Keurig and another coffee machine were already in the room, along with a small frig - nice little touches that were fun surprises. They even have a pillow menu - do you like down, etc. And we had a nice jetted tub. But it's not at all pretentious, so kind of the best of both worlds. Tom, the manager, was a great guy. Really sincere and helpful. Breakfast was included. And since you said you love wildlife, I think seeing the orcas would be a big thrill for you. One swam right by our boat, and it's fin was taller than my husband, over six feet! The folks at Maya's Legacy took photos for us and emailed them to us afterward; the crew could identify all the whales we saw based on their markings. We saw a mother with her three grown sons - just amazing. They also found a bald eagle for us since I had never seen one before - the best. Rooms at the lodge were very basic by comparison but comfortable.

volcanogirl Feb 20th, 2018 07:31 AM

Also Victoria that Gardyloo mentioned is fantastic. We did that on a different Seattle trip and loved it. Maybe not for this trip since you want to see the parks, but if you go back in the future, we loved The Empress Hotel and Butchart Gardens. You can have afternoon tea at The Empress - kind of fun for a one time treat. We also went whale watching from there.

WarrenWST Feb 20th, 2018 06:08 PM

Guys, I can't thank you enough. I have alot of thinking to do. But you have all made it so much easier as always. That is why I love these forums. I likewise try to provide info that I am familiar with.

Volcanogirl, yes, please send me your information from Trip Advisor. That would be great. And yes, we did stay at the Springs Resort and Spa. It was fantastic. We are actually thinking of staying in the Orca's Island at the Rosario Resort. This appeals to me since they have two bedroom suites which will work out great since my daughter and her husband will be joining us there. Each suite has 3 balconies overlooking the bay. Plus they have Moran State Park with trails which would be nice. We will plan on taking the inter-island ferry to the San Juan Island and visit Friday harbor for a day.

Gardyloo, you are a wealth of knowledge. I need some time to take it all in and plan it out accordingly. I will start making some lodging reservations just to be safe.

I'll keep you guys posted on our final plans and hopefully you won't mind me asking a few more questions as they arise. One that comes to mind is how much time should we assume it will take us from Seattle to the Orca's Island? Our flight comes in at 10:47am. By the time we receive our luggage and rent our car it will be 12 Noon. We then need to hook up with our children. Before you know it, it's 2 or 3pm. May make more sense to stay a night in Seattle and leave first thing Sunday morning. May also be less crowded from the Sat. traffic.

Special thanks guys. Warren.

suze Feb 21st, 2018 10:08 AM

It's Orcas Island (no apostrophe) :-) here's a link of options for getting there.

Gardyloo Feb 21st, 2018 10:44 AM

Given hotel prices in Seattle I'd probably try to spend Saturday night north of the city. You'll need to wait until the ferry system publishes its summer schedule, but when it does I'd book car space on a late morning or early afternoon ferry departure from Anacortes to Orcas, and make the previous night's hotel plans based on that. For example, you could look for accommodation in La Conner, a pretty waterfront village that's around a 75 - 90 min. drive north of Seattle, so you'd be there by dinnertime with no worries. That way you could get to the Anacortes ferry terminal the following morning with no hassle. Or closer to the airport, look at staying in Mukilteo, maybe at the Silver Cloud hotel sitting over the water - - from which you could take a morning ferry over to Whidbey Island, then drive up the island to Deception Pass, and across to Fidalgo Island and Anacortes. That would be a means of getting into the whole island vibe right away, and Mukilteo is not a bad place to spend the evening - cute lighthouse, driftwood covered beach to watch the sun set behind the Olympics, a couple of good restaurants and pubs...

Map (both routes shown, coming and going) -

volcanogirl Feb 21st, 2018 11:17 AM

Warren, I have the same name there, so if you search me, you can see all my reviews and photos.

One spot I forgot to mention is Granny's - just a cute little diner type spot, but famous for pie and soft serve ice cream. It's in Port Angeles, good way to break up the trip if you want to stop. We loved the San Juans so much that we're thinking of going back this year - will probably stay in Friday Harbor again and maybe one night or at least a day trip to Orcas. I just topped my mini trip report for you on the U.S. board here if you want to see.

Gardy, the Silver Cloud hotel looks great.

WarrenWST Feb 22nd, 2018 04:35 PM

Thanks again. Well, for now we have taken somewhat of a change. Based on alot of thought and the fact that we do want to spend some time in Seattle since as mentioned one of our children are located there we have decided not to push the envelope too much and will plan to go to Seattle and one of the San Juan Islands. We are so grateful for all of your assistance. Right now I have booked the Rosario in Orcas Island and we'll plan on taking the inter-island ferry to go the the San Juan island. However, we are still debating of whether we should stay at San Juan island and take a day trip to the Orcas. Either way we will see both. My current plan is to arrive in Seattle, spend the night, and take an early ferry (ferries) to the San Juan Islands. We'll plan on staying 3 nights in either Orcas or San Juan as mentioned. Then we'll head back to Seattle and may spend one night in Port Angeles just to explore Hurricaine Ridge. The rest of the stay will be in Seattle before the flight home. We have stayed at the Inn at the Market in Seattle in the past (2 years ago) and loved it. Right now I'm going to search for places to stay in the San Juan island in case we decide to stay there instead of the Orcas. I will check out We will also be sure to check frequently on the ferry schedule and make reservations as advised once we finalize the flights. We will also check all of the lodging suggestions that you have all mentioned. Does this sound like a good plan? Also, curious that no one has really mentioned a preference of one San Juan island over another. Any favorites for those that have been to multiple? Thanks, Warren.

volcanogirl Feb 23rd, 2018 10:42 AM

If you stay at Rosario, you'll have to let me know what you think. I've been eyeing that and the Outlook Inn on Orcas for a future trip. I don't think I could give up Friday Harbor House though, so we'd have to do both. Hope you have a great time! We picked Friday Harbor for our first trip just because it seemed to offer a lot more to do. There's supposed to be a great pottery shop on Orcas that I want to check out.

Gardyloo Feb 23rd, 2018 11:11 AM

Getting from the San Juans to Hurricane Ridge is quite time consuming - two ferries (and another returning to Seattle) plus a fair amount of driving. Doable, for sure, but not super easy. Let me suggest an alternative that would take a bit less time and give you mountain scenery every bit as terrific as Hurricane Ridge, but with only the one ferry (San Juan/Orcas > Anacortes) instead of three.

When you return back at Anacortes, follow SR 20 back to I-5, then head north to Bellingham and follow SR 542 (aka Mt. Baker Highway) up to Artist Point and Picture Lake. Map -

Here's the view from Picture Lake:

volcanogirl Feb 24th, 2018 06:51 AM

Wow, beautiful!

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