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RV Bucket List: The Olympic Peninsula In Washington

Washington is more than just coffee and rain. It’s a state of marvelous diverse beauty. You can find everything here – the Pacific coast, Evergreen forest, snow-capped mountains – and once you cross over to the eastern part of the state – wheat fields, wine country, and a totally different, drier landscape.

In western Washington, the Olympic Peninsula is arguably one of the prettiest parts of the state. The huge arm of land lies west of Seattle, across Puget Sound, the Kitsap Peninsula, and the Hood Canal. It encompasses the Olympic National Park, Olympic Mountains, and a lengthy stretch of Washington’s coastline, and of course there are plenty of scenic RV parks and campgrounds dotted all throughout.

So if you’re planning a trip to the Evergreen State soon, don’t just make plans to see the iconic Space Needle in the city. Hop in your RV and check out some of these enchanting places across the peninsula instead!

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via the Wild Smithberrys

1. Hoh Rainforest

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Pixdaus – photo by Piriya Wongkongkathep

If you think Seattle gets a lot of rain, wait ’til you step inside this rainforest. The scene looks like it’s straight out of the Amazon, but it’s actually set on the west side of the Olympic National Park. It gets drenched in up to 140-170 inches (or 12-14 feet) of rain every year – and as a result, the trees are draped in emerald green moss and ferns.  The wide, ancient trees tower over 200 feet tall, varying from Bigleaf Maples to Western Hemlocks and Sitka Spruces.

The best way to experience the Hoh Rainforest is by hiking the Hall of Mosses Trail, which spans for less than a mile – or the Spruce Nature Trail, which only runs for about 1.2 miles. Plus, you won’t need to travel far from your RV to visit. The Hoh Campground is open all year-round with first-come, first-served sites, some of which can accommodate RVs up to 21-feet-long. (Read more reviews on camping in the Hoh Rain Forest here.)

2. Quinault Rainforest

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Flickr/Don Jensen

As magical as the Hoh is, it’s not actually the only rainforest in Washington. Surrounding the glacier-fed Lake Quinault, the ancient Quinault Rainforest is equally mystical and gets soaked in up to 12 feet of rain a year.

There are both short and long hikes you can take on the south end of the lake. The Lake Quinault Lodge also sits on the south shore, and had even been a favorite stop for President Roosevelt.

Whether you’re looking to see the lake or the rainforest, there’s a cozy, year-round place for campers and RVers to stay close-by as well. The Lake Quinault RV & Campground actually consists of three locations, including: Willaby, Falls Creek, and Gatton Creek. Read more about each one on their website here.

3. Shi Shi Beach

4. Sol Duc Falls (and Sol Duc Hot Springs)

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Flickr/tjflex2

If you love chasing waterfalls, Sol Duc Falls will not disappoint. The cascade drops about 37+ feet into a narrow canyon, and when the sun hits down just right, it creates some of the most beautiful, misty rainbows. Park your RV at Sol Duc Hot Springs (about ¼ mile from the lodge), and you can hike out to the falls through old-growth forest along the six-mile Lover’s Lane Loop.

5. Hurricane Ridge

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Miguel Viera on Flickr

You don’t need to be an experienced climber to get up-close mountain views on the peninsula. Hurricane Ridge is the easiest mountain area to access in the Olympic National Park, and the drive up to the top is nothing short of magical.

The narrow road winds through dense forest for about 17 miles, passing through three mountain-carved tunnels along the way. It’s open to all traffic in the summer, and only on the weekends during the winter (as long as the weather permits). On the way up, the road passes by Heart O’ The Hills Campground, where there are both tent and RV sites (21-feet and 35-feet-long) available year-round, and on a first-come, first-served basis.

Just before coming to the end of the road, you’ll also pass the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Here, you can stop and stretch your legs, use the restroom, get maps and food, and take in views of Mount Olympus (the tallest of the Olympic Mountains) and the Bailey Range. Once you’ve reached the top, there are miles of hiking trails you can take throughout the area. The Hurricane Hill Trail arguably gives the best views of the Olympics, leading along a ridge and up switchbacks for about three miles.

6. Ruby Beach

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via Chloe the Dachshund

With the same misty, spellbinding landscape as Shi Shi, Ruby Beach’s pure oceanside beauty makes it hard to put the camera down. It’s set on the southwestern side of the Olympic National Park, just off Highway 101. And like many of Washington’s beaches on the coastline, the scenery is filled with dramatic sea stacks and tide pools – some of which you can walk out to at low tide.

7. La Push

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Scott Costello on Flickr
James Island Sunrise

Famous from the “Twilight” series, La Push actually consists of a series of beaches, including: First, Second, and Third Beach. All three are sandy, picturesque, and surrounded by dramatic bluffs. And even though they’re all technically located close to each other, you can’t actually hike from one to the other because the steep headlands are all blocking the way.   

First Beach is the only one that you can access with a vehicle. Second Beach, the most popular, requires a 4-mile hike, and Third Beach, the most secluded, is a shorter 1.6-mile hike through Evergreen forest.

Right along First Beach, Quileute Oceanside Resort has a little something for everyone. Some of their accommodations include rustic cabins with fireplaces, motel rooms with kitchenettes,  regular campgrounds and 66 full hook-up sites for RVs. (Check out more reviews on Quileute Oceanside Resort.)

8. Cape Alava (Ozette Triangle)

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Chris Mighton on Flickr

Cape Alava is the westernmost point of the lower 48 states, and the hike out to it is just as dreamy as you might expect. It’s kind of like two hikes in one, because the loop takes you through forest, and out by the coast along the water. The stretch of coastline is dotted with tree-covered sea stacks, driftwood, and of course, tranquil ocean views.

To reach Cape Alava, you’ll want to follow the Ozette Triangle Loop. It kicks off by Lake Ozette, crosses a bridge over the Ozette River, and leads along a wooden boardwalk through dense forest before finally reaching the coast. It’s about a 6-mile trip to Cape Alava, or if you want, you can continue south towards Sand Point Beach and complete the 9.4 mile “triangle”.

Adjacent to Lake Ozette, Ozette Campground has both tent and RV sites (up to 21-feet-long). The small, quiet campground is open for visitors all year round, and on a first-come, first-served basis.

9. Cape Flattery

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John Fowler on Wikipedia
John Fowler from Placitas

Just north of Cape Alava, you can also hike to see the northwestern-most point of the contiguous states, known as Cape Flattery. It’s located on the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, where the Strait of Juan De Fuca meets the big blue Pacific Ocean. To reach it, you can take a short trail following a wooden boardwalk through Sitka Spruce forest. Along the way, there are four observation decks where you can stop and get photos, each providing a unique and even better perspective than the last.

It’s not a very long, strenuous hike at all. After only about ¾ of a mile you’ll reach the fourth and final platform, where you can stop and take in the most awe-inspiring views of the ocean, dramatic headlands, and sea stacks topped with trees.

The closest option for RVers, campers, and cabin-lovers is Cape Resort in Neah Bay. For RVers, the pet-friendly resort provides 39 sites with 30-amp service, including some pull-through and others under trees. They have WiFi available, as well as newly renovated restrooms with coin-operated showers. Take a look at all of their amenities.

10. Lake Crescent

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Steve Voght on Flickr

In the northern foothills of the Olympic Mountains, Lake Crescent is the second-deepest lake in the whole state and also one of the most beautiful. It’s renowned for its crystal clear blue water, which is caused by a lack of nitrogen, preventing the growth of algae.

You can hike trails all throughout the area to get brilliant views – including the Spruce Railroad Trail, which follows old railroad tracks along the shores for about 4 miles (or 8 miles round-trip).

Only about a mile from the lake, Shadow Mountain Store & RV Park in Port Angeles provides back-in sites for RVers with full hook-ups, and a few sites for tent campers as well. Visitors can make full use of their washroom, playground, and shower & laundry facilities, and pick up anything they may need over at their general store. (Read more reviews about Shadow Mountain RV Park here).

11. Marymere Falls

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Jeff Gunn on Flickr

Marymere Falls is easy to find off Highway 101, south of Lake Crescent. The dazzling 90-foot waterfall can be reached by way of a short 1.8-mile hike on a well-maintained trail through ancient lowland forest.

12. Staircase

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Nicole June on Flickr

In the southeastern corner of the Olympic National Park, the Staircase Rapids Loop will give you an enchanting four-mile journey. The trail crosses over a cable bridge (as pictured above), leads through ancient woods with trees as tall as you can imagine, and follows along the rapids of the rushing Skokomish River.

Staircase also happens to have a campground open from the spring through mid-October. They offer sites for both tent camping and RVs (with a max length of 35-feet-long).

13. Lake Cushman

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BriCX on Flickr

A popular spot for hiking, fishing, boating, and kayaking, Lake Cushman is a perfect example of Pacific Northwest scenery. Like Lake Crescent, Lake Cushman also has stunningly clear water, and the shoreline is packed with lots of great camping options.

Most notably, Lake Cushman Resort is one of the most popular places for RVers to stay by the shores. They provide accommodations from Mother’s Day through October 31 every year, with water and 20-amp power hook-ups for RVers, as well as rustic cabins to rent – each with their own sleeping room, living room, and kitchenette.

If you’re looking to go sooner, you can also find RV and tent sites at Dow Creek RV Resort (from Sunrise Resorts), which is open all year round. For more info and reservations, click here to check out their website.

14. Salt Creek Recreation Area

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daveynin on Flickr

Sure, it’s just a recreation area, but Salt Creek has all of the qualities of a national park – and a fascinating history behind it, too. Set just west of Port Angeles, the park used to serve as a World War military base known as Camp Hayden. It still features old military bunkers that you can hike out to see, along with tide pools, trails, marine life (like starfish), and plenty of beach to relax on.

Campers and RVers can find sites open year-round at Salt Creek Recreation Area Campground. The campground is split into two areas: the east section has spaces with electric and water hook-ups, and some tent-only sites, while the other side near Tongue Point (the gorgeous area pictured above) is open to RVs and tents, but none of the sites have hook-ups available. Whatever side you choose, you’ll only be steps away from one of the peninsula’s finest hidden gems. (Check out reviews on Salt Creek from past travelers.)

15. Rialto Beach

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Paul Gagnon on Flickr

Rialto Beach is another slice of paradise on the coast, just north of La Push. The beach is lined with driftwood, and located right next to lush forest – in which Mora Campground provides both tent and RV sites (21-feet and 35-feet) all year long.

While you’re exploring Rialto, walk up to see “Hole In The Wall” – an incredible rock arch formation that was once carved out by the pounding ocean waves. The beach also has tide pools to explore at low tide, and a variety of marine life to look out for, like starfish, sea anemones, mussels, whales, and sea otters.

 

The Pacific Northwest sure is beautiful! Which one of these places would you like to see first?

 

And while you’re in Washington, check out these places on the beautiful Long Beach Peninsula.

 



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