The highlights of this Olympic Peninsula road trip include the Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park and the Washington Coast. The Olympic Coast is where Sitka spruce and western hemlock reach heights of up to 300 feet due to high rainfall. On this road trip you can enjoy lake life, hiking trails and forest views. This driving itinerary could be done in as little as three days or you could linger a little longer.
Olympic Peninsula Driving Itinerary & Map
This 3 day driving itinerary begins in Seattle and loops south around the Olympic peninsula of Washington and then finishes back up in Seattle but of course you could always do this itinerary in reverse. You can also extend your road trip to include the North-Western Washington coastline or head south and take a Northern Oregon Coast road trip.
This short road trip will allow you to see the Olympic Peninsula's highlights at quite a leisurely pace. You could potentially complete it in two days if you were after a weekend getaway idea but if anything we recommend tacking on an additional day to allow some extra time for camping or relaxing. If you were to extend your itinerary we suggest driving out to Neah Bay which is on the peninsula's most northerly point or head out to Vancouver Island.
Day 1: Explore Lake Quinault - Spend the night at Lake Quinault
Day 2: Visit Ruby Beach and then Hoh Rainforest - Spend the night in the Hoh Rainforest or Forks
Day 3: Visit Sol Duc Springs Resort & Cresecent Lake - Spend the night at Crescent Lake or Port Angeles
Washington Guide Books
We recommend getting a guide book for the Pacific-Northwest to make the most of your trip! Travel guides for us come in handy when that campsite you were hoping for is full and you need to find another nearby or to look up any notable hiking trails in the area.
Best Times To Visit The Olympic Peninsula
The best time to visit is subjective and dependent on your interests. May and early June is great for viewing waterfalls and the weather will be beginning to warm up. However the higher elevations will more than likely still be under snow and the beaches are still quite drizzly and foggy.
Dry weather and sunny skies are usually between July and September but will coincide with more visitors to the area. The beaches can be very wild and windy in winter and Washington experiences endless days of drizzle and rain during this time of the year. Some places may not be open at this time of year so check ahead.
OLYMPIC PENINSULA ROAD TRIP
SEATTLE TO LAKE QUINAULT - 148 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Start in Seattle and make your way south on the I-5 and eventually west over to the 101. It will take approximately 3 hours to reach Lake Quinault (take a right on South Shore road).
Stop at: Lake Quinault
Find serenity and the largest living specimens of Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock and Western Red Cedar at Lake Quinault. Take a short hike through one of the trails in the area to fully appreciate the local rainforests or head over to the Lake Quinault Lodge and rent a canoe or stand up paddle board for the day.
The lodge has a gorgeous sitting room with luxurious leather lounges and a lovely ambience. Non-guests are permitted to lounge around in here, use the wifi or snuggle up by the fire place. There are also Adirondack chairs placed out on the lawn for basking in the sunshine. If you’re up for some more driving you could take a tour of the scenic 31 mile loop drive around the lake which offers opportunities to view waterfalls and wildlife.
Depending on your budget and preferences you can stay at one of the camp sites found along the lake or at the Lake Quinault Lodge; a rustic lodge built in 1926 also located on the lake's shore. We stayed at Willaby Campground where each campsite was hidden among the lush rainforest. Some of the campsites had water views and all sites had fire pits and a picnic table. Our little slice of paradise for the evening was surrounded by marrionberries which made our stay a delicious treat.
Campgrounds at Lake Quinault
There are three campgrounds located along the south shore of Lake Quinault.
Hotels at Lake Quinault
Hotels in the immediate area are limited.
Vacation Homes at Lake Quinault
Vacation homes are a great idea for staying in Quinault if camping is not your thing. The options are quite grande but it would certainly make for a memorable stay. Most of the vacation homes are lake front and are a perfect option if you are celebrating a special event, anniversary, or just wanting to surprise that special someone.
Click on any of the images below to see details on homes.
LAKE QUINAULT TO RUBY BEACH - 40 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Head towards the coast and make your way north to Ruby Beach on Highway 101.
Stop at: Ruby Beach
Ruby Beach is stunning and rugged like no other beach you’ve seen before. The energy here is wild and you will feel completely recharged after your visit. The beach is accessed via a 0.25 mile trail from the parking lot. At the end of the trail you will be greeted by large driftwood logs along the high tide line. Towards the north end of the beach there are several sea stacks which are fun to explore at low tide. We stumbled upon the remains of a baby seal skeleton which was fascinating to inspect.
An interesting historical fact about Ruby Beach is that it was the setting for two armed confrontations between the local Quinault Tribe and English and Spanish settlers in the late 1700's. There was so much blood shed here that the small island you can see from this beach was named Destruction Island.
The campgrounds listed below are located south of Ruby Beach.
Hotels Near Ruby Beach
The nearest lodging to Ruby Beach is Kalaloch Lodge. It's exterior is very rustic and quintessential pacific northwest. Otherwise your other options are in the town of Forks which is about 30 miles from Ruby Beach.
RUBY BEACH TO HOH RAINFOREST 32 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Head north again on highway 101 until you reach Upper Hoh road on your right.
On your way into the Hoh Rainforest, keep an eye out on your right hand side as you enter for a pull-over to view the Hoh River and see a small waterfall. In summer you can stop and take a dip in this amazingly crystal clear and magical green colored body of water. The water is chilly but invigorating! We had so much fun here jumping off the rocks and floating around on our blow up pool bed.
Stop at: Hoh Rainforest
First thing you should do if you will be camping in the Hoh Rainforest is to go and secure yourself a site because it is a first-come first-serve campground only. One side of the campground seems a little less shady whilst the campsites at the other end have more cover and privacy. If you get here early enough you may even be able to score a site by the river. All sites have fire pits and picnic tables.
When recalling memories of this place the terms surreal and other worldly come to mind. Mosses and ferns blanket the surfaces of the tree's and forest floor adding to the enchantment of the place. There are two short loop trails through the forest starting near the Visitor Center; the Hall of Mosses Trail (0.8 miles) and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles). You could also spend time wandering the river bank or take on a longer hike if you have time.
Camping at Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh Campground is beautiful and some of their sites are located right on the river front. It is important to note that the Hoh Campground does not take reservations and is only first-come first-served. If you would like the peace of mind of a reservation you can book Kalaloch and Sol Duc campgrounds ahead of time.
HOH RAINFOREST TO SOL DUC SPRINGS RESORT - 20 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Getting back on Highway 101 head north past the town of Forks and make sure you turn right when you get to Sol Duc Springs road. Take it all the way to the end.
Stop at: Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is located 12 miles inside Olympic National Park. The resort offers mineral hot springs that you can soak in for a small fee. It is a man-made setting and not natural like we had been expecting and was very busy at the time of our visit so we opted for buying lunch from the general store inside instead and had a picnic in their park-like setting. The resort has cabins you can book for overnight stays that we thought were adorable.
If you are not staying at the resort or have no interest in visiting the hot springs, it is still worth a stop as some popular hiking trails begin here such as Sol Duc Falls, Lovers Lane and Mink Lake trails. We recommend hiking out to see Sol Duc Waterfalls which is an easy loop trail. This waterfall fans into two waterfalls and crashes 50 feet into a narrow chasm. You can find the trail head at the end of the road the resort is on.
Campgrounds at Sol Duc
The Sol Duc Hot Springs RV & Campground is located on the edge of Olympic National Park and has easy access to some popular hiking trails in the area. It is situated near the Sol Duc Resort which means the hot spring pools are only a short distance away.
Hotels at Sol Duc
The Sol Duc Springs Resort offers individual freestanding cabins under tall evergreen tree's. There is a small convenience store at the main lodge.
SOL DUC SPRINGS RESORT TO LAKE CRESCENT - 20 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Make your way back onto Highway 101 and head east.
Stop at: Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent is nestled in the northern foothills of the Olympic Mountains. The lake was a stunning azure blue and sparkled like brilliant diamonds in the sun on the day we visited (the description is a little over the top but all true!). It is situated right on highway 101 and every turn on our drive led to another gorgeous view. We pulled over countless times to take photo's.
Things to do in the area include hiking the surrounding mountains and lowland forests or you may rent a rowboat from Lake Crescent Lodge and spend some time on the water.
Vacation Homes at Lake Crescent
If there is anywhere you want to rent a vacation home it is at Lake Crescent! The lake is ridiculously beautiful and staying at a lakefront home here is heaven. Click on the images below to see information on each property.
LAKE CRESCENT TO KINGSTON - 100 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Highway 101 will take you straight though to Port Angeles. Afterwards continue on 101 until you reach the 104 unless you take a detour to Port Townsend.
Stop at: Port Angeles
Port Angeles is known as the gateway city of Olympic National Park and is the jumping off point to reaching Hurricane Ridge. You can visit the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in town to get more information on the park.
Port Angeles has a lot of old Victorian architecture which is mainly concentrated in the downtown area and on the bluff overlooking the harbor. You could spend an hour or two strolling the city streets and visiting local shops or head up to Hurricane Ridge and back into Olympic National Park.
DETOUR: You can take the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria on Vancouver Island, Canada for a day trip and explore Victoria or stay longer and explore the whole island.
Stop at: Port Townsend
After visiting Port Angeles (or Hurricane Ridge) make your way to Port Townsend for a quick visit before making your way back to Seattle.
The Port Townsend downtown area is also filled with beautiful Victorian buildings. You can walk the waterfront and take in the gorgeous views of the Puget Sound and follow it up with a seafood lunch or dinner. If you're looking for an outdoor activity you could look into booking a Dolphin & Whale Watching Tour.
DETOUR: If you don't want to stop your Washington road trip adventure you can catch the ferry from Port Townsend to Whidbey Island and take a road trip through North-Western Washington.
KINGSTON TO SEATTLE - 23 MILES
DIRECTIONS: When you arrive in Edmonds you will once again be back in the world of traffic jams. Make your way back to the I-5 and southbound to Seattle, the final destination.
Stop at: Seattle
If you did not spend time in Seattle before your road trip began, then make sure you set aside a day or two to explore this city. You can see our Seattle bucket list for 50 things to do in the Emerald City.
The Seattle waterfront has lovely views of the surrounding bay and offers plenty of seafood restaurants and cafes to choose from. The Pike Place Markets is worth checking out and the infamous gum wall is nearby. There are quite a few food options across from the Pike Place Markets that will tempt you for sure!
If you're interested in seeing all of Seattle's most popular attractions, you can purchase a Seattle City Pass for $89 which includes entry to the Seattle Aquarium, Space Needle, a cruise on the harbor, Woodland Park Zoo, Museum of Pop Culture, Pacific Science Center and the Glass Garden.
If you would prefer a guided tour of Seattle we recommend this popular Seattle sightseeing tour.
Hotels in Seattle
Accommodation in Seattle is expensive! Try to limit your time here unless you can afford it. Mid-range is so expensive you may as well stay in a high end hotel. When my sister came to visit the best we could find were apartments close to the university for $250 a night!
Hostels in Seattle
The Green Tortoise Hostel is our top pick if you’re looking for budget accommodation.
You can always find a room on Airbnb if you want to save money on hotel rooms. I just did a quick search and there were about 300 properties in Seattle. You can even find an entire apartment for about $90 a night! If you haven't used airbnb before you can get $40 off your first night’s stay just for signing up.
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