I'm a self-professed "National Park junkie." Any opportunity to visit someplace holding this lofty designation, and I'm there! So last December, when my hubby suggested we camp at Olympic National Park for 4th of July weekend, I immediately got online and made reservations at Kalaloch Campground.
I've visited Olympic NP twice before, once in 2010 and again in 2014. Our first visit, in September 2010, hubby and I snagged a killer ocean view campsite at Kalaloch Campground. Situated high on a bluff overlooking the mighty Pacific, it was one of our favorite places we've camped ever. Sadly, the days when one could drive up on a whim and snare a campsite are long gone. In 2023, camping at any of the busy NP's requires advance reservations. Some, like Kalaloch, are so popular you have to get online the minute campground reservations become available - in this case 6 months in advance - to secure a spot. (And by the way, Kalaloch is pronounced "clay-lock." Don't even try to use phonics!)
|"Tree of Life" Kalaloch Beach|
Although at the time, six months seemed like an eternity, the chosen weekend rolled around quickly. Hubby and I made the 4 1/2 hour drive north into our neighboring state of Washington, destination the Olympic Peninsula. Although I'd tried for another ocean view campsite, the minute online reservations opened, sites were gobbled up so fast all I could get was one the furthest distance from the beach and adjacent to US 101. I was a bit disappointed with our site, thick tree cover offering no views and the noise from the highway very noticeable. But - it was a holiday weekend, and in the end I realized we were lucky to get anyplace to camp at all.
So hubby and I set up the tent and unloaded our gear. After getting everything shipshape, it was time to stretch our legs with a walk on nearby Kalaloch Beach.
|Wide open spaces - Kalaloch Beach|
|We found many intact sand dollars|
Beyond the "Tree of Life" the beach became less crowded. We enjoyed a long walk to the most northerly end, a tall headland and rocky shore blocking further progress. Hubby found a bunch of intact sand dollars - a rarity on Oregon beaches. We then walked as far south on the beach as we could go. Kalaloch Creek was our turn-around point, flowing wide and deep enough to deter us.
|Ruby Beach, view from parking lot|
|Wave action, Ruby Beach|
Right from the parking lot, Ruby Beach had an overlook that gave great views of the beach below. After taking a few photos from that vantage point, hubby and I took a short downhill path that led to the beach itself.
|Sunset at Ruby Beach|
|The sun sinks behind a sea stack|
|Lingering sky color, Ruby Beach|
The sky continued to glow in beautiful orange hues for several minutes after the sun sank below the horizon. It was still sporting its bright colors as we walked back to the parking lot. I couldn't resist snapping a few more images from the overlook before heading back to our campsite.
|Trailhead at Cape Flattery|
|Loved the oversize chair at the trailhead|
Hubby was game to go check out this far-flung destination. We drove northward and then westward, following a twisty road that paralleled the Salish Sea. It was a clear, sunny day and the views were spectacular.
|The forest here was beautiful|
Cape Flattery is not technically in Olympic NP, but happens to be on the adjacent Makah Indian Reservation. The tribe requires all visitors purchase a Makah Recreation Pass to park at any trailhead on their reservation. The small town of Neah Bay is where the Makah reservation begins. Upon entering town, we stopped at a convenience store to obtain our permit. Although the pass price was kind of steep ($20!) a helpful store clerk informed me the permit was good for an entire calendar year.
|Lots of wooden boardwalks|
From Neah Bay, hubby drove another 8 miles to the parking area for Cape Flattery. A large sign at the trailhead informed visitors it was a 25 minute walk to the observation deck the end of the peninsula. After a few quick photo ops, hubby and I were off down the trail.
|Almost to the first viewpoint|
We wandered through a beautiful coastal forest, full of large, unusual trees. In some places, wooden walkways had been constructed, and we noticed many benches along the trail. The trail plunged downhill, sometimes rather steeply, and after watching several people slogging by in the opposite direction, I realized we'd have a good climb to look forward to on our return trip.
|Sea stacks at Cape Flattery|
|Ocean view at Cape Flattery|
The trail branched out in two directions. Hubby took the right boardwalk and I followed him to an overlook. Oh the view here was marvelous! We could see the jagged, rocky coastline and two large sea stacks, with full size trees on top. The water was a beautiful teal blue. Beyond the sea stacks I could see the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. We'd made it!
|Seascape at the very tip of Cape Flattery|
|The coastline was gorgeous!|
|Small island with a lighthouse directly west of Cape Flattery|
|Interesting sea caves|
|Beach area at Neah Bay|
|One of many brown pelicans flying by|
|Lovely roadside wildflowers|
I'd heard Second and Third Beach were extremely scenic, so was disappointed we couldn't find a place to park and visit them. That's what you get for visiting this area on a holiday weekend, I guess. The consolation prize was passing a large meadow full of colorful wildflowers on our way back to the campground.
|Beginning of the Hoh River Trail|
|Lots of ferns and gigantic trees|
|Hubby admires a huge nurse log|
|Our lunch spot by the Hoh River|
When we'd hiked this trail 13 years ago, it had rained and misted the entire time. The forest was luxuriant with all the vegetation verdantly green. However, today the weather was unusually hot and dry. The Pacific NW hadn't had any measurable rain for nearly two months. I could tell the rainforest was suffering from this lack of moisture. The trail was dusty, many of the leaves were turning brown, and the forest didn't seem quite as lush as it had on our last visit. Even the moss looked dry. It was sad to see this beautiful rainforest looking so parched.
|Another enormous cedar tree|
|Our campsite at Kalaloch Campground|
|Sunset over the Pacific at Kalaloch Beach|
After getting ice cream from the very busy town of Forks (they were having a 4th of July celebration that day and the place was packed) hubby and I headed back to our campsite. Although it was over 80 degrees outside, the thick tree canopy surrounding our site kept temperatures downright chilly. As a matter of fact, I had walk out into the open to warm up! I made a trip to the beach for sunset that night, and it didn't disappoint.
|Foggy morning at Ruby Beach|
The fourth and final morning it was time to head home. After packing up our campsite, hubby and I decided to make one last trip over to Ruby Beach. It was low tide and we wanted to see what the beach looked like when it wasn't inundated with water.
|The fog made for some neat images|
The morning was extremely foggy. At first I was disappointed. But then I realized that fog makes for some cool photographic effects.
|Low tide made this sea stack accessible|
I love visiting beaches at low tide. The largest seastack was now accessible, so we walked out to its base to explore the surrounding tidepools.
|There were many colorful seastars|
I was pleased to find a large number of colorful seastars stuck to the underside of the big seastack.
There were also hundreds of slimy anemones. But if I could catch the anemones while still open, they were a lovely shade of greenish-blue.
|I loved this bright purple seastar|
I even found a seastar that was bright purple! So pretty! It was by far my favorite.
|Sun rays streaming through the fog|
Hubby and I explored Ruby Beach for a couple of hours, peeping into tidepools, dodging waves, (and getting our feet absolutely soaked in the process) and admiring the sun's rays as they began to break through the fog.
|Goodbye, Ruby Beach!|
Soon it was time to bid Ruby Beach, and Olympic National Park, a fond farewell. We'd had a great weekend, discovering new places and revisiting old favorites. Watching the waves crash on the beach and capturing stunning sunsets. It had been a wonderful and well-needed getaway. Heading home with wet shoes and a camera full of stunning images, I was thankful for having such an extraordinary National Park just a short drive away.