Olympic National Park Hurricane RidgeI visited the Seattle area several times, but never made it to Olympic National Park, partly because of the long drive, but also because I didn’t know what I was missing.

This time around, in July 2023, I went with Evergreen Escapes on a full-day tour that took us from Seattle, on a ferry, through Bainbridge Island, a Native Reservation, many port towns, national forests, lakes and majestic peaks. 

Here is my account of this spectacular tour.

Olympic National Park - Ferry Terminal in SeattleWe met our guide at the Evergreen Adventure Hub in Seattle at 7 am, collected a few more guests and headed out in our comfortable van. 

Evan was both our guide and driver, and he excelled at both. We made it to the ferryboat in time for the 7:40 am departure. Evan mentioned that if we didn’t make it on time, we would have to wait 50 minutes for the next one. 

Up on the ferry’s passenger deck, we enjoyed French-press coffee and some pastries prepared by Evan and then went exploring through the boat. 

Olympic National Park - Ferry rideOn the upper deck, we said goodbye to the receding Seattle skyline and gazed at the approaching island and the mountains in the distance.  

Interesting facts: The ferry we were on was huge. It could hold up to 300 cars and 2000 passengers.  The Washington State Ferry System is the largest in the USA.

The ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge was 35 minutes long, but the time passed quickly. We were having too much fun exploring the ship and the views.

The drive

The drive from Seattle to our destination, Hurricane Ridge in the National Park, is about 3 hours long. But with many stops and points of interest and landmarks, it took close to 7 hours. 

Along this long trek, we passed through Bainbridge Island, over a floating bridge that connects to Kitsap Peninsula, through several small towns and ports, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and several types of forests. 

Even though the drive was long, our guide kept us busy and entertained and picked the right stops with amazing views and a chance to stretch our legs or go on short hikes.

Jamestown S'Klallam Indian Reservation

Olympic National Park - Jamestown ReservationOur first stop was at the Jamestown reservation, which was more of a rest stop than an actual native residential settlement. The S'Klallam Indians use this area as a seat of government and to provide social services. 

This reservation has a unique history. It was formalized by members of S'Klallam communities in 1874 when they purchased a tract of 210 acres (0.85 km) near Dungeness to avoid the threat of forced relocation by European colonizers.

This was a notable feat, since at the time, Native people were legally barred from buying property and most didn’t believe in private ownership. 

Read more about their history here 

Our stop here was a nice opportunity to stretch our legs, use the restroom, and checkout the gift shop. 

Interesting fact: The Olympic National Park got its name because Explorer Vancouver claimed the gods live in those mountains, and he named the highest peak Mt Olympus. 

Lake Crescent and Lodge

Olympic National Park - Lake CrescentLake Crescent was carved by glaciers 14,000 years ago and is the second-deepest lake in Washington, with a maximum depth of 624 feet (ca. 190 m). 

It is crescent-shaped, about 7 miles (ca. 11 km) long and 2 miles (3.22 km) wide. The water is a brilliant blue-green color, and is incredibly clear, with visibility up to 100 feet (ca. 30 m). 

Interesting Fact: According to Native American legend, the lake was created when a giant cannibal named Seatco threw a boulder into the valley below. The boulder dammed the river and created the lake, which swallowed up the S'Klallam and Quileute tribes who were fighting in the valley.

The Lodge on Crescent Lake shores is a historic lodge and was built in 1915. It has 55 guest rooms, a full-service restaurant, and a gift shop. There is also a boathouse on the lake where guests can rent boats and kayaks. 

The lodge is surrounded by beautiful scenery, including Lake Crescent, the Olympic Mountains, and the Sol Duc River. There are many hiking trails in the area, as well as opportunities for fishing, boating, and swimming.

Olympic National Park - Merymere fallsWe used the lodge as our basecamp for a beautiful hike to Merymere falls.

This easy trail is about 2.25-mile out-and-back and took us about 1-hour to complete, and most of it was shaded by old-growth trees.

We had many stops along the way while Evan was describing the flora and fauna to us. He also pointed out that the creek along the way is icy cold because it is from glacier meltwater.

Towards the end of the trail, we had to cross two bridges and climb steep stairs, but the waterfall at the top was worth the effort. 

My only complaint is that the last part of the hike was overcrowded. Too many hikers were clustered.  

After the hike, we relaxed at the lodge for a while, used the restrooms, and did some souvenir shopping at the gift shop. 

Madison Falls and lunchtime

Olympic National Park - Madison FallsOur guide picked a lovely place for a picnic lunch. The picnic tables were set up next to the Elwha River and close to the Madison Falls trailhead. 

This easy to reach waterfall and picnic area is 16 minutes away from Port Angeles on highway 101. You can reach the trailhead on Olympic Hot Springs Road, which is closed beyond this point. 

While Evan was setting up our lunch, we went on the short, walk to the falls.  

The trail to the fall is short, paved and wheelchair accessible, and it takes about 5 minutes to reach. 

The falls are located on Madison Creek, which is a tributary of the Elwha River. The creek flows through a lush forest of Douglas fir, western hemlock, and cedar. 

If you are lucky, you may see deer or elk and lots of birds. We saw some birds but no large animals.

After lunch, and while Evan was clearing the tables, we trekked down to the riverbank and admired the towering mountains in the distance. 

Hurricane Ridge

Olympic National Park - Hurricane RidgeWe drove from Madison Falls and through Port Angeles for about 28 miles (ca. 45 km) to reach the highest point in our tour and were greeted by a spectacular view of the Olympic Range. 

Hurricane Ridge is open to the public for hiking, skiing, and snowboarding, but with restricted access due to the limited facilities. 

The rangers will count the vehicles entering the area and only permit 170 vehicles at a time. Check the website for the latest alerts here.

Interesting fact: There are 244 named mountains in the Olympic Mountains

Olympic National Park - Hurricane RidgeAfter admiring the views, we went on a loop hike that took us from the parking lot through the woods and to an overlook with a spectacular view of the bay below. From the overlook, we could see Vancouver Island and the city of Victoria in Canada. 

Towards the end of this short hike, some of us took a longer hike to Hurricane Hill for a stunning 360-degree view of the area. 

Interesting fact: The Olympic Mountains were born in the sea

Olympic National Park - Hurricane RidgeIn the parking lot, while sitting on a bench and admiring the meadow below me, and the mountains in the distance, I spotted a deer and two fawns playing in the meadow. 

The mother sped up chasing something while the fawns hid in a shady spot waiting for their mother to return. Deer are herbivores, so I don’t think it was hunting. It was probably just having fun.

The return trip

After the highlight of the tour at Hurricane Ridge, we started our journey back to Seattle. 

This was a very long tour, mainly because of the of distance from Seattle, so we were exhausted. I actually napped most of the way back, which made the time pass quickly. 

We made it back to the Evergreen Hub at 8 PM, which made this a 13-hour tour.

Other than the long drive, I enjoyed every minute of this tour and really appreciated Evan’s knowledge and dedication to making this a memorable trip. 

Evergreen Escapes

2960 4th Ave S #115, Seattle, WA 98134


Other points of interest

Although our tour took 13 hours to complete, we didn't get to visit all the best places in the peninsula. Here some places worth mentioning:

Rialto Beach

Olympic National Park - Rialto beach - by Ron Clausen - wikimediaRialto Beach is a public beach near the mouth of the Quillayute River, and is composed of an ocean beach and coastal forest. The many miles of seaside topography offer views of sea stacks and rock formations in the Pacific Ocean.

Port Angeles

Port Angeles is located on the northern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is the gateway to Olympic National Park, and is a popular destination for outdoor recreation, such as hiking, camping, fishing, and kayaking.

Port Angeles has a small-town atmosphere, with a variety of shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. The city is also home to the Port Angeles Harbor, which is a major shipping port.

Enchanted Valley

The Enchanted Valley is a beautiful and secluded valley and a popular destination for hikers, campers, and nature lovers.

The valley is home to a variety of plant and animal life, including old-growth forests, wildflower meadows, and Roosevelt elk. 

It is surrounded by towering mountains and lush forests. The valley is home to the Quinault River, which flows through the center of the valley. The river is a popular spot for fishing, swimming, and kayaking.