Before the start of the school year we planned a week with the boys in Olympic National Park. Weeks in advance I scoured the internet for tips and must see places to visit. The park is 1,442 square miles (more than 10 times the size of Seattle) and has three distinct ecosystems: glacier, coastal, and temperate rain forest.
I was indecisive and planned our week with the intent to hit all three regions. Heavily hitting the coast, a day in the rain forest, and a quick stop at Hurricane Ridge (which gives you a look at the Olympic range).
Nothing ever goes quite according to plan (we never made it to Hurricane Ridge) but the whole week relishing in the beauty of Washington was a blast and TOTALLY doable with small children.
Two points to note:
All the campsites are first come first serve except for Sol Duc and Kalaloch (which are reserved way in advance). The earlier in the day you arrive, the better odds of getting a great campsite. It also helped we went during the week and avoided the crowds (for the most part) that come during the weekend. (Also! All the sites we went to had bathrooms with running water).
Secondly, camping with small children always seems daunting but the only way to know is to try it out. Yes, there will be tantrums and moodiness and you might be worried to annoy your neighbors when those take place, but I just remind myself (more of a chant) that there is no legal age restriction getting to enjoy nature. It is open to everyone, and little kids need the opportunity to learn to love it too…even if they might whine about it sometimes.
On the the recap of our trip!
We drove up on Monday and stayed at South Beach Campground. It is a pretty bare site with no tree coverings but it is literally right on the coast. You are fairly squished in there but a quick walk down to the beach gives you all the space you need. Get there early for a spot right on the beach without an RV blocking your view (we were not so lucky).
We also were able to see some gray whales swimming along the coast which was so exciting to the boys (the campground host would let us know every time and help Max spot them with our binoculars).
The next morning we packed everything back into the car and headed to Ruby Beach to explore. Another hiker let us know there was a whale backbone on the beach and so we spent a good portion of our time looking for it (and trying to remember the markers she had told us to look for). We eventually stumbled upon it right after giving up. This was probably my favorite beach that we visited. There were so many fun driftwood structures, haystacks, and little tide pools to explore plus the sun was out and it was just so lovely.
After the beach we headed into the temperate rain forest to spend a night at the Hoh campground and explore the Hall of Mosses.
We stopped at the campsite first to claim a spot (park our car, set up some chairs and eat lunch) and then we headed over to the visitor center which is also the start of the Hall of Mosses hike. It was such an easy and fun hike. So green and lush.
After spending so much time running around outside we headed back to our campsite to finish setting up camp and rested for the rest of the day.
The next morning we packed up camp once again and headed to Forks for lunch, a new air mattress (our kept deflating completely by morning), gas and ice for the cooler. Afterwards we headed to Mora Campground which ended up being my favorite campground of the week. Each site felt secluded even though they were all fairly close together.
After setting up camp again (if you haven’t been keeping track, we were at a different site each night…) we headed to Rialto Beach to visit Hole-in-the-Wall. Years of waves have carved a hole within the coast rock wall and has created tide pools galore. We forgot to check the tide chart before planning our day and so we were a little rushed on our hike to make it there and back before the tide trapped us but we managed (even with a toddler who was potty training having an accident and another child getting upset for not being allowed to throw sand at the family). The weather was misty and it made all of the rocks on the beach so beautiful. On our walk back, we ended up looking for a rock for every color of the rainbow and we did it! Our rainbow rock collection is now proudly displayed at home.
Thursday morning we headed to Second Beach at the recommendation of another family that was camping. It did not disappoint. You hike through a forest and then down onto a beautiful beach. I was exhausted from Theodore being up all night, so once we made it to the beach Kyle created a sandy lounge chair for me from the baby backpack and Theodore and I took an hour long nap. Kyle entertained the boys by building a sand castle.
And of course there were more tide pools to explore.
After Second Beach we debated calling it a trip and finding a hotel for the night. We really didn’t want to have to set up camp again, but we persisted and found a spot at Fairholme Campground on Lake Crescent.
The lake was beautiful but the campground was overrun with mosquitoes (something we hadn’t dealt with in the other campsites) and was packed with people (it was closer to the weekend). We were exhausted and in hindsight both agreed we should have splurged on a hotel with a hot shower, but once you start setting up camp, you might as well finish. So we cooked up our final meal (spaghetti) and crawled into our sleeping bags one last time.
Our trip ended with us skipping the visit to Hurricane Ridge since it would have added three hours onto our day and instead driving straight to Hood Canal to spend the night at my Aunt’s cabin. She spoiled us with delicious food, rides on the sea-do, hot showers, and a movie which we watched comfortably under a heap of blankets on a cozy couch. It was a perfect way to wrap up such a memorable trip. Plus we got a jump start on all of the laundry that needed to be done.
When I planned our trip I was worried that we would be spending so much time traveling in the car that I never wanted to backtrack. What I didn’t fully realize, until we were in the thick of it, was that it is WAY worse to take down and set up camp every single day.
In the future we plan on making Mora Campground our headquarters. It is 20 minutes from Forks if you need any supplies and is centrally located to all of the best beaches (Ruby, Rialto, Second Beach) and the Hoh rainforest. I still want to visit Cape Flattery (the Northwestern most point of the continental United States) and Hurricane Ridge, plus a handful of the other coastal beaches we missed out on.
I am in constant amazement at what Washington State has to offer. We can’t wait to explore more of this wild and beautiful corner of America.