Washington: Olympic Peninsula

Guided Walking Tour, Washington: Olympic PeninsulaGuided Walking Tour, Washington: Olympic Peninsula

Washington

Olympic Peninsula

overview

Enter a world acclaimed as magical. Stretching from snowy peaks to a wild Pacific shore is the heart of North America’s ancient rainforest. In this vast walker’s paradise, thousand-year-old, moss-draped trees rise hundreds of feet into the sky; magnificent waterfalls tumble to fields of brilliant wildflowers and deep-blue lakes. A trek through giant fir and cedar trees leads to Graves Creek and Pony Bridge, where the Quinault River plunges down a narrow gorge. Follow the Hoh River through cathedral groves of towering sitka spruce, then ride the river itself past mergansers and otters. More majestic vistas await at Sol Duc Falls and pristine Deer Lake, whose subalpine meadows open to views of the Olympic range. Your experience is heightened by a visit with Harvest Moon, a storyteller who shares Quinault tales and traditions. Feed your body as well as the soul with a bounty of fresh salmon, local produce, just-picked berries, and other Northwestern delicacies on a journey that is nothing short of spiritual.

2014 Downloadable Itinerary

2015 Downloadable Itinerary

Activity Level
Easy to moderate;
4-9 miles daily
Meet
Seattle, Washington
Depart
Seattle, Washington
Reading List
Recommended
pre-trip reading
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From our blog

Guided Walking 
6 days, 5 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • Two expert, local guides (for groups of 8 or more), with you 24/7
  • All meals except for one lunch; local wine or beer included with dinners
  • All accommodations while on tour
  • Transportation from the meeting to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the Country Walkers staff
per person double occupancy
Single supplement + $650
 

Solo surcharge + $0
 

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION
Number of Travelers
Total in your party
Price From
per person double occupancy

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION

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Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Quinault
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2
Quinault
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3
Forks
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4
Forks
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5
Port Angeles
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6
Port Angeles
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Day 1

Quinault

Transfer to Lake Quinault. Mima Mounds; 1.5 miles, easy. Optional afternoon walk to arrive at lodge on foot; 2.7 miles; easy

From the meeting point in Seattle, you begin a scenic drive, enjoying picturesque views of the Olympics, Mount Rainier, and Seattle’s skyline. You soon travel into another landscape altogether; one with majestic forests of Douglas fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar. You stop en route to enjoy a picnic lunch and warm-up walk around the Mima Mounds Natural Preserve, where you explore the enigmatic prairie of six-foot-high mounds that cover the region.

An optional second walk of the day allows you to arrive at the lodge on foot. This walk is your first encounter with the temperate rainforest, and provides an excellent orientation to some features of that habitat as explained by your guide. The destination and your home for the next two days is a stately lodge that has been a haven for hikers and fishermen since 1926. The lodge is surrounded by magnificent old-growth forest trails, should you decide to explore a bit before a welcome dinner in the hotel dining room.

Lake Quinault Lodge

A rustic lakeside lodge offering comfortable, contemporary rooms in the heart of the Olympic National Forest. Rooms do not have telephones.

Day 2

Quinault

Graves Creek to Pony Bridge and Quinault Valley; 5-8 miles, easy to moderate

Today’s exploration of the temperate rainforest starts with a visit to the world’s largest Sitka spruce tree. It has stood guard over the Quinault River for almost 1,000 years and is 58 feet in circumference. From here we drive along the river and past waterfalls and riparian glades until we reach the end of the road at the edge of the vast Olympic wilderness. Our walk is up either the Quinault’s East or North Fork (depending on seasonal trail conditions), allowing you to pursue a glimpse of Roosevelt elk or migrating salmon. You ramble through a magnificent forest of giant firs and cedars, passing huckleberry bushes as well as queen’s cup and bunchberry dogwood. As you approach Pony Bridge, the river plunges through a narrow gorge walled by layers of slate and sandstone. Bring your camera, as you won’t want to miss this quintessential rainforest view with its dramatic play of light and cascading water.

You enjoy lunch by the tranquil waters of the river, which are an icy blue from sediment of glacial silt. After lunch, those with more energy can continue farther along the Quinault Valley, marveling at the alder groves along the way.

This evening, before dinner, you meet Harvest Moon—a Quinault elder, story teller, and basket maker. She enthralls us with legends and stories of her culture in front of the lodge’s stately fireplace.

Lake Quinault Lodge

A rustic lakeside lodge offering comfortable, contemporary rooms in the heart of the Olympic National Forest. Rooms do not have telephones.

Day 3

Forks

Kalaloch to the Pacific Coast. Ruby Beach, 3-5 miles (tide dependent), easy; The Hoh Rainforest; 2-5 miles, easy

At Kalaloch, you delight in your first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean on a beach walk. The coast, part of the Olympic National Park, is pristine and virtually undisturbed by the forces of man. If tides allow, you explore the tidal pools teeming with starfish and countless other species of intertidal invertebrates and algae, and enjoy a picnic lunch on Ruby Beach. Fascinating sea-stack rock formations enhance the Pacific Ocean views. You may spot otters, eagles, seals, whales, and even follow deer tracks in the sand. This is also a prime spot for birding—keep an eye out for pelicans, cormorants, and oystercatchers along the way. Here, too, you can appreciate the wonder of the tides, which dramatically change the landscape as they ebb and flow by as much as 15 feet.

This afternoon, the walk explores a gentle trail lined with massive trees, through one of the only coastal temperate rainforests in the world. Other temperate rainforests can be found in Tasmania, Scotland, Japan, and on the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. The Hoh Rainforest literally teems with life, even out of death; massive “nurse” logs of fallen trees serve as starting ground for new seedlings, nourishing them with nutrients and moisture as they decay. Moss drips from overhanging branches, and licorice ferns sprout from trees without ever reaching the ground.

Everything grows two to three times faster in the rainforest than on dry land; here, Sitka spruce grow to heights of 300 feet and as wide as 23 feet, and are considerably larger than in their namesake Alaskan home.

Tonight, you are warm and comfortable in newly refurbished log cabins with cozy wood stoves, overlooking the Pacific.

Kalaloch Lodge

Forks, Washington

A comfortable National Park lodge offering cabin-style accommodations, situated on a high bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Rooms do not have televisions or telephones.

Day 4

Forks

Sol Duc Valley and Lake Crescent; 5-9 miles, easy to moderate

After breakfast overlooking Kalaloch Creek and the beach, you set out on a two-hour scenic drive, passing through the logging town of Forks, recently made notable in the Twilight series of books and films. After following the Sol Duc River through a broad valley, you climb up into the mountains to road’s end and begin your walk through giant Western hemlock trees to the iconic Sol Duc Falls. From here you are offered two walking options. The easier option is an enchanted walk down the Lover’s Lane Trail, which brings you to the quaint Sol Duc Hotspring resort. Here you have the opportunity to soak in the healing mineral springs, or enjoy a beverage at the outdoor café next to the Sol Duc River (this option is 4 miles in length). Those looking to challenge themselves with a 1,500-foot climb through changing forest zones, wetland orchids, and stunning views of cascading Canyon Creek will set out for Deer Lake. Upon arrival you take in the majestic beauty of this tranquil jewel nestled below subalpine meadows and high ridges. Afterward you move on to Lake Crescent, carved out of the mountains by glaciers. Eight and one-half miles long and over 600 feet deep, it is one of the largest lakes in the state. Here, you stay at a famous lodge whose past guests included Franklin Roosevelt. Appropriately, he stayed here prior to negotiations which led to the creation of Olympic National Park.

Kalaloch Lodge

Forks, Washington

A comfortable National Park lodge offering cabin-style accommodations, situated on a high bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Rooms do not have televisions or telephones.

Day 5

Port Angeles

Hurricane Hill trail; 3 miles, easy; optional scenic raft trip on the Elwha River

After a brief visit to the National Park Service Visitor Center, you head for Hurricane Ridge for a walk on the Hurricane Hill trail. Here, you take in the sweeping grandeur of the Olympic Mountain Range to the south, with the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island to the north. Massive peaks, one after another, form a striking skyline. According to Native American legends, these peaks were once a single, large mountain where the Thunderbird, creator of lightning and thunder, dwelled.

En route you stop for a picnic lunch surrounded by subalpine meadows. Because the Olympic Peninsula was isolated by glaciers 10,000 years ago, these meadows were also isolated—they now include endemic species of flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth, such as the Olympic Mountain daisy, Flett’s violet, and the Olympic marmot.

This afternoon you proceed to the banks of the Elwha River, which is undergoing the largest dam removal project in U.S. history and is being restored to bring back  one of the Northwest’s most incredible salmon runs. Your guide, Eric Kessler, has been working on documenting this historic and fascinating project for almost 20 years, and shares how this came to be approved by Congress, as well as funded and implemented by federal, state, and tribal parties. You walk into the former Elwha Dam site, which is being reclaimed by nature and now regularly sees massive king salmon swimming by to their ancient reclaimed spawning grounds upriver. Located mainly in the heart of the Olympic National Park, the river’s 45-mile course and 100 miles of tributaries are being revitalized by returning salmon migration, crucial to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and surrounding ecosystems.

After this full day of walking, you begin the return trip to the lodge in anticipation of a hearty farewell meal.

Lake Crescent Lodge

Port Angeles, Washington

A historic National Park lodge offering cottage and motel units nestled among giant fir and hemlock, and overlooking stunning Lake Crescent. Rooms do not have televisions or telephones.

Day 6

Port Angeles

Marymere Falls; 2 miles, easy to moderate. Departure from Seattle

From Lake Crescent, a final, brief walk to Marymere Falls is a breathtaking farewell. The dramatic 90-foot plunge is named for Mary Alice Barnes, sister of Charles Barnes, a cartographer who produced the first map of the interior of the Olympic Peninsula on the famous, perilous Seattle Press expedition of 1889.

You depart for Seattle via the Bainbridge Ferry, stopping en route to enjoy a special lunch provided by your guides.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

Guides

Heather Harding

Heather Harding has been guiding for many years on both Washington's Olympic Peninsula, where she lives, and in the canyons and plateaus of the Southwest, where she earned college degrees in biology and Southwest Studies. Heather brings a world-wide background of whale research and Waldorf teaching to her guiding. Heather winters on Maui, where she runs her non-profit whale foundation, with her partner and frequent co-guide Eric Kessler.

Eric Kessler

Eric Kessler will be guiding his twentieth season for CW on the Olympic Peninsula this year. After studying the natural history of the Olympic Peninsula in college and exploring its jagged peaks and forested valleys as a wilderness traveler, he went on to devote his career to sharing this remarkable national park with guests. Eric has guided world-wide and pursues his parallel photography career documenting the planet’s native peoples and ecosystems. He is currently working on a writing/photo project on the Olympic Peninsula’s Elwha River, which has the largest dam removal and watershed restoration in US history underway.

Guest Comments

N. Kalina, Indiana, July 2009

The trips my partner and I have taken with CW are quite simply the most relaxing vacation we have ever been on. I love not having to think. I so enjoy being able to experience void of concern.

C. Koller, Massachusetts, August 2011

This trip was an intimate, insider's view of a magnificent landscape and natural wonders.

L. Paul, Arizona, July 2011

From the alpine hiking along Hurricane Ridge to exploring tidal pools along the Pacific Ocean, the scenery was gorgeous. Knowledgeable, good-humored guides make the tour fun and educational.

W. Scoular, Australia, July 2011

Would like to say that your guides are what make your company and the tours what they are. Both Heather and Eric were the very best.

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