Highlights of the Olympic National Forest

A Photograghic Tour

We recently took a family trip to the Quinault Rain Forest in the Olympic National Forest. The Olympic National Forest has two temperate rain forests, the Quinault and the Hoh.  I have not been to the Hoh but from my experience in the Quinault, I will make a trip sometime.  The unique things about this forest is it gets between 10 to 15 feet of rainfall each year.  The temperature is much more moderate than the rest of the state and home to some of the most amazing trees and natural beauty you will ever see.  A short hike in the forest will get you views of scores of small waterfalls and the most amazing shades of green you will ever see in nature. Huge Douglas firs, Sitka spruce, and western hemlock dominate the upper canopy of the forest and provide shade to the maple and alder trees below.  Berries, ferns and hanging moss can be seen everywhere on the trails.  

You’ll never starve or run out of water if you get lost in this forest
the bog areas of the forest are protected by elevated walkways

We stayed in cabins right on Lake Quinault.  I usually don’t enjoy summer camping because of the bugs but we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of mosquitos or any bugs.  The wind might have contributed to that somewhat as it would get pretty windy after about 10am each day until nightfall.  It didn’t rain the entire 4 day trip though a marine layer is present in the morning and much of each day. 

Since the winds picked up each day it meant early morning paddling and later in the day hikes and exploration.  I kept feeling like we should be seeing more wildlife, we knew they were there but only saw a few birds (eagles, osprey, ravens, loons, herons, robins and turkey vultures).  Finally on the second day of paddling we went to the river mouth for the lake and landed at the mouth.  In the mud flats we saw every wildlife track you could imagine in one place.  We didn’t see the creatures that matched the prints but could identify Roosevelt elk, raccoons, heron, deer, and possibly bobcat tracks.

my wife and eldest daughter love to paddleboard the smooth waters of the early morning
my youngest prefers the leisurely paddle of our very fast ocean kayaks
early morning at the river mouth of the Quinault river
a short walk along the river mouth brings a color change to the mud from the mineral rich soils
looks like the herons have been busy here
raccoons join in the party, didn’t see Sasquatch tracks but the area is well known for being the home to them

I had hoped to make it back at sunset to this spot but the winds made it difficult.  I made it close the next morning and spotted a raccoon washing something next to the lake.  

he was a little shocked to see me paddle by, I shot this from my kayak about 50 yards away

The nicest place to stay in the area is the Lake Quinault Lodge.  We decided to paddle there for coffee one morning and take some pictures.  The lodge was built in 1926 but its real place in history came when FDR visited in 1937 on a fact finding mission.  Nine months after his visit he signed a bill establishing the Olympic National Park and preserving this very special place forever.  

the coolest visual for me of the lodge was the rain guage

After one of our morning paddles ended early because of the wind, we decided to day trip out to the beach.  Washington beaches are the perfect place to walk for miles at low tide and explore tide pools, watch birds, sea life and take in the dramatic cliffs and rock formations.  Ruby beach is the best beach that is easily accessible from the main highway.  Here we watched sea otters and seals playing offshore as eagles and pelicans soared overhead.  Unfortunately, we also watched a dead otter wash up on the beach.  I will spare you that picture!

look closely and you can see Salmon berries in this image

All in all, if you are an outdoor enthusiast I would highly recommend exploring the coast of Washington (and California and Oregon for that matter) and the Olympic National Forest.  It is so remote that even at it’s busiest times you can still find your own private paradise and solitude.  Hope you enjoyed this little tour.



  1. Oh Diane, I almost forgot. Got to find out what kind of trees these are. They’re really something.

    Beautiful pictures as usual. I’m putting this on my must visit list. 

    • I had to look up that reference… most of Twin Peaks was filmed in North Bend, a funky little town in the mountains off of I90.  It is kind of the last stop before hitting the ski resort of Snoqualmie Pass so I have been there many times and eaten in that diner many times.  It is also an incredibly beautiful area though but it still shocks me how many tourists flock there because of the show.  I never really watched that show but if you ever do visit that area, check out Snoqualmie falls and the Salish Lodge on the edge of the falls, one of the best waterfalls in WA. & romantic lodges anywhere with world class food.  The town also has a railroad museum that you can take an old train to right above the waterfall for a view that is only possible by train. 

    • Inflatable, Costco specials a about 5 years back.  Body Glove but Costco usually has some decent ones this time of year.  I’m going to get a solid one for surfing when I get an electric truck in a few years but the inflatable ones have been fun.  Also, much less worries when pulling up on a rocky shoreline, they are pretty tough.

      • Cool. I have an inflatable ROC en route and am l looking forward to using it. Due to space/transport considerations, I couldn’t even consider a solid one.

    • I did too, especially with how much standing water around.  My favorite time of year to hike here is late spring or late fall when we have no bugs.  This year we haven’t had much mosquitoes so far but lots of flies for some reason.

    • I have a drybag I put it in when I am getting in or out of kayak and if it gets rough but I don’t have a waterproof housing for my current set up.  I do have a waterproof housing for my old surf photography setup but it wouldn’t work with this lens. 
      It got pretty choppy by about 10 or 11 each day, 8 to 12 mph winds which make paddleboarding challenging and taking photos in a kayak almost impossible.  I saw about 10-14 turkey vultures all hanging out in a dead ripped up tree that I tried to get close enough to get pictures when it was really windy and almost got dumped and couldn’t hold the camera still.  Also, by the time I would get set up the kayak would have blown too far into shore for me to not get stuck or swamped.  I tried to go back to look for them the next day and saw a few flying but none in the tree.  It would have been a really cool ominous picture if I got it as I have never seen them hanging out like that before and didn’t expect to see turkey vultures here at all. 

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