There was about a 5-month drought of national park visits for me. My next one came when my family took a trip to Seattle in December 2016 to celebrate my high school graduation. Our primary reasoning for going there was so I could see the Seattle Seahawks play a game in their home stadium, but a little research revealed that there are three national parks within driving distance of the city. We chose to visit Olympic National Park, which encompasses the majority of the Olympic Peninsula.
Visiting this park in the middle of December meant no hiking. We weren’t really sure what we would be able to do here since the primary road that goes through the park was already covered with snow and ice. We made the trek out from Seattle anyway, determined to check another park off the list. Our goal was to drive the entire road called Hurricane Ridge, which goes from the park entrance up to a panoramic view of the mountains. There’s also a lodge at the end of this road where you can get food and shop a little bit.
We knew ahead of time that you had to have snow chains in your car to drive the road at this time of year, even with a 4-wheel-drive car.
We made a stop by Walmart to get some chains (we returned them later. We didn’t have even what we’d need to put them on) and went into the park. The ranger at the visitor center said that Hurricane Ridge was open, but that they’d already had one car slide off the road that day. We decided to go for it, and it was definitely worth it. We saw these incredible icicles and views of the mountains. I’ve seen unending views of snowy mountains before, but every time it seems new.
Part of Olympic National Park is on the coast of the peninsula, and its most famous spot is Ruby Beach. We drove back down Hurricane Ridge and out of the park (you can’t get directly to Ruby Beach from the primary part of the park. We made sure to drive through Forks (because I loved Twilight just like every other middle school girl) on the way to the beach, where we planned to watch the sunset.
It turns out that beaches in the Northwest are super cold in December (crazy, right?). I was in my huge ski coat, but yet again I made the mistake of only wearing one layer of pants. It was cold and windy, but the beach was very cool. It was rocky, but different than the rocky beaches of Acadia. Olympic’s beach was made up of smaller stones that had been made smooth by the ocean. Most of the coastline in either direction was cliffline, which just increased the grandeur of the beach.
We only made it to one of the parks in Washington on that trip, but that just means we get to go back! The two remaining ones are Mt. Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park. Olympic is in the middle of my list at #4. I want to go back and see it in the summer sometime!