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Exploring the Olympic Coast with Kids

Stepping onto Olympic National Park’s Beach 4 is like walking into tide pool heaven. During low tide, sea anemones hang from massive boulders like dripping blobs of flubber and sea stars gather on towering rocks in massive clumps, using their steel grips to hang on and wait for the tide to return.  Mussels carpet the lower portions of most boulders giving them the appearance of having massive shellfish beards. Low tide returns too quick to explore all the pools, scale all the boulders, and discover every last crab in every last crevice. Here the coast still feels wild, remote, and undiscovered.

On the seemingly never-ending stretches of sand, massive spruce and fir logs are scattered about, smooth and silvery from being tossed in the surf like matchsticks.  On the day my family visited, the sun and clouds were in an epic battle for coastline dominance and on that day, as with most days in this part of the country, the clouds won. It may have been sunny and warm just a quarter mile up the trail where we had parked our minivan but at the beach, overcast skies dominated the scene. No bother- we were kept warm by the invigoration of discovering yet another perfect skipping stone to sail into the sea and the bones of trees which could easily be imagined into all sorts of wild creatures.

La Push

North of Beach 4, west of the town of Forks, lies the tiny village of La Push.  Evidence  of Twilight fans dominating the tourism scene were not hard to find. Plywood signs indicating we had entered “werewolf territory” stood on the side of the highway and a life size cutout of a brooding Jacob hung out next to fish mounted on walls inside the tiny 3 Rivers Restaurant. Luckily, this Quileute Indian community has its own identity beyond the Twilight fandom and the only trace of the popular series that could be found inside our cozy beachfront cabin at the Quileute Oceanside Resort was a fleece wolf throw draped over the couch.

Read my full review of the Quileute Oceanside Resort.

I regretted not booking more time at the cabin after spending about ten seconds on its deck, rocking in my chair and listening to the waves crash onto the beach just beyond us. As dusk settled in, the clouds had grown too thick for us to actually see the ocean but its constant chatter reminded us that it was there. In the morning the simple gray skyline was replaced by one that included expansive ocean views and James Island, a tiny island dominated by a colossal tree covered rock that serves as the final resting place for Quileute chiefs of the past. We spent that morning collecting perfect pebbles smoothed by the surf, walking up the trunk of a massive spruce tree that had washed ashore years ago, and dining on the best (and cheapest) salmon hash we will probably ever have before heading even further up the coast in search of the northwestern corner of the lower 48, Cape Flattery.

Cape Flattery

The ¾ mile trail to the edge of Cape Flattery is a true walk through the rain forest. Massive trees dripping with ferns and condensation line the trail which starts out wide but quickly narrows into a cedar boardwalk through a boggy forest. Suddenly trees give way to a safety-railed cliff’s edge and the scenery feels a bit like Big Sur meets the Pacific Northwest. When we climbed up the short ladder to the viewing platform, we were disappointed to hear we had just missed a gray whale sighting but a bald eagle soaring in the currents and puffins diving for their next meals provided our Wild Kingdom moments  Before we bid farewell to the sapphire blue water of the Cape and headed back into dark and lush forest,the kids and I stopped at an overlook to catch one last glimpse of the wild Olympic Coast.  In that moment I felt incredibly blessed to  discover the beauty of a coastline most American families will never see, but should.

Ready to discover Olympic National Park with your family? Check out these reviews from families that have been there.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary stay at the Quileute Oceanside Resort in coordination with the Olympic Peninsula Visitor’s Bureau. All opinions are unbiased and my own.


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One Response to Exploring the Olympic Coast with Kids

  1. Amy @ Pit Stops for Kids April 2, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    Love, love, love this area! (And no, I’m not a Twi-hard!) I’ve written about it for both my local paper and multiple websites, I recommend it so highly. Great overview!

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