Hiking, Biking, and Playing Tourist on the Olympic Peninsula

Port Angeles, WA

Last week we drove 17 miles south into the Olympic Mountains with Eric and Laurel to do some hiking along Hurricane Ridge (click here for that post).  While there we learned that sometimes low clouds cover the valleys while Hurricane Ridge sticks out above them in the clear.  So one day last week we checked a web cam view from the visitor’s center and saw just that condition.  But by the time we got up there the clouds had disappeared.  We still enjoyed the beautiful views from the ridge and went into the visitor center to view their video.  As we drove out of the parking area we decided to take a little side trip.  Just as you drive out of the parking area there is a dirt road on the right that leads steeply downhill.   Obstruction Point Road winds its way through the forest for about eight miles, ending at Obstruction Point Trailhead.

Obstruction Point Road

The road is only officially open July through October.  When we were there, they had just opened the first four miles of it as there was winter damage beyond that.  We drove to the point where the road was closed and turned around in a small trailhead parking area.  A sign there indicated a hike of less than a mile leading to P.J. Lake.

We had not heard of this trail but enjoy seeing beautiful mountain lakes, so we got out our packs and headed down the trail.  “Down the trail” turned out to be a good description, as the trail quickly began a very steep descent into a canyon.

Avalanche Lilies line the trial

We hiked down to the bottom, but a heavily flowing stream prevented us from reaching the lake.  So back we went up the steep track.  Photos never show the true steepness of trails.

After climbing back up to the Jeep we drove back to the main road and headed down the mountain.  Along the way we spotted a doe with two fawns feeding along the side of the road.

The next day we headed west on US 101 to the south side of Crescent Lake for a hike up to Marymere Falls.

View of Crescent Lake from US 101

The trailhead is at the Storm King Ranger Station parking area on the south shore of the lake.  The trail goes through a tunnel under the highway and heads south along Barnes Creek.

The flat trail goes through old growth forest for about a half mile before crossing Barnes Creek.

Soon after crossing that bridge the trail goes over Falls Creek on a more narrow bridge.

Just past that bridge the trail goes steeply up to the falls.  With the heavy snow melt the flow of water over the falls was impressive.

Some trees along the trail were huge

Returning to the trailhead we drove around to the north side of the lake to explore a trail there.  The trail turned out to be a paved bike path with limited lake views.  So we walked down a dirt path to the lake and enjoyed lunch.  The location made a “lunch with a view” photo difficult forcing some minor modifications in the pose.

Lunch with a view (modified)

For the first two weeks of our visit to the Olympic Peninsula we stayed at Elwha Dam RV Park, about 10 miles west of Port Angeles.  We really liked our site there but could only get a reservation for two weeks.  So we recently moved to the Olympic KOA, a few miles to the east of Port Angeles.  While not as pleasing to us as Elwha Dam, the site does have a great view of the Olympic Mountains to our south.

The Olympic Discovery Trail is a bike/hike path that, when completed, will run 130 miles along the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula from Port Townsend on the east to La Push on the west.  Over 70 miles of paved trail have been completed so far.  We are able to easily access the trail from the KOA by crossing US 101 on to the Old Olympic Highway for about two miles.  We rode 11 miles from the park to one of those chain coffee shops out of Seattle in Sequim.  The trail is fairly flat but the wind blows pretty strongly out of the west around here so the return ride was a bit of a challenge.

Bird houses for sale along the trail

Just outside Sequim the trail goes through Railroad Bridge Park, where it uses an old railroad bridge to cross the Dungeness River.

Another day we drove about 40 miles to the east for a visit to the small town of Port Townsend.   It sits almost at the end of a peninsula at the point where the Strait of Juan de Fuca becomes the Puget Sound.  Our first stop was Fort Worden Historical State Park, located just north of Port Townsend on the tip of the peninsula.  Fort Worden was an active US Army base from 1902 to 1953, part of the defensive system guarding shipping in the Puget Sound.

Remains of an old artillery battery

Great view of Mt. Baker, 60 miles away, from near the gun battery

At the very tip of the peninsula near the gun battery is the Point Wilson Light.  Originally constructed in 1879 and later improved in 1914, the light is controlled by the Coast Guard, while the grounds are managed by Washington State Parks.

Another view of Mt. Baker

A bit of ship traffic

Leaving Ft. Worden we drove back into Port Townsend to explore the waterfront section of town.  As we walked out to the end of the restored old Union Dock we spotted the outdoor balcony of a local restaurant.  Since we always enjoy a lunch with a view, we headed up for a meal while overlooking the water.

View from the deck of Sirens

We also enjoyed some light refreshments

As we walked down Water Street we could hear someone singing and the sound of a piano.  Turns out it was a gentleman sitting at a grand piano at the corner of Taylor Street.  He was very good so we stood and listened for a bit (after putting a little cash in his jar).  We both agreed that we would definitely “turn a chair” for him (you’ll understand if you watch  “The Voice”).

Port Townsend is a cool little town.  If you are into various forms of art, you would enjoy visiting some of the shops along Water Street.  But there were a bit too many (other) tourists for our tastes.

Enough of the city, it’s time to do some hiking!  More on that later . . .

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38 Responses to Hiking, Biking, and Playing Tourist on the Olympic Peninsula

  1. I am so enjoying your tour around the Olympic Peninsula. Our experience with Hurricane Ridge was in April one year. The sun was shining when we started up the road to the Visitor’s Center. Along the way it started snowing and there was so much accumulated snow at the top there were cross country skiers and snowboarders. So no hiking for us that day! Thanks for taking us along on your hikes.

  2. Jeff Pierce says:

    I am surprised by all the sunny days you have had. It is a rain forest…. nice lunch with a view picture

    • placestheygo says:

      This area of the Olympic Peninsula is in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains and received less rain, averaging about 34 days a year. We were concerned about the weather which is why we booked a longer stay, but we have had sun every day but our first couple days. It has been beautiful with consistent temps in the 60’s. Glad you enjoyed our modified lunch with a view photo.

  3. Mary says:

    I thought Fort Worden was very interesting, even though it was wet and sloggy the day I went. Port Townsend is cute and interesting, and has a place with the best Thai food I have had.

  4. Susan Bank says:

    Oh I miss those dirt roads that lead one off to who knows where! I can’t resist urging my driver to “turn here”! That little hike towards the lake looked perfect even if you didn’t quite make it there. The saying on the beer glass is perfect isn’t it! It looks like you’re having a grand time away from the rocks. I enjoy reading about and seeing the beautiful PNW, thanks!

  5. Isn’t summer on the Olympic Peninsula lovely?! Your photos are taking me right back there!

    • placestheygo says:

      Glad we can bring you back to the Olympic Peninsula, Lisa! It is the perfect place to be in the summer. We are really enjoying the temps in the 60’s with sunshine every day.

  6. exploRVistas says:

    We’ve been missing good rail trails for the Terra Trikes, so that would certainly be in our wheelhouse! Won’t make it this year, but we will keep it in mind for the future.

  7. We enjoyed that bike trail and walking around Port Townsend, but you are right, too many tourists sure can ruin a place.

  8. pmbweaver says:

    A water falls…Love it!
    Your “modified lunch with a view” photo is so dang cute. Good thinking…I am sure that was Pam’s idea.
    We really enjoyed the cool town of Port Townsend too. The saying on the glass is a classic!

  9. girlonahike says:

    That waterfall is gorgeous!
    Alicia @ http://www.GirlonaHike.com

  10. Sherry says:

    Love the name “Obstruction point”. Ruby would never consider such a drive. HA! You are so right that photos never show the steepness of the climb. Unfair. So much water in the falls – fantastic!! And so are those huge trees. That’s a hike we’d love to take with you. Love the lighthouse. Love the beer glass. Thanks for the post.

  11. libertatemamo says:

    Ah perfection! PNW views, good weather and beer!

  12. Initially I thought being thee in June/July isn’t desirable due to rain but it looked like you are there at the right time. There are so many trails and places we missed and glad you are doing the hike and seeing it for us. That writing on the glass is sweetly dedicated to the nimble hiker 🙂 Did John took off his shoes before taking the lunch with a view picture?

    • placestheygo says:

      Actually, MonaLiza, there isn’t much rain in this area of the Olympic Peninsula because it is in the rain shadow of the mountains. Sequim actually gets less rain the the other two towns. Summer is suppose to be the perfect time to visit. We have had wonderful weather. You and Steve need to return and hike the areas you missed. No, John didn’t have his boots, off…haha! We were struggling with how to get our boots high enough for the lake view. Nothing was working, so John got creative!

  13. One of my all time favorite places, the Pacific Northwest–Port Townsend (we stayed in the state park with ocean front property), Olympic National Park–I loved it all! Enjoy and keep sending the photos!

  14. Can’t wait to get back there. We leave next week to go up the coast of Nor Cal, Oregon and Washington. Too hot here in the desert. 109 this weekend.

  15. Laurel says:

    You guys are really getting around! And of course, finding all the good hikes in the area. So glad the photo of the avalanche lilies made the blog ’cause I wanted to see them. 🙂 Looks like you had a bit more water in Marymere Falls than we did a couple of years ago. Your “lunch with a view” photo is very creative, haha! We enjoyed biking the Discovery Trail, but didn’t have the wind to contend with. That can ruin a nice flat bike ride.

    • placestheygo says:

      All the snow and rain this past winter sure has made for spectacular water falls. Yes, we did have to be very creative for the Lunch with a View photo so we could include the lake. John is so clever!

  16. Jodee Gravel says:

    Until I saw the shelf road I was sorry we missed Obstruction Point! I imagine it was very entertaining watching you two get in position for your ‘lunch with a view’ – but your readers do expect to see one 🙂 We’re looking forward to a return visit to Pt Townsend, hope our weather is as good. Love the Pt Wilson lighthouse pic. I think we all need a couple of those glasses. What a great saying :-))))

    • placestheygo says:

      You are exactly right, Jodee! We tried several things to get this Lunch with a View photo. We’re lucky we didn’t end up in the lake since we were sitting right at the edge! I hope this perfect sunny, cool weather continues until you arrive.

  17. Gay says:

    Fun, fun, fun! I like tourist days for a change of pace!
    That was one beautiful waterfall!

  18. geogypsy2u says:

    I’m loving seeing these places on the peninsula where I haven’t been in way too long. Everything is looking delightfully lush and green.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Gaelyn! We’ve been looking at everyone else’s photos for awhile now. It is nice to see it all in person. Things are very green and the wildflowers are everywhere.

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