I woke up early on day 2, full of excitement and nervousness about embarking for the Olympic Peninsula and beginning the actual driving portion of my road trip. Before picking up my rental car I made crucial stop at Top Pot Donuts. If you’re in Seattle (or Dallas now, too) you need to go and you need to get a glazed old fashioned. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
After that there was only one thing left to do — go pick up my very first rental car. I’ve had a loaner from my car dealership before, but never a rental car that I’d be covering long distances in. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed when I was given a Mitsubishi Mirage. I don’t know if you’ve ever driven a Mirage before, but this particular model is so light it feels like you’re driving a go kart that someone put doors on. Somewhat disconcerting.
After folding up a sweatshirt to sit on so I could see over the steering wheel (no, really) I made the short drive to the ferry.
I could have taken a more southern route to hook over to the Olympic Peninsula, but part of the Seattle experience is taking the ferry so I overrode my GPS and hopped on the ferry to Bainbridge Island.
My first stop after docking was Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, about a 2 hour drive away. I stopped in the park welcome center in Port Angeles to buy a National Park Pass (which I only used once, so I have a good excuse to go to a few more national parks this year!) They warned me that the wait to drive up the mountain was going to be over an hour due to the beautiful weather and the parking lot being at capacity. I took my chances, and the wait was actually only 20 minutes! When I got up to the top and saw the view, even a two hour wait would have been worth it.
Coming from New Jersey where our highest elevation is under 2000 ft, it’s always incredible to travel somewhere with mountains. Hurricane Ridge has an elevation of over 5000 ft, with stunning panoramic views of the Olympic National Park. I would love to see it in the winter, with snow blanketing the mountains.
After spending approximately way too much time up there, I had to get a move on if I was going to make it all the way west to my Airbnb and La Push for sunset. I knew I’d be passing Lake Crescent and the oft-photographed Storm King Ranger Station, so I made a couple of quick stops along the way.
I eventually made it to my AirBnb in Forks on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula. This was the riskiest accommodation choice I made — a canvas tent with no electricity. I somehow forgot to take pictures of it (my bad), but there’s some on the listing page. My worries ended up being unfounded — the tent was quite cozy with warm comforters on the cots, and a nice clean bathroom just a short walk past the other tents and cabins on the property. The next morning I was even treated to fresh blueberry pancakes and free range eggs at the campfire, while their chickens and a goat hovered nearby looking for scraps.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. After checking in and dropping off my suitcase, I headed out to La Push to catch sunset. La Push is a community on the far west coast of the Olympic Peninsula, located within the Quileute Indian Reservation. It’s home to three spectacular beaches, aptly named First Beach, Second Beach and Third Beach. I was aiming for Second Beach, as I’d seem some gorgeous photos and youtube videos taken there, but I made a quick stop at First Beach to see the giant redwood that washed ashore a few years ago. I wish I had taken a better picture of it, but the light wasn’t working in my favor and I didn’t have much time.
With sunset quickly approaching, I hopped back in the car and made the short drive to Second Beach. Second Beach is set a bit of a distance back from the actual ocean, and involves a half mile-long trek through the forest (not terribly difficult before sunset, but definitely a bit freaky when you’re alone, dusk has settled, and bats start flying around you at chest height…) All I can say is it’s well worth it.
I’d seen countless pictures of the beach, but nothing could have prepared me for just how huge the sea stacks (aka the giant rocks in the ocean) are in person. Pictures don’t do it justice. It was absolutely breathtaking, and I was completely in awe the entire time I was there.
Sunset was absolutely breathtaking — definitely an experience that will stay with me forever. As I was leaving I passed a few campers getting ready to settle into their tents on the beach for the night. As I speed-walked through the forest back to my car, I could only imagine how incredible waking up to that view the next morning would have been.
Next up will be Day 3 at Ruby Beach, Washington and Cannon Beach, Oregon!