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There are many ways to explore and enjoy the unique beauty of the Olympic Rain Forest. For those who prefer to experience the rain forest from their automobile, the following route provides excellent opportunities to see a wide variety of features within a relatively short period of time. Allow approximately one and a half hours to complete this 31 mile loop around Quinault Lake. You can begin your tour from any spot along the loop, however, the following description starts at the Forest Service Quinault Ranger Station on the South Shore of Quinault Lake.

From the ranger station, drive northeast on the South Shore Road. Watch for open vistas of Quinault Lake as you travel past Falls Creek Campground (.1 mile), several recreational residences, and Gatton Creek Campground (.5 mile). The Gatton Creek site provides excellent opportunities to access the water's edge and has picnic facilities and toilets.

Beyond the Forest boundary, the road continues through mixed ownership private lands. The Colonel Bob Trailhead (3.8 miles) is the major portal for hiking into the Colonel Bob Wilderness. Watch for Merriman Falls (4.4 miles) on the right side of the road.

The road parallels the Quinault River for several miles, providing views of an ever-changing stream. Notice the wide river bed and large gravel bars. Near the Olympic National Park boundary (9.8 miles) there is a small but spectacular waterfall at Bunch Creek that can be seen from the road.

Turn left at the next road junction (10.8 miles) and cross the Quinault River. Across the bridge the road forks again. Turn left and begin your tour along the North Shore. Look for Roosevelt Elk and other wildlife in the open fields. The Olympic National Park's Quinault River Ranger Station and a small Visitor Center (19.6 miles) provide a good opportunity to stretch. If time allows, walk the short half mile self-guided Maple Grove Nature Trail which begins neat the Visitor Center. July Creek Campground (22 miles) is a walk-in campground.

The route leaves the Park (25.3 miles) and intersects with Highway 101 (25.5 miles). Turn left onto Highway 101 and drive 2 miles to a road junction just across the Quinault River. Turn left after crossing the bridge. In a short mile, the road junctions with the South Shore Road. Turn left and drive to the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail (29.1 miles). This trailhead has a large parking lot and restrooms. The loop trail offers an excellent opportunity to hike through lush understory, hanging mosses, and giant conifers. Small signs interpret the features of the rain forest.

From the trailhead, the road continues northeast to Willaby Campground (29.4 miles). This popular site has a boat ramp and picnic facilities. The Lake Quinault Lodge (31.3 miles) is near the end of the loop. This rustic lodge has a gift shop and bar and provides meals and rooms with spectacular views. There is a gas station and small mercantile across from the lodge. A return to the Quinault Ranger Station completes the loop.

NOTE: This route is mostly a two-lane paved surface road. However, there is a short, narrow, one lane section of gravel road north or the Park's Ranger Station on the North Shore. This section is not recommended for wide vehicles or trailers over 19 feet.

Distance: 31 Miles

Directions: From Amanda Park, Turn off Highway 101 to the east just south of Amanda Park (north of Neilton). Continue for about 2 miles along Lake Quinault to the Quinault Ranger Station. This is the starting point for the scenic drive.

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Olympic National Forest

Visitor Information

Telephone Number: (360) 956-2402
The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

Review by Wildernet Copyright © 2010 all rights reserved.