The Northwest Passage
|Follow the Leader: The road pointing to Mount Rainier National Park (PhotoDisc)|
You don't have to be in the tropics to find a rainforest. It rains so much in the Pacific Northwest that Washington, the only state named after a president, has its own incredible northerly rainforests. Queets Rainforest, situated in Olympic National Park, features 270-feet-tall Douglas firs amid towering spruce and fragrant red cedar. All that water also feeds Puget Sound, home to foot-long salamanders, 250-pound octopi, and some of America's premier sailing grounds. It's a natural destination for those seeking scuba diving, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, or some of America's best seafood. For land lovers, tack on 26 glaciers around Mount Rainier, providing the option of year-round ski trips, and the welter of active options will probably make you forget that it sure rains a lot around here.
Days 1-3: Seattle to Port Angeles and Olympic National Park (80 Miles, Plus Ferry Crossing)
Seattle is surrounded by water, and the best way to see it all is from atop the 605-foot-tall Space Needle(206.905.2100; www.spaceneedle.com), left standing after the 1962 World's Fair and now pretty much the visual symbol that best identifies the city. Down on the ground, visit the Pike Place Public Market (206.682.7453), where laughing clerks in hooded sweatshirts entertain customers by throwing and catching the large fresh fish staring up from overflowing ice bins. Then sate that caffeine craving with one of the ubiquitous Seattle shots and make the 17-mile drive north to Edmonds, Washington, to board the Edmonds-to-Kingston ferry (206.464.6400) for a 30-minute voyage across Puget Sound.
From there, it's another 60 miles to Port Angeles, the gateway to the primordial magnificence of Olympic National Park (800.833.6388; www.nps.gov/olym). The park covers 923,000 acres, from 60-plus miles of Pacific Ocean shoreline to the snowy tops of glacier-rimmed mountains as high as 7,965-foot Mount Olympus. To preserve this wilderness, no roads penetrate deeper than 20 miles into the park, but 600 miles of trails; wildlife viewing including elk, deer, and eagles; top salmon or steelhead-trout fishing; hot springs; rafting; and kayaking may mean hauling your gear out of the trunk is the only time you actually need your car. In addition, Olympic National Forest (360.956.2402; www.fs.fed.us/r6/Olympic), which surrounds the national park, contains another 633,677 acres of similar terrain, including 270 miles of trails.
Plan a day trip to visit the Sol Duc Hot Springs (866.476.5382; www.visitsolduc.com), situated 45 miles southwest of Port Angeles. The natural hot springs pour out of the earth at 128 degrees Fahrenheit. The water is then piped into three outdoor pools and cooled to 99 to 105 degrees. There's RV camping here, too. For sightseeing, try Hurricane Ridge Road, a steep, 7-percent-grade road offering views of the Olympic Mountains, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Vancouver Island.
Log Cabin Resort (360.928.3325; www.logcabinresort.net) is well situated on Lake Crescent within Olympic National Park. It has hot showers, groceries, Internet, laundry, and firewood. It also boasts its own beach, swimming, and boat and bike rentals in Port Angeles. And it provides the closest camping access to Port Angeles, where you can restock supplies.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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