From our campsite, the route to Olympic National Park took us over land and sea, from ocean to mountain. Olympic National Park in extreme northwest Washington encompasses over a million acres and includes snow capped mountains, alpine meadows, old growth forest, and lush rainforest – much of it pristine, untouched wilderness.
Our long day trip started around 6 am as we mounted the motorcycle and headed out through the chilly dawn to the port town of Coupeville, Washington, about 1.5 hours away. The drive itself was beautiful as we wound through farmland, forests and along serene tidal flats and bay. Upon arrival at the small Port, we paid our $10 transit fee and lined up with other motorcyclists to wait for the ferry. Around us were lines of cars and other vehicles also waiting to board. There were very few passengers without vehicles for this route.
Washington State operates an active network of ferries, transporting people, vehicles and goods across to the various islands and peninsulas. The boats can accommodate a surprising number and variety of vehicles, including tractor trailers and RVs. We watched as the large ferry docked, and then we were given the signal to load up. After driving aboard, we parked the bike in the indicated spot, and headed upstairs to the passenger lounge. We just had time during our 30 minute ferry ride to grab a (long delayed) cup of caffeine and a breakfast sandwich from the café before being called back to our vehicle for offloading. Note to other riders — don’t lift up from the kickstand until the boat is completely docked. Not knowing that, we had a bit of a rocky-rolly balancing challenge for a few minutes! Once docked, the motorcycles disembarked first, and we were off! The whole ferry process easy-peasy.
From our disembarkation point – Port Townsend – we had another 42 miles drive along the coast just to reach the Port Angeles Olympic Park Visitor’s Center. There we scoped out our sightseeing options we could manage within our limited time frame. First, we drove up to view the high mountains at Hurricane Ridge. We walked along alpine meadows with spectacular views of the snowy Olympic mountains. It reminded me a bit of Switzerland and that “I’m on the top of the world” feeling.
Then we headed to 12 mile long, glacially-carved Lake Crescent. The water was incredibly clear, and incredibly blue. From there, a short hike lead to a scenic waterfall. The old-growth forest was silent and lushly green. It also showed signs of dryness. For all of its rainfall in fall and winter, summer is a time of drought in that area. Indeed, it hasn’t rained on us for our entire stay here (weeks), and vegetation shows the signs. The true rainforest area of the Park wasn’t within reach during our brief day trip, so we had to save that for another time.
It was a long trek back, as we reverse-navigated for home. First was the hour drive back to the port, where we arrived just in time to catch the 6 pm ferry that was in the process of boarding. One advantage of driving a motorcycle is that they easily accommodated on the ferry and rarely have to make reservations, unlike cars. Motorcycles are also MUCH cheaper to take across. Again, we had just enough time to grab a sandwich at the ferry café before returning to the bike to disembark. Then we faced the 1.5 hour ride back to the bus, arriving home around 8 pm. What a great day!
Olympic National Park is stunning, and we just barely scratched the surface during our day trip. It is a backpacker’s paradise, with many wilderness areas only reachable by foot. Port Angeles is a decent size town, with amenities and activities there, plus ferry options to other points in Washington and Canada. It would make an awesome home base for a month to further explore the area.
We’ve definitely noted that for future reference!
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