Boondocking (free, or almost free, dry camping) around Olympic National Park was a breeze, and so worth the trip! I would imagine it is much more difficult to get a spot on weekends and in the summer, but since we were there in the beginning of fall, there were open spots in most of the places that we wanted to stay. We used the app, Campendium, and found that there were so many places to choose from to stay at without reservations. We could have stayed awhile if we would have realized how boondocking friendly this area would be! First, on the way into Olympic from the northeast, there was a Harvest Hosts location that we loved! Then there were Walmart’s in Sequim and Port Angeles to stock up and we took the walk on ferry in Port Angeles to Victoria.
Olympic National Park was beautiful, but very spread out. There isn’t a road that goes through the middle of the park, so we drove around this huge park staying at different campgrounds each night, and seeing different areas near where we were staying each day. A cool thing about this National Park was there were so many easily accessible first come first serve department of natural resources and National Park campgrounds that we could stay at without reservations. This gave us the availability to wing it and stay places or travel at the pace we needed to see most of what we wanted to see.
On the first couple of days in Olympic we were in the northern area of the park has Hurricane Ridge for Mountain View’s (too foggy to see anything), and the Elwha area where we saw a great waterfall, river views, and a huge herd of about 100 Olympic Elk hanging out in someone’s backyard. A little further east was Lake Crescent and the Sol Duc area where there is a Hot Springs resort that we took a look at but didn’t swim in, and we took a hike to Sol Duc Falls.
Moving west, and throughout the area bordering the park, there are first come first serve Department of Natural Resources campgrounds that you pay $35 a year and can stay at each campground (in Washington) for up to a week, though we only stayed a night at each. Since Olympic is so big and spread out, this helped us to easily circle the park, and stay near each area we wanted to visit.
Our favorite areas in Olympic were in the West side on the coast and the southeast Quinalt area. We enjoyed hiking in the Hoh Rainforest. There were many beaches along the coastal area of the park, and there were some National Park campgrounds with beach views. We snagged a spot at the first come first serve South Beach Campground, and loved the ocean views and easy walk to the beach there! We surprisingly had great AT&T at each site we stayed at (Kalaloch Campground that you can book 6 months out and was only a couple of miles from South Beach, sites are small and we didn’t have signal when visiting there, but they had a dump and water fill we used for $10). Tyler and Ellie made friends with two doggies, and their parents at this campground .
The Kalaloch Lodge was about a mile away from South Beach Campground, and had good food. The beaches in this area each had something different to offer. Tide pools, sea lions, beautiful views…exploring it felt like a magical land walking through the rainforests to see what surprises lay ahead at each beach! Short hikes through the rainforest from the roads led to each beach. Beach 4 was the best for tide pool viewing at low tide. We saw many clams, starfish, jellyfish, anemones, or “sea enemies” as Ellie calls them, and we even saw a small beached shark there. Ruby beach was beautiful with its sea stack rocks and there were tide pools there too. At Beach 2 we saw sea lions swimming in the water! This was a very special area!
On the south end of Olympic was the Quinalt Rainforest. The historic lodge at Quinalt was right on the lake there, and was a beautiful spot to enjoy views of the lake, or sit in front of their fireplace (below)! There was also a restaurant in this lodge. We have found that the lodges at national parks are very beautiful, and in great spaces to enjoy a snack or meal, and take in some beautiful views. We also loved the hike near the lodge in Quinalt.
It was really hard to leave the coast of Olympic!