Olympic National Park is big — almost a million acres big. Stay a night (or two or three) so you can enjoy the park without marathon drives.
There’s a wealth of places, from motels and cabins to campgrounds and inns both within and on the outskirts of the park. Recently I stayed at Lake Crescent Lodge; here’s a look at it and four other Olympic Peninsula places I’ve stayed in the past.
Lake Crescent Lodge
I loved the location and vintage style of this lodge and cabins (parts of it date to 1916) within the park on the shore of peaceful Lake Crescent, a half-hour drive west of Port Angeles. I loved the woodsy lobby, where guests play cards in front of a crackling fire, and the glassed-in porch where, to the sound of lapping waves, you can dine well or enjoy a microbrew.
I did not love Lake Crescent Lodge’s prices (like some other lodgings within the park run by concessionaire Aramark, summer rates are high but prices drop significantly in the off-season). For the cheapest room, in the main lodge with a shared bathroom down the hall, I paid about $134 a night in June. It was rustically stylish, with wood-panel walls, a quilt-covered bed and paned windows with a view of the lake. But the walls were so thin I could hear my neighbors’ conversation, word for word, in the adjoining room. (Thankfully they were not in an amorous mood.)
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Aramark reservation staff do warn you when booking that the lodge-room walls are thin; I just didn’t expect them to be that thin. But if neighbor noise and a shared bathroom don’t bother you, the lodge rooms are far more attractive than Lake Crescent’s modern motel-like rooms and less than half the price of the vintage cabins.
If you can afford it, stay in one of the old-fashioned cabins, especially the Roosevelt fireplace cabins right on the lake (around $282 a night in August). olympicnationalparks.com
Out the door: Kayak/canoe on Lake Crescent or simply lounge in an Adirondack chair and admire the views. Walk the nature trail around the point on which the lodge sits; stroll for about a half-mile through towering forest to the tumbling Marymere Falls.
Quileute Oceanside Resort
They aren’t kidding when they call this place oceanside. Cabins sit right on First Beach, on the Olympic Peninsula’s west coast, with giant driftwood logs lying right outside the picture windows.
The Quileute Oceanside Resort is just outside the park, within the small Quileute Indian Reservation village of La Push. It includes no-frills cabins, RV sites, motel rooms, and newer condo-like luxury cabins with separate bedrooms, full kitchens, living rooms with gas fireplaces, and excellent views. The luxury cabins are by far the nicest; $239 a night (summer high season) for a one-bedroom: quileuteoceanside.com. (And if you’re a fan of the “Twilight” vampire novels, they’re set in La Push and Forks, and the resort guest shop will happily sell you “Twilight” souvenirs.)
Out the door: Walk on La Push’s First Beach right out your door. Drive five minutes to the Second Beach trailhead in Olympic National Park, a walk through lush forest to a wilderness beach.
Lake Quinault Lodge
A woodsy 1926 lodge, near the southwest edge of Olympic National Park, with lawns stretching down to Lake Quinault.
It’s similar in mood and prices to Lake Crescent Lodge (and run by the same concessionaire, Aramark), with vintage rooms in the lodge and modern rooms in newer buildings. The welcoming, rustic lobby has a big wood-burning fireplace and sofas where guests gather to chat, read, and play board games, plus a restaurant. Rates start at almost $200 a night for lodge rooms in the summer season. olympicnationalparks.com
Out the door: Boat, swim or just relax by the sparkling Lake Quinault. Hike in the rain forest or walk short trails to see giant cedar and spruce trees in both the Olympic National Forest (the lodge is on national forest land) and Olympic National Park.
Quillayute River Resort
Five nicely refurbished 1950s-style suites (with kitchens and separate bedrooms) are clustered in a one-story building on the bank of the Quillayute River (outside the park). Sit on the lawn, listen to the rushing river and the wind in the trees. $190 a night in summer. qriverresort.com
Out the door: It’s a 10-minute drive to Rialto Beach, one of the loveliest and most easily accessible wilderness beaches in Olympic National Park. The town of Forks is about a 15-minute drive to the east.
Red Lion Hotel, Port Angeles
Now for something completely different. On the waterfront in the town of Port Angeles, this 186-room modern motel is convenient for visiting the park’s northern areas.
Rooms are big, the décor and mood are motel-standard, but the views across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the oceanfront rooms are lovely (the other side of the two-story main building faces a big parking lot).
Out the door: The park’s Hurricane Ridge looms above Port Angeles, with sweeping views and trails. Port Angeles also can be a base for visiting the park’s Elwha River area (where a second dam is being removed to restore the river).
And a few more…
Kalaloch Lodge is on the park’s Pacific coast, with cabins on a bluff right above miles-long sandy beach (thekalalochlodge.com). Sol Duc Hot Springs Lodge, in the northern interior of the park, has simple cabins, camping and a big spring-fed outdoor pool (a kid favorite) plus an easygoing hike to the rushing Sol Duc waterfall; olympicnationalparks.com. Both are high-priced in summer, but with good deals in the offseason.
There are 16 vehicle-accessible campgrounds within the park, including the popular Kalaloch where reservations can be made in summer; other campgrounds are first-come, first-served. (I like the somewhat more tranquil Mora campground near Rialto beach and the small Ozette campground.) See nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm
For backpackers, there’s backcountry camping on the beaches and in the mountains . See nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/wilderness-trip-planner.htm.