Since we’ve been stationed in Washington state, Olympic National Park (ONP) has always been top of our duty station bucket list. This spring my family ventured out for a three day trip, designed to accommodate our two toddlers’ attention spans and hiking skills.
I would highly recommend adding ONP to your list of places to explore if you are stationed here!
Here’s our family-friendly itinerary:
Day 1: Seqium & Forks
- It was raining on our first day of the trip, so to break up the 3.5 hour drive to our cabin we visited Olympic Game Farm. Thankfully the reviews were right and rain or shine it was a truly memorable experience. The Olympic Game Farm is approximately 1.5 hours from the Silverdale. When you enter the farm there are a wide variety of warnings regarding possible car damage and animal slobber. We personally had no issues with either and would highly recommend buying a loaf of bread to feed the animals as they expect food when they approach the cars. This ended up being one of the highlights of the trips. It is important to acknowledge the farm has stirred up controversy in the past.
- Sol Duc Falls was our next stop on our way to our cabin in Forks. It is a 1.6 mile hike out and back. A beautiful drive, there is only one road that you drive until the end to get to the trailhead. In true Washington form, we had very unexpected weather including hail and snow. We decided to brave the weather and hike anyway, as I had packed snow gear. We also had a surprising experience of a tree going down across the road on our way down from our hike. Thankful for other travelers who had axes and ropes in about 45 minutes the group cleared the road.
- For the duration of our trip we stayed at the Woodland Inn in Forks. These accomodations are very family-friendly with individual cabins with different layouts. We enjoyed dinner at Pacific Pizza. I highly recommend ordering a apple streusel dessert pizza if you get the chance!
Day 2: Rialto Beach & Cape Flattery
- When visiting Rialto Beach, it is critical to be aware of the tides as when you hike the beach to “Hole in the Wall,” 3.3 miles out and back. We only made it about a mile out as our two girls were tired of the wind, but we were able to explore the tide pools and see the sea arch. The beach has an enormous amount of driftwood. My daughters enjoyed the natural balance beams in addition to gathering up rocks as we walked the beach.
- We made our way back to the main road and had lunch at the 3 Rivers Resort. It’s a Twlight themed restaurant which has free Wi-Fi just in case you haven’t downloaded directions.
- Cape Flattery is the most northwest point of the contiguous U.S. on the Makah Reservation. When you arrive on the reservation be sure to pick up your recreation pass at one of the listed locations and display it on your windshield. It’s a very pretty drive out to the trail as you drive along the coast and through the marsh. The trail is about 1.5 miles out and back with a few viewpoints to stop at before your reach the end. Both our girls were able to walk out and back with some points hand holding was required to ensure safety due to limited guardrail.
Day 3: Kalaloch Beach & Hoh Rainforest
- Kalaloch Beach was not exactly on the way home, but it was only about 30 minutes from where we stayed. The beach was smooth in comparison to Rialto, however still covered in hug driftwood. The “Tree of Life” was quite the sight to see and only a short walk from the parking lot down a set of steep stairs.
- The Hoh Rainforest was high on our list! When we drove up to the Visitor Center it was an easy trip up a windy road. It was interesting to see the changes in greenery as we made it up to the top. We choose a short trail that was fairly flat called the Hall of Mosses. It was the most toddler-friendly hike we did for the whole trip. There are many picnic areas around the visitor center, so we chose to have lunch there. I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before we left the cabin.
- Bring Food & Gas Up. Olympic National Park, like many national parks, has some fairly remote parts. You will not see a gas station or a place to get food for miles. There is also limited cell phone service as well, so plan accordingly.
- Dress For All Types of Weather. The weather can change dramatically in minutes going from rain to hail to sunshine. I highly recommend hiking with raincoats even if it looks like a clear and sunny day. Dress in layers and be prepared for anything and everything!
- Prepare To Drive, A Lot. Mentally prepare yourself for a lot of driving. And if you’re traveling with kids, prep them. Between each of our stops there was typically 60-90 minutes worth of driving. It is completely worth the drive for the incredible views! But be ready. We had the tablets loaded with favorite shows in addition to color magic coloring, books, and music. If you have children potty training or still small, I’d highly recommend investing in a car potty if your child is not yet adept at forest peeing. It saved us on a couple of occasions.
- Download Directions & Music. Don’t forget to download some music if you use a music streaming service! It’s very likely you will find placing while driving without cell service. I was grateful I had a few playlists on there as I don’t keep much of my iTunes library on my phone. In addition, consider purchasing a map of the area and or be sure to download or print out driving directions for all the legs of the trip.
- Make Hiking Fun For Kids. For our girls, visual checkpoints for quick rests breaks help them make it through a hike. Offering special snacks to have along the way are another big incentive. My older daughter enjoyed taking pictures with and of different “cool” parts of nature along with completing a scavenger hunt.
Have you been to Olympic National Park? What are your favorit places? Comment below and let us know!