Road Trip Guide: The Olympic Peninsula Loop

Road Trip Guide: The Olympic Peninsula Loop

The Olympic Peninsula in the northwestern part of Washington State was once shrouded in mystery. But because of a certain book (and eventually a movie) series, the fog was blown away to reveal a place of tremendous beauty, all rolling green landscapes, high peaks, and breathtaking coastlines. This is why a road trip around the Olympic Peninsula is a great idea this summer. Pass by big towns, sleepy villages, secluded beaches, and, of course, the sprawling Olympic National Park. Read on to plan your next road trip with our recommended activities and places to stay along the Olympic Peninsula Loop.

Route Suggestion

RV Rentals for the Olympic Peninsula Loop

Day 1: Olympia to Port Angeles Area (US-101N)

Port Angeles
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Keeganjones100 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Drive: ~2.5 hours
Distance: 120 miles (193 kilometers)
Tip: Don’t forget to stock up on food and drinks for your trip. There are plenty of grocery stores in Olympia, so take advantage of these while you can.

Things to do along the way
1. Visit the Staircase Rapids, a river at Olympia National Park: This river is about an hour’s drive away from Olympia and is a great spot for pictures. Pick up your National Parks pass here, plus any other passes you want for attractions you want to check along the way.
2. Go on a detour to Rocky Brook Falls in Brinnon: From the jump-off point, it’s a relatively short walk to the waterfalls.
3. Visit Port Townsend Marine Science Center: This science museum by the coast lets you take a peek into the rich marine life in the Salish Sea.
4. Shop at Northwest Native Expressions where you can find authentic Native American art and support Native American artists and communities.
5. Drop by Dungeness River Audubon Center: If you ever find yourself pushing your great Olympic Peninsula road trip to autumn, don’t miss this attraction.

Where to stay
1. Elwha Dam RV Park: This site is a spacious campground for motor vehicles located along the banks of the Elwha River and dam in Port Angeles.
2. Olympic Peninsula / Port Angeles KOA]( This place is a short drive from Port Angeles and some of Olympic National Park’s hiking trails.

Activities at Port Angeles
1. Visit Olympic Coast Discovery Center: Learn more about the local marine conservation efforts and paddle out on a kayak if you have time to spare.
2. Hike up Hurricane Ridge: One of the easiest mountains to access in Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge is open all summer.

Day 2: Port Angeles to Forks (US-101W)

Lake Crescent
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Chris Light used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Drive: ~1 hours
Distance: 56 miles (90 kilometers)

Things to do along the way
1. Visit Lake Crescent: This serene attraction is an easy drive from Port Angeles. You can go on a picnic, canoe, or hike to two local attractions: Madison Creek Falls and Marymere Falls.
2. Make a stop in Sol Duc Valley: You can check out the old-growth forest, take a dip in one of the hot springs in the area, go mineral pool bathing, or take one of the shorter hikes for a quick adrenaline rush.
3. Take the scenic Strait of San Juan de Fuca Byway, which is also known as Highway 112: You might be lucky and catch glimpses of whales and other wonders this part of the Olympic Peninsula has to offer.
4. Visit Cullen House and other Twilight spots in Fork: This so-called Cullen House is officially known as Miller Tree Inn, which is open to guests all year. (The actual house used for the Cullens’ residence is in Portland).
5. Make the drive to La Push: Another popular Twilight location, La Push has rugged beaches and heavily forested trails. For now, however, La Push’s beaches are only open to Quileute locals as a Covid-19 precaution.

Where to stay
1. Forks 101 RV Park: It comes complete with tent sites, full hook-ups for motor vehicles, as well as shower and laundry facilities. Pets are welcome!
2. Savage Streams Campground: It’s a lush campsite in a secluded pocket of Forks. Available amenities include hot showers, an arcade, and all-you-can-take firewood.

Day 3: Forks to Ruby Beach (US-101S)

Hoh Rain Forest
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Kgrr used under CC BY 3.0

Drive: ~33 minutes
Distance: 27 miles (43 kilometers)

Things to do along the way
1. Watch whales at the Destruction Island viewpoint: Located off the Washington coast, it’s part of Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge. Its main attraction is its lonesome lighthouse, but you’ll also encounter seabirds, Steller sea lions and, if you’re lucky, gray whales and orcas.
2. Explore Hoh Rain Forest: This is undeniably one of the most magical places in the entire United States. Because it receives plenty of rainfall all year round, the grounds, canopy, and undergrowth of Hoh Rain Forest are always carpeted in green. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world.

Where to stay
1. Kalaloch Campground: If you want to stay in Ruby Beach, the campgrounds at Kalaloch are some of your best choices. The site is open throughout the year. It offers over 170 campsites. Reserve ahead, as slots fill quickly.
2. Hoh Campground: Alternatively, you can spend the night (or two) in Hoh Rain Forest. The designated campground has 72 sites located along a clean water source.

Activities at Ruby Beach
Explore the tide pools and sea stacks. Most of these features appear during low tide. If you miss them, check out Ruby Beach’s iconic rock formations or explore one of the beach trails.

Day 4: Ruby Beach to Quinault (US-101S)

Ruby Beach
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ron Clausen used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Drive: ~2 hours
Distance: 87 miles (140 kilometers)

Things to do along the way
Experience what Mother Nature has to offer in this side of the Olympic Peninsula. Between Ruby Beach and Quinault, you’ll pass by several attractions, including Merriman Falls, Willaby Creek Falls, Bunch Creek Falls, and Gatton Creek Falls. Stop for a picnic by the falls or don your hiking boots and check out some of the nearby trails.

Where to stay
1. Gatton Creek campground: It’s located on the southern shores of Lake Quinault. Facilities include five walk-in campsites, picnic spots, and one of Gatton Creek’s many trails.
2. Falls Creek campground: It’s another one of the few campsites along Lake Quinault, with this one offering boat ramps. It offers 21 campsites for tents and motor vehicles, plus another 10 sites strictly for walk-in camping.
3. Willaby campground: It’s near Gatton Creek and is equipped with a total of 19 campsites that can also accommodate motor vehicles.

Day 5: Quinault to Olympia (US-101E)

Olympia, Washington
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user en:Zdv used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Drive: ~1.5 hours
Distance: 88 miles (142 kilometers)

Things to do along the way
1. Recharge in Quinault: Now is the time to take it slow before heading back to Olympia and then home. Sleep in, check out the local eateries, and stock up on snacks and drinks before the leisurely drive back home.
2. Head to Olympia after lunch: The drive back to Olympia from Quinault will be less than two hours. You’ll be back before you know it.

Things to pack for a road trip

Make sure you’re ready for the ultimate adventure on and off the road.

Here’s a list of essential things you need to bring for a road and camping trip:

  • At least five sets of clothes (including underwear and socks)
  • A raincoat or water-resistant jacket
  • Hiking shoes or trail shoes
  • Swimsuit
  • A hat
  • A pair of flip-flops
  • Sunglasses
  • Your wallet or pack for valuables
  • Toiletries
  • Chargers and batteries for electronic devices
  • Extra resealable bags
  • Outdoor cooking tools and dinnerware
  • Towels
  • Camping items (tent, sleeping bag, compressible pillow, etc.)
  • Heavy-duty tarp
  • Card games for socials

Best time to visit

Summer is as good a time as any to go on a road trip around the Olympic Peninsula. May to early June is still a little cool. On the other hand, you’ll get clear weather from July to September, which is considered the peak season in the area.

Check out these RV rentals for your road trip

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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