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Itinerary for Olympic National Park and San Juan Island

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Forked River, New...
posts: 7
Itinerary for Olympic National Park and San Juan Island

We are in our early 60's and love to do day hikes, kayak, and enjoy tidal pools, nature & photography. After following the forum on and off for 3 years we are finally doing our Trip to Olympic National Park and San Juan Islands!

After much research, we've put together the following itinerary and would appreciate any thoughts and suggestions: 

7/9 - arrive Seatac 10:19am - pick up Hertz rental car at Seattle Airport Marriott (much lower rate thanks!) Spend afternoon in Seattle, (logistics with car?) then take Mukilteo Ferry to Whidbey Island, Stay at Boatyard Inn, Langley. Any suggestions on what we could do in the city for 3-4 hrs. Would like to avoid evening rush hour. Or should we do something on Whidbey or enroute?

7/10 - drive north through Deception Pass, (any other stops?) take 2pm or 3:05pm Anacortes Ferry (with car) to San Juan Island. Stay 3 nights at Lakedale Resort. Visit American Camp, English Camp, sunset at Lime Kiln Point. Also kayak, (suggestions on who to use, please). If time, take ferry to Lopez Island for the day. Any suggestions on what else we could do? We've done whale watching trips in Alaska, Hawaii and Maine so not looking to do, although would love to see them from shore.

7/13 - take 9:45am ferry (with car) to Sidney, BC (will bring our passports). Drive to Victoria. Tour Butchart Gardens (should we do that enroute or tour Parliament Building and drive back to gardens for evening?) visit Parliament Building. Or maybe next morning? Anything else we should not miss? Stay at Inn at Laurel Point.

7/14 - take 10:30am CoHo ferry (with car) to Port Angeles. Visit Dungeness Spit (low tide at 11:21am, thanks again!) and if weather clear, drive to Hurricane Ridge. Stay Lake Crescent Lodge 2 nights.

7/15 - drive to Second Beach and Rialto Beach (low tide 9:29am) then back to Sol Doc Falls and Merrymare Falls. If time, kayak Lake Crescent.

7/16 - walk Merrymare Falls or kayak lake if not done yet. Drive to Hoh Rain Forest enroute to Lake Quinault Lodge.

7/17 - drive to Ruby Beach, lunch at Kalaloch if not done prior day. Drive around Lake Quinault, more walks by lake.

7/18 - If missed anything enroute, backtrack and do on way back to Seattle via Bainbridge Ferry. Suggestions, please if we did what we planned, should we backtrack or should we drive south to Cape Disappointment and then north to Seattle? (Not sure how much time that would be, although we have no trouble with one long day of driving). Overnight at Seattle Airport Marriott after dropping off rental car.

7/19 - spend day touring Seattle. Pikes Market, Space Needle (lunch?) 3hr van tour? If I understand, we can take lite rail to downtown area then monorail to pikes market? Allow time to take lite rail back to area near Marriott (we'll see if Marriott can store our luggage for the day) and then hotel shuttle to airport. Get to airport 2hrs ahead. Does that sound feasible? Fly back at 1015pm on red eye to PHL. Feedback greatly appreciated.

12 replies to this topic
posts: 8,011
reviews: 24
1. Re: Itinerary for Olympic National Park and San Juan Island

Doesn't look to me like you need any feedback. Good Job! Chuck.

Port Angeles, WA
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
posts: 6,083
reviews: 5
2. Re: Itinerary for Olympic National Park and San Juan Island

Yes, you really did your research. It's a pleasure reading such a well planned itinerary, and you should get great weather at that time of year, as well as long days. When you kayak Lake Crescent, you might think of heading for the Devil's Punchbowl, a beautiful bay with a little arched bridge. It's one of the most photographed spots in the park. Make sure you hike Hurricane Hill, and take the Elwha Ranger Station side spur on the way down.Just walk to the beautiful overlook so that you can enjoy the corn lilies and other wildflowers.

The only day hikes you are missing are Cape Alava,which shoots a whole day given how remote it is, and the long climb up to Deer Lake and The Potholes above Sol Duc Falls. That last takes six hour round trip, so it's an all day affair as well. However, given the fact that you are fitting in beaches, rain forests, and mountains, I think you have done very well with what you have planned.

Make sure you have binoculars for the Dungeness Spit so that you can zero in on all the birds and seals.

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
posts: 4,837
reviews: 4
3. Re: Itinerary for Olympic National Park and San Juan Island

A couple of thoughts. Not sure why you picked Lopez for a daytrip, I would probably pick Orcas. Go to Lime Kiln a couple of times. I saw about 40 whales off of the County Park last July and know a lot of people who have had luck at Lime Kiln. I am a kayaker and find kayaking Crescent kind of boring. I would rather spend the time at the Hoh. You really want to save enough time for walking around Quinault. Beautiful walks in gorgeous rainforest. Absolutely no reason to return North. Allow the time to see Quinault's record trees. Cape Disappointment is very cool, but rather than driving all that time, save it for Quinault. Going the southern route means saving the cost of a ferry, waiting times and is quicker.

Make sure you stop at the Giant Cedar (maybe more than one tree) by Ruby. Since you will have already visited Second and Rialto skip Ruby and save the time for Quinault. This is some of the most beautiful forest you will ever see, but it takes some time. I think the low tide near Salt Creek Recreation Area is better than the Spit and much closer to the Lodge.

Vancouver, Canada
posts: 14,335
reviews: 42
4. Re: Itinerary for Olympic National Park and San Juan Island

With only 24 hours on Vancouver Island, there's not much time to explore, so you should probably just focus on the city. Butchart Gardens is quite close to the Sidney Ferry terminal, so unless you feel strongly about seeing the gardens lit up at night, then I would be inclined to head there first and tour the gardens. You pay at the gate before you park, so your luggage should be fairly secure in the car. Just keep your valuables with you.

After checking in at the Laurel Point, walk around the Inner Harbour. There are the Parliament buildings to see, but also the Empress Hotel (now part of the Fairmont chain of hotels) lobby is quite beautiful. The Royal BC Museum is quite good, but would take a lot of time, so not perhaps what you want to spend a sunny summer's day doing.

You might want to ride the pedestrian ferries around the harbour and up the gorge. You might want to do the scenic drive that takes you around James Bay and Oak Bay for scenic views across the straights. You might want to walk through Beacon Hill Park. Or just browse around the Inner Harbour and up Government Street to window shop and find a place for dinner.

Friday Harbor...
Destination Expert
for San Juan Islands
posts: 790
reviews: 7
5. Re: Itinerary for Olympic National Park and San Juan Island

You asked for more ideas about what to do for 3 days here on San Juan and then during a day visit to Lopez. Here are some of my suggestions:

Here on SJ the trail to Young Hill at English Camp (National Park) is a satisfying hike with a 700-foot summit elevation but it's all in the shade so most everyone can handle this trail. The sweeping views from the rocky look-outs up there are well worth the efforts to get there. To the east is a territorial view of San Juan, with Cady Mountain and hundreds of acres of forested Roche Harbor company lands. Immediately below is Westcott Bay, and out across Haro Strait are the Canadian Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island to the west. You can find the official trail map for that at nps.gov/sajh/…202005.pdf . Near the historic buildings at the main part of the park you'll also find Bell Point Trail. That one is mostly level terrain and runs close to the quiet bay.

Over at American Camp Park there are numerous trails, one of the longest of which is Jakle's Lagoon/Mt Finlayson. This gentle rolling path leads up from the parking area and runs along the bluff over the south end of the Island. Walking along, you can see the miles long stretch of South beach, and further to the south is the lighthouse at Cattle Point while in the distance the Olympic Mountains loom over the Salish Sea. You can find the official trail map for that at nps.gov/sajh/…jakleslagoon_2005.pdf A typical view on clear days from that trail looks like this: …blogspot.com/-HUcyaDQ1k-E/UYhmiR9ErgI/AAAAA…

Like walking on beaches? The longest public beach by far in San Juan County is South Beach here on San Juan at American Camp Park. It's about 2 miles long from the parking lot. Here is a good image of it taken from above on a grassy hill: …blogspot.com/-HUcyaDQ1k-E/UYhmiR9ErgI/AAAAA… If you go at low tide there is more sand although there is sand to walk on even at high tide. No beach here is really what people think of as sandy though as even South beach has small rocks and lots of driftwood above the tide line. You’ll find the official National Park map at nps.gov/sajh/…202005.pdf

From land orcas can sometimes be seen from a few parks on SJ island, Limekiln and American Camp, but then it’s really a matter of luck and timing. With a car you could go out to Lime Kiln Point State Park (also known as Whale Watch Park) and nearby the parking lot you could see the attractive lighthouse perhaps having a picnic at the nearby tables. This is a very scenic spot where orca whales can sometimes be seen along the coastline. There are also bald eagles, seals, porpoises, and the occasional minke or grey whale which can at times be seen as well from this park.

With your car you could also take some drives on our scenic roads and look for wildlife such as deer, rabbits, eagles, foxes, trumpeter swans, and raccoons. Some of the local ranches raise more than 'regular' cattle and have llamas, Scottish Highland cattle (the type with the large horns), and alpacas. Something unique for the Northwest is the island camel who lives in a field on Roche Harbor Road and often hangs around the fence there near a big barn. If you want to slow down or stop and look though please be cautious as there is no turn-out on the road and this road is the busiest on the island outside of town. You could see views of much of the island stopping for awhile at Roche Harbor which has a nice marina (with more large yachts in the summer than Friday Harbor marina gets) as well as a few restaurants. In the summer it additionally has a small outdoor grouping of artist booths selling locally made art. Very nearby Roche Harbor resort is the outdoor Sculpture Garden at Westcott Bay where one can leisurely stroll around and view the many sculptures or just sit and look at the birds on the pond there. For more info on that see wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/westcott-bay-nature-…

The least hilly of the ferry served islands is Lopez which is why people are advised to go bicycle riding there before the hillier SJI and Orcas. Insofar as driving itineraries on the other island the visitors bureau has some good ones. For Orcas island see visitsanjuans.com/what-to-do/orcas-island-dr… and for Lopez see a much shorter on at visitsanjuans.com/what-to-do/lopez-island-dr… For info on the parks on Lopez see http://www.lopezisland.com/parks.htm One of our favorites there is Spencer Spit State Park....more info on that park at www.parks.wa.gov/parks/… Watmough bay beach is now a public park and has become quite popular, it's very pretty but small so it's not the same as it used to be at all for locals, but visitors seem to like it. Iceberg Point is also public land now and although much more visited than it used to be, it is much larger than Watmough so you can have more sense of being out in beautiful nature. Both those are far from the ferry landing so I'm not sure you'd want to do them in just a partial day visit.

Forked River, New...
posts: 7
6. Re: Itinerary for Olympic National Park and San Juan Island

Thanks so much for your suggestions! Kaleberg, kayaking to Devil's Punchbowl sounds great! Looking forward to seeing Hurricane Hill and Elwha Ranger Station. We planned our trip around the low tides info we saw on Kaleberg.com, A huge thanks for taking the time to post such invaluable information!

Glaciermeadows, the Hoh is the main reason we picked the Olympic Peninsula so will make sure we have plenty of time there! Also looking forward to our time at Lake Quinault. We reserved the renovated Lakeside Rooms after reading your suggestions in other posts, thanks! You confirmed my thoughts that Cape Disappointment was too long a drive, thanks.. Will spend more time enjoying the lush beauty of Quinault and Hoh. Can you suggest a driving route back to Seattle? We can take our time and make stops along the way to really make the most of our day. Don't need to be in the city till early evening.

Vancouverite67, we'll be back to spend more time in the Vancouver Island area and do it right.... So hard to do it all.... Really appreciate the tips on getting the most out of our limited time! Will definitely do Butchart gardens enroute to Victoria and take the time to walk the inner harbor and see the Empress Hotel, Parliament Building, etc. Didn't know about the pedestrian ferries around the harbor, and scenic drives will have to look into that, thanks!

Drifting_clouds, so appreciate your detailed info on hiking trails on San Juan Island! Just the type of info we are looking for, thanks! Glad we'll have a car on the island to really enjoy the area. Also appreciate the Lopez, Orcas Island info. So much to learn at one time, I was getting those two confused! :) We might just stay on San Juan the whole time, but good to know options for other islands in case we decide to explore more.

I just wanted to say Wow, you experts are amazing! I so appreciate the time and energy you put into helping. us make the most of our time in your scenic area! Can't wait to capture awesome pictures and memories!

Forked River, New...
posts: 7
7. Re: Itinerary for Olympic National Park and San Juan Island

Ok.... Now that my husband and I have the "bones" of our trip in place, we're looking at restaurant suggestions and farm markets where we can stock up for our hikes, picnics, etc. We look for low-key, moderate priced, local seafood places. Seating outside is always a plus. :) Also any local wine suggestions. We tend to go for Pinot's but also enjoy Cab Sav's.

I've seen suggestions on Alder Bistro for pizza that sounds good. And also plan to stop at Sunny Farms after we leave Dungeness Spit.

In particular we're hoping for info while on San Juan Island, Victoria, and Seattle, (Pike's Market?, lunch at Space Needle?) Any store/farm market enroute from Seattle to Whidbey Island via ferry?

We plan on making use of restaurants at Lake Crescent Lodge and Quinault Lodge but welcome any additional suggestions. We had Willapa Bay clams when in Astoria Oregon a few years ago. They were outstanding! Can we find them or anything like them here?

Such fun planning this trip especially with the snow and low temps we're having in Southern part of New Jersey. Great way to get through this winter.

Again, a huge thanks for your help!

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
posts: 4,837
reviews: 4
8. Re: Itinerary for Olympic National Park and San Juan Island

Sunny Farms is one of my favorite stops. Buy a cheap cooler and ice in PA or Sequim. I like the Country Cottage in PA for breakfast. Kaleberg can give you advise on dinner. Eating out is a very low priority for me when I go to the Park. I prefer eating over a campfire.

The drive South to Aberdeen and then West to Olympia is very boring, but very easy. You could return via PA, but my advise would be spend more of the day at Quinault. Get up very very early if you can and drive the Lake Loop. Best time to see wildlife and few other people to scare them away. Then return to the Lodge for a long breakfast. There pancakes are good. Sit in front of the fireplace with a cup of coffee. You can always save some short nature walks for after breakfast. Write me before you leave and I can suggest some easy hikes with the biggest trees in the Park.

Port Angeles, WA
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
posts: 6,083
reviews: 5
9. Re: Itinerary for Olympic National Park and San Juan Island

Alder Wood does serve pizza, but I don't want you to get the impression that is a pizza place. It is an elegant little destination restaurant with an interesting menu and a strong commitment to local sourcing. The chef is very talented. The wine list is excellent.

I hope that this is one of the good years for the restaurant at Lake Crescent Lodge. It is so hard to predict. They bring in a new chef every year, and the food varies accordingly. Some years it is really good. Other years it has been howlingly bad.

Forked River, New...
posts: 7
10. Re: Itinerary for Olympic National Park and San Juan Island

Thanks Glaciermeadows, Good idea re cooler for trip. We'll definitely take advantage of early morning drive around Lake Quinault. (Will probably still be on modified east coast time, anyway) Will look forward to getting easy hike suggestions around lake from you.

Kaleberg, I'll have to check out Alder Woods menu, sounds even better, thanks. I've noticed the very mixed reviews re Lake Crescent Lodge, but we're used to the national park lodges run by Aramark and totally get no guarantees on quality of food. We'll just enjoy the view and order something "safe". :)

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