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Where to stay/how long in ONP with younger kids?

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Where to stay/how long in ONP with younger kids?

Hello! I would love some input regarding our visit to ONP. I visited once many years ago, but this time I bringing my spouse and kids (ages 4.5 and 7) for their first visit. We are thinking of flying into/out of Seattle and want to stay at least 1 week. We are flex on the timing of the trip, but I was thinking of mid to late July/early August.

Because of our kids, we are focused on short (less than 2 mi RT) hikes (with wildflowers, waterfalls/rivers, animals), ranger talks/junior ranger activities, driveable viewpoints, and visitor center exhibits. The NPS website has given me ideas for short walks and where the ranger talks are. Also with our kids, we tend to move a little slower so we really try not to pack too much in. My kids do tend to get carsick, so we want to minimize driving as much as possible. However, we also prefer not to move more than once, maybe twice. We are thinking 4 days in the northern section (Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, Sol Duc Falls), 1/2 day for Rialto/Second Beach, 1 day for Hoh area, and 2 days in Quinault area. (My ideas for activities are at the end of this post. Feel free to comment about that too.) We are looking for a clean, low to moderately priced motel (ideally with a mini-frig, but doesn't have to be a full kitchen, to pack lunch). Lake Crescent Lodge has limited availability, and the TA reviews for Log Cabin Resort scare me. Would Port Angeles be a better base for the northern part of our trip? Not sure where to stay for the second half on the western/southern parts - would Kalaloch be central, or is it better to stay near Forks and then Lake Quinault? I would appreciate input!

Hurricane ridge meadow trail

Cirque Rim Trail & Big Meadow Loops

High Ridge Route

Hurricane Hill (for just a short distance?)

Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center

Terrace Talk

Meadow Walk

Lake Crescent Area:

Marymere Falls

Spruce Railroad (for just a short distance)

Port Angeles Visitor Center

Madison Falls Trail (Elwha)

Family Forest Activities Talk

Lake Crescent Lodge or Log Cabin Resort Evening Program

Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc Hot Springs

Lovers Lane (for just a short distance?)

Second beach trail

Rialto Beach

Hoh river trail

Hoh Visitor Center

Rain Forest Walk

Hoh Evening Program

Lake Quinault Loop

Maple Glen Rain Forest Trail

Quinault Rain Forest Station

Life in the Rainforest Walk

World’s Largest Spruce Tree Trail/Quinault Big Cedar (not sure where this is?)

Poulsbo, Washington
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for Olympic National Park
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1. Re: Where to stay/how long in ONP with younger kids?

You have done your homework, which makes it easier for us. So I do not forget, I see one problem. You want to do programs at the Hoh, are they during the day? I understand you not wanting to move around with kids, but I would consider staying at Cabins at Beaver Creek near Forks for one night. Lovely spot and it would get you closer to the Hoh and the beaches without a lot of driving back and forth. You could cook there and your kids would enjoy evening campfires.

If you want wildflowers I would suggest around the third week of July. August gets more crowded and you get more biting flies in the mountains, which your kids will not like. the Lodge at Lake Crescent is nice, I have not stayed at Log Cabin Resort in over 25 years so I can not comment. I could not recommend it from those days. If you can get a room at the Lodge you would like it. You would be mostly stuck with their food without a long drive into PA. Granny's Café is nearby and a cheaper option. You can not beat the Lodge's location, but PA might make more sense.

You might want to skip Second Beach due to the walk in and the walk back up the hill. Spend your time at Rialto.

See if the Elk House at Lake Quinault is available. Wonderful rental where you can eat in. Very comfortable and reasonable for what you get. Go to the VRBO website to find it. If it is booked, you can change your itinerary by going there first. The giant cedar is directly across from Lake Quinault Resort. It is a short walk through pretty woods, but up hill. I would think your kids could do it if you take your time. I love Maple Glades. It is not as pretty in Summer when it dries up, but still a nice walk. The trail across from Willaby Campground is a must. Gorgeous walk among giant old growth Doug Firs. There is a fee, but worth it.

Write me before you go and I can give you some advise on viewing wildlife. Dawn is the very best time if you can get your kids in the car one morning. Just came to mind. On your way to Quinault stop at the giant cedar near Ruby Beach. It is a beautiful tree. You could break up the drive by stopping at Kalaloch Lodge for breakfast or lunch.

Port Angeles, WA
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2. Re: Where to stay/how long in ONP with younger kids?

You have worked so hard and done so much research. You deserve the best advice we TripAdvisors can muster. Here is my take.

On Hurricane Ridge: Your little one can handle the Hurricane Hill Trail, and you won't be sorry. In late July/early August, there will still be lovely wildflowers up there, even though you will be past the first glorious efflorescence. The ascent is only 700 feet, although, I confess there are three short but steep stretches. I have seen many young children ascend these, however, and 4.5 year old is stronger than you think. But do try this trail. There are baby marmots all over the place. The fragrance of the flowers, the views, and the light are all glorious. On your way down from the summit, take the little sides pur to your right labeled, "Elwha Ranger Station." Just walk out 10 minutes to the lovely overlook. The meadows are full of marmots and grouse. At the overlook you might spot a mountain goat on a distant crag. You surely will spot the gorgeous wildflowers that grow in profusion in that wild garden.

Don't bother with the mini-trails you have listed in your post. Despite the Park Service's description, they are all tiny strolls around the parking lot. You can handle Hurricane Hill. The kids will love it. I even saw one brave man on crutches climb the whole thing.

Can you get into Lake Crescent Lodge? If not, look at the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce website, www.portangeles.org, for a rental. You can also look at VRBO.com for a rental. Look for rentals in the following areas: Lake Crescent (not likely at that time, of year, unfortunately), Place Road on the beach (a lost world on a lovely beach on the mouth of the Elwha), or Lake Dawn (right at the foot of Hurricane Ridge). Write in for guidance if you find a place that looks good.

I am in transit and must cut this short, but I will respond later about the rest of your itinerary.

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3. Re: Where to stay/how long in ONP with younger kids?

Thanks for your responses! Lots to consider! Just to clarify regarding our housing preferences...we usually pack breakfast and lunch (hence wanting a mini-frig), and then to eat out for dinner. So we don’t need serious kitchen facilities and we’ll be out and about most of the daytime. No availability at Lake Crescent Lodge...would PA be the next best thing? I read from kaleberg’s other posts about Lake Sutherland’s noise, but since we’ll be out in the daytime and since I assume not much jet skiing at night, what do you think about that area? I was looking at the Super 8, PA Downtown, and Royal Victorian in PA as possibilities. What about Kalaloch as a central place for the west/south side if we only wanted to move once? What did you think about our breakdown of length of days devoted to each area?

glaciermeadows: Thanks for the info about Granny's Cafe and the big trees. And the flies are really that bad in August huh? We will definitely look for those! To answer your question, the programs at Hoh are in the day time (except the evening program...which from our experience hasn't always happened b/c after a full of day of sightseeing our kids a bit exhausted). Are you thinking that it would be better to stay near Forks to be around the beach and Hoh and then move to again to Lake Quinault? Correct me if I'm wrong but seems Lake Quinault has more for us to do.

kaleberg: I think we will need to try that Hurricane Hill trail b/c it sounds lovely! When you say not to bother with the "mini-trails" around the parking lot, are you referring just to the ones in the Hurricane Ridge area or all the ones I have listed? Not much for Lake Crescent, but I will try those other places for rentals.

Edited: 3:23 am, February 26, 2014
Poulsbo, Washington
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for Olympic National Park
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4. Re: Where to stay/how long in ONP with younger kids?

I do not want to speak for Kaleberg, but I think he is refering to the short trails at Hurricane Ridge. If you want to keep your kids occupied, then they are fine. They are paved and crowded and just above the parking lot. I never walk them, but they may be right for your kids with wildflowers and deer. You may like Sutherland, I can not be objective, as I remeber the Lake when it had a few older vacation homes. Like almost every place these days it has been ruined by over development and many of the rentals are overpriced IMO. That said, it may work for you.It does get you much closer to the action so to speak. I would really see you spending far more time around the Lake Crescent area with your kids than Port Angeles and Huricane Ridge. Only problem is you will be doing a fair amount of driving to leave a lovely area just to go back into PA for dinner. The Lodge and tiny Granny's are the only places nearby to eat. If eating out is important, then stay in Port Angeles. You have to decide what your priorities are. When I go to the Olympics, I want to be as rural as I can get. I do not even particularly like staying in campgrounds.

I would spend at least one night around Forks. I hate backtracking when I can be closer to places like the Hoh and Rialto Beach. I would imagine your kids would love a campfire at Cabins at Beaver Creek, Huckelberry Lodge or Boggie Bungallow. Food is the problem with Forks, but for one night your kids would enjoy burgers and shakes at Three Rivers Resort near Rialto. I will have to continue latter.

5. Re: Where to stay/how long in ONP with younger kids?

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