Here in the northwest we have had a CRAZY amount of snow in the last two weeks! If you’re feeling some cabin fever and want to get out of town without dealing with snow again, spend an Olympic National Park winter weekend in the Lake Quinalt and Kalaloch area! This area is free of crowds and full of peace in the winter and is a wonderful place to hang out and recharge for a couple days. If you are looking for a snowy adventure in Olympic National Park, check out this post describing a winter day trip to Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent which would also make a wonderful weekend adventure by overnighting in Port Angeles. If you’re looking to drive the Olympic National Park loop, check out this post (note that during winter Hurricane Ridge is only open Friday-Sunday, Sol Duc is closed for winter and as of this writing, the Hoh rainforest and Queets rainforest are both closed temporarily due to trees on the road from intense winter storms this year). For this post, we’ll focus on a two day snow free adventure at the beach and in the rainforest with less driving!
Where to Stay
One option is the camp at the Kalaloch Campground, which is open all winter. Even though camping in winter might sound crazy, if the weather is good, it might be something to consider (definitely don’t do it if there is heavy wind or a storm happening!). There are some amazing sites with views of the ocean and it’s easy to get a site (unlike in the summer, when finding camping can be a real challenge).
For indoor options, my favorite is the cabins at the Kalaloch Lodge. The cabins aren’t cheap, but they have all the things a hotel room would have and a lot more ambiance! The cabins have bathrooms and kitchenettes or kitchens and some have wood stoves (there are various options you can choose when booking). The cabins one row back from the beach are less expensive and just as awesome. The cabins are also dog friendly so you can bring your dog for $25 additional. The lodge also a has rooms available inside the lodge building. Be aware that there or no TVs or wifi in this location and the cell phone signal is marginal (unplugged! hooray!)
You can also stay at the historic Lake Quinalt Lodge, which is a 40 minute drive from Kalaloch. There are also vacation rentals at Lake Quinalt for even more options. You could also look for a hotel or vacation rental in Forks (45 minutes past Kalaloch).
If you’re staying at Kalaloch, you’ll be eating at the Creekside Restaurant in Kalaloch Lodge (the next closest restaurant would be at the Lake Quinalt Lodge (35 minutes) or Forks (45 minutes)). You can also bring your own food if you make sure to get a cabin with a kitchen or kitchenette. The store at the Kalaloch lodge has some essentials as well as a coffee bar and gifts.
Day 1: Seattle to Kalaloch Beach
I recommend going to the beach first and then the rainforest, but that’s only because that’s how I like to do it! It doesn’t make any difference if you reverse the order. It’s about a three hour drive to Kalaloch from Seattle (unless you’re driving in traffic between Seattle and Olympia, which is a good reason to make it a two day trip and leave Saturday morning). You might consider a short detour off the route recommended by google maps to the town of Aberdeen to get groceries and gas. You can get gas in a couple spots near Lake Quinalt, but options are very limited. There aren’t any grocery stores, though the Kalaloch lodge has a small store (see above). Make sure to bring at least some food with you as there aren’t a lot of options (you can eat at the Lake Quinalt Lodge or the Kalaloch lodge but that’s about it). Consider bringing one of my favorite soups for your thermos for lunch!
Once settled at Kalaloch, go for a walk/hike on the beach! This is a beautiful sandy beach that is dog friendly (on a leash). If you want to see sea stacks or tidepools, you’ll need to go a little further north (10 minutes drive) to Ruby Beach, which is good to time around a low tide. Tide information is available at the lodge (remembering the lack of internet/phone signal in this location). Spend as many hours walking the beach as you like, an enjoyable activity in all weather! Make sure to read my advice to dress for the weather because it might be VERY wet (rubber boots and a good rain jacket are the most important things! If there’s any chance of seeing the sunset don’t miss it! The sunsets in this location are incredible.
Once it gets dark, enjoy a delicious dinner in the dining room (order the crab mac and cheese if you’re a house made mac and cheese lover like me) and then snuggle up in your cabin or room and enjoy the evening with a good book, board game, puzzle or whatever your analog activity of choice may be (did I mention there’s no internet?).
Day 2: Kalaloch and Lake Quinalt to Seattle
Have breakfast at the restaurant (or fix whatever you brought with you) and enjoy another leisurely walk on the beach (either Kalaloch or Ruby Beach), again base this around low tide because Ruby Beach really does have wonderful tidepools.
When you’re satisfied with your beach walk (if you’re like me, you’ll never be really ready to leave!) begin your drive back towards Seattle and stop at Lake Quinalt for the gorgeous historic lodge (an option for lunch), beautiful glacially carved lake and rainforest with it’s truly enormous trees.
After exploring the lodge and it’s beautiful lake view, check out one of the rainforest walks nearby. There are many hikes in the rainforest around the lake, check current conditions as in winter many roads or trails may be closed by downed trees. The Lake Quinalt ranger station (next to the lodge) can give you the most current information although in winter they are only open on weekdays. You can get information from the lodge staff as well. A couple of short easy hikes near the lodge include the Quinalt Rainforest Nature trail (1/2 mile) and the Big Spruce Tree trail (.3 mile to the World’s Largest Sitka Spruce Tree and connects to several miles of trails including the rainforest nature trail shown on the map).
Once you’re done exploring Lake Quinalt (or more likely you’ve identified the places you want to come back to!), get back on the road for the drive back to Seattle which should take a little under three hours.