Washington state has, arguably, some of the best views in the country with its mountains, forests, beaches and their iconic fog. After a couple of trips and camping in a van to road trip around the Olympic loop trying to squeeze in as much as possible, I’ve compiled a list of must see spots in Washington.
For our first trip to Washington, we rented a Westfalia camper van through Outdoorsy. This allowed us to easily get back on the road to our next destination and truly experience nature. It also saved us a little bit of money rather than spending on lodging and a rental car. The Westie had a mini fridge and cooktop so we were able to save money on food by cooking our own meals (healthier too!).
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and is so vast with several different ecosystems, it’s nearly impossible to see everything it has to offer in just one trip.
One of the most popular spots in the park is the Hoh Rain Forest which was closed when we visited and weren’t able to experience it. This lush forest receives up to 170 inches of rain in a year! The Sol Duc falls and hot springs were another area that we decided not to squeeze into our agenda. Cape Flattery is the furthest northwest point of the United States and offers some cool hiking trails. It was a little bit out of our way since we only had a couple of days.
Quinnault Rain Forest
Our first stop was in the Quinnault Rain Forest which is part of the Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park. This was probably my favorite part of the whole trip because I love forests. It looked just like a scene out of Twilight.
We parked our van at the The Falls Creek Campground which was right off of Lake Quinnault. If you can go during the fall (we were there in late September) all of the leaves are changing colors and it’s breathtaking!
Our next day of the road trip was to check out a few of the beaches along the Washington coast. Beaches in Washington aren’t the sunny kind you typically think of when you hear the word “beach” but they are absolutely stunning! If you’re up for it and the tides are low, you can give beach camping a try and wake up to an epic sunrise.
Our first beach stop was Ruby Beach and is located about 25 miles from the town of Forks (yes, like from Twilight) and gets its name for the ruby colored crystals that wash up. We spent our morning walking up and down the coast. Tip: you will want to wear water proof clothes and shoes, Washington is a wet climate after all.
The Kalaloch campground is close by as well, which has a hike to the famous Tree Root Cave.
La Push – First, Second, & Third Beaches
La Push has several beaches *creatively* named First, Second and Third Beach. We spent time at Second Beach which is the most iconic with some epic rock formations. I remember hiking down to the beach and observing a group of kids who were part of a nature school and thinking that would be the best school to go to!
We camped at Mora Campground which had clean restrooms which is a huge score when you’re camping in a van! It’s the perfect campsite for a fire and some s’mores. Funny story: we woke up in the middle of the night to a mouse feasting away on our graham crackers. Kyle is not a huge fan of mice and I had the lovely job of clearing out all of our groceries and firewood to set the mouse, who we named Gus Gus, free. It’s a great memory that we’ve added to our adventure journal.
You can’t take a trip to the Olympic Peninsula and not visit the small town of Forks, WA which was made famous by the book and movie series Twilight.
When driving into town, we saw a black bear run out in front of us! One of the coolest parhttps://forkswa.com/ts of the whole trip! This is a nice town to grab a hot meal if you’re sick of cooking your own food.
Hurricane Ridge is a must see when visiting Olympic National Park.
Heading away from the coast and beaches towards Port Angeles we stopped for some mountainous hiking in Hurricane Ridge. The drive up the mountain in the Westie was a little nerve wracking but it was worth it.
We parked off the side of the road near the visitors center and cooked supper before taking a sunset hike. We hiked up a trail to see views of Mt. Olympus, and old ski patrol lodge and deer gathering at dusk.
The views at Lake Crescent are so pristine with gorgeous fall colors.
We parked at the Fairholme Campground for our last night. We made sure to stop by while it was still daylight and reserve our spot because we knew we’d be back in the dark and this campground fills up fast. Funny story: the morning after camping here, Kyle and I decided to take some photos standing on a log in the lake and Kyle fell in! His shoes were soaking wet and he tried drying them off next to the campfire and his shoes caught on fire!
Port Angeles is the biggest town near Hurricane Ridge. We stopped there before reserving our campsite at Lake Crescent to stock up on a few grocery items and bottled water, then grabbed brunch at Chestnut Cottage (we were the youngest people there for sure). After a slow morning at our campsite we headed back into Port Angeles for breakfast at First Street Haven and had the best scramble with smoked salmon and goat cheese. Right across the street was a nutritionists dream, a cute little health foods market called Country Aire Natural Foods to stock up on snacks for the flight home.
That wrapped up our epic van life road trip in Olympic National Park. We drove to the ferry and headed back for an evening in Seattle before our flight back home the following morning.