Weekends Olympic Peninsula: Hike, Camp, and Surf Your Way Down America’s Wildest Coastline

The Olympic Peninsula isn’t your typical white-sand-beach vacation.

Hidden in the northwest corner of the United States, Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is one of the most diverse and spectacular natural wonders on the continent.

Complete with its own mountain range, rain forest, and untamed coastline, the Olympic Peninsula is just a few hours from the tech hub of Seattle, yet a world away. With much of its land protected within Olympic National Park and Native American land, the peninsula is home to wild secrets long left unchanged.

Have a weekend to spare in the Pacific Northwest? Here’s a play-by-play on how to squeeze the most out of a 48-hour adventure in America’s majestic corner pocket.

Getting There
Seattle’s SeaTac International Airport is a hub for both Alaska Airlines and Delta and one of the largest airports on the West Coast, with daily flights arriving from around the U.S. as well as European, South American, and Asian destinations. Fly in on Friday night and stay in Seattle to be ready for an early departure to the Peninsula Saturday morning.

The Olympic Peninsula adventure pretty much requires a rental car, as no busses run to the extreme corner of the peninsula. Starting from Seattle early Saturday morning, a straight shot to Cape Flattery is roughly six hours (including a ferry ride), but traveling the Olympic Peninsula is more about the journey than the destination, so expect that to be broken up over several stops.

Where to Stay
Far from the beaten Airbnb path and located on Native American land, Hobuck Beach Resort is set right in-between Cape Flattery and Shi Shi Beach at the tip of the Peninsula. The resort features campsites and cabins with hot water that can be rented year-round. Summer weekends are extremely popular, so book early or travel on off-days.

Ready for the good stuff?

What to Do
7 – 7:45 a.m.: Hopefully you caught a couple Zzzs on Friday, because Saturday kicks into gear early. Drive onto the 7:10 a.m. Edmonds-Kingston ferry from the Edmonds Passenger Terminal north of Seattle. The 30-minute ride costs $18.70 and features views of the Olympic Range, Mount Baker, and Puget Sound. Keep your eyes out for Orca pods before landing in Kingston, or grab a quick breakfast sandwich in the onboard café.

All aboard the early train.

9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.:

After driving along the series of quiet inlets between Kingston and Port Angeles, get some aerial perspective from Hurricane Ridge, the Peninsula’s easy-to-access, hard-to-beat hiking and trekking center. Tucked into the north end of Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge features a visitor’s center at the top of the 5,000-foot ridgeline, accessing a large network of hiking trails with unlimited views of the Olympic Range, the Pacific Ocean, and Canada’s Vancouver Island.

Because Hurricane Ridge is inside Olympic National Park, each carload costs $25. However, if you’re planning on taking on other National Parks this summer, invest in the National Park Passport, which grants you unlimited access to all national parks for one year for only $50.

12:45 – 1:30 p.m.: Nothing says hike recovery like a fat burrito from Little Devil’s Lunchbox, Port Angeles’ primo Tex-Mex spot. Only open from 11-3 on Saturday, this local’s hangout is a great spot to kick up your hiking boots and refuel with a beef brisket Bantha burrito slathered in homemade pineapple salsa.

From Hurricane Ridge, it’s mountains on mountains until you hit the sea.

2 – 2:30 p.m.:

On the way out of civilization, stock up on supplies at the Joyce General Store on Highway 112. Cut straight from the pages of an Americana catalogue, the general store is one-part museum, one-part problem solver, as the roadside shop has just about anything you need for a few days out of city limits. Grab firewood, a couple microbrews, and a handful of locally made elk jerky, and before asking for that special hand cream, remember their tagline: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”

4 – 4:30 p.m.: Throw on your favorite playlist (radio won’t do you too much good out here) and enjoy the picturesque coastline along Highway 112. After reaching the Makah Indian Reservation, check in at the Hobuck Beach Resort. Make sure to line up a surfboard rental and get your Makah Recreation Pass, which gives you access to trailhead parking anywhere within tribal land limits.

4:45 – 5:45 p.m.: Head west on Cape Loop Road until you hit the Cape Flattery Trail parking lot. From there, hike the easy .75-mile trail out to Cape Flattery to stand on the most northwesterly point in the continguous United States and take in views of Tatoosh Island.

Make time for an evening paddle. Photo: Courtesy of Patricia Lopez.

6 – 8 p.m.: Suit up in your thickest neoprene (5/4 in the summertime is not unheard of, but 4/3 will do), and paddle out in front of Hobuck Beach Resort. Protected by large, rocky points on either side, Hobuck Beach is a sandy beach break that stays clean even when the weather turns for the worse. Flanked by lush green mountains and home to dozens of bald eagles, Hobuck is a surf experience worlds apart from the crowded beach breaks of Southern California. Yes, the water is chilly, but the empty lineups will more than make up for a few cold fingers.

8:30 – 10 p.m.: Light up that fire, crack those barley pops, and pass around the jerky. Nights end early out on the Peninsula, but that’s okay because tomorrow is another day.

Post-surf fires are a must after a cold-water session at Hobuck Beach.

8 – 9 a.m.: Fire up the Jetboil and take your coffee and oatmeal to go, walking the long sandy stretch of Hobuck Beach as the fog lifts off the vertical forest behind you. Spare a moment to think about all of your friends rushing around urban jungles and then take another sip of that black gold.

The Olympic Peninsula is home to the country’s most northerly rainforest.

9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: From Hobuck Beach Resort, drive four miles south to the Shi Shi Beach Trailhead (it is well-marked and has a parking lot for those with the Makah Recreation Permit). The 3.5-mile roundtrip hike starts in the dense coastal pine forests before dropping sharply down to one of America’s wildest coastlines. Hike between dramatic rock formations, hop over tide pools, and climb old growth logs before taking a second to sip some water and polish off that jerky. Don’t forget a good pair of boots for this trek, the trail can often be muddy.

3 – 4 p.m.: After packing up camp and taking one more chilly dip in the Pacific, load up and hit Highway 112 back to Port Angeles. When you reach town, pull over for a burger and beer at the Next Door Gastropub. Featuring 10 rotating taps and fresh, local ingredients, Next Door is the perfect way to get your legs back under you. Don’t forget about the garlic parmesan fries.

Make sure to explore the endless rock formations on Shi Shi Beach.

6 – 7 p.m.: Skip the Kingston ferry this time and weave your way down the coast to Bainbridge Island, one of Puget Sound’s many island getaways. Before catching the ferry, take a walk around the quaint coastal village, checking out local artisan shops and wineries, with a mandatory stop at J’aime Les Crepes for a marionberry crepe.

7:30 – 8:15 p.m.: Catch the golden hour from the water, snagging a ferry from Bainbridge to downtown Seattle ($14.70 for a passenger vehicle). Arguably the best view of the city, this water passage has views of mighty Mount Rainier rising to one side, and the whole expanse of Seattle on the other. Turn around to catch the sun setting over the Olympics, and bask in the last light of an Olympic Peninsula weekend well spent.

All photos by Kade Krichko unless otherwise noted.

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