Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park. Photo by Tammy Yee.
Primeval rainforests, rugged Pacific coastline, alpine forests and glacier-capped peaks, hot springs and tide pools...Olympic National Park has much to offer as a family destination.
Whether you're spending a day or a week at the park, a stop at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles will help you plan your family vacation.
Falcon Guide produces a series of Best Easy Day Hikes, and we've found these useful while touring national parks, especially when we have a limited amount of time and require trails with bathroom facilities, or accommodations for family members with mobility issues.
Sea star at Salt Creek Tide Pools. Remember when visiting tide pools to always have a tide chart handy, and be sure to check ocean conditions with Park Rangers. Never turn your back to the ocean, and always keep children under close supervision.
Rocks may be slippery, so have proper footwear. Avoid trampling on plants and coral. Remember that tide pool creatures need to be submersed...return them to their pools, and if you lift a rock or a pebble while exploring, replace it in its original position.
There are a number of short hikes through old-growth forest that are suitable for young families. Sol Duc Falls is a 1.4 mi (round trip) hike through mossy temperate forests. Kids can look for millipedes and banana slugs along the way.
We stayed in a rustic cabin at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, which featured two queen-sized beds, a fully equipped kitchen, refrigerator, stove, microwave and (most importantly) coffee maker.
There are no telephones, radio, television or internet connection in the cabins, so tire the kids out during the day and have quiet activities (coloring books for the little ones, cards and puzzles for older children) and books available on hand.
|Barn swallows swoop over the cabins at Sol Duc Hot Springs.|
The restaurant overlooks the mineral hot springs where you can unwind after a day of hiking, and the convenience store will come in handy when packing for your day trip.
Other lodging is available within the park, some without modern distractions: Lake Quinault Lodge, Kalaloch Lodge and Lake Crescent Lodge. For families who can't vacation without television and wireless internet, there's the Olympic Lodge. For television and laundry but no internet, try the Rain Forest Resort Village. And for large families who prefer one and two bedroom suites, the Olympic Suites Inn is located within the city of Forks (tween alert: the popular Twilight series was filmed in forks!) along the Calawah River. Check for seasonal specials and make your reservations online.
Bald eagle over Rialto Beach
On the last day of our vacation we took a whirlwind tour, driving along the 73-mile scenic coast, stopping at Ruby Beach and Rialto Beach where we watched bald eagles soaring above the wind-sheared cliffs; took a short, family-friendly hike on snow-covered Hurricane Ridge, then explored the rich tide pools at Salt Creek, just outside the park boundaries.
Black tailed deer at Hurricane Ridge. Look for Olympic marmots, which are endemic to the Olympic Peninsula.
The Olympic National Park web site has articles and brochures you can download for children, to prepare them for your family vacation. Also, be sure to review the Park Service's Things To Know Before You Come.
|Fun Facts: |
Kids are chock full of questions you can't answer. Whenever we explore national parks, we always bring along an inexpensive pocket guide.
Our favorites are the boldly illustrated mammal, bird and plant identification guides and cards that turn hiking into a treasure hunt.
Download a list of animals you might see at Olympic National Park, and make a checklist that you can discuss after your family's day hike.
Remember that however cute and cuddly they may appear, the animals are wild and should not be approached, harassed or fed.
Pacific Northwest Marine Mammal and Seabird Word Search
How much do you know about those lovable, fur-faced acrobats twisting and diving in kelp beds? Sea otters are one of the few mammals, aside from primates (monkeys and apes), to use tools. Floating on the surface of the water, they sometimes place a rock on their chest, using it as a hard surface to smash open shelled food like clams and abalone. Have you ever wondered how otters carry all that stuff to the surface? In their armpits, in loose skin folds! Try that with an urchin--better yet, don't try it.
©2010 Tammy Yee
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Visitors in May and early June may be lucky enough to spot a bald eagle nest with new chicks:
American Bald Eagle Origami
Bald Eagle Paper Airplane