Olympic National Park, Part 1: Beaches and Swimming

Looking for snow-capped mountains, temperate rainforest, and cliffs overlooking wild surf? May I recommend Olympic National Park? Located in northwest Washington State, Olympic features the Olympic Mountain range complete with glaciers, the Hoh Rainforest (which happens to be the rainiest place in the continental US), the rocky shoreline on the Pacific, and crystal clear glacier lakes. I ended up visiting the park both before and after Andrew’s swim for a few days each time camping mostly on the beach but also in the rainforest region. This was my first exposure to the Pacific Ocean and I can’t imagine a better introduction.

View from our campsite on Third Beach, Olympic National Park

View from our campsite on Third Beach, Olympic National Park

The rocky cliffs of the Olympic Coast segregate each cove and most beaches can only be reached by hiking over headlands (the cliffs between beaches) or directly from the road, though a few more are passable at low tide. Fog is common and often shrouds the forested cliffs, lending to a mysterious atmosphere and feelings of isolation that are amplified when the tide comes in and makes navigation down the beach impossible. The Pacific here also conceals fertile ecosystems beneath the cold water; luckily our visit coincided with an unusually low tide that exposed these normally hidden treasures.

View of sea stacks on Second Beach, Olympic National Park

View of sea stacks on Second Beach, Olympic National Park

Sea stacks off Second Beach, Olympic National Park

Sea stacks off Second Beach, Olympic National Park

Large, forested sea stack off Second Beach, Olympic National Park

Large, forested sea stack off Second Beach, Olympic National Park

View of Ruby Beach from cliffs, Olympic National Park

View of Ruby Beach from cliffs, Olympic National Park

Small tide pools in eroded sea stack, Second Beach, Olympic National Park

Small tide pools in eroded sea stack, Second Beach, Olympic National Park

View from trail atop headland, Scott's Bluff, Olympic National Park

View from trail atop headland, Scott’s Bluff, Olympic National Park

View from trail overlooking Third Beach, Olympic National Park

View from trail overlooking Third Beach, Olympic National Park

Fog shrouding the cliffs at Third Beach with sea grass and tide pools in foreground, Olympic National Park

Fog shrouding the cliffs at Third Beach with sea grass and tide pools in foreground, Olympic National Park

Sea grass and kelp uncovered at low tide, Third Beach, Olympic National Park

Sea grass and kelp uncovered at low tide, Third Beach, Olympic National Park

Starfish, anemones, and other life in tide pool, Third Beach, Olympic National Park

Starfish, anemones, and other life in tide pool, Third Beach, Olympic National Park

Yellow sea plant, Second Beach, Olympic National Park

Yellow sea plant, Second Beach, Olympic National Park

In Olympic we also discovered Lake Crescent along Highway 101. Although less than a mile wide, the lake is up to 600 feet deep, disguising the extreme depth of the glacier-carved canyon. Nestled in coniferous and old-growth forests, the lake is beautiful by any standards but the most spectacular aspect is the color and clarity of the waters.

Shore of Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Shore of Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Water at Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Water at Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

SJDF and Olympic NP 099

Carrie gliding under the blue-green water of Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Carrie gliding under the blue-green water of Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

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