The wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula has become the best destination for those looking to experience breathtaking beauty through outdoor recreation. Tucked away in the often-overlooked corner of the Pacific Northwest, the Olympics have inspired countless generations of nature lovers to explore the region that exemplifies the definition of wilderness. For many, the first taste of the wilderness of the Olympics is seen along the trails of world class hikes or from the salmon filled rivers flowing from glaciated peaks. It is here, reconnecting with nature, that the spirit of the Wild Olympics captivates our soul and inspires endless adventures.
The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Act was reintroduced last year by U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Representative Derek Kilmer. The bill would permanently protect over 126,000 acres of new Wilderness areas in the Olympic National Forest, and 19 Olympic Peninsula rivers and their tributaries as Wild & Scenic Rivers – the first ever Wild & Scenic Rivers on the Peninsula. Designed through extensive community input to protect ancient forests, clean water, and enhance outdoor recreation, the Wild Olympics legislation has been endorsed by over 550 local businesses, sportsmen organizations, outdoor recreation groups, faith leaders, conservation groups and local elected officials, and more than 12,000 local residents have signed petitions in support. The Wild Olympics won’t restrict access, won’t limit hunting and fishing and is supported by 30 leading hunting and fishing Olympic Peninsula Guides. Without taking away a single timber job, the lands of the Wild Olympics will continue to be celebrated, respected and explored.
Thanks to an incredible map created for outdoor enthusiasts by Peninsula Economic Leaders, REI and Patagonia, the beauty of the Wild Olympics is just a short drive away. Exploring the National Forest and DNR public lands of the Wild Olympics has never been easier. Highlighted by 17 stunning destinations that offer world class outdoor recreation, the new “Destination Wild Olympics” map is sure to inspire your next weekend adventure. With all the destinations shown on the map part of the Wild Olympic proposal, except the already protected Dungeness Spit, the Wild Olympics map lays out the the Olympic Peninsula’s best and most wild places. Without the Wild Olympics proposal, we could lose these heavenly recreation areas for good. From the salmon cascades of the Sol Duc, to the endless hiking and backcountry fishing locations along the Hamma Hamma River, adventure awaits those who take the trek to the Olympics. Capped off with 17 destinations in four main regions, the Wild Olympics will leave you in awe at the gorgeousness of wilderness.
Most people first experience the beauty of the Wild Olympics along the timeless and powerful Sol Duc region. Here, where salmon return annually to spawn in the cool, clean, wild and scenic Sol Duc River, towering fir and cedar trees stand guard. Upstream, in Olympic National Park, the Sol Duc Falls trail creates a family-friendly destination, showcasing the raw and untouched beauty of nature. As the triple-tiered Sol Duc Falls cascade into a narrow box canyon surrounded by a sea of green, it is little wonder why this area has been a spiritually fulfilling destination for millennia. Sol Duc is also an amazing place to explore during the day before camping, taking a dip in the hot springs and listening to the river flow, providing the perfect soundtrack to wilderness beauty.
Others fall in love with the Wild Olympics while walking the Quinault Rainforest. Flanking the impossibly beautiful shoreline of Lake Quinault, the worlds largest trees are found, interspersed between ancient groves of fir, hemlock, spruce and cedars. All around the region, elk roam the valley, weaving their way through tall ferns and dripping moss. Salmon swim the rivers and creeks, swollen with the levels of precipitation that only a rainforest can receive. Highlighted by the stunning and family-friendly hike along the Quinault Rainforest Nature Trails, inspiring forests walks become even more beautiful with waterfalls and wildlife viewing. On the south side of the ridge from Lake Quinault, visitors can find one of the most extensive blocks of ancient rain forest not already protected by wilderness designation in the lower 48 states. As towering fir and cedars reach hundreds of feet into the heavens, the Quinault will quickly captivate your wanderlust spirit.
Close to the towns of Sequim and Port Angeles, America’s second steepest river flows down from the craggy summits of the Olympic Mountains, emptying into the undeveloped shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Dungeness River is one of America’s wildest rivers and is quickly becoming known for endless recreation activities. From trail running up to glaciers and the stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, to mountain biking and hiking alongside the scenic river, the Dungeness has a wealth of recreation activities for nature lovers of all ages and abilities. With endless green valleys and stunning displays of flora and fauna, picking a favorite recreation region along the Dungeness is a welcome and refreshing conundrum. Highlights for most are the tranquil forests along the Gray Wolf Trail, the panoramic wonderland of Blue Mountain and pristine waters of the Dungeness River. Mountain bikers will love the Dungeness Loop Trail, which is heavily regarded as one of the prettiest routes around the Peninsula. Darting through gorgeous forests, posing wooden shelters and cruising next to the rushing river below, biking in the Dungeness region will leave you grinning with beauty and exhilaration.
So beautiful they named it twice, the Hamma Hamma region of the Olympic Peninsula is quickly becoming a favorite destination for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Offering gorgeous hiking, fishing and mountain climbing opportunities, the Hamma Hamma is a slice of wilderness beauty along the Hood Canal. The area is popular with day hikers, backpackers and campers, as it rewards hikers with high alpine lakes unrivaled in their beauty. Lena Lake is the most popular hike in the region, giving hiking families a beautiful lake and access to both wilderness regions and Olympic National Park. Further upriver, the Carl Putvin Trail leads to the breathtaking Lake of the Angels in Olympic National Park, full of marmots, mountain goats and drool-inducing wilderness. The Hamma Hamma isn’t just for hikers though, as it is gaining a reputation for both scenic and wild kayaking. You don’t have to take a plunge in your kayak off of Hamma Hamma Falls to understand why this region is a recreation gem for not just the Olympic Peninsula, but for the Pacific Northwest.
These destinations are the first glimpse of endless wilderness beauty on the Olympic Peninsula. In the Wild Olympics, the natural wonders of the rivers, lakes, mountains and valleys only increase with every passing mile, inspiring adventure and quenching your ever growing wanderlust. Out on the Wild Olympics, the most gorgeous and impressive stretches of wilderness are awaiting your adventure, begging for you to fall in love with nature and hoping you will help share and preserve these regions for generations to come. Thanks to REI, Patagonia and the ever-growing list of businesses that support Wild Olympics, you can now print off your own map, explore the region on your own and reconnect with this world class outdoor destination.
This article was written by Douglas Scott. Douglas is a respected and trusted guidebook author for the Olympic Peninsula and beyond, penning numerous titles with his company Outdoor-Society.Com. If you need to find a hike or get the latest news on Olympic National Park and Forest, Douglas is the expert you should contact.