Spotlight on the Pacific Coast Highway, Segment 5 – Portland, OR to Olympia, WA

             After a visit to Portland, head back to Highway 101 and travel north into Washington state. Again the drive follows the coast and soon becomes the main access road to Olympic National Park, one of America’s most diverse wilderness areas. This is the major attraction in the state for Pacific Coast Highway travelers.         

             Olympic National Park, in the northwestern corner of Washington, is a park with something for everyone.  It has snow-capped mountains; it has wild, unspoiled beaches; it has eerie and unusual Temperate Rain Forests; and it has abundant wildlife because so much of the park is truly wilderness.  The best way to visit is by car, a significant day trip from Seattle or, better, an overnight stay on the peninsula. Route 101 which loops around most of the park and allows access to the best sights, is, itself, around 300 kilometers (200 miles), so leave early and plan to be gone for the entire day.

            Hurricane Ridge in the northern area of the park offers views of striking snow-capped peaks and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north. There are several walking or hiking trails available as well.

            Ruby Beach, on the western edge of the park, is wild and strange, with its many sea stacks and driftwood.  It’s not a beach for swimming, but just to stroll and admire the photogenic scenery or to explore tidal pools to observe the many small sea creatures which inhabit them, such as pacific coast sea anemones, sea urchins, and starfish.

            The Hoh Rain Forest, inland from the Ruby Beach area, invites the visitor to observe an extremely uncommon ecosystem, a temperate Rain Forest. Don’t be surprised if it rains during the visit, since this area gets 150 or so inches of rain (almost 400 cm) per year.  This environment is characterized by mosses which drape the tree branches and give them an otherworldly look.


            Gary Gems

                        Take the Hall of Mosses Trail, an easy self-guided walk, to experience the lush, eternally green Sitka Spruce Forest.


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