The Perfect Thanksgiving Getaway
Rainforests of the Olympic National Park Story & Photos By Marguerite Cleveland
In the late fall, visitors to the Olympic Peninsula dwindle and the rains pick up again. With annual precipitation averaging over 100 inches a year, this is one of the rainiest areas in the country. This is the best time of the year to visit the lush Quinault and Hoh rain forests. By the end of August, they can look brown and parched, but once the fall rains return, the verdant foliage and ferns green up into a lovely display. So, pack your rain gear suitable for cool, wet weather; just remember water resistant is not the same as waterproof. Plan to spend a few days exploring the Quinault Valley, the Hoh Rain Forest and the beaches of the Olympic National Park.
Where To Stay
The Lake Quinault Lodge was built in 1926 and is the grand dame of lodging in the Olympic National Park. It sits in the heart of the Quinault Rain Forest surrounded by Douglas fir, Western red cedar and Sitka spruce trees. The public rooms are warm and cozy with plenty of comfy seating and a big roaring fire in the large brick fireplace. It is a step back in time, and the staff is warm and friendly. Amenities include an indoor swimming pool, sauna, game room, a restaurant and a gift shop. Plan your visit to take a break from technology. The lodge has Wi-Fi, but it is spotty in the rooms. There are some pet-friendly rooms available, and the grounds just beg to be explored with your favorite pooch in tow.
Another option for a place to stay is on the coast at the Kalaloch Lodge, which has some darling cabins set on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean as well as lodge rooms. There are no TVs, Wi-Fi or phones in the rooms or cabins, so it truly is a getaway. The Kalaloch Lodge is located a 30-minute drive from the Lake Quinault Lodge and a 45-minute drive from the Hoh Rain Forest, making it a good central location to explore the area. The views of the Pacific Ocean and the sounds of waves crashing on the shore make this the perfect destination for storm watching.
Where To Eat
There are limited services in the Quinault area, so you may want to bring extra snacks and drinks with you on your trip. I usually pack a snack box with a variety of individually wrapped treats and chips, and a cooler with drinks, charcuterie and some fruit.
The Roosevelt Dining Room in the Lake Quinault Lodge is named after President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who signed the bill creating the Olympic National Park. Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, it is one of the few places in the area to eat at. It is known for its panoramic views of Lake Quinault. The restaurant hosts a Thanksgiving Day Buffet from 11am to 7pm on Thursday, November 28. Make reservations as this buffet is very popular with many locals who come to hike and then enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.
The Salmon House Restaurant is just down the street from the lodge and is known for its salmon prepared four different ways. Another popular menu item is old-fashioned Chicken Cordon Bleu, which is cooked from scratch. A large chicken breast is stuffed with prosciutto ham and swiss cheese then hand breaded, deep fried and baked for a delicious, oozy cheese yumminess.
The Quinault Mercantile is across the street from the lodge and provides an economical option for food. Snacks are available for sale and they also have a food window in the rear of the store where you can order breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are tables to sit at. All the food is cooked to order, so don’t expect a quick meal, but it is hot; mostly short-order items like burgers and food cooked on the grill.
What To Do
You come to the Quinault Valley area to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Stop in at the Pacific Ranger District-Quinault office, which is next door to the lodge, to get information about hiking in the area and taking the Quinault Rain Forest Auto Tour. Unlike the National Park, the Olympic National Forest is very pet friendly. Ask a ranger for recommended hikes with pets.
When you start your auto tour, take a brief stop before heading out just past the Rain Forest Resort Village to visit the World’s Largest Spruce Tree. This 1,000-year-old giant is one of six record-breaking trees in the Quinault Valley. The trail is just one-third of a mile. The 31-mile tour takes you outside of the congested area to the Quinault Rain Forest, which is filled with towering trees, ferns and lush green moss. Keep an eye out for waterfalls and Roosevelt Elk who call this area home. The loop will end up back at the Lake Quinault Lodge once complete.
Hiking is the best way to experience the diverse ecosystem of the rainforest. Right across the street from the lodge are more than 8 miles of interconnected hiking trails which enable you to take a short hike or a much longer one. Check with the front desk for a trail map.
If there will be a storm during your visit, head to the coast for some storm watching. The raging Pacific with its crashing waves during a storm is a sight to behold. The are many viewpoints from your car, or stop at the Creekside Restaurant at the Kalaloch Lodge to enjoy lunch. Stay toasty warm while storm watching through the panoramic windows.
On calmer days, beach walks fit the bill. Bundle up as it will be windy, but the Pacific Coast is worth the chill. You can access 3 miles of beach at the Kalaloch Lodge or head further north to visit the stunning Ruby Beach with its picturesque haystacks and rocky beach. There are a variety of beach accesses, each with its own unique charm. While on the beach make sure you pay attention to the tides and never turn your back to the ocean. Sneaker waves or rogue waves are unexpectedly large waves that come up higher than the current tide and can sweep people and even large logs into the oceans.
It is worth the time to drive to the Hoh Rain Forest and hike the world-famous Hall of Mosses Trail. It is truly magnificent with areas so beautiful people are stunned into silence while they observe the natural beauty of the vibrant green mosses which adorn the trees. The area receives 12 to 14 feet of rain a year, so make sure your rain gear is handy.
A visit to the rain forests of Olympic National Park is a great way to disconnect from traffic, social media, work emails and all the electronic devices that can be so stressful. Thanksgiving is a great time to reconnect with families and unwind before the holiday season begins in earnest.
Where to Stay Lake Quinault Lodge Kalaloch Lodge
Where to Eat The Roosevelt Dining Room The Salmon House Restaurant
What to Do Quinault Rain Forest Auto Tour Hiking at Lake Quinault Hoh Rain Forest Visiting Kalaloch and Ruby Beach