I didn’t really know Washington’s famed Olympic Mountains until recently, despite having spent most of my life in the area. I’ve seen them on a daily basis for much of my life thanks to panoramic views throughout the Seattle region. They always seemed so far away, and since I had a dog and much of the region is a national park, I avoided them.
When a friend suggested a dog-friendly trip to the Olympic Peninsula, I jumped on the chance. This trip changed my perceptions about the area. I came to realize that the Olympic Mountains are not that far, and there are some terrific dog-friendly spots.
Spruce Railroad Trail
Skirt the edge of famed Crescent Lake along the soon-to-be-complete 10-mile Spruce Railroad Trail (projected November 2020). The trail follows the historic Spruce Railroad, built in 1918 and abandoned in 1951. The National Park Service turned the railroad into a scenic trail.
The trail features wooded areas, beach access points, and viewpoints of the lake from cliffs above the shore. Just one mile in, you reach Punchbowl Falls, an emerald green pool seen from the bridge that crosses directly over.
The trail is part of the 134-mile long Olympic Discovery Trail, which will connect Port Townsend to La Push, spanning the northern tip of the peninsula, or from the Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean.
Rocky Brook Falls
A short 0.3-mile walk follows a brook by the same name to Rocky Brook Falls, one of the tallest front-country waterfalls in the Olympic Peninsula. The falls drop 229 feet into a pool at the base, making it a popular swimming hole for locals on hot days.
Short paths lead to the river below, making for great picnic spots or to let dogs cool down and play in the water.
Salt Creek Recreation Area
Just 15 miles west of Port Angeles, Salt Creek Recreation Area is a 196-acre marine sanctuary, located on a picturesque Puget Sound beach with eagles nesting in the trees above.
Originally used as a WWII military camp, the land was later purchased by the Federal General Services Administration. Several relics from the war remain tucked among the trails, including two concrete bunkers.
Recreational activities include camping, hiking, kayaking, bird watching, and more. Perhaps the best activity of all is walking along the beach during sunset overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Victoria, BC. The park is open year round.
On the south side of the Peninsula, you’ll find a gem of a spot at Ruby Beach. Plan to watch the sunset and walk along the shoreline as you wait for the sun to turn the skies to a deep magenta hue.
During low tide, check out the tide pools and look for starfish, anemone, crabs and other sea creatures.
A short trail from the parking lot leads to the beach, and the crowds thin as you choose a direction to walk. The shoreline goes on for some three miles in either direction. The north leads to the Hoh River, while the south reveals views of Desolation Island.
Tree of Life
Not far down the road from Ruby Beach lies the Tree of Life. An anomaly with its exposed roots, straddling a cave created by erosion, the tree somehow lives on, with lush green foliage. Going against science and biology, nobody knows how the tree continues to thrive without anchored roots.
World’s Largest Spruce Tree
Lake Quinault is home to the Big Spruce Tree, which, with 922 AFA points, claims to be the World’s Largest Spruce. The Giant Sitka Spruce tree stands at a height of 191 feet high, with a circumference of 58 feet, 11 inches. The tree is estimated to be over 1,000 years old.
To see the tree, take the short walk along a trail just off of South Shore Road in Lake Quinault.
This is your chance to hike inside the rain forest with your dog! Locally known as the Rain Forest Nature Trail, the Quinault Loop is a 4-mile hike through old growth forest, ending along the shores of Quinault Lake. The shades of green are simply soothing with the abundance of ferns, moss, and foliage.
If you’re looking for a backpacking trip in the Olympic Mountains, Marmot Pass is an iconic, dog-friendly trek, and it is stunning. Just outside of the National Park boundaries, Marmot Pass is a moderate hike with plenty of backpacking and camping opportunities scattered throughout miles of trails. There are lakes, wildflowers, and views just about everywhere.
Jen Sotolongo is a writer, photographer, and blogger. She travels the world in search of the most dog-friendly cities and outdoor adventures. Join her journey at Long Haul Trekkers.