Clallam County has it good. So very, very good… Epic rivers, lakes and mountains, the UNESCO-designated Olympic National Park, sweeping oceanfront majesty, abundant wildlife and plentiful farmland – All steeped in Native American heritage dating back thousands of years. Clallam County has it all! Please join me in celebrating the greatness of this Washington State wonder in this installment of I Ate the State.
Size and population-wise, Clallam County sits midstream in a comparative list of Washington State counties. This never occurs to me, however, when visiting the area. There are so many Clallam County roads I’ve driven, trails I’ve hiked and beaches I’ve combed that are nearly, if not completely, gloriously deserted – And I’ve only scratched the surface of areas to explore. Whenever I need to clear my mind and grab a bit of peaceful solitude, Clallam County heads my list of destinations; especially if I want to escape the ever-encroaching march of connectivity and technology. Aside from the major towns in Clallam County, I rarely have cell reception, etc. and it is absolutely, positively magnificent. (Unless it’s you trying to call me, of course… 😉
There are many ways in and out of the Clallam County area. Car, bike, boat, plane – take your pick!
- Coming from the Seattle area, I usually opt for a car/ferry combo and it’s always a beautiful trek. To get there from Seattle, take the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston, head over the Hood Canal Bridge on SR-104 and then connect to US Route 101 in the Discovery Bay
- If you happen to be coming from Olympia or further south, a good option is I-5 to US Route 101.
- From the Tacoma/Gig Harbor area, take SR-16 to Bremerton, then SR-3 north from Bremerton to SR-104 and finally, hook up with US Route 101.
- If you’re coming from the north and don’t mind hopping a couple of ferries, take the Mukilteo/Clinton Ferry (Everett to Whidbey Island) then – Port Townsend/Keystone Ferry to Port Townsend and then onto US Route 101.
- Pro Tip: A fun thing to do is to make a loop trip of your Clallam County adventures. For example, if I start out in Seattle and head over on the Kingston ferry, I like to return via US Route 101 and come up through Olympia and back to I-5. Each route is relatively close in travel time and it makes for a beautiful and interesting round-trip adventure. So many ways in and out of Clallam County!
For purposes of this journey, I took the ferry out of Edmonds and headed towards the junction of SR-104 and US 101. Not too far past the junction, you’ll enter the land of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe. Native to the area for thousands of years, the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe continues to call the area home and watch over the land.
I always like to stop in this area. The view of Sequim Bay is beautiful, the local Longhouse Market and Deli has a great selection of supplies, including a rather good beer/wine/spirits selection and if you’re running low on gas, it’s a great place to fuel up. Additionally, if you’re feeling lucky, stop into the 7 Cedars Casino for a go at the gaming tables and slot-machines, enjoy a meal at the Double Eagle or Stymie’s Bar & Grill or take in a leisurely golf game in the Cedars at Dungeness golf course.
Heading further north on US 101, you many notice the air gets drier and the sun gets… sunnier. Sitting in the rain-shadow of the Olympic Mountains and known as a micro-climate, the Sequim area is rich in agriculture and enjoys loads of sunshine. Quite unique when compared to the perpetually damp city of Forks and other nearby, rainy-day Clallam County towns…
With all the sunshine, it’s easy to take advantage of Sequim’s many outdoor opportunities. Hiking, biking, camping, climbing, fishing and boating are all in easy reach of Sequim. The stunning Olympic National Park with its epic peaks and valleys is the perfect host to near limitless, adventure-filled prospects and Sequim is an excellent jumping-off point to such splendor. In addition, Sequim’s close proximity to coastline and waterways provide for sensational off-land explorations
Sequim is an excellent gatekeeper to Clallam County outdoor endeavors. Here’s but a small list to get you started:
- Check out Sequim Bay State Park if you’re in need of camping and RV spots with access to a boat launch and moorage. There are also hiking opportunities, clamming, crabbing and oyster harvesting spots and access to the 120-mile, multi-use Olympic Discovery Trail. (Goes from Port Townsend to La Push!) Also located in the area is the Camp Ramblewood retreat center. With room to sleep 60 and a commercial-size kitchen, it’s a great place to consider for family reunions, school functions and more.
- For a bit of hiking and climbing adventure, check out the highest point in Clallam County, Gray Wolf Ridge. On the way, you’ll also pass over Baldy and both summits will provide stunning views and wide stretches of wildflowers to enjoy. The access road to these areas is just east of Sequim Bay State Park.
- Hit up the beautiful Dungeness Spit in nearby Dungeness if you’re in need of some serious sand. (The famed Dungeness crab is named for this area.) It’s the longest natural sand spit in the US and goes out more than 5 miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The area is part of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and is noted for its large variety of birds, mammals and marine life. There are many hiking, boating, clamming and crabbing opportunities throughout the area, but be sure to respect the protected areas within the refuge.
- Located at the end of the spit is the historic New Dungeness Lighthouse. Built in 1857 and on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s now maintained by the New Dungeness Light Station Association. If you’re willing to pitch in, you can stay at the lighthouse as part of the Lighthouse Keeper Program. (1-week programs)
- If you’re looking for a good place to moor your boat, the John Wayne Marina is located conveniently in the Dungeness and Sequim area in Sequim Bay. Built on land gifted by John Wayne’s family in 1985, the marina is an excellent spot to spur your coastal journey. (John Wayne used to love sailing around the Sequim area in his yacht, The Wild Goose!) If you’re looking for nearby campsites, cabins or RV spots, check out the nearby John Wayne’s Waterfront Resort. If you’d like to take a break from campsite or galley cuisine, the Dockside Grill at the marina can set you up. (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)
If outdoor pursuits aren’t on your list, a fine way to enjoy the sunshine and not don hiking boots is to take in the area’s greatest agricultural tribute. In recent decades, Sequim has become quite well known for its contribution to the lavender industry. Gorgeous, fragrant lavender fields dot the farmlands surrounding Sequim and make for a delicious visit any time of year. (And even more so when the lavender is in bloom!)
One of the best times of year to visit is around the Sequim Lavender Festival, which takes place in July. The town comes alive with all things lavender and there are many options to fulfill all your lavender needs. Music, food vendors, dancing, crafts and ‘lots of the purple stuff – the Lavender Festival is a great event to take in. Of the many local farms participating in the local lavender scene, a few highlights:
- The Purple Haze Lavender downtown store, their local lavender farm and farmhouse vacation rental make for a fine weekend in and of themselves. (Try the lavender ice cream!)
- Representing not only the state of Washington, but paying homage to George Washington, himself, the Washington Lavender Farm, located on oceanfront overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is an absolute gem. If the gorgeous lavender fields and wildflowers aren’t enough to pull you in, stay for a spell in their Mount Vernon replica, the George Washington Inn & Estate and check out their full-size replica of the Old North Bridge.
- Victor’s Lavender Farm is a large farm and retail store located outside the Port Angeles area. Their onsite farm store is set inside an old red milking barn and is open Memorial Day through September. They also have a vacation home called the “Candlelight Cabin” for rent overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
- In addition to the beautiful lavender fields at Jardin du Soleil, don’t miss the beautiful gardens, fruit trees, onsite farm store and gorgeous grounds – located just outside of Sequim. If you’re in the area during July or August, be sure to check out their Jungible Music Festival on Friday nights.
- If you’d like to get into the thick of it and experience Sequim’s beautiful countryside by your own steam, check out the Tour de Lavender bike tour through lavender country. (Aug 3rd, 2019) Sign up for either the family-friendly, more leisurely Fun Ride (35-mile loop) or go the distance with the more intense Metric Centric Ride. (62.5 mile loop)
- In addition to the impressive number of lavender farms in the area, don’t overlook the u-pick berry opportunities of the summer. For example, not only does Graymarsh Farm grow beautiful lavender, they also have an excellent berry scene!
For those of you not looking to celebrate the purpley goodness of lavender, there are many other excellent adventures to be enjoyed in Sequim. A few for your list:
- Sequim Open Aire Market – Local farmer and artisan market open on Saturdays, May to September. For the holiday shoppers, be sure to check out their special events in November and December.
- Clallam County Farm Tour (end Sept/early Oct) – Dairy farms, lavender farms, produce farms – Farms of all kinds! The day-long tour takes place annually at the end of September / early October and is a great opportunity to check out the inner-workings of the some of the area’s most established farms. Great for families!
- Sequim Museum & Arts – As I might have mentioned in previous articles, I love museums. LOVE them. The Sequim Museum is definitely worth a look and definitely on my list of museums to love. Not only do they have a great exhibit featuring a Jamestown S’Klallam Longhouse, they also have an exhibit featuring the Manis Mastodon. That’s right – A MASTODON. (Uncovered by Emanuel Manis in 1977 while digging a pond in his Sequim front yard. The bones are nearly 14,000 years old!)
If all of the hiking, boating, lavender sniffing and mastodon investigating has worn you out, take a break and enjoy some of the local dining options:
- Tedesco’s – Cool Italian restaurant in downtown Sequim featuring fresh pasta and sauces with a full bar.
- Salty Girls Sequim Seafood Co. – Right next door to Tedesco’s, Salty Girls feature fresh, local seafood including a raw oyster bar and homemade chowders. They also have a kayak guide service and fresh fish counter. All the things!
- Peninsula Taproom – Also next door to Tedesco’s the Peninsula Taproom features NW craft beer and cider, both on tap and in bottle. They also host potluck / slow-cooker events on Sundays for your Seahawks viewing pleasure. Bring your best casserole!
- Alder Wood Bistro – Local, farm-to-table, wood-fired cuisine featuring NW inspired recipes. They also host regular pairing dinners where NW vintners and brewers are featured.
- Dynasty Chinese Restaurant – I’m fond of this place. They serve tasty, Cantonese-style Chinese food in a low-key, comfortable downtown spot. I’m particularly fond of their House Special Chow Mein Noodles and honey-walnut prawns.
- Nourish – Lovely organic, farm-to-table restaurant with a dedicated gluten-free menu.
If you’re looking to stay in the Sequim area, there are plentiful lodging options. As one of the state’s more quaint areas, the overnight accommodations do not disappoint with their welcoming, cozy demeanor.
- Lost Mountain Lodge – Bed and breakfast lodge situated on 10-acres of gorgeous land just outside of Sequim
- Dungeness Barn House – Bed and breakfast overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the New Dungeness Lighthouse
- Domaine Madeleine – Beautiful suites and cottages on a bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the New Dungeness Lighthouse
Just up the road from Sequim, traveling on US 101, you’ll come to the largest city in the Olympic Peninsula and the seat of Clallam County, Port Angeles. Western settlers began arriving in the area around 1857, but the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe has been in the area for a bit longer. The west end of what is now Port Angeles Harbor was once home to a large village called Tse-whit-zen. It was unearthed in 2003 during work on a Department of Transportation project and is the earliest confirmed settlement in the area, dating back to 750 BCE. The Elwha Klallam Heritage Center is a great place to go to learn more of the area’s history and tribal heritage as well as view artifacts from the village and surrounding areas.
There are many things to do while in Port Angeles. I always enjoy strolling along the waterfront area (part of the Olympic Discovery Trail) and taking in the harbor scene. Grab a cup of coffee at one of the nearby cafés and enjoy the scene. Check out – or hop aboard – one of the International ferries going to/coming from Victoria BC. It’s a 90-min trip across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and a great way to cross the border. Additionally, Victoria BC is one of the most charming spots on the planet. (Bring your passport!)
Other great options when hanging out in the downtown Port Angeles area:
- Port Angeles Underground Heritage Tours – Located in downtown Port Angeles, tour the 100-year old tunnels and basements of Port Angeles’ underground history. Who doesn’t love a spooky underground tour?? (They have a special “haunted” tour during October!)
- Maritime Festival – Celebrate the maritime history of the North Olympic History on the Port Angeles waterfront in June. Tour the beautiful tall ships and enjoy music, food and more!
- NOAA Olympic Coast Discovery Center – Located on the waterfront. Stop in to learn all about the marine aspects of the Port Angeles and surrounding coastal areas. It’s an excellent local resource and it’s FREE!!
- Olympic National Park Visitor Center – Check out the main visitor center and back-country permit office for the Olympic National Park. They have loads of information, friendly rangers and exhibits to get you started on your mountain adventure.
- Jazz in the Olympics – Celebrate Jazz with NW artists in various venues around the Port Angeles area. (April)
- Arts & Draughts Festival – Featuring 20+ local breweries, wineries and cideries, the Arts and Draughts Festival takes place in downtown Port Angeles in September. Mmm… Beer… And art!
- Farmers’ Market – Operating year-round in the downtown area, the Port Angeles Farmers’ Market is a wonderful opportunity to snatch up fresh fruit and veggies as well as local artisan wares. (Saturdays – 10am to 2pm)
- Swains General Store – A quirky, old-school hardware store that sells much more than hardware. Stop in for a look and you just may find something you never knew you couldn’t live without!
- For a truly epic Port Angeles experience, don’t miss the sweet deliciousness of the annual Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival. Celebrating one of the region’s most famous residents, the Dungeness Crab, the festival offers three days of savory seafood shenanigans to enjoy. Happening in early October on the Port Angeles waterfront, it features glorious seafood, music, arts, crafts and more. And it’s FREE! (But you gotta pay for the crab, of course.)
It’s true. I like to eat. I like to eat and I love to eat good food. There are definitely some Port Angeles restaurants that accommodate this love in wonderful fashion. Throw in the fresh abundance of all things seafood and I’m hard-pressed to leave the area every time. I can honestly say I would eat Dungeness crab EVERY day if my wallet would allow… Some of my favorite local spots:
- Chestnut Cottage Restaurant – Cozy atmosphere with great breakfast and lunch options.
- Michael’s Seafood & Steakhouse – NW cuisine featuring local ingredients and delicious seafood.
- La Belle Creperie – Crepes and coffee on the waterfront. Yes, please.
- New Day Eatery – Tasty breakfast and lunch options near the waterfront.
- Next Door Gastropub – Homemade, customizable mac-n-cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches, delicious burgers and more. Open late – featuring live music!
And what goes better with a delicious meal than a delicious beverage? There are several excellent options in Port Angeles and these are all high on my list:
- Camaraderie Cellars – A well-established winery just outside of Port Angeles. I’m particularly fond of their Quadra. It’s an aged Tempranillo with a bit of Port added – rich and delicious! Quite lovely to enjoy by a fire while watching (from the cabin window) as the winter ocean storms roll in…
- Housed in a lovely old barn, Olympic Cellars has been a mainstay of Olympic Peninsula wine-making for many years. Enjoyable wines and a cool weekend summer concert series to accompany said wine – check them out!
- Barhop Brewing & Artisan Pizza – Looking for great pizza and a tasty brew down by the waterfront? This is the place to stop!
- Harbinger Winery – I love this place. Great wine, super friendly staff and a cozy tasting room – located directly off US 101. I’m very much a fan of their El Jefé Reserve Rhone Blend and Rhone Rosé And if you feel the need to rent a kayak or mountain bike or sign up for a local outdoor adventure tour, you need only pop in next door to the very friendly Adventures Through Kayaking shop.
- Harvest Wine Tour (November) – A great way to experience and learn about the wine and cider-makers of the Olympic Peninsula is via the Harvest Wine Tour. Camaraderie Cellars, Harbinger Winery, Olympic Cellars and Wind Rose Cellars (Sequim) are all part of the tour. The Red Wine & Chocolates tour in February is also fun to check out and is hosted by the same establishments. Mmm… Wine and chocolate! (And if red wine isn’t your thing, not to worry – I enjoyed some very lovely white wines and white chocolates when I did the tour earlier this year.)
If you’d like to extend your stay in Port Angeles or use it as home base for exploring the Olympics, Hurricane Ridge or any of the other beautiful nearby spots, I suggest these local options:
- A Hidden Haven – Lovely forest cottages located just outside of Port Angeles.
- Sea Cliff Gardens – Very charming and well-appointed B&B lodging with gorgeous gardens and views. Located in the Sequim / Port Angeles area.
- Colette’s – Port Angeles B&B with stunning ocean views, delicious breakfast and beautiful grounds.
If you’re not already bowled over by the beauty of the Sequim and Port Angeles areas, head further west on US 101 or take a beautiful detour into Olympic National Park (via Mount Angeles Road/Hurricane Ridge Road) and head towards the spectacular Hurricane Ridge area. In the summer, a trip to Hurricane Ridge will make you think you’ve been transported to a scene from The Sound of Music. Wildflowers, sweeping views, plentiful deer and a lovely day lodge at the top of drive greet you like an old friend. Maybe there wasn’t a lovely day lodge in The Sound of Music, but if there were, Hurricane Ridge has nailed it. Grab a snack in the Visitor’s Center and learn more about the area’s plentiful hiking opportunities and miles of beautiful vistas and breathtaking scenery. If you’re looking to do some camping in the area, check out the Heart o’the Hills Campground about 12 miles before Hurricane Ridge. (Open year-round)
In the winter, Hurricane Ridge is open for skiing and snowboarding, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing and general enjoyment of the winter wonderland. The road is only open Friday-Sunday in the winter and definitely check ahead as the road can get dicey on snowy days. (All vehicles must carry chains – including 4-wheel drive) I will admit to not yet having skied this area, but it is high on my “Ski all the ski hills in Washington State” list – and I will get there soon. Big hills, small hills – I shall ski them ALL!
Heading further west on US 101 gives you access to the gorgeous and newly dam-free Elwha Valley. In the last few years, both the Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon Dam were removed allowing the Elwha River to again make its way to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The byproduct of this effort is a new, sandy beach that is growing daily. After having been dammed for nearly 100 years, the valley is returning to its natural rhythms and the river is reclaiming its territory. The salmon are making a comeback, the flora and fauna are prospering and the water is flowing unfettered out to sea. It is truly a beautiful area to explore and an opportunity to witness first-hand nature’s resilience.
For a beautiful hiking or backpacking adventure in the area, check out the Elwha River Trail. Also in the area, located off of the Boulder Creek Trailhead, the Olympic Hot Springs are a very unique and invigorating destination. (All-natural springs and pools not maintained by the NPS) When hiking and adventuring in the Elwha River Valley, be sure to check the NPS website beforehand for road conditions and information on obtaining necessary permits. And as always, make sure you’re prepared for your adventure by bringing along the 10 Essentials.
Continuing west on US 101 will bring you to a truly extraordinary part of the state. (And that’s saying something given the Washington State bounty!) I’m usually heading further on towards the coastline, but every time I make the effort to explore this area I am simply blown away. The scenery, wildlife and ecological diversity is overflowing and it would be easy to spend a week (or more!) marveling at the wonders of this section of Clallam County.
As you’re driving along US 101, you won’t be able to miss Lake Crescent on your right. The nearly 12-mile long lake is filled with beautifully clear, deep water and is home to many a water-filled adventure. Boating, fishing, scuba-diving or just a bit of recreational swimming – you name it – Lake Crescent represents. A longtime destination for Washingtonians, Lake Crescent has been inspiring happy vacation memories for generations. Take the time to investigate what lies along the winding, lake-hugging highway as it heads toward the coast – you won’t be disappointed. (Note: The highway in this area can get icy year-round and the winds are often quite strong. Drive carefully!)
The list is long for this area, but here are a handful of can’t-go-wrong opportunities to explore:
- Directly off the highway as you’re headed west, look for a small sign to the La Poel day-use/picnic area. Take the access road to a surprisingly extensive and winding loop snaking along the lake’s shoreline. There are many tucked-away picnic spots and it’s a great way to relax and enjoy a snack. (Note: The road is very narrow and not suitable for RVs and larger vehicles.)
- Located on the north shore of the lake, the Spruce Railroad Trail is an easy-going 4-mile trek near and beside the lake. For those looking for a longer jaunt, the trail is part of the aforementioned Olympic Discovery Trail and is accessible via an extensive hike or bike ride from Port Angeles. For a quick hike, head about a mile into the trail until you get to the bridge. Look to the right of the bridge and check out the eerily calm waters of the “Punchbowl” – very much worth the trip!
- There are good camping opportunities in the area, but the Log Cabin Resort is an excellent lakeside option if you’d like a cozy bed and a step back in time. (Although, the area has been recently renovated and features newly built cabins) The cabins are open end of May thru end of September.
- If you’d like to upgrade from a log cabin, check out nearby Lake Crescent Lodge for classic, National Park lodging. (Including charming cottages and cabins) Built in 1915, it has a storied past, including a very important visit from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He visited Washington’s coastal regions in the 1930s and very shortly thereafter signed the paperwork creating our beloved Olympic National Park. (Note: The Lake Crescent Store and Lodge are closed January thru April, but you can reserve the cabins on weekends during winter.)
- Near the Lake’s midpoint, take the exit off of US 101 towards the historic Storm King Ranger Station / Marymere Falls parking area. Located just over a half-mile from the ranger station is the stunning Marymere Falls The hike to the 90-foot falls is fairly accessible and the falls are well worth investigating.
- Not too far past Lake Crescent, look for the signs to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. Featuring naturally fed mineral hot spring pools as well as a freshwater pool, Sol Duc Hot Springs is a wonderful spot to spend a relaxing few days. (Or more!) The lodge hosts well-appointed cabins and riverside suites and they also have camping and RV opportunities in the vicinity. Located close by are the beautiful Sol Duc Falls – not to be missed!
Next on my adventure path is an area very near and dear to my heart; La Push and its surrounding beaches and coastal lands. I’ve been coming to this area for years and while I will fully admit to having read the Twilight books, this part of the state has been a favorite travel destination for many years prior. (Which is why I initially read the books – A vampire/werewolf story set in Forks and La Push?? Come on!)
In recent years, the wave of Twi-hards has begun to subside and a peaceful calm is returning to the area. That said, the related tourism was a great boon to the area’s economy and if it exposed the beauty of this part of the state to a greater audience, all the better. The undeveloped coastlines and easy solitude have always drawn me in and I hope many more come to know the magical allure of the area.
As you’re traveling west on US 101 and getting close to Forks, look for the turn-off to SR-110 which will take you to the La Push area. The 25-minute drive to La Push is fairly uneventful with swatches of logged land along the way and I always lose my cell reception about half-way into the drive. (And don’t regain it until I head back out towards US 101. No cell reception in the La Push area for me… Heh heh…) Keep an eye out along the drive for locals selling firewood. This is where you’ll find the best deals for campfire happenings and it’s a nice chance to chat with the local residents. (Although some of the stands are on the honor system and you just drop the fee in a lock box.)
The first place you’ll come to along SR-110 is the Three Rivers Resort. (The Treaty Line) It’s a diner, store, gas station, resort with RV hook-ups and cabins and a fishing guide service. (And a good option for firewood and ice!) This place is a gem and I always make a stop. They have tots AND fry sauce, great burgers, a friendly staff and restrooms. It’s also a great checkpoint before making the decision to head a few more minutes on to La Push proper or to head over towards Mora Campground and Rialto Beach.
Mora Campground and Rialto Beach are truly remarkable areas and I keep returning over and over again to take in their glory. The campground is extensive and usually busy, but the plentiful old-growth trees and coastal shrubbery make it seem fairly exclusive and it’s easy to enjoy your privacy. Rialto Beach is also a quick drive up the road or a very doable walk. Located just across the entrance to the campground is the trailhead for James Pond. (Pond, James Pond.) (That joke will never get old.) This is a fairly short hike leading to the absolutely stunning James “Pond” area and is very much worth the effort. For another nearby wetlands hike, check out the beautiful Quillayute River Slough area.
On Rialto Beach, it’s more than feasible to just hang out on the immediate beach all day and enjoy the ocean and spectacular driftwood deposits – not to mention the seals, sea birds and ever-changing weather. If you head about a mile and a half northwest on the beach, you’ll come to the Hole in the Wall sea arch. Beautiful any time of day, you can walk through it at low tide. (Always pay mind to the tidal charts! You can pick one up at the Quileute Oceanside Resort in La Push or at the Three Rivers Resort.) Once on the main beach, stroll to your left for a better view of nearby James Island and venture out on the rock spit dividing Rialto beach from 1st Beach in “downtown” La Push.
If you keep heading west on SR-110, past the Three Rivers Resort, it will lead you down into the tiny coastal town of La Push, home to the Quileute Nation. Calling the area home for thousands of years, the Quileute have a history rich in coastal stewardship and a deep respect for the land. There’s just something about this area that gets in your soul and it’s understandable how it could inspire devotion for thousands of years. The rugged coastline, dotted with gorgeous sandy beaches and a solitude not easily found in modern times make La Push one of my favorite places on the planet.
Some of spots I love to visit in this remote, beautiful area:
- For easy beach access, check out 1st and 2nd beaches in the main part of La Push. (There is a short hike to get to 2nd beach, but it’s very worth it. Amazing tide pools!) These beaches are usually the more crowded in the area, but they’re beautiful and quite expansive. 1st Beach is a favorite of local surfers and it’s always fun to watch them battle the NW surf. If you’d like to try some surfing yourself, check out North by Northwest Surf Co in Port Angeles or at the Hobuck Beach Resort (in Neah Bay) for all your needs.
- My favorite local beach is just a little south of La Push proper on SR-110. 3rd Beach is a relatively easy hike down to the coastline and is one of my very favorite spots to camp, pick berries, do nothing for hours while staring aimlessly out to sea, etc. Due to the hike required for beach access, it’s not as crowded as 1st or 2nd Beaches, but in can get a little busier on weekends. If you’re looking for near total seclusion, keep hiking down the beach and locate one of the rope ladders heading back up the bluffs. The adjoining trail will take you through beautiful coastal forest and eventually back down onto more beach. The quiet, the calm and the beautiful sand are overwhelming in their welcome and I could stay there indefinitely… (Note: It is absolutely necessary to know the tidal tables for this portion of the hike.)
- If camping isn’t your thing, check out the Quileute Oceanside Resort for hotel and cabin lodging. The area can be a bit noisy, but the beach front location is beautiful and you get to wake up looking out over 1st Beach in the morning. Not too shabby!
- Directly next door to the Oceanside Resort is the Lonesome Creek Store & RV Park. (And propane station. And post office.) This is the only store in La Push proper and they have a decent supply of all things you might need or have forgotten for your stay. As the hours/days of the local River’s Edge Restaurant can at times be fleeting or inconsistent, their deli and supplies are a good option for your next meal. (But do check out River’s Edge if it happens to be open as it is indeed the only restaurant in La Push proper.)
- If you’re visiting the area in mid-July, check out the Quileute Days celebration and learn all about Quileute history and culture. If you happen to be in town on the 4th of July, you’ll need to embrace the boom or head further inland for quieter times. The main section of 1st Beach is filled with campers all trying to out-do each another with bigger and louder fireworks. It’s crazy. It’s loud. You’ll pay for the whole seat, but only sit on the edge!!
Ohhhh Forks, you quirky little town that I love so much… And even though you refuse to cave to my desire for a “Forks of July” celebration, I will still continue to regularly visit the area. However, as their annual Forks Old-Fashioned 4th of July celebration is pretty great and goes for a whole week every year, I guess I’ll let it slide… For now.
As a sole destination, Forks itself isn’t a hotbed of activity, but it’s a great jumping-off point for visiting Olympic National Park, exploring the surrounding coastline areas, embarking upon epic fishing adventures or just enjoying the peace of the state’s lesser traveled back roads and byways.
A few of the places I like to visit whenever in Forks:
- Forks Outfitters – If you’re in need of all things grocery, the local Thriftway store can meet your needs. And if you also happen to be in the market for hardware/fishing/hunting supplies – or a generally interesting array of random goods – they’ve also got you covered. Need some Twilight souvenirs to bring home? They’ve got ‘em.
- Highlighting the area’s largest industry, the Forks Timber Museum is an interesting look into the past and present of the Fork’s famous timber scene. It’s located on US 101 and conveniently next door to the Forks Chamber of Commerce. Pop in and chat with the locals about their favorite spots and learn about the history and interesting characters of the area. (And marvel at the floor to ceiling Twilight displays)
If you don’t happen to be staying in the area, Forks is a great spot to stop for a meal on your way to either the coast or over to La Push. Most of Forks commerce and business is located directly on US 101, so access is particularly convenient. Some of my favorite spots:
- Sully’s Burgers – Classic drive-in with great hamburgers, fries and shakes.
- The In Place – Home-style diner fare, including tasty breakfast, lunch and dinner options.
- BBG – Blakeslee Bar & Grill – Good pub food and a full bar.
- Golden Gate – Classic take on Chinese food favorites. I’ve eaten here several times and it’s always pretty tasty. And I shall eat there again…
- Hard Rain Café and Campsite – Located outside of Forks proper at the Olympic National Park entrance to the otherworldly Hoh Rainforest. Not only do they have a cool café, they have lodging and serve as a great base location for Hoh Rainforest adventures. (Including close proximity to what is said to be the Quietest Spot on Earth. I haven’t been, but it is high on my list.)
- Creekside Restaurant (At Kalaloch Lodge) – I actually included the Creekside in my I Ate the State – Jefferson County article, but as Kalaloch Lodge is technically listed with a Forks address, I’ll include it as part of Clallam County as well. Double-duty! Not only is the Creekside a great place to stop, but a longer visit to Kalaloch should definitely be considered. (Check out my Jefferson County article for all the details!)
There are several options for lodging in the Forks area. Prices are generally reasonable year-round, but I always find particularly good deals during the off-season. Couple that with the plentiful winter storm-watching opportunities and you’re golden!
- The Olympic Suites – Tucked back in the trees off of US 101, the Olympic Suites offer very reasonably priced lodging with modest suites that include full kitchens and spacious rooms.
- The Dew Drop Inn – Nice hotel/motel located directly off of US 101 on the way towards the coast. Nicely appointed rooms, quiet and conveniently located.
- For charming Bed & Breakfast options in the Forks area, check out both the Miller Tree Inn and the Misty Valley Inn.
Heading back towards the Port Angeles area, a fabulous detour and whole new leg of Clallam County adventure can be found via SR-113 to SR-112 and on towards Neah Bay. Turn off of US 101 onto SR-113 and follow the signs.
As the road twists and turns, leading you further into no-reception territory, it’s easy to become blissfully lost in the seclusion of this area. There aren’t a lot of travelers on this road and it’s common to go miles and miles without passing another car. This is especially true in the winter months. I’ve taken a couple of solo journeys during winter and on one occasion actually turned back towards US 101. Snowing hard, no one else on the two-lane, windy road, no cell reception, making solo tracks in the snow while gaining elevation… I have a lot of faith in my AWD Sportage, (AKA: Sporty Spice) but I do try and err on the side of caution. Sometimes… (Note: While unfortunately I don’t have a street bike, this road would be pretty amazing on one.)
About 10 miles in, stay left and SR-113 becomes SR-112/the Strait of Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway. (If you head right on SR-112 it takes you towards Joyce and back to Port Angeles – we’ll cover that route later in the article.) A few miles further on SR-113, you’ll come to the Clallam Bay and Seiku areas. If you’re in need of a quick break, stop and take in the beautiful view of Clallam Bay at the Clallam Bay Spit County Park. (Also one of the only public restroom breaks along the way…)
The Clallam Bay / Seiku area is relatively small, but it’s a cozy little place to visit. Some places of note in the area:
- Hess Mart & Espresso – Great stop for a quick snack, espresso beverage, picnic additions, etc. (in Clallam Bay)
- Sunsets West Co-op – Cool shop in Clallam Bay with organic foods, snacks, café treats, coffee, sundries, etc.
- Clallam Bay / Seiku Fun Days – Fun festival taking place in mid-July with food vendors, music, fireworks and a parade.
- By the Bay Café – Very cute little café in Seiku overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Great diner-style food – breakfast, lunch and dinner!
- Mason’s/Olson’s Resort – If you’d like to stay in the Seiku/Clallam Bay area, hit up Mason’s/Olson’s Resort. They offer houses, cabins, camping and hotel lodging and are the longest operating fishing resort in Washington State.
Traveling on SR-112 will take you in the direction of lovely Neah Bay. An amazing detour along the way is to head towards Ozette and the beautiful Lake Ozette and Cape Alva. (Take the Hoko-Ozette Road off SR-112) Granted, the road can be slower going and it’s most worthwhile if you’re able to camp overnight, but even a day trip is justified the trek.
Located in Olympic National Park, Lake Ozette is a gorgeous and remote destination. The lake is crystal clear and there are numerous hiking and backpacking opportunities in the area. (Including boat-in campsites on the tiny islands of the lake!) Cape Alva, the westernmost point in the contiguous US, is an absolutely amazing place to visit. It is the site of a Native American village buried by mudslide some 300-500 years ago, recently rediscovered and unearthed in the 1970s. Several longhouses, scores of artifacts and examples of native culture were perfectly preserved in the layers of mud and silt. Many of these artifacts are now on display at the nearby Makah Museum.
A beautiful hike starting out of the Lake Ozette area is the 9.4 mile Cave Alva Loop. Along the way, stop to respectfully take in the 2000-year old petroglyphs carved into the “Wedding Rocks” by ancestors of the Makah Tribe. There is no signage, but they can be found while heading south, once you’ve reached the beach. For more camping details in the area, check out the NPS site. It should also be noted that the western terminus of the 1200-mile Pacific Northwest Trail is located at Cape Alva. #GOALS
Back on SR-112, keep heading west to its terminus at the lovely Neah Bay. As you travel along SR-112, keep an eye out for herds of elk grazing in the coastal meadows and soaring hawks and eagles stalking their prey along the shores. The views of the coastline are beautiful and rocky and on several occasions I’ve seen giant eagles casually perched on rocks taking it all in. (As an eagle does) I’ve also noticed that while I typically don’t have phone coverage in this area, I do often pick up roaming coverage from nearby Canada. To enjoy BC roaming coverage while checking out the eagles firsthand, check out the shoreline cottages at Chito Beach Resort for a lovely local stay.
Neah Bay, with its excellent coastal access is the home of the Native American Makah Tribe. Having called this area home for thousands of years, their culture and heritage runs deep in the coastal legacies. A fine way to learn more about the Makah history is with a visit to the well-curated and designed Makah Museum, located directly off of SR-112. If you happen to be visiting during August, make an effort to catch the Makah Days celebration to experience first-hand the traditions of the Makah Tribe.
If you’re looking for a bite or a cup of coffee, Neah Bay is small, but does indeed have some nice options:
- Linda’s Wood Fired Pizza – In addition to wood-fired pizza, Linda’s offers fresh fish, soups, homemade pies and more!
- The Warm House – Fresh fish and clam chowder, tasty burgers, waterfront location – serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Washburn’s General Store – A True Value hardware store AND a fully stocked grocery store. (And in keeping true to their name, they carry all sorts of other general items) It’s Neah Bay’s one-stop shopping store – and a great place to stock up for local picnicking and camping adventures. They also sell the Makah Recreation Pass needed for exploring several local sites.
To check out the most northwestern point of the contiguous US, head west out of Neah Bay on the Cape Flattery Road. Park in the parking lot and head down the well-maintained, but at times, very wet and slippery, Cape Flattery Trail towards the ocean. (Note: You will need a Makah Recreation Pass to park in the trailhead lot.) The trail down to the actual most northwestern point in the US is gorgeous and filled with beautiful old-growth trees and sweeping views. I continue to be stunned each time I stand on the edge of the bluff, looking out to Tatoosh Island and the Cape Flattery Lighthouse and back over to the breathtaking cliffs and coves on either side of the outcrop. The water is a striking teal green and it’s entirely easy to imagine pirates stashing treasure in the various caves and coves. I will never tire of exploring this part of the state and always find something “new” and amazing to take in.
For another amazing coastal adventure in the Neah Bay area, head up Cape Flattery Road and turn left onto Hobuck Road. (Before getting to Cape Flattery.) There you will find the Hobuck Beach Resort and beautiful Hobuck Beach. (A Makah Recreation Pass is required to park in the day use area.) There are cabins, camping and RV sites at the resort and surf rentals for enjoying the local surf scene. A great hike in the area is the 2-mile trek to Shi-Shi Beach and Point of the Arches. (To camp on Shi-Shi Beach requires a Makah Recreation Pass and a wilderness camping permit. And make sure you have a tidal chart with you.) The sunsets are exquisite and the remoteness of the beach is a reward in and of itself.
Heading back towards Port Angeles on SR-112, take the left fork to stay on 112 rather than going right and back to SR-113 and US 101. (The turn is about 6 miles beyond Clallam Bay.) The drive is winding, beautiful and another great candidate for a street bike excursion. Enjoy a picnic along the drive with a break at Pillar Point County Park or stop in the nearby town of Joyce for a step back in time at the Joyce General Store & Depot Museum. Over 100 years old, the charming store and museum features displays from the bygone Port Crescent days as well as offering food and sundries.
Check out these additional enjoyable distractions on the drive back to Port Angeles:
- Joyce Days Wild Blackberry Festival – A local festival celebrating the town of Joyce and wild blackberries on the 1st Saturday of August. Local music and crafts and a lot of blackberry goods.
- Blackberry Café – Open during the summer months (June – Sept), stop in for delicious pie and burgers.
- Salt Creek Recreation Area – Check out the rocky tide pools and enjoy the sandy beaches, hiking trails and camping opportunities. The area also features remnants of the WWII era Camp Hayden – bring your flashlight!
Continuing east on SR-112 will eventually bring you back down to US 101 and into Port Angeles. It is completely possible to take in Clallam County on a very long, summer day trip, but I’d recommend taking a good few days to savor the area. (Or many more!) With miles and miles of unspoiled land, water and coastline stretching out across the county, the beauty is immeasurable and the opportunities for adventure are limitless.
It is rare these days to find areas untouched by modern endeavors, but Clallam County seems to corner the market. Take in the charm of its cities, but make sure to explore its back roads, towering mountains and sweeping shorelines. There is nothing like Clallam County. It never fails to rejuvenate, add perspective to these hectic and cluttered times and provide me with a much needed sense of calm. I hope you’ll find Clallam County as amazingly beautiful and revitalizing as I do.
For a few road trip tune suggestions, check out my Clallam County playlist on Spotify:
- You’re A Wolf – Sea Wolf (from Leaves in the River)
- Satellite Heart – Anya Marina (from The Twilight Saga: New Moon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- Vengeance Is Sleeping – Neko Case (from Middle Cyclone)
- Mixtape – Tift Merritt (from See You on the Moon)
- Spotlight – Mutemath (from Spotlight EP)
- The Long Way Home – Norah Jones (from Feels Like Home)
- Shooting the Moon – OK Go (from Of the Blue Colour of the Sky – Extra Nice Edition)
- Oh My My – Jill Barber (from Chances)
- Tilted – Christine & the Queens (from Christine & the Queens)
- Lay Your Head Down – Keren Ann (from Keren Ann)
- Goddamn Lonely Love – Drive-By Truckers (from The Dirty South)
- Harvest Moon – Jeff Peterson (from Maui on My Mind)
- Love Throw A Line – Patty Griffin (from Impossible Dream)
- Rainbow Connection – The Muppets (from The Muppets – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- I Can See Clearly Now – Holly Cole Trio (from The Best of Holly Cole)
For other delicious possibilities, check out these additional I Ate the State Adventures:
- Island County
- Wahkiakum County
- Whatcom County
- Special Edition – Victoria B.C.
- Thurston County
- Special Edition – Puerto Vallarta: THE RETURN
- Skagit County
- Snohomish County – Part I (The Mountain Side)
- Snohomish County – Part II (The Sea Side)
- Grays Harbor County
- Special Edition – Scotland – Part I (w/special guests – London & Reykjavik!)
- Special Edition – Scotland – Part II (w/special guests – London & Reykjavik!)
- Kitsap County
- Jefferson County
- Mason County
- Kittitas County
- Yakima County
- Chelan County
- Special Edition – Puerto Vallarta
- Special Edition – Ode to A Bygone Seattle