Pacific Northwest: Olympic National Park

What a park. From coastal bluffs to glacier peaks, this park is rich with diversity in all dimensions. Olympic National Park ecology is comprised of mountains, lakes, lowland forests, rivers, coast, and temperate rain forest. Mountain flora and fauna include glacier lilies, lupine, bistorts, tiger lilies, subalpine firs, and black tailed deer. At the coast, the tide pools are rich with sea anemones, sea urchins, sea stars, and limpits. The temperate rain forest receives more than 12 feet of rain a year, creating an environment for giant western hemlock, Douglas-fir, Sitka spruces, bigleaf maples, and a variety of mosses to thrive. Roosevelt elk and beers can also be found in the rain forest.

We started at the coast, camping at Kalaloch. We saw sand dollars and ctenophores on the beach. The salmon were running at the Salmon Cascades in the Sol Duc River to spawn (late September); they can also be seen in the Hoh River, but not until November/December. We hiked the Spruce Nature (1.2 miles – Alex walked the whole thing!) and the Hall of Mosses (0.8 miles) trails in the Hoh Rain Forest. The Spruce Nature trail had very little elevation change and was relative smooth. The Hall of Mosses had more of an elevation change, but after the initial climb, was relatively flat. There is even a trail to Blue Glacier (15 miles one-way); check out the elevation profile of this trail at the visitors center. We did not attempt the Blue Glacier trail. We saw Hurricane Ridge on a clear day, and it was gorgeous. Hurricane Ridge also serves a a squeegee for the moisture in the air. The west (windward) side has forests and is lush, while the east (leeward) side is arid and has few trees.

We could have easily spent two weeks here, hiking and exploring the area. The park has astronomy programs at Hurricane Ridge.

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