Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wintering in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park in the northwestern corner of Washington might not appear on too many winter vacation agendas, but it’s the season when the park shows its more dramatic side. Sure,
Ruby Beach
you’ll run into wet weather, but the payoff in solitude and tranquility is worth it. There’s snow in the mountains, wild waves along the beaches, and the rainforests are never greener.

Most of the winter sporting activity is centered at Hurricane Ridge with skiing, cross-country, snowshoeing, and sledding. The road is open on weekends only (weather permitting) and all cars are required to carry chains. On the other hand, the lower altitudes in the park including the rainforests and beaches, receive only occasional snow but plenty of the damp stuff.  The wet season brings out the green lushness of the mosses and lichens making a hike through the Hoh or Quinault rainforests a drippy, but beautiful experience.  Pacific Ocean storms blow through frequently delivering spectacular waves for storm-watching and beachcombing along the coast.

Lake Crescent Lodge
One of the major highlights of a winter visit to the park is enjoying the indoor comforts of the lodges. While booked full in the busy summer months, reservations are much easier to obtain and the prices are reduced during the winter season. Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is closed during the winter, but Lake Crescent Lodge is open until December 31, and Lake Quinault and Kalaloch Lodges are open year round.

Lake Crescent Lodge dates back to 1916, and enjoys an idyllic setting on the shores of a glacier-carved lake ringed with forests and mountains, about 18 miles west of Port Angeles. The Main Lodge features a lobby with a stone fireplace, a cozy sunroom, a wood-paneled dining room overlooking the lake, and rooms on the second floor with great views, but shared bathrooms.  The property offers a variety of other accommodations to choose from including the historic Singer Tavern Cottages and the Roosevelt Cabins as well as more modern motel-like rooms.
Sunroom, Lake Crescent Lodge
The Roosevelt Cabins are especially popular with guests because of their lakeside setting and fireplaces. While the rest of the lodge closes at the end of the year, these cabins remain open on weekends-only throughout the winter season. 
Kayaks awaiting summer guests at Lake Crescent

Further south and just outside the park boundary is another rustic, lakeside inn, Lake Quinault Lodge. Built in 1926 by the same architect who designed Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone, it has an expansive front lawn leading down to the lake and a warm and inviting lobby with a large brick fireplace.  In addition to rooms in the main lodge, there is a more modern building with an additional 36 rooms as well as an indoor pool and sauna.
Lake Quinault Lodge
The lodge’s dining room is named after Franklin Roosevelt who lunched here in 1937. He must have enjoyed the meal and view as he signed the bill creating Olympic National Park only a few months later. Winter specials offer room rates equivalent in price to the average Motel 6.
Lobby, Lake Quinault Lodge

Driftwood brought in during storms
The Pacific Ocean coast can be an exciting place in the winter when storms bring in blustery winds and crashing waves.  There’s no better place to enjoy the action than the Kalaloch Lodge, perched on a bluff on the west side of the park.  There are rooms in the wooden, rustic main lodge as well as cabins with fully stocked kitchenettes. The dining room, also open year round, serves up Northwest cuisine accompanied by a sweeping ocean view. With easy access to beaches, a winter visit means great beachcombing and storm-watching. To accommodate guests, the lodge offers a special Brave the Storm package that includes ponchos, hand warmers, hot chocolate, and peppermint  schnapps.

To learn more about rates and seasonal packages, or make reservations at Lake Crescent and Quinault Lodges, check out  The Kalaloch Lodge website is  It should be noted that these park lodges are not suitable for guests addicted to wifi, cell phones, and big screen tv. Instead, the simple pleasures of sitting in front of a roaring fire, curling up with a good book, or working a jigsaw puzzle prevail. When visiting the park during the winter months, it’s always prudent to check weather and road conditions in advance.


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