Washington State: Things to do on the West Coast
There are many exciting things to do and see in the state of Washington, but none as appealing to me as being immersed in the natural beauty and serenity that is to be found on the western coast. If you are planning a trip to Washington the following are a few of the not-to-be-missed opportunities awaiting you.
One of the few temperate rainforests in the United States, the Hoh once stretched from the southeastern corner of Alaska into central California. The rainforest is located on the Olympic Peninsula within the Olympic National Park less than one hour from Forks, the very small town popularized in the Twilight books. Easy hiking trails to help visitors navigate the forest and range from .8 miles to 17.3 miles in length, assuring there is a distance for every fitness level. Pick up a map at the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center and plan the route that's best suited to your endurance level. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the stunning natural beauty including the vast array of native wildlife, including the northern spotted owl, cougar, bobcat, black bear, Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer. Information is also available at the visitor center for those concerned about avoiding confrontation with cougars and black bears. Though these sitings are uncommon and typically non-confrontational, it is best to be prepared.
During the early fall, salmon swim against the current in droves, in an attempt to return to where they were born in order to spawn. The struggle against the current and up waterfalls is valiant, and few salmon make it. Besides the sheer exhaustion involved, salmon are often battered against rocks. Those that survive these elements are likely to be picked off by grizzlies waiting at the falls. It’s quite a sight to see. The saddest part is that virtually all of the Pacific salmon that are successful at spawning will die. There are many falls in the state of Washington to visit. One of the best spots for viewing is the Salmon Cascades located on the Sol Duc River.
Sol Duc Falls and Hot Springs
Legend has it that no Indian has ever died at the hot springs. Legend has it that the springs were formed during the duel of two dragons. The dragons battled one another valiantly, but neither emerged victorious. As a result both cried tears of shame and these tears formed the hot springs. The falls are located deep within the forest under the canopy of trees. As a result, they do not get much sunlight, yet hikers find great relief from the summer heat when sprayed by mists of the cool falls. Temperatures, light levels and moisture combine to create stunning, lush greenery making hikers feel as if they have wandered into a painting.
A deafening roar created by the falls can be heard before the falls are even visible, betraying the falls' strength and awesome power.
Visitors can step out onto a bridge spanning the falls, feel the cool spray and marvel at the wonders of nature.
First, Second and Third Beaches
If you love the coast, you’ll be amazed by First, Second and Third Beaches along Washington’s famed coastline. Pick up driftwood at First Beach, marvel at the sea stacks jutting from the surf off Second Beach, or do both while also snapping photos and exploring the tiny marine life in the tide pools of Third Beach. The scenery on these beaches is unparalleled. When the sun sets over the sea stacks, it is nothing short of magical. The sea stacks were created over millions of years by crashing waves that have carved out crevices and holes that give these beaches their incredible character.
Hurricane Ridge is located in the northern part of the Olympic National Park. Hiking trails wind throughout the park, making it possible for hikers to come across countless species of native wildlife including black tail deer, black bear, cougars, and more. You will be awestruck by the snowcapped mountain ridges of the fall and winter and the lavender fields of spring. Visitors can enjoy hiking, camping and picnicking. Be sure to stop at the visitor’s center to pick up trail maps, brochures and snacks. There are also tips available that are useful for preparing and responding to wildlife encounters. I felt much more prepared and at ease having these when I hiked because I was terrified of a bear or cougar encounter. I didn’t need the information, but was comforted it that it was available. Hurricane Ridge is only 17 miles north of the city of Port Angeles, so you can plan to get a motel if you are not a camper. You’ll also have a quiet place to grab a hot meal after a day of hiking in the refreshing outdoors.
Port Angeles Ferry to Victoria B.C.
If you’re looking for a great day trip, try hopping a ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, British Columbia. There are plenty of hotels if you’re looking to spend the night, but it’s the array of whale watching excursions that make the trip worth taking. Whether you’re zipping out to sea on an inflated Zodiac or something a bit slower, you’ll be thrilled by the orcas. They are pretty reliable and put on a good show by swimming up close to the boats, spyhopping and generally showing off. If you’re lucky, you might even get to touch one! As you’re heading to and from your orca viewing destination, you may also catch a glimpse of dolphins, sea lions, porpoises and other marine life. Few people in life ever have this remarkable opportunity, so if you can manage it, don’t let it pass you by. As a side note, I prefer the excursion by Zodiac because it is a lot faster which eliminated the incidents of seasickness for me. It was also quite the adventure! Rental companies provide coveralls for tourists so protect from the salty sea water spray. Be sure that you have protective cover for your cameras.
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