Cape Disappointment

Hike through history as you traverse one of the best parts of Washington’s coastline. Cape Disappointment got its name when one of the first European captains to sail along the coast failed to navigate through the sandbars at the mouth of the Columbia River. Make no mistake though, Cape Disappointment is no disappointment!

Location: Southwest Washington
Rating: ★★★★★

There are a number of gorgeous attractions located inside Cape Disappointment State Park. You might choose to visit the North Head Lighthouse, which is featured in the video above, or you could head over to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center (pictured below). There is a small fee for entrance, but the exhibit is worth seeing (and if you’re lucky you can do some whale watching from their ocean view window!).

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There are also a number of hikes in the area. You might want to try section hiking a portion of the Discovery Trail or marching up to Mckenzie Head. If hiking isn’t really your thing you could opt for water activities as well. There’s boating opportunities as well as fishing, clamming, and crabbing!

Either way, it’s nice to relax at a beautiful campsite after a long day of exploration. In fact, there are two campgrounds located within the park! The Cape Disappointment Campground also has a few small cabins for rent.

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If you’re really up for an adventure you could rent out a portion of the lighthouse keeper’s residence! It’s located near the North Head Lighthouse and is packed with history. This home might be a century old, but it still comes with a TV and DVD player!

It rents for $200-300 per night in winter and up to $440 in summer. If you would like to see pictures of the inside of the residence you can follow the link in the resources section of this article.

F.Q.A.

Are There Toilets? : Yes! There are many restrooms located throughout the park

 How about Picnic Tables? : There are a few located in the day use area just beyond the ranger station.

 Do I Need a Parking Pass? : Yes. You can purchase a day pass for $10 or use a Discover Pass.

 Are Dogs Allowed? : Yes

Can We Camp Here? : Yes! There are a few campgrounds located here.

 When is the Best Time to Visit? : If the weather permits, head on down! It can be rainy in late fall and winter, but if there’s a break in the weather you should certainly take advantage of it.

Extra Resources:

Cape Disappointment Map – PDF

WA State Parks – Cape Disappointment

Weather Forecast

Vacation Rental: Lighthouse Keeper’s Residence

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Hurricane Hill

Location: Olympic National Park, Port Angeles
Roundtrip: 3.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Gain: 650 ft.
Rating: ★★★★★

Map

The Hurricane Ridge area played a huge role in inspiring this website. There are a great number of easy to moderate trails with expansive views of some of the most beautiful mountains in Washington state. Hurricane Hill is no exception. If you have the stamina it’s a must see when visiting the ridge.

There are three parking areas on the access road between the Hurricane Ridge Ranger Station and the trailhead. Two of which are specifically designated as picnic areas (as well as overflow parking).

Don’t let the signs that say “Not recommended for RVs or Buses” scare you off (unless, of course, you actually have an RV or bus). The access road is paved the entire way and passable by any passenger car or truck.

A great many people enjoy this trail, and a great number of them don’t expect quite the climb it actually ends up being. If you’re in great shape it won’t pose a problem, but if you’re more like us you may have to take it a bit slow. No worries though, you can absolutely make it!

This trail is an out-and-back style. If you’re super adventurous and have the stamina you can certainly add on the Little River or Elwha Ranger Station trails. They are much more strenuous though, so make sure to do a little research before planning on that!

F.Q.A.

Are There Toilets? : Yes! There are flush toilets available at all of the parking areas.

 How about Picnic Tables? : Oh yes, there are two picnic areas that also serve as overflow parking for the trail.

 Do I Need a Parking Pass? : You will need to buy a pass at the entrance station if you do not already have a national park pass.

 Are Dogs Allowed? : No. This land is part of a national park and, therefore, pets are not allowed.

Can We Camp Here? : Heart o’ the hills is a wonderful campground that’s located just past the entrance station and to the left.

 When is the Best Time to Visit? : Anytime! Hurricane Ridge is open year-around (weekends only during winter).

If you’re thinking of heading up in the winter you’ll need snowshoes and tire chains. You should also take a look at the current road conditions through the Hurricane Ridge Twitter feed via this link!

Donations

Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!

$1.00

First Aid Certification!

The Northwest Quest has spent the last few weekends indoors- and it was well worth it!

We’re happy to announce that, after hours of lecture, study, and testing, we’ve been certified to provide wilderness and mountaineering oriented first aid!

This training program was facilitated by the Olympia branch of the Mountaineers.

As a community, the Mountaineers consists of over 13,000 outdoor enthusiasts here in the Pacific Northwest. It is a volunteer-driven non-profit organization that is dedicated to many of the same principles as the Northwest Quest.

We’re proud to be a part of this community and invite you to learn more by visiting their website with this link!

Donations

Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!

$1.00

Deer Park Campground

Getting to Deer Park might be a touch intimidating if you don’t often find yourself driving up mountains on narrow dirt roads. That being said, the road is well maintained and the view is well worth the 20-mile drive from the highway (9 of which are on the dirt road).

Rating: ★★★★ (.5)
Price:  $17 per night
Online Reservations:  No
Max Length:  Not Recommended for Trailers
Hookups: None
Restrooms:  Vault Toilets
Potable Water: None

A higher clearance vehicle is recommended for this road, and this is not a campground for RVs or even most trailers. Don’t fret too much though; our Subaru made it with no trouble at all. You can see a short clip in the above video of an example of the road within the campground, but this was the worst section of the entire drive up. The main road in, despite being dirt, is quite flat easy, riding.

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The views from the campground are spectacular both day and night (if it’s not too cloudy). The campsites themselves range from very private to more open with wide views of the sky. Don’t expect too many neighbors though- this is a small campground of only 14 sites after all.

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“Pets and bicycles are not permitted on the trails. Open fires outside of campground fire pits are not permitted above 3,500 feet. Backpackers must obtain a wilderness camping permit.”                                                                         

                                                                                                      – Olympic National Park

Keep in mind that there is no potable water here; make sure you have enough before heading up! At night ensure your food is in an animal safe container (such as your car, a bear canister, or the lockers provided by the park).

There is a Ranger Station nearby, but it is only occasionally occupied and only during warmer months (the road is closed in winter).

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Take a look at the map below for hiking ideas (if you have the stamina, Obstruction Point shouldn’t be missed!), and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask!

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Donations

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Staircase Rapids

Location: Olympic NP, Hoodsport
Roundtrip: 4 Miles (2 mi. w/o Four Streams)
Difficulty: Easy
Gain: 150 Ft.
Rating: ★★★★★map.png

The Staircase Rapids trail is a classic and it’s something you shouldn’t miss if you’re camping in the Staircase Campground.

You’ll begin by crossing over the bridge that’s visible from the parking area. There are a few benches here where you can stop and enjoy the sound of rushing water from the North Fork of Skokomish River just below.

Also, make sure you take a moment to carefully look over and into the waters; sometimes the river shines in brilliant blue hues.

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You’ll continue past the trailhead a short way before coming to a small sign with an arrow. The sign simply says, “Big Ceder.” This is a short detour and worth the effort. The base of the tree, which is now resting on its side, has a 14-foot diameter!

If you so choose to take the short spur trail to the Big Ceder you can make your way right back to the main trail whenever you’re ready.

For the most part, the main trail is easy and only has a few spots where you’ll have to navigate a few rocks as the trail meanders through the old growth forest.

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You’ll find the sign pictured above after about a mile on the main loop. From here you can either decide to travel down to (and back from) Four Streams by taking the trail to the left, or you may decide to continue right on to the bridge that crosses over the rapids by bearing right.

Either way, you’ll end up making your way across the bridge. After taking in the views you’ll find that the trail coming off the bridge is a touch tricky due to some social trails that have been cut down to the river. Just keep to the left and follow the trail back into the forest opposite the way you came.

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Not long after crossing the bridge you’ll come to another small wooden sign pointing towards the ranger station by the campground. You’ll follow the arrow to the right and hike a quick mile back to finish the loop.

The trail ends in the overnight parking behind the ranger station; if you parked in the day use area or campground you’ll continue on just a bit more before you actually reach your vehicle.

 

F.Q.A.

Are There Toilets? : There is a vault toilet located at the trail head.

 How about Picnic Tables? : There are a few tables hidden on the trail to the amphitheater, but I wouldn’t count on eating lunch there.

 Do I Need a Parking Pass? : Yes. Either display your National Parks Pass or pay the entrance fee.

 Are Dogs Allowed? : No. This trail is located completely within the National Park.

Can We Camp Here? : Yes! Staircase Campground is located right by the trailhead. This campground does not have reservable sites.

 When is the Best Time to Visit? : This area is open all year!

Donations

Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!

$1.00

Staircase Campground

Staircase Campground is, undoubtedly, one of our all-time favorites. The campground itself is tucked among an old growth forest alongside the North Fork of the Skokomish River, and, at just over an hour from Olympia, it’s well worth the drive.

Rating: ★★★★★
Price: $20 per night
Extra Parking: NP Pass may be used
Online Reservations:  No
Max Length:  21 ft., a few for 35 ft.
Hookups: None
Restrooms:  Flush toilets, *primitive in winter 
Potable Water: Yes, *primitive in winter 

*Pit toilets and no water in the off-season*

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After departing from Highway 101 in Hoodsport it’ll be a 16-mile drive to the trailhead. A section of this drive (about 9 miles) will be on a dirt road. While there are a number of potholes on this road it is passable by almost all vehicles and campers. Go slow and enjoy the view of Lake Cushman along the way!

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Just before you enter the Olympic National Park the asphalt will begin again. Not far from here you’ll pass through an entrance station for Olympic National Park. Keep in mind that you will still be responsible for the fee even if there are no rangers present (you can also use a NP Pass).

There is a Ranger Station just beyond the fee station. This station may not be manned in winter, but is typically a popular stop in the warmer months. You can either park here, by the ranger station, in an overnight parking lot to the right, or within the campground to the left.

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The sites within the campground are quite private, and a number of sites have an amazing view of the river. In summer the trees keep the area cool while in autumn the fall foliage will make you want to grab a cup of hot cider and snuggle up by the fire- both are great!

Even in the most popular months, the bathrooms are not lit at night (don’t forget to grab a flashlight!), but they are well maintained and clean. In winter the bathrooms are closed and you’ll be required to walk over to the entrance of the campground to use a vault toilet located there.

Likewise, there is potable water available in the warmer months but the flow is stopped in the winter; you’ll need to pack in water during this time. Once decided, the date of shut off will be announced here each year, it was October 9th this year.

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This campground is well suited to both children and avid hikers alike. In summer you can take the entire family down to enjoy a ranger-led presentation in the amphitheater. If you’re well conditioned, head up to Wagon Wheel Lake (it has a 3,000 ft. gain!) or, if you’re looking for an easier hike, head to the Staircase Rapids trail!

Donations

Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!

$1.00

Olympic Trip Pt. 5

Olympic Trip Pt. 4

Olympic Trip Pt. 3

Olympic Trip Pt. 2

Olympic Trip Pt. 1