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Category: Hiking (Page 1 of 5)

Olympic National Park: The Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest

The Hoh Rainforest may be the most iconic ecosystem in Olympic National Park. The otherworldly green landscape has been named a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The forest is made up mostly of Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock trees which can grow over 300 feet tall and six feet in diameter. I haven’t seen California’s giant sequoias or redwoods yet, so the trees in the Pacific Northwest were very impressive to me.

Spruce Nature TrailThe term rainforest is very fitting here as this area of the park gets an average of 140 inches of rain each year. The almost constant mist in the rainforest accounts for another 30 inches of rain that allows the moss to thrive in clumps hanging off the giant trees.

There are three trails to explore in the Hoh Rainforest area: the popular .8-mile Hall of Mosses Trail, the 1.2-mile-long Spruce Nature Trail, and the 18.5-mile Hoh River Trail. We decided to start with the Spruce Nature Trail and we barely saw other people on this trail. Next, we did the Hall of Mosses Trail which was undoubtedly the more impressively scenic trail, but there were also a lot more people. Altogether, the two trails were only two miles of hiking for the day and I am glad we did both of them.

If you are planning on visiting the Hoh Rainforest, definitely make sure to bring waterproof hiking boots and a good rain jacket. I bought my boots for Alaska, but I really needed the waterproofing for exploring Olympic! You can see the puddles on the trail in the picture on the left.

Thanks for stopping by! Next week I will share about our time exploring Olympic Peninsula outside of the National Park. To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Hiking Hurricane Ridge: Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is the most easily accessible mountain region in Olympic National Park. It is an easy drive from Port Angeles to get to Hurricane Ridge. We looked at the weather when deciding to visit Hurricane Ridge as we wanted good views of the mountains, but as we discovered in Washington, the weather in one place does not have an impact on another area not that far away. It was sunny when we left Port Angeles but there were moments on Hurricane Ridge road that we could barely see in front of the car. The drive was a little nerve-wracking but luckily it cleared up when we got to the visitor center.

When researching Olympic National Park, we really wanted to do the trail to Hurricane Hill. The paved three-mile out-and-back trail has 700 foot elevation gain and is not for the faint of heart. Unfortunately, we were not able to make it all the way to the top because the last bit of the trail was still snow-covered. We were not prepared for snow hiking. If we had ice cleats and hiking poles we could’ve made it to the top, but regular hiking boots were not substantial enough. Just like at Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier, this Michigander did not expect to find snow on the ground in Washington in mid-June, but I have to remember that it is much colder in the mountains!

Deer in the woods

On our way back down, we had an animal encounter. Luckily, it was only a deer, but it got surprisingly close to us! This area is home to mountain goats and the trail is actually closed at the end of August for mountain goat management.

If you want to explore the mountains of Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge is the most convenient mountain section. If you want to ascent Hurricane Hill before the end of June, make sure you bring snow gear!

Thanks for stopping by! Next week I will be finishing my Olympic National Park recap, sharing about our experience in the Hoh Rainforest. To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Driftwood

Log Across Ellen Creek

Hiking Olympic National Park: Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach at Low Tide

After leaving the Lake Crescent Area, we headed to the coast, specifically Rialto Beach. There are many beaches in Olympic National Park so it was hard to choose one to visit. Ruby Beach, one of the most popular beaches on the Olympic Peninsula was closed when we visited due to road construction, so we chose to visit Rialto Beach and do the Hole-in-the-Wall Hike.

When deciding what days to do what in Olympic National Park, we looked at the tide chart. The hike to Hole-in-the-Wall can only be accessed during low tide so we had to plan our visit accordingly. There is a forest service trail that would allow you to see the Hole-in-the-Wall formation during high tide, but you wouldn’t be able to get as close or see the life in the tide pools.

When we got to the beach, it was drizzling a little and it was overcast with a little fog. There were strange rock formations jutting out from the water. It was unlike anything I had ever seen anywhere else. We drove through the town of Forks, Washington to get to the beach and I totally understood why Stephanie Meyer set the Twilight books in this area. It looks like a place where strange sparkly vampires would live!

Tides at Rialto Beach

The trail is a 3.3-mile long out-and-back trail and most of the hike is just an easy walk on the beach, but there are some tricky sections.  The scariest part for me (and most of the other women hikers we saw) was the part where you had to cross Ellen’s Creek small stream that dumps into the ocean. The only way to cross it was by walking over a log. One woman told me, I’m sure as an attempt to reassure me, “I’ve been standing here over an hour and I haven’t seen anyone fall in yet.” Luckily, I didn’t ruin her streak, but I did take the chicken’s way out on the way back and scoot across on my butt. Apparently, when the creek is less full, people wade through it instead of the scrambling we had to do.

Starfish at Hole in the WallFrom there it wasn’t much further to the rock and the feature known as Hole-in-the-Wall. It is known as Hole-in-the-Wall because over time, the tide eroded the center of the rock and created a hole big enough to walk through. The walk on the rocks was slippery and I was very worried I was going to fall, but seeing all the life in the tide pools was absolutely worth it! We had never explored tide pools before so it was really cool to see!  I had no idea starfish came in so many colors! It was crazy because you could be looking at a part of the rock for a while and just keep seeing more.

If you are looking for a beach to visit in Olympic National Park, I highly recommend Rialto Beach and the hike to Hole-in-the-Wall. If you are planning to do this hike, waterproof hiking boots with good traction are a must. Walking on the beach, our feet got a little wet, but scrambling over wet rocks would’ve been near impossible without our hiking boots.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I share about our time exploring Hurricane Ridge! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Mossy Bench

Moments in Time Trail

Olympic National Park: Exploring Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent  The Lake Crescent Section of Olympic National Park is only 18 miles from Port Crescent so it was closest part of the park to where we were staying. So, of course it was our first stop on our exploration of the park.  One of the things on my must-do list for Olympic was the rent a kayak and paddle Lake Crescent. Unfortunately, the weather never cooperated. Each time we stopped by the lake, it was windy and the waves resembled those we saw at the ocean (below). As I always say, I guess I have a reason to return to Olympic National Park, right?

Waves at Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent is home to the beautiful Lake Crescent Lodge. The Lodge was built in 1915 in an arts and crafts, bungalow design. There is a restaurant in the lodge and I wished we had made reservations. It looked like a beautiful place to have a meal! Although built around the same time period, it is vastly different from Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn. Built from local timber, the Lake Crescent Lodge feels much homier and welcoming. Original guests at the lodge arrived by ferry from across the lake as the Olympic Highway that goes right by the lodge didn’t open until 1922.

Moments in Time Trail

From Crescent Lake, we hiked the half-mile Moments in Time Trail. The trail is a very easy hike through a Washington forest. The lichen hanging off the trees gave the area a real rainforest feel.

I really enjoyed our time in the Lake Crescent Area. I just wish the weather had cooperated and we could’ve gotten out on the water. If I return to Olympic, I would like to stay at the Lake Crescent Lodge! After our time exploring the Lake Crescent Area we got back in the car and headed for the coast and Rialto Beach. Be sure to check back next week to read all about it!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: La Coca Falls

La Coca Falls

Wordless Wednesday: El Yunque

El Yunque Mountains

Hiking El Yunque National Forest

El Yunque Vista

El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system. El Yunque is located near Rio Grande and is a 35-minute drive from the San Juan area. El Yunque is one of the most popular attractions on the island. Just like many of the national parks we visited last summer, a $2 reservation is required to drive into the National Forest. Reservations can be made up to a month in advance at Recreation.gov.

Posing at La Coca Falls

Once you get into the national forest, there are several places to get out and explore. The first is La Coca Falls (left), which is a large waterfall right at the side of the road. With an 85 foot drop, La Coca Falls is a great introduction to the rainforest and a wonderful photo opportunity.

The next stop is Yokahu tower (right). Built in the 1960s, Yokahu tower offers a 360-degree view of the rainforest and the coastline. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Virgin Islands. The forest service offers a concession stand in the tower and if you have a National Park passport, they have a stamp here.

Yokahu TowerWhen planning this trip, the La Mina Falls trail looked like one of the best, easier hikes in El Yunque, but unfortunately, it has not reopened after hurricane Maria. So, we decided to hike the Mt. Britton trail. When we visited, the road through the forest was closed at the picnic area, so that added an extra mile to this hike. According to the forest service’s Facebook page, the road should be closed farther down than it actually was when we visited. The roads through the forest are steep and winding and hiking on the road felt more difficult than the trail itself. If you are planning to hike the El Yunque or Mt. Britton trails, just be aware that the road closure adds additional mileage.

Mt. Britton TowerOnce on the trail, it was a beautiful trek through lush, tropical greenery. The trail is a 1.3 mile hike (0.8 miles each way) with 650 foot elevation gain. The forest service says this hike takes 45 minutes each way, but we went down much quicker than that! This is a steep hike so it can be tough on the knees. Make sure you have shoes with good traction as rain is frequent in the rainforest. The Mt. Britton tower (left) at the end of the trail, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s and offers beautiful views of Puerto Rico, The Caribbean, and the Atlantic. The view from the top (top) makes the climb worth it!

Mt. Britton Tower from Below

We climbed all the way to that tower!

If you are staying in Puerto Rico for any length of time, you definitely have to check out El Yunque! With the current road construction, the forest service is limiting reservations even more. If you are unable to get a reservation, there are many tour companies that take visitors to El Yunque.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower

Devils Tower National Monument is located in the northeastern corner of Wyoming, only about an hour and a half away from Rapid City, South Dakota. Signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt on September 25, 1906, Devils Tower was the first National Monument in the world. The monument is a popular place for rock climbers as well as hikers and others who just want to see this unique geological feature for themselves.

When planning this trip, I originally wanted to visit Devils Tower on the way from Custer to Yellowstone, which would’ve had us arrive mid-morning on a Saturday. Then, I learned that the parking lot fills up early, especially on weekends, and it is not uncommon to have to wait a while for a spot. Since we had quite a bit of ground to cover that day, I decided it would make more sense to make it a day trip from the Black Hills, and that way we could also see Spearfish Canyon on the way back.

We left Custer after Chris got off work and arrived at Devils Tower around 5 pm. There were only a handful of people around and we had no trouble parking. The visitor center closes at 6 but I was happy to see that the passport stamp is outside so that if you arrived when the visitor center was closed, you would still be able to get a stamp. Because we wanted to see Spearfish Canyon before sunset, we didn’t have much time to explore the monument, but we did get to walk a little bit of the Tower Trail.

Roughlock FallsSince this was our last day in the Black Hills, I may have tried to cram too much in, especially with the three-hour round trip drive to Devils Tower. But, we did enjoy the GyPSy tour of the Northern Black Hills and the drive through Spearfish Canyon. The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a beautiful drive that follows a river that has cut through these high rock walls. Spearfish Canyon is an absolutely beautiful area that just blew me away! There are several places along the way to stop and enjoy the beauty of the canyon. We got out and stretched our legs at Roughlock Falls (left). Several scenes from Dances with Wolves were filmed in this area and maybe recognizable to fans of the film. We had planned to checkout Deadwood this day, but the road was closed for a parade or something so we just kept driving. I guess we will just have to come back with more time to explore the Black Hills!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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