I admit it – I am an addict of hidden waterfalls, off-the-beaten path hikes, and soaring sentinels of trees of the pine and Douglas fir variety. Olympic National Park has always been on my radar for the abundance of waterfalls alone. When you live so very far away from home, photos of lush waterfalls pouring into mossy grottos at the end of hikes through old-growth forests are as necessary as my morning coffee.
Which is how I found myself hiking through a light spitting of rain in a temperate rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula.
Most of the waterfalls here require that you earn them, often on unmarked, counter-intuitive trails tread by locals and savvy outsiders following serendipity – or a local grocery clerk’s sage advice. Murhut and Rocky Brook Falls fit this description, requiring anxious minutes of doubt as you drive deep into the dark of the forest, hoping you are going the right way. Our faith was rewarded generously with two very different falls, both majestic and powerful, but one a roaring, twisting tail of water, the other a shimmering curtain of hair over the sheer rock.
Sol Duc Falls, on the other hand, is well in the clutches of the established Olympic tourist circuit. Driving up towards the expensive hot springs and past the rainbow of tents in the trailhead campground, the waterfall trail is short, well-trod, and crowded. I didn’t care, however, as the falls is my personal favorite and celebrated for a reason. It’s a rip-roaring, angry, foaming forest spirit that has gouged the rock into a triple cascade, then gnashed its way into a deep crevasse below. Time your hike for just before dusk and you’ll mostly share the falls with the serious photographers, the majority of day-trippers already back at their camps and lodges for dinner. I leaned over the bridge, mesmerized, by the power and grace of the water.
For our first three nights we based ourselves in Sequim, on the east side of the bay at a little out-of-the-way place called Sunset Marine Resort. A handful of cabins line the shore and bluff nestled into a forest. Our cabin, the Skippers’ Quarters, felt like our own private tree house, where we sat on the porch at sunset to watch the blazing embers die over the mountains and I sipped my coffee in the stillness of dawn as a crane slowly danced the length of the rocky beach below.
Photos of this portion of Olympic National Park, as well as our hike to Dungeness Lighthouse, have been posted. To view the photo slideshow, click on the link below.