Washington State - Part 3 : Olympic National Park, Lake Quinault, & The Temperate Rain Forests


After Matt and I left the incredible Mount Rainier National Park (click here to read), we headed a few hours west to Olympic National Park to camp at Lake Quinault and explore the temperate rain forests.

The Pacific North West has a very unique climate! The Olympic Rain forest is part of a global network of temperate rain forests around the world which means that these conditions are so rare that they don't just occur anywhere. It takes the right environmental recipe to create the array of beauty you find in Olympic National Park.

When moisture filled clouds move inland over Washington, they release more than 12 feet of rain annually on the Eastern slopes of the Olympic Mountains. As elevation increases, even more moisture is released.

In order to have an ecosystem be a rain forest it must be located close to an ocean and to mountains, and have those two things result in a lot of moisture in the form of rain, snow, rivers, streams, fog, and mist.

Washington's Olympic Penninsula has a 'temperate' rain forest (the largest in the world!) as opposed to a 'tropical' rain forest due to its mild seasonal climate. Temps usually stay between 69-80 degrees all year long except in Winters where it can get down to 30 degrees at night. So it has a large range in temperatures as opposed to a hotter tropical climate which stays about the same temperature all year long. Thus, temperate rain forests also have fewer species of plants and animals than do tropical rain forests.

We camped in the Camper Van at Lake Quinalt. The campground at Lake Quinalt was amazing. So beautiful. We parked right up to the lake and had gorgeous views. We loved taking an evening stroll down to the rocky beach at night to star gaze. The lake was so incredibly peaceful and still.

Matt and I saw several otters out at early dawn taking a morning swim and eating fish for breakfast (see photo below). It was really cool.

The entire area was moist and wet. Rain misting just about the entire time. You definitely want to bring a heavy duty raincoat with you if you ever visit the Pacific North West. It's a very rainy and cool environment. I wore mine just about the entire time.

Nurse logs (top right) are everywhere! Because of the densely covered ground, many seedlings instead germinate on fallen, decaying trees. As they grow, their roots reach to the ground. When the log eventually rots away, a colonnade, or row of trees on stilt-like roots, remains.

Beautiful views all around Olympic National Park. I love the triple mountain ranges here. This pretty river with crystal blue water wrapped all around the park for miles. We had our eyes absolutely peeled for wildlife in these corners but saw nothing. Just some loons.

The weather stayed like this the entire time: dark, blue gray, cloudy, slightly foggy, and drizzling. I loved it. This is pretty much how it is all year long here.

This is the giant Quinault Sitka Spruce. It's the world’s largest Spruce with a circumference of 58 feet, 11 inches, a diameter of 18 feet, 9 inches and is an epic 191 feet tall! This was a very easy and pictureesque nature walk from the main road at Lake Quinault.


When Matt and I weren't in photography mode, which wasn't very often, we took time to rest and get nourished.

Some of the fresh fruits and vegetables we ate, including this mango the size of my head, were produce we bought at Pike Place Market in Seattle. See that post here. Buying fresh produce at Pike Place was a game changer. So glad we thought of that as it wasn't something we originally planned on doing. It really helped eating healthy and deliciously on the road.

For breakfast we often ate very easy meals like oatmeal or a blueberry muffin with fruit and avocado. We had to keep things simple and quick while it was light outside. We wanted to be constantly exploring and photographing during good lighting so we had to maximize our time.

A gorgeous waterfall grotto on the trail at the Quinault Campground heading into the Quinault Rain Forest. This hike was so easy to access and complete. People of all ages and skill levels were doing it. There were beautiful surprises around every corner.

One morning while we waited on the beach area to photograph sunrise, this friendly little otter came out from its den for a morning swim at the Lake Quinault Campground. I love this neat blue hour shot I captured of him snacking on a fish for breakfast.

The Olympic Peninsula is one of the most diverse wilderness areas in the United States. Its wide variety of ecosystems provide habitat critical to the survival of many endangered species.

Banana slugs are important recyclers, grazing on vegetation and organic debris as they travel throughout the forest floor.


Peaceful blue hour sunrise at Lake Quinault. I could explore this area for weeks. It was simply amazing.


Epiphytes, or plants growing on other plants, were in abundance in the rain forest.

Mosses, spike mosses, ferns and lichens engulf tree trunks and branches, giving the forest a "jungle-like" feel.

Matt and I absolutely loved this area of the Pacific North West. It was so diverse and unlike any place we have ever explored. Completely opposite of everything else we saw on the trip.

Like Mount Rainier, this National Park really left a lasting impression. We only had a few days here but we seriously want to come back again in the future and stay several weeks so we can see even more of this beautiful place.

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