Olympic NP from Eastern WA

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Wilderness Librarian
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Olympic NP from Eastern WA

Post by Wilderness Librarian »

I am trying to get some October camping trips organized. May save this for spring but one option is lower elevations of Olympic NP. Actually been there before & want to make this a repeat destination to different sections. So my question is not about specific points so much but more on recommendation for threading my way there.

In late 90s lived in Tacoma and preferred the southern route through Aberdeen to reach far western side. Up over the north side through Port Townsend & Sequim areas had lots more traffic & congestion. For east side approach used Hood Canal section.

Now I live in north Idaho close to WA line. I figure too far to go in one day especially since I am no longer comfortable with night driving & like to arrive in camp area late morning - mid PM to secure spot. So besides routing one big question is how to position an overnight stop each direction preferably with dispersed camping. State parks maybe OK but I am not really seeking them as destination points. Motel maybe.

Southern route would take me pretty much over Hwy 12. Looking at map seems like there should be dispersed camping in national forest maybe near Morton. FS website says official campgrounds there closed. My concern is that zone may be no camping except in those campgrounds. Was also concern this area may have burned heavily in last few weeks. Comments on this section and strategy?

Mid section would be I-5 to 18 (I think that is the Hwy) to Tacoma then Tacoma Narrows & Hood Canal bridges. (this is what Google recommends even to far west side which I think is possibly wrong) My guess is too much traffic and harder to find stop over point.

Northern section would be Hwy 2 but this seems too long & complicated thread through suburbs & ferry.

Any advice welcome. Incidentially one thing I am looking at are campgrounds that are seasonally or always first come first serve. That to me should indicate shoulder season or less anticipated volume. At this point car camping with dayhikes. Trying to get back into backpacking gradually Had some back pain recently.

May stay intermountain area until spring. Also looking at places like lower elevations of Great Basin NP in Nevada. Hell's canyon a definite. I can get to trailhead in less than 4 hrs.
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David Jay
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Re: Olympic NP from Eastern WA

Post by David Jay »

Wilderness Librarian wrote: Thu Oct 01, 2020 12:02 pmSouthern route would take me pretty much over Hwy 12. Looking at map seems like there should be dispersed camping in national forest maybe near Morton. FS website says official campgrounds there closed. My concern is that zone may be no camping except in those campgrounds. Was also concern this area may have burned heavily in last few weeks. Comments on this section and strategy?
I have a niece in Richland whom we visited in 2019. We stayed at Horn Rapids county park campground, about 10 miles from Richland up route 240 (runs up the west side of Hanford Reservation). Relatively inexpensive with water/electric on site, modern toilet/shower facilities. It was before Memorial Day so the kids were still in school.
Last edited by David Jay on Thu Oct 01, 2020 5:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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upperleftcoast
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Re: Olympic NP from Eastern WA

Post by upperleftcoast »

I-90, straight shot. Camp at Lake Easton SP, right off the interstate. If you want more peace camp at Kanaskat Palmer SP, nice place. Then next day drive to Edmonds, take the ferry, you are then on the peninsula. The traffic is manageable at the right times, and is far less than pre-Covid.
CWhea1775
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Re: Olympic NP from Eastern WA

Post by CWhea1775 »

I drive from Portland to Forks regularly. Hwy 12 from I-5 West is fine, 2 lane to 4 lane. Hoquiam - Aberdeen is a long slow stretch just because the road runs all the way thru two towns, lots of lights. Fuel up there if you use that route because 101 north to Forks is pretty much open two lane through forest land (reservation, public and private). Nice stretches right along the ocean in Olympic NP. Very few services from Aberdeen to Forks.

If you go that "southern route" you should avoid the Seattle area and a whole lot of traffic aggravation. You can also decide to loop back via Hood Canal and the bridges and ferries if you want a change of scenery on the way home.
iamlucky13
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Re: Olympic NP from Eastern WA

Post by iamlucky13 »

Wilderness Librarian wrote: Thu Oct 01, 2020 12:02 pmSouthern route would take me pretty much over Hwy 12. Looking at map seems like there should be dispersed camping in national forest maybe near Morton. FS website says official campgrounds there closed. My concern is that zone may be no camping except in those campgrounds. Was also concern this area may have burned heavily in last few weeks. Comments on this section and strategy?
Check the state campgrounds. Ike Kinswa State Park on Riffe Lake is open, and is a decent destination on its own. It looks like nearby Lewis and Clark State Park is closed. I'm not sure why. This might be a bit of a long first day, but Rainbow Falls State Park west of Chehalis is open.

There is dispersed camping along the forest roads going through the Gifford Pinchot Forest, but I'd be careful about planning your trip around this, because you could have to drive around for a while to find a decent location that isn't occupied. If you did have time, you can find some great spots to camp in this area. Unfortunately, the last time I was there, the whole area was noticeably more crowded than when I was a kid - there were almost as many people as there were moquitoes!

There are also a couple private campgrounds along the way, but they seem to be mostly RV oriented. Fine if you just want a cheap place to set up a tent for the night, and you might even have access to a shower, but usually not much to see or explore. I've never paid enough attention to them to make any suggestions.

Tacoma Power owns the dams along Highway 12, and they operate a couple campgrounds, as well. I've only stayed at Mayfield Lake Campground. I recall it being ok, but having relatively close spacing between the sites. I think it's more than adequate for an overnight stop along the way.

I didn't hear about any fires along Highway 12.
Northern section would be Hwy 2 but this seems too long & complicated thread through suburbs & ferry.
Time of day is important for getting through the small towns along Highway 2 (crowded with commuters and weekend hikers from in town) and Everett without being caught in stop and go traffic. The ferry ride is a nice break, but also can involve a long wait depending on the time of day. They are currently discouraging passengers from getting out of their vehicle. I haven't had a need to ride the ferries since the pandemic started, but I'm under the impression as long as you practice appropriate distancing, there's not any real objection to going to the upper decks.
Any advice welcome. Incidentially one thing I am looking at are campgrounds that are seasonally or always first come first serve. That to me should indicate shoulder season or less anticipated volume.
I'm afraid I don't remember now which ones, but I've noticed that many of the forest service campgrounds keep a large number of spots open for first come, first served daily, no reservations. It looks like you would have to spend a lot of time crawling the forest service pages to determine which ones are open or allow nearby dispersed camping, though.
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Wilderness Librarian
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Re: Olympic NP from Eastern WA

Post by Wilderness Librarian »

Thanks everyone. Descriptions of highway travel pretty much what I remembered and/or expected. Sorting out better state parks for this purpose was very helpful.
Hiker8
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Re: Olympic NP from Eastern WA

Post by Hiker8 »

upperleftcoast wrote: Thu Oct 01, 2020 4:11 pm I-90, straight shot.
Agreed. Don’t over complicate the trip out there. Just take 90 and then drive around to the peninsula. I like the ferry but it will add time to your trip. Just drive around through tacoma. Spend your time figuring out your itinerary in the park, not your way out there. Having lived in WA for years I’m jealous of your trip. Hopefully the weather is in your favor out in the mountains. October can always be hit or miss, mostly hit 😁
Tdubs
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Re: Olympic NP from Eastern WA

Post by Tdubs »

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Last edited by Tdubs on Thu Oct 01, 2020 10:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Tdubs
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Re: Olympic NP from Eastern WA

Post by Tdubs »

upperleftcoast wrote: Thu Oct 01, 2020 4:11 pm I-90, straight shot. Camp at Lake Easton SP, right off the interstate. If you want more peace camp at Kanaskat Palmer SP, nice place. Then next day drive to Edmonds, take the ferry, you are then on the peninsula. The traffic is manageable at the right times, and is far less than pre-Covid.

This. Used to visit Forks/La Push regularly from Eastern WA. Always enjoyed the break the ferry provided, though I took the ferry to Bainbridge.
Hiker8
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Re: Olympic NP from Eastern WA

Post by Hiker8 »

[/quote]
This. Used to visit Forks/La Push regularly from Eastern WA. Always enjoyed the break the ferry provided, though I took the ferry to Bainbridge.
[/quote]

Good point. I always enjoyed the ferry. Adds some time but worth it if you have it to spare. October is a good time to take it 👍 we’ve done some long hikes into the middle of of peninsula, gotten back to get some oysters along the canal, and either car camped or made the trip back by night fall. Good times.
scifilover
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Re: Olympic NP from Eastern WA

Post by scifilover »

One of my friends has a place at Lake Coeur d'Alene. When I am returning to the Seattle area after visiting him there, it is about a 5 hour drive back on I90 to get home. If you travel during the week, you could arrive in the early afternoon for a nice ferry ride from Edmonds to Kingston. From there it is a 75 minute drive to Port Angeles and the park entrance if the Hood Canal bridge is not open for boat traffic. During the week, an early afternoon ferry departure generally doesn't mean a lot of waiting. You will go on the next boat departing after you arrive at the Port of Edmonds.
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