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One day driving the west side of ONP....

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Centennial, Colorado
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One day driving the west side of ONP....

We will have one day (all day) to drive the west side of Olympic National Park (starting in Sequim). We aren't "hikers"...we enjoy driving and stopping for shorter periods of time at interesting points along the way. It will be myself and my husband, our college aged daughter, and our 19 year old son who has Autism (hence the reason we don't hike). From the research I've done, I'm thinking we'd do Hurricane Ridge Road first, and then head west on 101 and work our way around. I know we'd like to see Rialto Beach (originally had considered Ruby Beach, but after reading about Rialto, thinking it might be better...my son LOVES the beach), and I know my daughter will want to see the rainforest, but not sure which one. My husband loves looking for birds, and the visitors centers within the park. A short hike in one of the rainforest areas is possible (not more than an hour though). I know having a couple of days would be ideal, but this is what we have, and any tips/advice on how to get the most out of this day would be greatly appreciated! :)

Port Angeles, WA
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1. Re: One day driving the west side of ONP....

Have you checked with an online travel planner such as GoogleMaps to see how many hours this trip will take? Also, you did not say when you are traveling. Hurricane Ridge Road is still closed during the week.

Centennial, Colorado
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2. Re: One day driving the west side of ONP....

The mapping I did on the Internet shows 3.5 hours from Sequim to Humptulips, without stops. We will be there in late July. :)

Port Angeles, WA
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3. Re: One day driving the west side of ONP....

Does that mean that you will be ending your drive in Humptulips? Will you be spending the night there, or are you returning to Sequim?

Port Angeles...
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4. Re: One day driving the west side of ONP....

Hi Travelers.

Mary here from the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau! Let's see if I can help.

Sequim to Port Angeles = 30 minutes

PA to Hurricane Ridge = 45 minutes

Enjoy the scenery = 30 minutes

HR to PA = 45 minutes

PA to Rialto = 1.5 hours

an hour on the beach = 1

Rialto to Hoh Ranger Station = 1.25 hours

Walk the Hall of Mosses - 1 hour

Hoh Ranger Station to Sequim = 2.5 hours

That's a little less than 10 hours traveling time. A long day, but you certainly can do it!

Poulsbo, Washington
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5. Re: One day driving the west side of ONP....

If I understand your post correctly you are planning one very exhausting day if you are driving from Sequim and going by way of Humptulips to end up in Seattle. Possible, but a big mistake if you want to include Hurricane Ridge, the Hoh Rainforest and Rialto Beach. A lot of driving and little time to enjoy your stops.

Port Angeles, WA
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6. Re: One day driving the west side of ONP....

To add to Glaciermeadows' points, the driving is not particularly scenic. The road to various sites in ONP runs outside the park. You get not even a glimpse of the ocean, even when you are all but on top of it. You don't get to see much of the mountains from the highway, either. It's just mile after dull mile of managed forest interspersed with the occasion clear cut or unattractive hamlet. Toward the southern part of this drive, you pass through some scenery that is actually depressing. I understand that your family has reasons not to take long hikes, but I cannot believe that this tedious, endless, unrewarding plan is what you really want. I suspect that it is based on a misunderstanding of both time and territory.

You said something unclear about your husband wanting to see park visitor centers. Unfortunately, there are few in ONP, and they are small and uninteresting. The only ones I can think of are the main one at the foot of Hurricane Ridge, which is limited but OK, the one atop Hurricane Ridge, which is mainly a place for bathrooms, snacks, and gear rentals; and the one at the Hoh Rain Forest, which is tiny.

You say your son loves the water. Why not spend a happy time at Rialto Beach and return to Sequim and then back to Seattle? There is also the impressive Dungeness Spit right near you in Sequim. It's a prime birdwatching spot, and you say that is an interest of your husband. You might have time to include Hurricane Ridge; remember, as our Visitor's Bureau poster has said, that it is a 90 minute round trip just to get up there and back.

Port Angeles...
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7. Re: One day driving the west side of ONP....

Mary, here. Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau.

There are National Park Visitor Centers in Port Angeles, at Hurricane Ridge and at the Hoh Ranger Station. I find them quite interesting, especially if you get to visit with the Ranger. Hurricane Ridge has a good movie and topo exhibit of the Olympic Peninsula. You can get an idea of the size of the wilderness interior. If Jon at the Hoh is making a tour, tag along. He's entertaining, knows everything and welcomes questions. The Port Angeles VC has a good selection of reading material about the OP and some hands-on exhibits. These are small interpretive centers, but will give you some insights to the OP.

Centennial, Colorado
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8. Re: One day driving the west side of ONP....

Thank you all so much for the replies.

I have our ONP/OP sightseeing scheduled over two days. The first day was going to be us driving up from Astoria, OR via the east side of the park, and then visiting the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge before checking into our hotel in Sequim. Then the second day, we'd do the west side and Hurricane Ridge. BUT, I'm switching that now, based on the replies and further research after reading them.

Day 1 will now be us departing our hotel in Astoria, OR early and driving up the west side of the park, stopping at one of the rainforests (which one would be best for a shorter hike?), one beach (which one is most accessible/easy to get to?), and the Hoh Visitor Center. And of course we'd stop at anything else interesting we see along the way (possibly Lake Quinalt). We would end up at our hotel in Sequim at the end of what will probably be a long day (but that's okay :) ).

Day 2 we will backtrack from Sequim to drive Hurricane Ridge, and THEN do the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge before heading east around the park to go back to Seattle. Does that make more sense? Is there anything notable on that side of the park, or would it be better to take a faster route back to Seattle?

Again, thank you all so much for your help. I'm very excited to see some place new, lol...but a little apprehensive about traveling with my son (as always).

Port Angeles, WA
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9. Re: One day driving the west side of ONP....

This is a much better plan. The Quinault Rain Forest has several beautiful short hikes. The Hoh Visitor Center is not much, and I think your husband will agree once he sees it, but the 16 mile drive from the highway to the Hoh VC is very beautiful. Look for elk in the woods as you approach the visitor center. For beaches, I would suggest either Ruby or Rialto. Ruby is lovely, but it is small, and you need to walk down the bluff a little to see it. Rialto Beach has the big advantage in terms of size and accessibility, as you can drive right to the beach. However, Ruby is just off the highway, and you will have to drive 15 to 20 minutes off the highway to reach Rialto Beach.

If you mean returning along the Hood Canal to Seattle, there are pros and cons. The con is that the drive takes a long time on a rather twisty, slow road. The pro is the beautiful Hood Canal. Since your son loves the water, this is a powerful incentive to take the HC route, but if the day is wet, just take the Bainbridge Island Ferry route. On rainy days, you can barely see the Hood Canal from the road. On sunny days, it sparkles. There are several places to stop, get out, and stretch your legs while admiring the water.

Centennial, Colorado
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10. Re: One day driving the west side of ONP....

Thank you!