Our RV Trip to Olympic National Park - Part 1

As the summer begins, so does my planning for our annual July 4th National Park trip. There are several of them to choose from and it is never easy narrowing it down to one. Olympic National Park was among the top picks but accommodations inside and close to the Park are very limited. All those images of temperate rain-forests with mosses make you want to set up a lovely tent inside the Park but most of the campgrounds are on first-come, first-serve basis. Also, it is not easy to carry all your camping gear by air, especially if you are planning to cook. Thus came into the picture an almost new 25' Apollo Pioneer RV. We love road trips and have been thinking of renting a Recreational Vehicle (RV) for quite some time. We were intrigued by the concept of carrying around your home and comforts wherever you go and wanted to give it a try. It seemed that the scenario lent itself beautifully to renting an RV for a trip to Olympic National Park. So we did and traveled across 3 states in 6 days staying in 5 different campsites. It was a road trip done in style.

This would be the 20th National Park we had the opportunity to visit in the US. And we couldn't be happier. Each National Park has some special features and I would call Olympic National Park a tree lover's paradise. Winding roads lined with tall green trees and bright yellow flowers with a backdrop of snow capped mountains is a common sight in the Park. And of course, there are those magical temperate rain forests with mosses the Park is so famous for.

First, I would start with sharing our itinerary for the trip and the campgrounds we stayed at.

Day 1: Mc-Arthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park, CA

It was our first stop of the trip and it couldn't have been better. Only 5 hours away from Bay Area are these beautiful waterfalls in a peaceful state park set in a pine and oak forest. It is one of those rare occasions where you encounter such beauty and get to soak yourself completely in the experience due to lack of crowds in an otherwise busy and crowded California. We were lucky to be there on a weekday and had the entire falls to almost ourselves. The campground is beautiful with all the amenities such as flush toilets and showers and is well maintained. We definitely plan to camp there another weekend but don't think we can escape the crowds next time :)

Our campsite # 1
It is also close to the angry and handsome Mt. Shasta, which can apparently blow up anytime in this century, so you might want to check it out soon if you haven't already. 

Angry and handsome Mt. Shasta

Day 2: Skokomish Park at Lake Cushman, WA

Our Day 2 will take us across 3 states (California, Oregon and Washington) as our next stop is a campground in the state of Washington on the shore of Lake Cushamn just outside the Olympic NP boundary on the eastern side. We were glad 3 of us signed up as the drivers for the RV, so we could take turns. We drove about 4 hours and had a long drive ahead of us but we were itching for some fresh air. While debating between trying to reach the campground earlier and taking a break, we saw signs for exit to vineyards and couldn't resist any longer.

In a quiet little town in Oregon just off the highway, there was this beautiful winery set up in a cute old red barn amidst vineyards and blueberry farms that was offering complimentary wine tasting on a Friday evening. Can it get any better than this? I offered to be the designated driver for the next couple of hours, so my husband and friends got busy at the bar while I went blueberry picking. 

Wine Tasting
Soon after we were done, they closed the doors around 5 pm and gathered outdoors. It was their usual "Friday Night Live", a music event that happens every Friday in the shade of the antique fruit orchard in summers and in the cozy barn in winters. The stage was set up and the musicians were tuning their instruments. Families started coming in with their picnic baskets and settled down around the neatly laid tables. There was fresh breeze in the air carrying the aroma of the farm and the music began softly. People ordered some wine and beverages from the counter set up in the orchard amidst romantic lights. It seemed like the perfect way to relax and enjoy a Friday evening with family and friends - with a picnic basket in one hand and a wine glass in the other. I just did not want to move from there. But we had miles to go.

We reached the campground around 11 pm that night but the vineyard stop was worth it. It reminded me of the importance of taking a pause and relaxing in our always-on-the-go crazy lifestyle.

Our campsite # 2
With access to boat rentals and several other water activities, this campground is quite popular and is voted among the best in the northwestern area. It had full hook-ups, clean restrooms and showers. However, the RV sites are very small and it felt crowded. Though it borders the National Park, the entrance is 2 hours to the north, so we left soon after a heavy breakfast.

Day 3: Quileute Oceanside Resort RV Campground, WA

We entered the National Park via Port Angeles and immediately headed to the Hurricane Ridge. Tall green trees and bright yellow flowers make the 17 mile drive to the top quite special while the snow-capped Olympic mountains give you a stunning welcome at the top. It was a clear day and we could see the deep valleys and steep ridges, mountain goats making their way to meet their family and new born deer attempting to stand on their feet. After having lunch with these fantastic views, we did a short hike for a 360 degree view of the valley and then headed over to Crescent Lake.

Olympic Mountains @ Hurricane Ridge

                     Mountain Goat at the top (PC: Vipul Katyal)
You could easily spend an evening at this picturesque glacial lake boating or kayaking with great views, but we were eager to reach our beach campground and set up a campfire for the night. 

Cute cabins in Crescent Lodge
Olympic NP has some gorgeous beaches which are famous for its views and tide pools. Though First Beach is not part of the National Park, it is right next to the Second and Third beaches which are part of it. We camped at the 'First Beach' in La Push area in our RV for the night. This area is famous for being the setting of the Twilight series, popular vampire themed fantasy romance novels by Stephanie Meyer also adapted into films. 

Our campground # 3
Beach camping is always special as there are few things that can match the romance of moonlight walks on the beach or coffee rendezvous in the morning with the crashing ocean waves. Most beach campgrounds are usually crowded and have less amenities and this one is no different. However, the views make up for it all. And there were fireworks at night, though it was only July 1st.

Day 4 is our favorite day of the trip and is spent in the most beautiful campground I ever laid my eyes on. You can read all about it here in Part 2. Happy travels! 


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