Travel/paddle tips, Pacific Northwest?

We’ve planned a two week trip in early September to the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island and would welcome any suggestions from those familiar with the areas on places to see and things to do, as well as weather conditions and even suggestions on lodging or camping. We love to hike in any weather and would also like to kayak and/or canoe (day trips). Neither of us has enough seat time in big water yet to tackle the Pacific coast or San Juans without a guide, though. I’d like to take our folding kayaks (both seaworthy models) – my partner isn’t convinced (yet)and would rather rent boats. He’d like to take our camping gear instead. He’s a fan of whitewater and has expressed some interest in rafting the Sol Duc while we’re there.

We do figure to spend a couple of days exploring the city of Victoria on our way from the Olympics to the wilds of Vancouver Island. I’d love to see Strathcona but wonder if that is trying to cover too much area for such a short trip.

We aren’t extravagant travelers but aren’t exceedingly thrifty either – we like a little basic comfort and tasty food. We’ll splurge for great experiences.

So far we have a nice equipped cottage reserved in Forks for the first few days but haven’t locked in lodging elsewhere – figured we should wait until we are there and plan our agenda based on weather conditions. I was out there in September in 2009 and conditions were fantastic, clear and mild, the whole time but I know that was a lucky break. I thought if the coast gets socked in we could head inland to the Cascades rather than go north.

What say you, PNW veterans?

– Last Updated: Jul-11-12 10:50 AM EST –

If you need more days lodging around Forks take a look at what these guys have:

I knew Chip online from his previous life (shop owner) and met him at a couple conventions. When I was traveling through that area a few years ago I stopped by to say hi and see their place. Beautiful location and great people. Right on the river just a few miles upstream from the ocean. I had Chip shuttle my vehicle to the coast and drop me off at the boat access just a short ways upstream from their lodge. Nice little paddle.

Otherwise I don't have any big travel tips. The Olympic peninsula was great. I didn't spend a ton of time on the eastern half of the peninsula but didn't find it near as interesting as the west half. I don't know where you're from but me being from Iowa it was such a pleasure to have so many hiking opportunities available seemingly everywhere! Just glance at a map, pick a likely looking spot, and drive up into the Cascades for as much hiking/sight seeing as you can stand.

And as for weather: I was in the PNW June-late Aug and had almost nothing but sun, mild temps, low humidity, and no bugs. People in Portland starting freaking out when it got up to 85 degrees and the people I was staying with didn't even have screens on their windows! There were a few places up in the mountains where there were lots of mosquitos, but mostly bug free.


Head inland.
I would recommend visiting Port Townsend while you are up that way.

Take the ferry as walk-ons from Port Angeles to Victoria.

If you are looking for wet weather, Forks would be the right place.

If I were you, I would try to spend as much time in the San Juans as possible.

If you get down to the souhwester part of Washington, there is lots to see also. Washington has it all.

misc stuff
I would do a powerboat whale watch tour

In Victoria, on the walkway around the bay, there is a fish taco shop that is to die for. Red Fish Blue Fish.

Long ago, we backpacked up
the Dosewallips to Anderson Pass. That’s on the east side. Not a difficult acent, and we stayed 2 nights. We saw Anderson Glacier, but it wasn’t large then and I don’t know if it still exists now.

We also did the loop to the coast and back at the NW corner of the park. Just a one night stay.

Different strokes
I wasn’t that enamored with the San Juan’s, but not everyone is looking for the same thing. There were people all over the place and the camp grounds were full. Beautiful scenery, yes, but too many people for my tastes. I was only there a couple days though, tagging along with a friend who was leading a bicycle group. I’m sure there are places on the islands that are a bit more remote with less people than where I was. Then again, my idea of a fun trip seeing as few people as possible.

I’d agree with going inland though. It seemed like you didn’t have to get far from the coast and the number of other people dropped off significantly. And wherever I went it was beautiful.

This is all referring to hiking, I didn’t have my boat in the San Juan’s. Never got to paddle it much at all in the PNW. I dislocated a knee cap early in the trip and was still recovering while I was there. I could hobble around ok but getting into/out of the boat was work and a wet exit would have been disaster.


lots of options
Weather is usually nice that time of year.

There are some tour companies that do whale watching kayak trips from San Juan Island. Orcas travel up and down the west side.

Cape Flattery is a great view at the very NW tip of the Olympic peninsula. Was just paddling there Sunday and saw 5 sets of grey whales. You can often see them from the lookout on the cliffs.

Tons of great hikes on the Olympic coast. Shi shi beach, Rialto beach, point of arches.

a couple of suggestions

– Last Updated: Jul-12-12 8:24 AM EST –

1) If you bring your camping stuff, I don't think you can go wrong in Olympic NP. Depending on how long you want to spend there, two trail recommendations would be the Hoh trail (where else can you start in a rain forest and end a day or so later at the edge of a glacier?) and the high divide trail. The only downside I can see is that if the weather is nice, there will probably be a fair number of people out, particularly on high divide.

2) whitewater rafting?!?! Look, I love me some whitewater too, but spending your vacation time in a raft while that close to great sea kayaking is nuts. You need to get your partner with the program ;)

Seriously, if you are looking for something a bit more structured, I would highly recommend you check out Body Boat Blade. Leonne and Shuana are first-rate coaches, particularly if you want to develop your big water skills, and great people to boot. I can't recommend them highly enough. Even if you can't hook up with them (they're on Orcas island), I bet they could steer you towards a reputable outfitter/guide in the area.

Finally, a minor note of caution. Forks is a very pretty place but I found the whole Twilight craze a bit much. Yes, it's definitely a good thing for the local economy, but at some point after the 10,000th "Bella ate here" or "[insert boy vampire name] sat on this rock" type signs I found myself getting a bit fed up with it all.

Travel/paddle tips, Pacific Northwest?
Check out my recently released book which will assist you with most of the destinations you’re interested in - Kayaking Puget Sound, the San Juans and Gulf Islands, by Rob Casey / Mountaineers Books.

The book includes paddling trips and tips for the BC Gulf Islands, Victoria BC, Strait of Juan de Fuca (gotta see!), etc.

In Port Angeles check out the lower Elwha River dam which is one of two being removed (off the hwy 112). ‘PA’ is a great stopping off point for the Peninsula as well.

Cancel the cottage in Forks and book a cabin in La Push at epic beaches and views.

While on Van Island drive west of Vic and check out Point No Point Resort. if too pricey (it is) there’s Brit style B&B’s along the route. Beaches such as Botanical, Sombrio, and surfing at Jorden River are worth the trip.

Give me a holler if you need more assistance, cheers. RC

Thanks for the advice
Much appreciating the tips.

Re Forks: Yes, I didn’t realize at first the “Twilight” connection (never read the books and have only seen a few moments of any of the films while channel surfing cable TV). But our cottage is a ways outside town, near Rialto Beach, and is a quite private little house with its own fire ring and full kitchen that I snagged for $90 a night.

I tend to do that on vacations: reserve a place where we can settle in and unwind for a few days and then strike out at random, heading for a selection or two from a “bucket list”.

We don’t plan on lingering in Forks, just using the place for a base camp for day trips exploring the coast and Olympics for a few days. From there we will find lodging as we go. We didn’t want to be locked into other locations for the rest of the trip – we will watch the weather and base our subsequent moves on that. Our preference is to cross on the Port Angeles ferry and head up the east coast of Vancouver Island for the rest of the trip. We have ferry passage booked for our return at trip’s end from Sidney BC to Anacortes, then driving down to SeaTac.

I will look into the sea kayaking instruction – that is something I have wanted to do for a long time.