History Class, Life, Photos, Travel, Uncategorized

Exploring the Quinault Rainforest

One view of Merriman Falls, located on the south shore of Lake Quinault

Spring has reached the Pacific Northwest. The year-round shadows of Washington’s evergreens are interspersed with fresh spouting leaves of maples and clusters of blooming rhododendron. The cold drizzle has started to turn to…well, warmer drizzle. It’s time to venture outdoors!

After searching for driveable destinations that we could enjoy no matter what the fickle Washington weather decided to throw at us, my family and I decided to head for the Olympic Peninsula. There, we had the chance to visit a historic lodge, view a lovely lake, hike and drive through a stretch of temperate rainforest, look at a really big tree, and even discover an unexpected World War II era connection.

File:Olympic National Park map-en.jpg
The park is in green-more than 1,400 square miles encompassing the Olympic Mountains, rainforests, and Pacific Ocean beaches. Lake Quinault is directly above this caption, in the south and center of the map.

Olympic National Park covers more than 1,400 acres of gorgeous scenery—from spectacular panoramas of the mountains to the north at Hurricane Ridge, to Pacific beaches, to river valleys cradling temperate rainforests.


For this journey, we headed to the south edge of the park, to Lake Quinault. Now, to be accurate, this technically wasn’t a National Park excursion. The lake itself isn’t part of the Olympic National Park—it’s administered by the Quinault Indian Nation—and the trails on either side of it pass through National Park Land, National Forest Land, Private Property, and Who Knows What Else.

We chose Quinault Lodge as a base of operations.

Quinault Lodge

The current lodge is not the original structure, which dated back to the 1880s as a vacation destination and boasted floating dancing pavilion. That original “Log Hotel” burned down in 1924. The current lodge was raised in 1926 and boasts a beautiful lounge with thick wooden beams, a huge fireplace, comfy chairs and (I’ve been told) noisy radiators—atmosphere! The rooms in the Main Lodge do not have telephones, radios, or televisions. We wound up in the Lakeside Rooms, a newer addition touted as being more family friendly which did have a TV (not that we used it.)

The lodge is located near the lake with a wide, grassy lawn and a sandy beach with a swimming area. (As there was a mix of hail and snowy rain when we arrived, we stuck with the indoor pool on this visit.) It’s also right on the road that loops around the lake with many lovely trails to walk right out the door.

We enjoyed hiking trails and admiring cascading water both in the lodge area and along the south shore of the lake. We also had one nice elk sighting, but didn’t manage any pictures as they were having a leisurely graze in someone’s yard.

We did attempt one trail at the northern tip of the Lake, but after a mile it turned into a boggy morass. I imagine it would be a nice hike in the summer once it has had a chance to dry out. We contented ourselves with heading down to the lake shore and skipping rocks and wishing to see an otter. (No such luck.)

The temperate climate and ample water of the Quinault area allow for some pretty impressive trees; the valley boasts six “champions.” Just off the south shore road is a short trail to the world’s largest Sitka Spruce.*

It’s hard to grasp the scale without some people.

At about 1,000 years old with a height of 191 feet and a circumference of 58 feet 11 inches, “Sprucy” was well worth seeing, though perhaps a bit too accessible to really enjoy. Even though it was the off season, there was a small line-up of tourists waiting for pictures with the tree which made it difficult to explore or spend more time than it took to take a photo.

Naturally, when travelling with a family of five, planning out food is a high priority. Normally I’m peanut-butter-sandwich-and-bag-of-apples sort of traveller—it’s easy to pack, inexpensive, the kids like it, and it doesn’t require hauling a cooler. This time around we decided to treat ourselves and enjoy the Lodge’s dining area, and THAT is where I accidentally encountered a little bit of World War II era history.

We didn’t plan to wind up at the Presidential table!

The Roosevelt Dining Room is so named because in 1937 FDR visited the lodge on a fact finding mission and had lunch. We discovered this after we selected the table at which he sat. It had a lovely view, and the food was delicious. FDR must have enjoyed the area too—nine months later, he signed the bill creating Olympic National Park.

Our return home and to daily life came quickly, but the kids have already been saying, “Next time we go to Quinault…” Whether there or elsewhere, I’m looking forward with hope for more excursions outdoors this year!

What about you? Have you had a chance to get outdoors this spring? Have you found any beautiful places or pieces of history?

Thanks so much for stopping by!

*Apparently there is another tree in Oregon that has almost as many AFA points and has been declared co champion. I’m rooting for the WA one to hold the title. Rooting! Hardee-har-har…

19 thoughts on “Exploring the Quinault Rainforest”

  1. Oh, I’ve got got goosebumps from this! It looks like such a beautiful area (I’ve been a fan of moss since childhood, used to “raise it” in the basement in lids), but the WWII connection! Just for you, dear!

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    1. If you like moss, you’d like it out here, Joy! The plants were still waking up but it was still lovely 🙂 I laughed when the waitress mentioned the history to us- couldn’t have planned it better!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      If I’m remembering correctly your observation is right on and I read that this one was modeled after Old Faithful lodge, at least somewhat!
      We visited Yellowstone years ago and spent one night by Old Faithful- in the cabins as the lodge was full, and I recall it being beautiful, though I do also recall thin walls. My neighbor had a unique snore 😉 Regardless, I’d like to go back!

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    1. There’s an awful lot of geography to cover, and a bit of everything in it! This side of the country is so different from the Midwest- the forest even smells different 🙂
      Wasn’t that a fun history find? I love it when they just fall into my lap like that!

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  2. We had family friends who lived in Quinault when I was a kid (the husband worked for the Forest Service), so we were there fairly frequently. We only ate at the Lodge one time, but I remember that it was beautiful and the food was good. Thank you for this article, which brought back some lovely memories.

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  3. You should try George Washington Inn in Port Angeles, WA, sometime. It is situated along the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Sequim and Port Angeles near Olympic National Park. It is an exact replica of Mount Vernon. The owner, a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and I went to college together. Here’s the web site for a quick look: https://www.georgewashingtoninn.com.

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  4. Last time Peggy and I were up at Olympic National Park, Anne, we did the drive around Quinault Lake. As you noted, it’s quite pretty. I think I even did a post on it… one of my thousand plus. We were also impressed with the big trees along the way. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is a pretty spot, isn’t it Curt? Your recent posts have been making me want to hit some beaches, but the weather was just a little too iffy to haul the kids to the coast.
      Speaking of your recent posts, just imagine the tree houses those trees could hold… 🙂

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    1. I only mentioned it because it was mentioned on the “official” sign. I agree- WA’s definitely had more points. Maybe it was a consolation prize sort of deal 😉

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