Story and photos by Jerry Kraft
It’s called the Hall of Mosses, in the Hoh Rain Forest, and above the dense layers of leaves and undergrowth that carpet the forest floor, moss-covered trees stand like great columns supporting a leafy ceiling draped by tapestries in a hundred shades of green. In another place, tangled piles of driftwood create a wall between the beach and the woods. Great crashing waves add drama to the picturesque rocks off-shore. At the end of a day’s hike, vast forests surround the breathtaking vista of snow-covered mountains. At dawn, the sunrise paints soft watercolors on the surface of a clear lake, a few birdsongs the only sound. The glory of the natural world in Olympic National Park makes it one of America’s great treasures.
Lake Quinault Lodge offers serenity and history on the banks of a beautiful lake bounded by the park. The Kalaloch Lodge perches on a cliff above a small, freshwater inlet leading to the broad sand and driftwood-littered beach. In the winter its proximity to the open water makes it a perfect place to cuddle in front of a fireplace and look out on the wild power of winter Pacific storms. Nestled beside the almost unnaturally blue water, the Lake Crescent Lodge provides boating, hiking and an invitation to reflection and serenity. Similarly, the deep woods surrounding the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort offer a riverside setting in the midst of ancient trees and towering mountains. The Log Cabin Resort at the north end of Lake Crescent has cabins, lakeside chalets, lodge rooms and camping log cabins, as well as RV hookups.
At the end of a day of exploring the woods and waters of the park, most people want nothing more than to return to a nice room, have a delicious meal and relax in sight of the natural world. Olympic National Park offers extraordinary lodges, each distinct in character and each with a variety of housing. They can provide anything from simple accommodations from which you can explore to luxury destinations in themselves, each offering a quiet retreat from busy everyday life to a place of calm, comfort and spiritual rejuvenation.
Although it actually is located on National Forest Service land, the Lake Quinault Lodge looks across the water to the park and considers itself very much a part of it. It was here, in 1937, that Franklin Roosevelt announced that he would be designating the vast territory that would, in 1938, become Olympic National Park.
“We are very proud of our history,” said Hiedi Lambert, district sales manager of the Lake Quinault Lodge. “We still have the menu from when he had lunch in our dining room.” That sense of history pervades the old woodwork and stone fireplaces of the great room, as well as the grounds and outlying cabins. “Much of the uniqueness of this lodge is in the historic feeling,” Lambert said, “The quality of the building, the way it’s been taken care of and the land itself. And, in addition to the extraordinary natural beauty of the area, you have so few people living in this area and so much quiet.”
Open year-round, there are 30 rooms in the main building and 91 altogether. The rooms in the main lodge are cozy and feel like they belong to an earlier time. The “fireplace” rooms are the nicest rooms and will be upgraded to make them even more appealing to couples. Each room has its own private balcony overlooking the main lawn as well as a gas fireplace and 27-inch flat screen TV. There are no phones in the whole building, but there are plans to add wireless Internet. “We’re trying to bring them up to the speed of the world without taking away the feeling of the lodge.” Lambert said.
The “boathouse” has eight guestrooms and is the only unit where the management allows pets. Close to the water’s edge, it’s very popular with fishermen and families. The “lakeside” is more of a motel-like unit that appeals to large groups who want everyone staying in one area. It’s very popular with active families. It also offers two ADA-compliant handicapped units.
While the summer season bustles with outdoor hiking and water activity, the winter is a serene retreat, a time to snuggle in and watch the weather outside the window. That’s also a particular appeal for visitors to Kalaloch Lodge, perched on a bluff directly overlooking the ocean.
“I love the winter visitors,” said general manager Rachel Newton. “They’re here to experience the power of the ocean and the storms and to watch the surf crash and huge driftwood logs being thrown up on shore. It’s also a great spot for watching the gray whale migrations in spring and fall.” In addition to the beautiful old lodge with its 10 guest rooms, there are 20 log cabins lining the bluff and another building with 10 rooms in a motel style. “You really experience the ocean from here,” Newton said. “We may have power outages in the winter, but each unit has a Franklin wood stove and we have lamps and things are just fine. It’s wonderful.”
From Kalaloch, visitors frequently explore the Hoh Rain Forest, Rialto Beach, Ruby Beach, the miles of forest trails in the area and the extensive beaches. The restaurant in the lodge serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with an accent on Northwest cuisine. “We’re also attracting a lot of weddings,” Newton said. “With park permission, people can have their wedding on the beach and then come back here for a reception or dance. It’s very nice.”
Attractive for many people is that every cabin allows pets, so people can bring their dog and let it run on the beach and play in the water. Every unit has direct beach access and all the cabins have great views. Because there’s no telephone, television or Internet access in any of the units, the primary media is the natural world, where wind and water, forest and beach all meet.
Farther north on U.S. Highway 101, the Log Cabin Resort offers accommodations on the banks of beautiful Lake Crescent. With lakeside chalets, lodge rooms, rustic cabins, camping log cabins and even RV hookups, this is an excellent location from which to explore the old-growth trees, mountains and rivers of Olympic National Park.
The original lodge here was built in 1895 but burned in 1932. The current resort was built in the 1950s. The lodge rooms are nonsmoking, with one queen bed and queen futon and a private bath with shower. The A-frame chalets are along the shoreline and offer two double beds and a futon. The rustic kitchenette cabins have a stove, oven, sink and refrigerator.
Built in 1916 as “Singers Tavern,” Lake Crescent Lodge is another of the historical lodges with an intimate connection to the creation of the park. Roosevelt also visited here and dined on lake trout during his tour of the Olympic Peninsula in 1937. With a large fireplace in the antique-filled main lobby, guests frequently use this beautiful old lodge as their base for exploring the rain forests and beaches of the park. Guest rooms are tucked into the forest along the shoreline, providing a quiet retreat beside the water, and easy access for fishing and boating for the outdoor adventurer.
Located 12 miles inside Olympic National Park, the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is a natural mineral-water springs in the middle of old-growth forest. It’s a popular spot for those who simply want to indulge themselves with a hot soak, a massage, lunch in the Deli Café or dinner in the Springs Restaurant. The cabins offer comfortable lodging from April through October and an excellent starting point for park exploration.
All of the lodges of Olympic National Park offer as their greatest attraction the beauty of the mountains, forests and beaches of the park itself. With a sense of history and stress-free simplicity, they put you in the middle of forested wilderness, the windswept beaches of the Pacific, or the calm waters of a gentle lake. Within the comfort of your room, the sounds of the forest or surf outside your window, a good night’s sleep is virtually assured.