If you think you’ve got a lot of moss, big trees and giant slugs in Clark County, imagine how pioneers living near Lake Quinault on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula must have suffered in the 1880s, trying to settle in one of the soggiest places in the world.
Lush, green and pretty much soaked all the time, Lake Quinault and the Quinault Rain Forest is the only temperate rain forest in the northern hemisphere. With average rainfall of 144 inches and some of the largest trees in the world, this glorious, albeit moist, Garden of Eden serves as a great getaway for those intrigued with nature’s excess.
Known as the “Valley of the Giants,” glacier-carved and glacier-fed Lake Quinault and the Quinault Rain Forest offer visitors the opportunity to don rain gear and explore the home of towering trees and the weeping, wet world of the rain forest. Hike trails, cycle the 30-mile Loop Trail or firmly position yourself in an Adirondack-style chair at the Lake Quinault Lodge for an overwhelmingly lavish experience.
Lake Quinault is about a three-hour drive from Vancouver, traveling north to Aberdeen-Hoquiam and another 40 miles further up Highway 101. Located at the southwest border of the Olympic National Park, visitors have a choice of more than a half-dozen lodgings, a golf course, miles of hiking trails, RV parks and limited services.
Two of the most popular, year-round accommodations are the historic Lake Quinault Lodge and the Rain Forest Resort Village. The lodge was built in 1926 in the style of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. It offers a range of accommodations from cozy rooms in the main lodge to the spacious, modern Lakeside Rooms. Many people find dining in the Roosevelt Dining Room (FDR visited in 1937) a highlight of their trip with its big breakfasts, family-friendly lunches and Northwest dinner cuisine.
During the summer, lodge visitors can fish or swim in the 8.5-mile long lake that plunges to a depth of 1,000 feet. It is fun to rent sea cycles, kayaks or canoes for exercise and exploration. Guests can also access a network of hiking trails from the lodge including the Quinault Loop Trail and the Rain Forest Nature Trail, where they can witness giants such as the largest Western Red Cedar at 19.5 feet in diameter (after Sequoias, the nation’s third largest tree).
A mile away, the Rain Forest Resort Village provides a range of accommodations including fireplace cabins, park side suites or RV park. Along with the Salmon House Restaurant, visitors enjoy shopping at the general store and gift shop.
Quinault Rain Forest visitors appreciate searching out old-growth giants as well as identifying plants and sighting mammals and birds. For example, on the South Shore they look for the Sitka spruce, the world’s largest spruce tree. In the upper reaches of the valley they find Alaskan cedar/yellow cedar (the nation’s 15th largest record tree).
While camping, hiking or picnicking, visitors can sight an amazing number of bird species such as vireos, warblers, Western tanagers, ospreys, loons, eagles and swans. When it comes to big game viewing, the rainforest is home to the impressive Roosevelt elk, black tail deer, cougar, bobcat and black bear.
So when marauding slugs attack your Vancouver veggie garden, consider those Northwest rain forest pioneers, trying to make a life at Lake Quinault. They must have had nightmares about banana slugs big enough to fell hemlocks and firs!
Quinault Rain Forest Visitor Information Center: 6094-B, US Hwy 101, Amanda Park, WA 98526 phone 360-288-0571.