On the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State lies the Olympic National Park and with it, some of the largest trees in the world.
It was underneath a gigantic redwood in California that President Franklin Roosevelt and John Muir discussed the idea of a centrally run national park system (above picture). If you have ever been around a 300’ tall, 1000 year old giant, you can see why they are so inspiring.
This past weekend Lindsey and I journeyed to the Valley of the Giants on the shores of Lake Quinault to see just what inspired Roosevelt to create a park on the Olympic Peninsula. The valley certainly lives up to its' name.
(Note: The Largest Western Red Cedar fell in 2016 due to a storm. A week before our trip, around 100 large trees fell on the north shore of Lake Quinault. A rare wind storm brought them down.)
President Roosevelt visited the Lake Quinault area in October of 1938. A short 9 months later the national park was formed. Hitting the park entrance, it is easy to see why Roosevelt picked such an area to protect. As soon as you hit the Olympic National Forest you are greeted with 100’+ tall Douglar fir’s, western red cedars, and sitka spruce. It is hard to keep your eyes on the road with such beautiful history all around you. The place looks like something straight out of Jurassic Park.
A few miles into the National Forest and you hit South Shore road, where we exited. South Shore road is home to the Lake Quinault Lodge; a quaint 1930’s style establishment still in business today.
Further down the road is the RainForest Resort Village. If you are hungry, and it is past 4pm, try the blackened salmon at The Salmon House restaurant… you will not be disappointed. This is also your first stop to see one of the ‘giants’ of the valley. The worlds largest Sitka Spruce is short hike (.3 miles if that) from the road. The trailhead is just past the restaurant on the left.
At 1000 years old, this tree has been through a lot. The top of the tree sits 192’ above the lake. Near the bottom, the circumference of the tree wraps 59’ around! You can’t help but smile when you come over the bridge from the trail and see this beaut for the first time.
Before heading off to find a 300’ tall douglas fir rumored to be in the area, Lindsey and I stopped off for a relaxing hang by the lake. (1/2 Shell Coyote Brown hammock pictured). The view was spectacular and we could have stayed here all day but there was hiking to do!
(This is our comfortable 1/2 Shell Hammock)
Behind the Rain Forest Resort store and check-in building, trails wind in and out of more massive trees. There are plenty of Douglas Fir’s with circumferences of 15’+. We were searching for on in particular, a 300’ giant about 1.5 miles down the trail.
Similar to the drive in, it was hard to hike and look up at the trees at the same time. I almost tripped and fell on multiple occasions. Finally we found what we were looking for.
As big as the Sitka Spruce was, the two trees on the trail behind the Lake Quinault Lodge are even more breathtaking. It is hard to convey the scale in writing. These trees are as tall as a 30 story building. You cannot see the top of them while standing at the bottom. They are magnificent to behold.
The Valley of the Giants is an awe inspiring trip. Lake Quinault offers a beautiful, quaint, and relaxing place to hang your hat for a few nights. Overall- a bucket lister for the Pacific Northwest.