The U.S. Highway 101 loop around the Olympic Peninsula is one of the best drives in the United States.
We did it last March in a 1987 VW Westfalia camper provided by Peace Vans of Seattle. For three nights of late-winter camping, it worked amazingly well. Read more about the Peace Vans experience in our June 22 Going Mobile column.
Hit these eight essential stops when you do the Olympic loop.
1. Olympia - it's the water
Fill up your camp water at the Artesian Well and Commons, a small city park at 415 4th Ave. SE. There, you’ll find the constant flow of delicious artesian water and of people coming to fill up their bottles with said water. Make like an Olympian and join in.
2. Hama Hama Oyster Saloon
Head up the east side of the peninsula through Shelton on U.S. 101 along Hood Canal to Hama Hama Oyster Saloon. It's one of the best places in Washington state for fresh oysters, available all year long.
3. Dungeness Spit
Drive through the town of Sequim to Dungeness Recreation Area, a fantastic campground and natural area that takes in Dungenss Spit. At 6.8 miles long, it is the longest sand spit in the United States. You'll see lots of birdlife, seals, sea lions, the occasional orca, and billions of board feet of driftwood on the wild and secluded beach.
4. Hurricane Ridge
In Port Angeles, turn south and take in the high-mountain beauty of the Olympic National Park at Hurricane Ridge. Several day hikes leave from the visitor center and if you'd like to get deeper into the mountains, take the side road 7.8 miles to Obstruction Point, where more high-mountain hiking awaits.
5. Lake Crescent
Olympic National Park has many facets, from mountain-top to wild coastline. One of the best stops along the way as you head to the wet west side is Lake Crescent, tucked in a picturesque valley amid the Olympic Mountains. The historic lodge makes a fine place for a lunch pit stop.
6. Coastal camping
Farther south, when you get to the "Twilight"-obsessed town of Forks, drive west on State Route 110 for two coastal camping locations. At the main intersection at the Riverview RV Park, you can go right to Olympic National Park’s Mora Campground, or stay left and go to La Push, a small fishing town on the Quileute Indian Reservation. Both offer outstanding camping and hiking along the wild Washington coast.
Several roads lead into the temperate rainforest of the Washington coast. Sol Duc, Hoh and Quinault are three of the best locations to enter Olympic National Park on its wet west side, with many options for camping and hiking.
About an hour south from La Push is the beach-camping mecca of Kalaloch. If you can snag a spot, Kalaloch offers some of the very best camping along the Washington coast. If you’re as lucky as we were, grab a spot along the bluff overlooking the long, broad beach. You won’t forget it.