Olympic Peninsula

Explore the Olympic Peninsula’s Three Biomes

Join Naturalist Journeys on an incredible Olympic Peninsula tour, June 10 – 18, 2017.

Olympic Peninsula
Rialto Beach by Woody Wheeler
About Olympic National Park

People travel far and wide to see tropical rain forests, but our expert guides like Woody Wheeler rank time in the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest just as highly. Picture towering, half-century-old Sitka Spruce, Hemlock, Cedar, and Douglas Fir trees skirted by lush layers of ferns, wild berries, and other vegetation iconic to the Olympic Peninsula. On this tour, naturalists share expertise on hikes through several of these leafy green “cathedrals” near Lake Quinault and in the Hoh River rainforest. Look and listen for Pacific Wren, Vaux’s Swift, Varied Thrush, Northern Spotted Owl (very rare), and Roosevelt Elk.

Olympic Peninsula
Roosevelt Elk by Woody Wheeler

Awe-inspiring forests are just one of three intact biomes in the Olympic Peninsula’s Olympic National Park. The other two are the wild intertidal coastal areas and the alpine areas of the Olympic Mountains. The coastal areas are unlike most others in the continental U.S. They are wild and ruggedly scenic beaches with big surf, stunning sea stacks, and abundant marine and bird life. Tufted Puffin, Rhinoceros Auklet, Marbled Murrelet, Gray and Minke Whales, Sea Otter, and Sea Lion are among the many species found here, and colorful tide pools, replete with sea anemones, sea urchins, starfish, and many other inter-tidal dwellers captivate visitors.

The alpine zone is best experienced at Hurricane Ridge in the high Olympics. Vistas of uncountable peaks, multiple glaciers, and unique wildlife that includes the Olympic Marmot (endemic), Black-tailed Deer, Mountain Beaver, and Mountain Goat all draw visitors. On a clear day, see the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Vancouver, and the San Juan Islands with Mt. Baker looming in the distance .

Olympic Peninsula
Black-tailed Deer with Olympic Mountains by Woody Wheeler

All three of these biomes are on the itinerary for Naturalist Journeys‘ June tour of the Olympic Peninsula. In addition to the natural wonders that the Park has to offer, the surrounding area has incredible places to explore too, including the seven-mile long Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge that extends into the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and the impressive Dungeness River Audubon Center with its trail on a former railroad bridge over the Dungeness River into the riparian forest canopy. The center also has a world-class collection of taxidermy bird mounts.

Naturalist Journeys’ June Olympic Peninsula Tour

Seattle resident Woody Wheeler guides Naturalist Journeys’ Olympic Peninsula birding and nature tour. Designed at a relaxed pace, the tour includes time to explore the rugged Washington State Pacific coastline, which forms Olympic National Park’s western boundary. Participants walk remote, quiet beaches near Puget Sound, examine tide pools, and explore a number of bays and harbors, including Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, the western-most point of the continental United States.

The tour stays in the Park at Lake Quinault and Lake Crescent Lodges, and at the Bishop Victoria Inn in Port Townsend.

Olympic Peninsula
Upper Dungeness River by Woody Wheeler

The tour also spends time exploring Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge looking for 40+ bird species, including Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbirds, Common Yellowthroat, and Bewick’s Wren. Walk through Sitka Spruce forest to a beautiful Pacific beach with views of incredible sea stacks. Hike through one of the world’s wettest places: the western side of Olympic National Park. Travel high into the Olympic Mountains to see myriad wildflowers and wind-sculpted pygmy trees. Hike down the Dungeness Spit to overlook Puget Sound. Opt for a whale watching trip to the San Juan Islands in search of Minke Whale, Orca, and other marine life.

Olympic Peninsula
Breeching Orca by Peg Abbott
Naturalist Journeys’ Favorite Olympic Peninsula Lodges

On this Olympic National Park tour, participants can enjoy time spent at two stunning and historic lodges inside the park: Lake Quinault Lodge and Lake Crescent Lodge.

Olympic Peninsula
Lake Quinault Lodge, courtesy olympicnationalparks.com

Nestled on the water’s edge in the lush, temperate Quinault Rainforest, scenic Lake Quinault Lodge is stately and grand, yet rustic. Explore the lodge and surrounding areas on a sunset canoe ride or other leisurely activity of your choice. Enjoy evening meals in the Lodge’s historic dining room, and gather in the cozy fireplace room to go over the evening bird list.

On the shores of the glacially-carved Lake Crescent, the Lake Crescent Lodge is settled amongst towering hemlock and fir trees. The main lodge, with its grand sunroom, is backed by quaint personal cabins, while outdoor seating beckons you to relax lake-side. Breakfast with a view of the lake in the sunlit dining room is one of our favorite meal locations.

Olympic Peninsula
Lake Crescent Lodge, courtesy olymicnationalparks.com
Visit the Renowned Makah Museum

A highlight of the tour is a visit to the world-renowned Makah Museum in the Makah Cultural and Research Center on the shores of Neah Bay. The museum houses 300 – 500-year-old Makah artifacts from the Ozette Archaeological Site, a Makah village partially buried by a mudslide hundreds of years ago.

The permanent exhibits include these Makah artifacts, while temporary exhibits can include traditional clothing, carvings, basketry, and photographs.

Learn about the land’s spiritual importance to the Makah people, complementing the tour’s time spent in the heart of the Park. Walk a trail on tribal lands out to Cape Flattery, a fine place to search for Tufted Puffin, Rhinocerous Auklet, and other seabirds.

Olympic Peninsula
Scoping Tufted Puffins at Cape Flattery, courtesy Woody Wheeler
Olympic Peninsula
Tufted Puffin Group by Peg Abbott
Guide Woody Wheeler’s Favorite Restaurants

Sometimes when you travel to remote and wild places, the quality of the human amenities suffers. Not here! The Park lodges offer top-rate amenities and fine food options. In the Sequim and Port Townsend area,  the tour visits two of guide Woody Wheeler’s favorite restaurants in the entire state of Washington.

In Sequim, stop at Alder Wood Bistro, which features fresh produce from the nearby Nash Organic Farms – the main source of produce for the Seattle-area Puget Consumers Co-ops – along with very fresh seafood from the Straits of Juan De Fuca.

In historic Port Townsend, one of the many Victorian-style buildings houses the Fountain Cafe. Seafood here is not only fresh, but is prepared with a creative flair. One highly recommended dish is the Chipotle Prawns – Black Tiger prawns with fresh snap peas, tomato, and matchstick carrots in a smoky chipotle cream sauce over fettuccine.

Olympic Peninsula
Group at World’s Largest Sitka Spruce by Woody Wheeler

This tour offers a terrific combination of scenery, birding, hiking, wildlife, culture, good company, and cuisine.

Naturalist Journeys also offers another temperate rainforest tour this August 17 – 23 to Southeast Alaska.

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