Visitors to Grays Harbor are just an hour or so away from a large national park. The southwestern areas of Olympic National Park receive less traffic than the rest of the area, said Barb Maynes, public affairs officers for the National Park Service in a phone interview.
“If visitors are coming from Aberdeen, they have access to a lot of the lesser used areas of the national park,” Maynes said. “Considering travel times from Seattle to Quinault and Queets, it’s the gateway to the quieter areas.”
Visiting the northern side of the Lake
“There’s a lot to do in the Quinault area. You can easily spend a whole day just exploring this area,” said Maynes.
The northern shore of the Lake is part of the Olympic National Park.
The Quinault Rainforest Visitor Center contains several exhibits on the history of the area, rainforest and local sites.
Park rangers are available to help answer any questions visitors may have. There is also information on lodging and activities in the area
Drivers can use the Quinault Loop through dense forest to catch a glimpse of historic homes.
Those who would rather walk can take a 1.3-mile-long loop to the Kestner Homestead and take a closer look at the rustic homes.
“At Kestner Homestead, visitors can take a look at how difficult it is to clear and maintain the land in this area,” Maynes said. “It’s a rainforest, so vegetation tends to grow back in very quickly.”
The Maple Glade trail is a half-mile path beginning at the ranger station and weaving through a glade of big leaf maple trees.
The Quinault Big Cedar trail is a short but elevated walk that takes visitors up to an ancient cedar tree.
Visitors who want to stay overnight can book a space at the Quinault Lodge.
July Creek offers a picnic area surrounded by old growth trees on one side and the lake on the other.
For the more adventurous drivers, gravel paths lead to more wild area.
The 16-mile North Fork River Trail ends in a large campground.
The East Fork Quinault River leads to the Enchanted Chalet, where there are more camping, fishing and hiking areas.
Graves Creek Road ends in an area with 30 campsites.
Wilderness permits are required for overnight backpacking.
What you can find here: campsites, restrooms, picnic tables, hiking, ranger station/info, wildlife, lodging
A trip to the beach
South Beach is a camping area for RVs with hookups but no extra facilities.
About 35 miles north of Quinault is Kalaloch, which has more direct beach access. A ranger station provides information and guides on the area. The Kalaloch Lodge has 20 guest rooms of varying size — from suite to small one bedroom. They overlook the ocean. Access to the beach below is steep, which makes it not accessible for people with disabilities. A little further north are tidepools and more open areas. The park is open year round and is a popular place to stay overnight, Maynes said. For those with time, the Hoh Rain Forest is just 45-minutes away.
What you can find here: campsites, lodging, restrooms, wildlife, hiking, RV parking (at South Beach)
The sheltered forest
Queets is just 30 miles away from Kalaloch.
“It’s a rainforest valley that is underdeveloped compared to Quinault, but doesn’t have as many visitor resources,” Maynes said.
The Upper Queets leads to the 16-mile-long Queets River Trail, which leads to a large Douglas-fir tree. A dirt and gravel road leads through the forested area. There is a campground with pit toilets but no running water or toilets. The roads here are often narrow, making it dangerous to drive on with logging traffic.
What you can find here: campsites, hiking
A glimpse into the mountains
For those who don’t mind a long drive and want a bit of mountainous journey, there is Staircase, a heavily wooded area that’s not rain forest and provides short hikes with views of the mountains.
“If you were to do a pretty advanced hike on the steeper trails, you can get into the higher country and more mountainous areas,” Maynes said.
Staircase is 126 miles away from Lake Quinault, and could make for a long day trip.
What you can find here: campsites, hiking, ranger station/info, restrooms, picnic area
Wilderness permits required for overnight stays
Individual (bike or foot): $5
Annual Pass: $30