The Olympic Loop: The Journey As The Destination
“Encompassing the last forest wilderness of the United States, preserved for posterity in the recently formed Olympic National Park, the Olympic Peninsula is a wonderland of scenic attraction and vacation adventure supreme. A land of glaciers, ice fields, perpetually snow-capped mountains, giant trees, hundreds of species of wild flowers, twenty of which are found nowhere else in the world; mountain lakes, meandering streams and picturesque ocean beaches, the peninsula is encircled by the broad, smooth Olympic Loop Highway.”
– “The Olympic Peninsula, America’s Last Frontier” 1940
An easy bus ride took us to Aberdeen, the gateway to the Olympic Loop tucked away in the southwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula. Traveling north took us past Lake Quinault, Kalaloch, Forks, Lake Crescent and Port Angeles. We passed through Sequim as we turned east to Port Townsend, the northeast end of the Olympic Peninsula. From Port Townsend, we headed south through Quilcene, Brinnon, and Hoodsport with stunning views of the Hood Canal to Shelton and then back to Olympia.
With so many possible hikes, kayaking adventures, clamming, beach walking, and small towns to explore, the Olympic Loop attracts thousands of people every year. Travelers can spend weeks here but we opted to do the loop in three days, taking buses from 4 different transit authorities.
Day 1: Olympia to Aberdeen, Lake Quinault, Kalaloch and Forks
We began in Olympia, traveling on Grays Harbor bus # 40, through McCleary, Elma, and Montesano. A woman provided us with a narrative of her hometown and the 1998 flood that covered Route 8. We arrived in Aberdeen early enough to spend a few hours. We had tea at the Popcorn Factory before visiting the local museum. Aberdeen has a colorful history as a Port town. A schoolroom, a fire engine and the red light district provide a sense of the life at the turn of the 19th century. It had a display of its oral history project that featured the lives of outstanding Aberdeen women.
The sun came out as we traveled the Grays Harbor bus # 60 heading north to Quinault. These are regular riders. Gardens and canning was the primary topic of conversation. The bus went to the Quinault Lodge, making it an easy day trip from Olympia—with a short hike and picnic or lunch at the Lodge. But we continued on to Amanda Park, the transfer station to the Jefferson County bus. The small shuttle bus was full.
We got off at the Kalaloch Lodge to have lunch and walk along the beach strewn with driftwood before catching the 5 p.m. Jefferson County bus to Forks. We were the only non-regular people on this bus and the bus driver knew where everyone needed to go, including those that were catching the connecting bus to La Push.
The Inn has become the fictionalized Cullen house of Twilight fame and is overwhelmed by pilgrims. Cheryl, the Inn-sitter, let us in and showed us to a very sweet room. There was tea and cookies waiting in the dining room. We relaxed with Tunny the cat in the living room before heading out for dinner. The Inn was full but it was a quiet and restful place.
Bus Travel Details:
Olympia Transit Center: Grays Harbor Transit Route 40 to Aberdeen. ($2 ($1 if 60 or older)
Aberdeen Transit Center: Grays Harbor Transit Route # 60 to Quinault/Amanda Park (free with transfer).
Amanda Park: transfer to Jefferson County Transit Route #11 to Forks (with stopover at Kalaloch). ($2)
Total time: 4.5 hours
111 East Third Street
Aberdeen, Washington 98520