I never asked any questions about traveling to ONP on this forum, but I read previous posts EXTENSIVELY, so therefore I wanted to thank the contributors that helped me so much! In particular, kaleberg, jplrk (Colleen), and glaciermeadows. It is possible, with care and planning and research, to have a good and safe family trip during these Covid times. First, a quick background. My husband and I are both essential workers in healthcare and had the time off for a trip we planned back in January. When that fell through (Eastern Canada: we’ll get there someday!) we decided to arm ourselves in wipes, masks, and bandannas (for hiking) to go explore ONP. I am much more of a hiker than the rest of my family (hubby and 2 daughters aged 18 & 22) and the itinerary I planned was heavy on hikes (kaleberg inspired me) so I did end up toning it down by the end of the trip. Being flexible is important to successful family vacations! I apologize for the length of this post but I thought it might help others in their planning.
Sept 3 - arrived in Seattle and rented a car (wiped it all down inside and drove a ways with opened windows to flush out any possible remaining airborne particles!). Headed to Lake Crescent with a stop at Safeway in Port Angeles (the one on Lincoln & 3rd because kaleberg said that one is better!). We loaded up on breakfast, lunch, and snack provisions because our plan was to stay out of restaurants as much as possible. We arrived at the lake around 4:30 and checked into our Singer Tavern Cottage with a mini fridge. That evening we walked to Marymere Falls and it was beautiful.
Sept 4 - Headed to Sol Duc after b’fast on our porch at the cottage. We arrived at the trailhead parking lot by 9:30 and it was almost full. Did the Sol Duc Falls hike and it was lovely. The best part: just past the falls a river otter scuttled up the bank, crossed the trail quickly about 4 ft in front of us and went scrambling up into the forest! We were thrilled! On the way out, we stopped at the mellow Ancient Groves loop (where NO ONE seems to go) and found a secluded spot to have our packed lunch. We headed back to Lake Crescent and had a little down time. At 2:30 we drove over to Hurricane Ridge. Had no trouble parking there. Hiked the Hurricane Hill trail, which was our least favorite hike of the whole trip (sorry). Still glad we got into the alpine ecosystem but it doesn’t appear to be the best time of year for that hike. It was also packed with people- some breathing hard going up the hill and not wearing a mask. Yikes- glad we had ours on. (We wore bandannas on all our hikes and loved the ease of being able to quickly pull them up as necessary).
Sept 5 - change of location. Our eventual destination was Kalaloch, but we drove to Ozette Lake first, in time for low tide. My plan was to do the Ozette Triangle but my daughter had some cuts and blisters on her foot (happened just before the trip) and we felt the 3 mile rocky beach walk would be too painful. So we hiked the beautiful boardwalks to Cape Alava, explored and had a nice lunch at the beach, then hiked back on the same trail. We were gone a total of 4 hours so still really got the experience. We then drove to Forks to grab more provisions (we would have a full kitchen at Kalaloch so planned to do some cooking). Arrived at our Kalaloch bluff cabin at 5:30, explored the beach and saw a beautiful sunset :-) We also had an amazing eagle encounter just outside our cabin.
Sept 6 - Left the cabin at 8am to drive to the Hoh RF. No problem getting parking despite the fact that it was Labor Day weekend. My kids were grumbling a bit at always having to be out the door early, but when we left and saw ~125 cars waiting at the entrance (with many more arriving as we drove out) they were so grateful I had gotten the “inside scoop” from you all! We did the Hall of Mosses trail first and there were lots of people! 99% were very respectful and wore masks, etc, but there was a young couple that kept going off the trail to take pictures in the forest (social media influencers?). My husband spoke to them several times about the signs that say “Stay on the Trail” (and why that is important) but they didn’t care. Frustrating. We then went up the Hoh River Trail which was much better. Beautiful! I wanted to get to the falls but again, family vetoed. We ended up taking an offshoot trail to the Hoh River and hung out there awhile. The color of the water was a beautiful milky slate blue.
Our next stop was Ruby Beach on the way back to Kalaloch but this was our only “epic fail” of the trip. We got down to the beach and it was packed with people! Reminded us of Disneyland. We turned right around and headed back to our cabin. We later took a little drive to the world’s largest Western Red Cedar (on a little gravel road just off 101). Very impressive! And hardly anyone there, so that was a bonus.
Sept 7 - Tide pooling at low tide in the morning at Beach 4 (thanks for the tide charts, kaleberg). This was a highlight! Saw lots of sea anemones and colorful sea stars. And it was different than “hiking and looking at trees”, as the kids put it (haha).
We then headed for our final destination: Lake Quinault. Before going to the lodge on the south shore, we drove to the north shore and the Maple Glade loop trail. This was another trip highlight for our family. It was simply magical and Jurassic Park-like (expected to see dinosaurs walk out from the trees). We called it “Hall of Mosses #3” (#2 was the Hoh River Trail), and the best part: there was NO ONE else on the loop! My plan was to then hike to Pony Bridge before heading to the lodge. But the fam was a bit hiked out. We went to the lodge and my daughters rented a double kayak to get some lake time in (and maybe get away from “the parentals”?). Hubby and I relaxed on the lawn in adirondike chairs. The vibe at the lodge was nice and chill for our last full day in ONP. For dinner we got delicious take out from the Salmon House down the road and brought it back to eat on a picnic table by the lake. After dinner we checked out nearby Merriman Falls (beautiful, and no hiking required!) and also the world’s largest Sitka Spruce (SO big and impressive!).
Sept 8 - Sadly, time to head back to SEATAC and home. Yes, we had done a lot of driving to get to all of these places, but the driver (hubby) said it was nicely broken up with activities and didn’t feel like too much. And (coming from a desert region) the drives WERE pretty through all the trees, with occasional peeks at lakes. In most places we went, the crowds were much less than expected (we are used to Yosemite NP crowds) and getting to trail heads early really pays off! We did stay away from Rialto Beach after reading about the crowds on this forum. Being prepared for lots of driving and doing a lot of our own food in cabins, as well as being prepared with PPE & lots of hand washing/sanitizing made our trip a really memorable one and I thank all of you travel forum contributors for helping us create lasting family memories in crazy 2020. :-)