Two-Night Camping Trip in Olympic National Park: Rialto Beach and Lake Crescent 

In late May, my husband and I took a two night camping trip to Olympic National Park. We stayed by Hole in the Wall on Rialto Beach our first night and along the shores of Lake Crescent our second night. 

Getting There

Getting to the Olympics from Oak Harbor, WA is no small feat. One must drive to the Coupeville – Port Townsend Ferry, arriving at least 30 minutes early for the ferry (if you have a reservation), take the 20 minute ferry ride to Port Townsend, and then begin the 1.5-2.5 hour drive to your campsites. It is a gorgeous park though, teeming with lush, mossy forests, pebbly coastlines decorated with massive rocks jutting out of the water, and turquoise blue-glacial fed lakes surrounded by mountains. 

Things to Note

-Ferry: When taking any ferry, it’s always a good idea to make a roundtrip reservation. Your trip could be extended significantly if you don’t have a secured spot on the ferry. Also of importance, it is imperative you arrive at least 30 minutes early for the ferry and check in. 

-Gas: Fill up before you head out. The gas prices were quite a bit higher out on the Olympic Peninsula than on Whidbey Island. 

-Snacks, Water & Layers: Kind of a general “be prepared” statement, but bring lots of snacks, several different layers (weather changes quickly) and more water than you think necessary. 

-Bear Cans: When staying on the beach, we had to rent a bear can to store food in overnight. The Forks Outfitters in Forks sells these for about $2 a night. 

-Campsites: Be sure to check if the park is allowing reservations for campsites yet. If it’s in season, definitely reserve a site. Otherwise, sites will be first come first serve. On Lake Crescent, there is a lodge but it fills up months in advance. 

Port Townsend

I took an earlier ferry by myself and walked around Port Townsend for a couple hours until my husband arrived on a later ferry. The historic downtown sits right on the Port Townsend Bay, feeding into the Puget Sound. On the sunny day I visited, the Olympic Mountains were visible in the distance. The town has a myriad of shops and restaurants all within walking distance of one another. I bought an iced coffee and a pound of coffee beans from Better Living Through Coffee, a cute little shop situated right on the water with its own beachfront. Better Living Through Coffee sells Port Townsend Coffee Roasting Company beans, which are Fair Trade and organic. I enjoyed my coffee in the sun while waiting on the later ferry to arrive. 

Rialto Beach

After a 2.5 hour drive from Port Townsend, we arrived at our first camping location: Rialto Beach. This beach boasts forested islands in the distance, massive pieces of driftwood, towering trees, and sea life. Our goal campsite was a two mile walk down the beach to Hole in the Wall. This massive rock formation has a natural arch in it, hence it’s name. Apparently if the tide is low enough, you can walk out under the arch but the water was too high during our stay. 

The campsites aren’t really marked, but rather they’re flatter portions of sand nestled in the trees with previous campers’ fire pits. We were lucky and found a driftwood-wall enclosed campsite right next to Hole in the Wall. 

The weather turned undesirable for our walk down the beach, windy and cloudy. We didn’t arrive till 8pm so it was getting dark to begin with. The beach is composed almost entirely of small pebbles. 

The next morning we were greeted by the sun shining brightly down upon the ocean that lulled us to sleep the night before. The warmth of the morning felt good on our skin as we walked down the beach back to our car. All of the rocky islands looked even more stark and impressive in the light of day. The weather was so nice we enjoyed some lunch on the beach before returning to Forks. 

Forks

This small town made famous by the Twilight saga sits just 20 minutes away from Rialto beach, and is probably the biggest town you’ll encounter within and hour drive. We had to stop on the way in to rent a bear can from Forks Outfitters, so we bypassed the Twilight tours but those are available if desired. I made a much-needed coffee stop at the Mocha Motion coffee stand before we headed onwards to Lake Crescent. My coffee was great and the employees in the stand were super friendly! 

Lake Crescent

This stunning glacier lake is about 90 minutes from Port Townsend and is worth every minute of the drive there. Lake Crescent is 632 feet deep and 11 miles long, tucked into the mountains. It is the second deepest lake in Washington after Lake Chelan, and is known for its exceptional clarity. The water shone such a brilliant blue, with depths visible until it simply becomes to deep to see further. 

The Lake Crescent Lodge sits on the opposite end of the lake as the campgrounds, but both sites have kayak rentals during the summer season.

We camped at the Fairholme Campsites, which have plenty of sites in the forest and down closer to the water. Ours was nestled partway into the woods but with a view of the lake and mountains. One thing I did appreciate about these sites was the ample fresh drinking water. 

We spent the afternoon at the lodge end of the lake, walking the Moment in Time trail (a 0.75 mile loop through the quiet forest) and basking in the sun on the shore of the lake. I even ventured out waist deep into the icy clear water. We enjoyed sunset playing cards sitting on the dock by our campsite. 

Overall, it was a beautiful weekend spent outside. I never sleep much while camping but I guess that’s just how it goes. Hopefully this is helpful for anyone considering an Olympics camping trip! 

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