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Olympic National Park - A Photographer's Guide

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Whether you are a photographer or just enjoy
beautiful scenery,
Olympic National Park
has something for

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you. Often referred to as "three parks in one", Olympic National Park encompasses
distinctly different ecosystems -- rugged glacier capped mountains,
over 60 miles of wild Pacific coast and magnificent stands of
old-growth and temperate rain forest. These diverse ecosystems are
still largely pristine in character -- about 95% of the park is
designated wilderness.

Activities to enjoy while in the park are
but not limited to: backpacking, beach hiking, camping, fishing,
flora gazing, horseback riding, mountaineering, photography, skiing,
snowshoeing, star gazing and wildlife watching.

A variety of ranger led programs and
activities are offered throughout the summer at a number of sites
around the park. Free campfire programs, interpretive walks and
talks are offered during the summer. Current schedules are printed
in the park's free newspaper, available throughout the summer at
visitor centers and ranger stations.

My first trip to Olympic National Park occurred during late
August. After spending about a year of researching the available
sites to visit, I narrowed my trip down to what I believe are the
most beautiful features. By no means is this list complete, but my
visit only lasted 3 days. In that amount of time, there just simply
isn't enough time to see everything. The following is my “Must See”
list of places to visit.

Hoh Rain Forest

Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park
Located about 20
minutes south of Forks, Washington off Highway 101. It is a wet and
wild forest with huge 500-year-old trees. Warning: it is called a
rain forest for a very good reason—this area receives about 150
inches of rain annually.  Several
miles west near the
coast, the sun can be shining brightly with no clouds in the sky.
But as soon as you enter the Hoh Rain Forest, expect to get rained
on! Come prepared with rain gear—you will need it. Hoh Rain Forest

OK, I’ve warned you. With all that said, I
don’t believe you can find a more beautiful area in the entire park!
For a short hike the whole family can enjoy, try the Hall of Mosses
or the Spruce Nature Trail, two short nature trails near the ranger
station. The Hall of Mosses wanders through the heart of the rain
forest with stands of conifers and big leaf maples, adorned with
long, thick shawls of moss, decorated by ferns. Some of these
dignified giants are 500 years old and stand more than 250 feet
high, and they seem proud of it. Although the trail remains
relatively close to the ranger station, don’t be fooled—after two
minutes on the trail, you will not be able to see the parking lot
nor visitor’s center due to the THICK vegetation! Everything is
covered is thick, hair-like moss, giving the scenery an almost
surreal atmosphere.

The Spruce trail provides another aspect of
the rain forest along the Hoh. The terrain near the river is
composed mostly of glacier silt and is covered with alder and maple,
making it difficult ground for conifers to establish permanent
homes. You might see Roosevelt elk in the winter grazing along the
river terraces, and cougars are known to sometimes prowl the

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach
Located in the costal
section of Olympic National Park, This
is probably the most interesting beach on the Washington Pacific
Coast. All types of rock formations, hundreds of logs washed ashore,
tons of trees, and a mini lake are just a few of the many sights
here to see. And don't forget the ocean. This place is a must see!
You can get there by driving south on Highway 101 about 25 miles
south of Forks.

Sol Duc Falls

Waterfall picture, Waterfalls, Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park
Are you interested in
finding that perfect waterfall picture?
Go to Sol Duc Falls! I have always enjoyed watching waterfalls and
looking at waterfall pictures. Sol Duc Falls is one of
the most interesting waterfalls I have
ever seen. It seems to me that the river is cut on a diagonal,
changes directions slightly when it hits the falls, and then
continues onward in the same direction it was taking before the
falls. Waterfall picture, Waterfalls, Sol Duc Falls

It's an easy hike -- less than a mile long
and one the whole family can manage easily. You'll find that the
extraordinary size of the trees and the associated growth inherent
to the rain forest climate blocks out
most of the sunlight, so don't sweat the sun block. And regardless
of the time of year, it's smart to bring a warm jacket.

As with all hikes in Olympic National Park, the destination is
not the only attraction--the scenery along the trail competes for
your attention with its awe-inspiring beauty. You will find small
streams with moss-encased boulders, majestic old-growth trees draped
in moss, and fern-covered forest beds. All things considered, this
is truly worth the visit.

Waterfall picture, Waterfalls, Sol Duc Falls
To find Sol Duc,
travel north along highway 101 from Forks about 27 miles until you
come to the Olympic National Forest Road. Turn east onto this and
follow it for about 1 mile until you reach Sol Duc Hot Springs Road.
Turn right and follow the road for 11 miles. Along the way, you may
want to stop at the Salmon Cascades. Depending on the time of year,
you will be able to watch the salmon swimming upstream. Make the
stop-you’ll be glad you did!

Cape Flattery

Washington Coast, Cape Flattery, Olympic National Park
The western-most point
in the continental United States, Cape Flattery is simply beautiful.
It is somewhat "out of the way" and will consume at least half a day
of your time getting there and back, but as long as you have made the
trip to Olympic National Park you should definitely consider
making this one of your stops. The
Trail provides a view of waves crashing against rocky shores and of
Tatoosh Island, a former Makah fishing and whaling camp and more
recently a Coast Guard station. At various times of the year, you
can catch a glimpse of puffin, sea otters, seals, gray, orca and
humpback whales and other marine life. When I visited in August,
there were several hundred sea lions basking in the sun on the rocky

To get there, you will drive north on
highway 101 from Forks for 13 miles. Here you will turn left onto
Burnt Mountain Road and continue for another 40 miles. At that
point, follow the signs--you can't miss it.

About The

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Stephen Beck is an independent
photographer specializing in nature, landscape, architectural,
and travel photography. You can view his online gallery at

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