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Road Tripping to Olympic National Park with Kids!

Planning a 700-mile road trip with a 5-year old is a pretty daunting task. I wondered, “Will she scream the whole way home? Will she demand to play on her tablet the whole time? How often will she need to stop to pee?” 

This past June, my husband and I dropped the German shepherds off at doggy sleep-away camp and took our 5-year old on a road trip on the Olympic Peninsula. We had never taken a road trip that long and were curious how it would work out. The trip went very well! Here is our trip in a nutshell:

Day 1: 

The view of Dungeness Spit from the trail

  • Drive from SW Washington to Sequim, stopping to walk at Dosewallips State Park.
  • Dinner in Port Angeles followed by 1 mile round trip walk to Dungeness Spit (bring extra layers and eye protection for high winds; be quiet on the walk to see wildlife on the trail).
  • Stay in an Airbnb RV rental in Port Angeles. 

Day 2:

View from one of the meadow trails at Hurricane Ridge

  • Visit Hurricane Ridge and hike the meadow loops; stop into the Visitor’s Center to start working on the Junior Ranger book.
  • Drive to Bogachiel State Park to camp. This camp is very pretty, but it is very loud with road noise until sunset. While the campsites on the river are lovely, these sites are very close to a bridge and extra road noise. There is a river access trail near campsite 34. Along the way, stop at Lake Crescent for sightseeing and Forks for groceries.

Day 3: 

Anemone at Second Beach

  • Drive to La Push and hike 1.4 miles round trip to Second Beach. Check the tide schedule so you can arrive at low tide and see the best tide pools, however, you can still access the beach at higher tides. Watch out for bold crows who will break into your backpacks for snacks!
  • Visit Kalaloch Beach 4 for tide pooling and climbing on rocks. This beach needs to be visited right at low tide so you can have some walking area to get to the pools. Be aware, you have to walk downhill a bit and then climb down some rocks to reach the beach.
  • Back at camp, work on the Olympic National Park Ocean Steward Patch. Print out the book beforehand here.

Day 4: 

The beginning of the Hoh River Trail

  • After visiting the Hoh River Visitor’s Center, hike 0.9 mile one-way on the main Hoh River Trail to a short trail that allows you to access the river. Look for newts and nurse logs along the way.
  • Complete the Olympic National Park Junior Ranger packet to earn a badge and turn in the Ocean Steward Patch packet to earn a patch.

Day 5: 

  • On your way home, stop by the lower Kalaloch beaches or Lake Quinault

Some more advice:

  • Bring more changes of clothes than you think you will need. 
  • Meeting up with friends at the end of the trip is a great idea.
  • Bring lots of healthy snacks since road trip food isn’t the healthiest!
  • Cell reception isn’t reliable, so know your route and campsite numbers beforehand.
  • Check tides here: https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/tides-and-your-safety.htm
  • Educate yourself and your kids on sneaker waves.
  • Give wild animals distance.
  • Leave pets at home.
  • Plan for no more than 1.5-2 hours of driving before stopping for a short walk or point of interest.
  • Bring road trip activities like travel bingo, workbooks, sticker books, and tablets to be used as late as possible into the trip.
  • Bring a ball, travel bocce ball, and pencils/journal for camp.
  • Plan for cool nights and rain any time of the year.
  • Use an ice cream stop in Forks as incentive if you need it in a pinch.

Here are some helpful links:

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Written by Bellaj1018

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