Washington Wonderland

With its glacier-fed lakes and old-growth forests, alpine meadows and miles of beachfront, the natural wonders of Olympic National Park are each worth their own weekend adventure. But, with an eager pooch in tow, there’s only one place to go: Kalaloch Lodge.
Written & Photographed by J. Nichole Smith
Located 35 miles south of Forks, 70 miles north of Hoquiam, Kalaloch Lodge and its 44 scenic cabins decorate a grassy bluff reaching over the restless Pacific. The only lodging in the Park open year-round, Kalaloch not only defines the phrase “breathtaking ocean views,” but also boasts an active guest list in every season. Humans and canines alike visit from around the world, many returning year after year. Peak season at Kalaloch is the end of May to mid-October as well as all weekends, holidays and school vacation times. Although most would say Kalaloch is one of the best-kept secrets of the West Coast, after being recently named “#1 Best Affordable Beach Retreat in the West” by Sunset Magazine, you can bet the secret is out.

What may remain a best-kept secret however, is that Kalaloch is a fido-friendly oasis within the predominantly “no dogs allowed” Olympic National Park. Along with Rialto Beach and Peabody Creek Trail, pooches (on leash) are allowed at all of Kalaloch’s seven beaches. However Canis familiaris is far from the only species you will find on and around Kalaloch’s shores. In 1994, Kalaloch became part of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and is home to impressive populations of sea birds, otters, bald eagles seals and sea lions and is within the route of gray whale migration (spring & fall).

True to the name given by the Quinault Indians, meaning “land of plenty”, Kalaloch is a bountiful 3,300-square-mile sanctuary that holds no shortage of outdoor activities for two-and four-legged enthusiasts. The most popular pastimes include camping, hiking, biking, beachcombing, clamming and fishing. Or, in the event of one of the Pacific Northwest’s famous storms, you and your pooch can curl up by the fire and watch Mother Nature move over the ocean from the comfort of your own cozy cabin.

A passerby would likely notice two things that each of Kalaloch’s tidy little beach-facing cabins have in common. First, each chimney seems forever active with the sights and smells of its wood-burning fireplace, and second, each window or door seems plastered with a wet nose or a collection of eager paws. From the talkative miniature schnauzer to the stoic Irish wolfhound pair, the slow moving pug to body-wagging Labradors, all of the smiling doggy faces seem to shout “We looooove it here!”

Our cabin was no exception. Olivia spent a great majority of our indoor time pressing her oversized pink schnozzle over the edge of her armchair throne onto the picture window.

In addition to overstuffed Great Dane throne chairs and a Franklin-style fireplace (with a bundle of firewood) our cabin was outfitted with a kitchenette stocked with dishes and cookware (bring your own paper towels if you require them), queen bed, full bed, generous couch, microwave, fridge, toaster, hair dryer, coffee maker, bed linens, towels, disc player, alarm clock, pocket tide tables and two walking sticks. Other than candles and flashlights (which we brought because when you are at the mercy of Mother Nature you have to be prepared for power outages) everything we needed for a quiet weekend get away was supplied. There is also a Mercantile Gas and Grocery Store on the grounds for incidentals (including extra fire wood or that latte you can’t go without)

Here are a few things that the Kalaloch lodge recommends you pack with you:

· Rain gear, including waterproof boots as well as hat, jacket and pants
· Hat (that the wind won't blow off) and sunglasses
· Lip balm and sunscreen (to protect against the wind as well as the sun)
· Turtleneck or long sleeved T-shirt for layering
· Sturdy footwear (ideally waterproof) and good hiking socks
· Lightweight binoculars
· Field guides for identifying wildlife
· Camera

Although we opted to cabin instead of camp, there are some wonderful campgrounds on either side of the Kalaloch lodge. Some of these spots are subject to seasonal closures and all are subject to the rapidly changing weather, so come prepared.

Kalaloch Lodge Campground: A group campground about two-tenths of a mile south of the Lodge, this site will hold three very small RVs, or six to eight tents and maximum of 30 people. There is one water tap, and a pit toilet. Call the Lodge at 1-866-525-2562.

National Park Service Campground: 170-slot campground one mile north of the Kalaloch Lodge. There are restrooms and there is a dump station but no RV hookups. Reservations are taken for the summer months (June through Labor Day); call 1-800-365-2267 and—when asked for which campground—punch in OLY on your phone pad to get Kalaloch.

South Beach Campground: 80-slot campground. The road leading in is short but steep. There is no potable water and only a rudimentary restroom on site.

In addition to being prepared for the elements, when visiting Kalaloch Lodge, be prepared for total escape. You can expect to have no cell phone reception, no internet, no television and on the occasions when the wind really gets going, no electricity. Be warned, in addition to communing with nature, you will likely have to rely on the lost arts of conversation, reading and fetch for entertainment.

Don’t be fooled, despite Kalaloch’s simple style, it’s not without indulgences. If you plan to bring your own food for cooking and snacking, make sure you have at least one meal at the Lodge Restaurant; the stellar views aren’t the only specials worth sampling. Serving mouth-watering selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can bet that no matter what time of day, there will be an appropriate entrée to satisfy!

Among many other delights, the Kalaloch menus feature crunchy French toast at breakfast, classic burgers and fish and chips at lunch, and of course, fresh Cedar Plank Salmon at dinner. Complete your evening meal with a glass of Columbia Chardonnay, Mondavi Pinot Noir, or Jacob’s Creek Australian Shiraz and one (or two) of the many decadent desserts.

I recommend the sweet Strawberry Spinach Salad: “Fresh organic field greens, spinach, strawberries, feta cheese, red onions, and candied walnuts topped with the house made balsamic vinaigrette” and the savory Kalaloch Fettuccini Provencal: “Fresh vegetables sautéed in white wine and butter, served over fettuccine with your choice of house made Alfredo, marinara, or pesto cream sauce served with warm bread.”

To work up an appetite there are plenty of adventures waiting for you and your canine compadre at nearly every bend in Highway 101. Here are a few that happen to be especially worth sniffing out:

Hoh Rainforest: The turnoff for the Hoh Rainforest is about 20 miles north of Kalaloch lodge. Past the Visitor’s center there are three easy hiking trails and two overnight trails, but unfortunately pets are not allowed. However, we found the panoramic 18-mile drive to get to the Visitor’s center breathtaking in and of itself. Note to the driver: Keep an eye out for cattle along the roads.

Ruby Beach: Located about 17 miles north of Kalaloch lodge, Ruby Beach is home to awe-inspiring stack rocks and a shoreline that yawns out beneath a forest of towering, wind-battered pines. Massive driftwood debris and millions of smooth oval stones lead down to a flawless sandy shore. The path down to the beach is steep but well worth it. If you see any one beach while on the coast, see this one.

Fishing/Clamming: The chilly waters of the Olympic Peninsula’s bountiful creeks and rivers offer some of the country’s best fishing. There are several seasonal guided fishing trips and surf fishing opportunities available. Digging for clams is a great way to experience the Kalaloch beaches as well as score a yummy dinner. The National Park Service opens the beaches at certain times of the year for clam digging and a license is required. Be aware though, that the harvest of clams or any other marine life at any other time is illegal unless posted and approved by the Park Service. You can find out more about clamming and fishing at the Lodge’s front desk.

Hiking: Whether you have two or four, the best way to see the coast is on foot. There are tons of nature trails, beach walks and day hikes. Each room at Kalaloch Lodge comes equipped with two walking sticks—grab some comfy shoes and some water for the pooch and you’re set. In the summer, Olympic National Park service interpretive rangers lead daily beach and tide pool walks, as well as tours of the coastal forest. You can get a list of these tours as well as a list of other local trails and hikes at the front desk. We highly recommend the “Kalaloch Nature Trail”—it’s accessible through the Kalaloch Campground near the Lodge, paw friendly and incredibly picturesque.

Biking: If you have a hound with happy feet who likes to run along, biking can be a great way for both of you to get exercise. Bike rentals are available from the Peak 6 Adventure store (about six miles up the Hoh Rainforest road). Do take note that bikes are not allowed on the Olympic National Park trails or beaches, but there are a ton of scenic dirt roads to explore, and even Highway 101 makes for a great trek. Also important to note is that there are no shoulders in some stretches of the Highway, so exercise caution as well as your legs.

World’s largest Western Red Cedar tree: Follow the “Big Cedar Tree” signs to the trailhead, located roughly 14 miles north of the Lodge. After following a dirt road you will arrive at a trailhead and the cedar will be just yards away. You can’t miss this colossal mass of limbs and trunk, it’s absolutely spectacular.

Lake Quinault Lodge: Only about a half hour away from Kalaloch Lodge is the Lake Quinault Lodge. Pets are welcomed in their “boat house” rooms, which are scheduled for renovations this spring. BONUS—yet another well-kept secret: Guests of Kalaloch Lodge are welcome to use the sauna and pool at Lake Quinault. Go to the front desk with your room card and they will provide towels.

Art: Check out the Olympic West Art trek, a self-guided driving tour of gift shops, galleries and studios where you can see awesome art, collectibles and antiques including Native American crafts, sculpture, quilts, wildlife prints and more.

Despite the myriad of spectacular sights to absorb and activities to plan, at the end of the day, the best Kalaloch moments don’t involve going anywhere but the window or the picnic table outside. The true vacation lies in watching the tide crash into the shore, the sea birds take to flight in dramatic aerial routines, and the sun slowly slide beneath the hazy horizon… and the highlight of course, is having your favorite set of paws beside you for every bit of it.

Gear up for Kalaloch at the CityDog Shop.

More Information
Kalaloch Lodge
157151 Highway 101
Forks, Wash. 98331

Lake Quinault Lodge
345 South Shore Road
Quinault, Wash. 98575

Olympic National Park
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