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One-day Olympic peninsula

See the highlights in a long scenic drive

The spectacular view from Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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A drive around the Olympic Peninsula is more than 350 miles, so this is not a trip for the faint of heart. I have done it quite a few times now when family and friends visit and don't have a lot of time. My latest version has been refined, so you get the most bang for your time.

Logistics -- Get an early start. Pack a picnic breakfast, snacks and drinks for later, and don't forget your National Park pass. (If you don't have one, just show your military ID card at any entrance station. It saves you $25.) Make sure you have a full tank of gas, since services are limited for the first portion of the trip.  Review your route and have a map because some areas have no cell phone coverage. Lastly, pack good traveling companions -- you will be spending quite a bit of time together.

Your trip starts with exit 104 off I-5. Head west.  Your first destination is a two-hour, 50-minute drive. This is the longest stretch of the trip. The Kalaloch Lodge is an Olympic National Park Lodge and makes the perfect first stop. The Kalaloch Mercantile has coffee; need I say more? The lodge gift shop has a nice selection. Get out and stretch your legs and enjoy your first view of the Pacific Ocean. Remember to keep your group moving. The next stop is only a couple of miles. Insider tip: Wynooche Valley Rd. will cut a few minutes off your trip.

Kalaloch Mercantile, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily, 157151 Hwy. 101, Forks, 360.962.2271,

Ruby Beach -- Ten minutes up Hwy. 101 you will see the signs for Ruby Beach.  Named for its reddish-colored sand, it's one of the highlights of Olympic National Park and is "The Stop" on the coastline. It is a mildly strenuous hike down to the beach where you will see sea stacks, which are large rock islands that you can walk to during low tide. Insider tip: It is a rocky beach, so bring old shoes you don't mind getting wet.

Hoh Rainforest -- Follow the signs from Hwy. 101 and enjoy the scenic drive. Make sure to watch for elk and deer. Stop at the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center, then take the time to walk the Hall of Mosses Trail located behind it. Moss blankets the trees creating a magical environment. Insider tip: Take the quick side path to a grove of maple trees. It is so beautiful that when people come to it they are stunned into silence. Well worth the stop.

Forks -- This is the first town you will come to on the trip, and it makes a good lunch stop. If you are a Twilight fan, stop at the visitor center.  Bella's trucks from the movie are parked out front, and the ladies working there are a wealth of knowledge.

Forks Visitor Center, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, 1411 S. Forks Ave., Forks, 800.443.6757

Hurricane Ridge -- Leaving Forks, you will head toward Port Angeles and pass the stunning Crescent Lake. There are many places to stop for a photo.  Once in Port Angeles, look for the signs for Olympic National Park and start the drive up to the top of Hurricane Ridge. This will rank in your top 10 list -- it is that incredible. The ridge affords magnificent views of the mountains on one side, and if you have a clear day, views across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Canada as well.  Deer and other wildlife are often spotted. Facilities include a gift shop, ranger desk, snack bar and restrooms.

Now it's time to head back home.  Port Angeles is a good spot to top off on gas.  Continue on Hwy. 101 until you come to Hwy. 104 past the town of Sequim.  This will take you across the Hood Canal and on to the Kitsap Peninsula for the drive home.

The day involves quite a bit of driving, but it is very scenic and it never feels that long.

For more information about Olympic National Park, visit

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