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Camping on the Olympic Peninsula

Spend the weekend exploring lakes, rainforests, beaches and mountains

Explore the beautiful coast of the Olympic Peninsula at Kalaloch Beach. Photo credit: Missy Bouchat

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If you're new to Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), it probably hasn't taken you long to realize that when the skies finally clear up, the views are absolutely stunning. As you gaze over the sparkling Puget Sound, you can see clear out to the Olympic Mountain Range. While they seem to be far off in the distance, the drive is surprisingly short, roughly one to three hours from base, depending on your destination, and there is a whole lot more to explore while you're there.

Leave JBLM in the morning, take I-5 North to route 16 all the way out to the Peninsula. You will pass Gig Harbor and Port Orchard, both great places to stop for an awesome breakfast, and grab a photo at the Hobbit House at the Brothers Green House. From there, follow the 3 North up past Bremerton (great stop here to tour the USS Turner Joy), through Silverdale and Poulsbo, also great places to stop and walk around. Poulsbo is small but has great character, as it's referred to as "Little Norway".  We definitely recommend heading all the way up to Port Townsend to see this beautiful little town with stunning architecture. Keep heading north and you will connect with the 104, and pass over the Hood Canal Bridge, the longest floating bridge in the world, connecting the Kitsap Peninsula to the Olympic Peninsula. Not far from here is Sequim, famous for the Olympic National Game Farm, where you can drive through and feed wild game out of your window. From Downtown Port Angeles, you can see views of Canada across the Straight of Juan de Fuca, as well as the impressive coast guard station. The Hoh Rainforest isn't far from there, as well as Hurricane Ridge and Dungeness Spit, the longest natural sand spit in the United States. From there, move along to the western coast and explore the incredible beaches, including La Push, Ruby Beach, and Kalaloch. You can spend the entire day at these beaches -- they are absolutely stunning. As you head south, you can move inland and explore the Quinault Rain Forest, or head straight to Ocean Shores, another fun, family destination.

There are camping options galore all over the Olympic Peninsula. You'll find an assortment from rustic tent sites to sites with RV water and electrical hookups - even fancy yurts! One thing to consider when exploring the Peninsula is whether you plan to bring Fido along. There are many camp sites that are pet-friendly, but the trails inside the Olympic National Forest, as well as a few of the beaches, do not allow dogs. This is to protect the wildlife as well as your pet. There are many great resources online that explain where you can and cannot go with your pup, just be sure to reference before you head out.

When you are ready to leave the urban streets of Tacoma and Olympia behind you, and are seeking an all natural experience away from the comforts and amenities we've all grown accustomed to, then clear the day or weekend for a trip out to the Olympic Peninsula. There are over 1,400 square miles of untouched and undisturbed nature, as the Peninsula is home to both the Olympic National Forest and the Olympic National Park, as well as three Native American reservations. You can explore multiple rainforests, waterfalls, natural hot springs, miles of sandy beaches, and hundreds of hiking trails. There are many destinations that are easy day trips from JBLM, but if you really want to get down and dirty, we recommend spending an entire weekend exploring.

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