Walk Among Giants at Lake Quinault, Washington

by Emily Molina

The Quinault Valley region, home to six magnificent tree giants, are some of the largest in the world according to the National Forestry Association. 

There is a place on the southwestern edge of the Olympic National Park, full of moss and mist and trees the size of giants, of endless trails, cascading waterfalls and majestic mountains. 

The Quinault Rainforest, located 174 miles west of Seattle, is one of three temperate rainforests within the Olympic National Forest. Encompassing miles of pathways, it’s the perfect backdrop to unplug and recharge amid some of the largest coniferous trees of their kind. 

The historic Lake Quinault Lodge makes an ideal starting point to begin such an escape. Built in 1926, the lodge is set beneath a tapestry of fringing moss, ferns, lichens and earthy smells, and where the river meets the pristine banks of the Lake Quinault glacial pool. 

The current site was completed in only 53 days and is situated west of where an earlier structure stood before being lost to a fire in 1924.      

Idyllic door-to-wilderness adventures—over eight miles of interconnected trails—are easily accessible from lodge grounds. Guests have only to step outside to connect with nature, returning later to modern comforts and rustic charm. 

Each well-maintained trail displays a cacophony of natural wonder as well as linking into the Quinault National Recreation Trail system.  

Visit the world’s largest Douglas fir, a 302-foot behemoth, the second largest western red cedar rising 174 feet into the sky, and a record-breaking 191-foot 1,000-year-old Sitka spruce. The largest yellow cedar and western and mountain hemlock species in the U.S. can be found here, too.  

There’s no shortage of waterfalls either. Visitors just have to cross the street to reach two notable ones by foot. Cascade Falls takes visitors on a half-mile walk surrounded by lush greenery and the not-so-far-off sounds of water as it echoes through the trees and plunges to the depths below. Gatton Creek Falls can be found via the Gatton Creek trailhead farther down the road or by continuing northeast along the trail away from Cascade Falls. 

Experience plenty of activities without leaving the lodge. Helpful staff are eager to share ways to unwind. Find a sunny spot by the lake in an Adirondack chair, read a book, go fishing or try seasonally available kayak or paddle board rentals in the pristine waters. 

Three boat tours run daily from July through August. Choose narrated morning, afternoon or evening cruises with opportunities to see wildlife in its natural habitat. Look for bald eagles, river otters or feeding osprey, or simply relax and enjoy the ride.    

Join lodge guests on a 4-hour guided rainforest shuttle tour, available year-round. Learn historic details about the lake, rainforest and Quinault Indian Nation. The tour includes several short walks and makes stops at all the best places for capturing photos.  

The 30-mile driving tour around the lake is accessible by personal vehicle for a more self-paced experience with convenient roadway pull-offs for viewing. Discover more areas teaming with wildlife, such as Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, owls and black bears, to name a few. The drive passes by other noteworthy waterfalls like the 40-foot Merriman Falls and one of the area’s largest, a 60-foot cascade named Bunch Creek Falls.   

At the end of a day of exploring, the Lodge fireplace awaits as a beacon. Or take a dip in the heated pool or kick back in the dry sauna to defrost after a day of adventure before dining at the Roosevelt Restaurant.   

Franklin D. Roosevelt did just that while visiting the lodge in 1937, nine months prior to his support of a bill that helped establish the Olympic National Park. In later years, the restaurant was named in his honor.    

Today, the menu boasts a broad selection of wines, and hearty dinners like the Quinault Clam Chowder, Wild King Salmon or Roosevelt’s Classic Pot Roast. A number of filling breakfast choices satisfy in the morning before heading out on the next adventure. 

The Lodge Gift Shop and front desk is open around the clock for toiletry items, souvenirs and gifts, snacks, wine and more. 

Take some time to disconnect at the Lake Quinault Lodge and reconnect with nature in this magical land of the rainforest giants. Find information about booking a visit at olympicnationalparks.com/lodging/lake-quinault-lodge. Learn more about traveling Washington’s spectacular Olympic Peninsula at olympicpeninsula.org