There are few truly Pacific Northwest events that can compare to watching winter arrive in the rainforest. While many avoid the region due to the strong winds, constant downpours and occasional snow showers, there is something amazing and unique about spending time out in the wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula. Tucked away deep in Grays Harbor’s Quinault Rainforest, one of the most underrated winter experiences is waiting for you.
The Lake Quinault Lodge is an iconic lodge in the Pacific Northwest and by far the crown jewel of lodges around Olympic National Park. Built in 1926, the Lake Quinault Lodge is probably most famous for hosting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for a lunch as he toured the area that would later be Olympic National Park. In 1937, he traveled around the Peninsula, enjoying the towering trees and solitude of wilderness found along the shores of Lake Quinault. It is rumored that, while dining on a meal overlooking Lake Quinault, FDR made his decision to protect the land for good.
Today, the Quinault Rainforest is the 6th most popular region of the Olympic Peninsula and National Park, bringing in nearly a quarter million visitors each year. Those who do make their way to the Quinault are greeted with eagles, elk, salmon and bears, as well as access to incredible trails and majestic views. In the summer, the area can be crowded and full, but the winter months give those searching for solitude, isolation and beauty the ultimate gift.
During the winter months around Lake Quinault Lodge, there are numerous things to do, see and explore. While the areas around the lodge are amazing, the first area visitors should see is the main room and fireplace of the Lake Quinault Lodge. Adorned with rocks and a huge elk head, the rustic feel of the Lake Quinault Lodge becomes evident immediately.
During the holidays, a large tree, decorated with local christmas ornaments, sits across the room from the fireplace. On Christmas Eve, the staff at Lake Quinault Lodge hosts an event, complete with Santa arriving with a llama before sitting next to the fire and reading “The Night Before Christmas.” With gifts, live music and roasted chestnuts, this is the perfect getaway on Christmas Eve.
If you can’t make it to the Lake Quinault Lodge on Christmas Eve, don’t fret. Throughout the entire year, incredible views of Lake Quinault and the Quinault Rainforest are just a few feet from the lodge doors. Yet, true solitude is only found here in the offseason. Lake Quinault Lodge in the winter gives you a wealth of exploration mere seconds from relaxing in front of a large fireplace. With 13 miles of trails waiting just outside, accessing and exploring the Quinault Rainforest doesn’t get any easier than at the lodge.
All around the Lake Quinault Lodge, a myriad of amazing winter activities await you and your family. While hundreds of potential adventures are available, we have narrowed down four recommended activities that are perfect for the winter season. From staying in the car to getting out in the elements, and everything in between, starting a rainforest adventure from the Lake Quinault Lodge is a wonderful experience.
1. Drive the Lake Quinault Loop.
To start, it is highly suggested that you drive the Lake Quinault Loop. At 31 miles roundtrip, this drive gets you close to amazing waterfalls, stunning river views, prime elk habitat, numerous picnic areas and hundreds of miles of trails. The highlights are numerous, but the drive through the rainforest and exploring Merriman Falls take the cake. Watch for elk and eagles while on this drive, as they are commonly seen.
2. View Morning Ice and Frost.
In the winter, the drive is unique, with sections of the rainforest covered in thick frost during the morning hours. Seeing ferns lined in ice and frost, standing out sharply against the greens of the dense forest, is an experience everyone should have. The best place to see morning ice and frost will be north of the bridge and down at the end of the road along the North Fork of the Quinault River. For a quick walk in the frost, heading down the North Fork Trail a few miles will give you amazing views and some great areas for incredible photographs of ice and frost.
3. Take a Winter Hike.
For more serious hikers, heading out to Pony Bridge, Fletcher Canyon or even up to Colonel Bob Peak will give you a winter experience unlike any other. Shorter day hikes are found on the southern shores of Lake Quinault, near the lodge. The best route is to start at the Rainforest Nature Loop Trail west of the lodge and take any of the 13 miles of trails. Willaby Creek is also an excellent small series of falls to reconnect with the wilderness.
4. Stay Overnight at Lake Quinault Lodge.
After exploring, you could drive home, or you could cap off your trip to the Quinault Rainforest and Lodge at Lake Quinault with a stay in the lodge itself. While prices fluctuate throughout the year, discounts are constantly made during the winter months, making the lodge a perfect destination for romantic getaways in Grays Harbor. Stay here in the off-season and fall in love with winter in the Quinault Rainforest.