Walking the trails and paths of Grays Harbor is always a visual adventure, allowing you to gaze at unrivaled wilderness from atop craggy peaks, in pristine forests and along the gorgeous coast. While rewarding, sometimes we crave a little more on our treks, which is why late spring and summer are perfect times to explore. As the temperature warms and the snows melt, there is an explosion of new plant growth around the region, specifically wildflowers. Thanks to the varying elevations of the Olympic Peninsula and surround areas, the region is actually considered to be home to one of most diverse wildflower populations in the world. While most of Grays Harbor rests at lower elevations and sees fewer wildflowers, there are a handful of spots in and around our county that will have you smiling as you stop and smell the flowers.
A fun and family-friendly trek to see wildflowers and catch a whiff of the pungently addicting smells of skunk cabbage is found up on the North Shore of Lake Quinault. Here, surrounded by the stunning scenes of the rainforest, wander around the Kestner Homestead and the Maple Glade Trail to see seasonal blooms of your favorite local flowers. Along this well-maintained 1.3-mile hike, you’ll not only see wildflowers blooming in the fields, but you’ll wander through a forest full of skunk cabbage and other blooming plants while enjoying the splendor and relative solitude of the Olympics. What makes this family-friendly trail even more fun is the chance to see the old homestead plot, complete with old farming equipment and buildings.
Lake Quinault Lodge
Also in the area, across the lake, is the Lake Quinault Lodge, where the grounds of this historic resort erupt in color, thanks to the blooming rhododendrons. Rhododendrons are the official state flower of Washington and typically bloom in the late spring, contrasting against the blue skies. If you haven’t seen the “rhodies” at Lake Quinault, head here after exploring the lake and enjoy a meal, the views and the smells of spring on the Olympic Peninsula.
Colonel Bob Peak
Those looking for a majestic view, a steep hike and fields of wildflowers need to make the trek up to Colonel Bob Peak. Overlooking the wilds of the Wynoochee, the Quinault Rainforest and Lake Quinault, you’ll hike past wildflowers along this eight-mile hike. You will gain 3,500 feet on this trek, so it isn’t for everyone. However, those who do head up to the top will be rewarded with a few fields of gorgeous wildflowers in the months of July and August. What makes this a can’t-miss hike for serious hikers is that Colonel Bob is the perfect combination of a challenging trail, stunning views and the scents of different blooming wildflowers. The trail can also be approached from the South Shore Road near Lake Quinault, but this route doesn’t have as many flowers blooming along it.
Of course, for true wildflower bliss on the Olympic Peninsula, you’ll need to take a drive to the northern sections, exploring Deer Park and Hurricane Ridge. Here, nearly a mile above sea level, entire slopes erupt into a wildflower wonderland. The best and easiest set of hikes for wildflowers in this region are found along the Hurricane Hill Trail and the Cirque Trail, right near the iconic Hurricane Ridge visitor center. Along these ridge hikes, you’ll find the flower known as castilleja, also known as prairie fire and dozens of other flowers, making this the perfect place to get your fill of colorful beauty on the Olympics. For those looking for something with more solitude, head up to Deer Park and take the hike to Maiden Peak. Along this stunning trail, you’ll see the very best blooms of wildflowers along the northern Olympic Peninsula. Sure, it is a drive from the Harbor, but the views, the smells and the experience will leave you wanting more.
Lake Sylvia State Park
Those wanting to stay closer to home have a few great options at the parks and forests along the eastern side of the county. At Lake Sylvia State Park, wildflowers can be seen in season along the miles of trails that explore the hills surrounding the lake. While not as huge as the wildflower bloom at Hurricane Ridge, wildflowers can be found around nearly every corner of the park. Keep an eye out for Trillium, as they are extremely common to see in the spring months. For those hoping to hike or bike and see wildflowers along the eastern edge of the county, head to Capitol Forest and Rock Candy. Here, mountain bikers Starting at the Porter Creek entrance, located along Highway 12 and the Chehalis River, numerous trails can be found that highlight the local wildflowers that bloom in the once logged out hills. This area is also amazing for hiking and biking, making the wildflowers an added bonus for a fun day out exploring the recreational wonders of our region.