Endless gray clouds flow off the Pacific, inundating Grays Harbor with wind, rain and weather that makes the rest of the country assume we have webbed feet. For them, the inclement conditions are a reason to avoid the area, the perfect excuse for retreating inside or to the dry warmth of the southern states of America.
Not us, though. We long for the stormy weather in the fall and winter as much as we crave the sun in the summer, celebrating the showers and mist, wearing raindrops like a badge of honor. The weather is what makes resident tough and what has defined those living in the region for generations. As big city folk stay indoors or break out the umbrellas, we head outdoors, searching for the ultimate in wet and wild outdoor recreation. Lucky for us, endless adventures are just outside our doors.
It is a gross understatement to say that we are spoiled with natural beauty. Within 90 minutes of our Grays Harbor homes, we can find ourselves wandering now empty trails, the same ones that attracted visitors from around the world during the sunny months. Once the rain falls, the trails become our personal playgrounds, allowing us to bond with our families or find that much needed slice of solitude. While there are no wrong places to go in the rains of the Olympic Peninsula, there are four must-experience regions perfect for your mind, body and soul.
1. Quinault Rainforest
Photo credit: Douglas Scott.
North of Hoquiam, tucked against the soggy shores of Lake Quinault and the Quinault River, there are endless ancient forests, cascading creeks, towering trees and incredible waterfalls. The miles of trails and viewpoints in the Quinault Rainforest are among the most pristine regions in the world, looking even better in the rain. The highlights of the Quinault area are numerous, as described in this guide to the 10 best stops along the Quinault Loop Drive. But for the ultimate accessible and family-friendly adventures, choose from these two highlights.
The first option is the Maple Glade/Kestner Homestead Trail in Olympic National Park. Located on the North Shore Road, the 1.8 miles of trails highlight the best of the rainforest. The trail gives you water, fall colors and even a few elk sightings in this lush region. As the rainforest canopy slows the falling rain, this is a perfect place to bond with your kids in the wet and wild nature of Quinault.
Another timeless option is the always gorgeous Quinault Rainforest Trail along the South Shore Road. Located in Olympic National Forest, the trail has numerous options and distances for rainy day adventurers. Highlights include Willaby Creek, cascading streams and the numerous giant trees that help block the rain a bit. The best part? You can end your day drying off and enjoying some cocoa inside the incredibly stunning Lake Quinault Lodge.
Photo credit: Mickey JT.
Known for being ridiculously rainy and full of natural beauty, the Wynoochee Lake region is a wet wonderland for the entire family. In the fall and winter, the northern road is closed, turning the dirt road into a hiking trail for families and those hoping to see Wynoochee Falls turn into a raging torrent. Round trip, the off-season hike to Wynoochee Falls becomes a 5.3 miles trek to the stunning waterfall. You might have seen it in the summer, but seeing it in the rain will help show the power of water in the Pacific Northwest. If this hike seems a little too long for your family, consider taking a shorter hike along Wynoochee Lake Shore Trail. As the trees help shield you from the heaviest of downpours, the trail gives off a great glimpse of one of the forgotten lakes of Washington State. This place is remote, so bring a towel, extra socks and shoes and a change of clothes to be comfy after your hike.
3. State Parks
Rainy day adventures can be had at the Washington State Parks all around Grays Harbor. Start at the incredibly family-friendly and always beautiful Lake Sylvia State Park. Offering five miles of hiking trails, Lake Sylvia will warm your spirit even when the cold rain falls on your jackets and hats. Remember the park also has one covered picnic shelter and one kitchen shelter with electricity, to stay dry as you eat your snacks or meal. If Lake Sylvia is too wooded or you seek someplace new, consider Westhaven State Park in Westport. Highlighted by a 1.3 mile ADA accessible trail, this is the spot to see huge waves, feel strong winds and watch the rain fall sideways.
4. The Coast
Speaking of the coast, there might not be better way to enjoy the rainy weather outdoors than on the ocean front. In “bad weather” during low tide, those brave enough to battle wind and rain will be rewarded with incredible beach combing. When the tide is out, finding amazing treasures along the shores is quite easy. From agates to floats to petrified wood, wandering the sandy shores of the coastal regions of Grays Harbor is the ideal way to get fresh air in the seemingly endless gray.
One of the best beaches for rainy exploration is at Damon Point in Ocean Shores. A lifetime of shells and agates can be discovered at nearly every low tide. Watch for eagles circling overhead and the rare snowy owl on its winter migration. Walking the rocky beach in the rain and wind is about as classic a Grays Harbor adventure as you can have. Other prime beaches to enjoy during the rain are Ruby Beach near Kalaloch in Olympic National Park and Grayland State Park south of Westport.