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Outdoor Recreation

Winter Storm Watching on the Olympic Pacific Coast

Olympic National Park has 73 miles of coastline that turns into a wave-crashing show in the winter.

From November through February, storms coming in from the Pacific Ocean have wind gusts up to 60 miles-per-hour, not to mention the rain, sometimes accumulating six inches in 24-hours. The wind and rain combined can make for spectacular storm watching in Olympic National Park –  it can look like it’s raining horizontally. Ocean swells can be 15 to 20 feet high and they toss fallen logs around the beach like they were Tinker Toys.

The best time to watch a storm is when the tide is coming in and at high tide. In between storms, use the sunny time to explore the beach with its tide pools and tossed, teetering wood.

Best Places to Watch Storms on Olympic Coast

Kalaloch Lodge

Kalaloch Lodge was voted as one of the top locations in Western Washington to watch storms, by viewers of King 5 TV in Seattle for two years in a row. The lodge is high on a bluff so you have a great view and you’re above the crashing waves. Get a cup of hot clam chowder from the restaurant and relax in front of a window for the entertainment of the day. (thekalalochlodge.com)

Cabin overlooking Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park
Cabin overlooking Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park Photo: Kalaloch Lodge

Quileute Oceanside Resort & RV Park

The Quileute Oceanside Resort, completely surrounded by Olympic National Park, is in La Push right on First Beach. Get a deluxe cabin with a jetted tub next to a large window overlooking the beach. You can soak in a steamy bath while watching the drama. If you’re brave, don your wetsuit and venture out of your room just steps to the beach to experience the battering. (quileuteoceanside.com)

Jetted tub with a window view of the waves at Quileute Oceanside Resort
Jetted tub with a window view of the waves at Quileute Oceanside Resort Photo: Courtesy Quileute Oceanside Resort and RV Park

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery is the northwestern-most point in the contiguous United States so it goes without saying that the Pacific can be relentless against this rocky point. Take the Cape Flattery Trail near the tiny town of Neah Bay to several overlooks at the cliffs. Note that the trail is sometimes flooded in places so be prepared with your boots and gaiters. You need a Makah Recreation Permit to access the trailhead and parking lot. Purchase the permit for a small fee at many places in town. (makah.com/activities/cape-flattery-trail/)

Waves at Cape Flattery from a trail overlook
Waves at Cape Flattery from a trail overlook Photo: Getty Images

Need an Olympic National Park map? Buy the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Olympic National Park map at REI.com. The map includes clearly marked trails and points of interest such as scenic views, campgrounds, trailheads, boat launches, picnic sites, ranger stations and more printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.