Before I get into the specifics of what we did, let me pass on a few pieces of advice for maximizing your experience at a national park with a dog.
1. Visit the park's website and find their pet policy page. It is often under "Things to Know Before You Come". This page will detail the trails, campgrounds, and other places dogs are allowed. Policies vary and this is a good place to get specifics. For example, dogs are allowed on the PCT in Rainier NP, on paved trails in Yosemite, and on some beaches in Olympic. Other parks, like North Cascades, conveniently contain/border National Recreation Areas with much looser pet regulations.
2. Ask a ranger if they have a pets brochure.
3. Ask a ranger at a visitor center where dogs are allowed or if they have any recommendations for good hikes with dogs. Rangers who've been around awhile might also know of great, lesser known, hikes in nearby national forests or state parks.
For Olympic, I made sure to do my research and made several calls to verify what I read online. We ended up staying at the Log Cabin Resort on Lake Crescent because it is dog-friendly and is located near the trailhead for the Spruce Railroad Trail. This trail is in the national park, but allows dogs since it is part of the larger Olympic Discovery Trail which spans the peninsula. I think both the Log Cabin Resort and Lake Crescent Lodge are dog-friendly and I was told by a ranger that dogs can be off-leash while they are playing fetch in the lake. I recommend double-checking this before trying it yourself. You should also be aware that both the resort and lodge fill-up months or even a year in advance, especially for the sunny, summer months. Having made my reservations a mere two weeks in advance, I consider myself lucky even though we got a crappy camping spot right next to the road, the bright lights of the cabins, and an overwhelmed restroom facility. Next time I hope to plan way ahead and get a room or cabin at the Lake Crescent Lodge which is nicer and less out of the way.
On the first day, we drove up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and took in the incredible view while walking the sidewalk along the massive parking lot. We saw many deer, and I think this made 4/5 trips that I've seen a deer right by the retaining wall by the sidewalk near the visitor center. The area may have been covered in snow the one time I didn't see one in that spot.
After that we went to the Log Cabin Resort and relaxed by the water. Buddy swam some and even got to ride on a paddleboard. I don't know if it was the location or just a warmer year so far, but the water in the lake was much warmer than when I swam in it at the Lake Crescent lodge last year.
We then walked towards the Spruce Railroad Trail, but turned around before actually getting on it; as it was a bit farther from the resort than I expected.
The next day, we had coffee at the Lake Crescent Lodge and then drove to Ruby Beach (dogs are allowed there and at the numbered beaches) to see some tidepools. On past visits, I usually went to the incredible Rialto Beach and walked to Hole-in-the-Wall and the great tidepools around it, but dogs aren't allowed that far down Rialto Beach. Ruby Beach ended up being great. We saw a bald eagle and lots of tidepools with green anemones, colorful starfish, and a variety of mollusks.
After that we drove to Lake Quinault and hiked some of the trails near the south shore, as this area is in the national forest and allows dogs. The hike was beautiful and interesting, but I do feel like we missed out on the real, or maybe "deep" rainforest experience. This hike was not quite like hiking up the Hoh Valley or farther up the Quinault Valley. Maybe it was the fact that the trees weren't covered in as much moss or the ferns weren't quite as enormous.
Here is my main post on Olympic National Park.
|That Deer Is Always There|
|Hurricane Ridge Panorama|
|Buddy at Lake Crescent|
|Me Paddleboarding, Buddy Watching|
|Buddy/Deer Staring Contest|
|Lake Quinault Lodge|
|Cedar Bog near Lake Quinault|
|Ruby Beach - Walking on Water|
|Ruby Beach Tidepool|