Heavily visited in the summer, stunning Kalaloch and Ruby Beach on the Olympic Peninsula provide solitude, peace, and an opportunity for introspection in early spring.
And if you are lucky, you might spot a migrating gray whale. Kalaloch translates to “a good place to land” from the Salish language. It originally served as a safe place to land canoes between the Hoh and Quinault rivers. This area now serves as a marine sanctuary and a fabulous place to view wildlife. In migration season, peaking in March-May, it is not uncommon to see gray whales as they make their 10,000- to 14,000-mile journey between their winter breeding lagoons off the coast of Baja, California, and their summer feeding grounds in the North Pacific off the coast of Alaska. Kalaloch is one of many sites in Washington and the Pacific Northwest designated as part of the “Whale Trail.”
Other migratory whales, including Humpbacks, can also be seen off the coast. Bald eagles, puffins, and seals are also regularly seen in this area.
The sound of crashing waves and sea birds can be heard as one gazes across the wide expanse of sandy beach as the Pacific Ocean comes into view through the mists. Shells, stones, and bits of sea glass can be found along the waterline.
The trees on the hillside become illuminated by the rising sun, and almost magically, the heavy morning fog lifts to reveal sparkling water and a clear beautiful sky, as warmth — often elusive at this time of year — begins to fill the body and soul.
The shining gem of the area is Ruby Beach, which has a large parking area and pit toilets as well as a scenic trail down to the beach, which is graced by rock formations and sea stacks. Ruby Beach is slightly misnamed for the red garnet deposits that can be found in the rocks and sandy ripples of small streams returning to the ocean.
Watching powerful waves crash through “caves” in the rock formations and finding the garnet deposits in the rocks (hint: Check out the free-standing formation with the hole in it, which is usually above the high tide marker and easy to walk to) are popular activities at Ruby Beach, in addition to wildlife watching, photography, and beachcombing.
Get there in 3½ hours from Bellevue through Tacoma driving north across the Narrows Bridge, or south through Olympia. Or maybe less time by taking the Brainbridge Island or Bremerton ferries. You can plan a daylong adventure or make it a weekend. The drive can be done as a loop beginning in either direction from wherever you land on the peninsula. There is camping as well as lodge accommodations at the Hoh Rainforest and Kalaloch, and nearby in Forks.
Spring is the time when we can celebrate and appreciate being Pacific Northwest residents who are lucky enough to have these magical places mostly to ourselves.
Good to Know
- Pets on leashes are allowed on Kalaloch-area beaches.
- Park Service information, including a full brochure on the area, can be found at nps.gov.
- The Kalaloch Lodge is open year-round. It offers rooms and cabins and has a restaurant, coffee shop, and camp store. It also has a small gas station, but be prepared to pay a premium price. thekalalochlodge.com
- Learn more about The Whale Trail at thewhaletrail.org