For quite some time now, Deer Park campground on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state has been a destination I’ve long sought after. Located in the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula, it’s been lauded as a premier National Park campground in many magazines, online forums and hiker/backpacking blogs. My first exposure to it was when I was pouring over Google Maps, looking for dirt tracks that ventured into the wilderness. For those who are not from Washington state, it should be known that the Olympic Peninsula is much more closed off to vehicular traffic than might be guessed by looking at the large, square-shaped land mass with hundreds of square miles of backcountry. There are some tracks that can be found but nearly all of them are dead ends or are hiking trail heads. All of which is fine, I suppose, but I prefer trails that don’t require backtracking.
Nonetheless, being late September, fall is kicking into full gear and the camping season is rapidly coming to a close. Wanting to get away from the wildfires in the central area of Washington that still are raging, my buddy and I choose Deer Park campground as an alternative to our usual choices in the Cascade Mountains. After an early morning ferry ride across the Puget Sound, we drove along State Route 104 and then the famous US Route 101 to Deer Park road, just outside of Port Angeles, WA.
Deer Park road itself is a very well maintained forest road as it rises from 1000′ to over 5400′ elevation in it’s 16.5 mile length. The views along the way look down into the valley created by Maiden creek, 600′ to 1000′ feet below. As the road terminates at the campground proper the view of the Olympic Mountains comes into full focus. We scouted out the entire campground and chose the optimal location that afforded us views to the south and the mighty Mt. Olympus.
Before we set camp for the night we ventured up another 400 feet on the track to the Blue Mountain trail head, which has stunning views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This is the body of water between western Washington and Victoria Island, Canada and connects directly to the Pacific ocean. With some good binoculars, one can even see all the way north to Surrey, CA.
After chowing down on Dana’s famous recipe, smoked Burger-Mac-n-cheese, the Milky Way began to slowly appear.
US Air Force: Space Patrol on a night mission
The next day, we broke camp and attempted to explore some dirt tracks around Lake Crescent. Unfortunately, WSDOT had other ideas: numerous work crews were causing 20-40 minute backups at several work sites along the 101, Olympic Highway. Below was the view of the lake as we waited at one of the work sites. It was a huge time waster that ate away the plans for the day since we had to be on one of the ferry’s back to the mainland before they shut down for the night. WSDOT shut down one ferry just as we arrived at the Kingston docks at about 8:55 PM. Finally, the 9:40 PM ferry from Kingston to Edmonds took us across the Sound and back towards home.
It was a very cool change to explore the Olympic Peninsula rather than the usual eastern slopes of the Cascades. Deer Park campground was even better than expected and there seems to be a decent number of trails to explore, even if most don’t connect up with other trails all that often. When the wildfires in the Cascades get as bad as they have been this year, in the future, I’ll be heading west.