Kayaking at Lake Cushman Staircase Hiking Olympic National Park 2019 3
Kayaking on the Olympic Peninsula includes everything from snow-melt rivers to peaceful mountain lakes, from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to the slow flowing tide of Hood Canal. This guide includes some of the best and most beautiful places to paddle on the Olympic Peninsula.
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Just across the Puget Sound from Seattle, the Olympic Peninsula is an easy getaway from the Seattle Metropolitan area, either for a day trip or a weekend. If you’re traveling from Eastern Washington and the Tri-Cities, it is about a four hour drive to the OP, but it’s worth it! Olympic Peninsula kayaking is such a diverse experience and the wildlife is remarkable.

The Olympic Peninsula is a landmass that protrudes westward from the mainland of Washington State into the Pacific Ocean. It is a vast and rugged area with mountains, forests, and a coastline. The Olympic Mountains dominate the peninsula’s center, while the west and south lie miles of shoreline and rugged seacoast, and then Hood Canal flows between the OP proper and the Kitsap Peninsula. The temperate rainforest that covers much of the Olympic Peninsula is one of the most beautiful in North America. With such an expansive space plenty of opportunities for a paddle are everywhere!

Comprehensive guide coming soon, but check out below for launch points and ideas for kayaking on the Olympic Peninsula!

Hoh River with Fall Colors Olympic National Park 1

Best Spots for Kayaking on the Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula is home to a variety of landscapes popular for outdoor recreation. Given the massive space it covers, there are several waterways ideal for beginners or those seeking a leisure paddle. We’ll start with some lakes that a really wonderful and capture the scenery that kayaking on the Olympic Peninsula can give you.  

Lake Ozette

Lake Ozette is packed with summer water lilies at the coast and provides a peaceful paddle excursion. Afew backcountry campsites may be accessed by kayak and canoe. In the Ozette region, unexpected weather changes are common, so always check the forecast and prepare for the potential of severe winds and waves.

Where to launch: 

Lake Quinault

Lake Quinault, located in the Olympic National Forest these waters boasts mountain views and ancient trees. Here, afternoon winds are typical; be prepared at all times. A concession-operated Lake Quinault Lodge offers boat rentals.

Where to launch: 

Lake Crescent

The 12-mile-long Lake Crescent is home to clear glacial waters. Given the size of the lake, it is advised that paddlers go out early in the morning to avoid winds that come in the afternoon, creating some waves. The lake is deep, dropping 624 feet below sea level, making it second to Lake Chelan as the deepest lake in the state.

Where to launch:

Lake Cushman

Lake Leland

Rivers for Kayaking in the Olympic Peninsula

Many rivers pass through the Olympic Peninsula, making it relatively easy to find some whitewater rapids. Below are just a few option that range for calm and glass to class III to IV rapids. When going out for a paddle, check local weather and water conditions.

Quillayute River

Hoh River

Located in the dense old-growth rainforests of the Olympic National Forest and National Park, the Hoh River is a beautiful paddle. The river can, at times, be difficult with log jams. Those going for a paddle here might want to overnight at the Hoh Campground, the most popular launching point. Plan ahead of time and make reservations. Of all the Washington National Parks and their kayaking options, the Hoh is one of the most beautiful to paddle.

Also, remember that the Hoh River is very dependent on snow melt and rainfall, so at any given moment it may be much higher than you may want to paddle. Oh, and watch out for Roosevelt elk crossing the river…

Where to launch:

Queets River 

During higher water levels, the Queets River is a fantastic location to explore deep, isolated rain forests. The river is frequently clogged with huge debris and low water in late summer due to limited flow. Throughout the year, log jam dangers may exist at any put-in site.

Where to launch:

Elwha River 

The Elwha River is located in Olympic National Park and is one of the best places to kayak in the Olympic Peninsula. The river offers a variety of paddling experiences, from easy Class I rapids to challenging Class III+ rapids. The scenery is also spectacular, with towering mountains and forests lining the river.

There are several kayaking routes on the Elwha River, depending on your skill level and desired difficulty. For beginner kayakers, the Lower Elwha River is a great option. This section of the river has primarily Class I rapids, with a few Class II rapids. The scenery is also beautiful, with towering mountains and forests lining the river.

If you’re looking for a more challenging kayaking experience, the Upper Elwha River is perfect. This section of the river has mostly Class III+ rapids, which can be difficult for even experienced kayakers. The scenery is also stunning, with towering mountains and forests lining the river.

Where to launch: 

Quinault River

The Quinault River is located in the Olympic National Park. The river flows through the rainforest and is surrounded by towering trees. The scenery is breathtaking, and the experience is unlike any other. The river is calm and serene, making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature’s beauty. There is also much wildlife to see, including eagles, otters, and salmon. 

Experienced kayakers will have to hike into the backcountry. There are Class IV-V rapids in the Pony Bridge Section and Dolly Falls. Calmer waters can be paddled at the bridge at the end of North Shore road. 

Where to launch:

Sol Duc River 

A 1.2-mile trek up the North Fork Trail in the Sol Duc Valley to the take-off site (Class II-IV) offers excitement for experienced kayakers above Salmon Cascades. Put in at Salmon Cascades Overlook (Class V) for experts interested in rapids.

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Salt Water Kayaking Spots Around the Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula is home to several national and 13 state parks, making it an excellent place for outdoor enthusiasts. Olympic National Park is the largest park in the area, covering much of the peninsula. The park is known for its Olympic Mountains, temperate rainforest, and coastal beaches. There are several lakes and rivers within the park boundaries, making it a great place to kayak. 

Olympic National Forest

The Olympic National Forest is home to diverse landscapes, including mountains, forests, rivers, and coastline. It is one of the best places to go kayaking on the Olympic Peninsula. The Olympic Mountains dominate the landscape of the Olympic National Forest and include six peaks over 7,000 feet tall. The Olympic National Forest includes several rivers, including the Hoh and Elwha rivers. Many different kayaking trails wind through the forest, and visitors can paddle through pristine forests, meadows, and rivers. Some of the best places to go kayaking in the Olympic National Forest include Lake Ozette, Seven Lakes Basin, and Sol Duc Hot Springs.

Where to launch:

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is a spectacular landscape characterized by rugged shorelines. This is the perfect place for seasoned paddlers. The area is home to a rich marine ecosystem teeming with animals, birds, and plants, as well as over 100 shipwrecks. The 73-mile coastline shared with the Olympic National Park is filled with extreme kayaking conditions. Port Angeles is a hub for outfitters who rent gear to experienced paddlers only after checking their skill levels. 

Where to launch:

Sequim Bay State Park

Sequim Bay State Park is a large marine park on the west side of Sequim Bay. The 92-acre preserve has 4,909 feet of beachfront, 424 feet of moorage capacity, and a huge boat ramp just west of the lower campground loop. The bay is protected from the wind and swells in the Juan De Fuca Strait, making Sequim Bay an excellent place to begin if you’re a first-time stand-up paddleboarder or kayaker while also providing intricate currents for more experienced paddlers and unending picturesque possibilities for all skill levels.

Where to launch:

Dosewallips State Park

The Olympic Peninsula’s eastern access point is Dosewallips State Park, which is only 60 miles north of Olympia. It is a year-round camping park with 5,500 feet of saltwater shoreline on Hood Canal and 5,400 feet of freshwater shoreline on either side of the Dosewallips River. The park is one-of-a-kind because it provides both fresh and saltwater activities. Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains provide spectacular views from a kayak.

Where to launch:

Tawanoh State Park

Recommended Kayaking Tours in the Olympic Peninsula

Half-Day Sea Kayaking Trip Near Olympic National Park

Take advantage of this opportunity to get to know the Pacific Northwest a little better while in Washington. Spend approximately three hours on the water, inspecting the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This trip is designed for novice paddlers and is suitable for most individuals. You might see harbor seals, bald eagles, and whales during your excursion. After that, return to Port Angeles and enjoy some wine tasting.

Need to Know for Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula is a great place to kayak, with plenty of places to explore. The temperate climate and diverse landscape make the Olympic Peninsula a popular destination for kayakers. The area is known for its heavy rainfall, so be prepared for wet weather. Be sure to check out some of these top places we outlined to kayak in the Olympic Peninsula. You won’t be disappointed!

Weather in Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula has a temperate climate, mild winters, and cool summers. The average temperatures vary depending on the location but generally range from the low 40s in the winter to the mid-60s in the summer. The weather is highly variable, and it is not unusual to experience all four seasons in a single day. The area is known for its heavy rainfall, with some receiving more than 150 inches of rain annually. The Olympic Peninsula is also subject to frequent thunderstorms and windstorms.

Kayaking on the Olympic Peninsula includes everything from snow-melt rivers to peaceful mountain lakes, from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to the slow flowing tide of Hood Canal. This guide includes some of the best and most beautiful places to paddle on the Olympic Peninsula.

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