Road trip to Washington’s peninsula

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Road trip time…

Joe and I wanted to plan an easy getaway this summer so we (I) began planning a small road trip around the Washington (WA) state peninsula!

The Washington peninsula is incredible because there are breathtaking ocean views and scenic national parks. I had always wanted to camp in the Hoh Rain Forest as well as visit/camp in La Push so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

My post is going to start with the logistics of our trip, so you can plan your trips accordingly. I’ll wrap up with the  story of our experience at the Hoh Campground!

Logistics

Download my PowerPoint presentation to create your own adventure:

WA State Peninsula Camping PowerPoint

  • Duration: three days and two nights
  • Mode of transportation: camper van (courtesy of Joe’s mom) – visible in featured image
  • Campgrounds: Hoh Campground and Mora CampgroundCheck-in begins around 11AM – most don’t leave until 11:30 to noon but people begin to claim “dibs” on sites by paying and placing their site marker on the registration board as early as 10:30am (from what I saw)
    • Pay after securing a spotTIP: Take a picture of the registration board so you can see which sites are open before driving around
  • Hoh Rainforest costs $30 to enter and is valid for exit and reentry for 7 days
  • Average cost: Economic, Basic, and Premium campsites range from $20-30/night
  • No service is available in either park so communicate with loved ones, pull up directions and screenshot them in town before heading to the campgrounds.
  • Check out my ultimate packing list for camping!
  • Not a planner? Read my post on how to plan a camping trip in 10 easy steps!

Campgrounds

We stayed one night at each campground for our road trip. The camper van made our road trip possible since there was no tent and loading up our camping supply boxes was simple with the van, which made it easy to pick up and leave when we wanted to.

Hoh Rain Forest

Expenses

  • Park entry: $30 flat rate per car
    • Pay as you enter the park area
    • In & out privileges for 7 days but need to keep/show your receipt
      • very long lines can form so plan to wait anywhere from 20-40 minutes through out the afternoon
  • Camping cost: we paid $20/night
    • Our spot was directly across from the river access point but considered Basic
    • Pay after securing a spot
      • TIP: Take a picture of the registration board so you can see which sites are open before driving around
        • We found a empty campsite directly on the river but after arriving at the board we realized someone already had it reserved through the weekend.
    • Bought food, wood, and ice at the Thriftway in Forks

Bathroom

  • Bathrooms were in one small building that had electricity and plumbing
  • AMAZING! Automatic toilets, sinks, hand dryers
    • common to not use the hand dryer before 9am or after 10pm since there is a campsite directly behind the bathroom that can hear everything
  • No hand soap provided – plan accordingly
  • Women’s bathroom had two stalls – one ADA, one small stall
  • Men’s bathroom only had one stall with a toilet and urinal in it – considerate to wait outside when the toilet is occupied!
  • Two sinks with a mirror, power outlets and shelf
  • No showers at the campground

Mora Campground & Rialto Beach

Expenses

  • No payment required to enter
  • Camping cost: we paid $20/night
    • Pay after securing a spot
      • TIP: Take a picture of the registration board so you can see which sites are open before driving around
  • Fire wood and ice are sold in the campground – cash only
  • Bought food, wood, and ice at the Thriftway in Forks
  • Beach is free – I didn’t see signs for parking payment or passes but please double check beach parking signage

Bathroom

  • Great! But not as amazing as Hoh or Camano Island campground
  • No hand soap provided – plan accordingly
  • Women’s bathroom had three stalls – one ADA, two small stalls
  • Men’s bathroom had two stalls – one ADA, one stall, one urinal
  • Two sinks with a mirror, power outlets and shelf
  • No showers at the campground

Our experience

I was worried about getting a camping spot on the Hoh river – this was our first time camping in the rain forest here in Washington state and I wanted it to be perfect. Living on the eastside of Lake Washington is pretty amazing but it also means a four hour drive to the peninsula (including ferry time).

We managed to get on the road by 7:30AM to catch the Edmonds-Kingston ferry. The ride was beautiful since the route on Highway 101 is very scenic. Joe and I passed time by asking questions that generated fun conversation, listening to Harry Potter on audible, and from watching movies I downloaded from my “Movies Everywhere” app.

Arriving at the campground

After turning on “Upper Hoh Rd”, visitors have to pass various campgrounds, a cafe, and the national park entry before arriving at the Hoh campground. Some of the other campsites are not in the boundaries of the park though so there is a chance that late arrivers will pay to enter but not find a site.

The website does not clearly state (at least on all the pages I looked at) that there is a park entrance fee of $30 a car  but at least it goes toward a good cause! We arrived around 10:30-11AM so there was a very short line to get in but when we left around 12:30 there was a huge line.

Reserve a spot first

After finding the campground, there are multiple loops with campsites but Loop A has direct river access from some of the campsites. There is a sign outside all the loops that says “FULL” on all the loops but double check the self-registration boards for a more accurate read. I panicked for a second when we saw the “FULL” signs but thankfully Joe insisted we at least check and we found an amazing site.

Direct river access

We got such a great spot! Our campsite was spot 22 and was directly across the skinny road from the Hoh River access point. The access points seemed to be two old campsites (19 & 21?) – the access point requires you to climb down a little slope so it’s not accessible to all. Only downside was there was not much privacy from our next door neighbor in site 20 but there were bushes and a big tree on the other sides.

Restroom trail

The restroom trail was next to our site and our site even had it’s own private trail that connected with the restroom trail! One group awkwardly walked through our campsite (I assumed they couldn’t find the public restroom trail) but we forgave them because they had a tiny weiner dog puppy in a tiny onesie that had little hot dogs printed all over it!

Rain forest cafe

After setting up our campsite and exploring the area, we drove out of the park to eat cheeseburgers and fries at the cafe that’s located 10 minutes outside the park entrance. This cafe is definitely worth a visit – sells breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as espresso drinks and souvenirs. Really sweet family-run shop so service time may take a little longer but so not even mad about it!

We got lucky and there was no line when we arrived but then three big groups showed up after us. The groups were super polite and patient though so I appreciated that moment with other humans. In summary, budget time for this delicious cafe so you avoid feeling rushed or frustrated!

Relaxin’ by the river

After the cafe, we headed back to the site and waited maybe 30 minutes to get back in the park (unfortunately). It was really hot by then so we jumped into our bathing suits and grabbed our gear!

Joe does not like the sun or heat and I like to switch in and out of the shade (need me a tan!). We decided to climb down the slope and explore a little to see if there were any shade options. As soon as we climbed down, we noticed across the river there was a herd of elk!

herd of elk resting on the sandspit on Hoh river at the campground

They’re well known in the area – I assume they frequent that spot. They mainly just laid there all day but there was one point when three elk bravely swam across the raging river to eat some of the bushes that are on the campground-side of the river.

Our spot on the river

We managed to find a bush that had a little bit of shade that Joe could kind of get behind. I tried to rig up some more shade by draping a towel of some branches but it just didn’t work out. I was kicking myself for not bringing our little half-tent/canopy thing we have, thinking we’d be able to find some shade.

The beach is all rocks so if you’re sensitive like me, you’ll need an outdoor blanket and your towels. It was very hot while we where there so we frequently took a dip in the river to cool down. However, the river is moving at a very past pace so swimming across it is not a smart move.

Play area

There were smaller “rivers” leading away from the main river that had slow or still water; little kids tended to hand out here to swim and play but parents should double check where their kids play since there were many tadpoles trying to grow here!

The fast moving river didn’t stop one kid though – he almost got swept down the river on his boogie board! Thankfully he was able to regain his footing in time so the strong looking man (father of another boy there) running towards this little boy was not needed. The boy’s elderly grandmother was thankful for the man’s obviously willingness to jump into the river.

Sunset views

Joe and I relaxed on the river, him reading comics and me staring off into space because I forgot my book, the rest of the afternoon. I would encourage him to come out from the shade and enjoy the river with me, look at the elk, and talk. Eventually the sun began to lower behind the mountain, which you’re surrounded on all sides, and the elk family moved on. A few more campers joined us on the river at sunset but eventually everyone migrated back to their sites to begin their campfires and dinner.

Summary

I will definitely be returning to this campground next summer! But it is expensive since you must pay to enter the area as well as pay for the spot.

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