The Olympic Peninsula is considered the wettest region in the continental US, so it is no surprise that so many choose to explore this area by boat. The advanced paddlers among us test their meddle against coastal conditions—navigating tides, winds, whales, and an utterly wild ride. If whitewater is more your style, kayak through the Lizard Rock and Oxbow Section of the Hoh River to get your adrenaline fix. But for everyone else, we’ve got you covered. This article is intended for the casual enthusiast. The myriad of lakes and streams in Olympic National Park are sure to satisfy those looking for a cool day on the water. The best time to plan your aquatic adventure is between May and October, when boat rentals and warm weather are abundant.
With 12 miles of forested shoreline to explore, Lake Crescent is the premier destination for canoes and kayaks. The only issue is that everyone knows it. Get on the water early on a weekday and you’ll likely escape the battalion of boaters that usually occur here.
For a more secluded experience, check out Lake Ozette. Put-in at the ranger station and spend the day gliding past perch, bass, and water lilies. The lake also hosts a few exclusive backcountry campsites that are only accessible by boat. Reservations are required for these sites, so make sure you grab a permit before you escape civilization for a night or two.
Access Lake Quinault via the boat ramp on the north shore, and spend a laid-back day taking in views of the old-growth rainforest. Rentals, concessions, and other accommodations are available at the nearby lodge, so kick back and stay awhile.
Wherever you go, plan accordingly and manage your risk exposure. Always wear your life jacket and keep half an eye on the weather. Even in the summer, strong winds or heavy rains can roll in with little notice. If you are embarking on an overnight trip, consider writing a float plan, so someone on land has an idea of your itinerary.