Explore the Northwest

Hood Canal, Washington

Explore the Northwest

Follow the Hood Canal Fjord for Small Towns and Outdoor Adventures

Hood Canal bridge at duskTucked between the Puget Sound and the Olympic National Forest, the Hood Canal was formed a millennia ago when a receding ice sheet created the narrow, hook-shaped fjord. The area is rich with icons of Western Washington terrain. Mossy forests meet crystal clear waters and the snow-capped Olympics dominate any glance to the northwest. Pack a camera, binoculars and an appetite to explore the Hood Canal region’s towns, forests and waterways.

Explore the towns

Oysters at Hood CanalAs you wind your way down Route 106, the roadside is dotted with must-stop places.

The rustic but stylish Union City Market offers specialty groceries, a smoothie stand, and hearty meals cooked over an open fire. Hunter Farms, a sixth-generation family farm in operation since 1889, sells fresh veggies, pumpkins in the fall and Christmas trees.

The Alderbrook Resort and Spa’s fine shore-to-table meals and chic accommodations earned it an AAA Four Diamond rating (one of only 45 in Washington state and northern Idaho). Say hello to resident lobby cats Alder and Brook as you pass through, and make a dinner reservation for later in the evening so you can enjoy a drink at the waterside fire pits before your meal.

As you head toward Hoodsport, keep your eyes peeled for the 96-year-old Dalby Water Wheel. In Hoodsport, park the car and explore the small downtown by foot. Learn about craft spirits at the Hardware Distillery (remember to plan a safe ride home) and browse for gifts and jewelry at the colorful Octopus Garden Gallery. Hoodsport Coffee Co.’s panini muffin is a perfect mid-morning snack.

Heading north on U.S. Route 101, you’ll reach Hamma Hamma and the Hama Hama Oyster Co.’s  saloon and shop. The rustic, outdoor spot has live music on summer weekends.

South of the canal, the city of Shelton’s Mason County Historical Society and Skyline Drive-in Theater are historic glimpses into very different eras. Dedicated as a public library in 1914, the historical society building now houses documents and photos from the city’s pioneering past. The drive-in — established in 1964 — offers the classic mid-century American experience of watching a movie from the comfort of your car.

In Shelton, Olympic Mountain Ice Cream has been made with Pacific Northwest-grown ingredients for more than 30 years. The decadent treat is a mainstay at many local spots, including Hunter Farms and Hoodsport Coffee Co., while the Restaurant at Alderbrook offers its own exclusive flavor: Canal Crunch. Seek out a cone of this local favorite while you explore.

Hit the trails 

Falls View Canyon near Hood CanalNear Belfair, explore Mary E. Theler Wetlands Preserve’s 3.5 miles of accessible walking trails. At the on-site Wetlands Project Center you can learn about the protected salt marsh and estuary. The nearby Salmon Center aims to nurture the relationship between people, land and salmon. Pick up some fresh free-range eggs and u-pick vegetables when the center opens its farm to the public Mondays through Fridays.

About 16 miles from Union, the High Steel Bridge, built in 1929, is the second-highest bridge in Washington. From a perch 420 feet above the Skokomish River's South Fork, the views are thrilling (but not for those made queasy by heights). Heed warnings not to hike the trails under the bridge, which are not maintained and very dangerous.

The 1.5-mile Living Legacy interpretive Trail that runs along the Hamma Hamma River tells the story of the Civilian Conservation Corps through signs along the trail (the first quarter mile is wheelchair accessible). Established by Congress during the Great Depression, the CCC employed about 3 million men to build infrastructure in parks and forests. If you plan well ahead, you might book the historic Hamma Hamma Cabin, a former guard station completed by the CCC in 1937.

Falls View Canyon, off Route 101 just south of Quilcene, (pictured) is a popular trail and campground that is closed for hazardous tree removal and won’t reopen until late 2019 at the earliest. The blooming rhododendrons, lilies and honeysuckle are worth remembering to visit in the spring. Take one of two trails to see 100-foot falls crash into the Quilcene River: the 0.1-mile option is an easy trip to a great view, or you can descend 200 feet to explore the riverside and get a good workout on your return climb.

Play in the water

Potlatch State ParkScuba divers travel to the Hood Canal for calm waters and glimpses of giant Pacific octopuses and wolf eels. Outfitters in the area offer certification for new divers. Potlatch State Park (pictured), Scenic Beach State Park, and Octopus Hole Conservation Area north of Hoodsport are just a few diving destinations in the area.

Beachside parks deliver stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and an opportunity to harvest your own shellfish if you bring your boots, get a license, and are willing to dig. Belfair State Park and Twanoh State Park in Union are excellent beaches for oysters. At Potlatch State Park, you might also find clams. When digging for shellfish, always check conditional closures and limits.

If you seek to get on the water, you can paddle stretches of rivers like the Hamma Hamma, the Duckabush and the Dosewallips, or plot a course along the Cascadia Marine Trail.

If you’re renting a kayak or stand-up paddleboard but don’t have the proper roof-racks to transport them, you might want to consider delivery by an outfitter like Hood Canal Adventures, which is the only company allowed to drop off kayaks at Olympic National Forest’s Seal Rock Campground. This lush campground on Hood Canal has oyster beds, tent camping, RV sites and wheelchair accessible facilities.

— Written by Adrianne Kocinski

 

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The Essentials

From Seattle: About 50 miles
From Spokane‚Äč: About 400 miles
Best for: Forest exploring, water activities, fresh local seafood 
Don't miss:
Hoodstock, August 16-18, 2019
Oysterfest, October 5-6, 2019 

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