When heading north on U.S. Highway 101 near Quinault, it is impossible not to become enthralled in the surrounding natural beauty the Pacific Northwest is known for.
At the heart of all of this natural beauty, in an atmosphere that is rugged, yet restful, is the Lake Quinault Lodge.
The lodge lies in the heart of the Quinault Rainforest, the only temperate rainforest in the lower 48 states, and is surrounded by the Olympic National Forest and the Olympic National Park, providing miles of wilderness trails and scenic pathways.
Built in 1926, the lodge sits on Lake Quinault and the aesthetic of its architecture is just as impressive as the country that surrounds it. The split cedar siding and size of the V-shaped structure gives the lodge a rustic and almost castle-like façade, with a veranda and expansive lawn that slopes down to the water, dotted with Adirondack chairs on nice days.
When entering the lodge, it’s hard not to feel like you’re back in the 1920s. The most impressive room in the building is the lobby, with ornate chandeliers and elk heads mounted on cedar-paneled walls.
The lobby’s crown jewel, however, is the brick fire place that is surrounded by leather couches and chairs — a perfect spot to read the paper or enjoy a warm cup of coffee.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had lunch at Lake Quinault Lodge in 1937 on a trip to the Olympic Peninsula and the hotel’s dining room is now named after him. Roosevelt signed a bill in 1938 that created Olympic National Park.
Today, the dining room will satisfy the most sophisticated of palates, with a variety of options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition to good food, patrons sitting in the restaurant have views of the lake and the lawn behind the lodge.
Of its 91 rooms, spread out among four different buildings, the fireplace units stand out the most. With a gas fireplace, heated bathroom floors and private balcony or patio, these rooms are perfect for a comfortable getaway.
All of the rooms give off an idyllic vibe that perfectly fits the lodge’s location. Old, black and white photos of the lodge are in each room, creating a refreshing motif that strays away from typical hotel room artwork. Guests can stay in the main lodge, boathouse, lakeside building or fireplace suites.
Given its surroundings, the lodge offers plenty to do for guests. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards are available for rental May through September. If you’d rather stay indoors while vacationing, there is an indoor pool, sauna and game room for the kids.
The best part of a visit to the lodge might be the rainforest tour in a 12-passenger lodge van.
The tour not only showcases the majestic flora and fauna of the area, but also acts as a great lesson in history. Charlie, a tour guide with an encyclopedic knowledge of Pacific Northwest, points out houses and land that was homesteaded by settlers in the late 1800s as well as identifying Sitka spruce, cedar, Douglas fir and hemlock trees.
“It’s hard to call it a job,” Charlie said of giving the tours. He obviously enjoys what he does and he’s good at it.
Olympic National Park is the 13th largest in the United States, with 926,000 acres of majestic hiking trails and camping opportunities. Surrounding the park is Olympic National Forest, where one will find attractions such as Merriman Falls, roughly a 40-foot waterfall that makes for a great photo opportunity.
The rainforest is also home to some record-sized trees. The largest western red cedar in the world outside of California sits in the forest at 174 feet tall. There is also a Douglas fir that measures 302 feet high, a 191-foot Sitka Spruce and a 172-foot western hemlock.
“This is my first time at the lodge, but it won’t be my last. It’s just beautiful up here,” said one of the guests on the rain forest tour.
He’s right. Lake Quinault is beautiful inside and outside the lodge, with cozy rooms and recreational options for outdoor enthusiasts as well as those who prefer to stay inside.
The next time you’re thinking about leaving town for a couple of days, consider making your way up to Quinault. It’s worth the drive.
Directions: To get to the lodge from Portland or Seattle, take exit 104 at Olympia off of North Interstate 5 and then head straight west to Aberdeen-Hoquiam before continuing north on U.S. 101 for 40 miles to milepost 125, turn right on South Shore Road and go two miles to Lake Quinault Lodge.
For more information on the lodge and the rainforest, or to make a reservation, visit http://www.olympicnationalparks.com/accommodations/lake-quinault-lodge.aspx or call (360) 288-2900.