An Accessibility Review of Olympic National Park

But Maybe She Wheel Olympic National Park

 

There is a great resource from the National Park Association about accessibility in Olympic National Park, giving detail descriptions of campgrounds, trails and sights deemed accessible. We used this resource to guide our itinerary, choosing to visit only the sites and trails I could roll easily. Already equipped with our accessible RV, La Tortuga, choosing an accessible campground was less of a necessity. Here is the list of campgrounds where we stayed and trails that we took during our exploration of Olympic National Park, as well as a map from the park service.

 

Staircase Campground, just past Lake Cushman in the Mount Skokomish Wilderness

This lovely campground is deep into the forest, off the paved main highway 24 by twenty minutes on a gravel trail. But the campground itself was built among giant boulders and thick trees, giving each camp site rock walls and tree trunk screens of privacy. The thick canopy of leaves overhead makes the campground continually cool and just a few meters from a few of the camp sites is the rushing Slate Creek river. There is a handicapped campsite, which was a level paved site located right next to the campground bathroom (also accessible) and water station. Due to the nature of the location for the campground, however, it is quite hilly and I relied on my service dog Ethel to pull me up and down the rolling grounds.

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Beach 1 through Beach 4 of the

Kalaloch campground

Continuing west from Staircase campground, we arrived at the coastline on Highway 101 and parked at the Kalaloch Ranger Station to explore the beaches. Unfortunately, we were disappointed to find that the shoreline was twenty feet below us and could only be accessed by a steep climb down the cliff side. Stairs had been fashioned at each of the Kalaloch beaches (beaches 1 through 4) and there was a trail above the shore connecting each of the beaches. Upon further review of the Olympic National Park accessibility guide, we saw that only Beach 4 was made accessible and the ramp was only taken out during the summer months.

However, we parked for the night at the Kalaloch campground and were astounded by the view. The higher vantage point above the shoreline gave us an eagle eye view of Washington coast. Windblown trees surrounded each campsite to give privacy, as well as the planted hedge groves separating each site. There were several handicapped camp sites, which had more of the site paved than a non-accessible site. The campground bathrooms and water stations were accessible as well and the entire campground was paved and flat. There were several trails along the coast that left from the campground and while they were not paved, there were level and wider.

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Madison Falls

This short hike was well worth the drive off Highway 101 following the Elwha River. The drive of Highway 101 around the perimeter of the park is a scenic route in itself and is enjoyable. While the parking lot was not paved, the entire trail to the falls was paved and level. It became steep at a few points, but my service dog led the way and after less than a mile we had arrived. The hike leads to a viewing platform of the Madison Falls waterfall and made for a pleasurable afternoon.

Olympic National Park But Maybe She Wheel

Hurricane Ridge

The drive to Hurricane Ridge takes you south into the center of the Olympic Wilderness and climbs up the Klahhane Ridge mountains to reach an elevation over 6000m. While our RV is small enough to handle the hairpin turns and switchbacks of this drive, I was white knuckled as I listened for any signs of our belongings flying out of the cabinets. None did and we arrived at the top of the ridge safely. The few is astounding from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, which is paved and accessible. There was also a short, paved trail around the top of the ridge to reach a higher viewing area.

Olympic National Park But Maybe She Wheel Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge

Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

While not part of Olympic National Park, this wildlife refuge sits on the northern Dungeness Bay above the little village of Sequim. We camped here for two nights and while not advertised as accessible, this refuge was one of the more inclusively accessible areas we had come across in the park. The camp sites were level and the camp bathrooms were accessible, however I only saw the RV side of the campground. But the best feature of the wildlife refuge was the accessible trail along the coastline and down into the tiny peninsula Dungeness Spit. The refuge covers the Spit and Bay shores, which are accessed by a paved trail through the Wildlife Refuge complete with informational signs about the protected species of the refuge. Down on the Spit, a common sight was the hoard of seals that would sun themselves on the rocks. The last portion of the paved trail is a very steep descent down to the water and was too steep for me to roll down, even with Ethel and my husband. I would not recommend the trail for manual wheelchairs, but a power wheelchair could have climbed this last portion with ease.

Olympic National Park But Maybe She Wheel

There was another trail that was part of the Dungeness campground that followed the coastline through the Dungeness Recreation Area. The trail hugged the edges of the cliffs with the water twenty or so feet below. This was not a paved area and there were roots protruding the trail every so often, but did not have steep portions.

 

Port Angeles and Port Townsend

This seaside villages were great hubs of all the necessities campers in the park would want. We visited a few restuarants and gorged ourselves on the fresh seafood taken right out of the bay a mile away. The towns did not seem to have the funding to have the most accessible sidewalks, however, and I did encounter many stores without ramps and streets without sidewalks.

 

 

Enjoy Olympic National Park!Olympic National Park But Maybe She Wheel

 

 

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