“Every so often, I feel like a condensed version of a Jack London novel. I answer the call of the wild, but I can only get away for a weekend.” 

Those of us lucky enough to live in the Puget Sound region know that are spoiled. Within a few hours drive, we can be sleeping at a volcano, relaxing on the wilderness coast, set up on majestic mountain or slumping deep in the rainforest. Often, I find myself needing to get away from it all, longing for a nature-filled oasis of wonder and beauty. While summertime camping trips tend to lead many of us to the beaches and mountains, the off season destinations are more often than not to the beautiful rainforests, with campgrounds ready for backpackers and car campers alike.

Last weekend, I was needing an escape. I had a few days off and knew that I could head out to one of my favorite corners of the world. I used the trip as an excuse to test out gear and get ready for winter camping, but the reality was I wanted to feel disconnected. I needed to have zero cell service, unplugging from everything but the sounds, smells, and sights of the universe and mother nature. Last weekend, I drove from Olympia in search of gorgeousness ending up along the Quinault River in Olympic National Park.

For many, camping in the Quinault Rainforest is in addiction. While many hike and trek up toward Low Divide or the Enchanted Valley, many explore Quinault through the Graves Creek Campground.  For me, the Graves Creek Campground along the Quinault River is one of the best spots to car camp in Olympic National Park, and I have done it dozens of times. Graves Creek is one of 15 Olympic National Park campgrounds and is located at the end of a long dirt road that first starts out next to the always stunning Lake Quinault Lodge. Passing by small wonders like Marymere Creek Falls and the World’s Largest Spruce Tree, heading to Graves Creek takes you along the Quinault Loop Drive before turning to a somewhat bumpy dirt road along the Quinault River. For miles, the gravel road weaves through the rainforest giving visitors sightings of elk, eagles, deer and the rare black bear before signs finally mark the end of the road, and the Graves Creek Campground.

Situated right along the Quinault River, Graves Creek is a small campground, with just 30 spots. There are no showers or hot water, no amenities or organized activities. At Graves Creek, it is just you and the wilderness, making it the perfect weekend getaway, especially in the off season. In the summer, the place can be full, and with no reservations possible, it is sometimes tough to find a sot. However, in the shoulder seasons of Olympic National Park, Graves Creek is rarely even half full. Graves Creek also offers access to amazing hikes and views. With stunning day hikes to Pony Bridge just a short 5 mile round trip hike from the campground. Longer hikes are available near the campground, while hundreds of miles of trails are accessible via a short drive.

Pony Bridge, just a short hike from the Graves Creek Campground in Olympic National Park
Pony Bridge, just a short hike from the Graves Creek Campground in Olympic National Park

For me, I escape to Graves Creek on weekends when I crave the timeless sounds of the river running through the rainforest. I escape to this place for the day hikes and solitude, the drive and the campsites. At Graves Creek, I can sleep next to the river and witness wilderness from the door of my tent, energized by the smells and sounds of of the wild. Graves Creek is a first step into the rainforests of Olympic, and it is a place that everyone should camp at, even if it is just once. As elk and deer roam through camp, the majestic serenity of the Quinault is easily felt, creating a sense of quiet and relaxation found very few places in the world.

The next time you need an escape, skip the standard destinations and head to the southwest corner of Olympic National Park. You won’t regret it.

Months Open: Year round, but primitive camping only Oct-May

Reservations: Not Available
Spots: 30
Amenities: Pit Toilets, No Water

Cost: $20 a night
RV Friendly: NO

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