The world is a hectic place, with the noise of uncertainty distracting us from our own needs. We are stressed as a society, running full speed in the rat race of life, hoping our hard work is rewarded with a lot of cheese. We are often overwhelmed by the sheer responsibility of “adulting,” finding solace in binge watching shows and a release by screaming our lungs out for our favorite sport’s team. We have pushed for the legalization of marijuana, while creating more and more craft breweries and distilleries, helping us escape into substances. Millennials drink more wine than any other generation, downing half of all wine consumed each year. Washingtonians have spent $637,295,296 in three years on marijuana. We long for distractions from our jobs and responsibilities, turning to anything we can to numb the monotony. It seems that we are dying for an escape from reality, hoping to find meaning somewhere, somehow. In the northwest corner of Washington State, far removed from the interconnectivity of society, there is another remedy. Each day on the Olympic Peninsula, wilderness is quietly and beautifully changing someone’s life. Standing on a mountain top, as all of humanity expands out beneath your feet, the trivial day to day matters of life fade away. Out along the coast, as endless waves break against piles of driftwood and slowly erode sea stacks, your stresses disappear, replaced with a soothed spirit. It is in true wilderness, far from cell service, that one can meditate and remember the important things in life.
The Olympic Peninsula is home to inspiring natural wonders and considered by most to be the epitome of American wilderness. There are roughly 1,000 miles of hiking trails in the region, with almost all leading to silence, solitude and soul nourishing sights. While anywhere quite is a fantastic place for meditation, there are seven destinations that are the ultimate meditation spots in the Olympics. These seven hikes are good for both your mind and body, leading to destinations of wonder and amazement, far from the daily grind of life. These trails are where we go for relaxation and comfort, helping us stay centered during times of uncertainty and worry. Like most things in life, these locations of solitude are tough to get to, requiring an afternoon or a full day to escape society. The hikes will push your limits, often times both mentally and physically, but are always worth the effort.
Cub Peak is a tough hike both physically and psychologically. Gaining nearly 4000 feet of elevation in 3.4 miles one way, the hike to Cub Peak is the steepest hike from a parking area in Olympic National Park. Best for intermediate to advanced hikers, this trail ends at a jaw-dropping panorama atop a rocky summit. Surrounded by wilderness on all sides, few people ever make the trek up to Cub Peak, despite the short distance. Those who do will find two mediation locations. The first in on the plateau that you reach after climbing up from Wagonwheel Lake. This is a great place for those who don’t want to make the scramble to the true summit, which is the best mediation spot. The true summit of Cub Peak is my favorite spot to sit and relax, as the views of the surrounding Olympic Mountains are inspiring and breathtaking.
THE QUINAULT RIVER
The rainforests of Olympic National Park are humbling. Ancient, immense and impossibly green, they give access to timeless beauty along glacial fed rivers. Along the North Fork of the Quinault River, a classic meditation destination awaits those will to hike. From the washout heading to Graves Creek, those looking for incredible river views and inspiring old growth forests will enjoy a 12 mile round trip hike with only a few hundred feet of elevation gain. Starting off along a dirt road that is pedestrian only, the first two miles of the trail are a warm up to the insanity of wilderness you will soon encounter. From the Graves Creek Campground, another 2.5 miles will lead you to Pony Bridge, one of the classic destinations in Olympic National Park. Hiking another mile and a half, the trail leads to a perfect meditation spot, full of greens and blues of every hue and solitude.
Easier Alternative: North Fork Quinault Trail to Wolf Bar Camp
SHI SHI BEACH AND POINT OF THE ARCHES
Located near what most consider to be the middle of nowhere, Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches might just be the crown jewel of the Olympic Wilderness Coast. After a two mile muddy slog down a well-travelled trail, a steep decent down an eroding bluff leads you to an coastal wonderland. The eight mile round-trip trek is meditative on its own, but the majesty of the sea stacks at Point of the Arches will leave even the most jaded hiker flabbergasted by the beauty of the wilderness coast. Under attack from the steady onslaught of waves, the eroding giants remind us of our own disappearance from humanity. Before despair kicks in and all hope is lost, before the sad reality of our demise takes hold, your gaze will catch a tide pool teaming with life. Even in this harsh environment, life marches on in mini-universes carved out of stone. Taking in the day at ponder the universe at Point of the Arches will change your life in ways you can’t imagine and is hands down one of the most gorgeous stretches of coast.
Easier Alternative: Second Beach in LaPush
Royal Basin might be a bit long for most day hikers (16+ miles and 3,000ft elevation gain), but those who push themselves up this trail will find themselves surrounded by ever increasing beauty. Starting out for an easy mile along the Dungeness River which is America’s second steepest river, the trail sharply turns at the junction with Royal Creek. From here, the path climbs in elevation, eventually reaching Royal Lake six miles from the junction. Royal Lake makes for a shorter hike with great views of a pretty lake, a huge boulder and a beautiful waterfall near the seasonal Ranger Station platform. However, the true beauty, solitude and inspiring views come from just one more mile of hiking up to the Upper Royal Basin. At the Upper Basin, hikers are rewarded with turquoise blue tarns, majestic mountain views (including a glimpse of Mount Deception, the second tallest mountain in Olympic Mountains) and a panorama that will leave you wiping drool from the corners of your mouth. There are few hikes better than this, and the reward will boggle your mind with the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
Easier Alternative: Marmot Pass, but don’t expect to find complete solitude.
LAKE OF THE ANGELS
Lake of the Angels is a classic Pacific Northwest hike, leading from the Hamma Hamma River valley to a mountain goat and marmot filled high alpine lake. At around eight miles round trip and gaining 3,400 feet of elevation, this trail is not for those new to hiking. Climbing nearly straight up for the majority of the hike, your burning quads finally catch a break when the trail reaches the Pond of the False Prophet. While you might be tempted to rest here, keep trekking on and climb the last hill to reach the soul soothing view at Lake of the Angels. As Mount Skokomish reflects off the crystal clear water, find a boulder to sit on and meditate to your heart’s content. If the lake is crowded, hike up the boulder field on the flank of Mount Skokomish to find silence and solitude amongst the marmots and goats. This trail will push you, but the intrinsic rewards of gazing at the lake from the perfect vantage point will make the long hike fade away, like the stresses of your life.
Easier Alternative: Lake Angeles near Port Angeles
The hike out to the rarely visited Maiden Peak rewards those taking the trek with stunning ridge-line views and endless panoramas. Near the town of Sequim, the Deer Park Road weaves along its narrow dirt track for eight miles, terrifying those unfamiliar with the seasonal roads to Olympic’s remote destinations. Starting at 5400ft, the eight mile out-and-back hike starts in the forest, dropping elevation to 4900ft, before steadily climbing up between stands of trees and meadows often filled with wildflowers. For a mile, the trail is mostly flat, giving occasional glimpses of the splendor that will soon become fully visible. After that flat mile, the trees fall away, and the trail emerges on the ridge leading to the false summit of Maiden Peak. The Olympic Mountain Range, normally hidden from view, expands into the horizon. You’d swear, the curvature of the earth is visible as majestic peaks poke out above the dense green forests below. The true summit of Maiden Peak is obvious, once you see it. Many will come out, climb the first steep hill they see out of the trees and assume it is Maiden Peak. Getting up to this false summit is a great side trip, but the true summit will be the second peak you see rising from the trail. A small boot path marks the route, but there is not an official trail to the summit, which is 200+ feet above the trail.
Easier Alternative: Hurricane Hill, but don’t expect to find complete solitude.
THE HOH RIVER TRAIL
Crowds flock to the primordial forests of the Hoh, searching for a connection with this wild and mossy rainforest. Receiving 14 feet of rain a year, the moisture of the Hoh is an omnipotent catalyst for growth, making the forest the perfect place for towering trees, giant ferns and missing dripping maples. While the majority of visitors flock to the Spruce Nature Trail and the Hall of Mosses, true wilderness isolation and solitude can be found by hiking as far up the Hoh River Trail as you can. Leading all the way to the summit of Mount Olympus, the Hoh River Trail is said to contain the quietest square inch of land in the United States. The best destination for a day hike is going to either be the Happy Four Shelter (11 miles round trip) or the Olympus Ranger Station (19.4 miles round trip), both taking you far into the pristine wilderness of the Hoh River Valley. Watch for elk or just find a spot near the river and relax watching the milky blue waters of the Hoh flow past, leading to the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean thirty short miles away.
Easier Alternative: Sam’s River Trail near the Queets River