Review: Washington State's Kalaloch Lodge

A National Park Lodge on the Olympic Peninsula

Kalaloch Lodge overlooks a scenic Pacific Ocean beach in Washington's Olympic National Park.
••• (c)Mark D. Kahler

Kalaloch Lodge (pronounced CLAY-lock) is set along the northern coastline of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. These beaches have a quiet and rugged beauty that must be experienced to be understood. 

You won't find high-rise condos or souvenir shops. You will find unusual sights such as thousands of beached logs and on many nights you'll experience spectacular sunsets. In a place where chain hotels are absent, the Kalaloch Lodge on Olympic National Park property allows a budget traveler to savor the uncommon beauty at an affordable price.

 

Remote Location on Washington's Pacific Coast

 

Kalaloch is nearly a four-hour drive west of Seattle, and its nearest power source is 75 miles away. High winds well removed from the site can knock out power service in the area rather quickly. Kalaloch is also located within one of the wettest areas of the U.S., receiving an average of 166 in. of rainfall each year.

Keep all of this in mind when you make reservations at Kalaloch Lodge. It's not easy to get to and there are potential challenges once you arrive. But the rewards are handsome.

Hiking opportunities abound along deserted, rocky beaches and within temperate rain forests. Others come simply to watch the technicolor sunsets over the Pacific, or to experience the fury of winter storms coming in from the sea.

Be sure you have plenty of gasoline (it's expensive here), a lantern or flashlight (especially in winter) and other provisions. But no one has to rough it to enjoy Kalaloch, because the lodge features a small but hearty restaurant and an accommodating staff that hails from faraway places like Florida.

There are lodge rooms and cabins. Cabins accommodate 2-7 guests and are steps from spectacular ocean views. Lodge rooms will serve 2-4 guests and are closer to the restaurant, gift shop and store.

Rates are a bit higher than budget travelers like to pay for a night's sleep. Lodge rooms and cabins range from about $95-$345 USD/night, and prices can change during peak season. At the higher end of that range are accommodations large enough to sleep up to seven people. A group that large would require two rooms at most places. Another factor to consider with the prices is what it costs to maintain quality service in such a remote, sometimes unforgiving location. Simple economics dictate higher prices.

 

Be certain to book well in advance during the summer months. Rates climb during this time and rooms become scarce.

 

Setting More Than Comforts

 

Rooms here are clean and well appointed, but you won't find cutting-edge style. It's a lodge! Throughout the national park system, you will find similar properties that offer comfort in rustic surroundings.

Meals in the restaurant would be considered slightly overpriced in a less remote location, but remember that it costs more money here to stock quality food products and to staff the facility. Breakfast is served from 8-11:30 a.m.; lunch from 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Dinner with gratuity will cost roughly $20 USD/person. If that's too rich for your blood, the nearest restaurants are about 35 miles away in the town of Forks. In cabin rooms, there are kitchen facilities.

Groceries can be bought in Forks, or the on-site mercantile store.

Kalaloch is within the boundaries of Olympic National Park. Individuals on foot are admitted to the park for $10 USD; each vehicle pass is $25 (good for seven consecutive days). Watch for free days (offered several times throughout each year) when admission is waived.

Kalaloch Lodge is operated by Aramark Corporation, which has a contract to provide food and lodging at a number of U.S. national parks. Kalaloch has some lodging cousins in the vicinity: Lake Quinault Lodge and Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort are close enough that you could visit all three. 

Special offers are made at various times of year for all three lodges. Expect the most attractive deals to come during shoulder season and the off-season. Discounts of 15 percent are available for active military personnel with ID.

 

Sunsets, Driftwood Beaches and Rain Forests

 

The added time and money you spend to stay at Kalaloch is an investment in truly unique travel opportunities. This coastline is probably unlike any you've ever experienced.

Nearby Ruby Beach is a favorite stop in Olympic National Park. You'll see huge rock pillars (called sea stacks) and thousands of huge (think 60-foot) logs strewn across the wide beach.

The logs start the journey here in the nearby forests as they are undercut by erosion, then washed temporarily out to sea. When storms bring them back to shore, extreme caution is required of beachcombers. Each year, people are seriously injured or killed by the incoming logs.

Nearby, Beach 4 is a place to explore tidal pools. Park Rangers lead nature talks that explain the sea life revealed in these fascinating places. Check locally after arrival for times, which tend to follow the tidal schedule.

Olympic National Park is home to two major temperate rain forests: Hoh and Quinault. The Quinault entrance is 31 miles southeast of Kalaloch along U.S. 101. Either place is worth exploring, and is free with the price of your admission to the park.

 

Twilight Fans Unite

 

Years ago, the movie Twilight and its sequel New Moon attracted a strong following of fans throughout the world. Some even venture to the Olympic Peninsula to visit the various shooting locations. Some fans are disappointed to learn that many of the scenes represented as Forks actually were shot in Oregon.

But this has been an interesting decade or so for the town of Forks, which actually built a welcome sign complete with platform so that fans can step up and be photographed at the town limits! 

In addition to Forks (where you'll find stores catering to visitors in search of souvenirs), the rain forests and coastline shooting locations are largely accessible and within a short drive of Kalaloch Lodge.

Although the intensity of this interest has waned, check locally for "Twilight tours," or at least ask the local residents about the impact of the movies. It's a great conversation starter.

Please note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation for the purpose of reviewing these services. While it has not influenced this review, we believe in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.