Lake Quinault is 3 hours from Seattle and Portland, on the edge of the Olympic National Park in southwest Washington State.
A 31-mile road loops around the lake, but the main attractions are along the south shore, including the historic Lake Quinault Lodge, rainforest hikes to waterfalls, and the largest spruce tree in the world.
There are 3 resorts and 3 campsites overlooking the lake, in addition to two restaurants, a museum and a general store.
Lake Quinault has a complex system of land ownership. The southern boundary of the lake is owned by the Olympic National Forest, and the northern boundary by the Olympic National Park. The Quinault Tribal Nation owns the western side of the lake, and the water up to the high tide line.
Always check road conditions before leaving.
10 best things to do at Lake Quinault
1. Visit the Lake Quinault Lodge.
The historic Lake Quinault Lodge is a key attraction at the lake, constructed in 1926 in the rustic National Park style. It's set on an expansive lawn overlooking the lake, with plenty of adirondack chairs for relaxation, and fun games for guests like cornhole and bocce balls.
Guests can wander down to the sandy beach at the lodge to rent a kayak, do a boat tour, or sunbathe in summer, or toast s'mores around a firepit each evening.
There's also plenty to do inside the lodge, including an indoor swimming pool, and a fun games room with ping pong, foosball and billiards.
The Lake Quinault Lodge has a grand lobby with a stone fireplace. Guests can cosy up on a leather chair by the fireplace and read a book, or enjoy a beverage. The lobby leads to the Roosevelt Dining Room, famously visited by President Roosevelt in 1937 on his tour of the Olympic Peninsula. Nine months later he announced the creation of the Olympic National Park.
The Lake Quinault Lodge has four types of accommodation options. You can stay inside the 1926 historic lodge, or in the adjacent 1923 Boat House (pictured), but neither option has a TV. If you really want to splurge, book the gorgeous, two bedroom apartment upstairs in the Boat House, with stunning lake views. There are also two more modern buildings on the property that offer TVs, with either a stone fireplace (Fireplace Rooms) or a lakefront view (Lakeside Rooms).
2. Stay at a charming lakefront cabin.
There are three resorts directly overlooking Lake Quinault. The first two are on the south shore (Lake Quinault Lodge, and Rain Forest Resort Village), and the third is on a more remote location on the north shore (Lochaerie Resort).
Both the Rain Forest Resort Village and Lochaerie Resort offer lakefront cabins. The Lochaerie has vintage, 1920s cabins in an idyllic setting, and is a throwback to an earlier time. The rooms have stone fireplaces with fresh firewood provided each day, a kitchen and private bathroom in each cabin, and complimentary canoes, kayaks and rowboats to explore the lake. These cabins are a great choice for those who want more solitude.
3. Go camping on the south shore of Lake Quinault.
Choose from three lakefront campgrounds on the south shore of Lake Quinault; the Willaby Campground, Falls Creek Campground, and Gatton Creek Campground, all run by the U.S. Forest Service.
There are also two campgrounds in a forested setting inside the Olympic National Park, about 13-miles northeast of Lake Quinault; the North Fork Campground and Graves Creek Campground. These campgrounds are accessible along unpaved, dirt roads, with proximity to more difficult trails for experienced hikers. They transport you deeper into the wilderness, away from the busier areas of Lake Quinault.
4. Eat at two lakefront restaurants at Lake Quinault.
Enjoy a hearty meal at two restaurants at Lake Quinault, both on the South Shore Road. The first is the Roosevelt Dining Room at Lake Quinault Lodge, with a lovely patio overlooking the lawn for warmer days (pictured above). The second is 1-mile up the road near the Rain Forest Resort, and is known as The Salmon House Restaurant.
5. Rent a kayak or boat to explore Lake Quinault (seasonal only)
One of the best ways to explore Lake Quinault, is by renting a kayak, rowboat or paddleboard on the beachfront at the Lake Quinault Lodge (seasonal only). The rates are reasonable, and offer you plenty of time to paddle around the 3.8 mile wide, glacially carved lake, and see diverse wildlife like otters, bald eagles and osprey.
You should always wear a lifejacket, and avoid the lake when high winds can pick up in the afternoon.
The Lochaerie Resort on the north shore of Lake Quinault, also offers complimentary rowboats, canoes and kayaks.
6. Take a summer boat tour around Lake Quinault.
Boat tours can be booked at the Lake Quinault Lodge, and leave from the dock out front. The tours usually last 2 hours, and can be booked at sunrise or sunset, or during the afternoon (summer only).
7. Visit the Lake Quinault Museum.
Don't miss the Lake Quinault Museum (354 S Shore Road) in the old post office on the south shore, a short distance from the Lake Quinault Lodge. It's full of fascinating information about the homesteaders who first settled this area in the 1890s, and pays hommage to the rich history of the Native Americans who inhabited this area for a millennia.
8. See the largest Sitka Spruce Tree in the world.
The Lake Quinault Valley is also known as the Valley of the Rain Forest Giants, home to five of the largest conifers in the world (the sixth recently fell down). The easiest of these five trees to access, is the world's largest Sitka Spruce Tree, with a 10-minute trail that starts just north of the Rain Forest Resort. This tree is over a 1,000 years old, with an incredible 58 foot circumference!
9. Hike the "Rain Forest Nature Trail Loop" and other South Shore Trails.
The most popular trail at Lake Quinault is the half mile Rain Forest Nature Trail Loop, just 0.8 miles south of the Lake Quinault Lodge on the south shore of Lake Quinault. There are other trails on the south shore of Lake Quinault, like the Cascade Falls Loop and Gatton Creek Falls Trail, but this short trail seems less ravaged by logging.
The Rain Forest Nature Trail Loop runs through a pristine tract of rainforest, with stunning cascades.
10. Pick up gifts, supplies and comfort food at the Mercantile.
The Mercantile General Store is your one stop shop for groceries and souvenirs. The cafe also serves all types of comfort food, like burgers, fries and pizza, perfect for kids! It's easy to find, in the red building across the road from the Lake Quinault Lodge.
11. Book a 4-hour shuttle bus tour of Lake Quinault.
Skip the driving, and book a 4-hour Rainforest Tour in a shuttle bus, covering off the best photo spots and local history around Lake Quinault. The tour departs from the Lake Quinault Lodge. Book here.
12. Visit the Kestner Homestead & Maple Glade Trails.
There are two fantastic trails northeast of Lake Quinault, starting at the Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station inside the Olympic National Park. To get to the ranger station, drive in a clockwise direction for 10 miles around the lake from Lake Quinault Lodge. If you drive clockwise around the lake in the other direction, you'll encounter a rough, gravel road at the eastern end of Lake Quinault.
The first trail is a 1.3 mile loop to a historic homestead, constructed in the 1890s by one of the earliest pioneering families in the area. The Kestner Homestead has remained relatively unchanged for over a hundred years, with a homestead, barn, and outbuildings for visitors to explore. It's hard to imagine how families survived in such a remote location in dense rainforest, miles away from civilization.
The second trail is a 1.2 mile loop along the Maple Glade Rain Forest Trail, passing through a stunning tract of rainforest with maple trees draped in curtains of moss.
13. See Merriman Falls.
The 30-foot Merriman Falls can be seen from a roadside pull-out along South Shore Road, roughly 10 minutes northeast of Lake Quinault Resort. Unfortunately there are no signs.
14. Do some of the driving loop around Lake Quinault.
There's a 31-mile loop drive around Lake Quinault, but unfortunately the eastern side of this loop is along a rough, gravel road, unsuitable for RVs and difficult for cars to drive along. For that reason, it's recommended you avoid the entire loop drive.
Instead plan a shorter drive along the sealed section of South Shore Road, covering off the 4.4 mile stretch that includes Lake Quinault Lodge, Lake Quinault Museum, Rain Forest Nature Loop Trail, World's Largest Sitka Spruce Tree, and Merriman Falls.
You can also travel in a clockwise direction around Lake Quinault on a sealed road to get to the North Shore Road, and enjoy two popular hikes from the Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station; the Kestner Homestead Trail (1.3 miles) and Maple Glade Rain Forest Trail (1.2 miles).
Discover the 10 BEST Things to do at the Olympic National Park, including Lake Quinault!