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May is a grand time to explore the Olympic Peninsula! Birds are active, flowers burst into bloom, and seabirds are beginning to nest. Carolyn Wilcox and Kaiyote Snow, two accomplished Port Angeles-based guides, share their in-depth knowledge as they lead you through mountains, ocean, forests, meadows, glaciers, and coastal habitats within Washington’s Olympic National Park. Visit lands of the adjacent Makah Nation, two national wildlife refuges, and more.

Three distinct environments provide fabulous Pacific Northwest birding: 1) the only temperate rainforest in the contiguous 48 states; 2) one of the wildest coastlines in the world; and 3) the glacially-carved alpine splendor of the high Olympic Mountains. Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, with its sand spit into the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and Dungeness River Audubon Center provide excellent opportunities for more birds. Having three nights at two lodges on the route helps keep logistics simple. Kalaloch Lodge with its ocean views invites you to immerse in nature, three nights in Sequim give you quick access to national park birding hot spots, and our final night on Bainbridge Island lets you explore a picturesque, artsy harbor town.

The park protects the Olympic Mountains, including Mt. Olympus. It provides habitat to 56 species of mammals, 130+ species of birds (including Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet), and numerous salamanders and other amphibians. The peninsula’s varied terrain is fantastic for birding and photography, as well as wildflower and wildlife viewing. Mammals include Roosevelt Elk, Sea Otter, endemic Olympic Marmot, and Mountain Goat. Learn about the prolific mosses, ferns, both alpine and forest wildflowers, spruces, firs and hemlocks, and cedars. You can be there at the perfect time this spring!

Tour Highlights

  • Visit Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to see over 40 bird species, including Rufous and Anna’s Hummingbirds, Pacific Slope Flycatcher, Bewick’s Wren, and Common Yellowthroat
  • Stay at the historic Kalaloch Lodge, nestled in a lush, temperate rainforest on the Pacific coast
  • Hike through Sitka Spruce Forest to a scenic Pacific beach, with views of stunning sea stacks
  • Discover the western side of Olympic National Park, one of the world’s lushest forests
  • Drive high into the Olympic Mountains to see wind-sculpted pygmy trees and myriad wildflowers
  • Explore Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, the westernmost point of the continental USA
  • Enjoy local foods and fun in the Pacific Northwest

"It was a great trip! We got 4 life birds, walked 2-4 miles a day and had some good meals. The landscape is just stupendous: Hoh Rainforest, Cape Flattery! There were gorgeous trees, beautiful plants and congenial company. The Hall of Mosses was super, interesting and thought provoking. We stayed at one of the lodges on Olympic National Park and visited another for a great meal. I can’t wait to go back." — Liz Wharton, 2023 Traveler

"This area has been on my wishlist for a long time. I had no idea how truly beautiful it is. I love birds but also other flora and fauna as well as geology and landscapes." – Kathleen Heitzmann, 2023 Traveler

Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Arrivals in Seattle | Sequim

We pick up at the Radisson Hotel Seattle Airport (within sight of the airport) and other nearby hotels off of International Drive this morning not later than 11:00 AM. We suggest you come in the night before to rest up and be ready for our adventures. Our guides are at this hotel and welcome you to join them for breakfast. If you manage to find an early arriving flight, it’s a quick complimentary shuttle to this hotel.
By 11:00 AM we head out en route to Sequim, one of the prettiest spots on the Olympic Peninsula. First, we make a birding visit to the renowned Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, an Important Bird Area. Enjoy a picnic lunch with the birds. This is a prime time of year to visit, and we hope to find five species of Washington’s swallows, American Bittern, Great Blue Heron, and Great Egret; Bald Eagle, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Harrier, and Red-tailed Hawk; Rufous and Anna’s Hummingbirds; Willow and Pacific Slope Flycatchers; Pacific, Bewick’s, and Marsh Wrens; Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Wilson’s Warbler; Savannah, White-crowned, and Song Sparrows; Band-tailed Pigeon; and more. We should find over 40 species, while enjoying a leisurely walk on boardwalks and trails.

Nisqually NWR was established in 1974 for the protection of migratory birds and encompasses three thousand acres of salt and freshwater marshes, grasslands, riparian, and mixed forest habitats that provide resting and nesting areas for a wide variety of migratory waterfowl, songbirds, raptors, and wading birds. Recently, this outstanding refuge got even better with the construction of a one-mile boardwalk that leads through salt marsh wetlands to the shores of Puget Sound.

From Nisqually we travel to the Olympic Peninsula where we spend three nights in the town of Sequim. “Sunny Sequim” is ideally located close to numerous birding hot spots, including Olympic National Park. It’s also a great place to find excellent local dining. Our route takes us across the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge. “Galloping Gertie” has long been replaced by two beautiful, and sturdy, suspension bridges.

Settle into your accommodations, then head up to the rooftop viewing area to sample the view! We gather for a welcome dinner and a chance to get to know your guides and travel companions.
Accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express, Sequim (L,D)

Day 2: Sequim

Early morning we head out to drive the scenic road up to Hurricane Ridge located at 5,242 feet in Olympic National Park. A winding road takes us through changing vegetation as we climb in elevation; we eventually top out in the alpine for a fabulous view of snow-capped mountains. Along the route, we find the mountain passerines and raptors of the Olympic Peninsula. There are several easy walking paths that offer amazing views of the glaciers and mountains of Olympic National Park, the waterways that surround the peninsula, and Vancouver Island in British Columbia. We may even encounter snow!

While still in the forests, we stop at the park’s main visitor center. Waterfalls and cascades occur alongside the road, and scenic stops abound. The panorama of glacially carved peaks is so abundant here and provides us with amazing scenery and a living geologic classroom. Learn more about the adaptations of plants and animals to high elevation and alpine climates as we search for one of the Olympic Peninsula’s endemic species, the Olympic Marmot.

In the open tundra we may find courting American Pipit and Horned Lark. Among the stunted and wind-sculptured groves of pygmy trees in the Krumholtz zone, we may find Sooty Grouse, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Dark-eyed Junco, and White-crowned Sparrow, or perhaps a McGillivray’s Warbler singing to define its territory. We should also find myriad wildflowers!

Enjoy a picnic lunch and a walk to Hurricane Hill atop Hurricane Ridge for fine views of Olympic peaks and glaciers. In the afternoon, we descend from the mountains to a picturesque overview of the former, and recently removed, dam along the Elwha River. This was the largest dam-removal project in U.S. history and has already yielded a significant increase in the native salmon populations.

Hurricane Ridge has an impressive bird list, including Horned Lark, Canada Jay, Townsend’s Solitaire, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Sooty Grouse, and Anna’s Hummingbird. We also have opportunities to view Black-tailed Deer, Olympic Marmots, Black Bear, and Chipmunks. In the afternoon, we head down the hill and spend time in Port Angeles at locations along Ediz Hook waterfront and the Port Angeles Marina.

Dinner tonight is at a favorite local restaurant.
Accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express, Sequim (B,L,D)

Day 3: Sequim | Birding Hotspots of the Dungeness Area

Enjoy a full day of birding as we sample the Sequim area hot spots: Dungeness Landing, 3-Crabs, Railroad Bridge Park, Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, Cline Spit, and the Dungeness Fish Hatchery. We expect to see over 50 different bird species, just on this day. Here you can photograph, as well as view, birds like colorful California Quail, Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbirds, Steller’s Jay, and a variety of songbirds often posing at feeders.

Trails of Railroad Bridge Park, where an outstanding nature center is located, give us a chance to look for Swainson’s Thrush, Pacific-slope and Willow Flycatchers, Western Tanager, Evening Grosbeak, Orange-crowned and Wilson’s Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and four species of vireos: Hutton’s, Warbling, Cassin’s, and Red-eyed Vireos. The sheltered waters and mudflats, along with the spit itself, provide great habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds. Among other birds, we could see Brant, Pacific, and Common Loons, Western Grebe, Rhinoceros Auklet, Pigeon Guillemot, Common Murre, Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls, and a few shorebirds. We walk a short distance onto the spit and then back again, getting a good idea of which species are around, while enjoying the great views from this natural wonder.

Driving back to our lodgings at Sequim, we see a bit of the history of the Dungeness area—old schoolhouses and picturesque barns dot the landscape. If time permits, we may go over to see Rhinoceros Auklet and other seabirds at a stop at the rock jetty of John Wayne Marina. Sequim has become a popular spot for growing lavender and has some wonderful restaurants—we sample another tonight.
Accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express, Sequim (B,L,D)

Day 4: Kalaloch | Makah Tribal Lands & Cape Flattery

This morning we venture out along the very scenic Highway 112 to Cape Flattery, which is the farthest northwest point in the lower 48 and is located on the Makah Tribe reservation. It is impressive for its remoteness, scenic beauty, and insight into native cultures. The route is winding and passes through a mix of pristine forest areas and vast clear-cut areas, bringing the logging history of the peninsula quickly into perspective. Part of it parallels the coast, where Bald Eagle are a common sighting. Near Neah Bay we find many Red Cedar in the forests. This tree was vitally important to the culture and remains so today.

In the village of Neah Bay, we enjoy the impressive Makah Museum and explore the bay shore, looking for Purple Sandpiper on the rock jetty. We then take a hike on a tribal trail to Cape Flattery, where from a viewing area we look off to a seabird nesting island. Watch for Tufted Puffin, Sooty Shearwater, Brown Pelican, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Black Oystercatcher, both Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls, and Caspian Tern. Mammals that we watch from this scenic perch include Sea Otter and Harbor Seal. Neah Bay is one of the most important hotspot areas in Washington State and is famous for rarities because it sits at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is just around the corner from the open sea.

From Neah Bay it is a two-hour drive down the coast to Kalaloch Lodge in Olympic National Park, where we spend three nights. The ocean view is dramatic! Settle into your accommodations and enjoy dinner at the lodge in their lovely dining room looking out to the ocean. Evenings we typically tally up the day’s species list.
Accommodations in cabins at Kalaloch Lodge, Olympic National Park (B,L,D)

Day 5: Kalaloch | Coastal Coves & Temperate Rainforest

Kalaloch Lodge sits on the edge of the sea bluff and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Here the freshwater Kalaloch Creek finds the salt water. This opportunity for fresh water is a bird paradise where numerous species of birds come to bathe and wash off the salt water. Whales and seals are often seen from shore. From Kalaloch it is a short drive to the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park, which is part of the largest temperate rainforest in the world.

Today we explore a loop trail in perhaps the park’s most famous site, which showcases the finest temperate rain forest in Olympic National Park. Experience the splendor of the cathedral-like Hoh Rainforest while searching for ancient forest birds and wildlife. Massive Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock dominate the rainforest, with giant Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Red Alder, and Vine Maple growing alongside in smaller numbers.

The west side of Olympic National Park is one of the world’s wettest places, and myriad plant species thrive here. We examine mosses, ferns, liverworts, fungi, and wildflowers galore. Big-leaf Maple is perhaps the most memorable tree species here, with oddly sculptured trunks and branches. These trees also exhibit a strange adaptation: they send rootlets into their burden of lush mosses and epiphytes. Starting with Banana Slug, we observe the intricate web of ecological relationships. Above us stand mighty trees, giants of another era, and nest sites for rare Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl. Under the intricate canopy of these lush forests, we look for feeding flocks of Townsend’s Solitaire, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Townsend’s Warbler, and Olive-sided Flycatcher. On large Black Cottonwoods along rushing streams, we may find Orange-crowned Warbler, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Western Tanager, or chattering above us, Vaux’s Swift. With luck, we may encounter the forest-dwelling Roosevelt Elk. After walking among the forest giants, some of which are over 500 years old, and a picnic lunch, we continue on our way.

There is no other place in the world with the intense plant biodiversity as the rainforests on the Olympic Peninsula. In the afternoon, we visit Lake Quinault and the historic Lake Quinault Lodge of the Olympic National Forest and Quinault Tribe, enjoying an early dinner in their historic dining room.
Accommodations at Kalaloch Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 6: Kalaloch | Coastal Walks & Birding

A short drive north of Kalaloch is the small, but famous town of Forks, Washington. Forks became famous with the release of the Twilight books and movies. In addition to vampires and werewolves, Forks and the Quileute Tribe have a long and interesting history on the Olympic Peninsula. Forks has a Timber Museum and a great birding trail.

Adjacent to Forks, the Quileute Tribe has a great location at 1st Beach with stunning views of Sea Stacks (rock pillars rising from the ocean floor), and of course birds and wildlife. Locations include La Push, Rialto Beach, Mora, and the Quileute Harbor. There are a number of short hikes we can take to sample varied habitat and viewpoints.

Today is a fine day to focus in on plant life as well as the birds, and we enjoy another good dinner in the cozy dining room of our lodge.
Accommodations at Kalaloch Lodge, Olympic National Park (B,L,D)

Day 7: Bainbridge

After breakfast, we head back north across the Olympic Peninsula and travel along the extraordinarily beautiful, glacially-carved Crescent Lake, located within Olympic National Park, with a stop at Lake Crescent Lodge on the Barnes Peninsula to view American Dipper, Western Tanager, Hammond’s Flycatcher, and Red-breasted Nuthatch. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the final paperwork that created Olympic National Park in 1938. Shortly after, he visited the Olympic Peninsula and stayed at Lake Crescent Lodge. There is a lot of great history on this small bit of land that jets out into Lake Crescent. The lake is also a geological wonder at 624 feet deep, with the bottom of the lake being below sea level.

From Lake Crescent we continue across the Olympic Peninsula to the Kitsap Peninsula, and then onto Bainbridge Island where we spend our final night. Getting an early start, we visit the historic town of Port Townsend along the way. In early May its prime time for seeing rhododendrons in bloom. Fort Worden State Park, best known as the set for the film, An Officer and a Gentleman, is also an outstanding area for seabirds due to the tidal mixing of currents near the Port Wilson Light House. Common Murre, Ancient and Marbled Murrelets, Pacific, Red-throated, and Common Loons, and Harlequin Duck are all possible here. A Great Horned Owl is often at home in some of the large trees around the buildings. After walking around the scenic lighthouse area with sweeping views of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Whidbey Island, and both Cascade and Olympic Mountain peaks, we head just a few miles to Kah Tai Wetlands to look for a large variety of wintering waterfowl and sparrows. Here we are likely to see both kinds of scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Common and Hooded Mergansers, American and possibly Eurasian Wigeons, Green-winged Teal, and Northern Pintail.

Our route takes us across the Hood Canal Bridge, which is the longest floating bridge in the world that crosses over salt water. We arrive in time for you to see a bit of the island and settle into our lodgings to freshen up before our final dinner at a great local restaurant.
Accommodations at Marshall Suites, Bainbridge Island (B,L,D)

Day 8: Bainbridge Island | Return to Seattle

This morning, we take the Bainbridge ferry across Puget Sound, which offers great views of both the Seattle skyline and the Olympic Mountains—a grand finale to our exploring. Puget Sound is home to a variety of gulls, including Glaucous-winged and small pelagic birds such as Pigeon Guillemot and Rhinoceros Auklet. And there is always a chance to see the resident Orca pods of Washington State.

We time our ferry for mid-morning with plans to be at the airport by 11:30 AM. Please plan on flights out after 1:30 PM. We can also drop you off at the Radisson Hotel Seattle Airport or the airport hotel of your choice if you wish to stay on in Seattle or to take a next day early morning flight. There is a handy light rail public transportation station that makes getting to downtown quite easy.

  • Cape Flattery, Pacific Northwest, Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park, Washington, Naturalist Journeys

    Cape Flattery by Woody Wheeler

  • Chickadee, Pacific Northwest, Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park, Washington, Naturalist Journeys

    Chickadee, Naturalist Journeys Stock

  • Sea Otter, Pacific Northwest, Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park, Washington, Naturalist Journeys

    Sea Otter by Greg Smith

  • Snowy Plover, Pacific Northwest, Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park, Washington, Naturalist Journeys

    Snowy Plover by Greg Smith

  • Black-tailed Deer, Pacific Northwest, Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park, Washington, Naturalist Journeys

    Black-tailed Deer by Woody Wheeler

  • Upper Dungeness, Pacific Northwest, Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park, Washington, Naturalist Journeys

    Upper Dungeness by Woody Wheeler

  • Hiking, Pacific Northwest, Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park, Washington, Naturalist Journeys

    Hiking, Naturalist Journeys Stock

  • Cape Flattery, Pacific Northwest, Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park, Washington, Naturalist Journeys

    Cape Flattery, NOAA Photo Library via Wikimedia Commons

  • Kalaloch Lodge, Pacific Northwest, Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park, Washington, Naturalist Journeys

    Kalaloch Lodge at Olympic National Park by Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons

  • Rhinoceros Auklet Pacific Northwest, Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park, Washington, Naturalist Journeys

    Rhinoceros Auklet by Don Lambert USFWS via Wikimedia Commons

Cost of the Journey

Cost of the tour is $TBD, per person based on double occupancy from Seattle. The cost includes seven nights’ accommodation, all meals as noted in the itinerary with a focus on local dining and ferry transportation during the journey, professional guide services, park and other entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. Not included in the tour cost is round-trip airfare to and from Seattle, personal expenses such as laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar, and gratuities for luggage handling or other services. Guide gratuities are encouraged, but given at the tour’s end at your discretion.

For pre-or-post night accommodations, we recommend the Radisson Seattle Airport hotel. They have a complimentary shuttle from the airport, and there is a public light-rail LINK station close by that gives you access to the city if you wish to explore.

Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.


  • Greg Butcher

    Greg recently retired as the Migratory Species Coordinator for U.S. Forest Service International Programs, working throughout the Western Hemisphere. He is Vice President for Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, serving on the Conservation and Citizen Science committees. For his Ph.D. in Zoology at University of Washington, he studied the coloration and behavior of Bullock’s Orioles. Greg studied ecology in Costa Rica with the Organization for Tropical Studies and has worked internationally for the past 19 years. Greg has previously worked for the National Audubon Society, American Birding Association, Birder’s World magazine (now Birdwatching), Partners in Flight, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society (AOS). He has been a birder since he was 11 and has birded in all 50 states and 46 countries.

    Other trips with Greg Butcher

Map for Olympic Peninsula Spring Explorer

Photo credits: Banner: Scoping Tufted Puffins at Cape Flattery, courtesy Woody Wheeler; Common Murre, Peg Abbott; Rialto Beach by Woody Wheeler; Naturalist Journeys Group x2 by Woody Wheeler; Olympic Marmot by Carol Simon; Olympic Group, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Beach Rocks, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Tufted Puffin, Greg Smith; Cascade Mountains, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Steller's Jay by Peg Abbott; Whidbey Fort, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Rufous Hummingbird, Greg Smith; Sea Otter, Greg Smith; Black Turnstone, Greg Smith; Beach Rocks, NJ Stock; Townsend's Warbler, Steve Wolfe; Dungeness River Audubon Center, Woody Wheeler; Dungeness Spit NWR, Woody Wheeler; Green-winged Teal, Tom Dove; Violet-green Swallow, Steve Wolfe; Red-winged Blackbird, Greg Smith; Cape Flattery, Woody Wheeler; Chickadee, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Sea Otter, Greg Smith; Snowy Plover, Greg Smith; Black-tailed Deer, Woody Wheeler; Upper Dungeness, Woody Wheeler; Hiking, Naturalist Journeys Stock.


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