Fall is a fantastic time to explore the Olympic Peninsula. As the tourist crowds of summer disperse, migratory waterfowl, songbirds and raptors move through the region, and migratory shorebirds rest and refuel along the coast. The primal wails of bugling Elk echo through canyons as bulls battle their male rivals and gather their harems during the fall rut. Yellow maple leaves splash color across the moss-draped rainforest. Salmon return from the sea to spawn in cascading rivers, and Bald Eagles, Bobcats and River Otters feast on this bounty while American Dippers eat the salmon eggs. In the Olympic high-country, plants turn crimson and gold, and Black Bears gorge on blueberries, fattening for winter.

Our guides share their in-depth knowledge as they lead you through an interconnected web of habitats: mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows, rivers, coasts, and ocean. Visit lands of the Makah and Quileute Tribes, 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 alpine splendor of the Olympic Mountains. Dungeness River Nature Center and Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, with its sand spit that stretches far into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, provide excellent opportunities for more birds. Having three nights at two lodges on the route keeps logistics simple and helps maintain a relaxed pace. Kalaloch Lodge with its spectacular ocean views invites you to immerse in nature, three nights in Sequim give you access to national park birding hotspots, and our final night on Bainbridge Island lets you explore a picturesque, artsy harbor town.

Olympic National Park and the wilderness areas that surround it protect the Olympic Mountains, including the monarch of the range, the glacier-clad Mount Olympus. Also protected are pristine stands of temperate rainforest and one of the last remaining wild ocean shores in the United States. Few places on the planet boast such varied natural history, making Olympic National Park one of the most iconic destinations in America’s National Park System.

The park covers more than 1,400 square miles and encompasses nearly 1 million acres—an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. Some 300 bird species live in the area at least part of the year, including the endangered Northern Spotted Owl and the threatened Marbled Murrelet. This vast wilderness provides habitat for numerous amphibians, including the endemic Olympic Torrent Salamander, and is home to 62 species of terrestrial mammals, including Roosevelt Elk, Black Bear, Douglas Squirrel, the enigmatic Mountain Beaver, and the endemic Olympic Marmot. Numerous sea mammal species such as Sea Otter and Humpback Whale can be viewed from shore. Learn about the prolific mosses and ferns of the Pacific Northwest, and marvel at the spruces, firs, hemlocks, and cedars, among the largest living things on Earth.

With the lack of crowds, bountiful wildlife, comfortable weather, and lovely color and light of autumn, this is the ideal season for birders, photographers and nature enthusiasts to explore the Olympic Peninsula.

Tour Highlights

  • Visit Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to see as many as 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 temperate rainforest amid towering trees on the wild Pacific coast
  • Hike through a Sitka Spruce forest to a wave-swept Pacific beach with stunning views of 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 photogenic fall colors and wind-sculpted elfin forests
  • Explore Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, the westernmost point of the continental USA
  • Enjoy local foods and history of the Pacific Northwest

Trip Itinerary

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Thurs., Sept. 5      Arrivals in Seattle | Sequim

We pick up at the Radisson Hotel Seattle Airport (within sight of the airport) and other nearby hotels off International Drive this morning not later than 11:00 AM. We suggest you arrive 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 toward Sequim, one of the prettiest spots on the Olympic Peninsula. First, we visit the renowned Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, an Important Bird Area. Enjoy a picnic lunch while watching the birds. This is a prime time of year to visit, and we hope to see several species of Washington’s swallows, American Bittern, Great Blue Heron, 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 try to find as many as 40 species while enjoying a leisurely stroll on boardwalks and trails that lead through beautiful habitat.

Established in 1974 for the protection of migratory birds, Nisqually NWR encompasses 3,000 acres of saltwater and freshwater marshes, grasslands, riparian areas, and mixed-forest habitats, providing resting and nesting habitat 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 through saltmarsh 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. Our route takes us across the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge. “Galloping Gertie” has long been replaced by two beautiful, and sturdy, suspension bridges. “Sunny Sequim” is ideally located close to several birding hotspots, including Olympic National Park. It’s also a great place to find excellent local dining.

After settling into your accommodations, head up to the rooftop viewing area to see the surrounding peaks, forests and prairie. 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)

Fri., Sept. 6         Sequim

Early morning we head out to drive the scenic road up to Hurricane Ridge, located at an elevation of 5,242 feet in Olympic National Park. A winding road takes us through changing vegetation as we climb; we eventually top out in the alpine zone for fabulous views of multiple mountain ranges. Common Ravens ride thermals above the ridgelines.

While still in the forests, we stop at the park’s main visitor center. Waterfalls cascade down cliffs along the road, and scenic stops abound. Panoramic views of peaks and valleys carved by glaciers provide gorgeous scenery and a compelling geology classroom. We learn about the remarkable adaptations of plants and animals to high elevation as we search for one of the Olympic Peninsula’s many endemic species, the Olympic Marmot.

Along the route, we look for mountain passerines and raptors of the Olympic Peninsula. We listen for the tooting calls of the Northern Pygmy-Owl. Active during the day, this small owl can be found high in the mountains in autumn when young birds are dispersing. We might spot a Cooper’s Hawk hunting grasshoppers on the tundra, and if we’re lucky, we may glimpse a Goshawk gliding between trees in pursuit of prey or watch a soaring Golden Eagle search the ground below for marmots. Atop Hurricane Ridge are several easy walking paths that offer unobstructed views of peaks, glaciers and forested river valleys of Olympic National Park and adjacent wildlands. You gaze down on the blue waterways that surround the green peninsula, with Washington’s San Juan Islands shimmering in the distance, and Canada’s Vancouver Island visible when the clouds part. 

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, Black Bear, Olympic Marmot and Olympic Chipmunk. In the open tundra we look for American Pipit and Horned Lark. Among the groves of stunted, wind-shaped trees in the Krumholtz zone, we may find Sooty Grouse, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Dark-eyed Junco, and White-crowned Sparrow.

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 an overlook of one of the two recently removed dams along the Elwha River. This was the largest dam-removal and river restoration project in U.S. history and has already helped revive native salmon populations.

In the afternoon we explore the birdlife and natural history of 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)

Sat., Sept. 7         Sequim | Birding Hotspots of the Dungeness Area

Enjoy a full day of birding as we sample the Sequim area hotspots: Dungeness Landing, 3-Crabs, Railroad Bridge Park, Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, Cline Spit, and the Dungeness Fish Hatchery. Here you can view and photograph birds like 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, Hutton’s and Red-eyed Vireos, and Northern Shrike. The sheltered waters and mudflats of Dungeness National Wildlife refuge, along with the Dungeness Spit, provide great habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds. Some of the species we could see include: Brant; Pacific, Common, and Red-throated Loons; Western, Horned, and Red-necked Grebes; Glaucous-winged and Short-billed Gulls; and Pigeon Guillemot and Common Murre. We walk a short distance onto the Dungeness Spit and then back again, looking for shorebirds such as Sanderling, Whimbrel, Black-bellied Plover, and Black Oystercatcher, while enjoying the views from this natural wonder, one of the world’s longest sand spits.

If time permits, we may look for Rhinoceros Auklet and other seabirds at the rock jetty of John Wayne Marina, or we might search for Short-eared Owls hunting voles in fields at dusk. Driving back to our lodgings at Sequim, we see some of the history of the Dungeness area—old schoolhouses and picturesque barns dot the landscape. Sequim has become a popular spot for growing lavender and has some wonderful restaurants—we sample another local restaurant tonight.
Accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express, Sequim (B,L,D)

Sun., Sept. 8       Kalaloch | Makah Tribal Lands & Cape Flattery

This morning we venture out along scenic Highway 112 to Cape Flattery, the farthest northwest point in the lower 48 states and located on the Makah Reservation. This area is impressive for its remoteness, scenic beauty, and native culture. The route is winding and passes through a mix of pristine forests and sprawling clearcuts, bringing the logging history of the peninsula into perspective. Part of the route parallels the coast, where Bald Eagle are commonly seen hunting for fish, or pirating them from other birds. Near Neah Bay we find ancient Western Redcedars in the forests. Known as the Tree of Life, this species was vitally important to Indigenous people and remains at the center of their rich cultural traditions today.

Neah Bay is one of the most important birding hotspots in Washington State. It is famous for rarities because it sits at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, located just around the corner from the open sea. In the village of Neah Bay, we enjoy the impressive Makah Museum and explore the bay shoreline, looking for species like Black Turnstone and Wandering Tattler on the rock jetty.

We then take a hike on a tribal trail to Cape Flattery. From a prominent viewing area, we look out toward a seabird nesting island in the open ocean. Watch for Tufted Puffin, Sooty Shearwater, Brown Pelican, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Black Oystercatcher, Caspian Tern, and Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls. Mammals that we search for from this scenic perch include Sea Otter, Harbor Seal, Steller Sea Lion, and Humpback Whale.

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 along this wild and rugged coastline is dramatic. Settle into your accommodations and enjoy dinner at the lodge in the 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)

Mon., Sept. 9       Kalaloch | Coastal Coves & Temperate Rainforest

Kalaloch Lodge sits on the edge of a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The sound of the surf is constant, and you can taste sea salt in the air.  Next to the lodge, freshwater Kalaloch Creek meets saltwater—this opportunity for a fresh rinse draws numerous bird species to wash off the salt. Seals and whales are often seen from shore. From Kalaloch it is a short drive to Olympic National Park’s Hoh Rainforest, part of the largest temperate rainforest in the world.

Today we explore a loop trail in what is perhaps Olympic National Park’s most famous site—the legendary Hoh Rainforest. Experience the splendor of cathedral-like groves while searching among the ancient trees for birds and wildlife. Massive Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock dominate the rainforest, and Western Redcedar, Douglas-fir, Red Alder, and Vine Maple add to the mix. Blanketed in moss and strewn with ferns, the Hoh Rainforest looks like an enchanted forest from a fairytale.

The west side of Olympic National Park is one of the world’s wettest places, and myriad plant species thrive here. We examine mosses, liverworts, ferns, and fungi. Big-leaf Maple is perhaps this area’s most memorable tree species, with fantastically sculptured trunks and branches. These trees also have a fascinating adaptation: they send rootlets into the mosses and epiphytes on their branches to absorb water and nutrients.

Starting with the weirdly charismatic Banana Slug, we observe an intricate web of ecological relationships that bind all forest life. Above us stand mighty trees, giants of another era that continue to provide nest sites for Marbled Murrelets and Northern Spotted Owls. Under the lush forest canopy, we look for feeding flocks of Townsend’s Solitaire, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Townsend’s Warbler, and Olive-sided Flycatcher. On Black Cottonwoods along rushing streams, we might find Orange-crowned Warbler, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Western Tanager and Brown Creeper, and we may hear Vaux’s Swift chattering above us. We could encounter herds of Roosevelt Elk. After walking among forest giants, some of which are over 1,000 years old, we enjoy a picnic lunch beneath the ancient trees. Then we continue on our way.

In the afternoon, we visit Lake Quinault and the historic Lake Quinault Lodge of the Olympic National Forest and Quinault Tribe. We enjoy an early dinner in their historic dining room.
Accommodations at Kalaloch Lodge (B,L,D)

Tues., Sept. 10       Kalaloch | Coastal Walks & Birding

A short drive north of Kalaloch is the little logging town of Forks, Washington which features a Timber Museum and a terrific birding trail.

Indigenous people have a long and fascinating history in this region. The Quileute Tribe is a sovereign nation, meaning they have their own government inside of the United States. Their Tribal Council allows the public to access a great location at First Beach. Here we look for birds and wildlife and enjoy stunning views of sea stacks (rock pillars rising above the ocean waves). Locations we might explore include La Push, Rialto Beach, Mora, and the Quileute Harbor. There are a number of short hikes we can take to sample varied habitats and viewpoints. Today is a fine day to focus not only on birds, but also on plant life and other biodiversity of the Pacific Northwest. We enjoy another dinner in the cozy dining room of our lodge.
Accommodations at Kalaloch Lodge, Olympic National Park (B,L,D)

Wed., Sept. 11        Bainbridge

After breakfast, we head back north across the Olympic Peninsula and travel along the shore of beautiful Crescent Lake, located within Olympic National Park. This basin was carved by glaciers and dammed by a landslide, impounding crystalline waters that are home to two species of endemic salmonid fish. We stop at Lake Crescent Lodge on the Barnes Peninsula to look for American Dipper, Western Tanager, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Brown Creeper, 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 rich history on this bit of land that juts into the brilliant blue waters of Lake Crescent. The lake is also a geologic wonder at 624 feet deep, with the bottom below sea level.

From Lake Crescent, we continue across the Olympic Peninsula to the Kitsap Peninsula, and then onward to Bainbridge Island, where we spend our final night. Getting an early start, along the way we visit Port Townsend, a historic Victorian seaport. 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 Point Wilson Lighthouse. Common Murre, Marbled Murrelet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Pacific and Common Loons, Harlequin and Long-tailed Ducks are all possible here. We look for shorebirds on the beaches, and we watch for Northern Harrier hunting rodents among the sand dunes. After walking around the scenic lighthouse area with sweeping views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Whidbey Island, and Cascade and Olympic peaks, we head just a few miles to Kah Tai Lagoon to look for a variety of waterfowl and sparrows. Here we are likely to see Bufflehead, Ring-necked and Ruddy Ducks, Common and Hooded Mergansers, Northern Shoveler, and American Wigeon, and possibly Eurasian Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, and Northern Pintail. We will also look for Greater Yellowlegs hunting Three-spined Stickleback along the lakeshore.

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

Thurs., Sept. 12      Bainbridge Island | Return to Seattle

This morning we take the Bainbridge ferry across Puget Sound. If the weather cooperates, we marvel at panoramic views of the Seattle skyline and the Olympic Mountains—a grand finale to our exploring. Puget Sound is home to the Glaucous-winged Gull year-round. Other gull species like Heerman’s and Short-billed can be seen this time of year, along with Pigeon Guillemot and Rhinoceros Auklet. We also look for Bald Eagle, Surf Scoter, Horned Grebe, and Pelagic, Double-crested and Brandt’s Cormorants.

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 convenient. (B)

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Olympic National Park Scenic by Stephen Grace

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Common Murre

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Tufted Puffin

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Bull Kelp on Olympic Coast by Stephen Grace

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Long-tailed Duck

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Olympic National Park Scenic by Stephen Grace

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Harlequin Duck

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Olympic National Park Scenic by Stephen Grace

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Chestnut-backed Chickadee

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Olympic National Park Scenic by Stephen Grace

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Horned Lark

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Mount Olympus by Stephen Grace

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Sooty Grouse

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Olympic National Park Scenic by Stephen Grace

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Forks, Washington

  • Birding Washington State, Bird watching Olympic Peninsula, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Olympic National Park

    Western Redcedar Tree by Stephen Grace

Cost of the Journey

Cost of the tour is $3790 DBL / $4835 SGL, 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.

Travel Details

Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.

Arrival and Departure Airport: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Arrival Details: Plan flights to arrive September 5, 2024, no later than 10:30 AM

Departure Details: Plan flights to depart September 12, 2024, after 1:30 PM

Travel Tips:  As flights can be delayed, we recommend you arrive a day early and rest up from your travels. There are many hotels near the airport in Seattle and we have a couple of recommendations below. If you want to explore Seattle prior to heading to the Olympic Peninsula, there are plenty of things to do! The Chihuly Garden & Glass is a museum with glass exhibits artistically crafted by Dale Chihuly. There are many fascinating and colorful blown glass sculptures both indoors as well as outside in the garden. The iconic Space Needle is right next door and offers amazing panoramic views of Seattle, Mount Rainier, and Puget Sound. Are shopping and eating local food more your style? Then don’t miss the famous Pike Place Market, one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the United States. You can find just about anything here from fresh fish and produce to crafts and collectibles. There are also many restaurants here and if you’re into seafood, don’t miss the clam chowder! Transportation to downtown is easy with the public light rail system, taxis, and Uber.

Hotel Recommendations: 

Radisson Hotel Seattle Airport (206) 244-6666

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Seattle Airport (206) 824-3200

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

Washington

  • Stephen Grace

    Stephen is an award-winning author, natural history educator and conservationist. He has also contributed to documentary films, and his nature photography has been widely published. Over the past two decades, he has introduced groups of travelers to nature and culture in destinations as varied as Uganda, New Zealand and Alaska.

    After moving from Colorado to the Oregon coast, Stephen was captivated by the sight of a Tufted Puffin carrying fish back to its burrow, and the first time he heard a Swainson’s Thrush sing, he knew his life would never be the same. He has been studying birds and sharing their beauty with people ever since.

    Formative experiences during Stephen’s journey as a naturalist have included tagging along as a teenager with his grandparents in Madera Canyon, where he absorbed their love of Arizona’s sky islands; helping people with different ability levels experience the Yellowstone ecosystem when he lived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and sailing aboard a historic schooner to share the wonders of the Salish Sea with students.

    Now based in Port Townsend, Washington, Stephen explores the Pacific Northwest by backpacking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, biking, trail running, and skiing. His wide-ranging natural history pursuits include coring trees to count their growth rings, identifying bats by analyzing their biosonar signals, hunting mammoth tusks in Pleistocene bluffs, searching for the elusive Rubber Boa, preserving native prairie, raising awareness about plankton, and leading sea slug safaris.

    Other trips with Stephen Grace

Map for Olympic Peninsula Fall Explorer

Essential Information +

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have Read more

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!

Ahead of Your Tour

  • Please talk with your doctor about general health needs. It is a good idea to consult with your doctor about general vaccinations recommended for travel.
  • Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed. After you make travel reservations, please send a copy of your travel itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.com.
  • Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
  • Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Remember to pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.

Health Information

We will share a copy of your health and emergency contact information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important in case of a medical emergency. In addition to bringing any prescription medications with you, we recommend that you have a copy of the prescriptions in case of loss.

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect

You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.

Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.

The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.  

We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.

Food & Drink

We carry water and juices/cold drinks in the cooler each day, and sodas if people like them. Please also plan on bringing and filling your water bottle for hiking each day. We try to use as few plastics as possible!

Packing, Clothing & Laundry

Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Please pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.

Dress is informal and is casual even at restaurants. Layering is a great way to stay comfortable. Protective clothing is essential, whether it be from sun, rain, cold, insects, or vegetation. You need closed toe shoes, and wear comfortable walking shoes with good tread. Hiking boots with good support for hiking and on rocky terrain can work well.

Spending Money

Many people ask how much to plan to bring as spending money. Part of that depends on how much you want to shop. Most shops will take VISA and MasterCard or American Express. Typical items people purchase include local souvenirs and T-shirts, caps, and natural history books.  You may want to bring cash for drinks with dinner (if available) or smaller local purchases.

Gratuities

Expect the normal tipping protocol to apply for hotel maids and bar service. If at the end of the tour, you would like to show your appreciation to your guides, tipping is entirely appropriate but at your discretion. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services. Gratuities for group meals are included. For your birding tour guide, we suggest $10-$15 per day per guest. Note that if there is more than one guide, this amount can be split among them.

Cell Phones & Internet Service

Wi-Fi and cell phone service are available in most US destinations, although there are some exceptions in remote locations. Wi-Fi is generally provided in all hotels, lodges, and restaurants you visit, at least in public areas. Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers unless it appears to be an emergency as this disrupts other guests – please plan cell phone calls on your own time.

Smoking

Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.

Transportation

For this tour, your guides will drive travelers in either full-size or mini-vans or a combination of those two. We ask all attendees to please rotate your seating, so you ride with different drivers and alternate between front and back seats.

Photo Release & Sharing

We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.

By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives permission to record photos and/or video of your participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochures, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.

Questions?

Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.

 

Packing List +

PLEASE PACK LIGHTLY! Soft luggage is easier for us to pack in a vehicle than a Read more

PLEASE PACK LIGHTLY!

Soft luggage is easier for us to pack in a vehicle than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. It is our hope that you can pack in one suitcase that does not exceed 50 pounds. Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a daypack for field trips, so this is the ideal carry-on.

Weather can be variable and unpredictable - rain is always possible! It generally will be cool, with days up to the mid 60’s°F and nights in the upper 30's to 40's°F. We want you to be comfortable and the key to that is layering. Fabrics like fleece, as well as rain gear, will protect you from rain and wind and keep you warm. 

Dress is very informal. Choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty and that is comfortable and easy to wear. Supportive hiking books are essential for our walks.

Clothing & Gear

  • Long pants, 2-3 pair, selected for warmth and comfort. Fleece tights with wind pants can be a great option for this type of weather.
  • Long-sleeved shirts/turtlenecks, 1 per day or every 2 days – think layering
  • T-shirts or equivalent – 2-3 for layering
  • Long underwear, tops and bottoms – silk or polypro is nice
  • Raincoat and pants – these double as wind break
  • Medium to heavy jacket for warmth and wind protection – layer with raingear
  • One lightweight and one heavy weight sweater, fleece or equivalent
  • Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes, dressier clothing if desired for time in town)
  • Hat with broad brim for sun on dry days
  • Scarf, warm and water-repellent gloves or mittens, warm hat for cold weather
  • Personal underclothing and pajamas
  • Socks – medium to heavy weight and easy to wash and dry
  • Comfortable walking shoes (such as tennis shoes)
  • Lightweight hiking boots with good tread
  • Rain-friendly footwear (L.L. Bean boot or equivalent with rubber bottom)
  • Comfortable sandals or light shoes for evenings, travel days
  • Bandana (optional)

Equipment & Miscellaneous

  • E-ticket confirmation
  • Personal identification
  • Small daypack or fanny pack to carry gear while hiking (essential!)
  • Umbrella
  • Flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries
  • Alarm clock, or use your phone
  • Sunscreen/Chapstick
  • Sunglasses
  • Toiletry articles
  • Binoculars (a hotel shower cap is great to cover these when it is raining)
  • Camera and extra batteries and memory cards, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual. Do a good check for all this before leaving.
  • Water bottle (or plan to reuse our store-bought water bottle if prefer)
  • Gallon-size ziplock bags for keeping things dry
  • Laundry soap for hand washing
  • Travel sewing kit
  • Earplugs (if you are sensitive to noise at night – optional)
  • Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
  • Field guides (optional)
  • Rechargeable power bank (optional)

 

WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!

Medical & First Aid Items

  • Personal medication
  • Copy of eyeglass prescription, medical prescriptions, and any medical alerts
  • Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed in vans or boat
  • Personal first aid kit including medications for general and stomach ailments
  • Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
  • Foot powder, lotions for dry skin, general “comfort” items
  • Insurance information
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts

 

Suggested Reading List +

  There are many titles of interest for Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The following are a few Read more

 

There are many titles of interest for Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.

Field Guides

Merlin App. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. You can download it here.

Field Guide to the Birds of North America

National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest

Hawks in Flight

Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West

A Field Guide to Warblers of North America

The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds

The Complete Birder: A Guide to Better Birding

Lives of North American Birds

Sibley Guide to Birds

The Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, & Alaska

Birds of the Pacific Northwest Folding Guide

Birds of the Pacific Northwest: A Photographic Guide

Birds of the Pacific Northwest: A Timber Press Field Guide

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Washington & Oregon

Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest: Tracking and Identifying Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, and Invertebrates

A Field Guide to California and Pacific Northwest Forests

Natural History

Olympic National Park, A Natural History

Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains

The Olympic Rain Forest

The World of Northern Evergreens

Fire Mountains of the West: The Cascade and Mono Lake Volcanoes

Roadside Geology of Oregon

Olympic National Park Map

History & Culture

Moon Olympic Peninsula

Ancient Places, People and Landscape in the Emerging Northwest

The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest

Winter Brothers, A Season at the Edge of America

The Egg and I

Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.

 

Useful Links +

Learn more about your destination at these external websites, carefully researched for you. Read more

General

Seattle, WA

Olympic Peninsula

Sequim

Kalaloch

Port Angeles

Bainbridge Island

Port Townsend

Fort Worden

Nature, Wildlife & Biology

Audubon Bird Guide App

Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society

“Something to Crow About” – Article, Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society

Olympic Loop - Great Washington State Birding Trail

Marbled Murrelet

Peregrine Falcon

Black Oystercatcher

Mountain Goat

Roosevelt Elk

Olympic Marmot

Sitka Spruce

Conservation, Parks & Reserves

Olympic National Park – National Park Service & UNESCO

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Dungeness River Audubon Center

Fort Worden Historical State Park

Lake Quinault

Hoh Rainforest

Lake Crescent

Hurricane Ridge

Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

Protection Island

Cape Flattery

Geology & Geography

Geology of Olympic National Park

Geology of Olympic Mountains – Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources

Geography & Climate of Olympic National Park

History & Culture

History & Exploration of Olympic National Park

Makah Tribe

Quinault Indian Nation

Elhwa Dam Removal/Elwha River Restoration

Helpful Travel Websites

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Homeland Security Real ID Act

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

ATM Locator

Date & Time


Photo credits: Banners: Olympic National; Park Scenic (Stephen Grace), Scoping Tufted Puffins at Cape Flattery (Woody Wheeler), Olympic National Park Trees (Stephen Grace), Olympic National Park foliage (Stephen Grace), Naturalist Journeys Group x2 (Woody Wheeler) Thumbnails: Bald Eagle, Olympic Coast (Stephen Grace), Anna’s Hummingbird, Sea Otter, Golden Eagle, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Dipper, Northern Spotted Owlet

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