Roadtrip with Toddlers: Kalaloch Tree Root Cave, Olympic National Park Washington (aka the Tree of Life)
We knew we would only have a little bit of time to explore Olympic National Park as we road-tripped from the Oregon Coast to Port Angeles, so we decided to make two stops that would take a few hours and be good breaks for our kids.
Our first stop was the Kalaloch Root Tree Cave, aka the Tree of Life. I’m trying to describe it, but I think I better just show you some pictures.
It’s amazing in it’s beauty and in it’s uniqueness and most of all in how it’s still alive, although all reason would say it should have collapsed, filled the hole made by the eroding earth.
Getting here is really easy. Once you’re on Highway 1, going north, and you’ve entered Olympic National Park, look for the Kalaloch Campground. It's not long after the signs for Beach 1, and it's on the beach side of the road. Pull into the campground and park in the visitor parking. There is a short trail going to the beach, you’ll go down it, down some stairs, and then to your right almost immediately will be the Tree Cave. There's no signs or anything, you can just go look and enjoy it at your own pace.
The beach is also really nice. Wide and sandy. This was a really good stop for our kids. So laid back, campground bathrooms to use (potty-training!) a cool tree to look at, a wide beach to run and play and shout on, and we also got a totally unexpected surprise that my three-year-old is still talking about.
Orcas. Playing in the surf.
We had been hoping to see some Orcas on this trip, but we weren’t expecting to see them until we got to the San Juan Islands. We saw them use their blowholes, and we saw some fins (do you see them in the pictures? Mad skills go to my husband). I guess a few minutes before we got there they had been jumping, so bummer we missed it but we were thrilled to see them at all. I’m not sure how frequently Orcas are seen at this beach but we felt really really lucky.
All in all, this was a really good stop for our kids. The tree was neat to see and to play at and since it’s just a tree (with lots of people coming to take pictures in front of it) it’s so relaxed. It was basically a stop at a beach to see a cool tree, play in the sand, eat a picnic, and seeing the Orca’s were the icing on the cake. If you’re in this part of Olympic National Park I think it’s totally worth a stop. It is in the beach part of the park, so be aware that it’s a bit of a drive from the main part of the park
I also want to mention that at the Kalaloch Lodge, just a few miles back on the road, there is a visitor center and I’m sure there’s more info about both the Tree of Life and Orcas, but we didn’t visit it. I wish we would have, we kind of love visitor centers. #nerdsforlyfe We also have these National Park Passports that we collect stamps in from the places in the Parks we visit, and we would have really liked to get our Kalaloch Stamps. If you go here, will you please let me know if the visitor center is worth a stop?
I read this page on the Kalaloch Lodge website and loved it and thought it was kind of hilarious. And they’re right. This tree has hung on to it’s life and remained beautiful despite the weather, the wind, the earth underneath it disappearing. It’s almost magic. The life of this tree. What has it seen?
It seems in stories trees are written as wise beings- Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas, the Ents in Lord of the Rings, the Giving Tree. There is something about the weathering of wood that makes trees look old and wise and something about their roots that makes them seem stable. Good at giving advice. And their longevity! They stand in one spot for decades, maybe centuries, surviving despite wind and weather, growing new leaves every year, taking all they need of what they find right in front of them. If trees could talk, what would they say? If this tree could talk, what would it say?
I don’t know about you, but I would love to hear it’s story.
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