Seattleites: Looking for a little weekend getaway? Salt Creek Recreation Area is a rugged slice of Washington paradise and it’s calling your name. Not only can you hike amazing trails, check out epic tide pools, and take in beautiful views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but you can also surf, dive and spot marine life too! Here is everything you need to know to plan a trip to Salt Creek Recreation.
But first, a little about me! I’m Eva Seelye and I’m a Pacific Northwest adventure photographer. I was born into a mobile lifestyle (aboard a sailboat) and spent my younger years traveling between Washington, the Bahamas, and the Marshall Islands, and the last became my home. The tiny mile-by-half-mile island called Kwajalein is where I found my love for adventure and photography.
Without cell phone service and high-speed Internet, we spent nearly every second of our free time beaching, boating, surfing, snorkeling and enjoying the outdoors. I started to play around with photography here and there, but only when I landed a job with our local newspaper did I get to hold a DSLR camera for the first time. Ever since that moment I have been hooked! The tiny mile-by-half- mile island called Kwajalein is where I found my love for adventure and photography.
I started shooting sports, portraits, wildlife and more. I graduated and moved stateside to major in photomedia and communications at the University of Washington and haven’t left since. There is something that is indescribably special about the Pacific Northwest. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I know it has something to do with the diverse landscapes and rad adventure culture.
196-Acres of Rugged Nature at Salt Creek Recreation Area
I first stumbled upon Salt Creek Recreation Area on AllTrails one day while I was scouting short trails for hikes my mom and I could do together. I love AllTrails’ map feature to explore nearby natural areas and discover trails that I have never heard of!
Some AllTrails trip reports showed photos of a waterfall, a hike in a cove and an expansive view of Vancouver Island from a lookout – all within a five mile out-and-back hike. After doing more research, we discovered it was part of Salt Creek, which looked like Washington’s famed Cape Flattery with its rocky island and tide pools (but closer to home).
Needless to say, we prepared our packs and hit the road the next day! Salt Creek is on Coast Salish and S’Klallam land. It’s a marine wildlife sanctuary where visitors can enjoy a range of experiences from surfing and diving, to hiking and enjoying views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island. Even better, this 196-acre rec area is open all year round.
My Experiences at Salt Creek Recreation Area
We pulled into the parking lot and immediately realized a half-day wasn’t going to be enough. While it’s technically a small park, I still wanted to take the time to enjoy it – to sit with the wild waves (they can get fierce in the Strait!), walk the tide pools, paddle out for a surf and set up camp. But on this day in December, we were there to hike Striped Peak Trail, so we did.
The first half of Striped Peak Trail guides you along the coastline’s rocky cliffs, through fern fields, and over a wooden bridge before a short side spur veers down and to the left. This leads you past a waterfall and down to the hidden cove, which is easily my favorite part of the entire trail.
The cove is almost covered at high tide. But at low tide a beach emerges – it’s the perfect place to stay a while and indulge in the fresh, salty air. The view from the top was a bit “meh” to be honest. It’s also accessible via a forest road if you would rather drive there. The cove, though? Well worth it.
Since that first hike, I have visited Salt Creek two more times in just a few months. We planned an overnighter and snagged a sweet campsite right where the land meets the sea. The sound of the waves lulled us to sleep. Watch out for racoons, though. They will climb up your back for a bag of marshmallows, no joke! Keep a close eye on your stuff at all times.
We went tide pooling, built a campfire, and walked to the island at low tide. There is a natural arch that you can walk through at the northwesternmost tip of the park. Don’t miss it! We hung out on the beach, watching surfers brave the cold, which was something I still wanted to do. So, I came back for a third time for a surf day. You bet I will be back again this summer!
Best Things To Do at Salt Creek Recreation Area
Tide pooling: Tide pooling at Salt Creek Recreation Area offers you a little glimpse into life under the sea. The bright green anemones, purple starfish and impressively massive muscles are a cool sight to see! Check out the natural arch at low tide, located at the northwesternmost tip of the park.
Hiking: Striped Peak Trail is a gorgeous short hike with a waterfall, a secret cove and a view of Vancouver Island from the top.
Bunkers: There are a few bunkers left hidden in the coastal brush that are fun to explore!
Surfing: A sheltered bay combined with good conditions offers quality surfing for those who want to brave Washington’s cold waters. There is a small section within Salt Creek where you can paddle out for free. Otherwise, the beach next door charges a small fee to surf their breaks.
One of my Salt Creek visits was part of a surf-to-ski day. We started with a surf before driving to Hurricane Ridge for an afternoon of snowboarding. It was my first surf of the year, and after grubbing my first wave, I resurfaced with a smile on my face! Growing up on islands, the water is where I feel most like me. I rarely swim in Washington but on that day I was home.
Other Places to Visit Nearby
The closest entrance to Olympic National Park is just a 30-minute drive away from Salt Creek. This park is incredibly diverse with massive glacier-capped peaks, crystal clear lakes, wild beaches and a temperate rainforest. It’s definitely worth a visit!
In the winter, you can ski Hurricane Ridge. In the summer, hike Mount Storm King, Spruce Railroad Trail, Marymere Falls, swim in Lake Crescent, backpack among the Olympics and more! If you would like to stick closer to Port Angeles, walk the Dungeness Spit which is an impressive five-mile sand spit that grows up to 15 feet every year. Crazy, right?
Need to Know Before you Go
Remember: always, always, always Leave No Trace everywhere you go. Always pack out what you pack in, build your campfires only in designated fire pits and respect the wildlife at all times. Be careful not to walk on any tide pool creatures, leave what you find and be respectful of other campers.
Reservations for February through October are open on January 1st for the year, and they go fast! There are a few first come, first served campsites available year-round. I recommend arriving at Salt Creek super early on the day-of to snag one. All sites are first come, first served November through January. This park is totally free for day-use, so no worries there.
If camping is not your cup of hot chocolate, you can always head to Port Angeles (just a 20-minute drive away) which offers plenty of hotel and Airbnb options to choose from. Lastly, try to enjoy all the activities on offer at this wonderful destination. Go hiking, search for the best tide pools and catch a wave!