Under the shadow of the southeastern Olympic Mountains, Lake Cushman is quickly becoming one of the premier destinations along Hood Canal.
Lake Cushman has been a local retreat on warm weather days for generations, but only recently has it become a destination for those in the greater Puget Sound Region. Offering every recreation activity possible, Lake Cushman is your ultimate weekend getaway just a short hour drive from Interstate 5.
Whether you hope to swim, kayak, hike, golf or even scale the rocky summits of the Olympic Mountains, Lake Cushman should be added to your list of must-experience destinations.
There are three places to swim while visiting Lake Cushman. Lake Cushman Resort is the first of the relaxing swimming areas. While you will have to pay a day use fee to access this area, the cost isn’t bad, the swimming is fantastic and the views are perfect. Another fantastic option is the scenic beach area of Skokomish Park at Lake Cushman. Again, you will need to pay a day use fee, but the area is well-maintained, relaxing and ideal for warm summer days. Finally, if you want to swim but also want a bit of awesomeness mixed in, head to “Party Rock” along Highway 119 to Olympic National Park’s Staircase region. The rock is just that, a huge boulder that provides incredible cliff jumping opportunities into the lake. Obviously, caution needs to be taken before heading here. This is a local favorite, so please behave well, clean up your garbage and park far off the road.
Why not try paddling on the water with Blue Horizon Paddle Sports? Located at the Bear Gulch picnic area on the way to Olympic National Park, this locally-owned company is run by experts and is fun for the whole family. Offering numerous tour options, including a dog-friendly trip, seeing the beauty of Lake Cushman in a kayak is sure to be a highlight of your summer. With amazing views of Mount Rose, Mount Ellinor and Mount Washington, paddle next to the stumps of ancient timber while looking into the wilderness of the Olympics. You can also take your own kayak or canoe out on the water from here or any of the swimming areas mentioned above.
While many head to Lake Cushman in search of wilderness, those looking to see the beauty of the region while playing a round of golf will be pleased. Spend a few hours on the links on the Lake Cushman Golf Course. The course is just nine holes but is a fun and challenging course to hone your skills or learn to play. With a driving range and putting area, this is a great way to get away for an afternoon of golf in the hills above Lake Cushman.
Sleeping under the starry skies around Lake Cushman is a soul-soothing activity that needs be done as often as possible. Luckily, there are four campgrounds on or close to the lake that can get you a perfect weekend adventure at Lake Cushman. The first is the Staircase Campground in Olympic National Park. Located on the Skokomish River a few miles from the lake, this campground is scenic, open all year and gives access to the best hiking around. Slightly closer to Hoodsport, the Big Creek Campground has been newly renovated and is fantastic. A few miles from the lake, the camp sits along the Big Creek trail, giving a family-friendly hike right outside your tent. Along the Lake, both the Skokomish Park at Lake Cushman and the Lake Cushman Resort offer a more organized and amenity-friendly camping experience next to amazing swimming.
While there aren’t any trails directly on Lake Cushman, there are plenty nearby that are fun for the entire family. The two classic hikes in the region are the Staircase Loop Trail in Olympic National Park and the Big Creek Trail in Olympic National Forest. The Staircase Loop Trail weaves through stunning forests along the Skokomish River before crossing it on a beautiful and safe suspension bridge. This trail is family-friendly and quite fun, but remember that dogs are not allowed. For a dog-friendly hike through fun creeks and newer forests, the Big Creek Trail makes for a fantastic day in all weather. Take your time exploring the small creeks after some rain and discover a new favorite trail. If you want a tough hike, head up to the top of Mount Rose for views of Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Lake Cushman.
6. Mountain Climbing
Mount Ellinor and Mount Washington are classic Olympic Peninsula mountains. Mount Ellinor is by far the most-popular, seeing around 30,000 people each year. Offering incredible views of the entire Pacific Northwest, Ellinor is steep, but worth every drop of sweat – just make sure you wear the right clothes, bring food and water and stay at least 50 years from the numerous mountain goats that frequent the trail. If they block the trail, wait them out or turn around. If Ellinor is too easy, take a scramble adventure up to the stunning summit of Mount Washington. The trail is steep, hard to follow and not for beginning or even average hikers. This is a true mountain with exposed ledges and difficult sections but is ideal for those looking for a mountain to climb in the cool summer days.