Clallam County WA is the north Olympic Peninsula. Here are town descriptions, aerial views, photos, many attractions, eatery and lodging tips, and links to all the details, especially of the sparsely populated "West End."
State Highway 112 runs along the north Olympic Peninsula coast between Port Angeles and Neah Bay. The beautiful area boasts all kinds of restful spots where you can pull over and hang out for as long as you need or want to.
Clallam County is shaped like an elongated rectangle. A large chunk of the population resides in the east half of the county, in Port Angeles, Sequim, and the surrounding areas. Port Angeles is also the seat of Clallam County government.
The Clallam County WA population in 2017 was 75,474; populations of Port Angeles and Sequim total a little less than 28,000, which doesn't include the many folks living nearby but outside the city limits.
That leaves the entire west end of Clallam County (logically known as the "West End") with a number of very small population centers.
I love visiting these little towns!
There is almost NOTHING along Highway 112 west of Port Angeles. Well, almost nothing, if it is New York City you're comparing it to.
What you WILL find are
About that food and lodging, you may need to plan ahead a bit. Because there really aren't many modern amenities around each next bend in the road.
Olympic Peninsula Camping lists campgrounds throughout the Olympic Peninsula.
Freshwater Bay is just 10 miles to the west of Port Angeles, WA. On its shore is the 21-acre Clallam County WA Park known as Freshwater Bay. Calm and protected, it's a great spot for whale watching, kayaking, and also has a boat ramp for small boats.
Getting there: From Hwy 112, turn right onto Freshwater Bay Road. The Park is located at the far end of Freshwater Bay Road, 2.3 miles (3.7 km) from Hwy 112.
Freshwater Bay is also a stop on the Whale Trail. It's not uncommon to see orcas and other marine mammals here. Enjoy a picnic at the tidelands, comb the beaches, and enjoy hiking, fishing, crabbing, bird and wildlife watching.
Beware the tides for boat launching as Freshwater Bay is relatively shallow and the ramp can be completely exposed at low tide.
East side of Freshwater Bay: If your only intent is walking, rock-hounding, or picnicking, you can also access the shores of Freshwater Bay east of the park by turning north from Hwy 112 onto Place Road and taking the road toward the shore. Turn right on Elwha Dike Road, go a little farther, and then pull over and park. You get to do the last quarter mile (0.4 km) on foot. It's a lovely walk, and the beach is refreshing. We saw bald eagles up close the last time we picnicked at Freshwater Bay.
Salt Creek Recreation Area
3506 Camp Hayden Road, Port Angeles, WA 98363-8702
You'll find the Salt Creek Recreation Area 16 miles west of downtown Port Angeles, WA. You can drive the distance in approximately 23 minutes.
Salt Creek is a Clallam County recreation area encompassing 196 acres. It is open all year. Formerly a World War II camp known as Camp Hayden, it still features two large casements and other explorable military structures. The adjoining campground contains almost 100 campsites; some of them have killer views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Recreation opportunities include baseball and basketball courts, horseshoe pits, picnic areas, hiking, swimming, kayak tours, and more, with views of Vancouver Island, BC, Crescent Bay, and the rocky coastline and sandy beaches. If the tide is out, there are tidepools that will provide a wonderful experience for kids and adults alike.
As for the shore itself, the grade is so gradual that the shallow water becomes quite warm in summertime, thanks to the summer sun. Not until the bottom begins dropping does the water become Pacific-Northwest-chilly.
Eighteen miles (29 km) west of Port Angeles along Highway 112 is the village of Joyce WA.
The road doesn't widen, and there are no stop signs. You'll find a gas station and country store (pictured above), the Joyce Depot Museum (interesting!), a fire station, and the Family Restaurant (pretty good). The population of Joyce are scattered into the surrounding countryside.
The first Saturday in August is when Joyce, Washington comes alive. The town hosts Joyce Daze Wild Blackberry Festival, a nearly all-day festival featuring fresh homemade blackberry pies, a parade down main street, booths filled with artisanal goods for sale, live music and dancing, and games and competitions.
Joyce is also where you catch the road to nearby Crescent Beach and RV Park, owned by Weyerhauser. Pull up and spend the night in your RV, or hang out as long as you care to for the day. A day use fee applies.
The (small) villages of Sekiu and Clallam Bay are located about 50 miles (80.46 km) west of Port Angeles, which will still take you 1 1/4 hours to drive by car. The two towns hug opposite ends of the sandy crescent beach surrounding the body of water known as Clallam Bay.
Clallam Bay is the working man's town, being right on Highway 112, while Sekiu is almost entirely about fishing. If you haven't come for the stellar fishing, the area is still lovely for picnics, beach combing, hiking, biking, bird watching, scuba diving, and kayaking.
Pictured at right: Not far from Sekiu, and close to the road, is this dramatic sea stack like a needle with full-grown trees perched atop.
Highway 112 and the North Olympic Peninsula both end at the town of Neah Bay, within the Makah Indian Reservation. Makah is pronounced MahKAW.
The most northwesterly corner of the lower 48 states is here at Cape Flattery and Tatoosh Island. The trail to Cape Flattery will take you 20 - 30 minutes on varying terrain or boardwalk. The hike is well worth the effort. Tatoosh Island is clearly visible from Cape Flattery. You are also likely to see whales, seals, and many species of sea birds depending on the season of your visit.
For much more information on Neah Bay Washington, visit this page.
The area along the north coast of Washington state through which Highway 112 now runs was traditionally home to the Klallam and Makah peoples.
As Europeans began to filter into the area, most communication and travel were done via steamboats which regularly served the north Olympic Peninsula communities, bringing homesteaders, lumbermen, explorers and other hardy individuals.
As more people arrived, roads were built which were little more than wide hilly trails skirting the rugged coastline and occasionally dipping inland. Over the course of a couple hundred years, the meager foot trails and wagon roads gave way to train tracks hauling lumber from newly-built lumber mills.
The main road connected the small towns such as Port Crescent, Gettysburg, Twin and Pysht, which were thriving villages during the early years. These towns have now receded into very small communities or become ghost towns. Many have earned a mention in the area's historic literature.
Highway 112 is still a two-lane road that wends its way along the contours of the land, several times following hair pin turns to the very shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Today, the logging industry moves by truck.
You may find that some log-truck drivers seem to be in an all-fired hurry. Which is just fine, of course. When one is on vacation, one sometimes forgets that others are still hard at work; so please don't hold it against them. Simply pull over and let these hard-working drivers go about their business. Then you can keep right on sight-seeing at whatever pace is ideal for you. Because the sights are definitely worth seeing!
The continuing wild remoteness of the west end of Clallam County WA in the North Olympic Peninsula means that you can still revel in its nearly pristine wildness.
Get a taste of the area by watching this 4-minute video tour presented by Highway112.org.