By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Colors are expected to peak in mid- to late October.
Many of the best places to see trees in full fall foliage are along U.S. Highway 101, so despite the closure of Olympic National Park due to the partial federal shutdown, much of the best fall viewing is still open to the public.
“If you drive the Highway 101 loop, it's beautiful,” said Brian Turner, manager of the state Department of Natural Resources, Straits District.
The Highway 101 loop — a 300-mile, six-hour drive in which Highway 101 is connected at the southern section by highways 8, 12 and 108 between Aberdeen and Shelton — includes some of the most beautiful stretches of autumn big-leaf maples, vine maples and other hardwood deciduous trees that are changing to their golden and red colors, Turner said.
Some areas are better than others, he added.
Many trees already have been denuded of leaves by heavy rainfall, and some are wet and rotting before their full colors are revealed, but the emerging golds, reds and purples still pop in the lowlands and valleys around the Olympic Mountains.
Turner said that notable stretches along Highway 101 to view fall tree colors are Clallam County's Indian Valley and the Morse Creek “S" curve west of Deer Park Road.
Lake Crescent is particularly pretty, he said.
In Jefferson County, the Quilcene area usually has a nice selection of color-producing hardwood trees, he added.
A shorter northern loop of fall colors — 93 miles — includes state Highway 112, state Highway 113 and Highway 101's Indian Valley and Lake Crescent.
One of the most spectacular fall colors experience in the region is along the Olympic Discovery Trail between Port Angeles and Sequim, Turner said.
The trail is paved for bicycling and hiking, he said.
The far western section of the trail provides a slower enjoyment of the Morse Creek fall colors, with layers of varied hues fading up toward the evergreens that dominate the higher elevations.
Many places associated with the now-closed national park still are partially accessible to the public, Turner pointed out.
“There are 13 miles of Hoh Rain Forest road before you get to the national park,” he said.
Those 13 miles are lined with many big maples and other colorful fall trees that make the trip worth it, even without being able to get into the park itself, he said.
Upper Hoh Road is located 13 miles south of Forks and turns east from Highway 101.
Another colorful byway is Hurricane Ridge Road up to the Heart o' the Hills campground. The first 5 miles of the road are beautiful and are still accessible to the public, he said.
A 15-mile loop that shows a lot of color is located after turning right at Little River Road before the national park gate at Heart o' the Hills. That leads to Black Diamond Road to loop drivers back to Highway 101.
Within Port Angeles, a long line of trees in front of City Hall on East Fourth Street, as well as trees at the Clallam County Courthouse, provide blazing color in mid- to late October.
The 1.4-mile stretch of Tumwater Truck Route between Highway 101 and Marine Drive is an oasis of golden color within the city.
The best views in East Jefferson County on are trails, residents say, adding that the area between Chimacum and Quilcene on Center Road and on Highway 101 south around Mount Walker usually are colorful.
Residents of the Sequim area are looking for more color in the coming weeks at Railroad Bridge Park and along Fifth Avenue in town, as well as on Woods Road in Blyn east of the Jamestown S'Klallam tribal center.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.