Are you looking for a relaxing water-based vacation destination? Potlatch State Park is an excellent place to visit that offers plenty of shoreline fun, water activities, awesome clamming, and 96 campsites, including 36 with water and electricity. Located 40 miles northwest of Olympia, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula, Potlatch State Park is situated along the Hood Canal and features 5,700 feet of saltwater shoreline within its 84 acres. The park was created in 1960 and has been enlarged throughout the years until 2007 when the state of Washington purchased the last parcel of shoreline. The first European to sail along the Hood Canal was British explorer Captain George Vancouver who traveled the canal in 1792. The surrounding area around Potlatch was home to two lumber mills as late as the mid-20th century.
Once home to the Skokomish Indian Tribe, Potlatch State Park was named after a tribal gift-giving ceremony that was named potlatch in Chinook. The ceremony took place in the winter months, where gifts were offered to all tribal members and friends. Today, the Skokomish Tribe occupies a large number of acres of land located just north of the park.
Activities are plentiful at Potlatch State Park, including scuba diving, fishing, kayaking, hiking, and clamming. The park has ten mooring sites for boats that allow for easy access for sailing the Hood Canal. You will also find hiking, ranger-led talks, and biking along U.S. Highway 101. The weather at Potlatch State Park boasts pleasant temperatures from May through September that range from the 60s to high 70s with less rain in the hotter summer months. Winter brings temperatures from the mid-40s to 50s with more than 12 inches of rain in most months.
For RV lovers wanting to stay the night, there is one campground that has 38 campsites, including 35 with electric hookups. Peak season at Potlatch State Park runs from the middle of May until the middle of September.
Driving to and from Potlatch State Park is relatively easy since you can access it from US-101. Traveling south along US-101 follows the shoreline and contours of the Hood Canal with several curves but no hairpins that are hard to navigate with a bigger vehicle. If you need to pick up any supplies before your adventure, you can stop in at Shelton (around 13 miles away) or in Olympia (about 33 miles away). Once at the entrance station, you will encounter traffic from the day-use area parking lot, which could involve vehicles towing boats or carrying watercraft on the roof. After you enter the park, driving is pretty straight forward with one road that connects the two campground loops. There are no hard turns within the campgrounds to navigate. If you are visiting for the day, the best place for you to park is in the day-use area where there is a large parking lot that will have no trouble accommodating your RV.
The Potlatch State Park campground is great for campers of all experience levels. It consists of two loops connected by one road and contains 38 campsites, including 36 with electric hookups. The south loop is open year-round with 27 campsites, including 18 campsites offering electricity and water. There are five pull-through campsites within the south loop. The north campground is further away from US-101, and several of the campsites are closed from September through May. Each campsite comes with amenities, including a fire ring, a picnic table, and a paved parking pad that may require leveling. RVs and trailers are limited to 60 feet in length, although campsites vary and larger rigs may not find enough space at each site. There is a dump station located near the entrance and the south loop for RVs and trailers. The campground contains flush toilets, showers, and there is a softball field within the north loop. Generators may be used from 8 AM until 9 PM. Pets are welcome but must be restrained by a six-foot leash at all times.
If you are traveling with children, the interpretive programs at Potlatch State Park are a must to attend. In the evening, you can gather around a fire circle and listen to interesting facts about the natural and cultural history of the area. There are also ranger-led hikes along the nature trails in the park where you can learn more about the area's wildlife and fauna. Your little ones can also enjoy completing a few fun games to receive a Junior Ranger badge.
Hiking is not the most popular thing to do in Potlatch State Park, but the trails can offer solitude from the hustle and bustle of camp life. There are two nature trails at the park with interpretive signage that explains the unique environment of the park and the surrounding area of the Olympic Peninsula. You can also take advantage of the 5,700 feet shoreline along Hood Canal by combing the sandy areas for shells, driftwood, and watching Marines go about their day in the canal.
Kayaking at Potlatch State Park is perfect since you will have easy access to the Hood Canal. The park is situated along the greater Cascadian Marine Trail, which includes the waterways of the Hood Canal. A day-use parking area is an ideal place for you to put your kayak in the water. As you paddle the shoreline, you can see the lush green landscape from a different perspective, and you can expect to see some incredible wildlife, too. If you want to go kayaking, make sure you bring your watercraft or rent one privately as there are none for rent at the park.
Love to fish? If so, make sure you pack your rod and reel as you will have the chance to do some beach fishing at Potlatch State Park. Saltwater fishing is the most common type of fishing within the park, and many anglers will use live bait (such as worms or muscle meat) to try and catch either flounder or salmon. If you don't have your own fishing gear, you should purchase some on the way to Potlatch State Park or rent it privately as there won't be any available to rent at the park.
Bird lovers visiting Potlatch State Park during the off-season will be pleased to note that this is the best time of year to be out birdwatching. The varied terrain in the area means that the bird species is very diverse, and it also means that you will have plenty of different areas to explore, such as marshes, forests, and mudflats. Some of the common species spotted include scaups, heron, and scoters near the water, while off in the trees keep an eye out for steller jays and fox sparrows.
Bring your water boots and shovel because you will be delighted with the clamming opportunities at Potlatch State Park. Access is easy along the 5,700 feet of shoreline along the Hood Canal, with the best spot to clam being near the main parking lot. You can expect an abundance of clams with manila, butter, and native littlenecks being the most predominant types. The best time for you to go clamming is during mid and low tide, so make sure you check the tide tables. The season runs from the beginning of April through the end of August.
Windsurfing is a fantastic thing to do during your RV stay in Potlatch State Park. There is easy access to the Hood Canal for windsurfers from the Day-Use Parking Lot, where you will find a sandy beach area near the shoreline. You will be thrilled with consistent winds that blow through the canal that give you the ability for acrobatic moves above the water or increased speeds while you are cruising on the canal. You should be cautious of the boat traffic in the center of the canal, so the shoreline area is your best bet for safe windsurfing.
If you are a scuba diver, remember to pack your wet suit in your RV because scuba diving is a very popular activity at Potlatch State Park. Access to the water is superb anywhere along the shoreline within the park. Once swimming in the water, you will experience a steep drop-off after 30 feet from the coastline that dives down to a silty bottom 100 feet underwater. You might not find a spectacular reef, but you can see incredible marine life in the Hood Canal at Arrans Bay. Abundant marine life for viewing includes sea pens, starfish, nudibranchs, and moon snails, as well as hundreds of creatures that live in the sandy bottom. Dive with caution and always be on the lookout for boats.
Another great way to experience the great outdoors when visiting Potlatch State Park is to make the most of the picnic facilities at the park. There are several picnic tables throughout the park that are great for smaller gatherings, which you can use without a reservation. If you have a large group, there is also a picnic shelter that you can reserve online before your arrival. The shelter is open all year round and can be used on a first-come, first-served basis during the offseason.
There is no better way to cool off during the warm summer months than by going for a dip along the shoreline. There are plenty of spots for you to swim at the park; however, be aware that there is a steep drop-off once you wade out into the water. Because of this, swimming is only recommended for those who are confident in their abilities and don't mind deepwater swimming. There are no lifeguards on duty along the beach either, which is something worth being aware of.