Salt Creek Recreation Area Guide (15 FUN Things to Do!)

Curious if Salt Creek Recreation Area is worth visiting?

I RV camp at Salt Creek Campground almost every year with my husband, and I never tire of this incredible place.

In this article, I share fifteen fun things to do at Salt Creek. I even share what not to do! 

This ultimate guide also includes insider tips (I’ll tell you which campsites are the best based on my first-hand experience) and answers frequently asked questions.

Let’s go!

Man walking over rocky landscape at Salt Creek Recreation Area with water views behind him.
My husband, Colby, walking towards Tongue Point.

Why Salt Creek is Worth Visiting

With so much to see within the national park, I understand why places outside its borders may not make it onto a visitor’s Olympic National Park itinerary.

But one of Salt Creek’s most attractive qualities is that it’s only a two-hour drive from the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal, the beginning of your driving journey after leaving Seattle.

Getting to Rialto Beach takes another hour, which adds two hours of total drive time to your park tour.

To be clear, Rialto Beach is worth the extra driving.

But for those who would rather spend those two hours recreating, Salt Creek is an alternative destination offering 196 acres of outdoor activities and beach adventures.

Sea stack with evergreen trees in a bay at Salt Creek Recreation Area
Crescent Bay

This recreation area also features the vestiges of Camp Hayden, part of our nation’s coastal defense system during World War II.

Stay at least one night if camping is an option, to give yourself time to explore the different coastlines and terrains here.

Best things to do at Salt Creek Recreation Area

1. Camp at Salt Creek Campground

Quick and easy access to Crescent Beach is the main reason to camp here.

Campsites are located on a bluff overlooking the water. After a short walk down a flight of steps, you arrive at the rocky shoreline and breathtaking sights of Washington’s rugged and wild coast.

I’ve included an entire section on Salt Creek Campground in this guide below.

Man walking on rocky Crescent Beach on an overcast day
Walking towards Crescent Beach

2. Take a walk on Crescent Beach

With its dramatic bluffs and a forest that ends where the sand begins, Crescent Beach captures all that is unique about Olympic Peninsula beaches.

When the tide is low, you’ll see an abundance of mussels, along with sea kelp and bullwhips.

This dynamic beach teems with activity, from eagles flying overhead, crabs scurrying across the sand, or windsurfers providing free entertainment.

We’ve even seen a baby seal pup here! More about that story is below.

3. Explore Crescent Bay’s sea stack

At low tide, you can walk to a sea stack adorned with evergreen trees and other vegetation to explore around it. I don’t recommend climbing onto the sea stack because it may not be safe, and it’s a refuge for wildlife.

The most important thing to remember is to watch the tide as it comes in. 

Rocky beach and sea stack on a gray and overcast day at Salt Creek
This sea stack is ripe for exploration when the tide is low.

4. Explore Tongue Point Marine Life Sanctuary

Tongue Point Marine Life Sanctuary is a strip of land similar in shape to a tongue that juts out from the coastline. It’s rocky, so wear sturdy footwear with good traction.

The tide pools here are fun to explore, but the activity I love most at Tongue Point is simply looking out onto the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

We sit on the rocks and watch the ocean waves. It’s a perfect spot to watch the sunset.

Rocky shoreline jutting into the water at Tongue Point Marine Life Sanctuary
Tongue Point on the right is an excellent place for tide-pooling and whale watching.

5. See marine mammals and wildlife (maybe even whales!)

One year, we saw a seal pup stranded on the rocky shoreline. My instinct was to help it back into the water, but a ranger was on-site to ensure visitors did not disturb it. She speculated that it was time for this pup to learn how to swim and forage on its own.

We stayed to watch it even after she left. Of course, humans being humans, a family with energetic young boys got too close to the pup and probably scared it. 

Many campers have reported seeing whales from the numerous cliffs, trails, and viewing points at Salt Creek.

6. Hike to a small waterfall on your way to a hidden cove

We’ve never hiked the entire Striped Peak Trail. Instead, we always take the trail to the left at the fork, Cove Trail.

Aptly named, Cove Trail takes you to a cove.

Flowering red currant in bloom with hidden cove behind it at Salt Creek
Flowering red currant in bloom with Hidden Cove in the background

Before you arrive at the cove, you walk along a trail lined with large rocks covered in lush moss. Then you pass a small waterfall surrounded by ferns and other native plants.

small waterfall on rock face surrounded by ferns and moss on Cove Trail
Waterfall on Cove Trail

What’s remarkable is how quiet this hidden cove is when the campgrounds are full, and crowds gather on Crescent Beach.

We’ve had this cove all to ourselves on two occasions, and we relished our time beachcombing, taking photos, and simply sitting and enjoying the view. 

7. Hike Striped Peak Trail

The trail’s mileage and elevation gain depends on how you hike it and which resource you use for guidance.

Hike it as an out-and-back trail (using AllTrails) or a loop trail (using Washington Trails Association). You’ll hike 5 – 7.5 miles with approximately 1000 – 1200 ft of elevation gain.

I recommend trekking poles, especially during the rainy seasons when the trail gets slick and muddy. You may encounter downed trees that you can step over.

Enjoy views of Vancouver Island, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Olympic Mountains along the trail on a clear day.

8. Explore Salt Creek tide pools and marine life

We’ve been coming here for about a decade, and our tide pooling experiences here have always been incredible.

You’ll see rock faces covered with barnacles, bright green sea anemones, tons and tons of mussels, and sea stars.

anemones and barnacles in Salt Creek tide pools
Salt Creek tide pools

9. Explore WWII bunkers

Camp Hayden was established in 1941 and abandoned by the U.S. Army only seven years later.

The landscape has taken over the old bunkers here, adding to their interestingness.

Old WWII Camp Hayden bunker taken over by the surrounding landscape
Photo credit Catie Juday

There’s even a bunker that you can drive through.

10. Kayak or SUP

We’ve camped here in early spring, the height of summer, and late fall in varying weather.

Sometimes, the water is calm; sometimes, the waves are unruly. Calmer water provides excellent conditions for kayaking or stand-up paddling.

11. Surf or windsurf

The wind can kick up here. And when it does, this is a fantastic place to surf.

We once watched in awe as a windsurfer navigated around Crescent Bay’s massive sea stack. I was nervous watching him because I thought he might head straight into the sea stack. Thankfully, he did not!

Note that the water here is frigid, so wear a wetsuit.

12. Play volleyball, basketball or softball

The kids will not get bored here—a volleyball court, basketball court, and softball field round out the playground area.

13. Play horseshoe

Next to the playground area is a designated horseshoe pit. Bring your own set of horseshoes to ensure that you can play.

You may even see horses here; hikers sometimes report sharing the trail with them.

14. Walk along the creek

Salt Creek snakes its way onto the beach, where you can walk alongside it while marveling at the beach’s forested cliffs.

a creek snakes onto sandy Crescent Beach on an overcast day
Salt Creek on Crescent Beach

15. Host a picnic, BBQ or day event

On our way to the hiking trails, we saw groups gather at the day-use reservable picnic shelter.

The day-use shelter area costs $100 per day and includes tables, a sink with hot water, electrical outlets and an electric cooktop, barbeque grills, and a fireplace.

What NOT to do

I’ve watched from afar while people grabbed sea stars from tide pools here, bagged them up, and took them away, and I regret that I did not dare to stop them.

Clallam County legislation prohibits all harvesting or removing marine life, including clams, mussels, oysters, sea stars, and anemones. 

I wish this did not have to be said, but please do not take any marine life from the tide pools or beaches.

Where is Salt Creek

Salt Creek is located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca side of the Olympic Peninsula, just twenty minutes west of downtown Port Angeles, outside the boundaries of Olympic National Park.

How to Get to Salt Creek

Traveling to Salt Creek from Seattle is an adventure in itself.

I recommend taking a thirty-minute ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Washington State Ferries are clean, comfortable, and spacious.

Head to the deck on a clear day to see incredible Mount Rainier views

The drive from the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal is roughly two hours and enjoyable, particularly after crossing the Hood Canal Floating Bridge.

perspective of driving over Hood Canal Floating Bridge on a cloudy evening
Driving on the Hood Canal Floating Bridge in our RV

Once you’re over the bridge, it won’t be long until you’re on US-101, the highway that loops around Olympic National Park.

If you have a few extra hours, take a detour to walk the beach at the Dungeness Spit in Sequim, a great introduction to Olympic Peninsula beaches. 

Stock up on food and drinks at Country Aire Natural Foods in Port Angeles.

Salt Creek Campground

Salt Creek Campground is run by Clallam County Parks and is open year-round.

92 RV and tent-only sites are available: first-come, first-serve, and reservable sites. The camp host will tell you that it’s always possible a spot will be available, even if it’s peak season.

Tent camping sites (no hookups) are $45 per night. RV sites are $55 per night. If you’re a Clallam County resident, you’ll pay $35 for campsites and $40 for utility sites.

Note that you’ll be charged a $15 non-refundable reservation fee.

Salt Creek Campground photo of a small trailer parked at a site that overlooks the water
Many campsites at Salt Creek feature water views. Photo credit Nancy McHenry

You can only make reservations for camping trips between February 1st and October 1st at least seven days in advance.

RV sites are close to one another and don’t offer much room or privacy, but the upside is that full hookups are available, and there’s much to explore outside of your camp spot.

Without a doubt, Salt Creek Campground is an excellent place to camp. 

The bathrooms and showers here are clean and tidy. The grounds are well-kept, and walking paths connect all the different areas.

Salt Creek Area Hotels: Where to Stay if Camping is Not an Option

📍Nearest Cabins

Crescent Beach & RV Park is just minutes away from Salt Creek. But only two cabins are available here, along with tent sites and RV sites.

Downtown Port Angeles is twenty minutes away and offers hotels for every budget.

📍Best Budget Spot

Super 8 by Wyndham is well-maintained and clean. I’ve stayed here and would stay again.

📍Best Mid-Range Spot

Olympic Lodge by Ayres is the best hotel in Port Angeles. The customer service here is excellent.

Salt Creek Weather

Dry or dry-ish weather is essential to take advantage of all the outdoor activities offered here.

Your best chance for dry weather is from late June to early September.

If you plan to visit in an RV, stormy winter weather on Washington’s coast is exciting if you’re prepared with the proper gear.

And foggy, misty, or overcast weather can add a moody feel to Olympic Peninsula destinations.

Salt Creek Recreation Area trails with mossy rocks and tall evergreen trees
Hiking trail in late March

What to Pack

No matter the season, be prepared for cool and rainy weather.

✔️JACKET A zip-up softshell jacket with a hood is always a good idea in case the wind kicks up. I recommend finding a zip-up jacket made of fabric that breathes well and wicks away moisture.

✔️RAIN GEAR – A Gore-Tex jacket is essential when visiting this region, no matter the time of year.

✔️STURDY SHOES – Wear sneakers with good tread. A step above that would be hiking shoes. The rocky shoreline can get slick, and sturdy shoes are a necessity.

The pink and orange colors of sunset over the horizon at Tongue Point
Sunset over Tongue Point

Salt Creek FAQs

🐶 Are dogs allowed at Salt Creek?

Yes! Dogs are allowed at Salt Creek. They must remain on a leash that is no longer than 8-feet. 

💻 Does Salt Creek Campground have Wi-Fi?

No. Salt Creek Campground does not offer Wi-Fi.

I’ve found that my AT&T service is unreliable here. Sometimes I can log into Instagram and post photos. But more often than not, I’m not able to.

Wrap-Up: Salt Creek Recreation Area & Campground

There’s no better place on the Olympic Peninsula for camping, hiking, tide-pooling, and many other outdoor activities than this incredible recreation area.

If you’re planning a national park tour, I highly recommend stopping at this destination just outside its borders to discover why locals love it.