Salt Creek Recreation Area: 15 Things to Do & Ultimate Guide

Are you searching for an unforgettable outdoor experience?

Then consider Salt Creek Recreation Area on the Olympic Peninsula, just outside Olympic National Park.

I RV camp at Salt Creek Campground almost every year with my husband and our two Siamese cats, and I never grow tired of this incredible place.

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

This guide also includes helpful information about Salt Creek Campground (I will tell you which campsites are the best) and answers frequently asked questions.

Where is Salt Creek Recreation Area

Salt Creek is located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca side of the Olympic Peninsula, right on the water, just twenty minutes west of Port Angeles. 

Although it lies outside the boundaries of Olympic National Park, visitors will still experience beautiful and majestic views while staying at this popular 196-acre recreation area.

Why Salt Creek is Worth Visiting

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

But one of Salt Creek’s most attractive qualities is that it’s only a two-hour drive from the Bainbridge Island 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 outdoor activities and beach adventures.

Rocky beach at Salt Creek Recreation Area at dusk, with dramatic cliffs, evergreen trees and mountains in the distance
The view of Crescent Bay from Bluff Trail above. Photo credit Emma A. on the dyrt

For lovers of history and relics from another era, 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. Salt Creek Campground is well-maintained, and most campsites offer breathtaking water views.

Salt Creek Recreation Area map showing different recreation areas

Best things to do at Salt Creek Recreation Area

1. Camp at Salt Creek Campground

The best camping feature at Salt Creek is its proximity to sandy Crescent Beach.

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

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

dramatic cliff with forest of evergreen trees atop it
Forested cliff on Crescent Beach

2. Beach walk along Crescent Bay

With its dramatic bluffs and a forest that ends where the sand begins, Crescent Beach captures all that is unique about Olympic Peninsula beaches. It’s an experience driven by the tides and the Pacific Northwest’s often fickle weather.

When the tide is low, an abundance of mussels is revealed, along with sea kelp and bullwhips.

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

We’ve even seen a baby seal pup alone on this beach! More about that story is below.

3. Explore Crescent Bay’s sea stack

At low tide, visitors 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 Pacific Northwest day at Salt Creek Recreation Area
This sea stack is ripe for exploration when the tide is low.

4. Explore Tongue Point

Tongue Point is a strip of land similar in shape to a tongue that juts out from Salt Creek’s coastline. It’s comprised of rock, so sturdy footwear with good traction is a must.

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 Washington state coastline with expansive ocean view
Tongue Point on the right is an excellent place for tide-pooling and whale watching.

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

Visitors have a good chance of seeing marine mammals at Salt Creek.

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 Recreation Area
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 to Striped Peak

The mileage and elevation gain on this trail 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.

Trekking poles are recommended, 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.

8. Explore tide pools and marine life

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

anemones and barnacles in a tide pool
Sea anemones at Salt Creek Recreation Area

Rock faces covered with barnacles, bright green sea anemones, tons and tons of mussels, and sea stars. Salt Creek is an excellent destination for tide pooling.

That said, it’s important to remember that conditions on Olympic Peninsula beaches change from year to year. 

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. It’s pretty wild to see a bunker with a head of grassy hair!

concrete bunker covered with grassy landscape
Bunker that overlooks the water. Photo credit SHBTLR on Atlas Obscura

There’s even a bunker that visitors can drive through with their car.

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 certainly kick up at Salt Creek. And when it does, this is a fantastic place to hit the surf for those with the skills and the gear.

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!

If you plan to surf, wear a wetsuit because the water here is frigid.

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 a sandy Pacific Northwest beach
Salt Creek on Crescent Beach

15. Host a picnic, BBQ or day event

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

The day-use shelter area costs $80 per day and includes tables, a sink with hot water, electrical outlets and an electric cooktop, barbeque grills, and a fireplace.

There’s plenty of space for campers and day visitors alike.

What NOT to do at Salt Creek

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.

Salt Creek is located in Clallam County. County legislation prohibits all harvesting or removal of marine life. This includes clams, mussels, and oysters, but also includes 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.

How to Get to Salt Creek

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

The ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island is thirty minutes long. Washington State Ferries are clean, comfortable, and spacious. Drinks and snacks are available for purchase.

Head to the deck to see Puget Sound and Mount Rainier on a clear day. 

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 hours, detouring to walk the beach at the Dungeness Spit in Sequim is a great introduction to Olympic Peninsula beaches. 

Be sure to stock up on food and drinks in Port Angeles before you arrive at Salt Creek.

Salt Creek Campground

Salt Creek Campground is open year-round. Even in winter, this place will thrill, particularly if it’s stormy outside.

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 $30 per night. RV sites are $35 per night. All reservations are charged a $10 non-refundable fee.

camper van parked at Salt Creek Campground campsite, overlooking the water
Many campsites at Salt Creek feature water views. Photo credit Drea M. on the dyrt

Reservations can be made online for camping between February 1st to October 31st and must be done 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.

map of RV campsites at Salt Creek Campground
The RV sites here (6-15, 16-24, 25-32, 33-39) offer full hook-ups.

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.

map of tent sites at Salt Creek Campground
Most of the standard campsites numbered here can accommodate a smaller RV, but driving and backing up may be tricky.

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

📍Nearest Cabins for Families

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.

Port Angeles is the nearest city to Salt Creek, a little over twenty minutes away. There are hotels in Port Angeles for every budget.

📍Best Budget Spot For Families

Angeles Motel’s exterior is older, but it’s clean and comfortable, offering good value for money.

📍Best Mid-Range Spot For Families

Super 8 by Wyndham is well-maintained, clean, and offers a complimentary continental breakfast.

📍Best High-End Spot For Families

Olympic Lodge by Ayres has a comfy, high-end cabin feel to it. The customer service here is excellent.

Salt Creek Weather

Dry or dry-ish weather is essential to take advantage of all the outdoor activities on offer at Salt Creek.

The rainy season here begins in October and lasts through April, with the wettest month of the year being November.

Your best chance for dry weather is from late June to early September. But remember that rain-free weather is never promised in the Pacific Northwest, even during our historically driest months of July and August.

That said, if you plan to visit in an RV, stormy 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.

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

What to Pack for Salt Creek

Your chances of good weather are high during the summer months, but you must be prepared for cool and rainy weather when visiting the Pacific Northwest.

✔️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.

My love for softshell jackets cannot be overstated. I have found that they are the perfect article of clothing for various weather conditions. Highly recommend.

✔️RAIN GEAR – A gore-tex jacket is essential when visiting this region, no matter the time of year. Trust me, if you are caught in a rainstorm, you will not regret packing one.

✔️SHOES WITH GOOD TREAD – For feet, at minimum, one should 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.

man walking on rocky beach on an overcast day
My husband walking toward Crescent Beach.

Salt Creek FAQs

🐶 Are dogs allowed at Salt Creek Recreation Area?

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.

Guide Wrap-Up: Salt Creek Recreation Area & Campground

Salt Creek offers camping, hiking, tide-pooling, and many other outdoor activities.

If you’re planning a trip to the Olympic Peninsula, I highly recommend stopping at this destination just outside its borders to discover why locals love it.