Seattle's Child

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family beach trip

Iron Springs Resort dates to the 1940s but has been updated. Cabins are well-equipped and you cannot beat the view! Photos by Natasha Dillinger

An Olympic Coast family beach trip during a winter storm

A nice getaway with plenty of hiking, wildlife spotting, great views and a cozy home base.

When my husband and I first moved to Seattle, we were surprised to find out that many of our neighbors left town for warmer climates in January or February.

As transplants from California, to us it seemed like the perfect time to enjoy snow and rain! Now that we have several winters under our belts and a couple of stir-crazy kids, we’ve started to crave a midwinter escape, too.

With the pandemic keeping us close to home, we opted for a family beach trip to Iron Springs Resort on the Olympic Coast. It couldn’t completely rescue us from the rain and wind, but it was a perfect change of scenery.

An aptly named rain forest

According to the National Park Service, the western part of Olympic National Park gets up to 170 inches of rain per year due to the rain shadow effect of the Olympic Mountains. We were lucky that none of the roads towards our planned hiking excursions were washed out, but I was grateful for plenty of rain gear and a place to dry out at the end of the day.

Tree cover makes the Narnia Trail shadowy and damp — and magical.

On the first afternoon of our trip, we drove 10 minutes up the road near Seabrook to hike the Narnia Trail. It felt a little odd to walk through the quiet planned community to get to the trailhead, but it meant we had the trail to ourselves (bikes and leashed dogs are also welcome). Thick tree cover doesn’t prevent deep puddles, but it does make some sections of trail feel dark and spooky on a rainy afternoon. We enjoyed the adventure and were glad we’d brought a headlamp just in case!

There is a reason why it is called a rainforest!

With epic rainfalls in the forecast for our second day, we decided to take the scenic drive an hour north to the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail on the shores of Lake Quinault. The trail would ordinarily be a 0.9-mile loop past nurse logs, tree roots and giant spruce, fir, cedar and hemlock trees. A recently fallen log blocks a full circuit about two-thirds of the way along.

Nonetheless, my little climbers and splashers thought they’d discovered paradise. We spent close to two hours splashing in puddles and admiring Willaby Creek, which was more like a roaring river due to all the rain (hold tight to little hands at viewpoints!)

The interpretive signs shared lots of facts about the plants and animals that make the forest their home, but I wished they had more information about the local Quinault nation that continues to steward the area’s resources.

The comforts of home with a much better view

Located in Copalis Beach just north of Ocean Shores (named for the Copalis tribe whose descendants largely absorbed into the Quinault and Chehalis nations), Iron Springs has been in operation since the 1940s. The current owners purchased it just over a decade ago and have beautifully modernized the cabins while retaining their original charm.

Cabins are either standalone or duplexes and have different layouts depending on size and location. I chose a two-bedroom standalone cabin with a deck for some extra space and a view. We loved watching the surf crash on the beach below and even spotted a few eagles soaring through the trees as we made breakfast.

We were visiting for my birthday, but I‘d forgotten a celebratory dessert. The resort’s small but mighty general store saved the day and I was ecstatic to find locally-made Hot Cakes lava cakes in the freezer section. With rain and wind pummeling the beach, we curled up in front of a movie borrowed from the resort’s collection and waited for the s’mores-inspired cakes to bake in the oven of our well-equipped kitchen.

The sun’ll come out tomorrow

The one downside to the rustic cabins at Iron Springs is the lack of soundproofing. Our kids slept through the winter storms, but my husband and I could hear the fierce wind and rain most of the night from the comfortable beds of our cabin (note for next family beach trip: bring earplugs). Needless to say, we were overjoyed to see sunrise with blue skies on our last morning.

Not wanting to miss a moment, everyone gobbled up their breakfast tacos and threw on coats over our pajamas so we could enjoy the beach before we had to check out.

We learned that the resort shares its private beach with the only known beach airport in the contiguous United States. While we didn’t see any planes, in practice this means there are wide stretches of sand at the end of the small trail and no cars allowed, making it the perfect place for kids to dig and splash. Only a few other guests had popped out to walk their dogs (the whole resort is dog-friendly), so social distancing was easy as the kids dipped their rain boots in the giant piles of sea foam at the water’s edge.

The Sandpiper Trail is mostly along a boardwalk and good for bird-watching.

After an easy, contactless checkout, we headed to nearby Grays Harbor Wildlife Refuge to hike the 2-mile Sandpiper Trail while our toddler napped in the carrier. Adjacent to another tiny airport, most of the trail winds along a wide willow-shaded boardwalk. My daughter and I spotted a heron, a hawk and a few smaller birds on our walk and even heard some frogs croaking in the marsh. Dogs and bikes aren’t allowed, but it would be a perfect spot to take a sturdy stroller.

We stopped in nearby Hoquiam to pick up takeout Mexican food from Rose’s Taqueria and coffee from the Jitter House before heading home from our midweek escape. With the stormy weather, we never got a chance to dig for the area’s famous razor clams or check tidepools for sea stars and anemones, but I’m looking forward to a return visit!

Family beach trip: Resort details

Location: Iron Springs Resort is located along the Olympic coast at 3707 WA-109 in Copalis Beach.

Rates: Low-season rates range from $199-$329 per night depending on size and location. For our family beach trip, we stayed in Cabin 9, a standalone two-bedroom cabin.

Amenities: This dog-friendly resort has well-stocked kitchens, a general store, wi-fi (good for checking e-mail, not for streaming or remote work) and dozens of games, toys and DVDs to borrow.

More Northwest getaways:

Parent review of Sleeping Lady Resort, Leavenworth

Beachfront cabins at Cama Beach State Park

About the Author

Natasha Dillinger

Natasha Dillinger is a Seattle mom who paused a career in accounting and finance to focus on showing her two young children around the Pacific Northwest. Follow their adventures near and far at suitcasesinseattle.wordpress.com and on Instagram (@suitcasesinseattle)