Dive in, Stay Cool, Paddle in and Around the Canal

By Douglas Scott, The Outdoor Society

Summer is here. Summer means that it is time to head outdoors and explore. While we may enjoy basking in the sun and exploring, sometimes we just need a break. After all, we are from the Pacific Northwest. On these days, when the heat is just too much, you don’t need to remain cooped up indoors. Instead, head to these great local destinations to stay cool.  


Twanoh State Park 

If you are looking to cool off along the waters of Hood Canal, this is the place to be. On a hot day, this rustic-feeling, coastal park gives you shade in the forest trails, as well as a swimming area to enjoy clear, salty water. In the summer this section of the canal warms up, making this an ideal place for all ages to swim, wade and dip. Keep an eye out for curious seals as you swim!  Click here for this and many others public access parks in the area that make great choices for a hot summer day!

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Rocky Brook Falls 

Just a short walk from Dosewallips Road, this stunning spot will cool you off with the powerful spray of a gorgeous waterfall. There are numerous spots to dip in the creek, but the main draw is the waterfall. In early summer, cool off in the spray of the falls, while  the pools will be your go-to spot later in the summer. Do not climb the sides of the falls, as the rocks are slick and dangerous. 


Seal Rock Campground 

Those looking to take a dip in Hood Canal itself should head up to Seal Rock, two miles north of Brinnon. While the campground fills up during the summer months, the day use area is often overlooked by the masses who visit the region.  Here you’ll find a short trail that grants access to the beach where you can wade, swim and wander along the salty shoreline. This is also a great place for a picnic. Take time to sit on the beach and enjoy the wildlife in and above the Canal.  


The Duckabush River 

If you want a cool forest and a chilly river, head to the Duckabush River. With two great spots to access the river, the Collins Campground and the Duckabush River Trail, you’ll be able to be downright chilly on the hottest of days. The Collins Campground is a great place to access the river, but make sure you aren’t parked or walking through someone’s campsite as you access the river. Further up, you can access the river again after hiking about two miles on the Duckabush River trail. This area is pretty overlooked, allowing a very low key day dipping in the river after hiking in a gorgeous forest.  


Skokomish Park 

Located on Lake Cushman, this is one of the few places around the Canal that has a designated swimming area. The day use area at Skokomish Park is perfect for families, as the swimming area is well-marked and maintained and you’ll have a chance to enjoy a picnic area, picnic shelter and three comfort stations around the park. The water of Lake Cushman is quite warm in the summer, making this a perfect spot to stop after a day of hiking at Staircase or any number of the trails in the region.  


Staircase Rapids Loop Trail 

Found a short drive from Hoodsport, ONP's Staircase Loop Trail is a fantastic place to cool off. Offering places to dip in the water, as well as a short loop trail in the towering trees, the temperature is always much cooler here. Keep in mind that this is a backcountry destination and there are no real designated swimming spots.  Summer, arrive early to get  a parking spot.  



Surrounded by Water

Other great waterside parks include Potlatch State Park and the beachfront at the Port of Hoodsport. Near Shelton, check out the the many lakes around the area that offer public access including Mason, Lake Isabella and Lake Nahwatzel or head to Hammersley inlet and play at Walker Park, Hope Island or the great beach at the Arcadia boat launch. Allyn Park and many public beaches on Harstine Island offer great places to cool down. Near Belfair, top choice is always Belfair State Park!

Click here for a complete list of great public areas that have water access in the area.

Kayaking around the Fjord

If you’d rather be on the water to cool off, consider exploring Hood Canal or Lake Cushman by kayak or SUP. All around the fjord, launch your own watercrafts or find providers who rent or organize guided tours. 

A few local favorite kayak and SUP rental companies are Hood Canal Adventures, Blue Horizons Paddlesports, Hood Canal EventsSkokomish Park, and Alderbrook Resort & Spa. 

Hood Canal Adventures offers eco-tours with a biologist joining you. They also can deliver rentals to your camp site . Even providing crab pots where allowed.

Blue Horizon offers sunset and moonlit group tours out of Union as well as day rentals and group day tours.

Hood Canal Events, also based in Union, offers everything from simple rentals to all inclusive guided tours complete with a secret beach glamping picnic – as elaborate as your heart desires!  

Skokomish Park at Lake Cushman offer Single and Double Kayak, Stand-Up Paddle Board & Pedal Boat rentals onsite daily through Labor Day.  They also have a boat launch for your open boat, cost is $20.

Alderbrook Resort in Union hosts a variety of boats for rental at their dock.  For a list visit explorehoodcanal.com. Remember sunscreen and stay hydrated!