Sunny Walter's
Washington Nature Weekends

Mammal Viewing Locations

(All photos on this site are © Sunny Walter unless otherwise noted)

Where to View Mammals in Washington

Gray Whale Migration


See chapter 11 in Washington Nature Weekends for Westport whalewatching boat excursions to see the majestic gray whales 
as they migrate to northern feeding areas.

Watching Whales from Land on Washington's Coast
Whale watching is more difficult from land than from a boat, 
but because northward migration routes are close to shore, 
you are often rewarded with exciting sightings. 
Here are some land-based places on Washington's coast 
to look for migrating gray whales 
whenever you are at the ocean during March and April.
Southern Coast
  • Westport has state park beaches, fishing piers, and rock jetties with observation towers. Whales sometimes come into the harbor and you can see them from the beach. Look for harbor seals, California sea lions, Caspian terns, and other marine birds. South of Westport, beaches at Grayland State Park also offer good viewing.
  • On the southwestern tip of Washington lies Fort Canby State Park and the North Head Light at Cape Disappointment. Walk the path up to the lighthouse to look for harbor seals and sea lions along with the gray whales.
  • North of Ocean Shores on State Route 109, the Moclips-Pacific Beach area and Point Grenville on the Quinault Indian Reservation are good viewing spots.
  • There are several overlooks further north along the Olympic Peninsula where U.S. Highway 101 curves back to the ocean at Kalaloch. You can watch for whales from the Kalaloch Lodge library, outside the lodge, or at the Destruction Island Overlook nearby.
Northern Coast
  • The Hoh River mouth near Oil City (turn west off US 101 just south of the Hoh River Road) and the Quillayute River mouth at La Push (turn west off US 101 just north of Forks) are both good whale watching sites. When you get to the ocean, find a hillside to sit and wait.
  • The northwestern tip of Washington has some of the best offshore viewing. It is reached by turning north at Sappho (north of Forks on US 101) and then joining SR 112 to Clallam Bay and Forks. The Lake Ozette Road west of Sekiu takes you to Ozette Lake / Cape Alava, which has a three-mile slippery boardwalk to the beach. You may see members of the albino black-tailed deer population on the way out. From the beach, look for gray whales, harbor seals, California sea lions, sea otters, bald eagles, osprey, tufted puffins, black oystercatchers, and other marine birds.
  • Makah Indian Nation land on Makah Bay and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuge on Cape Flattery near Neah Bay are excellent viewing sites. You can see California gray whales, sea otters, shorebirds, and migratory waterfowl. Shi Shi Bluff, south of Neah Bay, also offers good viewing.

  • .
While you're out on the beaches or the rocks waiting for the whales, be sure to enjoy the beachcombing or the tidepooling (chapters 9 and 28 in  Washington Nature Weekends).

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Roosevelt Elk
Hoh Rainforest

See Chapter 40, Elk Rut,  in 
Washington Nature Weekends
for where and when to to see and 
hear elk in rut in the Olympic National 
Park (Hoh Rainforest) and the Olympic 
National Forest (Quinault Lake). 

See the full text from

on this web site.

Roosevelt Elk Festival in the Quinault Rain Forest -- early April
Check out Mammals on the Washington State Festival page.
    New 4/19!
Additional Western Washington Locations to See Elk in Rut
Elk rut falls during elk hunting season. 
This means that while you are
likely to hear elk bugling in wild areas throughout Washington, you are not likely to see them as they try to avoid hunters. 

However, elk are protected in Washington's national parks, 

monuments and wildlife refuges.  The locations below are all in 
protected areas on the west side of the Cascades.
  • Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument: The Toutle elk herd is best viewed on the Spirit Lake State Route 504 (see chapter 20 for elk viewing locations).
    • Excerpt from the From the WDFW Weekender Report - early November, 2000
    • "Those who want to watch elk this time of year are in luck, according to Wildlife Area Manager Brian Calkins. Elk are in the Mount St. Helens State Wildlife Area year-round, but the numbers really begin to build this time of year. Calkins expects numbers in excess of 300 animals in the area this year. 

      "We're in the process of rebuilding from our winter kill three years ago, when there were 500 to 600 elk in the area," Calkins said. To view these elk, take State Route 504 off Interstate 5; there are several vehicle turnoffs between Milepost 25 and 35, and elk may be viewed with the aid of field glasses. 

      Or continue to the Mount St. Helens National Forest Service visitors centers – Coldwater Ridge Visitor's Center at Milepost 43 or Johnson Ridge Visitor's Center at Milepost 52. Both are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily."

  • .Another place to look for elk is Mount Rainier National Park.  In the Sunrise area you can hear elk bugling soon after Labor Day, but elk rut peaks later in the month. According to the rangers, a 7-point bull is often seen near the end of the parking lot, but most elk are a little more challenging to find.  Stop at the visitor center at the west end of the parking lot, get a map, and ask the rangers.
  • On your way to Mount Rainier, stop at the commercial Northwest Trek Wildlife Park near Eatonville and board a comfortable tram to most assuredly see elk. Every Saturday and Sunday during breeding season there are two-hour tours to see Roosevelt elk plus other animals native to the Pacific Northwest.
  • Willapa National Wildlife Refuge: The refuge has acquired new property along the South Bear River 5.2 miles south of refuge headquarters on U.S. Highway 101. This is established elk habitat and the former owner has not allowed hunting for years. Stop at the marked parking area south of milepost 19 (north of the bridge) and scan the meadows for the herd of approximately 25 elk (evening and early morning are best). The vegetation in these wet meadows is a critical source of food for the herd, especially in winter.

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Links checked and updated on:  April 19, 2005
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