Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park Vacation. Follow this guide for five memorable days of magical, awe-filled forays into the Olympic National Park. 

Without a doubt, the most frequent regret of visitors to the Olympic National Park (ONP) is:

"We didn't allow enough time to see everything we wanted to see." 

We live here, but if we did not, here is how we'd schedule our Olympic National Park vacation.

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Olympic National Park Vacation: Day 1

Hurricane Ridge

Map and directions can be found on our Hurricane Ridge page.

TripAdvisor Reviews of Hurricane - Ridge - 5 Stars

Hurricane Ridge is the top-visited destination within the Olympic National Park. There are panoramic views of snow-capped mountains to the south, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north, backed by Vancouver Island in Canada. The air is clear and it smells gloriously of the surrounding forest. 

Do you like to hike? The trailheads to several hikes are right here. Some are easy ones, such as the circular hike (more a stroll) around the Hurricane Ridge area. 

The hike to the top of Hurricane Hill is not difficult, and the views are spectacular at the top. Other hikes are more strenuous, but will reward you at the far end of your hike with a beautiful lake, for example, Angeles Lake or PJ Lake. 

If you intend to hike at length or snowshoe, dedicate a full day for your excursion to Hurricane Ridge. Otherwise, it just depends on how long you wish to soak in the grandeur of the hills, forest, and wildlife. 

Go to Hurricane Ridge, and Hurricane Ridge in Winter

Consider adding Madison Falls to your itinerary
, either before or after Hurricane Ridge, or on the way to your next stop to the west. Just be sure there is sufficient daylight to do justice to the falls.

Madison Falls

Take Highway 101 west from Port Angeles, turn south (left) on Olympic Hot Springs Road; travel 2 miles. The hike to the waterfall is paved, level, and literally no more than 530 feet long (0.1 mi).

TripAdvisor Reviews of Madison Creek Falls

Madison Falls, or Madison Creek Falls as it is sometimes called, makes for a delightful quick detour and stop. If the time of day is right, you can eat your picnic lunch here. Click the link for lots more detail.

Olympic National Park Vacation: Day 2

Lake Crescent and More

On a second day in the ONP, head out to Lake Crescent, which is west of Port Angeles and east of Forks. Within a few miles of the lake are no less than eight delightful attractions, counting the lake itself. Unless you wish to hike for hours, these can probably all be seen and enjoyed in one day.

And since there are still more hikes that can be taken in this part of the Olympic National Park, check with a Ranger or obtain a hiking map if you'd like to undertake more extensive hiking, including overnight in the back country (permit required).

We suggest packing lunches and water with you. Or, stop by Lake Crescent Lodge where you can obtain some delicious vittles.

Highway 101 skirts Lake Crescent along its south shore. The turnoff to Lake Crescent is well marked.

National Park Service: Visiting Lake Crescent

TripAdvisor Reviews of Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent is tucked into the folds of some very steep mountainsides. The water can be very chilly, yet folks go swimming in the summer. Other water sports can be enjoyed - boating, kayaking, skiing. In some areas of the lake, the water is a brilliant turquoise blue.

Barnes Creek Trail

Find the Barnes Creek trailhead along the trail to Marymere Falls, which starts at the Storm King Ranger Station.

TripAdvisor Reviews of Barnes Creek Trail

This is a fairly long and strenuous hike over well-maintained trail. It connects to the ONP back country trail system including Aurora Ridge and Happy Lake Ridge. If you intend to pack in and spend the night, get your required permits at the Storm King (or other) Ranger Station.

Storm King Ranger Station and Trail

Follow the signs on Highway 101 for the Marymere/Lake Crescent turn-off; further signage will guide you to the Storm King Ranger Station.

TripAdvisor Reviews of Storm King Ranger Station

The ranger station is manned year around. Stop and visit with the rangers and get all your questions about the park answered. This makes for an excellent pit stop amidst beautiful views of Lake Crescent. 

A hike up Storm King Mountain yields glorious views of the peaks and Lake Crescent below.

A hike to Marymere Falls is icing on the cake. The trail starts right here.

Hungry? Get some food at the Lake Crescent Lodge.

Marymere Falls

The trailhead to Marymere Falls begins near Lake Crescent at the Storm King Ranger Station. There is no entry fee.

TripAdvisor Reviews of Marymere Falls Trail

A hike to the Falls is one of my favorite destinations within the Olympic National Park.

Click here for lots more info and photos of Marymere Falls and trail

Sol Duc Salmon Cascade

The Salmon Cascade is a short falls of the Sol Duc River, easily accessed along Sol Duc Hot Springs Road west of Lake Crescent. The t
urn-off is well marked.

The months of October through the early part of November are your best bets for seeing salmon on their way to spawn upstream.

Since the spawn migration is tied to rainfall, the first big rain at the end of September or early October is your signal to come see the salmon! 

It is remarkable to watch the determination of the fish to achieve their goal of overcoming the 'roadblock' in their way. 

Ancient Groves Trail

The Ancient Groves Trail is along Sol Duc Hot Springs Road. The turn-off is well marked, and a mile or two beyond the Salmon Cascade turnoff. The 0.6 mile trail is well maintained and mostly level. It forms a loop bringing you back to where you started.

The trail meanders through dark rain forest, some of which is intensely green. It wanders along the edge of the valley offering a view of the Sol Duc River and the valley below. It offers a wonderful taste of a temperate rain forest, although in my opinion, the Hoh Rainforest is an unmatched example of Pacific Northwest rain forest.

Sol Duc Hot Springs

Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort on Sol Duc Hot Springs Road.

TripAdvisor Reviews of Sol Duc Hot Springs 

The hot springs have been commercialized, feeding various concrete pools (warm) behind the lodge. 

Sol Duc Falls and Trail

At the end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, 12 miles from Hwy 101 just west of Lake Crescent, you'll find the trailhead to Sol Duc Falls. It is an easy 0.8 mile hike (one way) to the falls.

Tripadvisor Reviews of Sol Duc Falls

“Rain forest green” is an apt description of the hike as well as the scenery around the Sol Duc Falls. The waterfall at the end of the hike throws spray in which a rainbow frequently glints. 

Olympic National Park Vacation: Day 3

La Push Beaches

Day three of your Olympic National Park vacation includes the beaches in and near La Push Washington:

  • Rialto Beach
  • First Beach
  • Second Beach
  • Third Beach

We wrote about these on our Forks Attractions page, due to their proximity to the town of Forks WA. If you're a real beach nut, you'll be in beach heaven, thanks to the rugged rocky coast, driftwood logs, and sea stacks trying desperately to withstand the assault of the waves.

If you run out of beaches to explore before you run out of time, head in to Forks for more rain forest attractions.

See Olympic National Park Beaches. We list more beaches below, at Day 5 of your Olympic National Park Vacation, which, depending on your interests and schedule, might be combined with the Day 3 beaches.

Olympic National Park Vacation: Day 4

Hoh Rain Forest

Olympic National Park at the Hoh Rainforest sign

The Hoh Rain Forest is another amazing destination for your Olympic National Park vacation.

The Hoh is the epitome of a temperate rain forest, possibly more so than in any other location in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Despite the many visitors who come every year, the Park has managed to preserve its primordial, untouched character. 

The Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center is located at the end of Upper Hoh Road, which is accessed from Highway 101, 13 miles south of Forks WA.

TripAdvisor Reviews of Hoh Rain Forest

The Hoh River drains the eastern, northern, and western slopes of Mount Olympus, while the Queets River drains the southern slopes of Mt. Olympus.

Because one must drive inland for 31 miles or so up the Hoh River valley after leaving Hwy 101, one drives deeper and deeper into areas receiving more and more rain. Whereas Forks receives an average of 120 inches/year (10 feet - a lot!) and this is considered genuine temperate rain forest, the Hoh Rainforest receives upwards of 170 inches every year, or 14 feet worth of rain.

If you thought Forks was green (and it is), the Hoh is a rainforest on steroids. “Even the air is green,” some say. For me, this is a most magical place.

The Sol Duc Valley offers some amazing examples of rainforest, but the Hoh is quintessential temperate rainforest.

Yes, it is a bit of a drive, either from the north or the south. From Port Angeles allow 2 hours. From Forks, allow 1 hour of driving time to the Hoh ranger station. From Aberdeen WA allow 2.25 hours.

Once there, plan to gather whatever information you are most interested in from the Visitor Center or ranger. Check the trails – there are easy short ones, and lengthier, sometimes strenuous ones.

Don't forget your camera, and an umbrella!

Olympic National Park Vacation: Day 5

Beaches to the South of the Park:
Ruby, Beach 4, Kalaloch, and more

Ruby Beach is located where Highway 101 meets the Washington State coast north of Kalaloch Lodge. Ruby is one of the most photographed beaches on the Olympic Peninsula. See Visiting Kalaloch and Ruby Beach.

See Olympic National Park Beaches for info on visiting some of these beaches during your next Olympic National Park vacation.

Kalaloch Lodge would be a great place to stay the night.

Day 5 Options!

Alternatively, if you chose to visit all the ONP beaches on Day 3 of your Olympic National Park vacation, then consider traveling to Lake Quinault Lodge in the evening of Day 4.

Day 5 could then be spent in the Quinault rainforest. Drive the circle formed by North Shore and South Shore Drives. Stop and see the various giant trees. You'll also encounter several trailheads, from which you can hike as far as you have energy for.

A third alternative for Day 5 would entail a 100-mile drive to Staircase Ranger Station on the east side of the Olympic National Park. See Visiting Staircase.

A fourth alternative leaves you no choice but to add a 6th day if you, like many others, are having a wonderful time. I can think of quite a few worse choices to make.

Enjoy your Olympic National Park vacation!

Watch this space for links to even more
info on Olympic National Park Vacations!

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