The Olympic National Park (ONP) well represents the authentic Pacific Northwest. Discover inspiration and activities, both rugged and genteel, for every person in each season.
If ever there was a Do-Not-Miss experience, the Olympic Nat'l Park is it.
The ONP is a jewel, no matter where you look. Occupying 1,442 square miles of the 3,600 square mile Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, the park embraces a vast area of pristine wilderness, from mountain crags and glaciers to the rugged coast and sea stacks of Washington State.
Below: Spectacular views to both the north and the south from the vantage point of Hurricane Ridge.
Vacation in the Olympic Natl Park!
Put a visit to the Park at the TOP of your bucket list, and allow plenty of time for the experience.
1) You'll find 73 miles of rugged and wild coastlines in the Olympic National Park.
At the ONP beaches, you’ll discover sea stacks of rocky outcroppings separated from the mainland, with fir, Sitka spruce and cedar perched atop them. You’ll encounter river mouths, tide pools, driftwood, and sandy beaches. You’ll find polished rocks and tumbled sea glass. If you had a swim or surfing in mind, you’ll need a full wetsuit – the water is a frigid 45 – 53 degrees (F) year round. Don't forget your camera, and you might also want to bring wading boots - a few of the sea stacks are accessible during low tides.
2) You'll find an impressive array of wildlife:
Below: Salmon spawning in a tributary of the Hoh River. This picture
was taken in early January not far from the Visitor Center in the Hoh Rain Forest.
3) You'll find a temperate climate rain forest.
The Hoh and the Quinault Rain Forests are part of the only temperate rain forest climate system in the USA. This system stretches along the entire coastline from Kodiak Island in Alaska through Washington and Oregon to the redwoods in northern California's "fog-belt." Learn more about temperate rain forest plants here.
According to the National Park Service, “the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest produce three times the biomass (living or once living material) of tropical rain forests.” I believe it – the majesty and the size of the giant trees, some of them up to 300 feet tall and 2 millennia old with girths of over 18 feet (6m), and the dense green and well-watered ecosystem is a thing to behold.
4) You'll find a heavy wintertime snow blanket in the higher altitudes.
All the better for winter sports activities and photography buffs!
From October through May, and sometimes June as well, the Olympic National Park is blanketed in 1-10 feet of snow from the altitude of a couple thousand feet and higher. The snow enhances the beauty of the region and provides snow activities for the entire family at Hurricane Ridge.
(Below: Snowboarding on the slopes of Hurricane Ridge on a glorious New Years Day.)
Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles WA:
3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362
Stop at any of the Visitor Centers and pick up free flyers and newsletters, get updates as to current road conditions or closures (their website is not always up to date), and ask the park rangers any questions you may have. Whether you stop at one before or after your trek around the Olympic National Park, you’ll find some wonderful keepsakes, gifts, and souvenirs for purchase.
The favorite destination within the entire ONP. Perhaps this is due to the incredible views, or perhaps it is because it is accessible to persons of all capabilities. From the Hurricane Ridge you can take an easy stroll, or a strenuous hike. Keep an eye out for Olympic marmots.
The name is no joke; it may be cool and breezy at any time of the year. In the summer, bring bug repellent or long sleeves.
This scenic waterfall is a very short hike/stroll away from Olympic Hot Springs Road just 2 miles from its junction with Hwy 101 near the Elwha Bridge. It is a great place to picnic, hike, or snap photos.
The access point to Marymere Falls is near Lake Crescent and is well marked. The hike to the falls is long enough that you'll know you’ve had a hike, but is not overly strenuous.
Lake Crescent WA and Lake Crescent Lodge
The stunning beauty and mystique can be absorbed with a picnic or photo stop, or by spending the day or evening at Lake Crescent Lodge.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort
From this rustic hotel nestled in the crook of the mountains and surrounded by towering evergreens, enjoy leisurely soaks in the hot spring pools. If you’re up for a hike, Sol Duc Falls is just a short 0.8 mile hike one way through primordial forest. The smells are glorious and you might even find trillium photo opportunities.
Find the Salmon Cascades along the Sol Duc Hot
Springs Road just beyond Lake Crescent. Late September and most of
October are prime opportunities to witness the inexorable drive of
spawning salmon knocking themselves out to reach their spawning grounds
upriver. It will be a remarkable experience and an excellent lesson in
perseverance. See more info at Washington Rain Forest.
If there is no opportunity for you to visit the Hoh or Quinault Rain Forests, the Ancient Groves adjacent to the Salmon Cascades will give you a sense of the magic and majesty of the temperate rain forest in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
See photos and more info at Washington Rain Forest.
Hoh Rain Forest
Step back in time a few thousand years. You might almost expect a dinosaur to peak through the curtains of moss. It is clear to see why the Hoh Rainforest is a favorite day-trip for those visiting the Olympic National Park. If it just happens to be raining, it is this rain that is responsible for the amazingly lush, verdant, yet chilly biome. Be prepared with a raincoat or umbrella.
See a photo i-tour of the Hoh Rain Forest
Quinault Rain Forest
The "Valley of the Rain Forest Giants" is located within the Quinault Rain Forest. Supported by over 12 feet of rain per year (bring rain gear!), be amazed by enormous Sitka Spruce, cedars, hemlocks, and Douglas Firs. The Lake Quinault Lodge sits on the edge of the water amidst the giant trees where you will find tranquility as well as adventure.
Visit Ozette Lake and hike the popular 9 mile loop down to Sand Point and Cape Alava on the coast and back. Parts of the trail are boardwalk. You’ll experience both rain forests, cedar swamps and a stretch of scenic beach hiking, if the tide is low enough. (Overland trails are available during high tide.) See petroglyphs and bald eagles.
Rugged Beaches of Washington’s coastline
Who needs nothing but sand and saltwater when you can encounter rugged sea stacks withstanding the pounding of the Pacific Ocean? The vistas are unforgettable. On some beaches driftwood of all sizes is plentiful. The Olympic National Park is home to Shi Shi Beach, Ozette (Cape Alava and Sand Point), Rialto Beach, First, Second and Third Beaches, Ruby Beach, Beach 1, 2, 3, and 4, Kalaloch Beach, and South Beach.
Miles and miles of hiking trails
The Olympic National Park is criss-crossed with hiking trails. You'll also find camping areas in the remote back-waters and mountain slopes, some of which involve 15+ mile hikes. If you like, you can hike from the Dungeness Forks above Sequim Bay up, over and through the entire Olympic National Park, and come out of the mountains at Graves Creek. Hopefully you’ve stashed a vehicle there, where you can drive the 10 miles or so to Lake Quinault Lodge and rest for the evening.
Combine a visit to any of these intriguing places, events or vistas with your visit to the Olympic National Park, if you have the time and/or interest. These places are not part of the ONP:
The Olympic National Park contains 44 significant mountain peaks within its borders. Glaciers cloak the peaks of many of them. The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center has a relief map showing exactly where to find each one. Here they are, ranked according to height:
The Olympic National
Park protects the finest features of the Olympic Peninsula in order to preserve
them for the enjoyment and education of future generations.