Olympic National Park Travel Guide

Olympic National Park is a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve due to the protected old-growth forest ecosystem. This national park spans over almost a million acres.

The park is road-less through the middle and features an abundance of mountain vistas, marine tidepools, cascading waterfalls, and hiking trails, to satisfy anyone’s craving for the wilderness.

Interesting Facts About Olympic National Park

  • Close to 3 million people visit or stay over in Olympic National Park every year.
  • The glaciers that top the Olympic Mountain’s sides and ridgelines are ancient.
  • This park is home to a few endangered species, including the bald eagle and spotted owl. There are currently 22 endangered species that call this park their home.
  • There are over 650 archaeological sites to be found in Olympic National Park. There are also 130 historical structures and close to 500,000 museum artifacts.

Olympic National Park Weather

May To June

While the weather does start warming up in the spring, weather conditions are still unpredictable. It can rain heavily or snow, with these conditions lasting into June in elevations that are higher. May to June is one of the most popular times of the years for visits, while the seasonal campgrounds also start opening.

July To August

These months are rated as a highly popular time to visit Olympic NP. The temperatures generally hover around 60 to 70 degrees, with a high probability of rain.

For this reason, hikers should come prepared for thunderstorms and heavy rainfall, particularly when you reach the high elevations. Even on a sunny day, the fog will limit your visibility, which is more common close to the coast.

This national park also offers several ranger-led activities, including guided walks through Hoh Rainforest, an astronomy program, and activities at Hurricane Ridge.

September To October

During the fall the temperatures start to dip, and the likelihood of rain and snow start to increase. Snow starts appearing in the late part of September in the high country regions. The mountain areas also start experiencing freezing temperatures. A few of the roads and campgrounds close over the months of winter.

November To April

Over the year the rainforests and coast average 100 to 140 inches-of-rain. The majority of this precipitation will fall between November and April. In lower elevations, the temperatures are mild to cool, but can still fall below freezing. In the higher elevations of the park, snow becomes abundant. For instance, Hurricane Ridge averages around 30 to 35 feet of snow. This area is open on the weekends for skiing (weather permitting).

There are also rangers that offer guided snowshoe walks that run through Hurricane Ridge over the winter months. Keep in mind that these types of weather conditions also create the circumstances required for avalanches. It is important to refer to Northwest Avalanche Center’s website for avalanche forecasts.

Best Time To Visit Olympic National Park

The best months to visit Olympic NP is July through to August. The temperatures are typically warm, with most facilities and roads open. There are also many programs and activities available. You can find the latest lists of activities for the season in the Olympic Bugler, which is the digital newsletter for the park.

Olympic National Park is open throughout the year, 24-hours a day. However, from October through May some of the campgrounds and roads are closed, and the visitor’s facilities either run on reduced hours or close.

Where Is Olympic National Park?

Olympic NP is situated in the corner of the northwest of Washington State in the US, on the Olympic Peninsula. This area is home to Pacific Ocean mountains and beaches.

Seattle To Olympic National Park

There are many options available when traveling from Seattle to Olympic National Park. Visitors to the rugged and diverse landscapes that the Olympic Peninsula has to offer from Seattle, can reach this park by ferry, public bus lines, transfer services, or ferry. There are also organized tours available, offering knowledgeable guides.

Things To Do In Olympic National Park

View Large Moss Covered Trees

Olympic NP protects a highly unique habitat, known as a temperate rainforest. Found mainly on the southwest and west side of this park, the rainforests contain towering hemlocks, western redcedars, Sitka spruces, Douglas firs, along with a variety of lichen, moss, and giant ferns.

The Hoh Rain Forest is a popular place to view this amazing ecosystem. Other interesting and equally impressive places to visit include Bogachiel Valleys and Quinault.

Experience A Winter Wonderland On Snowshoes Or Skis

This park is still open even once the snow starts to fall. In these months these areas turn into a fantastic spot to enjoy winter recreation. Hurricane Ridge is one of the best places to visit on a snowy day. The visitors center offers a snack bar and warming hut along with adventurous snowshoeing trails.

Make sure you have checked on any avalanche conditions before you set off along an ungroomed route that takes you up 5.757-foot Hurricane Hill for stunning views of the nearby peaks.

The no-frills, private Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area (hurricaneridge.com), operates a ski lift. This facility also offers family-friendly areas to explore untracked glades and bowls, and a dedicated area for kids to play on small groomed areas.

Visit The Beach

There are no Californian beaches here, and the waters are too cold to swim in. Yet the rugged Pacific coast in this park offers a striking beauty of its own with tide pools, sculpted sea-stacks, amazing ocean views, and an abundance of wildlife.

The Olympic National Park is home to 73-miles of coast offering many opportunities to visit the beach. Kalaloch Beach on the southern side offers a campground, restaurant, hotel, and miles of driftwood-strewn beach sand.

At northern Shi Shi Beach, there are amazing tide pools to discover, while Second and Third Beaches offer the very best beach camping adventures. You can watch whales directly from the beach (look out for the Whale Trail stations). In winter the waves that crash over the rocks are truly awe-inspiring.

Fishing

Many of the fly fishers that visit Olympic National Park enjoy catching salmon and steelhead. The rainforest rivers in this park support a healthy stock of winter steelhead, along with the strongest runs of coho salmon and Chinook.

Climbing

There are various alpine climbing adventures for the more experienced mountaineers, which includes the 3 popular peaks: Mt. Deception (7,788-feet), Mt. Olympus (7.980 feet), and Mt. Constance (7,743 feet).

Birdwatching On A Sandy Spit

Just to the north of the park, close to Sequim, the Dungeness Spit unwinds into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

This skinny, long (5.5 miles) sand spit offers the perfect habitat for mammals and birds (the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge protects most of the beach in this area).

Take your binoculars for exploring the spit. You can expect to find species such as harlequin ducks, oystercatchers, cormorants, brant geese, bald eagles, and sandpipers. You may also catch a glimpse of elephant seals, orcas, and harbor seals, in the waters.

Dungeness Spit is situated in the Olympic’s rain shadow, offering fantastic hikes throughout the years. Visitors to the area can access the lighthouse, located at the end-tip of this spit.

Paddling

Hundreds of coastline miles and lakes make this national park a paddling adventure and paradise for kayaking and canoeing.

Hot Springs

The Olympic Hot Springs and Mineral Hot Springs offer fantastic opportunities to enjoy the soothing and natural waters on your next camping trip to Olympic National Park.

Best Hikes In Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park: Short Hikes

Sol Duc Falls

Elevation Gain: 200 ft
Distance: 1.5-miles roundtrip

This is an easy and flat trail that will take you through an old-growth forest, extending across a few creeks until you reach a platform and wooden bridge, providing a beautiful sight of the 3-pronged Sol Duc waterfall. When using this trail just after sunrise the colors are amazing.

Second Beach

Elevation Gain: 310 ft
Distance: 4-miles roundtrip

The Second Beach trail features a few simple downs and ups yet it is mainly flat. This trail goes through a traditional Washington woods setting onto the iconic Olympic Peninsula beach. The magnificent Washington coast vista only appears as you start emerging from the cover of trees.

Hall Of Mosses

Elevation Gain: 100ft
Distance: 8-miles roundtrip

This is a loop-trail within the Hoh rain forest, rated among the best of the Olympic National Park short hikes for children. It’s easy and quick but filled with amazing sights including the ground cover made up of ferns, and the magnificent old-growth trees covered in a layer of moss. There is also an opportunity to spot a variety of wildlife.

Olympic National Park: Moderate-Easy Hikes

Hurricane Hill

Elevation Gain: 650 ft
Distance: 3.2-miles roundtrip

The stunning views of the ocean, forest, and the mountains are truly amazing throughout the hike. This wide trail is easy and wide, yet there are a couple of switchbacks towards the end part of these hikes where the largest part of the elevation is gained. When you reach the summit be prepared for gusty and strong winds.

Olympic Hot Springs

Elevation Gain: 600 ft
Distance: 4.8-miles roundtrip

The Olympic Hot Springs trail is smooth and wide, similar to a roadway with a slight incline. You will cross a few bridges that cross over Boulder Creek before you arrive at the Hot Springs area. This area features a variety of hot pools, some that you can see from the paths and others hidden away inside the woods.

Hoh River Trail To 5-Mile Island

Elevation Gain: 300ft
Distance: 10.6-miles roundtrip

If you loved the sights of the Hall of Mosses and you are looking for a bit more, then the Hoh River Trail is ideal. This is one of the easier hikes filled with moss-covered ancient trees along with a view of the Olympic Mountains and the river valley. There are tons of stunning stops and the Five Mile Island has made it a perfect hike to bring along a packed lunch.

Olympic National Park: Intermediate Hikes

Klahhane Ridge

Elevation Gain: 1,700 ft
Distance: 5-miles roundtrip

This is one of the colorful Olympic National Park hikes which involves various steep switchbacks that climb through a shady forest, open meadows, and along the mountain ridges. If you reach the Lake Angeles Trail the end bit is narrow along the ledge edges. If you have a fear of heights, you should think about turning back before you reach this point.

Gray Wolf River/Slab Camp Creek

Elevation Gain: 1,100 ft
Distance: 5.5-miles roundtrip

This is one of the classical Olympic Peninsula hikes offering a reward for all your senses. The hike takes you through a mossy forest, along and across rushing rivers and over many colorful flats. Depending on what season of the year you plan to take this hike, you might smell and see rhododendrons, autumn leaves, berries, and beautiful wildflowers. This hike is downhill all the way, which means it’s uphill all the way back.

Elk Mountain To Maiden Peak

Elevation Gain: 840-feet
Distance: 8-miles roundtrip

The hike to Maiden Peak involves the most magnificent views with many vistas of mountains and lakes which includes Mount Olympus. Make sure you set enough time aside to take everything in. Once you have reached Maiden Peak there is a breathtaking 360-degree view that will want to make you stay awhile.

Olympic National Park: Challenging Hikes

Mount Storm King

Elevation Gain: 2,065
Distance: 4-miles roundtrip

The Mount Storm King hike is not very long, but the climb is challenging. This hike takes you through a rain forest and then a climb through massive pine trees before you reach the hardy Pacific Madronas (a type of Arbutus). This is when your viewpoints begin. If you want to continue past the well-maintained trail, there are ropes you can use that will assist you in climbing the remainder of this trail.

Grand Ridge

Elevation Gain: 3,100 ft
Distance: 15-miles roundtrip

If you are lucky when it comes to the weather, the Olympic Mountain trails provide an amazing 360-view over the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and you may even catch a glimpse of Canada. However, weather conditions are really unpredictable up here so many sure you come prepared.

High Divide – Seven Lakes Basin

Elevation Gain: 3,000 ft
Distance: 18-miles roundtrip

This hike is challenging and long, and while some hikers take on this trail as one of the full-day hikes, others prefer taking it on over 2 days, stopping over for a night camp part-way. If you have the stamina and time, you will enjoy everything that has made the Pacific Northwest so awe-inspiring. This includes amazing views, valleys, lakes, waterfalls, mountains, and forests.

Olympic National Park Camping

Camping in this national park is a very popular way to experience and explore the Olympic Peninsula.

Deer Park Campground

Deer Park Campground is among the most popular places to go camping in the country. This camping ground is unique and available to cars, situated in the high-alpine country. These camping grounds provide a 360-degree view of the Olympic Mountains, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound. The isolation of this area offers amazing views of the skies at night, especially when there are no clouds.

Deer Park Campground opens from July to September, which will depend on the snow. There are 14-non-reservable spots to choose from. Due to the winding and rugged 18-mile access road, this area is not open to RVs. Deer Park offers pit toilets, but there isn’t any running water available.

Fairholme Campground

Situated on Lake Crescent, this campground is extremely popular and fills up quickly. If you would like to secure a coveted lakeside spot, make sure you arrive early. Fairholme is also one of the best-maintained and cleanest campgrounds in the Olympic National Park. Along with the joys of exploring Lake Crescent, you can also use Fairground Campground as the jump-off point for Hurricane Ridge and Sol Duc Falls.

These camping grounds open from April through to October. The site offers 88 non-reservable spots. Fairholme Campground is also RV-friendly (up to 21 feet). Flush toilets, an RV dump-station, and running water are available.

Dosewallips Campground

The only walk-in campground in Olympic National Park (other than the backcountry campsites), is extremely popular with backpackers and hikers that make their way out or into backcountry. Situated along the swift Dosewallips River, the hike is around 5.5-miles to reach this isolated and pretty campground from the access roadway.

Dosewallips Campground is open throughout the year and contains 30 non-reservable tent spaces. Since this campground is walk-in only, RVs are not allowed. This site also has no running water but does offer pit toilets.

Graves Creek Campground

Camping experiences in the Quinault Rainforest is truly unique. Located along the serene Quinault River, you are assured of a relaxing and tranquil stay. These camping grounds in Olympic National Park offers access to many popular destinations such as Enchanted Valley, Quinault Loop, and the Pony Bridge. Elk and deer are often spotted in the evenings and mornings when they make their way towards the river for a drink.

Graves Creek Campground is open throughout the year and offers 30 non-reservable spots. These camping grounds are not RV friendly, and there is no running water available. The site does have a few pit toilets available.

Hoh Campground

Hidden in the most famous of rainforest’s in the country, Hoh Campground is a central jumping-off point for various Olympic National Park attractions. This campsite offers access to many of the hiking trails which include Hall of Mosses, Hoh River Trail, and Mount Olympus. Since it is among the wettest areas in America, it is advisable to come prepared adequately for rain, which includes the summer months.

Hoh Campground is open all year round and contains 88 non-reservable campsites. It is also RV friendly (up to 21 feet), and there is running water, flush toilets, along with an RV dump station.

Heart O’the Hills Campground

Situated in the center of an ancient old-growth forest, this is one of the most popular camping grounds for families. Children really enjoy the ranger programs available in summer. The grounds are a couple of miles from Port Angeles, which makes it an easy site to access. Yet the real attraction to Heart O’the Hills has to do with its proximity to Hurrican Ridge. This beautiful destination is situated 14-miles uphill.

Heart O’the Hills is open throughout the year. However, this area is prone to heavy snowfall in winter, which makes it a walk-in only site when it starts to snow. This site is RV-friendly (up to 35 feet in some of the campsites) and contains around 105 non-reservable spots. Running water, an RV dump station, and flush toilets are available.

La Push (Mora) Campground

Also known as Mora Campground, La Push is located close to the Quillayute River, a couple of miles from Rialto Beach. It is also very close to Olympic National Park attractions including Second Beach, Hole in the Wall, and Strawberry Bay Falls. Whale, deer, seal, bear, and eagle sightings are common in this area.

These camping grounds are available throughout the year and contains 95 non-reservable campsites. This site is RV friendly (up to 35 feet for a few spots). Running water, an RV dump station, and pit toilets are available.

North Fork Campground

For campers that prefer more secluded camping experiences, this is among the top-rated choices. Tucked away along the Quinault River, this is a small campground situated close to stunning hikes which include the Skyline Ridge Primitive Trails. Bears, elk, and deer visit this area frequently.

Open throughout the year, North Fork Campground contains 9 non-reservable spots. This site is not RV-friendly and there is no running water. There are pit toilets at North Fork Campground.

Kalaloch Campground

Kalaloch Campground is perhaps the most attractive and popular camping grounds in Olympic National Park for a good reason. This site is amazingly beautiful and located along a bluff next to sandy Kalaloch Beach. Most of the camping sites offer beautiful views across the ocean, particularly at sunset.

Kalaloch does allow reservations from June to September. Make sure you book well in advance if you would like to secure a camping spot in the months of summer.

Kalaloch Campground is also open throughout the years and contains 170 reservable campsites. This location is also RV-friendly (up to 35 feet for a few spots). Kalaloch Campgrounds has a general store, running water, flush toilets, and an RV dump station.

Ozette Campground

With a view of Lake Ozette from all the campsites, this isolated camping ground is one of the overlooked gems of this national park. Miles away from anything, the roadway to this lake is muddy and rough, while the campsites are also pretty wet.

Yet these drawbacks are all worth your while considering the awe-inspiring beauty and views of the lake along with easy access to a more remote coastline.

Open throughout the year, Ozette Campground contains 15 non-reservable spots. It is also RV-friendly (up to 21 feet). Ozette Campground has pit toilets, but no running water.

Sol Duc Campground

Rated as among the best camping spots in Olympic National Park. Situated close to the famous Sol Duc Falls, it is also close to salmon-filled rivers, lakes, and hot springs. This camping ground hosts various ranger programs in the summer months. The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort provides a restaurant and lodge in summer.

Sol Duc Campground is open throughout the year. However, running water and flush toilets can only be accessed from May to October. These camping grounds offer 82 non-reservable spots and can accommodate RVs up to 35-feet for some of the spots.

South Beach Campground

Even though these camping grounds are just off Highway 101, and a few minutes from Kalaloch, it is still surprisingly isolated.

It’s beautiful and scenic location offers visitors outstanding views across the Pacific Ocean. South Beach is also an ideal jump-off point in order to explore Queets Rainforests and Quinault.

South Beach Campground is only open from May to September. This site contains 50 non-reservable spots, which are RV-friendly for some of the campsites. There is no running water, but there is an RV dump station and pit toilets.

Queets Campground

Queets Campground is also among the more remote camping grounds in Olympic National Park. This spot is ideal for campers looking to experience peace and solitude. It is also situated in an area that is least visited in this park.

Queets Campground is open throughout the year and contains 20 non-reservable spots. This site has pit toilets, but no running water. It is RV-friendly (up to 21 feet).

Staircase Campground

Staircase Campground, rated among the best of the camping ground along the east side of this park, is situated along the Skokomish River. Staircase Loop Trail and Gladys Divide are just some of the impressive hiking trails that can be accessed easily from the campsite. Due to how close it is to the remote mountains, this site is also the base used for backpacking.

Open throughout the year, it contains 56 non-reservable spots and it is also RV-friendly (up to 35-feet for a few spots). Running water and flush toilets are only available from June to September.

Olympic National Park Lodging

Not all visitors to Olympic National Park enjoy camping. Fortunately, there are many other lodging options at Olympic National Park available for an overnight stay.

There are 5 lodging options within the borders of the park. They range from simple cabins to sophisticated lodges. Outside this national park are many other options that include lodges, cabins, and motels.

If you plan to visit Olympic National Park in summer, make sure you have booked your accommodation in advance. Reservations over these months fill up quickly.

Kalaloch Lodge

Situated a few feet from the beach, Kalaloch Lodge provides rustic cabins and motel-style lodge rooms. There is also a general store, and dining room available. Due to the location (high up on the bluff), most of the cabins and lodge rooms offer breathtaking views across the Pacific Ocean.

Lake Quinault Lodge

In addition to the elegance and beauty of Lake Quinault Lodge, the isolation of this location offers a truly tranquil and relaxing getaway. Built in 1926, this is a historic lodge giving guests an opportunity to truly escape and disconnect. There are no cabins at this lodge.

The grounds at this lodge are made of a front lawn which leads down to the Lake Quinault shores. The lodge offers a great spacious room that allows guests to relax and enjoy the heat of a crackling fireplace. There is another magnificent fireplace situated outside, the ideal area to chill out during the months of summer.

Lake Crescent Lodge

Built in 1915, this prominent wood structure is hidden among ancient trees along the shoreline of Lake Crescent. Along with the mountain and lake view lodging rooms, Lake Crescent Lodge also has a few rustic cabins.

A coffee shop, gift store, lounge, and dining room are also available at this site. You can swim in the lake but the waters are extremely cold even during summer. The best way to experience this lake is to rent one of the boats from this lodge.

Log Cabin Resort

Situated along the northern shores of Lake Crescent, this resort is a lot smaller than Lake Crescent Lodge. This area is surrounded by a tranquil forest, offering guests the ideal spot to experience solitude.

This resort offers rustic cabins, lakeside chalets, and lodge rooms. There is also a dedicated area for RV camping and tent camping. The Log Cabin Resort also has a general store, café, and a deli.

Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort

If you prefer straightforward and simple lodging, the Sold Duc Springs Resort is probably the best type of accommodation for you. The resort features a number of small cabins, a restaurant, dining room, general store, and mineral-pool hot springs. Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is among the ideal places to stay if you are interested in exploring the Sol Duc Falls and Sol Duc Valley nearby.

Brian

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