The Ultimate Guide To Olympic National Park

The Ultimate Guide To Olympic National Park

Washington
The Ultimate Travel Guide To Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park , one of the planet's most diverse ecosystems!

Located on the extreme northwest corner of the contiguous US lies an extremely diverse array of natural landscapes, comprising of impenetrable temperate rainforests, towering snow-capped mountain peaks, and a gorgeous coastline!

Olympic National Park is one of the most ecologically diverse National Parks in the US! Sandy beaches along the Pacific Coast on the west side of the Park, old-growth and mossy trees in the rainforests located along the western flanks of Mount Olympus, and alpine scenery including snow-capped mountain peaks, waterfalls, and glacial lakes, in the central region of the Park, Olympic National Park is a wealth of natural scenery!

Located in the Olympic Peninsula in the northwest part of Washington, about 110 miles west of Seattle, Olympic National Park is enormous, measuring about a million acres. Once home to several indigenous tribes, Olympic National Park also has several archeological sites throughout the Park, preserving the area’s rich human history. Later in the year 1909, the area was first designated as a National Monument, and then in the year 1938, it was redesignated as a National Park.

Olympic National Park preserves a diverse ecosystem and rich cultural & human history associated with the area and is a designated International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site!

Olympic National Park is open year-round, but the weather dramatically varies with the varying altitude and geography of the Park. The coastal areas are cold and wet but still accessible during winter, but the alpine regions receive a good amount of snowfall, and so a few roads and sections in the Park are closed during the winter months. Summers are dry and pleasant for outdoor recreational activities, winters are wet and slow, but the Hurricane Ridge area of the Park is bustling with several snow sports during the winter months.

Here is my ultimate guide to Olympic National Park, featuring essential trip-planning information, attractions map, hiking trails, suggested itineraries, and recommendations on hotels and restaurants in Olympic National Park!

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Planning Your Trip To Olympic National Park

Planning Your Trip To Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is open year-round, with summer being the best time for sightseeing, hiking, and camping, whereas winters are cold and wet, with few of the sections & roads are closed for the season.

Best Time To Visit Olympic National Park: The weather in Olympic National Park varies significantly between the lowland and the alpine regions. The coastal area, including the several beaches along the Pacific Coast, remains accessible year-round but can get cold and wet. The rainforests receive a lot of rainfall and can be very damp and muddy during the winter months. The alpine region of the Park gets a good amount of snowfall, and some of the roads and trails are closed in winter. However, the Hurricane Ridge section offers several winter recreational opportunities and is the main draw to the Park during the winter months. So, if you’re planning to spend time outdoors, sightseeing and hiking, I would recommend going to Olympic National Park between July and September. 

Olympic National Park Operating Hours & Seasons: The Park is open all year-round and 24 hours a day. However, some of the park facilities, including the visitor centers, park entrances, and lodges, are seasonal and are open weather permitting. 

  • Olympic National Park Entrances: The US highway 101, circling the Park, has several entry points offering access to distinct sections of the Olympic National Park. The entry points and the road on the North of the Park, including Hurricane Ridge Road and Sol Duc Road, are seasonal and open outside the winter months. However, the roads and entry points, including access to the beaches along the Pacific Coast and rainforests, on the west side remain accessible throughout the year. However, I highly recommend checking out the current road conditions in the Park, especially if you’re traveling outside the summer months, on the NPS Website.
  • Olympic National Park Visitor & Information Centers: Given the massive size, the Park has several visitor centers and ranger stations to assist visitors. However, only the Olympic National Park Visitor Center & Wilderness Center in Port Angeles is open year-round. The rest of the Ranger Stations are all seasonal, including Mora Ranger Station, Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center, Kalaloch Ranger Station, Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station, Ozette Ranger Station, Storm King Ranger Station, and Staircase Ranger Station.
  • Olympic National Park Lodge: There’re four lodges inside the Park, three lodges on the northern section of the Park that are seasonal and one on the west side of the Park, which is open year-round.
  • Olympic National Park Campgrounds: There’re around 15 campgrounds in Olympic National Park, with quite a few located on the western and southern sections of the Park that are open year-round. However, the ones in the northern area are seasonal and open outside the winter months. You can find the current status of the campgrounds in Olympic National Park on the NPS Website.

Getting To Olympic National Park: Located in the northwest corner of Washington, Olympic National Park is located close to the US and Canada border, making it accessible via two major international airports, Seattle, Washington, and Victoria International Airport, Canada. However, if you’re flying into Canada, you would need to carry all required documents to reenter the US to access the Park. You could alternatively take a bus or a train to get to Seattle and then rent a car and drive to the Park.

  • Flight: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Seattle, Washington, located about 100 miles from Olympic National Park, and Victoria International Airport (YYJ), Victoria, Canada, around 150 miles from the Park, are the closest major international airports to Olympic National Park.
  • Train: You can ride an Amtrak train to Tacoma, the nearest Amtrak station to Olympic National Park, located about 80 miles from the Park. You could then hire a taxi to get to a rental car company, rent a car and drive to the Park.
  • Bus: Greyhound offers bus services connecting several cities in Washington to other cities and states in the US. The nearest Greyhound bus stops to Olympic National Park is in Tacoma, located about 80 miles from the Park.
  • Ferry: The two Washington State Ferries, Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry and Seattle-Bremerton ferry, connecting Seattle to Olympic National Park is a fun way to get to the Park. It takes about the same time as driving to the Park, but riding the ferry along with your car is a fun experience in itself. You can find the ferry routes and schedule on the Washington State Department Transportation website. 

Parking & Transportation Inside Olympic National Park: There are ample parking spaces and pullouts near all vista points and hiking trails in Olympic National Park, but there are not shuttle services offered by the Park. The best way to explore and navigate Olympic National Park is by car. 

Time Required At Olympic National Park: Olympic National Park has three main sections, with each region with its own vista points, hiking trails, and attractions. Also, given the Park’s massive size, you would spend a reasonable amount of time navigating the Prak, driving between several vista points located in isolated sections. So, I highly recommend spending at least three to four days in Olympic National Park to give yourself enough time to leisurely explore all areas in the Park.

Lodging & Dining In Olympic National Park: Lodging and dining options inside the Park are limited to its one year-round and three seasonal lodges, 15 campgrounds, and a few restaurants. There are a few other lodging and dining choices outside the Park, which I have discussed in the later section of the post.

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Things To Do In Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park Attractions Map

Olympic National Park Attractions Map

Olympic National Park Visitor Centers & Ranger Stations

There’re three main sections in Olympic National Park, including the Pacific Shoreline, Rainforests, and the Alpine Region, and several Visitor Centers & Ranger Stations!

Olympic National Park is enormous and is accordingly equipped with many visitor centers and ranger stations in every section of the Park to assist visitors. There’re three visitor centers and six ranger stations spread all over the Olympic National Park in different areas of the Park.

Olympic National Park Visitor Center & Wilderness Center: Located in the north section of the Park in Port Angeles, the Olympic National Park Visitor Center & Wilderness Center is the main visitor center in the Park. This is the only visitor center that’s open year-round, except Thanksgiving and Christmas, offering an information desk, wilderness permits, various exhibits, and a bookstore. Olympic National Park Visitor Center & Wilderness Center Address: 3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center: The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, about 20 miles south of Port Angeles, is located near Hurricane Ridge. The visitor center features an information desk, nature trails, exhibits, a snack bar, and a gift shop. Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center Address: 3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center: The Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center is a seasonal visitor center open during the Summer months, located near the Hoh Rainforest, offers maps, trail details, guided walks & talks, a few exhibits, a bookstore, and starting point of a couple of hiking trails. Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center Address: 18113 Upper Hoh Rd, Forks, WA 98331.

Olympic National Park Ranger Stations: Besides the visitor centers, the Park is also home to several seasonal ranger stations offering maps and brochures about the region.

  • Mora Ranger Station, in the northwest section near Rialto Beach and Mora Campground.
  • Kalaloch Ranger Station, located in the southwest corner, near Kalaloch Beach. 
  • Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station is in the Quinault Rain Forest, near the southwest flanks of Mount Olympus.
  • Ozette Ranger Station, located in the northwest section, near Ozette Lake.
  • Storm King Ranger Station, located in the northern area near Lake Crescent.
  • Staircase Ranger Station is the only ranger station on the southeast part of the Park.
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Olympic National Park Pacific Shoreline

Olympic National Park Pacific Shoreline

Olympic National Park is home to seventy miles of rugged and dramatic shoreline with several stunning beaches!

The west side of Olympic National Park, hugging the Pacific Coast, is home to a gorgeous shoreline with several beaches, tide pools, secluded coves, and sea stacks rising from the seabed. The dramatic coastline and beaches are accessible year-round but can be wet during the winter months. Here’re the best beaches in Olympic National Park, along the Pacific Coast, listed south to north. 

Kalaloch Beach: The Kalaloch Beach, the southernmost beach in Olympic National Park along the Pacific Coast, is a sandy beach featuring the popular Kalaloch / Tree of Life and tide pools. The Kalaloch Beach is also home to the Kalaloch Lodge, offering lodging and excellent dining options overlooking the Kalaloch Beach. The Kalaloch Ranger Station and the Kalaloch Campground are also located close to Kalaloch Beach.

Ruby Beach: Ruby Beach, located just north of Kalaloch Beach, is known for its dramatic shore lined with towering sea stacks, driftwoods, and black stones. The several tidal pools at Ruby Beach are an excellent place to see marine creatures, including starfishes, crabs, and sea snails. Ruby Beach is located right off US Highway 101 and easily accessible.

Rialto Beach: Located about 40 miles north of Ruby Beach, in the town of La Push, Rialto Beach is known for its long black sand beaches, lined with driftwoods, and its famous 1.5 miles hike to Hole-in-the-Wall, a hole created in a sea stack. 

Ozette Lake: Ozette Lake is a gorgeous lake tucked between old-growth trees, located 20 miles north of Rialto Beach. Besides Ozette Lake, the area is also home to an archeological site preserving an ancient village and also offers several hiking trails, a campground, and a ranger station.

Shi Shi Beach: The northmost beach along the Pacific Coast in Olympic National Park, the Shi Shi Beach and Point of Arches offers stunning views of dramatic coastline, lined with sea stacks and driftwoods. However, Shi Shi Beach and Point of Arches are accessible only via an 8 miles roundtrip hike and require wilderness permits.

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Olympic National Park Rainforests

Olympic National Park Rainforests

The impenetrable rainforests with old-growth moss-covered trees are a rare sight and a unique experience at Olympic National Park! 

There’re three temperate rainforests in Olympic National Park, located along the western flanks of Mount Olympus, and are one of the main attractions of the Park! One can find gorgeous coastlines and high-rise mountain peaks in other parts of the US and the world. However, a temperate rainforest is a pretty rare sight and one of the main reasons why Olympic National Park is one of the most sorted-after destinations globally.

The three rainforests in Olympic National Park offer similar vistas, but the Hoh rainforest is the most popular and busy of all. The other two rainforests in the Park, Quinault and Queets, offer a similar experience and are relatively less crowded.

Hoh Rainforest: The Hoh Rainforest is the most popular and the northernmost rainforest in Olympic National Park, named after the Hoh River originating from Mount Olympus passing through the Hoh valley as it makes its way to the Pacific Coast. The Hoh Rainforest is best explored via its two popular hiking trails – (1) The Hall of Mosses Trail, a short 0.8-mile loop, and (2) The Spruce Nature Trail, 1.2 miles loop offering views of the Hoh River along with the rainforest. The Hoh Rainforest is also home to the Hoh Campground, which is open year-round. Hoh Rainforest Address: Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, 18113 Upper Hoh Rd, Forks, WA 98331.

Queets Rainforest: One of the two rainforests on the southwest side of the Olympic National Park, the Queets Rainforest offers a more serene wilderness experience. The Queets Rainforest is accessible via a 10 miles spur road off the US Highway 101 and has a Ranger Station and a campground along the Queets River. The Queets Rainforest can be explored by hiking Sam’s River Loop, a 2.8 miles flat and easy hike through the rainforest. The Queets area also offers a longer wilderness hike, Queets River Trail, a 16 miles strenuous hike and involves wading through the Queets River. Queets Rainforest Address: Queets Ranger Station, Washington.

Quinault Rainforest: The southernmost rainforest in Olympic National Park, the Quinault Rainforest, is located along the banks of Lake Quinault. The Quinault Rainforest can be explored via hiking two of its most popular hiking trails – (1) Maple Glade Trail, a 0.5-mile easy loop, and (2) Kestner Homestead Trail, a 1.3 miles loop offering views of remnants of an old homestead along with the rainforest. The Quinault valley also offers a ranger station, two campgrounds, and a couple of longer hiking trails. Quinault Rainforest Address: Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station, 902 N Shore Rd, Amanda Park, WA 98526.

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Olympic National Park Alpine Region

Olympic National Park Alpine Region

The mountainous region of Olympic National Park, located close to Port Angeles, is home to several popular attractions and vista points! 

The Olympic National Park’s alpine region, located on the northern part of the Park, is home to many notable features in the Park, including mountain peaks offering panoramic views, gorgeous alpine lakes, and lush valleys with waterfalls and rivers. Below I have listed the most popular attractions in the northern alpine section of Olympic National Park.

Sol Duc Falls: The Sol Duc Valley, located in the northwest section of Olympic National Park, is about 42 miles west of Port Angeles. The Sol Duc Valley, a lush valley along the Sol Duc River, is popularly known for its roading Sol Duc Falls. The Sol Duc Falls can be accessed via a short and easy 1.6 miles roundtrip hike through a lush valley and old-growth trees. The Sol Duc Valley is also home to the Sol Duc Campground, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, and several longer hikes. Sol Duc Valley Address: Sol Duc Trailhead, Sol Duc Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98363.

Lake Cresent: Lake Cresent is a glacial carved lake located in the northwest section of Olympic National Park, about 20 miles west of Port Angeles. The crystal clear blue-green lake offers several recreational opportunities, including swimming, picnic areas, boat launches, fishing, and several hiking trails leading to gorgeous waterfalls and creeks. The Lake Crescent Lodge offers lodging, dining, and boat rentals. Lake Cresent Address: Lake Crescent Lodge, 416 Lake Crescent Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98363.

Hurricane Ridge: Located at about eight thousand feet above sea level, Hurricane Ridge offers sweeping valley views and is one of the most visited and popular vista points in Olympic National Park. Hurricane Ridge is located about 20 miles south of Port Angeles and is accessible via a scenic mountain drive. Hiking is the most prevalent activity in Hurricane Ridge during the summer months, and come winter Hurricane Ridge offers several winter sports, including skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. Hurricane Ridge also offers a visitor center and the Heart O’ the Hills campground. Hurricane Ridge Address: Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, 3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

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Olympic National Park Suggested Itineraries, Hotels & Restaurants

Olympic National Park Suggested Itineraries Hotels Restaurants

Olympic National Park Trip Itinerary

Rainforests, rugged coastline, and alpine scenery, there’re a ton of things to do in Olympic National Park!

With several vista points, hiking trails, beaches, and rainforests, it can be overwhelming when planning your trip to Olympic National Park. There’re three distinct sections in the Park, including the alpine section, the Pacific Coast, and the rainforests, and each area offers hiking trails and vista points. 

With several vista points, hiking trails, beaches, and rainforests, it can be overwhelming when planning your trip to Olympic National Park. To help plan a perfect trip to Olympic National Park, I have compiled and organized my Olympic National Park trip itineraries and recommendations based on the number of days you plan to spend in the Park. I highly recommend spending at least 3 days in Olympic National Park to explore all three Park sections. 

1 Day Olympic National Park Trip Itinerary: If you’re visiting Olympic National Park just for a day, your best option is to stick to just one section of the Park. Every area in the Park is unique, but given the rainforests are a rare sight, I would recommend visiting a rainforest and a couple of other vista points in the Park. 

  • Stick to the northern section of the Park, visiting the Hoh Rainforest, Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Falls, and Lake Cresent.

2 Day Olympic National Park Trip Itinerary: If you have two days in Olympic National Park, I recommend spending a day leisurely exploring all vista points on the northern section of the Park and a day exploring the coastal area of the Park.

  • Day 1 – Leisurely explore all the vista points along the northern section of the Park, including the Hoh Rainforest, Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Falls, and Lake Cresent.
  • Day 2 – Explore the coastal section of the Park, including Shi Shi Beach, Rialto Beach, Ruby Beach, and Kalaloch Beach.

3 Day Olympic National Park Trip Itinerary: Same as the 2-day itinerary, plus a couple of vista points and rainforests in the southwest part of the Park. 

  • Day 1 – Leisurely explore all the vista points along the northern section of the Park, including the Hoh Rainforest, Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Falls, and Lake Cresent.
  • Day 2 – Explore the coastal section of the Park, including Shi Shi Beach, Ozette Lake, Rialto Beach, Ruby Beach, and Kalaloch Beach.
  • Day 3 – Visit the Queets Rainforest and the Quinault Rainforest in the southern section of the Park.
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Lodging & Dining In Olympic National Park

There’re several lodging options in Olympic National Park, but ar often sold out during the summer months, so you must plan and reserve in advance!

There’re many lodging and dining options in Olympic National Park, including four Park lodges, 15 campgrounds, and hotels, and bread and breakfasts in the nearby towns of Forks, Port Angeles, and Sequim.

Olympic National Park Lodges: The Park offers four lodges, one open year-round and three seasonal, located inside the Park, offering easy access to several attractions and hiking trails.

  • Kalaloch Lodge: Open year-round, located in the southwest section of the Park near Kalaloch Beach. Kalaloch Lodge offers rustic cabins and rooms with great views, along with a restaurant and a gift shop. 
  • Lake Crescent Lodge: Located near Lake Crescent, Lake Crescent Lodge is a historic lodge offering rooms and cabins with spectacular views of Lake Cresent. The seasonal Lake Crescent Lodge is open outside the winter months and also offers onsite dining and boat rentals. 
  • Log Cabin Resort: The seasonal Log Cabin Resort is open only during the summer months and offers log cabins, lakefront chalets, and lake-side dining. The Log Cabin Resort is a great place to stay near Lake Crescent. 
  • Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort: Located in the Sol Duc Valley, the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort offers lodging and dining amid the lush and beautiful valley. The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is seasonal, open during summer, and can be reserved online on the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort website. 

Olympic National Park Campgrounds: There’re 15 campgrounds in Olympic National Park spread all over the Park. However, not all campgrounds are open year-round, and only a few can be reserved online. You can find the current status of the campgrounds in the Park and other details on the NPS Website

Hotels & Bread & Breakfast Near Olympic National Park: If you’re unable to get a room in one of the Park lodges, your only other option is to stay in one of the bread and breakfasts located in the nearby town of Forks, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, and Sequim.

Restaurants In Olympic National Park: The dining options in Olympic National Park are limited to the restaurants and a few cafeterias in the Park’s lodges and visitor centers. If you’re staying outside the Park, you will find a few local restaurants in the town of Port Angeles, Port Townsend, and Sequim. However, as you would spend most of the time inside Olympic National Park, I have listed the dining options offered in the Park.

  • Creekside Restaurant: The Creekside Restaurant is the only restaurant in Olympic National Park that’s open year-round. The Creekside Restaurant is located in Kalaloch Lodge on the southwest part of the Park.
  • Lake Crescent Dining Room: The seasonal dining room in the Lake Crescent Lodge serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with great views of Crescent Lake.
  • Sunnyside Cafe: Located near Crescent Lake in the Log Cabin Resort, the seasonal Sunnyside Cafe serves breakfast and dinner in a rustic setting overlooking the lake.
  • Roosevelt Dining Room: The Roosevelt Dining Room in Lake Quinault Lodge is a seasonal restaurant open for breakfast and dinner.
  • Springs Restaurant: Located in Sol Duc Hot Springs, the Springs Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a stylish setting and is open during the summer months.
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Other Washington Attractions & Related Posts

The Ultimate Travel Guide To Olympic National ParkI hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Olympic National Park, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to the Olympic National Park. You can find other Washington attractions in my Washington Travel Guide.

Happy feeding your soul!
Shreyashi

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