If you’re planning a trip to Olympic National Park and don’t know where to begin, this guide is for you!
Located in one of the most environmentally diverse landscapes in the United States, Olympic National Park offers mountains, rainforests, coastlines, and lakes spread across nearly 1,500 square miles.
But with so much ground to cover and beautiful landscapes to see, how do you prioritize your time in this unique national park?
This guide covers the best things to do in Olympic National Park, plus tips for your trip, including off-the-beaten-path ideas to avoid crowds! Plus, I’m sharing tips on how many days you need, when to visit, and where to stay.
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Olympic National Park At-A-Glance
Before diving in, here are a few highlights to help you plan your trip:
- Best Time to Visit: July to September is the best time to visit when all roads are open and rain is minimal. Higher elevation areas like Hurricane Ridge are typically only open from mid-June to October.
- Where to Stay: The most conveniently located lodges in Olympic National Park are Lake Crescent Lodge and Kalaloch Lodge. If you want to stay outside the park, consider staying at the Olympic Lodge or the Woodlands Inn.
- How to Get There: The closest airport is in Seattle, 2 to 3 hours away. Use Expedia to browse flights and find the best price.
- How to Get Around: My favorite way to see Washington is by campervan. I had a fantastic experience renting a luxury campervan through Noma Vans on Outdoorsy. You can also easily get around by car. I recommend using Expedia to browse for deals.
- Don’t Forget: Be sure to get an America the Beautiful National Park Pass ahead of time. This $80 pass is valid for 12 months and gets you into all 400+ national park sites (including all 3 Washington parks).
Best Things to Do in Northern Olympic National Park
The northern part of the park is the most accessible area to reach from Seattle. In the north part of the park, you’ll find two popular regions: Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent.
Hurricane Ridge is home to alpine landscapes and incredible mountain views. However, due to its high elevation, Hurricane Ridge Road is closed most of the winter, and trails are cleared of snow in June.
Therefore, it’s best to visit this area in the summer.
Lake Crescent is a mix of temperate rainforests, forested mountains, and flowing waterfalls.
1. Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge is one of the most spectacular landscapes in Olympic National Park, providing unparalleled views of the Olympics.
Located about 17 miles away from Port Angeles (and 6,000 feet above!), this alpine region of the park is best visited in mid-to-late summer when trails are snow-free, and wildflowers are blooming.
Start your time in Hurricane Ridge with a trip to Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.
Then, if you’re looking for great views without much hiking, check out the Cirque Rim trail for views of Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca or the Big Meadow trail for pictures of the Olympic Mountains.
The views are also great from the parking lot and visitor center!
Hurricane Hill is one of the best hikes in the Hurricane Ridge region. This trail starts at the end of Hurricane Ridge Road past the visitor center. This moderate hike offers incredible views of the tallest peaks in Olympic National Park.
On a clear day, you can even see Vancouver Island and Mount Baker to the north!
Other more challenging hikes in this region include the Klahhane Ridge or Mount Angeles trails.
Read More: 21 Best Hikes in Olympic National Park
2. Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent was formed thousands of years ago, carved out by glaciers and ice sheets. The bright blue lake is 624 feet deep, with spots where you can see 60 feet deep into the water!
One of the best ways to explore Lake Crescent is on a kayak or from the shores of the boat dock. You can walk through the dense forest on the Moments in Time loop for a peaceful retreat.
The Lake Crescent Lodge is the highlight of this area. The beautiful lodge features hotel rooms as well as separate cottages and cabins. Visitors can also enjoy the gift shop, dining room, and bar while taking in the views overlooking Lake Crescent.
3. Mount Storm King
Mount Storm King is one of the scariest and most challenging yet rewarding hikes in Olympic National Park! During only 4 miles, the trail features 2,000 feet of steep switchbacks and a series of rope scrambles with sharp cliff drop-offs.
Starting from the Storm King Ranger Station, the trail follows forested switchbacks with nearly 20% elevation grade for 2 miles. The trail’s end requires a steep scramble along a cliff edge with ropes.
Unfortunately, the National Park Service does not maintain this part of the trail!
But if you’re up for the adventure, aren’t scared of heights, and have sturdy hiking shoes, Mount Storm King provides the absolute best aerial views of Lake Crescent and the surrounding mountain range!
Read More: Best Tips for Hiking Mount Storm King
4. Marymere Falls
Marymere Falls is a famous waterfall in Olympic National Park near Lake Crescent. This tall, narrow fall cascades nearly 100 feet over a lush green cliff.
The waterfall can be reached on a short 2-mile hike from the Storm King Ranger Station off Highway 101.
There’s some slight elevation gain as you reach the viewpoint of Marymere Falls. However, most of the trail winds through a flat, fern and spruce-filled forest.
5. Obstruction Point Trail
If you’re looking for a challenging but stunning hike through the Hurricane Ridge region of Olympic National Park, don’t miss the Obstruction Point Trail to Deer Park.
This route provides mountain views, plenty of wildlife, and peaceful alpine lakes.
The trail starts at the end of Obstruction Point Road at the Obstruction Point Trailhead. The hike climbs more than 3,200 feet of elevation and is 14 miles roundtrip, so it’s not for the faint of heart.
This alpine trail is the highest in Olympic National Park and is an incredible adventure. However, due to the high elevation, the trial is only open from July to October.
6. Spruce Railroad Trail
Don’t miss the Spruce Railroad Trail to explore without crowds.
This redeveloped railroad path snakes along Lake Crescent and provides incredible lake and mountain views! The Spruce Railroad Trail is excellent for both bicycling and hiking.
Bicycles can enjoy the paved 10-mile roundtrip trail with beautiful views of Lake Crescent and its surrounding mountains.
For hikers, make the short trip to Devil’s Punchbowl, following the Spruce Railroad Trail from East Beach Road for about 1 mile. This unique area features incredible teal-blue water and a picturesque pedestrian bridge overlooking Lake Crescent.
7. Stargazing at Hurricane Ridge
Olympic National Park has incredibly dark skies thanks to the limited population and light pollution on the Olympic Peninsula.
As a result, the skies are exceptionally dark in Hurricane Ridge, one of the best places to stargaze in Olympic National Park.
After a day of exploring Olympic National Park, head up to Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center to take in the night sky. You may even be able to spot the milky way, best seen in July or August.
8. Kayaking or Paddleboarding on Lake Crescent
Taking a boat out on Lake Crescent is an excellent way to rest your legs after days of hiking and see the park from a new angle. Lake Crescent’s deep but clear waters provide incredible visibility.
Plus, the surrounding mountains make for impressive views.
Canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards are available at Lake Crescent Lodge and Log Cabin Resort. They can be rented in 4 or 8-hour increments. Read more about boat rentals on Lake Crescent.
9. Dungeness Spit Wildlife Refuge
While not technically part of Olympic National Park, the Dungeness Spit Wildlife Refuge is worth a fit. You’ll find this park in the northeastern part of the Olympic Peninsula, about 30 minutes from Port Angeles.
A short 0.5-mile hike takes you through a forested area to the beach, jutting into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Here, you can enjoy coastline views, try birdwatching, and look out for coastal wildlife protected by this area.
10. Bike the Olympic Discovery Trail
If you prefer to see Olympic National Park by biking instead of hiking, don’t miss the Olympic Discovery Trail. This trail is one of Washington’s best bicycle-friendly recreation areas and an excellent way to see the Olympic Peninsula.
The trail starts in Port Townsend and ends at the Pacific Ocean at La Push, about 135 miles of trails in total. The Olympic Discovery Trail winds in and out of Olympic National Park.
Along the way, it passes through towns like Sequim, Port Angeles, and Forks. You don’t have to bike the entire trail to enjoy it. Instead, pick a section to explore.
Best Things to Do Along the Pacific Coast in Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is home to 60 miles of rugged Pacific Ocean coastline! With scenic beaches and coastal hikes, this region is a must-see!
Visiting the Olympic National Park beaches at sunset is breathtaking as the sun disappears into the Pacific horizon.
11. Rialto Beach & Hole in the Wall
Rialto Beach is one of the most stunning beaches in Olympic National Park, particularly at sunset. The best way to explore Rialto Beach is by hiking down the beach to Hole-in-the-Wall.
Hole-in-the-Wall is a famous rock formation that appears as a window opening in the rock wall. The 3.5-mile roundtrip hike to get there features incredible ocean views and stunning rocky landscapes.
If you stick around for sunset, the sky turns a fiery red, lighting the Pacific coastline in a beautiful golden glow.
It is easiest to hike this trail at low tide on the packed-down sand. However, the path becomes inaccessible at high tide, so check the tide tables posted in the parking area before you hike.
12. Ruby Beach
Ruby Beach is a popular destination in Olympic National Park’s coastal region. This beach is easily accessible from Highway 101, making it a convenient stop on your Olympic itinerary.
The beach gets its name from the ruby-colored sand found here. You’ll follow a short 1-mile roundtrip trail from the parking lot. The beach is filled with sea stacks and driftwood, perfect examples of the rugged coastal landscape.
Ruby Beach is also a popular place to see the sunset!
13. La Push Beaches
The La Push area is famous for its three beaches: First Beach, Second Beach, and Third Beach. This area is part of the Quileute Reservation and is a short distance from Forks.
First Beach is a drive-up overlook point, while Second and Third Beach require hiking through forested areas to reach the beach. The Third Beach hike is a bit longer and more challenging, so Second Beach Trail is the best option for those looking for a more leisurely day hike.
Second Beach is one of the best beaches in Olympic National Park. To reach this beach, you’ll hike about a mile through a heavily wooded area before descending steep stairs to the beach.
14. Kalaloch Beach and the Tree of Life
Kalaloch Beach is another incredible Pacific Coast beach in the park’s southern part near Ruby Beach and Kalaloch Lodge.
While there are several Kalaloch beaches, the best one is Kalaloch Beach 4, which requires a short hike. This beach is home to a rocky shoreline, driftwood, low-hanging fog, and plenty of birds and marine wildlife.
Another popular Kalaloch attraction is the Tree of Life. This Giant Sitka Spruce is hundreds of years old, suspended between two rocky cliffs. It’s genuinely gravity-defying with its root system on full display. You can reach the Tree of Life from Kalaloch Campground.
15. Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery is the northernmost point in the contiguous United Station, located at the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula.
A visit here requires an hour’s detour from Highway 101 each way, so I only recommend the trip if you have several days in the park.
From the Cape Flattery parking area, you’ll follow a 1.5-mile roundtrip trail through a forested area to a rocky coastal overlook. From the final viewpoint, you can view the teal blue ocean and the Cape Flattery Lighthouse.
Before heading out to the trailhead, you’ll need to secure a Makah Reservation permit which can be purchased at several stores in Neah Bay.
16. Shi Shi Beach and Point of Arches
Shi Shi Beach is an incredibly remote beach near Olympic National Park. It’s located on the Makah Reservation in the northwestern part of the peninsula. Before visiting, you’ll need a permit from the Makah tribe.
The trail follows a jungle path to the coastline, then follows the shoreline for a few miles. The beach is scattered with rock formations like Point of Arches and tide pools.
Shi Shi Beach is often a one-night backpacking trip, with hikers camping on the beach (which requires a wilderness camping permit).
17. Ozette Triangle Loop
The Ozette Triangle Loop is an excellent option for a moderate but long hike without much elevation gain. The trail starts at the Ozette Ranger Station along the northern Pacific Coast.
As the name implies, the trail forms a triangle-shaped loop, crossing wetlands, forests, and rugged shorelines. With such varied terrains, this hike is an excellent sampler of all Olympic National Park’s coastal region offers.
You can also make this hike a backpacking trip with several backcountry campgrounds. However, backcountry camping requires a special permit.
18. Whale Watching on Kalaloch Beach
If you’re interested in sighting whales, don’t miss a visit to the Whale Trail Station on Kalaloch Beach. Here you can find information on the best areas for spotting whales and learning more about their migration patterns.
The best times to spot whales along the Pacific Coast are April to May or October to November.
Don’t forget to bring your binoculars to get a closer look. You can also rent binoculars at the nearby ranger station.
Best Things to Do in Olympic National Park’s Rainforests
Olympic National Park is famous for the temperature rainforests found here. These delicate landscapes are home to old-growth trees only on the US west coast, Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Of Olympic’s rainforests, Hoh Rain Forest is the most visited. At the same time, Sol Duc Valley provides similar landscapes but with fewer great trails and crowds.
19. Hoh Rain Forest
Hoh Rain Forest is the most visited of the Olympic’s signature temperature rainforests. Hoh Rain Forest gets around 150 inches of rain each year, feeding the lush, green, mossy environment.
Start your visit to this famous region with a stop at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. Arrive before 8 AM to avoid crowds and summer humidity. You can talk to park rangers at the visitor center, check out the exhibits, stamp your national park passport, or stock up on souvenirs.
The most popular hike in Hoh Rain Forest is the Hall of Mosses Trail. This trail guides you through the Hoh Rain Forest on a 1-mile well-maintained path. You’ll learn about the fragile temperate rainforest ecosystem and see plentiful moss-covered trees.
After Hall of Mosses, hike the Spruce Nature Trail. These two trails compare the younger trees on the Spruce Nature Trail and the older-growth Hall of Mosses rainforest.
If you’re looking for a less crowded part of Hoh Rain Forest, consider hiking the Hoh River Trail instead.
Read More: 21 Best Hikes in Olympic National Park
20. See Roosevelt Elk in Hoh Rain Forest
The Roosevelt Elk get their name from President Theodore Roosevelt and are one of North America’s largest elk types. Some Roosevelt Elk weighs over 1,000 pounds!
One of the best places in Olympic National Park to spot Roosevelt Elk is Hoh Rain Forest. Keep your eyes peeled as you follow the trails through this part of the park, particularly along the Hoh River.
21. Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc Falls is one of the more impressive waterfalls in Olympic National Park. Located deep in the Sol Duc Valley, the trail features dense greenery and lush temperate rainforests.
The trailhead is at the end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, only a few miles from the famed Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort.
Before reaching the waterfall, you’ll cross a wooden bridge over a smaller, soothing cascade with moss-covered rocks.
Only a short distance further, Sol Duc Falls is a picturesque waterfall where four falls converge into a mossy slot canyon. This waterfall is truly one of the most unique in Washington state!
22. Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort
If you want to relax after plenty of hiking in Olympic National Park, take a trip to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. This national park lodge has three mineral hot springs and one freshwater pool.
The pools are open from Spring through Fall, closing on October 31. A soak in the hot springs is on a first-come, first-served basis for a 1.5-hour session. Read more about visiting Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort.
Best Things to Do in Olympic National Park Without Crowds
Suppose you’re looking to escape the crowds in Olympic National Park. In that case, you can visit less popular areas like the Staircase and Quinault Rain Forest or venture into the backcountry.
23. Staircase Rapids Loop
The Staircase Rapids Loop is the perfect off-the-beaten-path destination in the Staircase region. The trail contains waterfalls, rivers, mountain views, and lush old-growth forests.
The hike follows the Skokomish River through an old-growth section of rainforest. Halfway through the walk, you’ll cross a recently replaced suspension bridge, a beautiful piece of engineering in this serene landscape.
24. Lake Quinault
Lake Quinault and the nearby Quinault Rain Forest are the perfect off-the-beaten-path destinations in the southwestern part of the peninsula.
The Quinault Loop Trail is the best hike in the Quinault Rain Forest. The trail takes you through the old-growth forest, with excellent educational signs teaching you about the plant life and wildlife found in the region.
After the short hike through the Quinault Rain Forest, head to Lake Quinault Lodge, built in 1926, for beautiful views of Lake Quinault, especially at sunset and golden hour!
25. High Divide / Seven Lakes Basin Loop
The High Divide and Seven Lakes Basin Loop is an excellent backpacking trail through the subalpine Pacific Northwest, with rainforest and alpine landscapes. The 19-mile hike is best done over several days.
The multi-day hike starts at Sol Duc Falls before continuing into the Seven Lakes Basin, named for the number of lakes found here. Next, the trail climbs through the Olympic mountains, reaching the summit of Bogachiel Peak. Finally, you can see Mount Olympus and Blue Glacier on a clear day.
26. Enchanted Valley
The Enchanted Valley is another epic backpacking trail through Olympic National Park’s wilderness. The path guides you through an old-growth forest to the historic Enchanted Valley Chalet.
The trail’s final viewpoint of the chalet is impressive. Waterfalls cascade down the towering Olympics, making this view picturesque.
The Enchanted Valley trail provides an excellent chance to see bears, elk, deer, and mountain lions.
27. Mount Ellinor
If you’re looking for a challenging hike, consider the Mount Ellinor Trail! You can see Mount Rainier and Mount Baker from the summit on a clear day!
There are multiple ways to reach Mount Ellinor. The best route is the Lower Trail which isn’t quite as steep. The Lower Route follows switchbacks through the forest and provides beautiful mountain views.
How many days should you spend in Olympic National Park?
You need at least three days in Olympic National Park to see the highlights. These three days are best broken down with one day on the Pacific Coast and Hoh Rain Forest, one day in Crescent Lake, and one day in Hurricane Ridge.
- If you only have one day: Visit Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent, and hike Marymere Falls or Mount Storm King.
- If you have two days: Add a day along the coast visiting the La Push Beaches and Rialto Beach, plus Hoh Rain Forest.
- If you have three days: Add a trip to Sol Duc Falls near Lake Crescent and continue to the southern coast, visiting Ruby Beach and Kalaloch Beach.
- If you have 4+ days: Consider visiting some less frequented attractions, such as Cape Flattery, Quinault Rain Forest, Lake Quinault, Shi Shi Beach, or the Staircase.
How to Get to Olympic National Park
Most visitors visit Olympic National Park as a weekend trip from Seattle or on a road trip to the 3 Washington national parks.
There are two great ways to reach Olympic National Park from Seattle:
- Take the ferry. The Bainbridge Island Ferry or Kingston Fast Ferry is the best option from Seattle. The ferry is slightly faster and saves gas and car mileage but is more expensive.
- Drive around the peninsula. The other option is driving around Puget Sound and up the peninsula. Driving is the best option if you’re visiting the coastal or southern regions of the park.
When is the best time to visit Olympic National Park?
The best time to visit Olympic National Park is late spring through fall. The weather is warmer and drier compared to the rainy winter and early spring months.
However, this is also when the park is most crowded, particularly in summer.
Here’s what to expect when visiting Olympic National Park each season:
- Spring – Like many areas, spring has cooler and milder temperatures and more unpredictable weather. Spring also brings rainy weather to the rainforests, averaging 10 inches of rain per month. Higher elevations, like Hurricane Ridge, are still closed this time of year as snow continues to fall until June.
- Summer – This is the driest and sunniest time, perfect for hiking. However, it’s popular, so expect crowded trails in Hoh Rainforest and Hurricane Ridge. Temperatures vary by region, with higher elevations remaining cooler. Hurricane Ridge Road typically opens in early June.
- Fall – Temperatures drop by mid-September, and rainfall picks up again in October. Early September after Labor Day can be an excellent time to visit to avoid summer crowds but still enjoy warmer hiking weather. Road closures at higher elevations usually start in October.
- Winter – This is the coldest and least visited time of year, with many areas covered in snow or soaked in the rain. Higher elevations stay below freezing, with lower-elevation beaches and rainforests in the 40s or 50s. Hoh Rainforest averages nearly 20 inches of rain per month. You’re rewarded with crowd-free hiking trails if you can brave the conditions.
Where to Stay Near Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park has several lodges and campgrounds inside the park. In addition, there are plenty of hotel options in nearby towns outside the park boundaries.
This interactive map can help you search all the available hotels and rental properties near Olympic National Park! Simply scroll and click the map below to see what is available!
If you’re spending time in the northern part of the park at Lake Crescent, Sol Duc Valley, or Hurricane Ridge, consider staying at these lodges inside the park or in nearby Port Angeles.
- Lake Crescent Lodge is a quaint hotel with a restaurant in the Lake Crescent area.
- Log Cabin Resort has cabins and an RV park in the Lake Crescent area.
- Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is a rustic resort with relaxing hot springs in Sol Duc Valley.
- Sea Cliff Gardens Bed & Breakfast is a quaint bed and breakfast offering exceptional breakfast and spa-style suites.
- Olympic Lodge is a beautiful cozy lodge including an outdoor pool and fitness center.
If you’re visiting the Pacific Coast or Hoh Rain Forest, consider staying at these lodges or in the nearby town of Forks:
- Kalaloch Lodge is a beachfront lodge in the southern coastal area.
- Lake Quinault Lodge is a historic Victorian lodge in the southern part of the park on Lake Quinault.
- Quillayute River Resort features suites with views overlooking the Quillayute River.
- Pacific Inn Motel features budget-friendly motel rooms close to restaurants.
- Woodland Inns has a dozen cabins with full kitchens, fireplaces, and private patios.
- Misty Valley Inn is a bed and breakfast with five rooms offering a full breakfast daily.
Top Tips for Visiting Olympic National Park
- Get the America the Beautiful National Park Pass. If you plan on visiting other national parks in the next 12 months, you’ll save money with a national park pass. Get the America the Beautiful Pass for only $80.
- Pack layers. While the rainforests can be milder and more humid, higher elevation areas like Hurricane Ridge are much colder, even in the summer. I recommend a fleece pullover and a rain jacket.
- Download maps and trip details offline. Much of Olympic National Park does not have cell phone service. Download Google Maps for the region offline ahead of time. Offline maps will ensure you can navigate even without cell phone service.
- Fill up on gas before leaving Port Angeles or Forks. There are no gas stations between Port Angeles and Forks. When driving from the northern part of Olympic to the coastline, fill up on gas beforehand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Olympic National Park worth going to?
Olympic National Park is a diverse national park offering some unique landscapes in the United States, and it is worth going to. Here you’ll find temperate rainforests, alpine mountain ranges and lakes, and a rugged Pacific Coastline, all within a short drive on the Olympic Peninsula.
What do people do in Olympic National Park?
There are limitless things to do in Olympic National Park. If you want to see the highlights, don’t miss Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, Marymere Falls, Hoh Rain Forest, La Push, and Rialto Beach.
How do people enjoy Olympic National Park?
The best way to enjoy Olympic National Park is with a 3-4 day trip, splitting your time between the Pacific Coast and the Lake Crescent / Hurricane Ridge areas. Stay overnight in nearby towns of Forks or Port Angeles or at one of the lodges or campgrounds inside the park.
While Olympic National Park is filled with incredible things to do, you can use this guide to prioritize your time in the park.
If you only have a few days, I recommend focusing on these top things to do in Olympic National Park:
- Hurricane Ridge
- Lake Crescent, with hikes to Mount Storm King and Marymere Falls
- Sol Duc Falls
- Rialto Beach & Hole-in-the-Wall
- Ruby Beach
- La Push Beaches
- Hoh Rain Forest
Are you looking for more ideas for your trip to Olympic National Park? Check out these posts!
- Hikes: 21 Best Hikes in Olympic
- Where to Stay: 55 Best Places to Stay in Olympic
- Mount Storm King: Ultimate Guide to Hiking Mt Storm King
- Camping: 15 Best Campgrounds in Olympic
- Nearby Parks: 3 Best National Parks in Washington State
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