Olympic National Park encompasses nearly a million acres of wilderness and offers unique ecosystems such as temperate rainforests, alpine meadows, and wild beaches.
While most visitors come to explore popular attractions such as Hurricane Ridge and Sol Duc Falls, there are plenty of hidden gems within Olympic National Park that are worth discovering.
In this article, you will get all the handy tips, hidden gems, and fun things to do to fully experience Olympic National Park.
1. Quick Facts
Area: Olympic Peninsula, Washington, USA.
Closest city: Port Angeles, Washington.
Size: 922,650 acres.
Preservation: Olympic National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve.
2. Exciting Things to Do at Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is an outdoor paradise on the Olympic Peninsula. It has almost 600 miles of trails that crisscross the park, several beautiful drives with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, and plenty of areas for picnicking and stargazing.
The area also provides stunning chances for wildlife enthusiasts. It is home to a variety of animals, including black bears, elk, mountain goats, and bald eagles. Olympic National Park is one of the most beautiful sites in the United States and should be on everyone’s bucket list.
2.1 Hike the Scenic Trails
The Olympic National Park is one of the most amazing sights in Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, and it is home to some of the most spectacular hiking trails.
There are numerous options for outdoor enthusiasts to explore this gorgeous park, including Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, Sol Duc Falls, and Mount Olympus.
2.1.1 Hurricane Ridge
Beginning at Hurricane Ridge, this 17-mile loop trail provides breathtaking vistas of the Olympic Mountains and adjacent lowlands.
Hikers may expect an elevation gain of 1,800 feet as they make their way up to the ridge’s top at 5,242 feet above sea level on this moderately challenging climb.
During the spring, you’ll see wildflowers blooming along the road. Hurricane Ridge Road has stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Hurricane Ridge Road is a popular winter destination for skiers and snowboarders due to its high elevation and excellent powder conditions. It features cross-country skiing and other water sports.
Along the road, there are various picnic spots where you may stop and enjoy a snack or lunch with friends or family while admiring the stunning nature of Olympic National Park.
2.1.2 Lake Crescent
Next up is Lake Crescent which is located just west of Port Angeles on the northern edge of Olympic National Park. Lake Crescent is located on the northern fringe of Olympic National Park, just west of Port Angeles.
This 12-mile round-trip journey takes you through old-growth forests and along gorgeous shorelines where you can swim or simply relax on a rock outcropping overlooking the lake.
The trail also goes through Marymere Falls, where you may listen to its roar before continuing on their tour around Lake Crescent.
2.1.3 Sol Duc Falls
Continue south to Sol Duc Falls, a renowned hiking destination due to its easy access and breathtaking vistas.
This 4-mile round-trip walk winds through thick old-growth forests and along the Sol Duc River before arriving at the thunderous falls, which plunge more than 100 feet into a deep pool below.
The Sol Duc Falls Trail also contains some of the most stunning wildflowers in Olympic National Park, making it a fantastic location for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.
2.1.4 Mount Olympus
Another epic spot is Mount Olympus, the highest summit in Olympic National Park sits at 7,980 feet above sea level.
This 16-mile round-trip climb is regarded as one of the most difficult in Washington State, with an elevation increase of 5,000 feet and plenty of snow even in the summer months.
Despite its difficulty, this trail will reward you with beautiful views from its summit, where you can take in wide stretches of snow-capped peaks spread out before them.
2.1.5 Hoh Rainforest
With its towering trees, moss-covered ground, and numerous fauna, the Hoh rainforest is one of the most stunning areas of Olympic National Park. If you don’t feel safe exploring on your own, you can camp at several locations throughout the rainforest or take a guided tour.
The Hoh rain forest in Olympic National Park features some of the world’s most spectacular old-growth temperate rainforests, with hundreds of years old Douglas firs, western hemlocks, and western red cedars.
The Hoh rain forest’s beautiful green mosses and lichens that grow on the trees create a stunning ambiance that feels like something out of a fairytale.
Several waterfalls should be seen, including Sol Duc Falls near the Hoh rain forest, which pours down into a deep pool below, creating an incredible sight to behold.
2.1.6 Mount Storm King
The Mount Storm King trek rises 2200 feet above sea level and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
There are various campsites to choose from, making it an ideal place for an overnight hiking trip.
2.3 Explore the Amazing Tide Pools
Exploring tide pools at Olympic National Park is a fun and relaxing way to appreciate nature’s splendor.
With its mountainous coastline, kilometers of beaches, and rich marine life, the park is one of the best areas in the country to discover tidal pools. Here are some of the best places in Olympic National Park to explore tide pools.
2.3.1 Kalaloch Beach
Kalaloch Beach, located on Washington’s Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 101), is a popular place for discovering tide pools in Olympic National Park.
The beach offers easy access to tidepools teeming with sea stars, anemones, crabs, and other species that flourish along the shore.
Bring lots of water and snacks, as well as proper clothing, if you plan on exploring during low tides when these lovely creatures will be more visible.
2.3.2 Rialto Beach
This magnificent beach on Washington’s coast is located just north of La Push and boasts a variety of interesting rock formations ideal for exploring tidal areas at low tide.
At low tide, you can find starfish, sea cucumbers, mussels, barnacles, and other sea creatures tucked away among rocks or lurking within seaweed beds.
Wear strong shoes when exploring this beach to avoid slipping on the rocks, and keep an eye out for the local bald eagles, which frequently swoop overhead.
2.3.3 Shi Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach is excellent for exploring tide pools at low tide. It is situated in the northwest part of Olympic National Park.
There are also lots of hiking paths nearby for those who wish to venture farther inland or take in some beautiful views of coastal bluffs.
2.4 Enjoy Camping
There are various campgrounds situated around the park with gorgeous views and plenty of amenities such as fire pits and picnic tables to ensure you have a relaxing day in nature. Here are some of the better camping spots.
2.4.1 Hoh Rainforest Campground
Hoh Campground provides a primitive camping experience. This basic campground has tent sites as well as group campsites that may hold up to 25 people.
It’s directly on the Hoh River’s banks, so you may enjoy a tranquil and gorgeous setting while you’re here.
2.4.2 Kalaloch Campground
With nearly 100 separate campsites, Kalaloch Campground is one of the largest in Olympic National Park.
It’s right on the beach, so you can enjoy adjacent beach activities like swimming, surfing, and beachcombing. It’s also adjacent to some fantastic hiking paths, including the Ruby Beach Trail and the Mora Beach Loop, which provide breathtaking beauty at every turn!
2.5 Go Kayaking
Take a kayak trip or rent a boat and paddle about Lake Quinault or the Sol Duc River to see the beauty of Olympic National Park from a new viewpoint.
Lake Quinault is ideal for visitors wishing for a peaceful kayak through one of the park’s old-growth forests. It has breathtaking views of Mount Olympus and the neighboring mountainsides covered in Douglas fir trees.
The lake also boasts easy-access locations, making it ideal for people who wish to spend a relaxing day on the water without having to tackle any obstacles or rapids along the way.
Sol Duc River is advised for experienced kayakers. It is a terrific choice for thrills on the water. Depending on the season, it has Class I-III rapids.
The river also offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and lush jungle, making it a great destination for a day excursion or overnight camping expedition.
2.7 Watch for Wildlife
The Hoh rainforest is a wonderful site to begin your wildlife-watching journey. There are some fantastic animals here, like Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, black bears, cougars, and even bald eagles!
The dense undergrowth provides plenty of hiding places for these animals, so keep your eyes peeled while exploring this area.
Lake Crescent is another excellent location for animal viewing. This lovely lake provides breathtaking views from its shores, as well as several possibilities to see waterfowl such as loons and grebes swimming in its waters. River otters may also be seen frolicking at the lake’s side.
2.8 Take the Scenic Drives
Hurricane Ridge Road and Obstruction Point Road are two beautiful drives in the park that provide stunning vistas and access to some fantastic hikes and attractions.
2.8.1 Obstruction Point Road
The Obstruction Point Road runs through alpine meadows and woods, offering breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains and surrounding surroundings.
Obstruction Point Road leads to several high-altitude hiking paths with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The route also leads to Mount Angeles, one of Olympic National Park’s highest peaks at 7,925 feet above sea level.
Many camping areas along Obstruction Point Road allow tourists to spend time in nature while taking in the sights.
2.9 Enjoy a Picnic Lunch
With so many beautiful places to explore in Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula, why not take advantage and enjoy a picnic lunch?
2.10 Enjoy Night Sky Moments
Olympic National Park is an incredible place for stargazing. The park is located far enough from large cities and towns to have low light pollution, making it one of the best spots in the Pacific Northwest to see stars.
The night sky is normally very clear here, and visitors may frequently identify constellations, shooting stars, and satellites without using binoculars or telescopes.
Stargazers should visit during the summer months when temperatures are lower and the skies are clearer.
Even if you’re not a skilled stargazer, Olympic National Park has a variety of educational events to assist you to become acquainted with the night sky.
2.11 Visit Historic Sites
Visit Olympic National Park’s historic landmarks, such as Lake Crescent Lodge, to travel back in time and learn about the park’s history.
The Lake Crescent Lodge historic district, located on Lake Crescent’s north shore in Port Angeles, consists of seven buildings built between 1916 and 1923. The lodge was created in the “National Park Rustic” architectural style of the National Park Service.
3. Hidden gems of Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is a gorgeous wilderness located on the Olympic Peninsula. With its lush forests, rough shoreline, and breathtaking mountains, it’s no surprise that this park is one of Washington State’s most popular tourist sites.
Here are some of Olympic National Park’s hidden gems that you should add to your itinerary.
3.1 Ozette Lake
Ozette lake offers scenic views from its shoreline walks, as well as good fishing for cutthroat trout and steelhead salmon.
Ozette Lake, located in Olympic National Park, is a huge, shallow coastal lake. It is a member of the Ozette River system and encompasses around 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares).
A narrow waterway connects the lake to the Pacific Ocean, allowing access to some of the most remote sections of Olympic National Park.
Fishing for trout, kayaking or canoeing on its calm waterways, beachcombing along its shoreline, or simply eating a picnic lunch while admiring the beauty of this unspoiled wilderness area are all popular pastimes.
3.2 Staircase Rapids Trail
The Staircase Rapids hike in Olympic National Park is a short and simple trail. This short 2-mile round-trip climb leads to a stunning set of rapids along the North Fork Skokomish River, where you can see spawning salmon at certain times of the year.
The walk begins near the Staircase campground and winds its way down an old railroad line before reaching the river.
You will be treated to sights of old-growth forests and flowing waterfalls along the road as they make their way to their destination.
3.3 Hurricane Hill Trail
The Hurricane Hill Trail is a 3.2-mile out-and-back hike in Olympic National Park. The trailhead is located at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and leads to a 1,400-foot elevation increase throughout its length.
Along the journey, you’ll see old-growth forests and stunning vistas of Mt. Olympus and other peaks in the park. On clear days, the top offers an amazing panoramic view of both Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
3.4 Spruce Nature Trail
It’s a simple, mostly flat trail that winds through old-growth forests and provides stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
The walk begins in the Heart O’ The Hills Campground and follows a brook before ascending to a meadow where you can see deer, elk, and eagles.
You’ll see enormous spruce trees, ferns, and other rich vegetation that make this place so unique. This is an excellent hike for people of all ages because it is quick but provides stunning scenery!
3.5 Blue Glacier
The blue tint of the glacier is caused by glacial ice, which absorbs all wavelengths of light except blue, which reflects out. It is one of the largest glaciers in the Pacific Northwest, with an estimated 4 billion tonnes of ice.
Because of its spectacular vistas and challenging terrain, the Blue Glacier is a popular destination for both experienced climbers and hikers.
Climbers frequently attempt to summit Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Olympic National Park, using the Blue Glacier route, while hikers use routes that run along the glacier’s edge or lead up to surrounding alpine lakes.
4. Best Places to Stay In and Near Olympic National Park
With so many amazing options available, it can be difficult to know where to begin. To make things easier, we’ve put together a list of the best places to stay in and near Olympic National Park.
4.1 Lake Crescent Lodge
Located on picturesque Lake Crescent, this historic lodge offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
The lodge features cozy cabins with fireplaces and modern amenities like Wi-Fi and complimentary breakfast.
4.2 Kalaloch Lodge
This famous resort, located directly on the beach at Kalaloch Creek, is one of the most popular places in Olympic National Park.
Guests enjoy amenities such as heated pool tables and hot tubs, as well as stunning sunsets over the Pacific Ocean from their rooms or cabins with wood-burning fireplaces.
4.3 Quileute Oceanside Resort
This gorgeous resort, located just outside Olympic National Park near La Push, offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean from its beachfront cottages or RV sites.
Guests may enjoy amenities like a heated outdoor pool and hot tub, as well as free Wi-Fi throughout the resort.
5. Best Way to Visit Olympic National Park
This stunning park is home to some of the most incredible sights and experiences that nature has to offer. Olympic National Park is a must-see destination for any outdoor enthusiast. Here’s how you can get there:
- Driving to Olympic National Park is the most suitable option. Seattle, the nearest large city, is around two hours distant from the park’s entrance.
- Take I-5 south from Seattle until you reach Olympia. Then take Highway 101 west until you reach Port Angeles, which will put you right at the park’s entrance.
- If you are unable to drive, public transit may be your best option for visiting Olympic National Park. Greyhound provides daily bus service from Seattle and other places in Washington State to Port Angeles, from which guests can take a shuttle or taxi into the park.
- If you are traveling from afar, flying may be your best option for seeing Olympic National Park. SeaTac International Airport is around two hours away from the park. From there, you can rent a car or take the bus to Port Angeles.
Olympic National Park is a spectacular natural wonder that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. With its diverse landscapes, ranging from rainforests to mountains, it provides something for everyone.
You can enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, and much more. So what are you waiting for? Add Olympic National Park to your list of places to see and start planning your trip today!
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q.1 What are other national parks like Olympic National Park?
Other national parks in the United States similar to Olympic National Park include North Cascades National Park (Washington), Glacier National Park (Montana), Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho), and Yosemite National Park (California).
Q.2 What are the best attractions on the south end of the Olympic National Forest?
Hoh rain forest, Quinault Rainforest, Ruby Beach, Lake Quinault, Kalaloch Beach, Sol Duc Falls, Marymere Falls, and Ozette Triangle Trailhead are some of the best spots on the south end of the park.
Q.3 How many visitor centers are there in Olympic National Park?
There are three visitor centers in Olympic National Park: the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles, the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles, and the Hoh rain forest Visitor Center near Forks.