Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park | Where nature is at its most awe-inspiring

Olympic National Park is easily the most diverse national park in America, hands down.

This park has everything from lowland forests, striking mountain ranges, pristine alpine lakes, sparkling rivers, temperate rain forests (the largest in the lower 48), iconic wildlife, and over 50 miles of wild coastline!

Oh, and it’s a stones throw from Seattle! Olympic National Park truly has it all and without the crowds that have become so insidious in other US national parks in recent years.

About Olympic National Park

Located in the northwestern-most corner of the lower 48 states, Olympic National Park encompasses nearly a million acres of an incredible diversity of terrain. The park is comprised of glaciated mountain peaks, old-growth temperate rain forest, lush river valleys and over seventy miles of wilderness coast – all within a day’s drive.

Wildlife abounds in Olympic with a grand array of wildlife species. Some of the most notable (or at least beloved by park-goers) include sea otters, black bears, olympic marmots, elk, deer, mountain lions, orcas, and so many more.

Facts about Olympic National Park

Location: Washington

Established: June 29, 1938

Size: 922,649.41 acres

Visitation: 2,718,925 (2024)

Things To Do: Ruby Beach, Hurricane Ridge, Hoh Rainforest

Olympic National Park History

The saving of Olympic is a story, like many other national park stories, that revolves around Roosevelts. Originally set aside by Theodore Roosevelt in 1922 as Mount Olympus National Monument, it was eventually re-designated as Olympic National Park by Teddy’s cousin, Franklin Roosevelt 15 years later in 1938.

In 1995 the majority of the park was again re-designated to the tune of 95% as wilderness (the highest level of protection the federal government offers public lands).

Entrance Fees

Each vehicle is charged with the sum of $30 OR if you plan to visit more National Parks within the next 12 months it is best you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be found at the entrance gates to most national parks). This pass gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more including 2,000 sites for free after a one time $79 fee.

Gas

Fuel up fully before you get into the park. Drive times are longer than you might assume because there are no through roads. Drive times from popular destinations can be 3+ hours apart.

Cell Service

Cell Service is spotty in the park at best so be prepared to go without. Verizon works better than AT&T.

Water

Drink it. Lots of it. Don’t forget it in the car.

Olympic National Park Weather

The weather at Olympic can be somewhat unpredictable. It is recommended you always pack a rain jacket here regardless of the forecast. It is especially rainy at the coast, even during the park’s peak summer months.

Best Time to Visit Olympic National Park

The best time to visit Olympic National Park is during summer when the entire park is open, trails are clear, and days are long. The downside to visiting Olympic in summer is crowds but there are still plenty of areas in the park where it’s just you and the natural world.

Summer sees wildflowers and marmots emerge from their winter slumbers as well.

Therefore July & August as the best months to visit the park. One thing to be weary of is wildfire season which seems to grow every year.

Olympic National Park Seasons

Spring in Olympic National Park

Spring can be a nice time to visit Olympic with lesser crowds. The road to hurricane ridge typically opens at the end of April – mid-May and is a veritable winter wonderland. Temperatures are cool to cold and higher elevation trails don’t melt out fully until the end of June / early July.

Summer in Olympic National Park

Summer is the best time of year to visit Olympic with wildflowers blooming, marmots running around, and full access to the best parts of the park. Warmer temperatures make visiting Olympic in Summer especially nice.

Wildflowers typically come into bloom toward the end of July.

Olympic National Park in the Fall

Fall in the Olympics can be surprisingly nice with beautiful fall foliage in the middle to lower elevations. Fall also brings smaller crowds as kids head back to school and vacation time fades away.

Autumn also brings rain to Olympic National Park, lots of rain. The rain forest in Olympic stays green for a reason.

Getting to Olympic National Park – Directions & Location

There are a few popular ways to get to Olympic.

Closest Airport: SEA – Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (distance – 131 miles from the Port Angeles entrance)

The fastest way to get to Olympic National Park is by plane, flying into Seattle’s Sea-Tac airport (unless you live in the Pacific Northwest, like me). Flights into Seattle usually aren’t terribly expensive as it’s a major Delta & international hub.

Alternatively you *could* fly into Portland (PDX) and drive up (4 hours) or fly into Vancouver, British Columbia (YVR) and drive down (5 hours).

Winter in Olympic National Park

Winter in Olympic is fairly dreary but some folks enjoy it well enough. The road to Hurricane Ridge closes in the fall and doesn’t open until late spring so access to the Olympic mountains is somewhat non-existent.

Most of the rest of the park is open, however rainy and grey.

Best Things to Do in Olympic National Park

Hike the Obstruction Point Trail

The Obstruction Point Trail is the most beautiful trail in Olympic. To get to the trailhead drive up the Hurricane Ridge road and then turn left at the top for Obstruction Point.

Length: 14 miles (don’t let that scare you – just hike it for a couple of miles to witness scenes like the one featured in the photo above)

Watch the Sunset from Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is beautiful any time of day (or night). This location is probably the most popular and iconic in the entire park. Perhaps no time captures it’s magic quite like sunset.

Experience the Hoh Rain Forest

The Hoh Rain Forest is the largest temperate rain forest in America. It is also the quietest place in North America.

Moss seems to drip from just about everything in this lush forest. If one is quiet enough a roaming herd of Roosevelt Elk might sneak up on you (like they have to me many times).

Soak in the Starry Night Skies

Olympic is home to some fantastic stargazing (on clear nights). I have witnessed some absolute breathtaking night skies and milky way scenes such as this one from Hurricane Ridge and elsewhere in the park.

The milky way is most visible primarily during the summer months.

Feel the Sand Between Your Toes at Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach is one of the prettiest beaches in the Pacific Northwest and my personal favorite in Olympic. While the park has many, many beaches, this one is perfectly Olympic in my estimation.

Salty bald eagles can be seen keeping watch from the tree-tops. Massive, washed up ancient trees litter the beach. Sitka spruces hold a fog layer in the trees during the morning that creates magical rays of sunlight as it burns away.

Summit Blue Mountain and Look Out at Canada

Not every day that you can bag a summit with such ease. Blue Mountain is an easy hike from Deer Park in Olympic National Park and features some of the best views in the park. On a clear day you can see clear across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to British Columbia.

Length: .5 miles round trip

Time: 30 – 45 minutes

Camp Out Next to the Queets River

To this day, Queets is one of my favorite campgrounds in the entire national park system. It’s location right off of the Queets River (some of the sites are on the river itself) and lush forest make for a dreamy camp site.

Check Out Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc is another heavily visited area that features a different looking forest and a beautiful waterfall area. The trail to Sol Duc is lovely and very popular. This wasn’t my favorite area to visit in the park but plenty of folks seem to enjoy it!

There is also a hot springs (pool) at Sol Duc along with a resort, RV Park, & campground.

Length: 3.2 miles round trip

Time: 2-3 hours

Where to Stay

Olympic has some of the most beautiful campgrounds in the world with a wide array of camping settings. In Olympic you can camp lakeside, high up in the mountains, on the beach, next to a river, next to a hot springs, in a rain forest, and more.

There are 15 campgrounds with 841 total camp sites in Olympic National Park offering tent, RV, walk-in, and back country camping.

List of Olympic National Park Campgrounds

  • Deer Park Campground
  • Dosewalips Campground
  • Fairholme Campground
  • Graves Creek Campground
  • Heart O’ the Hills Campground
  • Hoh Campground
  • Kalaloch Campground
  • Log Cabin Resort RV & Campground
  • Mora Campground
  • North Fork Campground
  • Ozette Campground
  • Queets Campground
  • Sol Duc Hot Springs RV Park & Campground
  • South Beach Campground
  • Staircase Campground

Hotels & Lodges

There are 5 lodges within Olympic National Park (technically Quinalt isn’t but it’s close enough in my book). Of these lodges, all are located at lower elevations with two being lakeside and one being riverside.

During the off-season you might be able to catch a deal at one of these sites but all in all they are fairly expensive options.

Here are favorite hotel in Olympic National Park.

  • Lake Quinalt Lodge
  • Lake Crescent Lodge
  • Kalaloch Lodge
  • Log Cabin Resort
  • Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort

 

 

Sending
User Review
0 (0 votes)