Olympic National Park

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Olympic National Park
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  • Olympic National Park entrance at the Kalaloch coastline.- Olympic National Park
  • Ruby Beach.- Olympic National Park
  • Rialto Beach just north of La Push.- Olympic National Park
  • The Kalaloch Big Cedar Tree (third-largest in world).- Olympic National Park
  • Giant green anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica) at the Kalaloch Beach 4 tide pools.- Olympic National Park
  • Giant green anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica) and purple sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) at the Kalaloch Beach 4 tide pools.- Olympic National Park
  • Olympic Coast just north of Hole-in-the-Wall.- Olympic National Park
  • Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on the Olympic Coast.- Olympic National Park
  • Main hall at Lake Quinault Lodge.- Olympic National Park
  • Elwha River near Goblin Gates.- Olympic National Park
  • Sea stacks at Rialto Beach en route to Hole-in-the-Wall just north of La Push.- Olympic National Park
  • Roosevelt elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti) along the Hoh River.- Olympic National Park
  • Taft Creek along the Hall of Moss Trail within the Hoh Rain Forest.- Olympic National Park
  • A moss-adorned bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) along the Hall of Moss Trail in the Hoh Rain Forest.- Olympic National Park
  • Suspension bridge crossing over the Elwha River en route to Dodge Point.- Olympic National Park
  • Old-growth temperate rainforest alongside the Hoh River.- Olympic National Park
  • Hiker making his way through the Sams River Loop Trail alongside the Queets River.- Olympic National Park
  • Lake Quinault Lodge.- Olympic National Park
  • Hiker at the base of the Quinault Giant Western Redcedar (the world's largest).- Olympic National Park
  • Wildflowers at Hurricane Ridge.- Olympic National Park
  • Wildflowers at Hurricane Ridge.- Olympic National Park
  • Mount Olympus (7,969') and a herd of mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) from the summit of Hurricane Hill (5,757').- Olympic National Park
  • Lake Crescent from Lake Crescent Lodge.- Olympic National Park
  • Main hall at Lake Crescent Lodge.- Olympic National Park
  • Lake Cresent Lodge.- Olympic National Park
  • Sol Duc Hot Springs.- Olympic National Park
  • Sol Duc Falls.- Olympic National Park
  • Camping at Fairholme Campground on the western shores of Lake Crescent.- Olympic National Park
  • View of the Olympic Mountains and Hood Canal from the summit of Mount Ellinor (5,940')- Olympic National Park
  • Marymere Falls.- Olympic National Park
  • Lake Crescent from Log Cabin Resort.- Olympic National Park
  • Suspension bridge crossing over the Skokomish River at Staircase Rapids.- Olympic National Park
  • View of the Quinault River from Pyrites Backcountry Camp.- Olympic National Park
  • The Hoh River at the Olympus Ranger Station.- Olympic National Park
  • The view into the eastern end of Seven Lakes Basin from the High Divide Trail.- Olympic National Park
  • Mount Olympus (7,979'), the highest peak in Olympic National Park, is constanly in view to the south from the High Divide Trail.- Olympic National Park
  • Hiker on the trail between Obstruction Point and Moose Lake.- Olympic National Park
  • Grand Lake, just south of Obstruction Point.- Olympic National Park
  • Tidepools at Kalaloch Beach 4.- Olympic National Park
  • Second Beach just south of La Push.- Olympic National Park
  • View south of the Olympic Mountains from Hurricane Ridge.- Olympic National Park
  • Starry night at Royal Lake.- Olympic National Park
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Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Home to 4 distinct bioregions. Wettest place in lower 48 states. 2 historic lodges.
Cons: 
Extemely rainy in winter and spring. Park interior difficult to access.
Region:
Western Olympic Peninsula, WA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
National Park Pass
Picnic Tables: 
Yes
Area: 
922,650.00 acres (373,384.46 hectares)
Dogs allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions

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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Team

Verdant, jagged, wind-scoured, wave-worn, sandy, glaciated, saturated, and above all, absolutely stunning, Olympic National Park sits at the northwestern tip of the contiguous United States like a portal. Move back in time and walk beside gnarled giants through a stand of old-growth cedar and hemlock; stand with a thumping heart and burning legs on an alpine ridge overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca; sink into miles of sand as you pack your way around tide pools, sea stacks, and petroglyphs. The variety of this national park is astounding, and those who have the patience and the diligence to explore any portion of the nearly 1 million acres of wild area will find moving natural experiences everywhere.

First recognized as a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt as early as 1909, it was President Franklin Roosevelt who established the area as Olympic National Park in 1938. This essential protection definitively resolved the rancorous contest between the Forest Service, which represented the logging interests in the area, and tourists and environmentalists who saw this section of the Olympic Peninsula as a timeless gift. In one account of President Franklin Roosevelt's historic tour that led to the park's designation, the Forest Service actually moved signs to disguise the fact that clearcuts were afoot on federal land; the ruse was discovered later. The national park designation arrested a management strategy based on resource extraction that would have decimated timber stands and watersheds. In contrast to this prioritization of short-term economic gains, consider that Olympic National Park was the fifth-most visited National Park in the country in 2010, or that there were 3.2 million visitors in 2014, or that since its inception, more than 154 million people have visited the park.

Ask any fan of Olympic National Park to talk about the area, and it is only a matter of time before the word "diversity" tumbles off their lips. Coastal zones, alpine zones, temperate rainforests, and dry forests in the eastern rain shadow all lie within the park's boundaries. The geology and climate of the Olympic Peninsula allow for a bioregional diversity that is unique for such a concentrated area. Unlike the volcanism that has created the Cascades, the Olympics were born on the ocean floor and rose through subduction: as an older and colder oceanic plate was forced under a newer, warmer North American plate, the upper portion of the oceanic plate was shaved off and backed up into itself as a disorganized pile of mountains. Much, much later, intense glaciation created the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north and the Puget Sound to the east. The evolution of endemic animal species such as the Olympic marmot and plant species such as the Flett's violet indicate that, with aquatic borders to the west, north, and east, an island-like ecology functioned following the ice age.

The ecology of the peninsula has also developed in conjunction with a remarkably wet climate. Moist Pacific storms blow into the wall of the Olympic Range with persistence and force, triggering enormous amounts of precipitation annually. The rivers and streams that flow from the high areas of the park swell with snowmelt and rain as they rush to the ocean or the strait, and the temperate rainforest becomes a thick, thriving biomass. While the saturated sections of the park are more well known, it's interesting to note that a good portion of the park sits in the correlating rain shadow east of the Olympic Range. Thus, while some sections west of the range may receive 150 inches of rain annually, areas east may only see 15 inches per year.

Overview Map of Olympic National Park

Olympic Coast

Second Beach. Photo by Tyson Gillard.

The famed Olympic Coast is home some of the most undeveloped stretches of coastline in the United States outside of Alaska. Of the 73 miles of coastline protected in the park, nearly 40 miles is completely undeveloped. Here, isolated and iconic stacks have eroded away from the shoreline, marine life takes hold in countless tide pools, and old-growth western redcedar and sitka spruce tower above the lonely sand. It is also home to the Quillayute National Wildlife Refuge and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. From south to north the Olympic Coast includes:

Kalaloch Coast: Stretching from Quinault Indian Reservation all the way north to Ruby Beach, the Kalaloch portion of the coast is the most developed ... a relative term for this remote section of the U.S. Notable adventures include:

Hoh River to La Push: This 17.5-mile undeveloped stretch of coastline is only accessible by foot and is broken up by sea stacks, dramatic headlands, and six backcountry campsites. Notable adventures just south of La Push include:

La Push to Ozette: You won't find any roads, gas stations or motels in this 21-mile stretch of coastline, only crabs, bald eagles, green anemones, and purple sea stars, all of which makes for excellent backpacking. Notable adventures include:

Ozette: Hosts several trails, including the popular Ozette Triangle Loop, a ranger station, several campgrounds, and it is distinguished by also being the location of Washington's second largest natural lake. Adventures include:

Ozette to Shi Shi Beach: Extremely remote, this northernmost 9-mile section adjoins the Makah Indian Reservation and features the prominent Point of the Arches. Undeveloped, this section can be through-hiked or done as a there-and-back backpacking trip.

 

Lake Quinault Rain Forest + Enchanted Valley

Fall at Pony Bridge along the Enchanted Valley Trail. Photo by Gerard Smith.

With up to 12 feet of rainfall annually, the Quinault River Valley, which opens to the Pacific Ocean in the park's southwestern corner, is home to a collection of the largest trees in the United States outside of the redwoods and sequoias of California. The valley hosts the world's largest western hemlock, Alaska yellow cedar, western redcedar (Lake Quinault Big Cedar), and sitka spruce (Quinault Giant Sitka Spruce), and it has a Douglas fir which ties for world's largest. Simply put, things in this very wet temperate climate grow very well, and with the exception of a few summer months, any visitor should expect plenty of rainfall. Many of the valley's exceptional attractions that lie on the lake's southern shore are technically outside the protection of the national park, but they are no less worthy of a visit. Additional adventures include:

 

Queets + Hoh Rain Forest

Hoh River Rainforest near the visitor center. Photo by Tyson Gillard.

No place in the lower 48 states is wetter than the three main river valleys of the Olympic Mountain's western slope: the Quinault River, Queets River, and Hoh River Valley. In fact, temperate vegetation thrives so well in this moist climate that these three valleys are home to some of the densest forests in the world in terms of biomass. Not only will you find massive conifers, you'll also find the most diverse collection of moss species in the world. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the easily accessible hikes in the Hoh Rain Forest. Far less touted than the Hoh, the Queets River Valley is one of the park's most remote and least visited areas. Difficult to access, the Queets River Valley is well worth a visit, particularly if you like to avoid crowds. It's also home to one of the world's largest Douglas firs (tied with the one off of the Gatton Creek Falls Loop). Notable adventures include:

 

Sol Duc River Valley

Sol Duc Fall. Photo by Tyson Gillard.

Flowing from the northwest corner of the Olympic Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, the Sol Duc River has been a popular travel destination ever since early settlers discovered the hot springs deep in the valley in the early 1880s. Today the hot springs are completely developed, but they still draw visitors from afar, and they're still definitely worth a relaxing soak. The Sol Duc area is also one of the park's best gateways into the pristine alpine ecosystem. Notable adventures include:

 

Lake Crescent Area

Docks along the shoreline of Lake Crescent at Log Cabin Resort. Photo by Tyson Gillard.

With a depth of 624 feet, Lake Crescent is Washington's second deepest lake after Lake Chelan, and it is also one of the park's most popular recreation areas. Attractions abound around the entire perimeter of this glacially-carved lake, and mountain peaks rise as much as 4,000 feet above the water. Most notably, the historic Lake Crescent Lodge on the lake's southeast shore serves as the starting point for many visitor excursions. Key adventures in the area include:

 

Elwha River Valley

Elwha River looking north. Photo by Tyson Gillard.

The Elwha River was brought into the national limelight with the removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams that lasted from 2011 through 2014. This removal was both a historic milestone for environmental protection and the largest dam removal project ever. The project received more attention after the release of the documentary DamNation. Flowing north from deep in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Elwha River originally attracted environmental attention because it provides spawning grounds for all five species of Pacific salmon (chinook, coho, chum, sockeye, and pink). An adventure into the Elwha River Valley is an opportunity to experience true wilderness. Notable adventures in the area include:

  • Happy Lake Ridge Trail Loop (15.6-mile loop, 3,900-foot elevation gain)
  • Boulder Hot Springs (also known as Olympic Hot Springs, 4.8 miles there-and-back)
  • Madison Falls
  • Cascade Rock Interpretive Trail (4.2 miles there-and-back, 1,300-foot elevation gain)
  • West Elwha Trail Hike (5.6 miles there-and-back)
  • Griff Creek Trail (5.8 miles there-and-back, 2,900-foot elevation gain)
  • Wolf Creek Trail to Hurricane Ridge (16 miles there-and-back, 3,900-foot elevation gain)
  • Elwha River Trail + Goblin Gates Loop Hike (6.2-mile loop, 720-foot elevation gain)
  • Dodger Point Lookout Tower Backpacking (28 miles there-and-back, 4,980-foot elevation gain)
  • Elwha River Trail to Hayes River Backpacking (32 miles there-and-back)
  • Campgrounds: Elwha Campground and Altair Campground

 

Hurricane Ridge Area

View of Mount Olympus from Hurricane Hill with mountain goats in the foreground. Photo by Tyson Gillard.

Olympic National Park's most popular destination, Hurricane Ridge is perched nearly 4,000 feet above the Elwha River and commands 360-degree views of the entire Olympic Mountain Range, including 7,980-foot Mount Olympus. At 5,200 feet, visitors to Hurricane Ridge can experience a stunning subalpine wilderness without the arduous planning and sweat of a multi-mile hike. The fact that you can essentially drive to the top of a mountain is indeed what makes the Hurricane Ridge area so attractive, but is also what can produce overwhelming crowds during the summer months. The access road is open year round, making the area popular for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, though winter access is only from 9 a.m. to dusk on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holiday Mondays. Great adventures in the area include:

 

Deer Park

View looking northeast toward Mount Baker (10,781') from the summit of Blue Mountain. Photo by Brent Uhrig.

Ideally, Deer Park is a quieter and higher version of the crowd-filled Hurricane Ridge Area. Here, Deer Park Road leads to subalpine 6,010-foot Blue Mountain, which was once home to a rope-tow ski area. Adventures include:

 

Eastern Valleys + Hood Canal Area

Lena Lake in the Hamma Hamma River Valley. Photo by Tyson Gillard.

With few accommodations and roadside attractions, the deep eastern river valleys of Olympic National Park are relatively calm in comparison to other parts of the park, making them a backpackers paradise. Here, Cameron Creek, Royal Creek, Gray Wolf River, and Dungeness River flow into Dungeness Bay, while Dosewallips River, Duckabush River and the Hamma Hamma River flow gently into the Puget Sound's Hood Canal. The east side also contains the Buckhorn, Brothers Wilderness Area and the Mount Skokomish Wilderness Area, both of which lie just outside the park boundaries but are no less rugged or worthy of exploration. Popular treks from north to south include:

  • Cameron Pass via Cameron Creek (36 miles there-and-back, 4,000-foot elevation gain)
  • Gray Wolf Pass via Gray Wolf River (36 miles there-and-back, 3,980-foot elevation gain)
  • Royal Lake Hike + Ski Basin Tour (16 miles there-and-back, 2,650-foot elevation gain)
  • Mount Townsend (8.0 miles there-and-back, 3,010-foot elevation gain)
  • Buckhorn Mountain (mountaineering)
  • Marmot Pass via Upper Big Quilcene River Trail (11.5 miles there-and-back, 3,490-foot elevation gain)
  • West Fork Dosewallips River to Anderson Pass (32 miles there-and-back, 3,860-foot elevation gain)
  • Duckabush River to Ten Mile Camp (20 miles there-and-back, 1,000-foot elevation gain)
  • Marmot,Hart Lake + Lake LaCrosse (42 miles there-and-back, 4,460-foot elevation gain) 
  • Lena Lake Hike (6.0 miles there-and-back, 1,100-foot elevation gain)
  • Upper Lena Lake (14.0 miles there-and-back, 3,900-foot elevation gain)
  • Mount Stone (7.2 miles there-and-back, 5,010-foot elevation gain)
  • Mildred Lakes Hike (9.0 miles there-and-back, 2,300-foot elevation gain)
  • Jefferson Ridge Hike (3.2 miles there-and-back, 1,530-foot elevation gain)
  • Campgrounds: Dungeness Forks Campground, Elkhorn Campground, Collins Campground, Hamma Hamma Campground, and Lena Creek Campground
  • Overflow Campgrounds: Sequim Bay State Park Campground, Falls View Campground, Seal Rock Campground, Dosewallips State Park Campground
  • Lodging: Hamma Hamma Guard Station

 

Staircase + Hood Canal Area

View north from the summit of Mount Ellinor. Photo by Tyson Gillard.

According to the National Park Service, "this area was first called the staircase in the 1890 diaries of the O'Neil Expedition. A 'staircase' was the only possible route up certain slopes." His route took him up the Skokomish River, over First Divide, down into the Duckabush Basin, and west over Marmot Lake and back down into the Quinault River Valley. Here, on the far northwest end of Lake Cushman, visitors can follow O'Neil's historic footsteps into a deep river valley and climb switchback trails to subalpine lakes. Notable adventures include:

Campgrounds in Detail

To get a complete overview of all the camping on the peninsula, view our Complete Guide to Camping in Olympic National Park.

Backpacking, Shuttles + Climbing Mount Olympus

Wilderness Camping Permits are required for all overnight backcountry adventures and should be reserved and purchased well in advance of your trip. However, 30% of all campsite permits are kept aside for same-day purchase. They are sold on a first-come, first-served basis for last-minute planners. Permits can be purchased and picked up at the following ranger stations:

  • Olympic National Park Visitor Center, Port Angeles, 360.565.3100
  • Lake Quinault Forest Service Ranger Station, 360.288.0232
  • Staircase Ranger Station, 360.877.5569

Due to the extensive length of so many hikes within the park, shuttling is often necessary. If you don't have two cars, you can hire shuttles to drop you off at your trailhead so that you can pick up your car at your end destination. All Points Charters & Tours offers shuttle services for hikers at roughly $150 for six people. Call 360.460.7131 for details.

Mount Olympus is accessed via the Hoh River Ranger Station, and it is a 15.1-mile hike to Elk Lake Camp and an additional 2.3 miles to Glacier Meadow Camp (base camp). From Glacier Meadow it is 5 miles and 3,800 feet of elevation gain to the summit (West Peak). Special climbing permits are not required, but Wilderness Camping Permits for both camps should be reserved well in advance.

Dogs + Pets

Dogs and pets are permitted within the park's developed areas and within all established campgrounds, but they must be kept on leashes at all times. Dogs are not permitted, however, on any of the trails or any undeveloped areas.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(23 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(64 within a 30 mile radius)

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