From lush and insanely saturated temperate rainforests to rugged and wave-battered coastal beaches, glaciated alpine ecosystems to wildlife-filled meadows, the Olympic Peninsula presents numerous possibilities for exploration and adventure.
The western coast of the peninsula receives up to 12 feet of rain annually, making it the wettest place in the lower 48. But don't let that dampen your plans to visit to this incredible area. The area just to the east of the mountains only receives 20 inches of rain per year.
There are hundreds of amazing hikes, campgrounds, parks, beaches, and kayaking options on the Olympic Peninsula and in Olympic National Park, but here are a few adventures that should not be overlooked.
Lose yourself in a rainforest and you'll feel like you've stepped back in time, away from civilization, surrounded by layers of awe-inspiring old-growth. The Sam's River Loop Trail in the Queets River Valley is one of the most remote portions of the area that is still accessible by road.
If you want to get in touch with your inner Lorax, you'll enjoy plethora of giant trees on the Quinault National Recreation Trail, the Sitka Nature Trail, and the Hall of Moss Trail. Don't miss the 1,000-year-old Quinault Giant Western Red Cedar, the largest of its species in the world.
If you're already in Olympic National Park, it's definitely worth a stop at Sol Duc Falls, a 50-foot waterfall in a slot canyon. Looking for something kid-friendly? The Skokomoish River Staircase Rapids Loop Trail is just the ticket.
Once you've thoroughly soaked yourself meandering in the verdant forests, give your legs and lungs a workout. Lena Lake is a short and often crowded hike, but the alpine lake offers amazing views and a few great backcountry campsites should you want to stay the night. Mount Angeles and Mount Ellinor are ideal day hikes. The High Divide Loop, Obstruction Pass to Moose Lake, and Royal Basin may be a bit ambitious for a day hike, but these are perfect backpacking destinations. All five offer amazing views of Lake Cushman, the Hood Canal, and numerous Olympic peaks including Mount Washington, Mount Pershing to the northeast, and Mount Olympus. You'll also catch glimpses of Mount Baker and Mount Rainier if the weather permits.
For more views with less effort, check out the half-mile trail to Blue Mountain Summit in Olympic National Park.
A trip to the Olympic Peninsula wouldn't be complete without a stop on the coast. You can visit Hole-in-the-Wall and camp on Rialto Beach or ponder the existence of vampires on La Push, Second Beach, a site for several scenes in the Twilight film series. You won't regret a stop to examine the marine life in the tide pools at Tongue Point in the Salt Creek Recreation Area, and if you want to get away from the crowds, drive out to Cape Flattery to catch the sunset.
After all this hiking and driving, pull up an Adirondack chair at Lake Crescent, warm your toes with a beach bonfire, and reminisce about your adventure while sipping a glass of wine, a local brew, or a nice cup of tea.
See our post on exploring the Olympic Peninsula's biodiversity to learn more about the four distinct regions and see more awesome adventure ideas.