Is Olympic National Park worth visiting? You’ve come to the right place as we talk about why you should visit (and why you maybe shouldn’t) and some of the highlights not to miss if you decide to swing by the Olympic Peninsula on your next vacation.
As frequent explorers of America’s awe-inspiring national parks, we’ve had the pleasure of spending two unforgettable days in the lush, diverse wilderness of Olympic National Park.
From the moment we embarked on this journey, we knew Olympic National Park held something unique that set it apart from the other national parks we’ve visited.
After all, it hosts an incredible variety of ecosystems, from the rugged Pacific coastline to rainforests, alpine meadows, and glacial peaks!
We understand that planning your next adventure is a decision not to be taken lightly, especially when there are so many beautiful parks, each with unique charm and attractions.
So, is Olympic National Park worth your time and energy? Based on our visit and the treasures we discovered within its boundaries, we’re inclined to say, absolutely yes!
But let’s talk about what you can expect and by the end, we hope you’ll have a clearer understanding of whether Olympic National Park is the perfect fit for you and your next adventure.
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Is Olympic National Park Worth Visiting
Let’s get into why you came. Is Olympic National Park worth visiting?
Without a shadow of a doubt, Olympic National Park is absolutely worth visiting in our opinion.
This awe-inspiring natural paradise is like no other, encompassing a wide range of ecosystems that are nothing short of mesmerizing.
Here, you can wander through the verdant Hoh Rain Forest, one of the only temperate rainforests in the northern hemisphere, and marvel at towering, moss-draped trees, a testament to the power and resilience of nature.
The park also offers the opportunity to explore the breathtaking Hurricane Ridge, with panoramic views that can make you feel as if you’re on top of the world.
The park’s coastline, with spots like Ruby Beach, provides a unique blend of forest and sea, where rugged, driftwood-littered shores meet the powerful Pacific Ocean.
And let’s not forget the multitude of outdoor activities available, from hiking and camping to wildlife viewing and photography.
The diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife make Olympic National Park a playground for nature lovers and adventurers alike.
In essence, Olympic National Park isn’t just worth visiting – it’s a must-see destination that promises an unforgettable immersion into the heart of the natural world.
9 Olympic National Park Highlights To Do During A Visit
Let’s explore nine highlights you absolutely can’t miss during your visit.
1. Hike the Hoh Rain Forest
Venture into the heart of the Hoh Rain Forest and find yourself in a world steeped in lush greenery and ethereal tranquility that’s simply mesmerizing.
This temperate rainforest is renowned for its emerald moss-draped trees and abundant ferns, creating a scene straight out of a fairy tale.
Choose from trails like the Hall of Mosses or the Hoh River Trail, each offering different perspectives of this paradise.
Take a moment to listen to the rhythmic rustling of the leaves, the echoing bird calls, and the soothing sounds of the Hoh River.
This rainforest is also home to various wildlife, including the majestic Roosevelt elk.
2. Explore Hurricane Ridge
If panoramic mountain views and alpine meadows are more your style, a trip to Hurricane Ridge is a must.
Accessible by car, this ridge offers stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The scenic drive is a treat in itself, with every turn offering postcard-worthy views.
During the summer, you’ll find the meadows awash with vibrant wildflowers, while winter brings pristine snow-covered landscapes perfect for snowshoeing and skiing.
Hurricane Ridge has several trails for hikers of all levels, each unveiling spectacular views of glacial peaks and subalpine meadows.
Wildlife is abundant here, so don’t be surprised if you cross paths with black-tailed deer, marmots, or even the occasional black bear.
Exploring Hurricane Ridge gives you a taste of Olympic National Park’s incredible elevation diversity, making it an experience not to be missed.
3. Visit Ruby Beach
Unleash your inner beachcomber and head to Ruby Beach, one of Olympic National Park’s most picturesque coastal spots.
Named for the garnet fragments that give the sand a ruby-like sparkle, this beach is characterized by rugged sea stacks, dramatic driftwood, and the mesmerizing Pacific surf.
Explore the tide pools teeming with starfish, anemones, and other marine life at low tide.
The beach also boasts a captivating view of Abbey Island, making it a fantastic spot for photography.
4. Soak in Sol Duc Hot Springs
After a day of hiking and exploring, there’s nothing more rejuvenating than a soothing soak in the Sol Duc Hot Springs.
Located in the heart of the park, these naturally heated mineral springs offer relaxation amidst a serene forest setting.
There are three hot pools of varying temperatures and one freshwater pool, allowing you to find the perfect pool to make you feel comfortable and relaxed.
While you unwind in the warm water, take a moment to appreciate the lush old-growth forest surrounding you. You might even hear the distant rush of the Sol Duc River.
5. Boat or Kayak on Lake Crescent
For those who love to be on the water, Lake Crescent offers a beautiful setting for boating, kayaking, or canoeing.
This deep, glacially carved lake is known for its clear, azure waters and breathtaking mountainous backdrop.
As you paddle along, you’ll be able to appreciate the lake’s tranquility and the surrounding lush forests in a whole new way.
On shore, you can explore the numerous trails weaving through the forest or visit the historic Lake Crescent Lodge.
6. Explore The Tide Pools At Kalaloch Beach & Rialto Beach
A trip to Olympic National Park isn’t complete without exploring the vibrant tide pools at Kalaloch Beach and Rialto Beach.
Tide pools offer an intimate look at the marine life usually hidden beneath the waves. It’s like peering into a living aquarium, from colorful starfish and sea anemones to crabs and various mollusks.
Remember, tide pools are delicate ecosystems, so tread lightly and never remove any creatures.
While each beach has its own charm, they both share the breathtaking backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and the dramatic coastal forest.
7. Stroll Through The Quinault Rain Forest
If the Hoh Rain Forest enchants you, you’ll also fall in love with the Quinault Rain Forest.
Nestled around the serene Lake Quinault, this temperate rainforest is a haven of lush vegetation, from towering Sitka spruces to vibrant ferns and mosses.
The Maple Glade Rain Forest Nature Trail is an easy loop that lets you witness this enchanting world up close.
Don’t forget to explore the Lake Quinault area, where you can find charming lodges and campgrounds.
8. Take A Self-Guided Wildlife Tour In Elwha Valley
For wildlife enthusiasts, the Elwha Valley is a must-visit.
This valley is undergoing a remarkable transformation following the removal of two dams, making it a fascinating spot for wildlife observation.
Various trails wind through the valley, each offering a chance to spot different species of animals in their natural habitat.
Be on the lookout for black bears, deer, and a host of bird species, among other wildlife.
Don’t forget to take a detour to Madison Falls, a charming waterfall just a short walk from the parking area.
9. Visit Shi Shi Beach And Point Of Arches
Last but definitely not least, make sure you visit Shi Shi Beach and the iconic Point of Arches.
This secluded beach is a bit of a trek, but trust us, the journey is worth it.
Shi Shi Beach is a paradise with its sea stacks, tide pools, and the dramatic Point of Arches.
As you stroll along the beach, watch for eagles soaring above and marine life in the tide pools below.
The Point of Arches, a sea stack formation, is an unforgettable sight, especially at sunset.
A visit to Shi Shi Beach truly encompasses the wild, untamed beauty that defines Olympic National Park.
📎 Tip: Access to Shi Shi Beach travels through the Makah Reservation. You will need to pick up an additional permit (besides your NPS entrance fee) to traverse through the reservation in Neah Bay before heading out to the beach.
What Is The Best Time Of Year To Go To Olympic National Park
The “best” time to visit Olympic National Park is a bit like choosing your favorite flavor of ice cream – it all depends on your personal taste.
If you’re a sunshine enthusiast who can’t resist the call of wildflowers and clear mountain views, then summer is your jam (or, should we say, your sundae?).
The park basks in all its glory from June through September, flaunting snow-free hiking trails and calm beaches.
But remember summer is also like the park’s blockbuster premiere – everyone wants a ticket, so expect more people and book accommodations in advance.
On the other hand, if you enjoy a bit of atmospheric fog, fewer crowds, and don’t mind your raincoat becoming your best friend, consider a visit in spring or fall.
These “shoulder seasons” offer their unique charm, and you can brag about being that daring adventurer who doesn’t let a few raindrops dampen your spirit.
For the snow aficionados ready to break out the snowshoes or skis, winter transforms parts of the park, like Hurricane Ridge, into a winter wonderland.
However, some park areas do close or become less accessible in winter.
So, what is the best time to visit Olympic National Park? That’s really up to you and what you want to do during your visit to the park.
Whichever season you choose, rest assured Olympic National Park always has some magic up its sleeve!
How Many Days Do You Need In Olympic National Park
How many days do you need to experience Olympic National Park fully?
Let’s start by saying this: the park is like a gigantic all-you-can-eat buffet of natural wonders. And just like at a buffet, you’ll want ample time to savor all the mouthwatering options on the menu.
For a “taster platter” experience, a one or two-day visit should just about do it. In fact, we have tips on making the most of just one day in Olympic National Park.
This gives you a chance to dip your toes in the Pacific at Ruby Beach, wander through the misty magic of the Hoh Rain Forest, and stand in awe at the panoramic views from Hurricane Ridge.
It’s like getting a sushi roll, some pasta, and a piece of that decadent chocolate cake at the buffet. You get a satisfying taste of everything, but you’re not quite unbuckling your belt yet.
However, if you want to unbutton your metaphorical pants and dive headfirst into the cornucopia of experiences Olympic National Park offers, we’d suggest devoting a full week.
This allows you to delve deeper into the park’s diverse ecosystems, add some lesser-known spots to your itinerary, and perhaps even have a few wildlife encounters (from a safe distance).
You can kayak on Lake Crescent, explore the tide pools at Kalaloch and Rialto Beach, or sit under the stars at your campsite, making s’mores and creating lifelong memories.
You’ll feel like you’ve done more than skim the surface by the end of a week. Instead, you will have indulged in a full Olympic banquet and can confidently say you’ve had your fill (at least until the next visit!).
Olympic National Park May Not Be For You If
As much as we’d love to say that Olympic National Park is the perfect fit for everyone, the truth is, it’s like a pair of hiking boots. If it’s not the right size or style for you, things can get a bit… uncomfortable.
For instance, if you prefer five-star hotels to camping under the stars, or if your idea of “wildlife” is the crazy crowd at a rock concert, Olympic National Park might not be for you.
While the park does have some comfy lodging options, much of the experience here involves immersing oneself in nature and potentially getting a bit of mud on those boots.
And let’s not forget about our friend, the rain!
Olympic National Park is home to rainforests, and these lush, emerald beauties didn’t get their name from being dry and sunny all the time.
So, if you detest rainfall more than getting a hole in your last clean pair of socks, this might not be the place for you.
Finally, this park may need a pass if you want to minimize your time in a car and maximize your time in nature.
While it has incredibly different ecosystems you don’t want to miss, it requires a lot of time in the car traveling from one area to the next.
For example, getting from Hoh Rain Forest to Ruby Beach on the coast takes an hour.
Olympic National Park is an awe-inspiring place, but like any travel destination, it’s not necessarily one-size-fits-all. And that’s totally okay!
Best Places To Stay Near Olympic National Park
Ready to dive into the wild charm of Olympic National Park but unsure where to hang your hat at night? Don’t fret; we are covering a few accommodations to make your stay comfortable.
Luxury 💵 💵 💵 – Woodland Inns
- Nature’s Retreat: Located right on the doorstep of Olympic National Park, the Woodland Inns offers an immediate connection to the surrounding forested beauty. The natural ambiance will make you feel like you’re extending your park adventure, even when you’re back at your home base.
- Comfort & Convenience: The inn’s rustic, cozy rooms are well-equipped, providing all the comfort and conveniences you’d expect, including free Wi-Fi and comfy beds.
- Twilight Experience: The Woodland Inns is located in Forks, the popular Twilight books and movie franchise setting. Staying here will have you centrally located and close to key attractions such as the Forks Visitor Center and the “Twilight Swan House.”
Mid-Range 💵 💵 – 7 Cedars Hotel & Casino
- Entertainment Extravaganza: For those who enjoy blending nature exploration with a little fun and entertainment, 7 Cedars is a perfect choice. With its on-site casino, you can test your luck at the slots or tables after a day of marveling at the park’s natural wonders.
- Modern Accommodation: The rooms at 7 Cedars offer more than just a place to rest your head. The modern, elegant decor, comfortable beds, and thoughtful amenities set the stage for a pleasant stay.
- Dining Delight: Variety is the spice of life, and at 7 Cedars, you’re spoiled for choice with several on-site dining options. Whether you’re in the mood for a casual bite or a gourmet meal, their restaurants and eateries have got you covered.
Budget 💵 – Angeles Motel
- Budget-friendly: If you’re on a tight budget but don’t want to compromise on comfort, Angeles Motel is an excellent option. It offers clean, comfortable accommodations that won’t break the bank, leaving you more funds for those all-important park excursions.
- Great Location: Situated in Port Angeles, this motel is conveniently close to the park’s main entrance. Plus, you have the advantage of being near the town’s amenities, including local restaurants and stores.
- Friendly Service: The motel is known for its warm and friendly service. The staff is always willing to go the extra mile to ensure guests feel at home and have everything they need for a pleasant stay.
How To Get To & Around Olympic National Park
Now that you have decided that Olympic National Park is worth visiting let’s talk about how to get to and get around the park on your visit.
Getting To The Park
To reach the park, most travelers will first touch down at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the nearest major airport.
From here, you’re about two-and-a-half to three hours from the park. Pack some snacks, curate your favorite road trip playlist, and enjoy the scenic drive.
If you’re coming from the south, Portland International Airport is another good option, though it’s about a four to five-hour drive.
If you’re a fan of the saying, “it’s not the destination, but the journey,” consider arriving by ferry instead.
The Washington State Ferry system can get you from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. From there, it’s a short drive to the park.
This is how we chose to get to Olympic National Park during our visit, as we also spent time in Seattle checking out the attractions.
Getting Around the Park
Once you’ve arrived, getting around the vast landscapes of Olympic National Park requires a little more strategizing.
The park’s size – a whopping 922,651 acres – and diverse ecosystems mean there’s no singular route that will take you everywhere you want to go.
Here’s where your trusted four-wheeled friend (aka your car) comes into play.
Driving is the most convenient way to get around the park, allowing you to move at your own pace and follow your own itinerary.
A network of roads connects the various sections of the park, but bear in mind that some of these roads may close in winter or due to weather conditions.
If you want to rent a car, we always recommend checking out Discover Cars to compare prices because they carry all the big rental companies in one place, like Hertz and Dollar.
📎 Note: You can take the Clallam Transit Bus System from Port Angeles to some of the park’s northern destinations, like Hurricane Ridge. But overall, public transportation within the park is extremely limited, and we recommend getting a car if at all possible.
Best Tour In Olympic National Park
Dive into the coastal wonders of the beaches and explore the enigmatic Hoh Rain Forest.
Your journey will include a visit to Ruby Beach, perfectly timed with the tides.
Your tour will follow a guide through an enlightening exploration of the intertidal zone, uncovering a microcosm of life that often goes unnoticed beneath our feet. Get ready for a whole new perspective on starfish!
Visit Kaloloch Beach to witness the awe-inspiring “Tree of Life,” its roots precariously clinging on, symbolizing nature’s tenacity.
This is a perfect backdrop to learn about the ever-changing coastal landscape, its formation, and what lies ahead in the next million years.
Then enjoy an unhurried, four-mile hike along the Hoh River, down less-traveled paths.
As you meander, the unique aspects of this ecosystem will be explained, unveiling the richness and complexity of the thousands of species that inhabit this area.
This truly intimate and immersive experience is limited to only eight travelers, so book your tickets early!
FAQs: Visiting Olympic National Park
We’ve gathered the most frequently asked questions, and their answers, to ensure your trip to this natural paradise is as smooth and enjoyable as a serene lake on a calm day.
Why Do People Visit Olympic National Park?
People visit Olympic National Park to experience its incredible diversity – from lush rainforests and alpine meadows to rugged beaches. The park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, and photography. Its unique ecosystems and stunning landscapes provide an unforgettable escape into nature’s breathtaking beauty.
How Long Does It Take To Drive Through Olympic National Park?
Driving through Olympic National Park can take around 5-6 hours non-stop. However, to fully appreciate the park’s diverse ecosystems – including the rainforests, alpine regions, and beaches – it’s recommended to plan for multiple days. This allows time for stops, hikes, waterfall viewing, and soaking in the park’s natural beauty.
Do You Need A Car In Olympic National Park?
Yes, having a car is highly recommended in Olympic National Park. The park’s vast size and diverse landscapes mean there’s no singular route to all the sights. Public transportation is limited, and a car provides the flexibility to explore at your own pace, allowing spontaneous stops to marvel at the park’s stunning beauty.
Is There A Scenic Drive In Olympic National Park?
Absolutely! The Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive is a renowned scenic route in Olympic National Park. This approximately 330-mile drive encircles the Olympic Peninsula and provides breathtaking views of the park’s diverse ecosystems, including rainforests, mountains, and coastline. It’s an ideal way to enjoy the park’s spectacular natural beauty, but we recommend doing it over several days.
What Is The Best Part Of Olympic National Park
Choosing the “best” part of Olympic National Park is subjective, as it boasts varied landscapes. Some visitors love the Hoh Rain Forest for its lush greenery and tranquil trails. Others prefer Hurricane Ridge’s sweeping mountain views or the rugged beauty of Rialto Beach. Essentially, the best part depends on your personal preference for forests, mountains, or coastlines.
To Finish – Is Olympic National Park Worth Visiting & Best Things To Do
As our journey through Olympic National Park ends, we return to the initial question – is Olympic National Park worth visiting?
From the enchanting Hoh Rain Forest to the panoramic views of Hurricane Ridge and the serene waters of Lake Crescent, the park’s awe-inspiring beauty leaves no room for doubt; it certainly is!
And now that we have convinced you of such, why not check out our article on the best beaches not to miss in the park (we think you will recognize a couple from here)?