snow covers part of the mountainside with numerous mountains in the backdrop seen in olympic national park in winter

Exploring Olympic National Park in Winter: Tips & Things to Do

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Have you been wondering about visiting Olympic National Park in Winter? Look no further as we discuss what there is to do, tips to stay safe, and what to bring along on your adventure!

Hello, fellow nature lovers and avid explorers!

We’re excited to journey with you through the unique allure of Olympic National Park during winter. If you’re questioning, “Is a winter visit to the park worth it?” Well, let’s delve into it together!

Having ventured through Olympic National Park during the vibrant spring, we fell head over heels for its sprawling wilderness, from the towering peaks to the emerald rainforests and dramatic coastline.

It was an experience that still echoes in our hearts, and we can confidently say it’s a park that stands out even among the diverse array of national parks we’ve visited.

As frequent national park explorers, we’ve felt the pulse of nature across various seasons and terrains.

However, Olympic’s winter allure left us intrigued. Though we haven’t experienced it firsthand, we’ve thoroughly researched and sought insights from fellow park enthusiasts to accurately picture what winter brings to this phenomenal landscape.

So, whether you’re a seasoned traveler or venturing into your first winter park experience, please stick with us as we delve deeper into the wonder of Olympic National Park in winter.

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heading into hoh rainforest, there is a bit of snow on either side of the road along with tall green trees

Weather In Olympic National Park In Winter

Winter in Olympic National Park varies by region, with milder temperatures on the coast and colder temperatures in the high country.

The park’s rainforests, like Hoh and Quinault, generally avoid freezing temperatures, while Hurricane Ridge experiences average winter highs of 30Β°F and lows of 17Β°F.

With about 12 feet of rain annually, the park experiences big storms off the Pacific from mid-November to mid-February.

Let’s dive deeper into the winter months to see what you can expect.


Olympic National Park In December

Cold and snowy, temperatures often dip below freezing, with heavy snow and strong winds reducing visibility at times.

Despite the chilly weather, there’s something magical about the park in December, with the snow-covered landscape and festive atmosphere at Lake Crescent Lodge.

Check the Hurricane Ridge Road hotline for road conditions, as it’s usually open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays in the winter.

πŸ“Ž Note: Prepare to carry snow chains, as they’re required for every vehicle on Hurricane Ridge Road during winter.

Olympic National Park In January

January continues the winter theme in Olympic National Park, with the Hoh Rainforest offering a unique experience.

Here, you’ll find gigantic trees, ferns, moss, and elk searching for food in the valley.

Popular hiking trails in the Hoh Rainforest include the Hall of Mosses and the Hoh River Trail.

As you venture through this lush landscape, be sure to wear rubber boots to keep your feet dry and comfortable.

Olympic National Park In February

As February rolls in, you’ll have around 12 hours of daylight to explore Olympic National Park, with the sun rising around 8 am and setting around 5:30 pm.

This month is perfect for exploring the park’s coastline, where low tide reveals multicolored tide pools full of small fish, sea urchins, and anemones.

Don’t miss the hike to Marymere Falls, a relatively flat two-mile round trip that takes you through old-growth trees to a stunning waterfall.

Starting at the Storm King Ranger Station near Lake Crescent, you can either return the same way or loop back on the Moments in Time trail.

a lake seen from up above surrounded by pines

Is There Snow In Winter At Olympic National Park

Snow is certainly possible in Olympic National Park during winter, but it depends on the elevation and weather conditions.

Generally, snow appears above 3,000 feet in elevation.

If you’re a snow sports fan, Olympic National Park offers skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding during the winter months.

Remember to dress appropriately and be mindful of the avalanche risk before venturing out.

Fun & Unique Olympic National Park Winter Activities

Winter in Olympic National Park offers an array of unique experiences, from snow activities at Hurricane Ridge and rainforest exploration to waterfall hikes and Pacific coastline adventures.

Let’s take a closer look at these winter attractions and what makes them so special during this time of year.

Snow Activities at Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is a winter paradise for snow enthusiasts, offering a range of activities like downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, tubing, and snowshoeing.

The Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area offers plenty of options, regardless of skiing or snowboarding ability.

t features six blue (intermediate) runs, two black (advanced) runs, and bunny slopes (easy) for beginners. With breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains, skiing and snowboarding here is a memorable experience.

The road to Hurricane Ridge is usually accessible during the winter months on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Of course, this depends on the weather conditions.

Make sure to carry snow chains for your vehicle, as they’re required for all cars, even 4x4s, on Hurricane Ridge Road.

πŸ“Ž Tip: Before embarking on any backcountry trip, check the avalanche weather report and come prepared.

Rainforest Exploration

Exploring Olympic National Park’s rainforests, like the Quinault and Hoh, is a magical experience during winter.

The lush greenery of the rainforest contrasts beautifully with the snow-capped peaks in the distance.

Wander through these enchanting landscapes, and you’ll discover ancient trees draped in moss, a rich understory of ferns, and the occasional sighting of Roosevelt elk.

A winter visit to the park’s rainforests is truly a unique experience that shouldn’t be missed.

a small waterfall runs over logs into a small creek in olympic national park

Waterfall Hikes

Winter is a fantastic time to explore the park’s waterfalls, as the increased precipitation creates powerful cascades.

Some popular waterfall hikes in Olympic National Park include Sol Duc Falls, Marymere Falls, and Enchanted Valley.

These falls are surrounded by stunning old-growth forests, making the hikes a visual treat and a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Just remember to pack the proper footwear and clothing to stay comfortable during these winter hikes.

Pacific Coastline Adventures

The Pacific coastline of Olympic National Park is a spectacle to behold during winter when the elements truly come alive and transform the landscape into a dramatic display of nature’s power and beauty.

The park’s iconic beaches, including Rialto, Second Beach, and Ruby Beach, take on a new character during this season as the usually tranquil coastlines become dynamic stages for breathtaking storms.

Imagine watching massive winter waves, fueled by distant storms, as they crash against towering sea stacks and rush up the rugged shoreline. It’s a thrilling experience that captures the raw beauty of nature in a way few other sights can.

The winter season also adds an air of serene solitude to the beaches.

You’ll often find the sandy stretches less crowded, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring surroundings.

While the spectacle of winter storms can be mesmerizing, remember to take precautions.

It’s important to pay close attention to tide schedules during your coastal explorations. Sudden high tides can lead to unexpected conditions, and some areas may become inaccessible.

Always ensure you’re safe, keeping a respectful distance from the water’s edge during particularly stormy weather.

Wildlife Encounters in Winter

Winter in Olympic National Park offers unique opportunities to witness the park’s wildlife in their natural habitat.

From elk and coho salmon spotting to observing the fascinating salmon runs, the park’s diverse ecosystem will leave you in awe.

a bull elk stands in a smattering of snow in the forest of olympic national park in winter

Elk and Coho Salmon Spotting

During winter, Olympic National Park is home to Roosevelt elk and Coho salmon.

Prime locations to spot these majestic creatures include the Quinault River and its tributaries, such as Big Creek in the Quinault Valley.

Coho salmon are typically visible from October to December, providing a unique opportunity to observe these fish during their annual migration.

Salmon Runs

Another fascinating wildlife phenomenon in Olympic National Park during winter is the salmon run, which occurs from October to December.

Salmon migrate from the ocean to their spawning grounds in freshwater rivers and streams during this time.

One popular spot to witness this incredible event is the Salmon Cascades in the Sol Duc River.

Olympic National Park Winter Itinerary

To help you make the most of your winter visit to Olympic National Park, we’ve compiled a couple of recommended itineraries covering the must-see attractions and experiences.

Whether you have just a day to spare or a few days to explore, these itineraries will ensure you enjoy every moment of your winter adventure.

Day Trip from Seattle

A day trip to Olympic National Park from Seattle is a fantastic way to experience some of the park’s most stunning winter wonders, even if you’re short on time.

Your first stop, Hurricane Ridge, offers an unforgettable introduction to the park.

During the winter, the ridge is a sight to behold with its sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains draped in a blanket of snow.

As one of the few areas in the park accessible by car in the winter, Hurricane Ridge offers a wide array of snow activities. You could go snowshoeing, sledding, or even skiing if you want adventure.

For something more laid-back, enjoy a hot beverage while taking in the panoramic winter views from the visitor center.

πŸ“Ž Note: Remember, the road to Hurricane Ridge is typically open only from Friday to Sunday in winter, weather permitting, so plan accordingly.

snow covers part of the mountainside with numerous mountains in the backdrop seen in olympic national park in winter

After soaking in the grandeur of Hurricane Ridge, your next destination is the tranquil Lake Crescent.

This deep, glacially carved lake is known for its crystal-clear waters and the surrounding lush forests. The beauty of Lake Crescent is intensified in winter, with the frosted landscape adding to its serene charm.

You can explore the lake’s shores, take a short hike in the surrounding forest, or enjoy the winter calm. If time allows, consider visiting the nearby Marymere Falls, a beautiful 90-foot waterfall that is especially picturesque in winter.

While a single day only allows a snapshot of what Olympic National Park offers, this itinerary ensures you witness some of its iconic sights and landscapes.

Wrap up warm, pack a camera, and prepare for a memorable winter day trip to this stunning national park.

Three-Day Exploration

For a more immersive experience, consider a three-day exploration of Olympic National Park. With this itinerary, you’ll explore towering mountain peaks, serene lakes, verdant rainforests, rugged coastlines, and soothing hot springs.

Day One: Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent

Begin your adventure at Hurricane Ridge, soaking up panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains cloaked in their winter finery. As mentioned earlier, weather permitting, enjoy winter activities like snowshoeing, sledding, or marvel at the frosty views.

Afterward, head to Lake Crescent, a pristine, deep-blue body of water surrounded by hills cloaked in lush forests. Here, you might take a short hike or admire the winter tranquility of the lake.

Day Two: Waterfalls, Hot Springs, and the Hoh Rainforest

Your second day will have you chasing cascading waterfalls and warming up in natural hot springs.

The park boasts numerous waterfalls, such as Marymere Falls and Sol Duc Falls, which can look especially magical during winter, framed by ice and snow.

At Sol Duc Hot Springs, if open during your visit, immerse yourself in nature’s warm embrace. The hot springs offer a soothing contrast to the chill of winter, and the steam rising into the cold air creates a beautiful scene.

Next, explore the enchanting Hoh Rainforest, one of the park’s most iconic destinations.

During winter, the rainforest’s vibrant greens contrast strikingly with the frost and snow, creating a unique and mesmerizing landscape.

the olympic national park coastline shows rocky terrain and driftwood scattered along the beach

Day Three: Rialto Beach and Lake Quinault

On your final day, venture to the Pacific coastline to visit Rialto Beach, one of the most striking beaches in the park.

Winter here is a season of dramatic storms, massive waves, and atmospheric beauty.

Watch as the surf clashes against sea stacks, and don’t miss the Hole-in-the-Wall, a natural arch that’s a short hike up the beach.

Wrap up your journey at Lake Quinault, located in the southwestern part of the park.

This area is home to temperate rainforests, so you can expect a verdant landscape of towering trees and lush undergrowth, beautifully frosted in winter.

Preparation Tips For Olympic National Park In The Winter

A winter visit to Olympic National Park requires extra preparation to ensure a safe and memorable experience.

This section will cover essential tips for checking weather and road conditions, bringing required gear and clothing, and being aware of avalanche risk and safety.

Weather and Road Conditions

Before heading to Olympic National Park in winter, it’s crucial to check the weather and road conditions. The park’s recorded Road & Weather line provides up-to-date information to help you plan your trip accordingly.

Due to snow and winter storms, be prepared for possible road closures or limited access to certain park areas.

Required Gear and Clothing

Equipping yourself with the right gear and clothing is essential for a comfortable winter visit to Olympic National Park.

Pack waterproof and breathable hiking boots, waterproof snow pants, multiple layers of clothing, gloves, and a hat.

Don’t forget to bring a raincoat or umbrella, waterproof shoes, snowshoes or microspikes, and hiking poles for added stability.

Avalanche Risk and Safety

Avalanche risk and safety are important factors to consider when visiting Olympic National Park during the winter.

Be sure to check the Northwest Avalanche Center for the latest weather and avalanche risk information.

Before embarking on snow hikes or backcountry trips, familiarize yourself with winter conditions and potential hazards. Always prioritize safety and be prepared for any situation during your winter visit.

a tree covered in hanging moss in the hoh rainforest area of olympic national park

What To Pack For A Winter Visit

Warm Clothing: Layered clothing, a waterproof winter jacket, thermal underlayers, hats, gloves, and warm socks are essential for staying comfortable in the cold.

Sturdy Footwear: Waterproof, insulated boots with good traction are necessary for snowy and icy conditions.

Snow Chains: If you’re driving, snow chains may be required in certain areas of the park during winter.

Emergency Kit: Including a first-aid kit, flashlight, blankets, snacks, and water, in case of any unexpected situations.

Winter Sports Equipment: If you plan on participating in snow activities, pack necessary equipment like skis, snowboards, or snowshoes. Some equipment can be rented at the park.

Olympic National Park Winter May Not Be For You If

While Olympic National Park in winter offers a unique and breathtaking experience, it may not be for everyone. This trip may not be for you if…

  • You’re not prepared for cold weather and snow: Winter in the park can be chilly, with considerable snowfall, especially at higher elevations. If you’re uncomfortable or not equipped to handle such conditions, winter may not be the best time for your visit.
  • You’re not a fan of winter sports or activities: Many of the activities in the park during winter involve snow, such as snowshoeing, skiing, or winter hiking. If these don’t appeal to you, you might not fully enjoy your visit during this season.
  • You’re looking for a wide range of accessible trails: Some areas and trails in the park may be closed or hard to access during winter due to snow and adverse weather conditions.
  • You prefer a more predictable climate: Winter weather in the park can be unpredictable and change rapidly. If you prefer clear, predictable weather, winter might not be your ideal season to visit.
  • You want to experience the park’s biodiversity: While winter brings its own unique beauty, the park’s biodiversity is not as easily observable during this season. Some animals hibernate or are less active, and many plants are dormant.
  • You’re uncomfortable driving in winter conditions: Road conditions can be challenging during winter, with snow and ice on the roads. Some roads are closed, and others require chains or four-wheel drive.

However, if you’re up for an adventure and don’t mind bundling up, the park’s stunning winter landscapes and experiences will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression.

fog fills the canyon area between pine trees and a mountain backdrop at olympic national park in winter

Accommodation Options for Winter Stays

Finding the perfect place to rest after a day of winter exploration is essential.

Olympic National Park offers a variety of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs, from historic lodges to cozy cabins.

Here are our top choices for your winter stay in the park.

Luxury πŸ’΅ πŸ’΅ πŸ’΅ –Woodland Inns

Woodland Inns is a charming retreat amid the enchanting forests near Olympic National Park.

Offering cabins nestled among tall trees, this inn provides a serene escape during the winter months. Picture yourself relaxing on your cabin’s private deck, overlooking the peaceful woodland, or warming up in one of the cozy rooms equipped with fireplaces for extra comfort and warmth.

Amenities include a well-appointed game room for a touch of fun. If you’re seeking relaxation, the outdoor fireplace provides a warm place to sit while you take in the tranquility of the surrounding woods.

➑️ Check Prices & Availability at Woodland Inns


Mid-Range πŸ’΅ πŸ’΅ – Lake Quinault Lodge

Lake Quinault Lodge is a historic lodge nestled on the shores of Lake Quinault.

Offering a few pet-friendly rooms, the lodge has a wraparound wooden veranda to enjoy views of the wilderness and lake.

With the possibility of a fireplace room for extra warmth and coziness, the lodge provides a charming retreat during the winter months.

Amenities include an indoor pool and a sauna, ensuring a comfortable and relaxing stay.

➑️ Check Prices & Availability at Lake Quinault Lodge


Budget πŸ’΅ – Dew Drop Inn

Dew Drop Inn is a delightful hideaway located in the charming town of Forks, right on the doorstep of Olympic National Park.

The inn offers pet-friendly rooms, each radiating a warm and inviting ambiance, perfect for those winter months.

Picture yourself curled up in a cozy room, taking in the peaceful views of the Pacific Northwest from your window.

Amenities at the Dew Drop Inn cater to your comfort and convenience, ensuring an enjoyable stay.

➑️ Check Prices & Availability at Dew Drop Inn


a female elk feeds in the grassy area of the woods in olympic national park

How To Get To & Around Olympic National Park

Time to talk about the best way to get to and around the park

Getting to Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is located in the state of Washington on the Olympic Peninsula.

The nearest major airport to the park is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). It’s about a 2-hour drive from the airport to the park, depending on traffic and the route you choose.

Fortunately, Seattle doesn’t receive much snow so the roads to Olympic National Park will hopefully not be bad.

Getting Around Olympic National Park

Given the vastness of Olympic National Park, having a private vehicle at your disposal provides maximum flexibility.

During winter, the driving experience around the park takes on a whole new level of beauty as the landscapes transform into breathtaking views of snow-blanketed forests and frosted mountain peaks.

However, navigating the park by car in winter does come with its challenges.

Certain roads may be closed due to snow, and driving conditions can be hazardous, particularly during heavy snowfall or icy conditions.

Always check the current road conditions and closures before setting out, and ensure that your vehicle is well-equipped for winter driving, including having snow chains if required.

If you’re flying into Washington, renting a car is a great option.

Make sure to specify that you’ll be driving in winter conditions, and confirm that the vehicle is equipped with all necessary winter equipment, like an ice scraper, snow brush, and snow chains. Opt for a 4-wheel drive if possible, as it will handle better in winter conditions.

We always recommend Discover Cars to compare prices because they carry all the big rental companies in one place, like Hertz and Dollar.

πŸš™ Book your ride with Discover Cars

hurricane ridge covered in snow with snowy mountain backdrop at olympic national park in winter

FAQs: Olympic National Park

Let’s answer some common questions about visiting the park in winter.

Is Olympic National Park good in winter?

Yes, Olympic National Park is a great place to visit in winter as it offers plenty of activities and stunning views that will make your trip worth the time. From skiing and snowshoeing to snowmobiling and sledding, plenty of winter activities can be enjoyed in the park. The snow-covered mountains and forests provide a breathtaking backdrop for your winter adventure.

Is Olympic National Park open in winter?

Yes, Olympic National Park is open in the winter, allowing visitors to explore its rainforests, beaches, and mountain areas. However, some roads, campgrounds, and other facilities are closed or have reduced hours during this time, so it is wise to check park road conditions before setting off.

Is December a good time to visit Olympic National Park?

December is an ideal time to visit Olympic National Park. The area is typically calm, allowing visitors to explore and enjoy the scenery without worrying about overcrowding. Moreover, winter storms create beautiful views that can be admired throughout the park.

Do you need snow chains in Olympic National Park?

Snow chains may be required in Olympic National Park during winter, especially when driving to higher elevations like Hurricane Ridge. Park regulations may require all vehicles, including those with four-wheel drive, to carry tire chains when traveling in the park during winter.

Can You Hike Olympic National Park In Winter?

Yes, you can hike in Olympic National Park during winter. However, trails may be snow-covered and challenging, so proper gear and preparation are essential. Check weather conditions and trail accessibility with park rangers before embarking on winter hikes. Always prioritize safety and respect the park’s winter wilderness.

moss covers stones in a small creek where water trickles down inside the rainforest area of olympic national park

To Finish – Olympic National Park In Winter

Olympic National Park in winter is a true gem, offering visitors the chance to explore its unique landscapes and attractions under a blanket of snow.

From adrenaline-pumping snow sports at Hurricane Ridge to serene rainforest hikes and dramatic coastal adventures, the park provides a winter experience like no other.

So, if you’re prepared for the cold and ready to embrace the season’s beauty, a winter visit to Olympic National Park is an adventure you won’t soon forget.