setting sun shines on one of the many olympic national park beaches with sea stacks

One Day In Olympic National Park: Ultimate Guide 2023

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Do you only have one day in Olympic National Park and want to make the most of your time? Look no further! We have all the hot spots you can reach with limited time.

Hello fellow National Park aficionados and time-crunched adventurers!

We are excited to share with you a rich experience that may resonate with your tight schedule yet appreciation for the outdoors – a dazzling single day in Olympic National Park.

Olympic National Park is a mosaic of ecosystems – from rugged, glacier-capped peaks to temperate rainforests and pristine Pacific coastline kissed by cool sea breezes.

It’s a world of wonder, nestled within Washington State.

Even with our short stay spanning only a couple of days, we were astonished by the grandeur we managed to witness.

As frequent visitors of national parks across the U.S. and lovers of the great outdoors, we keenly understand the challenges and rewards of exploring these natural treasures.

And we also appreciate the time constraints modern life can impose on our wanderlust.

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One Day In Olympic National Park Itinerary

Let’s embark on a whirlwind 24-hour journey crafted to showcase the splendors of Olympic National Park in a single, unforgettable day.

a red volkswagon bus sits in the hurricane ridge parking lot with a backdrop of snowy mountains, hurricane ridge is one of our first stops on our one day in olympic national park itinerary

The Morning Of Your 1 Day In Olympic National Park

We’re kicking off our day with a rich immersion in local knowledge and a leisurely exploration around a picturesque lake. Here’s your morning itinerary.

Start At The Olympic National Park Visitor Center

Our first stop on your one day in Olympic National Park adventure is the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles.

Start your day by acquainting yourself with the park’s layout and various ecosystems, as the center is a treasure trove of information.

Friendly park rangers can answer your questions, provide advice tailored to your interests and time constraints, and update you on trail conditions and possible wildlife sightings.

Don’t miss the interactive exhibits and enlightening short films that offer a primer on the park’s geology, flora, fauna, and history.


Tour Around Lake Crescent Area

Time to take a scenic drive to the serene Lake Crescent area.

Lake Crescent is a glacially-carved lake known for its pristine, turquoise waters.

It is surrounded by dense forests and towering peaks of the Olympic Mountains, creating a picturesque setting.

With remarkably clear waters, allowing visibility up to 60 feet in certain areas, it is a popular spot for kayaking, canoeing, and swimming.

Stretch your legs on the Marymere Falls trail, an easy 1.8-mile round-trip hike that takes you through a lush, moss-draped forest to the base of a mesmerizing 90-foot waterfall.

As you journey through the ancient forest, keep your eyes peeled and ears tuned for bird calls โ€” you might spot a resting owl among the branches or hear the distinct song of a pacific wren.

The trail’s accessibility makes it a favorite among visitors, but its beauty truly sets it apart.

Just imagine standing at the foot of Marymere Falls, its mist kissing your face while the harmonious sounds of cascading waters and chirping birds fill the air.

a boardwalk draws the eye out to crescent lake, a beautiful blue lake with green mountain backdrop

Afternoon Activities For Your Olympic National Park 1 day Itinerary

As we move into the afternoon, your journey takes you to an enchanting valley and the depths of a breathtaking rainforest.

Enjoy Lunch

As we round off our morning at Lake Crescent, you have a couple of inviting options for lunch.

For those who appreciate a warm meal and charming ambiance, the historic Lake Crescent Lodge offers delicious fare with panoramic lake views.

Enjoy a hearty meal while taking in the stunning views from their sun porch.

On the other hand, if you prefer an al fresco lunch amidst nature, packing a picnic is an excellent choice.

With several picnic spots scattered around the lake, you can find your perfect nook to relish your meal, the views, and perhaps the company of a cheeky chipmunk or two!

Head To Sol Duc Valley

Post-lunch, it’s time to discover the beauty of the Sol Duc Valley.

Our main destination is the Sol Duc Falls trail, a relatively easy and incredibly picturesque 1.6-mile round-trip hike.

This well-trodden path leads us through verdant old-growth forests, across rustic wooden bridges, and to a majestic three-pronged waterfall.

The music of the river rushing through the forest, the scent of the towering evergreens, and the sight of the falls plunging into the narrow canyon below โ€“ it’s a sensory feast that encapsulates the essence of Olympic National Park.

If you feel like you are making good time, another attraction in this area is the Sol Duc Hot Springs, known for its natural mineral-rich hot pools.

Soak in the warm waters and let the therapeutic properties of the springs rejuvenate your body and mind.

The hot springs are surrounded by lush forests, providing a serene atmosphere.

sol duc falls in olympic national park is one of the most popular waterfalls in olympic national park

Step Into The Hoh Rain Forest

Our next stop is Hoh Rain Forest.

While it’s a bit of a drive, approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes from Sol Duc Valley, we assure you, it’s worth every minute.

The moment you step into the Hoh Rain Forest, you’re stepping into a world that’s an intense burst of green. Dense moss drapes the trees, ferns carpet the ground, and the air is filled with an earthy scent.

The Hall of Mosses Trail and the Spruce Nature Trail are both short hikes that offer a great introduction to this unique ecosystem.

In particular, the Hall of Mosses Trail takes you through a grove where everything, from tree trunks to branches, is blanketed by a thick layer of moss, creating a surreal, otherworldly landscape.

On the Spruce Nature Trail, keep your eyes peeled for Roosevelt Elk and enjoy the view of the Hoh River.

As you wrap up your afternoon amidst this vibrant spectacle of nature, you’ll realize how the park, with its mesmerizing landscapes, has worked its magic on you.

The Evening Of Your Day Trip To Olympic National Park

As the day winds down, we’ve saved the best for the last!

Let’s head towards the Pacific coastline for a spectacular sunset treat to end our eventful day in the Olympic National Park.

sunset at olympic national park beach, sea stacks can be seen along the shore with purple and orange sky, this is how to finish your one day in olympic national park

Spend Sunset At The Beach

Your evening will take you to either Rialto Beach or Ruby Beach, renowned for their dramatic sea stacks and driftwood-strewn shores.

These picturesque locales are approximately an hour from the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, and the journey itself offers panoramic views of the park’s diverse landscapes.

Whether you choose Rialto Beach, with its famous low tide Hole-in-the-Wall rock formation, or Ruby Beach, known for its reddish sand and teeming tide pools, you’re in for a visual feast.

As the sun descends, find a comfortable spot on the driftwood logs scattered along the beach.

From this vantage point, watch the sky transform into a canvas of vibrant hues, the sea stacks casting long shadows over the waves and creating a stunning silhouette against the twilight sky.

Witnessing a sunset over the Pacific is a poignant moment that captures the tranquil beauty of Olympic National Park.

As the stars begin to twinkle in the darkening sky, you’ll look back at the day filled with extraordinary natural beauty and experiences, from moss-laden rainforests to crystalline lakes.

While your one day in Olympic National Park ends, the memories you made will live on. This is the enduring testament to the magic of nature.

Other Options If You Have More Time

If you have more time or are willing to extend your stay in Olympic National Park, here are three additional experiences you could consider.

Keep in mind that the initial itinerary we provided above is already quite full and involves a significant amount of driving.

So trying to visit all these additional areas in one day, on top of the original itinerary, would likely not leave enough time to enjoy and appreciate each site fully.

Instead, we recommend choosing only one of these additional locations and spending more time there.

Another option is to trade out one of the original items for one of these due to your personal interests.

a log pulls your eye from right to left to the waterfall and bridge in the background surrounded by green forest, you will be wandering through lots of greenery during your one day in olympic national park itinerary

Hit Up Shi Shi Beach and Point of Arches

Consider visiting the secluded Shi Shi Beach and the spectacular Point of Arches.

This area in the Makah Reservation is a hidden gem, far from the usual tourist circuit.

Here, you’ll find sea stacks carved into intricate shapes by the relentless ocean, tide pools teeming with marine life, and an atmosphere of solitude and tranquility.

The hike to the beach is moderately challenging, especially in wet weather, but the stunning coastal views make every step worth it.

๐Ÿ“Ž Note: In order to reach this beach, you’ll need to cross through the Makah Tribal Lands. This means that, in addition to obtaining the necessary pass to access Olympic National Park, you’ll also be required to acquire a Makah recreation pass from Neah Bay.

Explore The Elwha River Valley

Exploring the Elwha River Valley offers another unique adventure.

This region has been the site of the largest dam removal project in U.S. history, restoring the river to its wild state and allowing for the return of salmon after a century.

Hiking trails like the Elwha River Trail take you through lush forests, past blooming wildflowers, and alongside the freely-flowing Elwha River.

Make sure to visit the Glines Canyon Overlook to witness the spectacular view of the former dam site.

Visit The Quinault Rain Forest

Nestled around Lake Quinault, this temperate rainforest is filled with towering Sitka spruces, western red cedars, and big-leaf maples draped in moss, creating a verdant paradise.

Walking trails like the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail provide you with an up-close look at this lush ecosystem.

๐Ÿ“Ž Tip: Don’t miss the world’s largest Sitka spruce tree and the “Valley of the Rainforest Giants,” where several of the world’s largest trees reside.

raindrops sit on green leaves in olympic national park

Rundown Of Olympic National Park In A Day

Whew! That was a lot to take in, wasn’t it?

Don’t worry if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the information we provided. We are going to do a quick recap to help remind you of everything we discussed.

Recap Of What To See In Olympic National Park

  • Morning:
    • Olympic National Park Visitor Center
    • Lake Crescent Area
  • Afternoon:
    • Grab Some Lunch
    • Sol Duc Valley
    • Hoh Rain Forest
  • Evening:
    • Sunset At One Of The Famous Beaches
  • Optional If Time: Shi Shi Beach, Elwha River Valley, Or Quinault Rain Forest

Map For what To Do In Olympic National Park In One Day

Want to see where our recommendations are located visually?

The purple-marked locations are your morning and afternoon stops. The dark blue are your two best options for sunset on the beach. You will pick just one to end your incredible day in the park.

The orange-marked locations are the optional extras if you have a bit of extra time. Notice that they are all quite far from one another and our initial itinerary which is why we suggested only choosing one.

If you are using your phone, click the top right box to open this map directly into google maps. From there, you can get directions from your location.


Where To Stay In Port Angeles

As we are starting our itinerary at the visitor center in Port Angeles, we suggest you consider staying there the night before so you can get an early start on the day.

Luxury ๐Ÿ’ต ๐Ÿ’ต ๐Ÿ’ต – Treehouse On The Water

  • Unique Experience: Perched above a serene pond, the Treehouse On The Water offers a distinctive and enchanting stay, immersing you directly into nature’s peaceful sounds and sights.
  • Secluded Getaway: Perfect for those seeking solitude, this accommodation provides a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life, allowing you to relax and rejuvenate.
  • Rustic Charm: With its wooden interiors and cozy ambiance, the treehouse exudes a rustic charm that complements the surrounding natural beauty and adds a touch of whimsy to your stay.

โžก๏ธ Check Prices & Availability at Treehouse On The Water


Mid-Range ๐Ÿ’ต ๐Ÿ’ต – Terra Vista Chalet

  • Luxury Meets Nature: The Terra Vista Chalet blends comfort and luxury with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and forests, providing a lavish retreat amidst nature.
  • Spacious Accommodation: With its multiple bedrooms and large living areas, this chalet is ideal for families or groups seeking plenty of space during their stay.
  • Proximity to Attractions: Located near the heart of Olympic National Park, the chalet offers easy access to various trails and attractions, making it a convenient base for exploration.

โžก๏ธ Check Prices & Availability at Terra Vista Chalet


Budget ๐Ÿ’ต – Aircrest Motel

  • Budget-Friendly: The Aircrest Motel is an excellent option for budget-conscious travelers, providing comfortable accommodations without breaking the bank.
  • Prime Location: Its location in Port Angeles places you within reach of various restaurants, shops, and the ferry terminal, as well as the Olympic National Park Visitor Center.
  • Friendly Staff: Known for its hospitable and helpful staff, the motel ensures a pleasant stay with readily available assistance for any queries or requests.

โžก๏ธ Check Prices & Availability at Aircrest Motel


tall green trees surround a pathway leading through the forest

Best Way To Get Around Olympic National Park

Navigating the vast and diverse terrain of Olympic National Park requires strategic planning, especially when we’re aiming to make the most of a single-day visit.

The park spans nearly a million acres, with landscapes varying from rainforests to rugged coastlines. While its beauty is unquestionable, this size and diversity can present challenges regarding transportation.

For our itinerary, the best way to get around is undoubtedly by car.

Given the packed schedule and the distances between attractions, having your own vehicle allows for flexibility and convenience, enabling you to move around the park at your own pace.

If you have flown into Seattle and need 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.

๐Ÿš™ Book your ride with Discover Cars

Wildlife In Olympic National Park

Wildlife viewing in Olympic National Park is a captivating experience that allows visitors to observe diverse animals in their natural habitats.

The park is renowned for its rich wildlife diversity, with various species of mammals, birds, and marine creatures calling it home.

Among the notable mammals are elk, black bears, deer, and mountain goats, which can often be spotted while exploring the park’s landscapes.

Additionally, elusive creatures like cougars and bobcats inhabit the park, providing a unique opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts.

Birdwatchers will delight in the park’s avian inhabitants, including bald eagles, ospreys, woodpeckers, owls, and numerous songbirds.

The coastal areas of Olympic National Park offer a chance to observe marine life, with seals, sea lions, and otters frequently seen along the shoreline and on offshore rocks.

a squirrel sits on a branch surrounded by greenery, various wildlife will hopefully be seen if you are spending one day in olympic national park

Best Places To Spot Wildlife

To enhance the wildlife viewing experience, there are specific areas within the park that are known for exceptional sightings.

The Hoh Rainforest is a prime location to spot Roosevelt elk, as they often graze in meadows or near riverbanks.

Hurricane Ridge offers opportunities to view mountain goats and deer, which roam the area’s meadows and rocky slopes.

Coastal beaches like Rialto Beach and Second Beach provide glimpses of marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and a variety of seabirds.

The shores of Lake Crescent also attract bird species like bald eagles and waterfowl, offering a chance to observe these creatures in a serene setting.

Wildlife Best Practices

When engaging in wildlife viewing activities, it is crucial to practice responsible behavior. Respecting the animals’ natural behavior and habitats is of utmost importance.

Observing wildlife from a safe distance helps minimize disturbances and maintain their well-being.

Binoculars and cameras with telephoto lenses allow for close-up views without intruding on their space.

Moving quietly and slowly increases the likelihood of spotting wildlife while paying attention to sounds and movements in the surroundings.

It is recommended to plan visits during the early morning or late evening hours when wildlife is more active.

Park rangers can provide valuable guidance on wildlife viewing opportunities and current sightings, so consulting with them or joining ranger-led programs is highly beneficial.

Remember, encounters with wildlife are not guaranteed, as they are wild and unpredictable.

Nevertheless, by approaching wildlife viewing with respect and patience, visitors can immerse themselves in the wonders of Olympic National Park and create lasting memories of observing these fascinating creatures in their natural habitats.

setting sun shines on one of the many olympic national park beaches with sea stacks

Tips For Your Olympic National Park Day Trip

  • Plan Your Route: Given the park’s size, planning your route ahead of time is essential to maximize your day. Olympic National Park is unique because it’s not just one park but a collection of ecosystems, including rainforests, mountains, and coastlines. Decide what you most want to see and create a route accordingly.
  • Check the Weather: The weather can vary greatly in different parts of the park, especially between the coastal and mountainous areas. Be sure to check the forecast and dress in layers to adjust your clothing as needed throughout the day.
  • Start Early: If you want to make the most out of your day, it’s best to start early. This will allow you to fit more into your schedule. Wildlife is also typically more active during the early morning.
  • Bring Food and Water: There are limited food services within the park, so be sure to bring plenty of snacks and water, especially if you are doing strenuous hikes.
  • Respect Wildlife: Remember, you are a guest in the home of countless wild animals. Always observe from a distance, never feed the animals, and don’t forget to check for ticks after spending time in wooded or grassy areas.
  • Leave No Trace: The natural beauty of Olympic National Park is a treasure that should be preserved. Follow all Leave No Trace principles, including properly disposing of waste, staying on established trails, and leaving what you find.
  • Check Road Conditions and Restrictions: Before heading to the park, check for any road closures or restrictions, as these can affect your planned itinerary. The National Park Service’s website is a good resource for this information.
small ferns are curled up late in the day along the forest floor in olympic national park

Items You Need For An Olympic National Park One-Day Trip

Embarking on an adventure to Olympic National Park requires some essential packing to ensure your day is comfortable, safe, and full of unforgettable moments.

Here are a few items we think you should consider bringing for your one day in Olympic National Park.

Rain Gear And Layers

In Olympic National Park, you’ll quickly learn that the weather can change rapidly, thanks to the park’s diverse range of ecosystems.

It’s common to experience sunshine, clouds, and rain all within a single day!

To prepare for this, you’ll want to pack rain gear like a waterproof jacket, even if the forecast looks clear.

Layering your clothes is also a smart move.

Include breathable, moisture-wicking clothing, a warmer layer like a fleece or lightweight down jacket, and a waterproof layer. This strategy allows you to adapt to the changing temperatures and conditions as you move through different park areas.

Camera

With its jaw-dropping landscapes, unique ecosystems, and abundant wildlife, Olympic National Park is a photographer’s paradise.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a casual enthusiast, you’ll want your camera ready to capture the magic.

Bring along spare batteries and memory cards, as you’ll likely be snapping away more than you anticipate.

A sturdy but lightweight tripod can be helpful for long-exposure shots, particularly for capturing those mesmerizing sunset or waterfall scenes.

And don’t forget a protective case or bag to keep your equipment safe and dry in variable weather conditions.

the mountain tops of hurricane ridge sit below a sunset sky full of blues and reds and oranges

Map Or GPS

While signs within the park are usually good, having a detailed map or GPS device is indispensable for navigating the vast and varied terrain of Olympic National Park.

A physical map gives you a broad perspective of the park’s layout and can be a lifesaver in areas with poor cell reception.

For a more high-tech option, a GPS device or app can help guide your way on trails or backroads, but remember to download necessary data before your arrival, as internet connectivity can be spotty.

Hiking Boots

Our one day in Olympic National Park itinerary involves hiking, so good footwear is crucial.

Investing in a sturdy pair of waterproof hiking boots will make all the difference in your comfort and safety.

Ensure your boots are well broken in before your visit to avoid blisters.

The right footwear will keep your feet dry and provide the necessary support and grip, whether traversing mossy rainforest trails or rocky beach terrains.

First Aid Kit

Lastly, don’t forget a well-stocked first aid kit.

While we hope you won’t need it, being prepared for minor injuries or illnesses is essential.

Your kit should include bandages, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, pain relievers, personal medication, insect repellent, and sunblock.

Remember, you’ll be exploring some remote areas where help may not be immediately accessible, so a first aid kit should be a key part of your pack.

the coastline of olympic national park with large rocks and greenery

FAQS For Olympic National Park In A Day

Let’s answer some common questions about spending time in Olympic National Park for a day.

Can You Do Olympic National Park Without A Car?

While visiting Olympic National Park without a car using public transportation is possible, it’s challenging due to the park’s vast size and limited services. A car is highly recommended, particularly for a short one or two-day visit, as it allows for greater flexibility and the ability to reach remote areas more quickly and conveniently.

What Is The Best Month To Visit Olympic National Park?

The best months to visit Olympic National Park are July and August due to the favorable weather and fully accessible facilities. However, September and early October can also be excellent, offering milder temperatures, fewer crowds, and beautiful fall colors. Check weather conditions before your trip, as the park’s weather can change rapidly.

How Long Does It Take To Drive Through Olympic National Park?

Driving around the perimeter of Olympic National Park on Highway 101, without accounting for stops, takes approximately 5-6 hours. However, given the park’s wealth of sights and activities, a full exploration can take several days. For just one day in Olympic National Park, strategic planning is essential to experience key attractions while managing driving times.

Are Passes Required To Visit Olympic National Park?

Yes, an entrance pass is required to visit Olympic National Park. A 7-day vehicle pass costs $30. Annual passes (America the Beautiful pass) and senior passes are also available.

What Is The Best Part Of Olympic National Park?

Determining the “best” part of Olympic National Park depends on personal preference, as it’s known for its diverse ecosystems. Some favor the lush Hoh Rain Forest; others love the alpine views of Hurricane Ridge or the rugged coastal beauty of Rialto Beach. Each area offers a unique slice of the park’s broad spectrum of natural wonders.

Can You Do Olympic National Park In One Day?

While it’s possible to visit Olympic National Park in one day as we have shown, it may not be sufficient to explore its vast landscapes and attractions fully. The park spans over one million acres, offering diverse ecosystems and numerous must-see sights. Spending multiple days in the park is recommended to make the most of your visit.

Is Olympic National Park A Day Trip From Seattle?

Yes, Olympic National Park can be visited as a day trip from Seattle. The park is about 100 miles northwest of Seattle, making it accessible for a day visit. However, due to the park’s size and the distance to cover, planning an early start and prioritizing specific areas or attractions to explore within the limited time frame is recommended.

small creek falls surrounded by mossy logs and rocks

To Finish – One Day In Olympic National Park

As our adventure draws to a close, we hope our itinerary has illuminated the various wonders you can discover in just one day in Olympic National Park.

The park is a testament to nature’s grandeur and diversity, from verdant rainforests and serene lakes to cascading waterfalls and rugged coastlines.

So gear up, set your course, and get ready to create unforgettable memories amidst the splendor of Olympic National Park.

And remember, every sunrise here ushers in a new opportunity for exploration, making each day as unique and inspiring as the last.

It sounds like you will have limited time during your visit. Have you thought about taking a day also to see Mt Rainier? Or maybe you want to compare Mt Rainier and Olympic because you only have time for one. We have you covered so you can make the best choice for you!