15 Best Things to Do in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park
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From the mountains to the seas, Olympic National Park is a haven for adventurers.

Olympic National Park is a magical wilderness situated in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, bordered by Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean.

In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Olympic National Park to protect the area's distinctive animals and scenery.

The Park is named after the Olympic Mountains, where it is located.

Just a two-hour drive from Seattle, it is a fantastic spot for many people to reconnect with nature.

With its majestic mountains and lush forests, this park has a wide range of ecosystems.

Mount Olympus, with its glacier-covered top, is a popular climbing destination.

The park's rainforests and Pacific coastline provide hiking and trekking paths.

Mountain goats and 10-inch snails may all be found on the park's routes, peaks, and beaches.

Many visitors to Washington state make it a goal to create the perfect Olympic National Park itinerary.

First-timers may find it difficult to plan a schedule for Olympic National Park because there is so much to see.

If you’re thinking of activities to enjoy here, we’ve got you covered!

Here are the 15 best things to do in Olympic National Park:

Discover a Hidden World in the Tide Pools

Driftwoods at Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park.
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There are hundreds of colorful marine creatures that live in the tide pools left behind by retreating waves.

Beach 4 in Kalaloch and Ruby Beach are the park’s most popular tidepools.

Anemones, starfish, and other species create a dreamy underwater environment that tourists may explore during low tide.

Although visitors no longer must get up early, they should constantly be alert of returning tides or “sneaker waves” and adhere to the tidepool etiquettes.

Because of algae and seaweed, pebbles on the surface are very slick.

Make sure to exercise caution and test the rocks before stepping on surfaces.

If you're going to the water, wear sturdy aqua shoes.

Maintain a safe distance from your children or your furry companions so they don't get injured or infected by the waves, sharp stones, barnacles, and mussels.

Wide view of Ruby Beach in Washington
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Also, make sure to have at least one foot firmly planted on the ground to keep your balance, and don't jump from one rock to another.

In addition to high tidal periods (up to 1.5), low tide times (below 0) are the optimum times to explore the area.

At the beach trailhead, please aim to arrive no later than 30 minutes before the tide hits its lowest.

During the summer months, park scientists trek to the tidepools to determine the lowest tides early in the morning.

If you wish to visit the tidepools with family and friends, it is advised to download the low tide calendar for Kalaloch.

Drop by the Olympic National Park Main Visitor Center

Before exploring the Olympic National Park's grandeur, it is worthy of dropping by the center, especially if you are new in the area.

The center contains exhibits of the park's natural and cultural history.

In particular, it features a practical "Discovery Room" for children, an orientation film of 25 minutes, the "Mosaic of diversity," a bookstore, and two short natural paths just outside the center.

If you wish to stay overnight or for a few days in the Park, you must obtain your camping permits at Wilderness Information Center located inside the Main Visitor Center.

Many visitors have "very competent and courteous rangers," and the staff is helpful.

Access is free here since it is included with the park entrance.

The Center is open every day between 8 am and 5 pm, although time depends on the season.

Apart from the main center, there are two more visitor centers in the area.

Trek Hoh Rainforest

A Hiking Trail in Hoh Rainforest
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The Hoh Rain Forest, which receives 12 to 14 feet of rain each year, is home to a diverse species of plants, including different types of trees, mosses, and ferns.

This fairy tale woodland is one of the best-preserved temperate rainforests in the United States, making it a popular place to visit.

Ranger-staffed Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center is a popular starting point for tourists.

There are various hiking paths in the park that will allow you to immerse yourself in this unique and enchanting woodland.

Forested areas around the center are traversed by two short paths: the Hall of Mosses Trail (0.8 miles) and the Spruce (1.2 miles).

The Hoh River Path is a 17-mile trail that goes to Glacier Meadows, on the shoulder of Mount Olympus.

A Boardwalk in Hoh Rainforest
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If you're interested in the Twilight series, you may stop at Forks, which is home to both lumberjacks and vampires.

Hoh Rainforest is also home to a wide variety of native wildlife, including Pacific treefrogs, northern spots owls, raccoons, Olympic black bears, and Roosevelt elk.

Meanwhile, an invasive species from Northern Europe, the black slug, threaten the thriving banana slug in the area.

A multi-day climb up Mount Olympus from the Hoh Rainforest is an option for spending more than two days in Olympic National Park.

Before leaving the area, you can check out the displays in the tourist center, as well as its bookstore.

Explore Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park, Washington
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Formed thousands of years ago from glaciers, Lake Crescent reaches depths of up to 624 feet in certain spots.

As a result of its crystal-clear waters, tourists may see more than 60 feet down into the lake.

Waters from Lake Crescent, located at the Olympic Mountains' northern foothills, are renowned for their fascinating blue color.

Most lakes have algae, but since Lake Crescent lacks nitrogen, its waters are pristine.

There are several picnic spots and picturesque overlooks where visitors may kayak, sail, swim, or simply enjoy the lake's perpetual beauty.

Hiking, boating, and camping are just a few of the Beardslee, and Crescenti trout found nowhere else in the world.

Kayaking on Crescent Lake in Olympic Park
Justek16 / shutterstock.com

On top of that, you may enjoy a variety of hiking routes.

There is a 90-foot waterfall at the end of the trek to Marymere Falls, which is less than a mile either way.

Another option is to take the 6-mile loop route, which takes you through the forest and along a lake.

In addition to the Mount Storm King path (2.2 miles each way), the Pyramid Peak track also ascends steeply to a World War II viewing tower (3.5 miles each way).

There were other reviews that praised the lake's tranquility and claimed that it was well worth the walk to see the waterfall.

Many tourists advised staying here to take in the lake's splendor, because there are accommodations available here, apart from its campsites.

Enjoy Winter Sports Activities

Olympic National Park offers year-round enjoyment with a variety of winter and summer activities.

There are fewer visitors during the cold months, so it is the best time to enjoy the calm mountains and roaring waves.

The Park is ideal for skiing and snowboarding.

Hurricane Ridge Ski and the Snowboard Area is one of only three national parks in the USA with ski lifts.

Also, with views of the ridge, the best cross-country trails start here.

Another activity you can enjoy in the Park is snowshoeing.

Join the ranger on a 1-mile hike on weekends and holiday Mondays.

There is no need for forward planning.

Just observe the conditions of Hurricane Ridge before leaving, and then sign up at 1:30 pm at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

Adopt a Fish at Elwha River

Elwha River in Olympic National Park
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Did you know that Olympic National Park offers the opportunity to adopt a fish?

Biologists from the Park, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began the Adopt-A-Fish radio-tracking initiative in 2014 to better understand salmon regeneration after the dam reductions.

The program educates students on how to use radio telemetry to track fish migratory patterns.

The process includes catching fish, taking pictures, and radio-tagging.

To monitor the fish once they are released, researchers hike with handheld antennae or fly with an antenna mounted to a small plane.

When done correctly, the research gives crucial information on salmon recovery, which in turn affects much of the park's environment and economy.

Immerse Yourself in the Serenity of Sol Duc Falls

Waterfall in Sol Duc
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The valley of the Sol Duc is noted for its serene atmosphere.

This deeply green and lushly wooded area will open your eyes to nature's wonders as soon as you pull off the road into this portion of the Olympic National Park.

The Sol Duc Valley in the northeast area of the park has many paths to explore, but the most popular one is probably the 1,000-minute walk towards the Sol Duc Falls.

Meanwhile, the 5.2 miles round trip climb to Mink Lake or the 6 miles Lover's Lane Tour is also a must-try.

Beautiful waterfall in Sol Duc
Galyna Andrushko / shutterstock.com

Coho, a type of salmon, uses the Sol Duc River as a vital route from the valley to the nearby mountains' lakes and headwaters.

Many tourists visit the Salmon Cascades around the end of October and the beginning of November to see the salmon leap through their fall to the river Sol Duc.

The region contains a popular thermal bath, which we strongly suggest you spend some time and walk along with a range of paths.

Spot Olympic National Park’s Endemic Species

Olympic National Park is home to a variety of endemic species, from mammals to reptiles, fish, amphibians, and insects.

Here, you'll find the Olympic Marmot (Marmota Olympus), an indigenous species that arose due to ice age isolation on the Olympic Peninsula.

This marmot is perhaps among the most sociable and gregarious creatures in the park – be it nuzzling, chirping, or feeding together.

The marmot has developed individually and diversified from comparable species in nearby places because mountains on an isolated peninsula partly block it.

Keep your eyes on these fuzzy tiny animals while walking!

Aside from the charming marmot, you'll consider yourself lucky once you spot different animals, such as the Park’s Olympic yellow-pine chipmunk, Olympic snow mole, Olympic torrent salamander, Mann's gazelle beetle, Arionid slug, to name a few.

Hike Towards the Snowy Hurricane Ridge

urricane Ridge in Olympic National Park
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Only a few minutes' drive from downtown Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge is one of the Park's most popular and simplest access sites.

There are various wonderful walks from the parking lot and views from which to enjoy the remote mountains, including the famed Mt. Olympus glacier.

You may start at the Visitor Center Hurricane Ridge, which provides brochures, maps, refreshments, and recommendations on what you can see and do.

There are also videos and displays to orient you.

It is open every day in the summer and the rest of the year on weekends and holidays.

Hurricane Ridge provides a range of walking routes, from tops to steep slopes to subalpine lakes and valleys.

The half-mile Big Meadow path, which is paved, passes wide wetlands with a view of the Olympics, comprises easy paths.

Cirque Rim is an additional paved path that overlooks Port Angeles and the Juan de Fuca Strait, a mile-long circuit.

Klahhane Ridge route (3.8 km each trip) and Hurricane Hill path (1.6 miles every way) are more demanding paths since the first-quarter mile is paved, followed by a magnificent panorama of mountains and water.

The Juan de Fuca Strait, clear across the sea in Canada, maybe viewed here as well.

Wildflowers flourish abundantly by June and illuminate the alpine wilderness with brilliant shows of natural plants.

Here, you can also spot deer, mountain goats, and other animals.

Ranger programs featuring snowshoe hikes in the winter are available from late June through September.

Its gift store also offers snowshoe and ski rentals.

Go Storm-Watching at the Coast

Winter is the best season to catch the astounding storm at the coast of the Olympic National Park.

The beaches of Mora, Rialto, and Kalaloch are all great spots to observe the turbulent weather.

The rough shoreline during a winter storm becomes dramatic and gloomy, offering unbelievable picture possibilities, nothing like an Olympic peninsula storm.

The rain, wind, and waves generate huge surges crashing on the coast.

Coastal beaches are generally free of snow, and a walk down the low tide sandy beach is a fantastic opportunity to experience the intertidal zones' diversity.

Visit the Tree Root Cave

Kalaloch Tree's exposed roots on a cave at Olympic national park
Abbie Warnock-Matthews / shutterstock.com

Getting close to the so-called “Tree of Life” in Olympic National Park is a must-try regardless of the outside temperature.

Tree Root Cave highlights an amazing Kalaloch Tree strangely cemented at the edge of a hill without an anchor mechanism.

Interesting, right?

Erosion did not stop the tree from thriving on the shore, having taken away its supply of life and leaving people speechless from an unprecedented view.

It is located just a few minutes’ walk from Kalaloch Lodge.

Tour the Olympic Discovery Trail With Your Bike

If you are a passionate cyclist, this path is for you!

The Olympic Discovery Trail is the first non-motorized leisure destination in the state and is increasing among the most famous places to visit the Olympic National Park.

This magnificent track begins at Port Townsend's Victorian seaport and goes through the peninsula to see the snow-capped peaks, ocean views, rapid flowing streams, gorgeous woods, and pure lakes before concluding on the Pacific beaches.

It is not fully located in the National Olympic Park, but it gives a magnificent perspective of the surroundings and a unique approach to see parks nearby.

Relax at Olympic Lodges

Lake Quinault Lodge in Olympic National Forest
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Two lodges are open year-round on the southwest side of the Olympic Park: Kalaloch Lodge and Lake Quinault Lodge.

As you dine at Kalaloch Lodge’s restaurant on the beach, you'll have a nice view of the sea.

In the evening, you can gather around its outdoor fire circle and share stories with your family and friends.

Beach in front Lake Quinault at Olympic National Forest
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Meanwhile, the Lake Quinault Lodge is a rustic lodge with a swimming pool and sauna, established in 1926.

If you prefer the lakefront view, this is the best choice.

Choose a fireplace room or stay in the boathouse with the forest and the lake's panoramic view.

Dip at Olympic Hot Springs

The natural, pristine warm water springs are Olympic springs, about 2.5 miles from the trail in the Elwha Valley, on the Boulder Creek Trailhead.

The pools are located in a natural location, and the park is neither inspected nor treated.

It may contain dangerous microorganisms, and you are at your own risk to utilize these pools.

These springs may only be accessed on foot, and no animals or bicycles are allowed.

Backpackers must observe the laws on wild camping and get a permit on the use of wildlife.

There is minimal room for parking and turning.

Bicycle and pedestrian travel outside Madison Falls car park to Boulder Creek Trailhead is available on the Olympic Hot Springs Road.

Just take note that beyond the fence at the parking area, there are no tourist facilities.

Also, make sure to check road and path conditions beforehand.

Stargaze at the Coastal Beaches

Milky Way on Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park
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Stargazing may be an underrated activity, but you will not want to miss the sky's transformation, especially on a clear night at the Olympic National Park.

After a day of adventure, you may enjoy a magnificent starry sky free of light pollution at night.

Gaze up and remember how little a part of this world we really are.

What seems to be a faint cloud might be the Milky Way and light from millions of distant stars.

On clear evenings, you may see distant constellations, nebulae, and planets.

Remember to dress warmly since nighttime temperatures in high elevations can drop to 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit

Final Thoughts

Olympic National Park is no wonder the top tourist destination in Northwest Washington.

The park offers miles upon miles of stunning natural splendors from its virgin forest, snow-capped mountains, coastal lands, charming wildflower fields to the dramatic coastal cliffs.

To get the most out of your visit, it is best to spend two to three days at the park.

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