When we first moved to Seattle, we didn’t know very much about Olympic National Park, located in the Northwestern corner of Washington State, but we became very familiar with it over the years we’ve lived here, because it’s one of the most beautiful places to get away and experience nature.
The park is unique in that it encompasses a lot of different environments like an old growth rain forest, glacier-capped mountains and many miles of wild and rugged coastline.
You can camp there, hike there, take a drive through the forest, go kayaking, backpacking, fishing, birding, mountaineering. If it’s done outdoors, you can likely do it at Olympic National Park.
It really is one of the best places to be an outdoor-lover in the Pacific Northwest. There are a lot of other fantastic places to enjoy the outdoors there (like the San Juan Islands, Victoria BC, and so many others), but here are a few reasons to give Olympic National Park a try for your next outdoor vacation!
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Lake Quinalt Rainforest
There are three temperate rainforests located in the United States and all of them are located in Olympic National Park. You can take a tour through Lake Quinalt Rainforest year-round from Lake Quinalt Lodge (where you can also stay!), during which you’ll learn about the fragile and important ecosystem of the rainforest, hopefully see wildlife like eagles and black bears, and learn about the history of the area and the Quinalt Indian Nation.
Kalaloch’s Beach 4 and Mora’s Hole in the Wall are two of the most popular spots for tidepools in Olympic National Park, but there are plenty of others, like Second Beach, Third Beach, Ruby Beach. During the summer months at low tide, rangers offer programs at both Kalaloch and Mora. The beaches themselves are absolutely stunning, particularly at sunset. Just be sure to follow tidepool etiquette. Don’t disturb the animals!
I know that hiking the glacier peaks is the thing to do. But I just love stare at them. How majestic! Mount Olympus is the highest peak of the Olympic Mountains. The mountain requires over 5000′ of elevation gain by its shortest route and it’s considered a highly technical climb for mountaineers, so it is often on the list for serious climbers. If you’re not into highly technical climbing, don’t worry, there are tons of regular hikes to do around the area. Check out this list of self-guided hikes in Olympic National Park.
One of the best things to do in the area is Hurricane Ridge. You won’t believe the view from the top! You can stop off at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center for information, but then you just continue up the road to the top. At the top, you can park and walk the rest of the walk on the trail. There are beautiful views of the water, the Olympic mountains, and you can even see all the way to Canada! If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot some wildlife.
Olympic National Park is a wet area – it is a rainforest, after all. And all that rainfall leads to magnificent waterfalls. The park has no less than six stunning waterfalls that are at least somewhat easy to locate, though some require a hike. It’s okay because that’s what you came for! The 90-foot Marymere Falls is one of the most popular and easiest to get to, near Lake Crescent. It’s an easy 1.8 mile hike to the falls and offers many viewing platforms.
While the parking lot and the beach can get fairly crowded, you might not ever know it once you get out onto the sand. The haystack rocks and driftwood on the beach stretch on for miles along the open sandy beaches making it look like the beach stretches on and on. It’s hard for it to feel truly crowded on Ruby Beach. At sunset, when the sun glistens off the water, it’s almost magical there.
See what I mean? This is just the shortlist! There are so many things to do in Olympic National park that it should definitely make your list of parks to visit for your next outdoorsy vacation. The whole family will love it.