Top 10 Things to Do in Olympic National Park
For our family vacation in 2018, my wife and I loaded up the kids and drove out to the Pacific Northwest on a 14-day road trip. We stopped in Glacier National Park on the way out and spent four days in the Seattle area. The last day that we spent in the Seattle area, we explored Olympic National Park. The park offers snow-capped mountains, temperate rain forests, and more than 70 miles of rugged coastline. It was amazing and awe-inspiring. Here is a look at the top ten things to do in Olympic National Park.
1. Explore Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge offers incredible views of the Olympic Mountains from an elevation of 5,242 feet. It is named Hurricane Ridge because the winds have been known to blow over 75 miles an hour there. Hurricane Ridge is 17 miles south of Port Angeles, Washington. It is home to one of the Olympic National Park visitor centers, two picnic areas, a campground, and eight different hiking trails. In the winter, it offers skiing, tubing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.
We loved the time that we spent there. I was a little disappointed as we were leaving Port Angeles and starting our climb to Hurricane Ridge because it was cloudy. As we drove higher and higher, we entered a dense fog bank. I was getting more disappointed as we drove until we reached Hurricane Ridge. I happened to look over as we rounded the corner to the top and saw that we were now above the clouds. It was amazing.
2. Hike to Hurricane Hill
Hiking to Hurricane Hill is a must. It offers tremendous panoramic mountain views. On a clear day, visitors can see the Pacific Ocean. The Hurricane Hill Trailhead is about two miles from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. It is about a 3.2-mile roundtrip hike. The trail gains about 700 feet of elevation with most of it coming on the switchbacks at the base of Hurricane Hill. The Hurricane Hill Trail follows a ridge and offers incredible mountain views on both sides of the trails. It is a good idea to arrive early in the day as this is a popular trail and the parking area fills up.
We hiked to Hurricane Ridge when we were there. We ended up parking at Picnic Area A since the parking lot at the trailhead was not open because of construction. It added about an extra half mile to the hike, but it was worth it. As we hiked, there were overlooks where we were above the clouds. It was awe-inspiring to be above the clouds. When we reached the top, the views were amazing. We had a 360-degree view of mountains peaks and could see Mt. Rainer sticking above the clouds to the south. It was awesome! I cannot recommend this hike enough.
3. Visit Ruby Beach
Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park is a must-see. It is a rugged and rocky beach on the Pacific Ocean with rock islands known as sea stacks. It is known for its reddish sand that kind of looks like little rubies. There is a lot of driftwood that has piled up on the shore. It is also an incredible place to watch sunsets.
We drove to Ruby Beach after our hiking to Hurricane Hill. We arrived late in the afternoon and were surprised how much colder it was here. We spent about an hour there checking out the beach, sea stacks, and driftwood. It was amazing.
4. Visit Rialto Beach
Rialto Beach is another beautiful spot to explore. It is known for its smooth pebble covered shore, large driftwood, and sea stacks. It is also the starting point to a hiking trail that leads to one of the best tide pools in the park at Hole-in-the-Wall. Rialto Beach is north of La Push, Washington. It is a little out of the way, but well worth a visit.
5. Explore the Hoh Rain Forest
The Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park offers visitors a chance to see a lush temperate rain forest. Each year it receives over 14 feet of rain plus another 30 inches from fog and mist. It is home to Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock trees. The Western Hemlock can grow over 300 feet tall and seven feet around. The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center is the best place to start exploring. There are two great trails to check out: Hall of Mosses Trail and Spruce Nature Trail. It is best to visit this area when it is wet because everything is green and lush. The Hoh Rain Forest is a must-see.
6. Visit Lake Crescent
Lake Cresent is a pristine, cold, clear, and beautiful lake. At 624 feet deep, Lake Cresent is the second deepest lake in the State of Washington. It is about 17 miles west of Port Angeles in the northern foothills of the Olympic Mountains. Lake Cresent offers hiking, picnics, boating, kayaking, swimming, and more.
We did not have time to stop and spend much time here, but the drive along the edge of the lake was breathtaking. The water was very blue. I have it on my list for the next time we go back. I highly recommend spending time at Lake Cresent.
7. Drive the Olympic Loop Drive
Driving the Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive is a must at Olympic National Park. Starting in Olympia, Washington, the loop drive is about 332 miles. Take Hwy U.S. 101 north and follow it all the way around until hitting U.S. Hwy 12 near Montesano and then follow WA-8 east back to Olympia. The Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive gives visitors a chance to see all of the different ecosystems that the park has to offer. It takes visitors near most of the best areas of Olympic National Park including Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge, Lake Cresent, Hoh Rainforest, Ruby Beach, and more.
On our visit there, we drove much of the loop drive. One of the places that I would recommend stopping is around the Sequim, Washington area. It is a little east of Port Angeles and offers many different lavender farms which are beautiful. After spending a few hours at Hurricane Ridge and hiking to Hurricane Hill, we continued past Lake Cresent and drove over to Ruby Beach. The drive was gorgeous.
8. Visit Marymere Falls
Marymere Falls (90 feet) is incredible. The trail starts at the Storm King Ranger Station. After hiking about a half mile, there is a trail junction. Take the trail to the left and the falls is another four-tenths of a mile. There are two viewpoints for the falls. The first looks down on the falls from the hillside. The second is at the base of the falls. Marymere Falls is beautiful and well worth a hike.
9. Visit Quinault Rain Forest
The Quinault Rain Forest is in the "Valley of the Rain Forest Giants" because of how large the species are there. The rain forest receives 12 feet of rain each year and is home to Alaskan Cedar, Mountain Hemlock, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, and Western Red Cedar. It is also home to five out of the ten biggest Douglas Fir trees. It is on the western side of the Olympic Mountains and offers several hiking trails, Lake Quinault, a short scenic loop drive, and campgrounds. It is also a great place to see rain forest elk, which is larger and darker than Rocky Mountain elk. The Quinault Rainforest is a beautiful area and a must see when visiting Olympic Mountain National Park.
10. Hike to Rocky Brook Falls
Hiking to Rocky Brook Falls is quick and easy. It is only about a tenth of a mile hike. The falls itself is 229 feet tiered horsetails falls and is near Brinnon, Washington. Rocky Brooks Falls is beautiful and well worth a quick stop.
Don't Miss a Chance to Visit Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is awe-inspiring. From the top of Hurricane Ridge to the lush rain forests, to the rugged Pacific Ocean beaches, there are so many different things to see and do there. My family and I fell in love with it as soon as we made it to the top of Hurricane Ridge. We cannot wait to go back again and explore more of the park.
Map of the Top Ten Things to Do in Olympic National Park
© 2019 Eric Cramer