Olympic National Park, a World Heritage Site, is located west of Seattle on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. The most popular sights are in the western and northern sections of the park.
The community of Forks (population 3500), is a 4 hour drive from Seattle and serves as a convenient gateway to major west side attractions, including the Hoh Rainforest, Sol Duc River valley, Lake Crescent and Pacific Ocean beaches at Rialto, LaPush and Kalaloch.
One excellent lodging option in Forks is the Miller Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast, quietly located on the edge of town, just 6 1/2 blocks east of the only stoplight.
DRIVING: Olympic National Park is bordered by Highway 101 on the west, north and east sides and by Highways 8 & 12 on the south. Spur roads from these highways give access to the park, like the spokes of a wheel. No roads penetrate the park all the way east/west or north/south.
A complete loop around the park from Seattle would take 8-10 hours, without stops.
DAY HIKING: If you are able, your experience in the park will be more complete if you can take some day hikes from the ends of the roads.
WEST SIDE OCEAN HIKES:
From Rialto Beach:
Rialto Beach itself – Easy, short access (wheelchair accessible viewpoint available in summer season only).
Hole in the Wall – 3 mile round trip along the beach (1 creek crossing) to Hole in the Wall and tidepools. Beginning of 25 mile coastal backpacking route to Lake Ozette.
From La Push Road:
2nd Beach (La Push) – 2 mile round trip through the forest to sandy beach and tidepools.
3rd Beach (La Push) – 3 mile round trip through 2nd growth forest to sandy beach. Beginning of 15 mile coastal backpacking route to Hoh River.
From Oil City Road:
Mouth of Hoh River – 3 mile round trip to ocean beach. Beginning of 15 mile coastal backpacking route to 3rd Beach (La Push).
Ruby Beach – 1/2 mile roundtrip down to beach from Highway 101.
Beach #4 – 1.5 mile round trip down to beach and tidepools from Highway 101.
From Ozette Lake Road:
Sand Point – 6.5 mile round trip to sandy beach.
Cape Alava – 6.5 mile round trip to western most point of the continental United States
Ozette Triangle – 9.5 mile loop, including Cape Alava, Wedding Rocks (petroglyphs) and Sand Point.
Near Neah Bay:
Cape Flattery – 2 mile round trip (down, then back up) to northwestern most point of the continental United States. Requires $10 Makah parking permit, available in Neah Bay.
Shi Shi Beach – 6.5 mile round trip along sometimes muddy, abandoned road to sandy beach. Requires $10 Makah parking permit, available in Neah Bay.
WEST SIDE FOREST HIKES:
From Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center:
Hall of Mosses – 3/4 mile loop trail through old growth forest
Spruce Trail – 1.5 mile loop trail through old growth forest to Hoh River
Hoh River Trail – Beginning of 37 mile round trip backpacking route to Blue Glacier on Mt. Olympus. Also can make a nice day hike through old growth forest to any turn around point you choose, then returning the same way.
From Soleduck Road:
Sol Duc Falls – 2 mile round trip to very popular waterfall.
Mink Lake – 5 mile uphill round trip to Mink Lake, which is usually snow covered except in mid to late summer. Beginning of 25 mile mid-summer backpacking route to the Bogachiel River trailhead.
Deer Lake – 8 mile uphill roundtrip to Deer Lake, which is usually snow covered, except in mid to late summer.
Sol Duc River – 20 mile backpacking loop to High Divide, Heart Lake and Deer Lake, all of which are snow-covered most of the year.
Lovers’ Lane – 6 mile loop along the Sol Duc River, or can be cut in half with vehicles at each end (Sol Duc Trailhead and Sol Duc Hot Springs).
From Lake Crescent:
Marymere Falls – 1.5 mile roundtrip through old growth forest, then UP to the waterfall.
Storm King – Steep 4 mile roundtrip to marginal views of Lake Crescent, then beginning of mountaineering route that requires rope belays.
Moments in Time Trail – 1 mile level loop in the forest, beside Lake Crescent
Spruce Railroad – 8 mile roundtrip on abandoned railroad grade, along north side of Lake Crescent. Can be cut in half with vehicles at each end (North Shore Road and Piedmont Road).
From North Bogachiel Road:
Bogachiel River – Less popular walk through second growth forest. There is no particular turn-around point, then you return the same way you came. Beginning of 25 mile mid-summer backpacking route to Sol Duc Hot Springs.
BACKPACKING: If you have time and the proper equipment and experience, then overnight backpacking trips open up even more of the interior of the park. However, you must be properly prepared for your safety. Weather conditions can change rapidly and hypothermia can kill you, even in the summer. For more information and permits, call the Wilderness Information Center (WIC) at 360-565-3100.
A trip to Olympic National Park should include, at a minimum, visits to the temperate rain forest (such as the Hoh or Quinault), a sub-alpine zone (such as Hurricane Ridge) and a Pacific Ocean beach (such as Rialto).
GATEWAY COMMUNITIES (and approximate travel times from Seattle):
Forks & LaPush (4 hours) – West side of the park, including the Hoh Rainforest, Sol Duc River valley, Lake Crescent, and the Pacific Ocean beaches at LaPush, Rialto and Kalaloch.
Port Angeles & Sequim (2 1/2 hours) – North side of the park, including Hurricane Ridge, Deer Park and the Elwha and Dungeness river valleys.
Olympia, Hoodsport & Brinnon (2 hours) – East side of the park near Hood Canal, including Lake Cushman and the Skokomish, Hamma Hamma, Dosewallips and Duckabush river valleys.
Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Quinault (2 1/2 hours) – South side of the park, including the Queets river valley and Quinault Rain Forest.
Olympic National Forest surrounds Olympic National Park and provides other hiking and backpacking opportunities, especially on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula.
FEES: Entrance fees to Olympic National Park are $15 per auto for a 7-day pass, or $30 for an annual pass. These are required for the entrance stations at Sol Duc, Hoh Rain Forest, Staircase, Hurricane Ridge and Elwha.
WEATHER: Although warm, sunny weather is common in July, August & September, you should always be prepared for rain (even in the summer). When hiking, it is best to dress in layers, to remove as you warm up. Snow lingers on the higher elevation trails well into July (or even August) and can present serious route-finding problems and risks of deadly hypothermia if you are not prepared.